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Thursday, October 21, 2010

EDITORIAL 21.10.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month october 21, edition 000657, 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. US LOLLIPOP FOR PAKISTAN
  2. THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
  3. A SIRIUS AFFAIR - BIBEK DEBROY
  4. A DIFFERENT BATTLE - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
  5. FAITH, FACT AND FICTION - PRAFULL GORADIA
  6. ILL WINDS THAT BLOW THROUGH DEGANGA - RICHARD L BENKIN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. BIHAR'S CROSSROADS
  2. DIGITAL EVOLUTION
  3. LIFE BEYOND AYODHYA - ASHOK MALIK
  4. WAY OF DEVOTION IS IDEAL - SHRI SHRI ANANDAMURTI
  5. DRAMA IS THE STUFF OF SPORT
  6. A JUVENILE CHALLENGE - JAY KUMAR
  7. INDIA EVERYWHERE - BACHI KARKARIA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE BATTLE FOR BIHAR'S BEGUN
  2. NO ARM DONE HERE
  3. WHO'S YOUR DADDY? - SAMAR HALARNKAR
  4. WE NEED THE POWER OF ONE - PC SEN
  5. SPIT WIDE OPEN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MARKETING IDEAS
  2. STREET SMART
  3. ALL CLEARED UP?
  4. BIHAR, NOT BIMARU - DHIRAJ NAYYAR 
  5. RESTORATION DRAMA - RATISH NANDA 
  6. WHO'S BETTER THAN RAKHI SAWANT? - SHAILAJA BAJPAI 
  7. A VERY LONG ENDGAME
  8. THE BIG SAFFRON ROADBLOCK - A. FAIZUR RAHMAN 
  9. MINORITY APPEASEMENT

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. LINING UP INVESTORS
  2. AFTER-SHOCKS
  3. MANAGING THE ECO-SYSTEM - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. A CLEARER ROUTE FOR FOREIGN BANKS - MADAN SABNAVIS
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. STRATEGIC PITFALLS

 THE HINDU

  1. RESCUING BIODIVERSITY
  2. LANDMARK ACHIEVEMENT
  3. WHAT THE UID CONCEALS - R. RAMAKUMAR
  4. FRANCE: SHOW OF FORCE OVER REFORM - VAIJU NARAVANE
  5. THE CHALLENGE: CAN YOU HOLD PEOPLE TOGETHER IN RELATIONSHIP?' - P. JACOB

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. IS LIBERAL MUMBAI A THING OF THE PAST?
  2. FOREIGN ASSIGNMENT - SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. GERMANY GETTING QUEASY AGAIN - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DNA

  1. SELLERS BEWARE, INDIANS ARE LIFTING
  2. MORE GRADUATES BUT NONE JOB-READY
  3. PROTECT POOR FROM PRO-POOR FINANCIERS
  4. RADICAL HINDUISM MAY STILL EMERGE FROM THE WOODWORK - R JAGANNATHAN
  5. WHERE THE MIND IS ENSNARED IN FEAR... - ANTARA DEV SEN
  6. SAY 'I CAN' AND YOU MOST DEFINITELY WILL

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. ARRESTED! NOW WHAT?
  2. TAKE NOTICE
  3. READY FOR CYBER WAR - BY RAKESH RAMAN
  4. STATUS OF WOMEN TO IMPROVE - BY AMULYA GANGULI
  5. NEEDED: AN INTEGRATED ENERGY POLICY - BY S.P.WAHI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. CHALLENGE OF POVERTY
  2. UP IN SMOKE
  3. PM UNDER LOK PAL BILL
  4. UNENDING JIHADI TERRORISM - BY T.V. RAJESHWAR
  5. MY LOST HOME - BY PRITAM BHULLAR
  6. COUNTERING CHINA'S STRATEGIC ENCIRCLEMENT - BRIG KARTAR SINGH (RETD)
  7. OMINOUS MOVES ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN BORDERS - WG CDR N.K. PANT (RETD)

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. GAMES WRITERS PLAY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. HEAT FROM COOLING CHINA
  2. FERTILISER REFORMS
  3. THE URBAN CHALLENGE - NITIN DESAI
  4. THE NEXT FIVE YEARS - ARVIND SINGHAL
  5. A WEDDING WITHOUT GUESTS - BARUN ROY
  6. INDIA IN THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL - SHYAM SARAN

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. INDIAN LESSON FOR BRAZIL
  2. CONTROL, THE KEY
  3. GENE TONIC
  4. FOR A GRAND BARGAIN AT G20 - T K ARUN
  5. ASSUMING THE WRONG POSITION - ULLEKHN P 
  6. WHAT HAVE CLIMATE ACTIVISTS LEARNT? - BJØRN LOMBORG 
  7. FIREBIRD AND HOPE - VITHAL C NADKARNI 

THE STATESMAN

  1. CHINESE CHEQUERS
  2. FOOTPATH FURORE
  3. 'GRUDGE' MATCHES
  4. AT THE TOP TABLE - BY SALMAN HAIDAR
  5. PAKISTAN CJ SEEKS HIS POUND OF FLESH - ML KOTRU
  6. DIM PROSPECTS OF CWG PROBE

DECCAN  CHRONICALE

  1. IS LIBERAL MUMBAI A THING OF THE PAST?
  2. FOREIGN ASSIGNMENT - BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. GERMANY GETTING QUEASY AGAIN - BY SIDHARTH BHATIA
  4. VANISHING WARTS & VOTES - PREM KUMAR MANI

DECCAN HERALD

  1. WINDS OF CHANGE
  2. ABANDONED CAUSE?
  3. INDIA'S LIMITED OPTIONS - BY HARSH V PANT
  4. CHINA'S RETALIATION: RARE AND FOOLISH - BY PAUL KRUGMAN, NYT
  5. BONDS OF STEEL - BY NAVARATNA LAXMAN

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. DISGRACEFUL REJECTION OF A LATTER-DAY RUTH
  2. ON PEACE, LEBANON, IRAN AND GILAD SCHALIT - BY MERON REUBEN  
  3. MORE FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL - BY D. BLOOMFIELD  
  4. RATTLING THE CAGE: FORCING ARABS TO BE ZIONISTS - BY LARRY DERFNER  
  5. WHAT THE JEWS ARE TALKING ABOUT

HAARETZ

  1. TURKEY, SYRIA CALL ON ISLAMIC NATIONS TO PRESSURE ISRAEL TO END GAZA OFFENSIVE
  2. ISRAELI DOCTORS ARRIVE IN ROMANIA TO TREAT BABIES BURNED IN HOSPITAL FIRE
  3. IT WAS GOOD RADIO - BY MICHAEL HANDELZALTS
  4. THE OPPOSITION ON TRIAL

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. ONE-NOTE TAX DEBATE
  2. YOUR COURT IN ACTION
  3. TILES, FARMS AND THE DEAD ZONE
  4. FEAR AND LOATHING IN NEVADA
  5. THE FURY FAILURE - BY GAIL COLLINS
  6. DR. GREG AND AFGHANISTAN - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON FOOTBALL: SUNDAY'S LIGHTS-OUT BODY COUNT SHOWS NFL NEEDS TO CHANGE
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON FOOTBALL: 'YOU DON'T AIM, YOU REACT' - BY HUNTER HILLENMEYER
  3. ELECTION 2010 MANDATE: TACKLE THE DEBT - BY CAL THOMAS AND BOB BECKEL

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. SCHOOL PRAYER AND THE LAW
  2. HASLAM'S SPINELESS WAFFLING
  3. CONSTITUTION AND PRAYER
  4. AT PENTAGON — NOT AFGHANISTAN!
  5. TOO MUCH HORRIBLE VIOLENCE
  6. JOBS DESTROYED FOR NO REASON

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - EQUALITY FOR LEFT-HANDED CITIZENS?
  2. A DAY IN SABRA AND SHATILLA - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  3. SOCIAL SHOPPING HAS REACHED TURKEY - ERSU ABLAK
  4. CHINA'S RISE? AMERICA'S DEMISE? - RICHARD REID
  5. SHARING THE SAME ROOM IN YEREVAN FOR THE SAKE OF DIALOGUE - VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU
  6. SMILING FACE OF GERMANY WELCOMES… - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. EUROPE ON ALERT - HENRY WILKINSON
  8. THE HEADSCARF AND BEYOND… - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. THE KARACHI CAULDRON
  2. QURESHI ON IRAN
  3. BOUNCING CHEQUE
  4. LOVE IS BLINDNESS? - shimMOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  5. THE STRATEGIC DIALOGUE - shimIKRAM SEHGAL
  6. ZARDARI'S 'ROPE-A-DOPE' - MIR ADNAN AZIZ
  7. SHRINES UNDER ATTACK - FAROOQ SULEHRIA
  8. TIME FOR US TO COOL OUR PASSIONS - KAMILA HYAT

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. IMPLICATIONS OF ARMY OPERATION IN KARACHI
  2. CONCERNS OVER TRANSIT TRADE AGREEMENT
  3. RISING JEHAD SENTIMENT AMONG AFGHAN YOUTHS
  4. THE SO-CALLED STRATEGIC DIALOGUE - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  5. MEDIA UNDER FIRE - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  6. AFGHANISTAN: CLIMBING COSTS - I M MOHSIN
  7. WILL THERE EVER BE PEACE IN IHK? - MAMOONA ALI KAZMI
  8. PETRAEUS REWRITES AFGHAN PLAYBOOK - DAVID IGNATIUS

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. THE CASE FOR A JUST WAR WELL MADE IN PARLIAMENT
  2. LESSONS FROM DAVID JONES CASE
  3. WHEN OLD MEDIA IS NEW AGAIN

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. KILLER COUGH EXPOSES GAP IN DEFENCE
  2. JUDGING THE JUDGES
  3. TIME TO DESEX THE WORKPLACE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. SPENDING REVIEW: THE WORK OF A GAMBLER
  2. IN PRAISE OF … A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. ON TRACK TO SUCCEED MR. HU JINTAO
  2. RETURN OF A MAVERICK - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY
  3. ABSENT FROM TALKS, HAMAS STILL WIELDS A VETO - BY MKHAIMAR ABUSADA

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. CABINET RESHUFFLE NOT THE ISSUE
  2. BREASTFEEDING: THE BOOBY TRAP - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  3. STRUCTURAL INTERVENTIONS VS TROPICAL DISEASES - SUDIRMAN NASIR
  4. 'YUAN' APPRECIATION IS NOT SIMPLE ECONOMICS - WINARNO ZAIN

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. DIRECT ELECTIONS GIVE EXCELLENT FEEDBACK - BY KONSTANTIN SONIN
  2. RUSSIA IS GETTING WEALTHIER - BY PLAMEN MONOVSKI
  3. RUMORS OF CAPITALISM'S DEATH MUCH EXAGGERATED - BY YEVGENY BAZHANOV

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

US LOLLIPOP FOR PAKISTAN

BUT IT WON'T HELP FIGHT TALIBAN, AL QAEDA


The US will be sorely disappointed if it believes that $ 2 billion of fresh military aid, which it plans to give Pakistan, will push that country into playing a pro-active role in tracking down wanted terrorists of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in North Waziristan. Once it gets the aid, Islamabad will seek to defer action on the plea that its military is far too stretched in fighting Islamist insurgents elsewhere in the country, such as Swat and South Waziristan, and in manning its eastern border and Line of Control along Jammu & Kashmir. It will also try to wriggle out of keeping its part of the deal by citing manufactured public opinion opposed to collaborating with the Americans; the targeted drone attacks have proved to be useful for this purpose. But all this and more cannot hide the real reason for Pakistan's steadfast refusal to launch an all-out war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda: The Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment does not want to do anything that could harm its 'strategic assets' with which it hopes to regain control over Afghanistan and counter India's influence, for whatever it is worth, in that country after the American troops leave in the summer of 2011. Since North Waziristan is dominated by Pashtuns, who are smarting at being ignored by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and are only too happy to align with the Pakistani Army, it is unlikely that the US can tempt Pakistan to target the Taliban and Al Qaeda camps in this region by gifting the Generals of Rawalpindi with new million-dollar toys. Strangely, both the US and Pakistan know that the whole aid-for-action deal is no more than a dumb façade, yet both persist with it; Washington, DC writes out cheques and Islamabad has a ball.


Successive US Administrations have sought to secure Pakistan's active cooperation in the war on terror which began even before it was formally declared after 9/11 by showering the country with civilian and military aid, as well as reimbursing what have been exposed by American auditors to be fake bills towards 'expenses' incurred by the so-called 'frontline state'. That tradition has been kept alive by President Barack Obama who has been more than generous in giving civilian and military aid to Pakistan, overruling genuine concerns and objections on the Hill. Worse, Mr Obama has not bothered with adding non-negotiable compliance clauses after Pakistan insisted the aid should come without any accountability or responsibility on its part. Not surprisingly, much of this aid has been diverted to bolster Pakistan's offensive posture against India — Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani makes no bones of the fact that India, and neither the Taliban nor Al Qaeda, is his target. Even as Afghanistan totters on the brink of disaster and Pakistan unravels as a state, the Americans persist with their dumb policy of funding their 'trusted' ally and stuffing the arsenals of the Pakistani military with ever more sophisticated hardware without, in any manner, either securing the region or protecting the interests of Americans. Can a country with such blind faith in a criminal enterprise be a friend of India, leave alone a strategic partner? 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE

ICT YET TO IMPACT LIVES OF POOR


Developing countries ridden with poverty and struggling to ameliorate the lot of their people stand to gain much if they earnestly harness the opportunities that information and communication technology provide. The Information Economy Report 2010 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that diffusion of ICT, especially mobile telephony, can aid in creating new livelihoods for the poor and improve their earnings. The ICT-related micro-enterprises are spreading rapidly in many low-income countries, says the report, and are offering work of real value to populations with little education and scant resources. Developing countries like Kenya, Bangladesh, Ghana, Venezuela, Uganda, Niger and others have witnessed people proactively addressing their poverty issues with the help of technology. The poor are taking advantage of commercial undertakings such as selling airtime on the streets, refurbishing mobile phones, repairing personal computers, or running cyber cafés, since such activities require modest skill sets and meagre investment. If Kenya has more than 18,000 agents for the M-Pesa mobile-based transaction service, in neighbouring Bangladesh there are some 3,50,000 'village phone ladies', who are selling airtime. India also has its own success stories. In Gujarat, computerised milk collection centres are helping ensure fair prices for small farmers who sell milk to dairy cooperatives. In Andhra Pradesh, handheld computers used in the India Healthcare Delivery Project are enabling nurses and midwives to eliminate redundant paperwork and data entry, providing them more time to deliver healthcare to the poor. 


Although the penetration of mobile telephony has seen farmers, fishermen and small-time vendors improving their earnings, it is unfortunate that the diffusion ICT opportunities are unevenly distributed in our country and their benefits remain limited due to widespread illiteracy, poor knowledge of English language and ICT skills, high Internet access costs and insufficient information and communications infrastructure. Hence, the challenge for the authorities lies in narrowing this digital divide. Since cyber cafes are arguably the most affordable, self-sustaining form of public Internet access, they have the potential to successfully address most of these issues. With a little external funding, cyber cafes can be set up in slums and shanties and can become the access points for a range of e-literacy and training programmes, bringing sustainable ICT access to even the poorest. However, to be relevant to the poor people, the software applications must be available in local languages and should be visually oriented and use voice interfaces. It would make more sense if the content is drawn from the traditional knowledge base of the rural poor and disseminated through ICT, as the Honey Bee Network is doing in Gujarat. In Gambia, one of Africa's poorest countries, policymakers have shown if the ICT sector can be made an important component of a country's poverty-reduction strategies, it can yield results. The Government has hired erstwhile street beggars as sales representatives for Gamcel, one of the country's major mobile telecom operators. Our Union and State Governments can take a leaf out of Gambia's book. 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

A SIRIUS AFFAIR

IT BEGAN, QUITE BY CHANCE, IN MUSSOORIE FROM WHERE HE TRAVELLED TO DELHI. SINCE THEN, HE HAS BEEN ANYTHING BUT SERIOUS!

BIBEK DEBROY


Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, part of the constellation Canis Majoris. It is commonly known as the 'dog star'. For us, Sirius is our own Canis Familiaris. Neither of us is a Harry Potter fan and when we named him, we didn't know Sirius Black existed. In any event, our Sirius is more white than black, with patches of brown thrown in. If you visit us, you will lose our respect if you address him as Serious. He is anything but that.

Dogs have owned both of us at various stages in our lives. An interregnum followed. Then, with offspring having fled the nest, we needed a surrogate child. It began with Suparna adopting a motley assortment of strays of indeterminate pedigree. But though they were fed and feted, the puppies bathed and brushed, they remained outsiders, peering in. They merely prepared us for the insider who would follow. And that insider was completely unexpected and unplanned.


I had gone to Mussoorie to deliver a lecture at the Academy. There we were, blissfully sauntering along Mall Road in the evening, when we noticed a shop. A puppy was asleep on a divan in the shop. He was brown and white, with a bushy tail. We hadn't planned to acquire a dog. Had we wished to do so, we could have got one in Delhi. Why did one have to go to Mall Road in Mussoorie? It was almost as if this was pre-ordained.


We bought him from the shop-keeper for the princely sum of `1,400, chain and all. Then we broke the law by sliming him into our room at the Academy, where dogs weren't allowed. However, we followed the law by cancelling our return train tickets, since we weren't clear about whether a dog would be allowed. Instead, we hired a car to bring us back to Delhi.


Throughout the night, the puppy frolicked and frisked around on our bed. He soiled the carpet and lapped up the milk we got with tea at breakfast. While it was still dark, having cleaned the room, we furtively fled with our puppy. His pedigree is uncertain.


But he has some mix of the Himalayan sheep-dog, also known as 'Bhutia' or 'Gaddi'. For the non-cognoscenti, this is one of the four indigenous Indian breeds honoured in a postal stamp. We stopped intermittently at tea-stalls, offering him milk. He spurned these offers, preferring to feast on innumerable flies instead. We left Mussoorie with a puppy. By the time we reached Delhi, he had become Sirius.


Infancy brought its share of toils. Sirius had to be toilet-trained. He couldn't be furniture-trained or footwear-trained. He joined the family when he was three months old. By the time he was nine months old, all the furniture had been ravaged and had to be replaced. Ditto for footwear. We got him a trainer, who gave up after a couple of months, never progressing beyond teaching Sirius to shake hands.

 

According to the trainer, this breed has never been properly domesticated and Sirius, in particular, is inferior in intelligence.

The former proposition is probably true. In those initial months, Suparna kept complaining this puppy would never welcome us when we returned home. He wouldn't wag his tail. That's gone topsy-turvy now. The welcome is overwhelming. Sirius has a strong sense of class. As long as you are not perceived to be extremely inferior in socio-economic status and are also human, you will be welcomed vociferously, even if you happen to be a thief.


As for the latter proposition, about his lack of intelligence, that doesn't seem to be true. He is intelligent enough when it suits him.


There are simple rules to be followed. First, you will not leave me alone at home. If you do so, I will destroy the furniture. Second, once a day, if not more often, you will take me out for a ride in the car. When you do so, you will lower the window, so that I can stick my neck out and savour the breeze. If you don't do that, I will whine. Third, unless it is very cold, the AC must be on. If not, I will whine and attract your attention by sniffing in the general direction of the AC. Fourth, I will paw you when I want to be stroked and you will not cease until I have stopped pawing.


Fifth, you will not introduce me to monkeys and cats. (A monkey has slapped me and a cat has scratched me when I was young.) Sixth, when the bed has been made, I know it has been made for me and I will plonk myself on the most comfortable part. I know I was juvenile when young and requisitioned the pillows at night. You can have your pillows now, but your legs must be a substitute. Seventh, if you are a male guest and possess a well-endowed thigh, I will hump you.


Eighth, I am not a pedigreed dog, so don't offer me junk food in the form of 'Pedigree'. Succulent chicken, ham, salami and sausages are acceptable. If it is rice, make sure it is Basmati. Ninth, I will occasionally run away from home, to establish my superiority over the neighbourhood strays. You know perfectly well I always return and never fight with strays. All the strays know me and accept me as their lord and master. I only fight with pet dogs, preferably Labradors and Dalmatians. I am circumspect about German Shepherds.


Tenth, at this time of the year, when there are terrible sounds from all around, I will return to infancy and slink away to the most remote corner of the cupboard. Food, favourite fluffy toys and other blandishments won't be able to tempt me.


With these Ten Commandments established, we are a happy family.

 

Sirius offers us limitless love, joy, faith and devotion and there is not much he expects in return. If you want his progeny, you are too late. We wished to give him one season of bliss before he was neutered. On the first occasion, the vet's assistant taught him what to do, while the proud parents looked on. But it took two years before there were offspring. One of these puppies is now headed for Sweden. There is a story of canine migration there, the father moving from Mussoorie to Delhi and the daughter migrating from Delhi to Stockholm.

As for Sirius, he is a shade less than three years. There are several more years of bliss and companionship. A world without Sirius is one we don't even want to think about.


-- The writer is a noted economist. He is currently translating the Mahabharata chapter and verse, of which the first volume has been recently published. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A DIFFERENT BATTLE

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA


Jats demanding the status of OBCs and quotas in education and jobs could hurt the fighting spirit of this martial community. That is bound to be reflected on the morale of Jat soldiers in the Indian Army


Whether or not Jats residing in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh deserve quotas in Government jobs or a 'backward' tag to facilitate them is a matter to be decided by the courts and lawmakers. But it would be in order to analyse the potential long-term ramifications of the continuing social turmoil on this issue on the nation's security environment. 


As is well-known, the Jats, who are mainly Hindus, are agriculturists par excellence and quintessential soldiers with compulsory land-holdings. They constitute the bulk of the 20-odd Jat Regiments in the Indian Army today. Despite living under 700 years of Muslim rule in close vicinity of Delhi, they have managed to preserve a semblance of their culture, traditions and autonomy. During British rule as well, Jats proved difficult customers to deal with. Understandably, they were deployed by the British as soldiers to vanquish their own enemies. 

The journey of the Jats into all branches of the Bengal Army began with the raising of the 1st Battalion as the 22nd Bengal Native Infantry in 1803. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions were born in 1817 and 1823, respectively.


When India became independent, the character of the Jat Regiment changed. It came to consist exclusively members of the Jat community hailing from the rural belt of the Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, western Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Today there are 20 Jat Battalions (with 800-1,000 soldiers each). Besides, Jats constitute the bulk of Rajputana Rifles, Grenadiers, Armoured Corps, Artillery and Rashtriya Rifles. It can safely be asserted that there are anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 Jats in the Indian Army. 


But today the community which plays such an important role in the nation's defence seems ready to participate in street fights for an assured percentage of jobs in the civil sector. The Jats, who have produced a Prime Minister, an Air Chief Marshal and hundreds of one, two and three-star Air Marshals, Admirals and Generals, apart from top civil servants purely on the basis of merit and professionalism, find themselves in need of an official recognition of their 'backward stature' as community leaders believe that only such a label can buy them progress and help them climb the social ladder.


Seen in this background, the recent violence apparently instigated by the community leaders and netas, for reservation for Jats in the hinterland in recruitment of soldiers is a cause for concern. Many are worried about the event adversely affecting the morale of the forces. 


History shows that when the armies of rajas and maharajas (there were too many of them and the concept of a nation-state was unknown) were defeated at the hands of the invaders, the honour and independence of the indigenous rulers vanished inevitably. But the valour of ordinary soldiers was never in short supply. If anything, it was the lack of will and judgement on the part of their non-military leaders that proved to be their undoing. 


It took the British to give the fighters of Hindustan new values, organisation and professionalism. The Indian Army was born, restricted soldier selection centres notwithstanding. Although it was an Army based on caste, creed and class, it nevertheless improved the quality of performance on the battlefield. Recurring invasions through the North-West frontier ceased and soldiers from India shone on foreign soil from China to Flanders and Tobruk to Turin.

The legacy of British recruitment and deployment is alive to a large extent. However, like our vanishing forests and the consequent conflict for space between man and animal, simmering discontent and disaffection on the home front cannot be a distant possibility. Political stability of the yesteryears appears to be fast giving way to social disharmony and competitive quota games. The continuing turmoil is bound to affect the morale of the soldiers sooner rather than later. Herein lies the potential danger. Not too long ago, the Gujjars and Meenas were at each other's throats in the rural belt of central India while sharing food and gossip in the barracks and on the front. The unending anti-India, anti-Army tirade and violence in the Kashmir Valley are also causes for concern affecting at least some recruits of Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry and Jammu & Kashmir Rifles. Similarly, the Gorkha National Liberation Front movement in the 1980s and 1990s permanently disabled recruitment and training facilities in the Darjeeling-Siliguri belt.


In fact, the 11th Gorkha Rifles, officially re-raised in January 1948, consisted from the beginning of those who, instead of joining the 7th and 10th British Gorkha Rifles, joined the Indian Army. These recruits, being predominantly from eastern Nepal, were Rais and Limbus, considered among the "most short-tempered, fierce and sturdy amongst hill warriors". Not surprisingly, the Ghangora centre of the 11th Gorkhas had to be shifted to Clemen Town in Dehradun following the politics of violence.


As more and more areas fall victim to politics of reservation and social tensions, the psychological pressure on soldiers on duty can only mount. Unending social and ethnic turbulence in pockets of the North-East, the Ganga-Yamuna belt, the hills of West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, the ravines of Chambal and the heartlands of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and western Uttar Pradesh, coupled with the divisive agenda of politicians, is likely to affect discipline in the Armed Forces.


--The writer is a commentator on security affairs. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FAITH, FACT AND FICTION

HISTORY AND ASI RECORDS PROVE HINDU TEMPLES HAVE BEEN VANDALISED TIME AND AGAIN BY MUSLIM RULERS AND INVADERS. WILL MUSLIMS CONSIDER RETURNING ALL THOSE MANDIRS TO HINDUS IN EXCHANGE OF THE BABRI MASJID?

PRAFULL GORADIA


The recent judgement of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Ram Janmabhoomi has been criticised by several Muslim leaders and a self-styled secularist as one based on faith and not facts. To insist on facts, when it comes to religion, is a contradiction in terms. That Virgin Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ is a belief inspired by faith and we respect it. Similarly, we do not question that Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven from the Dome of Rock.


The short-sightedness of the Muslim institutions wanting to appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court's recent judgement on Ram Janmabhoomi is obvious. In contrast, recall the vision of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, the distinguished Premier of undivided Punjab: The Muslim League had sponsored the Punjab Muslim Mosques Protection Bill of 1938. The intention was primarily to secure the restoration of the Shaheed Ganj mosque, which was being used as a gurudwara. 


As stated by Professor Coupland, the Bill was expected to create a grave political crisis for Sir Sikander's Unionist Party. However, he still stood firm against the Bill and stated openly in the Punjab Assembly that the enactment of the legislation would provoke a retaliatory action in other provinces in respect of the numerous non-Muslim places of worship, which had passed into Muslim hands and had become sites of important Muslim holy places such as, the Dargah at Ajmer or the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque near Qutb Minar.


Significantly, the Council of the Muslim League approved of Sir Sikander's contention and the Punjab Governor accordingly, did not permit the Bill to be introduced. That left Barkat Ali, the sponsor of the Bill, disappointed. The incident is quoted from Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan by Mr SM Ikram. 

As a Hindu, I welcome the insistence on facts. I could go to the extent of offering the Muslims the Babri masjid back provided their leaders agree to give back all the places of worship, which were proven mandirs and were converted into masjids by invaders or Muslim rulers. 


I have seen and photographed several mosques whose walls carry integral carvings of Lord Ganesh. The Quwwat-ul-Islam in Delhi and the Adina Mosque near Malda in West Bengal are two such examples. The Jama Masjid in Vidisha near Bhopal is a veritable museum of Hindu idols. The Rudra Mahalaya Complex at Siddhpur in Gujarat with its 11 temples used as Jami Masjid is another interesting example. From within the precincts of the mosque, Hindu idols were excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1979, but were buried back at the insistence of Muslim leaders. This incidence was reported by the Fourth National Minorities Commission Report, 1983. According to Alexander Cunningham, the legendary founder of ASI, it was the resplendent kingdom of Kannauj, which was later destroyed by Muhammad Ghori in 12th century. 


In his Mathura : A District Memoir, FS Growse has recorded his exhaustive survey of Brajbhoomi. He was so overwhelmed by the vandalism that he visited the area repeatedly and recorded it in detail. To quote: "Thanks to Muhammadan intolerance, there is not a single building of any antiquity either in Mathura or, its environs. Its most famous temple — that dedicated to Kesava Deva (Krishna) — was destroyed in 1669, the eleventh year of the reign of Aurangzeb or Alamgir. The mosque (idgah) erected on its ruins is a building of little architectural value."

Over two centuries after the desecration, Growse felt that "of all the sacred places in India, none enjoys a greater popularity than the capital of Braj, the holy city of Mathura. For nine months in the year, festival follows upon festival in rapid succession and the ghats and temples are daily thronged with new troops of way worn pilgrims". 

Today, Balkrishna is worshipped in a little room, which appears like a servant quarter attached to the back of the idgah. Definitely, any visitor, whether a devotee or otherwise, would feel pathetic.


The birthplace of Krishna was vandalised repeatedly. It started with Mahmud of Ghazni in 1017 and went on till Aurangzeb's rule in 17th century. Historian Sri Ram Sharma in his The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors, first published in 1940, wrote: "Then came the turn of the temple of Keshav Rai at Mathura built at a cost of `33,00,000 by Rao Bir Singh Bundela during the reign of Jahangir. It had excited the envy of many Muslims who, however, had not Aurangzeb's power. It had been built after the style of the famous temple at Bindraban which Man Singh had built at a cost of `5,00,000. But Bir Singh had improved upon his model and spent more than six times as much as Man Singh had lavished on his shrine at Bindraban. It had become a centre of pilgrimage for the whole of India. The idols, studded with precious stones and adorned with gold work, were all taken to Agra and there buried under the steps of Jahanara's mosque. The temple was levelled to the ground and a mosque was ordered to be built on the site to mark the acquisition of religious merit by the emperor." Historian Sharma has relied on Maasiri-i-Alamgiri.

The Russians at the end of their conquest of Warsaw had built an Orthodox church, which stood for a hundred years until World War I. It was demolished after the Polish takeover. At the same site, the Poles rebuilt their Catholic church. The incident was described by Sir Arnold Toynbee in the first Azad Memorial lecture delivered in Delhi. He then went on to comment on the irony of independent India tolerating the idgah over Krishna Janmabhoomi and the two tall mosques built on the ghats of Benares. 


Ours being a peaceful society, Indians should avoid desecration. A fair and square exchange of the Babri edifice for all the mandirs turned into masjids, which authentic records prove, should be acceptable to all.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ILL WINDS THAT BLOW THROUGH DEGANGA

A HEADY COCKTAIL OF MINORITY APPEASEMENT AND RANK COMMUNALISM HAS SENT THIS WEST BENGAL TOWN ON A SPIN, SAYS RICHARD L BENKIN


For three days in September, anti-Hindu violence wracked the Deganga area in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal. Though the violence has subsided, Hindu residents fear renewed attacks. West Bengal BJP member Tathagata Roy visited the area twice since the violence began and observed, "that no Hindu was physically hurt, and no Hindu woman was molested, a regular feature in all Muslim attacks. But destruction of property and threats were both rampant….This was a well-thought-out, well-executed pogrom whose objective was to terrorise the Hindus no end without committing any major crime beyond arson." That the matter is now fodder for political bickering instead of effective counteraction only furthers the attackers' objectives.


Mr Bimal Pramanik, Director of Kolkata's Centre for Research in Indo-Bangladesh Relations, has tracked a decades-long effort to change Hindu-Muslim demographics in West Bengal. Since the emergence of an independent Bangladesh in 1971, East Bengal's Hindus have fallen from under one in five persons to between seven and eight per cent today; while the proportion of West Bengal's Muslims has risen by 25 per cent, exceeding Muslim growth in Bangladesh. Mr Pramanik attributes the population shifts to anti-Hindu attacks and "illegal immigration from Bangladesh".


The political infighting over Deganga is reminiscent of similar wrangling in the US. Americans reacted to the 9/11 terror with a wave of patriotism, unity and a collective will to defeat those who attacked them. Over time, however, that fervour was replaced by the same political bickering now taking place in India. Democrats blamed the attacks on Republican President George W Bush; Republicans blamed his Democrat predecessor, President Bill Clinton. The result: Support for resolutely fighting the Islamists has been plagued by disunity and political jockeying.


Islamists, meanwhile, proceed in a united, resolute manner and Muslims get a free pass to express their anger however they wish. If Hindus do it, they are 'Hindu fanatics'; Jews, 'Zionist oppressors'; Christians, 'Islamaphobic'. If they attack Muslims, it is their fault. If Muslims attack them, it is still their fault. Arab terror attacks that murdered over 1,000 innocent Israelis were justified as anger over the so-called occupation. The September 11 attacks were deemed expressions of Muslim anger for whichAmericans must atone; and when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad accused the US of orchestrating them, many at the UN applauded enthusiastically. And virtually every international body and media outlet determined that the 26/11 Islamist terror in Mumbai is insufficient cause to bring anyone to justice. As American author Michelle Malkin wrote, "The eternal flame of Muslim outrage was lit a long, long time ago." Woe to any people it burns because the world's elites will blame them for it.


The Deganga pogrom can be viewed parallel with another planned, jihadist event: The 2000 Palestinian intifada.

The Pretext 

Deganga Pogrom: Hindus stopped Muslims from tunneling between the Deganga Mosque and a nearby mandir.

Arab Intifada: Private citizen Ariel Sharon visited Jerusalem's Temple Mount.


Background

Deganga Pogrom: As the area's Muslim population has grown, it has tried to stop Durga Puja and claim the land for their mosque.


Arab Intifada: Muslims claim the Jewish Temples never existed, and claim the Mount as a holy site for Muslims only.

What happened


Deganga Pogrom: Angry Muslims gathered at the Mosque after iftar (giving it religious significance) and began attacking Hindus, their temples, homes and shops. When troops arrived, they attacked undefended Hindu villages in the interior.


Arab Intifada: Angry Muslims gathered on the Temple Mount by Al Aqsa mosque (giving it religious significance) and began attacking Jewish worshippers below. When troops restored calm, they launched a bloody terror war against Israel.


Government

Deganga Pogrom: Stopped the immediate violence, but made no arrests, defended Hindu religious sentiments, or defined Muslim actions or claims as illegitimate.


Arab Intifada: Defeated the uprising, but allowed enemy claims to be given legitimacy, until recently, did not press Jewish rights; even released terrorists as 'goodwill gestures'.


Media

Deganga Pogrom: Events under reported domestically and blacked out internationally; no discussion of Hindu rights.

Arab Intifada: Took terrorists' case as cause célèbre; no mention of Jewish rights.


The Result


Deganga Pogrom: The Muslim attackers and their instigators see they can attack Hindus in India without consequences. False Muslim claim to Hindu lands stronger.


Arab Intifada: Arab claims to Jewish land are given more legitimacy — that is, terror works. False Muslim claim about the Jewish Temples stronger.


The attackers and their backers object that identifying pogromists as Muslim and victims as Hindu unfairly smears an entire faith. While religion should not be an important issue, our enemies, not us, made it so. There were deliberate efforts to give the Deganga and Palestinian violence a religious overtone. In 2004, Yassir Arafat apologised to the father of a 20-year-old terror victim because he was Christian and they were gunning for Jews. In 2006, there were deadly riots worldwide over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The rioters were not Hindus or Jews, but Muslims who called the cartoons blasphemous. Muslims, not their critics, have made this a religious fight. More frightening, few were Al Qaeda and most were just Muslims. Draw what conclusions you may, but the religious component injected by Muslims is a fact.


The Deganga riots are more significant than we might believe. The violence and the decades-long demographic change speak of a deliberate effort to reduce India piece by piece, no less so than Islamists' effort to do the same to Israel. If Indians do not awaken soon, as Israelis have, they might find that international elites have defined Bengal as they have Kashmir.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BIHAR'S CROSSROADS

 

All eyes are on Bihar as the first phase of the assembly election gets underway today. The unusual attention this time is because the outcome of the election could alter the nature of politics not just in Bihar but in other states as well. It's rare for an incumbent state government to call upon voters to make their choice on the basis of its record in office, which is what the Janata Dal (United)-BJP coalition has done. 


Another term for Nitish Kumar as chief minister could force a paradigm shift in the state's political trajectory and perforce make a case for development as a viable formula for electoral success. Such a shift could transcend or at least neutralise mobilisations solely based on caste, religion, ethnicity or language. Bihar needs to build robust public institutions, overcome extensive poverty and facilitate all-round development. Nitish recognises the need to move ahead of the social justice discourse, which under Lalu Prasad had been reduced to a cynical exercise of caste management and patronage, and focus on modernising Bihar's polity and economy. Under Nitish, the language of politics has changed. Cynicism and despondence have given way to hope. The law and order situation has improved vastly. Issues like education and reforming the public distribution system became a priority for the government. Bihar needs to build on the positives and spread the growth across sectors. 


Electoral politics is a complex activity. Multiple factors influence outcomes. The opposition in Bihar, mainly the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), believes that voters are swayed more by caste and communal alliances than talk about development. Nitish too recognises the importance of social coalitions. He has built a coalition of upper castes, extreme backwards and a section of Dalits with political cunning and policy manoeuvring. The Congress, seeking a revival in the state, has projected itself as a party of governance and as an alternative to tested outfits like the JD(U), the RJD and the LJP. This is in line with the new Congress strategy to rebuild the party in the Hindi heartland states. The BJP has been careful to nurture its alliance with the JD(U) and has abided by the demands of the latter to avoid political gestures that could polarise voters. 

Multipolar contests can upset predictions. No party in recent Bihar elections has managed to poll over 25 per cent of the votes. Nevertheless the stakes are clear. Can development be a selling point for politicians? Much rides on the electoral outcome in Bihar.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DIGITAL EVOLUTION

 

According to a recent research note by Gartner, a leading information technology research company, sales of the iPad and other tablets will hit 19.4 million units in 2010. Impressive statistics given that the tablet market truly took off only half-a-year ago with the iPad's launch. The note also predicts that tablets will cannibalise sales of other mobile devices, particularly netbooks. Which begs the obvious question, one that has been frequently asked since the iPad's launch can tablets pose a serious threat to, and eventually replace, personal computers? Iconic Apple CEO Steve Jobs thinks this is the case. The answer, however, may not be so clear-cut. 

A large segment of personal computer users require devices only for basic functionality such as Web surfing, e-mail and social networking. Tablets, with their attractive look and mobility, could indeed prove to be an adequate replacement here. The problem is their high price point. But these are expected to drop significantly over the next three to five years. For users with more computing resource intensive requirements, however, it is difficult to see the tablet as anything more than a secondary device. With their limited hardware and operating systems current tablet OSs are more akin to upgraded smartphone OSs than full-featured computer ones tablets will find it difficult to replicate the functionality of PCs or even laptops. These are, however, short-term predictions. What the tablet has certainly done is shake up the personal computing market. It may well have started the shift towards the scenario 
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer envisions, one that is not an either/or situation but an evolution and melding of these devices.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

LIFE BEYOND AYODHYA

ASHOK MALIK

 

What does the Allahabad high court (HC) judgement in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri masjid title dispute case mean for the BJP? The Ayodhya issue has not quite been resolved. An appeal is certain to be filed before the Supreme Court and it will take perhaps two or three years for full and final closure. Nevertheless, what the Allahabad HC has done is put in place the rough framework for a settlement. A division of property between the principal litigants and an honourable compromise that will allow both a temple at the site of the sanctum sanctorum and a mosque in close vicinity are now non-negotiable. 


How have the BJP and its extended family responded to the verdict? The VHP, as the principal arm of the Ayodhya movement, has taken a maximalist position. It has sought the entirety of the territory the 60 feet by 40 feet Mir Baqi used to build his shrine; the 2.77 acres that was the mandir-masjid complex; the 67 acres of land, much of it formerly owned by Hindu groups, acquired by the Union government two decades ago for a massive Ram temple. It has said a mosque can only be built outside this space, and indeed outside Ayodhya. 


There are two interpretations of the VHP's demand. First, it could be playing hardball in the build-up to a Supreme Court battle. Second, it could be serious. If so, this would amount to monumental misreading of the public mood. 


Mainstream opinion is glad a route had been found for both sides to walk away from hostility. Ordinary Hindu sentiment too has been assuaged. Yet, it is one thing to be happy at the idea of a Ram temple; it is quite another to want to build the temple after humiliating Muslims and virtually exiling them. 


In this context, the argument by some intellectual proponents of the VHP that the building of a new mosque in Ayodhya would be comparable with the plan to construct Cordoba House, an Islamic religio-cultural centre, a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York is dangerous nonsense. It goes against the grain of the HC judgement. Most important, it completely ignores the imperatives of today's India. 


To be fair, the response of the BJP has been relatively understated. Sections of the party have long recognised that the rendezvous with Ram is over, that Ayodhya is more of an albatross around the BJP's neck than a voter magnet. If the Allahabad HC's verdict is broadly ratified by the apex court, the process of moving on from Ayodhya can begin. The BJP would welcome this. 


It is not as if the construction of a 'grand Ram temple' will galvanise 'core supporters' and lead to great electoral triumph. Frankly, the issue is scarcely a priority any more. However, the diminution of Ayodhya and, by extension, Hindutva as a calling card will force the BJP to seek alternative (perhaps complementary) philosophies around which to organise itself. The ideational upgrade of the Indian right, not attempted since the early 1990s, can no more be postponed. 


It is crucial the BJP not mistake the response to the Ayodhya judgement and to its own sobriety as well as in parallel appreciation of its recent parliamentary performance as indicative of possible electoral success. The two are not related, and not even the UPA government's lacklustre performance will necessarily join them. 

The compelling concern before the BJP is not so much the absence of power as the absence of influence. Political movements the New Right in America before the 1980 election; the BJP itself before coming to office in 1998 go through a period of acquiring influence, gaining traction with policy interventions and innovations, before converting these into critical votes and a seat in government. The BJP has completely ignored this aspect since its defeat in 2004. It has focussed instead on short-termism, individual and institutional, to somehow put together a coalition that will win power. 


A microcosmic example of this can be found in Bihar, where the BJP has been a partner in government for five years and which it is likely to win again in a few weeks. In Patna, the BJP has power but not quite influence. The NDA government there is very much a Nitish Kumar/JD(U) government; there is no BJP stamp on it. 

What then is the BJP stamp? At a time when Indian business is frustrated at the slackness of reform, when the populist, leftward tilt of the 
UPA government is beginning to cause concern, when foreign policy is going pretty much nowhere despite the promise of a new beginning following the nuclear deal two years ago, when the urban middle classes the building block of the BJP's constituency are looking for an option to a vacuous aam aadmi rhetoric (but certainly not seeking it in a strident Ram aadmi rhetoric), there is room for a right-of-centre party that enters the debate on the timid pace of economic change, on the sort of society India seeks to shape for the next 20 years, on India's role in the Asian century as it evolves. 


These are big-picture issues on which the UPA is very vulnerable. Even so, it is not being effectively challenged. Post-Ram, what's the BJP's excuse? 


The writer is a political commentator.


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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

WAY OF DEVOTION IS IDEAL

SHRI SHRI ANANDAMURTI

 

Gyana or knowledge, karma or action and bhakti or devotion are the three aids for progress on the path of spirituality. A gyani, a knowledgeable person, reaches near the goal but yet a little distance remains in between. A karmi, person of action, reaches nearer the goal but even then a little gap remains. A bhakta or person of devotion reaches right to the goal. The gyani repents ultimately that he wasted a long life on dry discourses of knowledge and could not fulfil their mission. Karmis, too, repent likewise. They think that they worked and reached near the goal but did not. 


Bhaktas don't repent because their minds are always full of bliss they neither feel exalted nor humiliated. There is nothing else in their minds except bliss, the unbroken flow of happiness, ananda. Therefore, they remain unaffected by pain and pleasure. Only a devotee can say this, and not the intellectual or the one dexterous at work. However simple an intellectual may be, vanity always remains concealed in the mind. Intellectuals think they are not ordinary people. They feel that they know what others do not know. These feelings exist whenever there is vanity, ego. 


Pride causes downfall. Thus we see that an egoistic intellectual is prone to fall. Where there is the possibility of downfall, the path may be good but it may not be safe. Karmis, too, feel proud when they think they have accomplished some work. Outwardly they may express that they have done nothing, but secretly they harbour desire for publicity. A dexterous worker falls prey to these weaknesses. 


Bhaktas have nothing to lose. Since they realise Parama Purusha and consider Him as their own, they have nothing to lose or gain. Only devotees can say that He is the same for all. Whether He causes pleasure or pain makes no difference because He who causes pain, like the one who gives pleasure, is the manifestation of Narayana. But intellectuals think objectively. Therefore, they feel pleasure, pain or humiliation whenever confronted with different circumstances. Devotees have no malice against anyone. 


What is pleasure? It is a mental projection, a mental propensity. Pain, too, is the same. One is positive and the other is negative. There is no difference between the two. The mental balance remains the same. Pleasure and pain, good reputation, and adverse criticism all are equal. There is nothing to gain or lose from name and fame. Likewise there is nothing to gain or lose from a bad name. There is difference of opinion on merging with the Supreme. But to Him, all are the same. 


There is only one path, the path of devotion. The goal of this path is not to ask Parama Purusha for something or to get something from Him, but to serve Him. The devotee feels happiness in His happiness. The greater devotees, however, think in a different way. They follow the path of devotion and serve Parama Purusha only to give Him pleasure, to make Him happy and never aspire to derive pleasure or happiness for themselves. This is the highest plane of devotion, utterly selfless. Those who work for the happiness of Parama Purusha are called "gopa". This is the supreme height of devotion. It is the only true path. 


Today, October 21, is the 20th Mahaprayan Divas of Shri Shri Anandamurti.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

DRAMA IS THE STUFF OF SPORT

 

The public challenge issued by women's discus world champion Dani Samuels to Commonwealth Games gold medallist Krishna Poonia for a $20,000 winner-takes-all showdown is exactly what legendary sporting face-offs are made of. Irrespective of criticism from some quarters that the challenge was issued in poor taste, gladiatorial contests between individual athletes have always been the main attraction in sports. Whether it is the great rivalries in tennis Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe or the personal duels in boxing Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier sporting history is replete with examples of famous battles between greats who refused to accept second place. Even in team sports, mini battles between individual players have gone on to achieve greater prominence than team results. Who could forget the famous showdown between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne in the 1998 Test series? 


It is also true that individual rivalries help garner interest in a particular sport by creating fan following and loyalties. Correspondingly, they create icons that the next generation of sportsmen can look up to. We can already see this happening in Samuels's and Poonia's case. Needless to say, it's also great for women's discus. The fact that a sponsor is willing to put down $20,000 double the amount that the most prestigious discus event, the Diamond League, offers is significant. There is reason to believe that more sponsors will follow suit if Samuels and Poonia set the trend.


So what if the contest is outside the ambit of official sporting sanction? It's the anticipation and drama of the event that matters. Samuels will have an opportunity to prove she is indeed the best in the world while Poonia will have the chance to dethrone her. Meanwhile, women's discus will generate unprecedented interest.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

A JUVENILE CHALLENGE

JAY KUMAR

 

Dani Samuels's challenge to Commonwealth Games gold medallist Krishna Poonia for a duel that's akin to a boxing bout can at best be termed juvenile. Instead of competing at a recognised event that's next only to the Olympics, Samuels pulled out of the event citing health and safety concerns in India. All this happened while her compatriots came and took part in the competition. Neither did the Australian cricket team have trouble touring India during the same period. 


In sport, only the performance of an athlete matters. Since Samuels couldn't show up for the Delhi Games, it will remain a matter of conjecture how she would have performed. What we know is that the Australian's form has been dipping this year, which could be the real reason why she pulled out. Let's not support utterly unprofessional behaviour on her part, in the name of a gladiatorial contest. Even if she couldn't make it to the Delhi Games, why can't she wait for another big event to re-establish her credentials? Poonia can't be expected to make time from her busy schedule at this point, just because Samuels couldn't make it to the Games but has managed to find a sponsor now. 


If such a duel actually takes place, it will set a poor precedent in the world sports fraternity. Athletes undergo a long and sustained period of preparation before they enter a competition. By supporting the Samuels-Poonia duel, we are falling for a trap where anyone can challenge an established sportsperson. It's commercialisation as well as personalisation of sport of the worst kind.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

INDIA EVERYWHERE

BACHI KARKARIA 

 

Soft power hits even harder than we thought. The last thing I expected -or wanted -- on a holiday in history-steeped Cracow was a Bollywood press conference. But there they were, hero, villain, director and crew of 'Mujjahir' causing the usual Indian chaos as bemused glocals gawked at the unit's security bandobast in the main square of Poland's former capital.  The ancient cobbles had been disturbed by nothing noisier than the clip-clop of our gilded carriage when we had 'done' it the previous morning. Now it seemed it could be 'done in' by our flashier compatriots. 

 

Sachin Joshi had already jumped from a bridge on to a barge in the Vistula, and Prashant Chadha was about to direct an explosion in this  historic quadrangle. The pressconf, held in the 19th century Noworol Caffee, was sandwiched in between these two events, not unlike the stack of custard cream packed between the khari-biscoot-type pastry of the kremovka on offer. We prayed that the heritage coffee shop or even the square itself would not end up as messy as this signature cake should one detonation prove more realistic than intended. 

 

But our hero in black leather who arrived fashionably late, the villain Arya Babbar, who arrived even more fashionably, and the beaming worthies of the Krakow Film Commission seemed confident that this production would not upstage the CWG's lapses and collapses which had so obsessed the world media in previous weeks. 

 

Still, I felt a tremulous flutter as I returned to the medieval 'mall' after lunch. Happily it still stood, flanked by the arches of the Cloth Hall, the patina-ed spires of the renaissance church, and the 14th century tower which is all that remains of the town hall. Even the vintage piano installed for Chopin's 200th birth anniversary hadn't struck a false note. The composer may have visited Cracow only as a tourist, and for just seven days, but any connection is good for any monetization anywhere in the world. 

 

Judging by the pressconf,  Mujjahir's action masala had smashed the Polish stereotype of Bollywood being just mushy song and dance. Before this, there was Fanaa, where --in full cinematic circle -- the Trata mountain location was passed off as Kashmir. 'Polywood' had an even earlier avatar. The tripping beat of 'Dil tadap, tadap ke keh raha' from Madhumati is a straight lift from a Polish folk tune. 

 

If Bollywood comes, can yoga not be far ahead? It appeared in the serene form of Agnieszka Dyga from the marshal's office of this Malopolska region. Like Bengali Brahmins, fish is the exception to her vegetarianism, and her graceful fingers formed perfect mudras over a lightly grilled trout as she explained Poland's dance version of  Patanjali. Or at least that of her guru. He's called, take a deep rhythmic breath, Lukasz Jasielski-Sao Yamyang.  

 

Agnieszka happily made the karmic connection between her name and the sacred agni. But the omnipotent B word reasserted its might. Our lunch companion, Emilia Kubik from the Polish Tourist Organization, despaired that a number of youngsters here are taking Hindi lessons only to understand Bollywood songs. Her pert, pierced nose had a tiny silver stud. 

 

 Arthur Koestler's 'Yogi and the Commissar' mystically came together again when I mentioned the 16th century Wawel Castle. I was told of its strong chakra, which has watched over it through Poland's long history of occupation. It was heavily mined during World War II, but every single one was found before it could blow up." Wow. Our ancient heritage protects less ancient heritage from Pole to Pole.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

THE BATTLE FOR BIHAR'S BEGUN

 

That old curmudgeon V.S. Naipaul once described Bihar as being the place where civilisation ends. As the curtain goes up on the 2010 assembly elections in the state, he might want to revise that view. The political significance of these elections and their outcome on the fortunes of the political parties in the fray are seen from the fact that the Congress, the BJP, the RJD and the ruling JD(U) have come out all guns blazing from the word go.

 

The state in which elections were once determined by caste has undergone a radical transformation and today most of the political formations are firing from the development platform after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar used this effectively to turn around the fortunes of the once benighted state. Today, its growth rate is 11.35 per cent from 3.5 per cent five years ago. If the development agenda continues to sell, and there is no reason why it should not, the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance will be difficult to beat. After the Ayodhya verdict and the muted saffron response to it, Mr Kumar is not as chary as before of sharing a platform openly with the BJP. This explains why no less than veteran leader L.K. Advani has hit the ground running in the run-up to the first phase of polling. The chief minister has a seemingly unbeatable combination in his favour, the OBCs, the upper castes courtesy the BJP and the Muslims who have reposed faith in his secular credentials and his ability to deliver on livelihood issues.

 

The Congress, despite the opening salvos by its big guns like UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi, is not looking to capture the state. Rather buoyed by its fairly good showing in both Bihar and UP in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it hopes to improve its vote share, something which looks very likely given the level of enthusiasm for Rahul Gandhi. This could also vindicate the party's 'go it alone' stance, something it tried in both UP and Bihar in the last general election. Lalu Prasad, the former strongman of Bihar is looking uncharacteristically shaky, unable to reinvent his party from its caste orientation to a more progressive one. But the formidable Lalu cannot be written off and he will leave no stone unturned to unsettle his bete noire Mr Kumar and preserve his family's foothold in the state's politics. Whether Mr Kumar does as well as he did last time or not, he will be credited with bringing Bihar out of the dark ages and putting it back on the map. Now many may argue that his development agenda is not as impressive as made out, but the fact is that Bihar is a talking point in the positive sense today. Whichever party gets the upper hand, one thing is clear. Bihar can no longer be dismissed in Naipaulean terms, it could well become the place where a new civilisation begins.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

NO ARM DONE HERE

 

Our excitement knows no bounds, come November Barack Obama will come calling, along with Michelle with her sleek and toned arms. While we are graced with these, the US clearly does not want our neighbour Pakistan to feel left out. So it has thrown a mere $2 billion in its direction so it too can buy a few arms of a different kind for itself.

 

Now Pakistan will surely find good use for these arms and we should not worry too much about them finding their way to our borders. Given its track record of peaceful co-existence, we imagine that this money will go towards a new line in furnishing and décor in its public offices. Of course, we can trust the Pakistanis to be innovative with this latest round of largesse as it has been in the past, giving it to such retailers as the Taliban and the jihadis, all for development purposes.

 

Now imagine the scene in Islamabad when Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna goes calling on Pakistan foreign minister S.M. Qureishi. "I say Mehmood old chap, have you gone in for a makeover here? I must say the furniture is very interestingly shaped. That table over there looks like a dead ringer for a Hellfire missile." To which old Qureishi will say, "All these new-fangled designs really leave me cold. But yes, you are right, it has a dual purpose. When one fine day if, say the Maldivians were to threaten us, we could whip off the dust cloths and let them have a few volleys. Oh do be careful, that grenade-covered cushion could hurt you." Well, we are not too upset. We have our aam aadmi, they have their aam aadmi.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

WHO'S YOUR DADDY?

SAMAR HALARNKAR

 

This is what India's greatest city has come to. 

A gawky 20-year-old history student looking for an event to accompany his impending break into politics asks the vice-chancellor (VC) of one of India's greatest universities to withdraw an award-winning novel that's been on the syllabus since 2007. Within 24 hours, the VC cravenly complies with the absurd demand.

 

The young man is Aditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and student of Mumbai's famed St Xavier's College. That's him, in the photo above, brandishing a sword earlier this week during that political debut, having achieved his first political feat: getting Mumbai University VC Rajan Welukar to withdraw from the syllabus a 1991 book, Such a Long Journey, by former bank clerk, Bombay boy and now-celebrated Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry (The irony: Mistry also went to St Xavier's).

 

This is what India's grand, old party has come to.

 

Asked about the university's ban, Maharashtra's Congress Chief Minister Ashok Chavan parrots the line of the Shiv Sena, a party founded and nurtured on hate, divisiveness and violence. The few paras he's read in Mistry's book are "highly objectionable", says Chavan, who the previous day argues that bans impede the growth of a literary culture. "We will not," he now says, "prescribe such a book for students."

 

How then has the book been studied by MA and BA students for three years?

 

The point isn't that all of Maharashtra's major parties have never had a problem with the book — that itself reveals their venality. The point is that Chavan is the latest Congress chief minister to have bowed to the Shiv Sena, a party that has never ruled Maharashtra on its own steam in the 44 years since Bal (I refuse to use the honorific Balasaheb) Thackeray founded it to drive "Madrasis" out of what was then Bombay. And outside Maharashtra, its nakedly parochial politics have got nowhere.

 

Yet, the Congress persists in kowtowing to the Sena's agenda. Don't buy the Congress' argument that their chief minister's views are his own. In recent years, the Congress and its alliance partner, the Nationalist Congress Party, have often competed with the Sena's failed attempts at populism. Instead of cracking down and standing by their party's ideals, the Congress and NCP have winked at the Sena's assaults on Bihari and UP taxi drivers, allowed attacks on young men from across India appearing for railway exams in Mumbai to go unprosecuted, and largely let Bollywood be intimidated when it needed protection from the Sena's goons. This appeasement is in line with the Congress' history of short-term populism: whether Indira Gandhi's nourishing of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Rajiv Gandhi's opening of the locks on the now-demolished Babri Masjid, or a ban on Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses.

 

What is it about Mistry's book that riles Aditya and Chavan?

 

Such a Long Journey is the tumultuous story of Parsi bank clerk Gustad Noble, whose story plays out in early 1970s Bombay. These were Mistry's years in the city, when India was at war with Pakistan, in the days before Indira Gandhi's draconian Emergency. Noble struggles with a rebellious son, a superstitious wife, a friend's betrayal and eccentric neighbours, as he weaves his way through love, fate and espionage. 

 

On September 14, someone in the Sena's student wing decides the book says "derogatory" things about Maharashtrians and Mumbai's famed dabbawallahs (By that warped logic, they should also have objected to the book's other irreverent references — from Indira Gandhi to the Parsis). Copies of the book are burned.

 

VC Welukar invokes rarely used emergency powers and by September 15 drops the book from the second-year BA syllabus, where it is an optional text. The new Thackeray tries nuance. "We have no issues with the book being available in the market," says Aditya. "But it is being forced upon us. That is not acceptable." One of his mob is more direct, telling television cameras: The writer is lucky he lives in Canada, otherwise we would burn him as well.

 

After protests by students and professors snowball, the usually reclusive Mistry — frequently profiled as a Muslim and pulled out of US airport lines — reacts with eloquence and dignity to the Sena's new youth wing leader, Aditya: "What can — and should — one feel about him? Pity, disappointment, compassion? Twenty years old, in the final year of a BA in History, at my own alma mater, the beneficiary of a good education, he is about to embark down the Sena's well-trodden path, to appeal, like those before him, to all that is worst in human nature."

 

Let's apply Mistry's musings to the man who now echoes the Sena, Chief Minister Chavan. "He could lead, instead of following, the old regime. He could say something radical — that burning and banning books will not feed one hungry soul…not in Mumbai, not in Maharashtra, not anywhere, not ever… he can think independently, and he can choose." Too often has the Congress chosen badly. Can it change now?

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

WE NEED THE POWER OF ONE

PC SEN

 

The organisation of the Commonwealth Games has spawned a tsunami of articles, but none has dwelt upon why things went so wrong. Investigating agencies can produce encyclopedias of causes and remedies, which will remain unread and un-acted upon. The Government of India neither remembers things nor learns from the past.

 

Having spent over three decades in administration, a few cardinal principles of good governance come to mind. Firstly, in India, results are best achieved when people report to a single head. When the British were thinking of having two chief functionaries in a district —  the collector and district magistrate to carry out regulatory functions and another in charge of development — they studied the system for several years only to conclude that good governance is best achieved when officers have to report to, or people approach, a single head.

 

The best practices of our recent past illustrate the point — the Asiad Games preparation proceeded without a single hiccup because everyone reported to Rajiv Gandhi; the Telecom Mission under Sam Pitroda, when the government resorted to the mission mode, large irrigation projects where commissioners were invested with powers of the Secretaries of all relevant departments of the state governments; the national and state elections and the Census operations.

 

Secondly, in special circumstances, the person responsible for execution or management reports to no one, or at most, one superior. For example while the district collector normally has to report to the divisional commissioner, the chief secretary and secretaries to the state government, in a law and order situation, the same person reports to no one and no authority can issue directions to him.

 

Thirdly, when critical tasks are to be performed, officers are carefully selected. Experienced chief ministers retain certain key positions — collectors of a few critical districts, police officers in charge of Intelligence or Information and Publicity — for officers handpicked solely on merit.

 

Lastly, there is an old adage in administration that 'uninspected work is never done'. Traditionally, execution was the responsibility of the officer invested with the powers to undertake the task, while superintendence was the responsibility of a senior officer.

 

Delhi is administered not merely by the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, but a plethora of other organisations — the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Police, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Development Authority — reporting to an another plethora of persons/departments like the Lt. Governor, Union Home Ministry and the Ministry for Urban Development.

 

During the Commonwealth Games, the recipe for chaos was exacerbated by certain functions being invested with Union Sports Department and the Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games. Later, when all hell broke loose, people demanded a single authority — a Rahul or Sonia Gandhi, or the prime minister — to take control. This was done successfully, providing occasion for hosannas in which the whole nation joined.

 

Ironically, in the act of investigating the CWG, we have set up a multiplicity of authorities — the CAG, CVC, the former CAG and CBI. This band will be joined by investigating officers from the ministries concerned, both of the central government and the government of Delhi, as well as committees of Parliament and the state legislature. By the time all the reports are presented, the nation will be happily savouring some other crisis.

 

But then, 'we are like that only'.

 

P.C. Sen is a former IAS officer. The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

SPIT WIDE OPEN

 

I am getting fed up with Ajmal Kasab's antics of spitting into the camera and asking to be sent to America. Who does this little creep think he is?

 

I think you're being unfair, he is thinking of life beyond Arthur Road jail. He is hoping that Spielberg or Cameron will spot his histrionic talent and cast him in their next movie.

 

Yes, but he should respect the fact that we are bothering to give him a fair trial. He needs a touch of Guantanamo Bay to make him appreciate what a good thing he has got going here.

 

Look, be fair, he did say earlier that he came bobbing around the waters to seek a role in Bollywood but got diverted by some shyster to engage in a bit of target practice.

 

This is not funny, we should ship him out to America lickety split, let's see how he likes the firm smack of Uncle Sam.

 

No, we should hang him, sorry, hang onto him and let him set up the Ajmal Acting Academy for aspiring terrorists.

 

Do say: Spat's that then.

 

Don't say: No spit and polish here.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MARKETING IDEAS

 

To practise the opposite of what one preaches invites charges of hypocrisy, but it pays sometimes to do just that. If the repositioning of the CPM's Bengal unit on capitalism and industrial development by means of private capital, thanks to the erstwhile drive of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, drove a wedge through the heart of the party's ideology and predilections, that divide or ambivalence has been succinctly caught in the Coal India IPO conundrum: is it fair or sensible, on the one hand, to exhort your cadres on grounds of your Marxist ideology to shun the shares offered to employees by a PSU that's just made an IPO? And, on the other, to allow your party mouthpiece to carry a half-page advertisement of the same IPO, giving in to the temptation of revenue and cold capitalist instincts?

 

Or perhaps, Ganashakti, the CPM's Bangla mouthpiece, which advertises itself as being on the side of the toiling masses and reputedly never publishes anything incompatible with the party's worldview, has just discovered for itself a new freedom of speech and press? Maybe, at least, the freedom to objectively demarcate revenue sources and ideological anathemas? In any case, the party or its mouthpiece or both deserve a pat on the back for demonstrating that in this great post-ideological age of aspiration and action, what matters is what can be counted. Henceforth, many more of us will pay much less attention to the CPM's protestations against disinvestment and PSUs offering IPOs.

 

The CPM's Left Front partners in West Bengal — who never came on board for Bhattacharjee's forceful arguments on behalf of private capital building industry, despite the late Jyoti Basu's support for the CM — are not pleased. Nevertheless, they aren't likely to go beyond warning Big Brother about "wrong signals", while dismissing it as the CPM's "internal matter". But by privileging Ganashakti's financial interests, somebody has shown where value lies. Welcome, Comrades, to the marketplace of ideas.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STREET SMART

 

Hostility towards hawkers is not a new phenomenon in India — municipal agencies in all our big cities have tried to clear the streets of the chaos and congestion caused by street vendors. While many middle-class residents, welfare associations and organisations see hawkers as an annoyance or a menace who block traffic, take over sidewalks and public squares and depress real estate prices, they keep our cities thrumming, providing the abundance of informal services that define urban living. Now, the Supreme Court has taken a nuanced view, underscoring that hawkers were exercising their fundamental right to occupation, but also suggesting that the municipal agencies respect that right while trying to minimise conflict with other needs like pedestrian use. Instead of being subjected to varying executive whims, the court suggests a positive recognition of their rights and asked for the Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill to be pushed through by June next year.

 

Rural poverty pushes waves of people to the city, and they make a living by filling important needs in the place they migrate to. Relatively easy entry and low capital costs make street vending the natural option for them. Whether it is a quick haircut and shave by the side of the street, selling magazines and mosquito-zappers, or a cold drink and a slice of coconut, this a richly striated mobile marketplace. These hawkers are not scroungers, they are service-providers. Besides, they also provide informal security, minimising the sense of threat in public spaces. However, the threat of demolition and harassment hangs over them as long as there is no law acknowledging their rights.

 

However, structured regulation would forge a sensible balance between the competing rights of street vendors and pedestrians and other inhabitants. Licences and delineated hawking zones, or systems of registration, would bring these micro-entrepreneurs into the legal fold, and reduce bribes and threats, and the periodic use of arbitrary power over them. Keeping these hawkers in a limbo between legality and illegality might suit the interests of petty power, but is deeply unjust, as the court has underscored.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALL CLEARED UP?

 

Last week, a delegation from Arunachal Pradesh, consisting of two MLAs and an MP, met Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna to press their case for the development of the border state. This might seem an odd thing to have to do. Why would people not be on board with the development of a border state that needs substantial investment? Why would it be of such import that the external affairs minister should be involved? The answers should worry us. For one, the problem is that the environment ministry has been careless and unwise in its approach to the various relatively small projects that have been planned for Arunachal in an attempt to increase the region's prosperity and integration into the rest of the economy. And also because this doesn't just impact a few projects, however important; it's a question of India's political will when it comes to ensuring its border infrastructure is even broadly comparable to the Herculean efforts that China is making across the McMahon line.

 

Hopefully, some of this featured at Tuesday's meeting between the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. As reported in this newspaper, Ramesh had earlier written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reporting that all the projects in Arunachal need to be "reviewed", and calling for a "moratorium on any further clearances for hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh" since "these are bound to be the subject of agitation" in Assam. This followed a "public consultation" that he had held in Guwahati in September. As has been stated in these columns, calling for a reversal of a policy direction that was entered into with care, and for the best strategic and human reasons, was perhaps hasty and ill-considered. Khandu told Ramesh that concerns in Assam on the downstream impact were exaggerated, and he came out of the meeting saying some "misunderstandings" have been cleared up. Hopefully they have.

 

Arunachal needs better connectivity, roads, airports, and new railway tracks. It has much to give, too, to the region and the economy. The home ministry recently relaxed some of the "protected area" regime that makes it difficult to visit the state; tourism has been picking up already. And the development of the Northeast as a whole needs the export of hydro-electricity from Arunachal.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BIHAR, NOT BIMARU

DHIRAJ NAYYAR 

 

The assembly elections which begin in Bihar today may be a pivotal moment in determining the future trajectory of the state's political economy and indeed progress, in the near term. Pitted against each other are two contesting visions of Bihar: the incumbent coalition government comprising the JD(U) and BJP are campaigning on a platform of good governance which is supported by the arithmetic of rapid economic growth — around 11 per cent on average — in the last five years of Nitish Kumar's government. On the other side is the RJD-LJP combine shepherded by Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, which still believes that it can acquire power in Patna by manipulating the state's caste and religious arithmetic in its favour. The Congress is the third front in this contest — trying to take on the incumbent government on a governance, rather than caste, plank — but not yet powerful enough to be a credible alternative in government.

 

It would be in the larger interest of the state of Bihar and its people if this election put to rest the notion that power can still be captured based on old social divisions and grievances. It is important for Bihar's political economy to move on to a politics of aspiration — where people vote for a party or coalition that delivers governance — like much of India has already started doing. That will force all serious political parties (including the RJD and LJP if they want to remain relevant) to contest future elections on a forward looking governance plank, rather than a backward looking social engineering plank.

 

This time round, such reasoning undoubtedly favours the JD(U)-BJP combine, and a majority of opinion polls, for what they are worth, suggest an easy victory for the Nitish Kumar-led coalition. But a political economy which puts governance at its centre may not favour the incumbent government for all times to come, such are the huge challenges facing any government that is elected to power in Bihar.

 

To what extent can Nitish Kumar's government claim credit for Bihar's apparent turnaround, powered by a growth rate higher than India's average over the last five years? A dissection of the growth figures shows both the contribution of the government and the challenges that remain. Most of Bihar's growth these past five years has been powered by construction and services, particularly hotels, restaurants, trade and, to an extent, telecom. The impressive growth in these sectors isn't matched by the lethargic performance in manufacturing and agriculture — those are challenges that still face the next government.

 

The state government can claim credit for fuelling the growth in construction, since much of this has come through the building of roads funded through the state's exchequer. In fact, the government's public spending record has been good, and a massive improvement on the poor spending record of the RJD government that preceded it. Planned spending was tripled within three years of the Nitish Kumar government taking office. This has spillover effects, in a Keynesian "stimulus" sense. Apart from increasing spending, the government has also taken huge strides in improving the law and order situation. That has helped boost not just construction activity (including roads) but has also given a fillip to service industries like hotels and restaurants which have registered impressive growth.

 

In short, the government has effected the turnaround in the state's economic fortunes by simply doing the two things any good government ought to: law and order and spending on infrastructure. In doing so, it has reversed the long decline in the state's fortunes that took place under 15 years of RJD rule. Even with this reversal of fortune, most of Bihar's economic indicators are well below the Indian average — for example, according to a 2007 estimate, India's real GDP per capita is 2.83 times Bihar's; India's five richest states have real per capita GDP 3.71 times Bihar's.

 

It is also important to remember that a lot of this impressive growth in the last five years has to do with Bihar starting from a very low base — and that there is a limit to the sustainability of a growth rate that is powered largely by government spending and a small section of services industries. For growth to be sustainable it needs to be more broad-based into manufacturing and agriculture.

 

Here, the task gets a lot harder, and will involve massive policy reform in land, labour and product markets. What makes Bihar's task of industrialisation harder than that of some other states is the fact that it is landlocked, which reduces its attractiveness as an investment destination. It also lost a lion's share of its natural resources after the division into Jharkhand. Given the continued policy uncertainty over the extraction and use of mineral resources, this may yet turn out to be an unforeseen advantage.

 

What may also turn out to be an unforeseen advantage is the rather shambolic state of governance in surrounding states — Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and even UP. If Bihar can consistently outperform these states on governance, it would yet become the industrial hub of eastern India — a region which still trails the rest of India on most economic parameters by some distance.

 

But to capitalise on these potential advantages, the next government of Bihar will have to do much more than maintain law and order and engage in spending. It will need to take bold policy steps to liberalise rules that deter investment. In doing so it may have to go further than other states which have a head start in attracting investment. The government will, for example, need to take very bold steps to ease labour laws, so that Bihari labour can be gainfully employed within the state. It will need to take aggressive steps to ease land acquisition so that it can have an advantage over neighbouring West Bengal. If the government fails to do this and more, growth will begin to slow. And that will give the opposition plenty of ammunition.

 

At any rate, Bihar's future elections ought to be fought on these issues of the future rather than the outdated legacies of the past.

 

dhiraj.nayyar@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

RESTORATION DRAMA

RATISH NANDA 

 

The Suleymaniye Mosque (1557), architect Sinan's masterpiece in Istanbul, is a must-see on every tourist's itinerary. Busloads of tourists get up the cobbled pathways to gaze in awe. While recently in Turkey, I also trudged off to pay my respects, only to find that it has shut its doors to the public for a "two-three year" restoration. At the nearby Blue Mosque (1616), with its multiple domes and minarets, intact ornamental ceiling and restored tilework, visitors are drawn into another world — from four centuries ago.

 

Naqsh-e Jahan square in Isfahan (1602), covering 860,000 sq ft, no doubt the most magnificent public square in the world, is being lovingly restored. Standing at the Bazaar entrance north of the square and looking at the Imam Mosque is an experience of a lifetime, where a visitor can even today feel the power and intention of the builders, not merely reminisce of what once was.

 

Turkey and Iran are fortunate to have been able to retain traditional systems of building repairs and maintenance. But even in the UK, where the approach to conservation is understood to be conservative, examples like the £12 million project aimed at returning portions of Stirling Castle to "how they looked in the mid-16th century" are now finding support, finances and visitors.

 

So why are the great monuments in India treated as archaeological ruins to be preserved in the ramshackle condition that decades, even centuries, of neglect have left them in? Why are we allowing our iconic buildings to look like ruins, turning away the public, killing the interest of schoolchildren and depriving our craftsmen of employment? Why do more people visit the Baha'i temple in Delhi than the Qutub Minar or Humayun's Tomb? Why are our conservation policies influenced by those whose ideas are in turn influenced by the romance of an English landscape, dotted with follies?

 

India has over seven centuries of recorded conservation tradition. Feroz Shah Tughlaq took great pride in repairing buildings built by earlier dynasties and is famously known to have replaced the damaged top floor of the Qutub Minar with two of his own design. Traditionally, craftsmen would have been responsible for repairs, annual or periodic. With the British, traditional systems of patronage were destroyed. Archaeologists and engineers took over the preservation of a small proportion of historic buildings, yet without the generations of experience that the craftsmen had.

 

Master craftsmen are today seen breaking stone for road construction, refusing to pass on valuable skills to future generations. Architects in India, mostly trained in modern architecture, prefer building in concrete, steel, glass or machine-cut stone, rather than having to work with craftsmen who do not understand drawings. With building crafts not even enjoying government support, craftsmen have little choice.

 

Conservation is today a multi-discipline profession; on the team, besides skilled craftsmen, are required conservation architects, archaeologists, engineers, historians, geologists, managers, designers, amongst others. When a 16th century monument is repaired, using lime plaster and replacing missing or damaged stone portions, these parts or even the whole building loses its patina. However if the gur, belgiri, crushed urad dal, egg white or any of the dozens of additives are mixed properly in the lime mortar and the stone hand-chiselled as the original was, not only will the building get a fresh lease of life, the patina will return with a few monsoons.

 

Despite surviving craft skills, much, if not all, of our heritage does not benefit and our buildings suffer from inappropriate repairs. In the recent past, when those with responsibility for conservation have employed traditional craftsmen and returned important buildings to their rightful condition, opposition has come from those familiar only with art or object restoration. Delhi's cocktail party circuit shakes its head in disapproval and the discussion remains limited to bytes in the press.

 

Surprisingly, even architects, whose training should have left no room for misunderstanding on the correct approach to repairs, have joined the chorus with suggestions that building conservation learn from "the restoration of paintings, (where) flaked surfaces of antique paintings, are applied with colours that are sympathetic to the surface patina and not newly mixed original colours which may clash" — clearly disregarding that the "value of architectural heritage is not only in its appearance, but also in the integrity of all its components as a unique product of the specific building technology of its time". A "technology" seen practised in India.

 

Conservationists follow the Burra Charter's guidance that "restoration and reconstruction should reveal culturally significant aspects of the place", but "only where there is sufficient evidence to reproduce an earlier state of the fabric".

 

Buildings, unlike paintings, are exposed to the weather, and cannot be treated like objects on display in a museum. Conservation should aim to ensure cultural significance is retained — possible only when the intention of the original builders is respected, not the aesthetic opinion of those who hold our society's microphones.

 

The writer is a conservation architect and project director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHO'S BETTER THAN RAKHI SAWANT?

SHAILAJA BAJPAI 

 

Akshay Kumar would look pretty in an apron. He should wear one since he intends to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. Amitabh Bachchan was sporting a black-and-white polo neck shirt that stopped where his matching beard commenced. His clothes are elegant, rather like his avuncular performance. Salman Khan is dressed as Chulbul Pandey on his honeymoon — loud and always in your face rather like the punches he landed on Arbaaz Khan in Dabangg. And Rakhi Sawant, in a blood-curdling red lycra (?) body suit that clings to her figure as if her life depended on it, looks like she could make mincemeat of Akshay on MasterChef India (Star Plus), outshine Amitabh on Kaun Banega Crorepati (Sony) and floor Salman with one casual flexing of her artificial eyelashes (Bigg Boss, Colors). That's, of course, when she is not giving her guests a tongue-lashing on Rakhi Ka Insaaf (Imagine).

 

The three badshahs of Bollywood and television's biggest item babe are out there doing everything in their power to attract your attention — and may the best man or Rakhi Sawant win. Currently, it's something of a three-way tie between the guys. Sawant is in her own league. To even mention her in the same breath as the others is unfair to them — and her.

 

So far, Akshay Kumar is ahead of the competition when it comes to "kiss the girls and make them cry" (remember Georgie-Porgie?). In an episode last week, a male contestant began to weep remembering the loss of a parent. He'd prepared a spinach and banana dish which didn't go down too well with the judges, so he wept some more. Then a young female sobbed because they didn't find her dish dishy enough. Finally, Kashmiraji arrived, saucers of tears beneath her outraged eyes, yelling "the system sucks!" — because she had been made to wait for so long, her preparation was ready for the garbage can, not the human palate.

 

Akshay ladled out sympathy (no tea) and, in general, behaved as though his childhood companions were pots and pans. Ironically, the two other judges, chefs Kunal and Ajay, are still to make their presence felt. Perhaps because the show is all about Akshay. The contestants appear on the sets with one star in their eyes: Akshay. They are there because they want to meet Akshay, greet Akshay, and no doubt eat Akshay... one contestant has gone through to the next round of this reality show only because of Akshay.

 

Exactly the same recipe for success is winning on KBC. As the man on Monday night's episode explained, he had come all the way from Kolkata for a hug from Amitabh Bachchan and he wasn't going until he got one (or words to that effect). He seems to have spoken for everyone. The participants don't seem to care whether they win money — that's the bonus — or whether they know the answers or not. They simply want to gain as much time as possible with their Indian idol, Bachchan. The show should be renamed ABC — Amitabh Bachchan Contest. And the winner is the one who spends the maximum time with him. This makes Bachchan's task simple: in the company of people who idolise him, he is warm, generous, expansive and humorous. In other words, the perfect host. What's remarkable is that the contestants hold their own, no matter where they come from. Still remember the first one from a village in Madhya Pradesh: he was full of himself. Perhaps sitting next to Bachchan, for all the world to see, does that to you.

 

Bigg Boss is currently bulging with muscles. They belong to the Great Khali. Why, he could pick up Salman with his small toe and spin him on its nail. His oversized presence dwarfs the other contestants. Not that they are riveting our attention, aside from Begum who flits in and out like an irritating fly. Would fancy voting the lot of them out and getting in new inmates — one reason why we look forward to Salman Khan on Fridays. With him around, there is loads of action.

 

As there is with Sawant, but more about that next week.

 

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A VERY LONG ENDGAME

 

After nine years of war, the endgame here has finally begun. But exactly when the endgame itself will end seems anyone's guess.

 

The war in Afghanistan entered a new and possibly decisive stage last week, following statements by American officials encouraging Afghanistan's elected leaders and the Taliban's military commanders to reach a settlement to end the war. The Americans said they had gone as far as to help some insurgent leaders travel to Kabul to talk. That, combined with a fierce escalation of American and NATO attacks on Taliban fighters, suggested that American commanders are trying to force insurgent leaders to make a deal — and in as diminished and shrunken a form as they can be reduced to.

 

For the moment, though, most signs still point in the Taliban's favour. America's strategy in Afghanistan, which is still unfolding, has yet to prove itself in crucial respects. No one knows, for instance, whether the Taliban's entire senior leadership might be persuaded to make a deal with the Afghan government, or whether the Americans and Afghanistan's leaders might succeed in chopping up the Taliban piecemeal by making deals with individual commanders.

 

It's possible, too, in the darker scenarios, that both of those efforts will fail, and that the Americans, having lost patience with this long and exhausting fight, will begin drawing down next year with fewer prospects for a successful end. "We're not ready to make any judgments about whether or not any of this will bear fruit," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said about making deals with the Taliban.

 

Indeed, the biggest change last week seemed to be the heightened sense of urgency among American officials to accelerate the pace of events. Since early last year, when President Obama took office, the overriding objective of American policy has been to persuade the Taliban to abandon any hope of victory. It was to make that point that 30,000 additional troops were sent here. Then President Obama declared that he would start withdrawing those troops beginning July 11, 2011.

 

That's not a lot of time to defeat an enemy as tenacious as the Taliban. But no one has ever declared that he expected to. Rather, the strategy has been to break the Taliban's will, to break up the movement, and to settle with as many leaders as are willing to deal. That strategy looks a lot like the one that brought General Petraeus success in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. There Americans made peace with some insurgent leaders, and intensified their efforts to kill the holdouts and fanatics. The violence, beginning in late 2007, dropped precipitously.

 

Can the Americans pull off something similar in Afghanistan?

 

In the past several months, General Petraeus has loosed an extraordinary amount of firepower. Special operations forces are now operating at a tempo five times that of a year ago, killing and capturing hundreds of insurgents each month. In the same period, the number of bombs and missiles aimed at insurgents has grown by half. And General Petraeus has launched a series of operations to clear the southern city of Kandahar. The hope is that the military operations will push the Taliban, or some of them, to reach an accommodation with Afghan leaders.

 

So far, attempts to engage the Taliban leadership haven't come to much. In part, this is because they and Afghanistan's government stand very far apart: The Taliban represent a pre-modern Islamist movement; the other is a Western-backed democracy. In previous discussions, President Hamid Karzai has insisted that discussions cannot begin until the Taliban agree to accept the Afghan constitution and disarm. The Taliban have insisted that talks can't start until Western forces leave the country.

 

Pakistan, too, has loomed ominously over previous attempts to reconcile. The Pakistani army and the ISI continue, by most accounts, to support the Taliban, despite receiving billions of dollars in American aid. Most of the Taliban's senior leaders, including Mullah Omar, are living there. And Afghan and American officials believe that no deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government can last without Pakistani support.

 

Both the Afghans and the Taliban have learned that lesson the hard way. Earlier this year, when Afghan officials and Taliban leaders were quietly reaching out to each other, Pakistan's intelligence services detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders inside the country whom they suspected of taking part in the negotiations. "Pakistan is like a pimp," a Taliban leader hiding in Pakistan said earlier this year, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Whenever we try to act on our own, they stop us."

 

This time around, though, Pakistani officials appear to have signed off on the talks. "They got a little nervous," a NATO official said over the summer. "But they are feeling more secure now. They wanted to be included."

 

Still, there is not much evidence that either the Pakistanis or the Taliban have much interest in making a deal — not yet, anyway. For all the US military force, the Taliban do not appear to have lost any of their lethality; more American and NATO soldiers have died in 2010 than in any other year since 2001. And there is little reason to believe that Pakistan's security services are preparing to sever their ties with the Afghan insurgents, whom they have long regarded as an insurance policy. Earlier this month, the Pakistani government refused to allow NATO convoys to pass for more than a week, following an American airstrike on a Pakistani police compound; the American aircraft had crossed into Pakistani airspace while pursuing a group of Taliban fighters who had crossed from Afghanistan. A Taliban base was standing in Pakistani territory about 500 yards from the Pakistani police station — in full view and apparently free to operate.

 

Of the other options, that leaves coaxing individual commanders away from the movement. Small groups of insurgents have been surrendering since the war began in 2001, but never in great numbers. An ambitious Western-backed programme to lure the fighters away with job training and guarantees of security lies virtually dormant — the result, American officials say, of the failure of Afghan officials to carry it out.

 

Which brings us back to the battlefield. The high season for fighting typically winds down in December and picks up again in the spring. NATO officers say one measure of the effectiveness of their military operations will come when the winter ends; if the Taliban leaders have difficulty replenishing their ranks, they may be more inclined to make a deal.

 

And if they come back as strong as before?

 

"Then we'll know," the NATO officer said, "that it didn't work."

 

-Dexter Filkins

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE BIG SAFFRON ROADBLOCK

A. FAIZUR RAHMAN 

 

 In a calculated attempt to circumvent the Ayodhya verdict, Hindutva organisations have started issuing veiled threats (euphemistically called "appeals") to Muslims demanding that they hand over, for the construction of a "grand" Ram temple, the land allotted to them by the Allahabad high court. Surprisingly, the latest "appeal" comes from the Nirmohi Akhara, which until now had been genuinely engaged in negotiations initiated by Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant on the Muslim side.

 

The truth is, if giving up a claim to the Ayodhya land was possible, it would have happened decades ago. It is only because the contending parties refused to budge from their respective positions was it decided that exploring the legal option was the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Sadly, it was not to be; the judgment, by granting legitimacy to the faith of one community, nullified the efforts to break the deadlock and resulted in a mutually hurting stalemate once again.

 

The only option left before the parties now is to shed their adversarial approach and arrive at a compromise formula through negotiations. For this to happen, confidence-building measures are imperative insofar as the Muslims are concerned. The Hindutva parivar, in the spirit of reconciliation it is talking about, must take the first step by announcing its willingness to relinquish any claim on other mosques in the country. Such a magnanimous gesture would be seen as upholding the concept of democratic fair dealing and pave the way for a negotiated settlement of the dispute. And now that all the parties have decided to move the Supreme Court, it would restore the confidence of the minorities were the apex court to assure them that the Allahabad high court verdict would not set a precedent for the takeover of their places of worship by the majority community.

 

As for the Sunni Central Wakf Board, although it may go against their claim to ownership of the entire disputed land, it should not be difficult for them to enter into a harmonious agreement with the Hindus, as such a precedent exists in Islamic history — in the form of the Hudaybiya Treaty, which was signed with the Meccan polytheists by no less a person than the Prophet himself, despite the fact that it was opposed by the entire Muslim community at that time. It is hoped that in the interest of peace the Muslim leadership would follow the farsighted approach of the Prophet to resolve this seemingly intractable conflict.

 

But the problem is, these sentiments are not being reciprocated by the other side. Hindutva ideologues are displaying a kind of majoritanian masculinity that seems to suggest that it is below their dignity to treat the Muslims as equal citizens of this country. The demolition of the Babri Masjid is being justified by saying that it was not a mosque at all. And the latest innuendo is that a mosque is less sacred than a temple, and hence it may be demolished to make way for a holier place, the Ram Temple . Persons spreading such disinformation must realise that it has the potential to disturb the remarkable Hindu-Muslim harmony that exists at the people-to-people level in India .

 

If the Sangh Parivar is honest the Ayodhya issue can be easily resolved on the basis of the values that Islam and Hinduism share. For instance, the idea of unity despite religious diversity is not against the Muslim ethos as, unlike Hindutva, Islam does not belittle the sanctity of places of worship of other religions. In a verse which could be described as the bedrock of inter-faith harmony the Koran says that if God did not check the mischief-mongers "there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques where the name of God in commemorated in abundant measure" (22:40). And it has been declared in the Bhagavad Gita that an absence of enmity for people (nirvairah sarvabhutesu), even though they might have done great harm, is one of the important virtues of the best of the devotees (XI-55).

 

Having said this, it may be misleading to see the Ayodhya dispute as purely a Hindu-Muslim issue. It actually concerns the entire nation, and could seriously affect its development if allowed to continue. It is common knowledge that poverty and backwardness in many African countries is mainly a result of continuous violent internal conflict.

 

And nearer home, one of our own neighbours finds itself in deep trouble, financial and otherwise, for failing to contain sectarian violence, and in some cases promoting it as a matter of policy to further its vested interests.

 

Therefore, if the Central government wants India to maintain its position as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, it must assume the role of a genuine mediator to help resolve this dispute amicably. The Sangh Parivar, too, must realise that it would be unwise to prolong this conflict at a time when all our energies are required to be focused on the equitable distribution of the fruits of our economic growth. In other words, we need to go beyond the idea of conflict resolution into the realm of conflict transformation, by which both the communities join hands to work towards the larger goal of making India an epitome of peace, stability and progress.

 

The author is secretary-general of the Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among Muslims

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MINORITY APPEASEMENT

 

The RSS' journal, Organiser, lambasts the media for breaking into a "cacophony on Muslim votes" whenever elections take place. It accuses the media of projecting a general image of all leaders running after Muslim voters, trying to appease them, woo them and eventually get them to vote en bloc for their parties, however minor their vote share may be. Referring to reports that political parties are vying with each other for Muslim votes in Bihar, the lead editorial says, that according to the 2001 census, the community forms about 16 per cent of the population in the state. "It seems as if whichever way the 80 per cent majority votes, only those will win who get the Muslims' 16-17 per cent support. There is some serious arithmetic problem there."

 

"It is actually not arithmetic. It is a phenomenon called Islamic lobbying. A funny bandwagon effect. People who go under various labels as senior journalists, political analysts, sociology scholars, academicians, former diplomats and of course politicians work as part of this lobby," it says. Interestingly, while the Organiser lashed out at the media for debating Muslim votes, the BJP's Hindi newspaper, Panchjanya, slammed Rahul Gandhi for equating the RSS with SIMI, saying he was trying to "woo the Muslim votebank" by making such outrageous remarks.

 

Pseudo-secularists and Ayodhya

 

The Organiser also lashes out at secularists. In the context of the Ayodhya verdict, another article argues that the judgment received universal approbation except from the usual rag-tag contingent of secularists who simply cannot believe that their time is up. "What they do not realise is that India has changed and is no longer the same country that exploded, or so we were told, when Babar's dome came down. Eighteen years is after all a long time for even the pea-brained secularists to realise that the world doesn't stand still, no matter how loud you shout, and how often," says the article written by Jay Dubashi.

 

"There is, after all, a great difference between the real world and a make-believe world fashioned by politicians and down-at-heel journalists. The domes came down because they did not belong there, or they had been there too long. And the honourable judges in Lucknow have now declared that the world has changed and things cannot go on as before, just because the secularists think they ought to," he argues.

 

Omar, out of line

 

An article in Panchjanya calls Omar Abdullah a "separatist" chief minister for raising questions about Jammu and Kashmir's merger with India. It says Abdullah's remarks signal a deep conspiracy and reveal the real intentions of the National Conference, which has always sought autonomy for the state. "Omar has removed the Indian mask that he has been wearing and made it clear that Jammu and Kashmir has not merged with India," it says. The article attacks Abdullah severely and says the Congress, by continuing its support to the NC government, has agreed that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed region.

 

Modi the victor

 

Organiser lavishes praise on Narendra Modi for the BJP's victory in civic elections in Gujarat. That is surprising since it is known that there is no love lost between the RSS and Modi. A report headlined "Modi charisma reigns supreme in Gujarat" says the results reaffirm the fact that Modi remains the tallest leader in the state. "His popularity transcends caste, class and community. This is as much on account of his undiminished charisma as the development-driven, growth-oriented governance that has come to be identified with Modi. After completing nine years in office, Modi remains untouched by the slightest hint of anti-incumbency," the report says. It notes that Modi's strategy of using the Sohrabuddin episode as part of the election agenda has worked wonders once again. "Though the state BJP had announced peace, development and security to be its poll plank, the campaign led by Modi himself had drifted to the Sohrabuddin encounter case," it says.

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LINING UP INVESTORS

 

The massive response to the State Bank of India's bond issue and the relative success of the Coal India equity float show that it is good pricing that makes investors line up. SBI's lower Tier II retail bond issue was over-subscribed by 17 times within the first two days. It also sent a clear message that retail investors are looking at debt paper anew. Despite CIL's good showing, the stand out story is the SBI bond issue, thanks to the high interest rate—9.25% on 10-year bonds, 125 basis points more than government bonds, and 9.5% on 15-year bonds—indicates the pent-up demand for debt papers, which will prompt other banks to come up with similar priced issues. The Rs 500-crore issue, consisting of face value of Rs 10,000 has an option to retain over-subscription up to Rs 500 crore. The lower Tier II bonds will help the bank to increase its capital adequacy ratio and meet its long-term cash needs. Of course, the strong brand name of the largest lender did incentivise investors to queue up to deposit physical applications, ensuring all investors got an equal opportunity to apply for the bonds. The allotment will be on first-come first-served basis. Retail investors are chasing high-yielding bonds to beat the soaring inflation that is leading to negative real income from bank deposits as they pay less than the headline rate. Interestingly, retail investors are also looking at a longer tenure to park their monies as the proposed Direct Taxes Code, which is likely to be implemented from April 1, 2012, incentivises long-term savings. Such long-term investments will help channel funds into the financial sector and aid the country's growth process.

 

The SBI issue has a lesson for several infrastructure companies that floated tax-saving long-term bonds, but earned a lukewarm response. The pricing was obviously not right. There could also be a seasonal effect as these tax-saving instruments sell best in the fourth quarter, when investors and salary earners seek tax shelters. In any case, with interest rates poised to rise and other companies, including LIC, likely to tap the market, the competition among bond issuers can only get tougher. The Public Provident Fund offering about 8% and other small savings schemes offering interest rates between 6% and 8% is an indication of the rates investors are seeking on bonds from companies with credible track records. It is obvious the funds generated from the large-scale redemption of equity-linked mutual funds as well as profit-booking from equities are moving into debt for guaranteed returns.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 AFTER-SHOCKS

 

China's unexpected increase in its benchmark lending and deposit rates for the first time since 2007 has sent global markets into a tizzy. The People's Bank of China announced that the one-year lending rate will be increased to 5.56% from 5.31% and the deposit rate will be upped by 0.25 percentage points to 2.5%. The announcement came after the World Bank called on China to allow its currency to strengthen, which they said would help combat inflation and better balance the economy. But the immediate after-shocks of the increase across the globe have been negative—declining crude oil and other commodities as well as a sharp lowering in stocks on exchanges in Europe, the US and parts of Asia are some reactions.

 

That is curious because this move ought to assist the rebalancing of the global economy that many, particularly in the US, have been demanding. An increase in interest rates effectively makes the yuan appreciate, boosting the purchasing power of local consumers and making imports cheaper, that in turn, helping to restrain rising prices. The rise in rates will also draw more foreign capital into China, adding to the upward pressure on the renminbi. The fear in global markets is, of course, different. Markets fear an erosion of the Chinese growth rate as a direct consequence of their latest move—that any slowdown in the global economy's main engine may ultimately spill over on to the US and Europe, which are already grappling with the possibility of a double-dip depression.

 

What does the Chinese move mean for India? China is our largest trading partner and their imports are our exports, which implies that a stronger yuan will only serve to make Indian exports more competitive in the regional as well as global context. Since Indian companies do not borrow in China, it doesn't hurt us there either. Still, it may be a bit early to declare a definitive shift in China's exchange rate policy. China has after all closely managed its exchange rate to keep exports competitive for decades now. This one-time quarter-point rate increase in interest rates to control inflation and stabilise growth, after nearly three years, is not necessarily indicative of a long-term trend.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

MANAGING THE ECO-SYSTEM

SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

 

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh can now claim he was right. When his ministry nixed the approval for the alumina project of Vedanta this summer, several reports said it was an informal agreement with the Orissa government to save the Posco project instead. He had denied it then but events now seem to vindicate him. Except that he has added to the trouble of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make global investors believe India has gotten over an implementation hump.

 

As the 21st century completes a decade, the Indian politico-administrative leadership has still to learn the art of managing the eco-system of project management. Bloopers like Commonwealth or Posco are a reflection of the response of a government in drift to the challenges a maturing democracy is bound to throw up.

 

The problem is, therefore, of under-governance. In the last two decades, just as the economy has hugely diversified, it has also spawned a huge expansion of interest groups. The environment movement is one example of that expansion, just as labour and human rights are other manifestations. These and other groups demand a say in the management of projects begun by the government, the corporate sector or just about anybody else in the country. These projects could be hard manufacturing plans like Posco or Singur or even those like the creation of soft infrastructure like the UIDAI project, which, too, has created a strong line-up of detractors. This is inevitable.

 

In such a medley of conflicting interests keen to punch holes in the execution of the project, it is primarily the government that must show expertise in managing the expectations that build or bully the projects. In OECD countries, some of these roles have been adopted by the large corporations, but in India the government's overarching role makes it the primary agency to carry it out. But rare is the government agency or ministry in India that has taught itself this craft.

 

Not learning this skill has serious consequences as the unravelling Posco case shows. The environment sector is a fine example of that mismanagement. India has not signed the emission norms at Copenhagen but it has overcompensated by drafting a set of environment laws, so strict that even public sector companies like GAIL cannot build their pipelines in several stretches. Several of GAIL's projects are stuck in the ministry's environment impact assessment section. Re-opening a set of clearances given to Posco in 2007 in such circumstances was asking for trouble. As the subsequent events show, it brought no credit to the current government's image or that of any other other agency involved.

 

Instead it has opened a partisan line that can be exploited by subsequent governments to re-open clearances given by the current government in, say, the Western Ghats for questioning. In the process, we get the spectacle of a kangaroo court-type treatment of a project that the Centre and the Orissa government projected as India's largest ever FDI, a few years ago. The next in line of fire could be either the Dhamra project, again in Orissa, or the greenfield steel plant, again of the Tata group, in Jharkhand.

 

Despite the postscript to the report by her eponymous committee, Meena Gupta's dissent note and her subsequent letter to the environment minister might not be enough to save the project. Either the Forest Advisory Committee overrules the majority opinion of the

 

Gupta Committee, opening another Pandora's box or acquiesces with the majority. This certainly means curtains for the 12 million tonne steel plant that promised about $12 billion of FDI. It is nobody's case that an industrial project will pass muster in complying with all the rules for setting them up, but the problem, as we have said, lies elsewhere.

 

The list of projects that have hit the dust in the past few years in this process is an instructive one. They all had the requisite clearances in their pocket, but still came up short on other grounds. The UPA government's flagship project, NREGA, has also run aground in places due to lack of project management skills.

 

A favourite phrase among senior government officials is that letting such opposition flourish is often beneficial for the eventual development of a project. "It is like letting out of steam." This line of thought has played havoc with the timelines for completing the projects and what is even more unpleasant, of late, it is the government that has begun to run out of steam. Since the various interest groups typically coalesce around the marquee projects, the inability of the government in project management becomes even more stark.

 

The problem, in short, is one of implementation. For instance, within the last year and a half, the environment ministry has cleared 106 projects from the 685 applications. That is almost one out of every seven applications. Exclude the ones that were running aground in any case and the record does not look terribly bad. But the ones most noticeable will be the ones that didn't make the cut, and all of these are the large ones. Posco joins that league.

 

The implications of bad management are serious. Mismanagement creates an invitation to run with the second best options. Thus, while the West Bengal government is still flailing about for any and all sorts of investors for a petrochemical project where the Nandigram episode occurred, the Posco story could see a similar fallout.

 

—subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

A CLEARER ROUTE FOR FOREIGN BANKS

MADAN SABNAVIS

 

The choice is really between operating as a branch of an entity that is incorporated overseas or functioning as a subsidiary of the same. The former means that they operate in the current manner where there are apparent barriers to expansion. They pay higher corporate tax rates but have it easy when meeting the preemption norms in the form of priority sector lending. The subsidiary route would imply that they would work like any domestic bank, except that the equity holding would be different.

 

The issue has come up for two reasons. RBI, for its part, would like to be better able to regulate foreign banks in the country considering the role they could play, given their financial strength. But the financial crisis showed that there is a major risk in the current model wherein the branch would be jeopardised in case the overseas parent had severe problems. This could be destabilising at the limit for the domestic banking system. Therefore, from the point of view of risk management, RBI would prefer to have better oversight over their operations.

 

As far as foreign banks are concerned, they would like to expand their operations in the country but are constrained in terms of the number of branches that they could set up as the rules are clear—not more than 12 branches a year as per the WTO agreements. There are 31 foreign banks operating in the country with 310 branches as of March 2010—with 75% being held by 5 banks. The market is vast and they do have the skill sets to reach out and expand their business in rural India, provided they are allowed to do so. The current regulatory environment may be considered to be inhibiting.

 

From the point of view of the banks, the subsidiary route would help them expand their business, which would probably apply to these 5 banks. They would get more operational flexibility and can push forth their business plans. Further, they would be able to grow inorganically through M&A activity, which is not available currently. Therefore, there would be certain gains for them in operating as a subsidiary as their market share increases. Also, given the financial strength of the parent company, they would be able to bring in the requisite capital to support their enhanced operations. In fact, given that there would be more new private banks operating in the interiors, the foreign banks would get left out from this business and would, hence, find the subsidiary route a convenience.

 

However, what is not clear is whether or not there would be the encumbrance of priority sector lending the way it is defined for Indian banks. There will probably be no concession here, which means that they would perforce have to go into the rural interiors and cater to the agriculture, small scale industry sector, weaker sections, etc. Currently, they get away with 32% ratio, which also includes export finance. Also, the tax rules governing capital gains or stamp duty are not quite clear when they convert from a branch to subsidiary, which will have to be examined before taking a decision. The DTC, however, has addressed the issue of corporate taxation, which used to be at a higher level for foreign companies, which will be restored to that for domestic companies.

 

RBI would also have to provide clarity on the listing requirements for such subsidiaries as there would be stipulations for new private banks. A public offering would be good for the country as domestic shareholders could get a slice of the benefits of the operations of these banks. This would be a major consideration for banks, which would want to convert to a subsidiary. Management issues would probably not be a major issue as the branches too operate with an Indian management and changes would only be at the fringe.

 

Setting the stage for the expansion of foreign banks is pragmatic but given that they are heterogeneous, all may not prefer the subsidiary route. Ideally, they should have the right to choose the route. They would have, to use the cliché, to decide to be or not to be a subsidiary.

 

The writer is chief economist, CARE ratings. These are his personal views

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Performs when topless

The state-run telco, BSNL, recorded the highest subscriber addition in the month of September. This is at a time when the company is hunting for a CMD after Kuldeep Goyal retired from the post in July. Coincidentally, for the second time, the company's performance has surged at a time when it doesn't have a CEO and is looking for one. Such an impressive subscriber addition was last noted before Goyal's appointment. Looks as if the best way to enhance the company's performance is to frequently change the top boss at the telco!

 

Fourth player

 

The ouster of the Indian Premier League (IPL) teams, Kings XI Punjab and the Rajasthan Royals, sent their stakeholders into a tailspin. Three stakeholders of the Punjab franchise tried to reason with a senior member of the IPL governing council, asking for more time and a reversal or reconsideration of the council's decision. The member, who is otherwise friendly with the team owners, wanted to know the name of the fourth stakeholder of the Punjab team assuring that it would be revealed. "At least tell me who it is," the member queried. The response of all three stakeholders astonished him. Apparently, none of them knew who the fourth stakeholder in the team was. The crisscrossing web of ownership of the team has meant that the murky owner remains in the background. "This is precisely why the decision cannot be reconsidered," said the member and hung up the phone.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

STRATEGIC PITFALLS

 

When the Obama family hosted the Indian PM and his wife as his administration's first official state visitors in November 2009, style grabbed more US headlines than substance. The Hollywood moguls, the knockout menu, the turbans and the bindis, a wardrobe malfunction and a gatecrashing couple that has since gone on to win reality TV fame—there was so much stuff more colourful than meaningful conversations about complex shifts on the US-India policy front. With potentially game-changing mid-term elections looming on the horizon this time around, the US media has even less time to devote to its President's November visit to India, never mind the big-ticket commercial issues (ranging from retail to defence) on the table. The Indian media is more interested, but something of the style-over-substance narrative is being registered at our end as well. Take the two main items of note this week.

 

First, while Taj visits are de rigueur for visiting dignitaries, visits to the Golden Temple are less commonplace and more intriguing. But because of headgear issues, implicated in many Americans' entrenched belief (flying in the face of all evidence) that Obama is Muslim (sadly a bone of contention), it looks like the US President will go the ordinary rather than the extraordinary way. Second, a special Mumbai address intended to address global economic issues that will shape the destiny of the 21st century is being muddied by interrogation of attendees' outsourcing credentials. Again, domestically powerful keywords are being allowed to overwhelm US bilateral interests, something that won't play well either here or there.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

RESCUING BIODIVERSITY

 

Homo sapiens may not have been responsible for the five distinct spasms of extinctions in geological time that began an estimated 440 million years ago, but humans are centrally implicated in the ongoing sixth wave of severe biodiversity loss. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was drafted in 1992 to stem the decline. It entered into force a year later with the avowed aim of significantly reducing loss of species and even using them where compatible to alleviate poverty. But nearly two decades later, the treaty has largely failed to meet its targets. There is now another opportunity available to make it work. The parties to the CBD are holding their 10th conference in the Japanese city of Nagoya and with sufficient political will they can reverse the tide of species losses. The member-countries have done well to acknowledge the all-round disappointment that their renewed commitment made in 2002 to reduce biodiversity loss remains a dead letter. They are now challenged to deliver on their assurances and act more intelligently on climate change, habitat loss and degradation, excessive exploitation, spread of invasive alien species, and pollution, all of which affect plant and animal survival. What provides some hope is the persistence of a large amount of biological diversity.

 

The key to conservation is to recognise the role of nature in providing ecosystem goods such as fodder, fibre, genetic resources, fresh water, and services such as cleansing of air, nutrient flow, erosion prevention, flood control, pollination, and disease regulation. That this economic dimension of nature is being increasingly accepted the world over is heartening. At the Nagoya conference, the Group of 77 and China have made the forward-looking suggestion that countries of the South should forge closer cooperation to protect biodiversity, and use financial resources available from developed-country partners. In particular, fast-developing China's focus on protecting 35 priority conservation areas making up 23 per cent of the country is extremely promising. India is also focussed on growth, but it needs to do more for ecosystems facing the onslaught of poorly planned development. It must begin by showing genuine recognition of nature's value. National development policy cannot afford to ignore the central role played by biodiversity. At the global level, the CBD has the opportunity once again to arrive at a consensus on sustainable use of plant diversity. Such an agreement will help local communities access and benefit from use of invaluable genetic resources. The ethical imperative to save the world's species is to restrict consumption of all natural resources to a sustainable level and allow for natural renewal.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LANDMARK ACHIEVEMENT

 

The first-ever Census of Marine Life (CoML), a mammoth decade-long exercise involving more than 2,700 scientists from over 80 countries, has been successfully completed. The painstaking research has unearthed nearly 250,000 marine species of an estimated one million. About 6,000 new species have also been discovered. The landmark exercise marks a remarkable beginning in identifying and mapping the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine organisms. Though long-distance migration of many predators like tuna and sharks was tracked, large areas of the oceans, mainly the Indian Ocean, have not been fully explored. While ten marine hotspots were identified, including one in the Indian Ocean, many biodiversity hotspots await detailed investigation. This is because the oceans cover 75 per cent of the earth's surface, and investigating their surface and depths requires tremendous scientific expertise and huge investments. The good news is that even though the census has been completed, several national and regional initiatives started during the CoML programme will continue to operate with support from government and non-government agencies. Unlike other major projects such as the mapping of the human genome, the scope of this study is undefined. Thus the CoML provides an ideal platform for incorporating diverse inputs from future studies to help us understand the big picture. It will also serve as the baseline for evaluating the future impact of human intervention on sea animals.

 

The CoML facilitated the use of diverse technologies on a large scale, technologies that are of continuing use. For instance, there are special sonar devices which allow us to see how marine life assemble in schools and move both vertically and laterally over thousands of square kilometres. Thanks to the use of modern techniques, scientists were also able to have a glimpse of the hitherto unknown world of marine animals. One finding of the study which is a cause for concern is that the fate of many animals living in easily accessible habitats appears gloomy. Large fishes and marine mammals like sea turtles and tuna have declined by 90 per cent on an average due to over-fishing and/or pollution. Apart from being an invaluable source of food, the oceans produce 70 per cent of oxygen present in the atmosphere, and also absorb one-third of global carbon dioxide emissions. All these are warning signs that oceans, the lifeline for all things living on earth, may well turn into a watery grave if damage to marine life continues unabated.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

WHAT THE UID CONCEALS

THE UID PROJECT HAS BOTH 'SECURITY' AND 'DEVELOPMENTAL' DIMENSIONS. THE FORMER LEADS TO AN INVASIVE STATE; THE LATTER LEAVES US WITH A RETREATING STATE.

R. RAMAKUMAR

 

Is identity the "missing link" in India's efforts to rise as an "inclusive" economic superpower? Can an identity-linked and technology-based solution change the face of governance in India? Given the euphoria around the Unique Identification (UID) project, one is tempted to believe so. However, a careful look at the project would show that the euphoria is just hyperbole; only the politically naïve can afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of this Orwellian project.

 

One can summarise the criticisms of the UID project under four heads. First, the project would necessarily entail the violation of privacy and civil liberties of people. Second, it remains unclear whether biometric technology — the cornerstone of the project – is capable of the gigantic task of de-duplication. The Unique Identification Authority of India's (UIDAI) "Biometrics Standards Committee" has noted that retaining biometric efficiency for a database of more than one billion persons "has not been adequately analysed" and the problem of fingerprint quality in India "has not been studied in depth". Third, there has been no cost-benefit analysis or feasibility report for the project till now. Finally, the purported benefits of the project in the social sector, such as in the Public Distribution System (PDS), are largely illusive. The problem of duplicate ration cards is often hugely exaggerated. Even so, some States have largely eliminated duplicate ration cards using "lower" technologies like hologram-enabled ration cards.

 

In this larger context, the UID project has two distinct political dimensions. The first dimension is that the project is fundamentally linked to "national security" concerns rather than "developmental" concerns. In fact, the marketing team of the UIDAI has always been on an overdrive to hush up the security angle, and play up the developmental angle, to render it more appealing.

 

The first phase of today's UID project was initiated in 1999 by the NDA government in the wake of the Kargil War. Following the reports of the "Kargil Review Committee" in 2000, and a Group of Ministers in 2001, the NDA government decided to compulsorily register all citizens into a "National Population Register" (NPR) and issue a Multi-purpose National Identity Card (MNIC) to each citizen. To ease this process, clauses related to individual privacy in the Citizenship Act of 1955 were weakened through an amendment in 2003. In sum, the ground work for a national ID project was completed by 2003 itself.

 

The parallels between the UPA's UID and the NDA's MNIC are too evident to be missed, even as the UPA sells UID as a purely "developmental" initiative. The former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, A.K. Doval, almost gave it away recently, when he said that UID, originally, "was intended to wash out the aliens and unauthorised people. But the focus appears to be shifting. Now, it is being projected as more development-oriented, lest it ruffle any feathers".

 

The potential of the project to unleash a security frenzy is the reason why privacy concerns have to be taken seriously. The government and the UIDAI have made it appear as if the purported, and unsubstantiated, benefits of "good governance" from the project eclipse the concerns regarding privacy and civil liberties. This is where the problem lies. A foundational understanding in the study of individual freedoms, pioneered by scholars like Amartya Sen, is that consequence-independent absolute rights are rather hard to defend. Hence, the demand to trade-off one freedom for another (here, the "invasive loss" of privacy for "development") is an untenable demand. Each freedom, independently, has an instrumental value, and the loss of one freedom undermines the individual's overall capability to expand up on other freedoms. No wonder then that Sen himself has voiced the privacy concern regarding the UID project.

 

There is a related concern: police and security forces, if allowed access to the biometric database, could extensively use it for regular surveillance and investigative purposes, leading to a number of human rights violations. As Amartya Sen has argued elsewhere, forced disclosure and loss of privacy always entailed "the social costs of the associated programmes of investigation and policing". According to him, "some of these investigations can be particularly nasty, treating each applicant as a potential criminal."

 

The second dimension of the UID project is the following: it would qualitatively restructure the role of the state in the social sector. Contrary to claims, the UID project is not an instrument to expand India's social security system, for whatever it is worth. Instead, the aim is to keep benefits restricted to the so-called "targeted" sections, ensure targeting with precision and thereby, limit the government's expenditure commitments. None other than the Prime Minister has made this amply clear. Addressing the National Development Council (NDC) on July 24, 2010, he noted: "to reduce our fiscal deficit in the coming years, … we must [be] … reducing the scale of untargeted subsidies. The operationalisation of the Unique Identification Number Scheme … provides an opportunity to target subsidies effectively."

 

The UIDAI claims that UID would help the government shift from a number of indirect benefits into direct benefits. In reality, such a shift would represent the opposite: a transformation of the role of the state from a direct provider to an indirect provider. For the UIDAI, the UID is a tool of empowerment. In reality, the UID would be an alibi for the state to leave the citizen unmarked in the market for social services. Nowhere is the illustration more telling than in the case of the PDS.

 

Let me state the argument upfront. The UID project is part of a larger effort to dismantle the PDS in India. The aim is to ensure a back-door entry of food stamps in the place of PDS, and later graduate it to a cash transfer scheme, thereby completing the state's withdrawal from the sphere of food procurement and distribution.

 

According to the UIDAI, the most important benefit from the UID could be that you could have a "portable" PDS. In other words, you could have a system where you (say, a migrant worker) could buy your PDS quota from anywhere in India. The claim, of course, has a deceptive appeal. One would have to dig deeper to grasp the real intent.

 

If we take the present fair price shop (FPS) system, each FPS has a specified number of households registered to it. The FPS stores grains only for the registered households. The FPS owner would not know how many migrants, and for what periods, would come in and demand their quota. Hence, for lack of stock, he would turn away migrant workers who demand grains. Hence, the FPS system is incompatible with the UID-linked portability of PDS. There is only one way out: do away with the FPS system, accredit grocery shops to sell grains, allow them to compete with each other and allow the shop owners to get the subsidy reimbursed. This is precisely what food stamps are all about; no FPS, you get food stamps worth an amount, go to any shop and buy grains (on why food stamps are deeply problematic, see Madhura Swaminathan, "Targeted Food Stamps", The Hindu, August 3, 2004).

 

What is interesting is that everyone, except those enamoured by the UID glitter, appears to know this. On its part, UIDAI officially accepts that food stamps become easier to implement with the UID. So does the Planning Commission, which sees the UID as the fulcrum around which its plans to "reform" the PDS revolve. It turns out that an opposition to the dismantling of PDS, and to food stamps, also involves an opposition to the UID.

 

On his part, Nandan Nilekani has been showcasing his extraordinarily poor understanding of India's developmental priorities. According to him, "in the Indira years, the slogan was garibi hatao. Then it was roti, kapda, makaan. In the last few years, it was bijli, sadak, pani." However, these slogans are "passé"; the in-thing is the slogan "UID number, bank account, mobile phone." Such an inverted world view, totally divorced from the grim realities of poverty, has prompted critics to call AADHAAR as just NIRAADHAAR!

 

In conclusion, the UID project is marked by both "security" and "developmental" dimensions. The former leads to an invasive state; the latter leaves us with a retreating state. Either way, the "citizen" is worse off.

 

( R. Ramakumar is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS  ANYLYSIS

FRANCE: SHOW OF FORCE OVER REFORM

VAIJU NARAVANE


On October 19 the French were out in the streets again, protesting government plans to raise the retirement age, undaunted by warnings of dire consequences if the present social unrest continued.

And Nicolas Sarkozy, the most unpopular president in France's post war history, remained unmoved, repeatedly saying that he will not negotiate. The question now is: who will blink first.

 

On that Tuesday, three million people braved foul weather with cold pelting rain and a massive police presence to demonstrate en masse for the sixth time in less than a month. Public opinion is now firmly backing the strikers with 67 per cent of the French saying they want the proposed law to be substantially changed.

 

Urban guerrilla-style battles between police and angry unemployed youth were reported from Lyon and other cities as were clashes between police and striking students. Fuel shortages have resulted in long queues at petrol pumps as striking workers continue to block oil depots. Oil tankers sent in after special riot police broke up the pickets found their tyres slashed.

 

Orly and Roissy Charles de Gaulle, the two airports serving the French capital have seen severe disruption of traffic. Train lines are running intermittently.

 

The stand-off between striking workers and students and the government has taken a far more alarming turn. And day after day people are coming out in droves to protest against a reform they feel is fundamentally unjust as it penalises women and some of the poorer sections of the population, especially unskilled and semi-skilled manual workers.

 

At the heart of the protests lie President Sarkozy's plans to reform the nation's state-run pension scheme by raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 in the short run and to 67 by 2018 when the deficit-ridden system is expected to balance its books. On September 16 amid acrimonious scenes, the lower house of parliament, where the President and his allies have an absolute majority, adopted the draft law presented by the government. The French upper house or Senat began discussions on October 5 and is expected to pass the Bill on October 21.

 

The objection

 

The strikers do not question the fact that the deficit-ridden pension system has to be restructured. France has an ageing population and the demographic pyramid has been inverted, meaning that there are far more retirees than there are active workers who pay into the pension fund. Workers say the legislation penalises certain sections of the workforce such as those engaged in manually taxing jobs or women who have interrupted their careers to bring up their children.

 

Opponents to the law say the government's high-handed handling of the situation has allowed for no alternatives. "If he had bothered to discuss the issue, a better, more just solution could have been found," said Socialist leader Martine Aubry.

 

The hole in the public pension system has been created by the fact that France has an ageing population where there are more pensioners than active workers who pay into the pension fund. If untackled, the present system is expected to ratchet up losses of €50 billion by 2020. In 1945, when the system was introduced, there were roughly four workers for each retiree in France, today the ratio has shrunk to 1.5 workers per retiree.

 

Two factors have upset this balance: the fact that longevity has increased — women now expect to live up to 87, while male life expectancy is 85 — coupled with a simultaneous drop in the birth rate. The age pyramid in the developed world has been inverted with old people far outnumbering the young. At the same time technological advance has meant that in many industries men have been replaced by machines leading to persistently high rates of unemployment, placing an additional burden on state-funded unemployment benefit schemes.

 

The situation in France has deteriorated enough to resemble that of 1995 when a three-week-long total strike brought the economy to its knees and forced President Chirac and his government to abandon plans to introduce similar reforms to the pensions and retirement system.

 

President Nicolas Sarkozy by his stubborn refusal to negotiate with the opposition appears to have painted himself into a corner. He has repeatedly said he will not give an inch. With a Senate dominated by the ruling right wing coalition, the reform bill in its present form is likely to be adopted by the Upper House on October 21. But the bill must then go to a parliamentary commission and return to both houses for a vote on the amendments put forward during debates.

 

With Presidential elections barely 18 months away, Mr. Sarkozy is trying to shore up support from his core conservative electorate and the extreme right National Front. However, he is in danger of losing precious support from the centre, essential for his re-election.

 

If the current impasse continues, the protest movement, after a protracted show of strength, could well run out of steam leaving the unions with egg on their face. But that could amount to a pyrrhic victory for President Sarkozy, for the bitterness, anger and frustration generated by his refusal to make any overtures whatsoever, could cost him his second term in office.

 

Opposition to Sarkozy

 

President Sarkozy's inflexible governing style has come in for much criticism in recent months and there is growing opposition to him within his own ranks. He has promised a government reshuffle in the weeks ahead and has kept his ministers guessing as to who will stay, who will go and who will be promoted. This incertitude has also destabilised his ministers who have, in recent months, spent more time speculating on the nature and composition of the next government than on their portfolios.

 

"The game is now open and the knives are being sharpened. Leaders of the ruling coalition are jockeying for posts such as the Speaker, leader of the party and the future prime minister. The President himself appears to have no game plan whatsoever and seems to be rudderless, navigating blindly and whimsically. Whatever the outcome of the present show of force between the opponents of the reform and the President, it will be deeply damaging to the morale of the country and could push France further into recession," said commentator Francois Langlet.

 

 

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THE HINDU

THE CHALLENGE: CAN YOU HOLD PEOPLE TOGETHER IN RELATIONSHIP?'

THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ON VARIOUS CONTEMPORARY ISSUES THAT MATTER.

P. JACOB

 

In the concluding part of his interview given to The Hindu, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, responds to questions on market capitalism and consumerism, social radicalism and doctrinal orthodoxy, his stand and actions on the Iraq War, continuity and discontinuity in the office of the senior bishop of the Anglican Communion, the issue of immigration and attitudes towards it, engaging with the 'intelligent unbeliever,' poetry and pastoring, secularism — and who he really is. The full text of the hour-long interview by P. Jacob, Senior Associate Editor of The Hindu, at the CSI Centre in Chennai on October 18, 2010 can be read at www.thehindu.com.

 

Archbishop, you voiced your objection to the French law proposing a ban on the wearing of the hijab in French schools and stated that the hijab and any other religious symbols should not be outlawed.

 

Yes, because I think when the state tries to determine what is unacceptable expression of religious faith, a door is opened into a rather dangerous territory. The human rights legislation speaks of freedom to express one's faith. I think that needs to be thought through carefully and honoured, and I think, as I said the other day in Nagpur, the state perhaps has better things to do than legislating about what women wear!

 

You are seen, among other things, as something of a social radical. You wrote in The Spectator that placing too much trust in the market had become a kind of "idolatry." You have highlighted the need to have an ethical economy. How do you see the Church's role and mission for the poor and the disadvantaged across the world who have been growingly squeezed by the effects of the global economic downturn of the recent years, coming as it did in the time of globalisation, the primacy of market capitalism? This is a point you also made in your MDG sermon at Kolkata Cathedral last week [http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/3010].

 

Church, market capitalism, and the poor

 

The Churches can do two things, I think. One is of course what they always do in the circumstances and try to rally around in practical ways to assist those who are most vulnerable. And that may be through working community regeneration, may be through education, it may be through microfinance, which is a great interest of mine. Always might you give power and capacity to poor communities. The Church does a great deal, it will probably have to do a great deal more. The second way in which the Church has to act, I would say, is in keeping before the people the question what is wealth for, what is the nature of real prosperity. And does prosperity demand an endless spiral of material economic growth? In Britain there was recently published a report called 'Prosperity Without Growth?' I referred to it a few times. And that seems one of the questions we have to keep asking.

 

Yet people often wonder how your social radicalism could co-exist with your reputation for doctrinal orthodoxy.

 

( Laughs) Well, I'm glad to know I have a reputation for doctrinal orthodoxy. I think I'm orthodox but not everyone does! The answer, I think, is that for me the doctrines of the Christian creed state that God is transcendent, God is not simply an aspect of how the world works. The doctrines of the creed state that God acts so as to create a community in the world, the Church, through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. And this community exists to reflect not the nature of the world around but the nature of God. So for me the creed says the Church ought not just to be another aspect of how society works. The Church will always be asking awkward questions. And the Church, because it is based on the idea that we live with and for and from each other, the Church is bound to have a radical element in it. It may not express that always in the same way but there will always be that question.

 

The Iraq War and threats

 

against Iran

 

Your opposition to America's and Britain's war against Iraq has been well- documented. You have also spoken out strongly against any move to attack Iran, in terms as strong as "criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous." Yet do you believe you have done enough within your power to oppose the war during these seven years that you have been Archbishop?

 

When war was declared in the Iraqi context, I decided that there was no point in going on speaking about the war once the decision had been made. And my emphasis moved to questions of what was going to be done on the far side of the war, what would we be doing to plan for the future, and for a sustainable future. I agreed very much with one British politician who said we could win the war in six weeks – and lose it in six months. And, well, I don't think we are entirely out of the wood there, as we say. So I made a decision not to go on talking about the war itself but to try and move people forward towards a vision for the future.

 

In the whole region of the Middle East, whether I've done or said enough, I can't say. But I'm engaged fairly regularly with issues around the Holy Land, with the political questions around Syria and Lebanon. We have a lot of contacts there. And one of my concerns, I suppose, there is that we, I mean the international community, find a way of avoiding Iranian dominance of the region without creating yet another war – which will unleash chaos for decades. So all this is a matter of ongoing, and sometimes quite intense, discussion. Next year I'm convening what I hope will be quite a high-level meeting at Lambeth Palace to discuss the situation of Christians in the region, which I hope our government and others will help support. It will be primarily focussed on the Christians in the Holy Land but of course involving people from other faiths…

 

Where is organised religion going?

 

How do you see the direction that organised religion as a whole is moving globally in terms of practising numbers, rigour, and faith? Including in India?

 

Modernity in general brings with it a strong strand of individualism. And consumerism. And consumerism fits very badly with traditional religion. People look for what makes them feel better and they don't particularly like to think of long-term belonging. I think that's one of the major issues we have in the U.K. about younger people and religion; and I think with the more educated and sophisticated in India it's probably much the same, actually. Now this isn't overcome overnight; it has to be addressed through a constant appeal from religious bodies to, as I sometimes like to say, to the imagination. And appeal to people to discover an extra depth to their life, which is not just their possession but which involves them in this mutual relation with others – this sense of being involved in and affected by the sufferings of others.

 

The trouble is that the reaction that seems easiest is what we call fundamentalism in general. That is a reaction towards an imagined past, a certain absolutely watertight answer to everything, and a real bitterness and venom towards outsiders. The great danger that faces every religious tradition, and I mean every religious tradition here, is that it can seem a quick way out. Christians do it. Muslims do it. Hindus do it. Buddhists do it. For all I know, Jains and Zoroastrians do it and Sikhs too. But we do see this strange attempt to outbid another religion. 'I feel threatened by the extremism of another religious tradition. All right, so I will create my own extremism!' And so we go on piling up. That's the danger. And that's where it matters enormously for trust and respect and patience to be generated among religious leaders and teachers and communities. And that's work which deserves every ounce of effort and goodwill we can give it.

 

Playing many roles

 

You are an academic who has 11 languages, a theologian, a thinker, a poet, and also a perceptive translator of poetry. Mainly from Welsh, is it?

 

Welsh, and also from German and Russian.

 

Do these different facets and roles intersect as you go about the difficult task of being primate, pastor, and poet?

 

Well, it may seem to be some distance from the work of translating Welsh poetry to the work of chairing a board of finance! But I don't think there's a gap, because what you bring to the office of a primate or a bishop is who you are. The skills, the interests you have, and an interest in different languages and cultures can sometimes be very instructive as you sit around the table. An awareness of the extraordinary possibilities and varieties of language can perhaps sometimes make you listen a bit harder to how other people are talking. And maybe that feeds into the ministry. Essentially it is about who you are.

 

Issues of continuity and change

 

Your choice as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury was a considerable departure, many people have said this, from your predecessor and his views. Would you like to comment on issues of continuity and change here, going back perhaps to at least the time of Archbishop Robert Runcie? At the end of his tenure, he actually spoke of the pain of having to lead a Church which at times did not want to find a united way forward. How would you see your own tenure in relation to the tenures of your immediate predecessors?

 

I think it's possible to exaggerate the discontinuity. A great many of the projects that have been most central and valuable for me have been things that my predecessor initiated. And I have to acknowledge a grateful debt to that. But of course the style of each Archbishop is going to be different. Every Archbishop, I think, since the beginning of the 20th century has faced the challenge of a diverse Church. I read the life of Archbishop [Randall Thomas] Davidson who had a long tenure as the Archbishop at the beginning of the 20th century, and I smile occasionally to see him saying some of the things I might want to say about the difficulty of the job. And it's difficult because the Archbishop is not a chief executive, he is not someone who makes all the decisions that matter. The Archbishop presides over a global family with rapid communication and what goes with rapid communication very often is limited mutual understanding! That's got a lot more marked in the last two or three decades. So it's not surprising that there is a continuity of challenge there at least. I think everybody who comes into the office sooner or later does find this is the heart of it: can you hold people together in relationship? It's the job of every bishop. It's the job of an Archbishop of Canterbury in a special way – and there's continuity there. Holding together diversity, not in order to have an easy life or a quiet life, but because of this conviction that we need each other. And when somebody walks away from the table, everyone is the poorer.

 

Engaging with intelligent unbelievers

 

Archbishop, it was interesting to hear you being described (this was mentioned yesterday at the public reception) as a figure who could 'make Christianity credible to the intelligent unbeliever.' Believing that you took that as a compliment [ the Archbishop laughs] … is this a role that you have considered an important one for the leader of the third largest denomination of Christians in the world? Do you believe you have succeeded in this sense?

 

Well, apart from a growing sense of incredulity as I listened to what was being said about me yesterday, I think the answer is 'Yes, I do think it's important.' Every Christian leader and teacher these days has to be, in some degree, an apologist, has to be able to have enough understanding of the language of the non-believer to find ways of moving across the frontier. Now some people do this very effectively as Christians witnessing in the world of science. I'm not a scientist, and I make no claims there. I know a bit about the world of the arts, and sometimes I really engage in conversation about the world of the imagination. The world of poetry or fiction can open doors for a deeper understanding. I believe it's worth working at that.

 

Dealing with immigration

 

You contributed to the debate prior to the 2005 U.K. elections, criticising assertions that immigration was a 'cause of crime.' This is a very sensitive issue in the U.K., isn't it?

 

It is. It's troubling to me that we still seem in the U.K. to have a kind of memory of the language that was around in the 1960s – 'Oh, you know we're being swamped by the immigrants from other cultures.' The fact is, at the moment, that migrants in the U.K. come from a very wide variety of backgrounds, including Europe, not just the old Commonwealth. The fact is also that they contribute economically to the country; without their services a great many things would collapse. And often they will do jobs which British people won't do. And I believe that culturally they help to keep Britain the lively and varied society that it is. So I am distressed that that suspicion and resentment is still around.

 

We as a Church have taken a fairly consistent stand on this. We are very concerned too about the status of asylum-seekers and refugees. I try to make it a point to visit detention centres for asylum-seekers whenever I can and to deal with refugee camps in Great Britain – to make sure that people remember that a great many migrants are definitely not in Britain simply from their choice, but because of nightmare situations they're escaping from. When you sat across the table from a woman who has been multiply raped in an African country in time of war, who has seen a family destroyed, who has with great difficulty found her way to a safe place, then it's quite hard to listen to others saying, talking about 'bogus asylum seekers' and ' parasites'! I think Britain ought to do better than that. There's more nobility in the British tradition than that.

 

Who really is he?

 

Archbishop, it is often said that you are hard to label: orthodox or liberal, diplomat or dissident. It has also been said that you consider yourself to be a 'radical traditionalist.' What are you, really?

 

( Laughs) Really I'm Rowan Williams, a child of God, I hope. I don't like party labels, I really don't. And I don't see any contradiction in saying that I owe everything to the tradition of the Church in a very old-fashioned way. That all that shaped me in my prayer and in my thinking has been the great mainstream tradition of the Bible and the early Church. And that, as I said earlier, that gives me a sense of why it's important sometimes to be a critic or a questioner – and doesn't incline me to think that blanket conservatism was the answer to everything. But essentially, as I say, you bring to the office who you are, under God.

 

You would have noticed the different senses of the word secularism here and there.

 

Absolutely.

It signifies equal respect for all religions and a certain neutrality in religious terms here while in England it signifies the principle of separation of matters of Church and state. Is there a point there that's worth elucidating?

 

Yes, what I've suggested in a couple of interventions over the last few years is that we in England need to be much more careful distinguishing between what I sometimes call Procedural Secularism, which is, the state steps back but allows debate to go on and the state itself stays neutral, and Programmatic Secularism, where the state drives an agenda to push religion out of the public sphere. India is a very good example of Procedural Secularism. That was the burden of my lecture in Delhi [the Archbishop's Chevening Lecture at the British Council, New Delhi, October 15, 2010, that can be accessed at www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/3014], and I hope to take that back into the British discussion.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

 

IS LIBERAL MUMBAI A THING OF THE PAST?

 

The Shiv Sena is at it again, attacking products of the mind and creative ventures. This time around it is Rohinton Mistry's acclaimed novel Such a Long Journey that has attracted the ire of the chauvinist outfit known for physically mounting assaults on those who display liberal society mores of any description. Under Bal Thackeray's leadership over decades, the Sena has made its stock-in-trade to display violent xenophobia, and to hit out at books, libraries and, more generally, artists and the arts. More often than not, it has got away with it. This is chiefly because the Maharashtra government of the day has permitted the outfit, which doesn't balk at lumpenism, significant latitude. This time too the state's Congress-NCP government offered surreptitious endorsement to the Sena's goon tactics. This is a pity. It detracts from the Congress' credo of supporting liberal social values and a secular mindset.


Canada-based Mistry's book had been a part of Mumbai's University B.A. syllabus for many years until, recently, the student body of the Sena made the discovery that it showed Maharashtrians in poor light, and that expletives had been used in the narration. They demanded that the book be pulled out of the syllabus. Shockingly, the university's vice-chancellor obliged, after completing mumbo-jumbo formalities. At no stage did he seek to raise questions about academic freedom, artistic independence and the imperative to check the forces of public disorder as represented by the Sena's youth brigade. Not showing spine, and kowtowing to the demands of semi-fascist social or political organisations, is the surest way to ease their way. It is also the surest way to ensure that civilised discourse takes a beating in our public life. The ugly episode is a reminder what our leading universities have become. It also offers a peep into the manner of the selection of vice-chancellors of our major universities. Higher education authorities would do well in the current instance to take the lead and pull up the Mumbai University vice-chancellor instead of waiting for the state government to act.
It is easy to see that the Sena was keen to provide a dramatic moment to mark the entry into politics of Mr Thackeray's grandson Aditya, an undergraduate student in Mumbai whose public life was launched with some fanfare by a doting grandfather. A Parsi author who grew up in the city and made his name overseas was judged to be easy prey. It was unlikely that mass organisations of any kind will be agitated on an issue such as this. In the circumstances, only the state government could have called the Sena's bluff. In the event chief minister Ashok Chavan chose to succumb. It was shocking to hear him say on television that the book had "bad language". It is to be hoped that his party's national leadership does inform him that the leading citizen of a state, especially one who resides in a city that is India's pride, cannot afford to be a narrow and silly bigot. If "bad language", that is one laced with sexual overtones, is what troubles Mr Chavan and his cohorts, he should be invited to lead a march to destroy the famous Hindu temples at Khajuraho. More, the chief minister should team up with the young Aditya Thackeray to go burn the celebrated Kama Sutra, an ode to desire and erotic love that has proved to be a classic over the centuries, loved by many, including Hindus and Maharashtrians like Mr Thackeray and Mr Chavan. It is a shame on the chief minister that in a discussion such as this he should be bracketed with those who threaten to take the law into their hands.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

FOREIGN ASSIGNMENT

SRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

India's election to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member is rightly seen as an opportunity to stake claim for permanent membership. The question of UNSC reforms has been on the cards for some time now. And the government will look to provide much needed impetus to the debate. But it also recognises that India's performance at the high table over the next two years will be an important factor in determining the outcome. The external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, has noted that the tenure would enable India to establish its credential in handling major international issues with responsibility.


What exactly this entails is a matter of some debate. It is easy to frame this question as a discussion of what stance India should adopt on a range of problems: Iran, Palestine, North Korea, Sudan and so on. It is equally tempting to consider whether India's position would be strengthened by convincing the United States that it can play ball or by signalling to the wider international community that it can stake out an independent stance.

These issues are undoubtedly important and are bound to be considered when specific problems come to the fore. But the window of strategic opportunity now open to India is a larger one.


The nub of the matter is how we understand the markers of power. Great powers do have the capacity to impose (by whatever means) their wishes on other states; but they also have the ability to control which issues actually come up for discussion in international institutions. As anyone who has chaired a meeting knows, setting the agenda is as important as prevailing in the discussion itself. The use of "hard" and "soft" power certainly enables a great power to influence the behaviour of other states. But much of its influence also flows from its ability to create or reinforce political norms and practices that shape other states' choices and conduct.
Our own history of involvement in the UN suggests ways in which we can leverage this dimension of power. Indeed, Jawaharlal Nehru's approach to the organisation drew on this insight into the multi-dimensional character of power. The "Kashmir question" casts a long shadow on any discussion of Nehru's India and the UN. But there were significant, and now forgotten, successes as well.


As vice-president of the interim government constituted in September 1946, Nehru paid considerable attention to the UN. His views on the UN were quite pragmatic. He recognised that the structure of the UN accorded a privileged position to the great powers of the day. Yet he thought that the veto was an essential concession for the viability of the UNSC. At the same time, Nehru believed that the UN afforded an opportunity for India both to position itself as a major actor and to transform key aspects of the existing international system.
From the outset, he felt that India should be elected a non-permanent member of the UNSC: India should put forward its case for election "even if we fail in getting elected, the very fact that we have put out a strong case will influence world opinion and raise India in the eyes of the world". The major issue where he wished India to frame a new agenda was on the position of the colonised territories. Nehru was well aware that the UN Charter was biased in favour of preserving the position of the major imperial powers. Two issues gave Nehru the opportunity he was looking for to change the agenda.


The first was the enactment by South Africa of a law that virtually segregated the Indians living in that country. India claimed that the treatment of Indians in South Africa was incompatible with the latter's obligations under the UN Charter. But Article 2(7) of the UN Charter proscribed interference in matters falling under a state's "domestic jurisdiction".


When the issue came up for discussion, the US, Britain, South Africa and other Commonwealth states wanted to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice. On Nehru's instructions, the Indian delegation insisted that the matter was a political not legal one. This stance resonated with several members of the General Assembly. Eventually, when India's motion was put to vote, it was upheld by a comfortable majority.


The second issue in which India played an important role concerned the future status of south-west Africa. South Africa sought to annex this erstwhile League of Nations "mandate". Significant opposition, however, came from other African states. India was forthcoming in its support for the cause. The Indian delegation energetically opposed the annexation of any "mandate". Instead it demanded UN trusteeship based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people. These efforts paid off. When the issue came up for discussion in the General Assembly, the great powers backed off and South Africa was asked to come up with trusteeship arrangements.


India's stance on the Korean War was another case in point. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, India went along with the UN resolutions blaming North Korea for the attack, demanding the cessation of hostilities and the restoration of status quo ante. But Nehru declined to send troops to fight as part of the UN Command. His efforts to convince the international community to take into account the role and interests of China in the conflict met with considerable disdain in Western capitals. But once the US and its allies were bogged down in the armistice negotiations, India's ideas for breaking the deadlock were welcomed. What's more, India was asked to chair the international commission on repatriation of prisoners.


Sixty years on, India's is a much stronger player on the international stage. Yet in its quest for major power status it can learn a thing or two from its past. The key point is that the power of argument is as important as the argument of power. Two years at the UNSC will hopefully provide ample opportunity to hone our skill in setting the agenda of world politics.

 

n Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

GERMANY GETTING QUEASY AGAIN

SIDHARTH BHATIA

 

Immigration, ethnic minorities, assimilation, always hot button subjects in Europe are back in the news. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's forthright and somewhat shocking statement declaring multiculturalism a failure in her country and demanding that minorities integrate with the population has brought this sensitive topic to the forefront in a controversial way.


Much of Europe is composed of nation-states formed of populations of similar ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds and while differences do exist (and there have always been minorities), the vast majority is alike, in religion and language, if nothing else. Not surprisingly, "outsiders" always stand out and are either barely tolerated or have to face hostility.


The degree of discomfort in European nations differs, but arguably the one country that has had the most problems with such minorities is Germany. The most extreme case of discrimination against minorities in Germany in the 20th century is all too well known, but even post-World War II, the divided country could not reconcile itself with the idea of thousands, and later hundreds of thousands of seemingly different people living in it. It imported thousands of Turks as temporary labour in its companies and called them gastarbieters, or guest workers, who would go back to their homeland in a couple of years after making some money. The inevitable happened and many of these Turks stayed back. Some assimilated, large numbers did not.
Germany did not give them citizenship and even children born to such immigrants were not made fully German, gaining only a kind of resident permit. Today, the immigrant Turkish population has reached 3.5 million and has been joined by many more who have moved to the country from other countries, including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and many African countries. Germany is no longer the all-German (and all-white) country it used to be.
This naturally makes people uncomfortable and provides fodder for right-wing groups in the country. Mainstream politicians know they have to tackle the issue but tend not to take extreme stands, not the least because they do not want to lose the support of minority groups. Chancellor Merkel's declaration is thus unique. She has declared (and she may well be articulating what many in her country privately feel) that multiculturalism in Germany has "utterly failed" and the approach in which different cultures live side by side "should be abandoned". "Those who do not accept this have no place here", she has stated bluntly.
Her statement may not tackle specifics, but is not difficult to comprehend. Though Germany has no multiculturalism to speak of, at least not in the way it is practiced in Britain or Canada, it still has tried to live with its ethnic minorities. What she is saying is that the minorities have failed to assimilate and by holding on to their own cultures they are not "becoming German enough". The minorities complain that all attempts to integrate are rejected and they are constantly perceived as outsiders despite living there for three generations. With no citizenship, they had no incentive to learn German or become part of society. Both sides have their own take on it, but the context and sub-text is unmistakable: the Muslims of the country stand out and by insisting on pushing their own culture and traditions, are a misfit in the predominantly Christian society.


Anti-immigrant (and minority) sentiment is growing elsewhere in the continent too. France's president Nicholas Sarkozy recently got into a spat with the European Union for his policy in throwing out Roma (gypsies) from his country though under European Union rules they had a perfect right to be there. And in Britain, which has been the most tolerant European nation as far as minorities go, immigration is being tightened.
Populations across Europe are greying and even falling. Most countries need workers and young people to keep the economy humming and feed pension plans. So many governments come up with plans to woo skilled migrants and turn a blind eye to illegal ones who work in farms and low-paying jobs. But this has not always worked. Germany's ambitious scheme to bring in Indian techies failed because migrants felt uncomfortable with the local language and customs. Yet, European nations have not been able to come up with an immigration policy, like Canada or Australia, which lets in qualified foreigners and allows them to settle down legally and with dignity.


We, in India, too have had to tackle anti-immigration sentiment, though, of course, our right-wing politicians tend to attack their own countrymen and women. With all our problems, we have come to understand that diversity is our strength. The situation in Europe, for a wide variety of reasons, is very different and has led to brutalities on an unprecedented scale. Once again, the portents are not good. In the coming years, this conflict within European societies could become combustible. Ethnic and religious minorities are a reality, but many extremist groups want to change it. With the economy faltering and jobs becoming scarcer, there is a temptation for even sober, mainstream politicians to join the anti-minority brigade. Ms Merkel, who may or may not have taken this step due to her own political compulsion, has now opened a Pandora's Box which will be difficult to shut again.

 

The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

 

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DNA

            REPORT

SELLERS BEWARE, INDIANS ARE LIFTING

 

This is one international perception India can do without: the Centre for Retail Research, Nottingham, has shown, for the second year running, that we are a society of shoplifters. The retail industry in India loses close to Rs10,000 crore a year because of shoplifting, in transit and supplier fraud as well as employee theft.

 

The biggest threats are to the hypermarket system of retail.

 

Theories can be offered — that we have grown too fast into this commercial society, that with so many poor people, conspicuous consumption is bound to lead to temptation. However, that would lead to needless value judgments and prejudices. It is also likely that the system used by large retailers leaves many loopholes in the supply chain. Shoplifters are customers and it is hard to assume that most come from economically disadvantaged sections.

 

If we scrounge around for good news, we'll find there is a shrinkage in the number of shoplifters from last year. But that hardly salvages the larger, grimmer picture — light fingers are still an easy way to add to our closets. Perhaps, we need to focus more on moral science in schools.

 

URL of the article: http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/editorial_sellers-beware-indians-are-lifting_1455707-all

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MORE GRADUATES BUT NONE JOB-READY

 

In a study, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Tiss) has reiterated what industry professionals have long been saying: that graduates are unprepared for the job market. The Tiss research found that only 10% of graduates and 25% of those doing courses like management and engineering are industry-ready. The biggest problem areas are seen to be business ethics, communication skills and general awareness.

 

This problem, however, is not as simple as young people not being ready for the job market or for employers to be dissatisfied. It is also about choices made and about a disconnect between higher education and the needs of the marketplace. Even 20 years ago, most college students traditionally got a degree in the humanities, sciences or, later, commerce. The grounding that they received as well as the college experience was their preparation for later life. But as demands of the marketplace changed, professional courses started gaining popularity. These courses make a covenant with the student and with the potential employer — that the student will be prepared for the job market and that the employer will get what he or she wants.

 

As the study has found, many institutes are not in touch with the industry. Their faculty often do not have the requisite experience and this puts students at a disadvantage. While the standard college lecturer has to jump through a series of hoops to be qualified to teach philosophy or history for instance, teachers at professional institutes get far more leeway.

 

As the number of professional institutes mushrooms, we need more regulation and greater synergy between employers and institutes. It would be unfortunate if the future of students is put in jeopardy by the lacunae in faculty choice. It also shows that we have not been able to keep pace with the surge in demand and that many institutes are cutting corners. We need an effective rating system with checklists that parents and students can use to make their choice. Supply must not merely meet demand, it must also provide the education promised.

 

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DNA

REPORT

PROTECT POOR FROM PRO-POOR FINANCIERS

 

It was the successful, Nobel prize-winning Muhammad Yunus'sexperiment through the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh which made microfinance an attractive option for social entrepreneurs like US-returned Vikram Akula of SKS Microfinance, giving it market wings. It seemed to combine the virtues of capitalism with that of socialist concern. It has been said that it is possible to run for-profit financial institutions while serving the social goal of meeting the financial needs of the poor.

 

Microfinance has been the boom sector in this decade but it seems to have overreached itself. The Andhra Pradesh government has issued an ordinance suspending the operations of unregistered microfinance organisations after a spate of suicides, which have been traced to the strong-arm tactics used by agents of the microfinance institutions to recover loans.

 

The ordinance has been challenged in the Andhra Pradesh high court. Apart from the legality of the state government's decision, what seems to have alarmed sector leaders is the high financial stake itself. According to Microfinance Institutions Network chairman, Vijay Mahajan, the ordinance has put at risk loans amounting to Rs9,000 crore. According to estimates, the total microfinance turnover is placed at around Rs30,000 crore.

 

Debates are on in financial circles, including the RBI, about the usefulness of microfinance institutions. They have been seen as reaching areas and people without access to regular banking.

 

About 80% of the funds of microfinance institutions are from the banks themselves. They are part of the financial mainstream. But the problems too have come to the fore. It has been found that

microfinance institutions' real lending rates are as high as 24% to 30%. It has turned out that microfinance institutions are really the dreaded and hated moneylender of old in a new incarnation.

 

There is a need for regulation of the sector. Abuses have no doubt crept into the system and vitiated its usefulness. The argument that regulation will choke its success does have some merit given the hamhanded manner that governments have in strangling private enterprise, but it is clear that the sector is in need of a watchdog. The Andhra episode has shown that all is not well or clear in the sector, and that the ostensible financiers of the poor have to be checked from exploiting the poor. It would be a folly to throw the proverbial baby with the bathwater, but it cannot be denied that a clean-up is required.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

RADICAL HINDUISM MAY STILL EMERGE FROM THE WOODWORK

R JAGANNATHAN

 

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the other day that Hinduism and terror do not go together. He may be right — and wrong. It all depends on which Hinduism one is talking about. While the broad approach of the aam Hindu is to live and let live, Hinduism is constantly changing and new forms are being created in response to the challenges the environment throws up.

 

Historically, Hinduism has been ever-changing. Jainism and Buddhism provided the earliest counter-views to Vedic Hinduism.

 

This is why during the Upanishadic period, Hinduism metamorphosed into something else. By the time Shankara arrived on the scene, Hinduism had been reinvented. The important critiques of Buddhism find a place in the Bhagavad Gita.

 

With the advent of Islam — whose impact was felt most in the north-west of India — Hinduism faced a new challenge, and this gave rise to Guru Nanak and early Sikhism. By the time of the 10th Guru, Sikhism had developed its own strong identity as it took elements from Islam and Hinduism to meet the challenges of its time. The bottomline: religions borrow ideas from rival religions to strengthen themselves. Aggressive Sikhism branched off into a new religion after starting out as a reform movement in Hinduism. Ambedkar's neo-Buddhism is quite different from the middle path rationalism the Buddha preached.

 

This brings us to Bhagwat's comment that Hinduism and terror are incompatible. This is true to the extent that the idea is unlikely to appeal to old style Hindus. But one cannot say the same for younger groups who may be vulnerable to more radical forms of action just as some Muslim youths are attracted to al Qaeda or Lashkar ideology. The secular cabal in India paints the RSS as a radical Hindu nationalist outfit, but don't be surprised if even more radical outfits emerge to appeal to younger Hindus. Given the social ferment brought on by globalisation, India is ripe for radicalisation — as is evident in the growth of the Maoist movement in some states.

 

It is also worth harking back to the Ayodhya movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Communal mobilisation was the goal, but the movement also tapped into the social discontent of

 

disempowered segments. One would have expected a communal movement to be led by the upper castes, but Ayodhya enabled the OBCs to emerge upfront: Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati, Vinay Katiyar, and Sadhvi Rithambara were all OBCs. The BJP's biggest mascot — Narendra Modi — is also an OBC. The mass nature of mobilisation enabled previously disempowered groups — women, for example — out of their confines. Once women tasted street power, it was impossible to send them back to the kitchen without acknowledging their changed status. Women may be nowhere near challenging male domination completely as yet, but Ayodhya was an important turning point for non-upper class women.

 

At any point of time there are many Hinduisms contending for market share. So when Bhagwat says the term Hindu terrorism is an oxymoron, he is right only if he is referring to traditional and conservative Hinduism. But there are other Hinduisms waiting to emerge from the woodwork, and for some of them terror is not a strict no-no. Veer Savarkar's version of Hindutva, for example, is a virile ideology that some groups have internalised. Terror is not something unthinkable for these groups. Compared to groups like the Abhinav Bharat, the RSS is practically a moderate force, and the VHP just a wee bit more radical. The new Hindu terror groups are further to the right of the Sangh Parivar, and may not even be a part of its outer fringe.

 

Will Hindu radicalism ever become a major threat? The answer is probably no, and we can learn why from the failure of the Ayodhya movement to gather momentum after the demolition of December 6, 1992. Two factors led directly to failure. First, 1992 was a turning point for the Indian economy. In the two decades after Ayodhya, broadbased economic growth has spread wealth and income far lower down the social spectrum than ever before. This nipped incipient radicalism in the bud. Second, the Ayodhya movement did not offer a radical social message to take the mass mobilisation forward. The movement created new OBC leaders, but this Hindu mobilisation failed to attract the lower strata of OBCs and had no message whatsoever for Dalits. Radical neo-Buddhism and the BSP brand of mobilisation had a larger appeal for them.

 

It is the failure of Hindu radicalism that enables the RSS chief to claim that Hindu terror is a misnomer. However, this need not be true forever. The minute religious appeal is combined with a broader social message of empowerment of the lower classes, it may be back in business. As the growth of Naxalism in tribal areas shows, radical ideologies do find purchase with the dispossessed. And India has no shortage of the poor and hungry to build an army of radicals with.

 

Globalisation generates its own discontents.

 

Radical Hinduism is an upsurge waiting for the right leader, the right social message and the right opportunity.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHERE THE MIND IS ENSNARED IN FEAR...

ANTARA DEV SEN

 

Allow me to state the obvious: a university is a place of learning. A good university teaches more than what the curriculum demands — it exposes youngsters to new ideas, encourages them to develop into a responsible, aware, intellectually free people. Every time this sacred space is defiled by bigotry it makes us less healthy as a nation, less free as individuals.

 

Sadly, with the blossoming of identity politics and chauvinism in India, we frequently see such sullying. The swift withdrawal of Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey from Mumbai University's syllabus is the most recent example of this steady narrowing of our intellectual space.

 

Bal Thackeray's grandson was sent to university to get an education. This brave act by our first family of fascism exposed the poor dear to all kinds of dangers, including good literature, which brandished the threat of an open and critical mind.

 

He quickly focused on Mistry's internationally celebrated 20-year-old book, declared that it made derogatory remarks about the Shiv Sena, and energised his family's private army. The Sena flamboyantly burned copies of the book, demanding its withdrawal from the syllabus. With amazing efficiency and disregard for due process, vice-chancellor

 

Rajan Welukar struck it off the curriculum, and all colleges fell in line. Then Maharashtra's Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan supported the withdrawal — Mistry's language was objectionable, he said.

 

But civil society was outraged, particularly by the VC's genuflection to the Sena and the passive submission of the teachers. A liberal democracy is not expected to surrender to mob censorship. The autonomy of academic institutions was at stake, endangering free thought and expression. So is Welukar a right-winger out to censor free thought? Or is he an opportunist who believes the future is saffron? Or just a coward? I have no idea. But given the scenario in certain states, I wouldn't be surprised if an apolitical, liberal VC did something similar.

 

After all, the state offers very little security when constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression are attacked by politically controlled mobs. Maharashtra has excelled in capitulating to fascist identity politics. Priceless manuscripts were destroyed in 2004 when the Bhandarkar Institute in Pune was vandalised by the Sena, protesting one anecdote in James Laine's book on Shivaji. Even now, a pliant state government will not allow the book to be sold, despite a Supreme Court

 

order. And 95-year-old MF Husain is still in exile because the government cannot guarantee his safety at home. Many of his works have been ruined by the Hindutva goons, his home and studio vandalised, and there are rewards on his head and his drawing hand.

 

Or take the case of Shivji Panikkar, former Dean of Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda. He was suspended in 2007 for

 

opposing the illiberalism of university authorities and supporting the right to free expression of a student whose art had offended Hindutva goons. He has not been reinstated yet, in spite of the outrage of civil society or requests from academic institutions.

 

Standing up for freedom of expression is necessary, but can you risk your career, the academic treasures of your institute and your personal safety for it? Is it prudent to claim your rights when the government allows mob sentiment to override constitutional guarantees?

 

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DNA

COLUMN

SAY 'I CAN' AND YOU MOST DEFINITELY WILL

 

District collector of Kanpur Mukesh Kumar Meshram stands for everything that German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe meant when he said, "Willing is not enough, we must do."

 

On the way to office one day, Meshram spotted a truck which splashed mud on the school uniform of students passing by. He heard a student complain that his uniform had been spoiled and he didn't have money to buy another set.

 

That set him thinking. He found that almost 30,000 students in government schools had little money to afford even the essentials.

 

He devised a scheme wherein each student would get a set comprising uniform, shoes, pencil and tiffin box by paying just Rs300. His appeal for help has fetched 16,000 sponsorships so far and he expects another 14,000 donors soon.

 

Not only this, when Meshram came to know that school teachers weren't doing their job properly, he came up with the Eklavya scheme, whereby locals volunteered to teach for an hour a week.

 

The scheme met with stupendous success and shamed teachers back to doing their duties diligently.

 

The laws of nature are such that you will be initially dissuaded. One who can traipse through dissuasion, eventually makes peace with nature, which then turns the tide. Suddenly you find the doors of opportunity ajar, with peoplepopping up at unexpected junctures to help you reach your goal. Intent, they say, propels action. Have the resolve. There will be no stopping you.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

ARRESTED! NOW WHAT?

 

Any joy over the arrest of Masrat Alam is not without irony. He has been depicted as the most wanted separatist leader. Reportedly carrying a price of Rs 5 lakh on his head, he is chief of the pro-Pakistan Muslim League and also general secretary of the hard-line Hurriyat Conference led by veteran Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He has been widely publicised as the man responsible for the ongoing anti-India protests in the Kashmir region. He is believed to have organised and instigated mischief-makers who have come to be known as stone-pelters. It has also been said that he is the key author of the protest calendars that are issued in the name of Mr Geelani. In some circles he has been mentioned as the likely political successor of Mr Geelani. Only recently he has circulated videos asking people not to be "disheartened" and "cowed down by laws such as the Public Safety Act (PSA)." He has stated: "We have faced economic losses, but the struggle must continue as "azadi" (freedom) is round the corner." His name has frequently cropped up during Mr Geelani's "Quit Jammu and Kashmir campaign." There is no reason why a person like him should escape the arm of the law for long. In the latest round, however, he has been hiding ever since his release on bail in June. Between the middle of June and now the Valley has been in constant turmoil triggered by the likes of him. For any police officer to claim at this juncture that his arrest is "a success" does raise an important question or two. Why has it taken so long to achieve it? Does it not reflect poorly on our intelligence apparatus? Has he been ever trailed seriously? Off and on he must have been in touch with his relatives as is evident from his arrest from the house of his maternal uncle at the outskirts of the Summer Capital. Was any watch kept over them in the intervening period? 
A more significant query is whether his being jailed would solve the problem for which he has been held. He has been behind the bars (mostly on charges of waging war against the state and "acting against national interest") for more than 10 years of 38 years of his life. Nothing has happened during these detentions to change his mindset or dissuade him from following the pernicious ideology of two-nation theory based on religion. Of course, he and the members of his ilk refuse to recognise that their political creed has already failed with the split of Pakistan into two separate entities in the early 1970s. Whatever that may be it needs to be understood that they can be overcome eventually only through a stronger political campaign. Of course, those among them who use the gun culture as a tool to reach their wicked goal have to be paid back in the same coin. There can't be two opinions about this. 


However, it is not desirable to apply the same yardstick to those who choose a peaceful way of expressing their feelings howsoever unpalatable these may be. They have to be defeated at their level. This is where the role of our mainstream political parties ---- especially of the organisations which think that the Valley is their home turf --- assumes meaning. They face a more challenging situation in the Valley where the secessionists are given some space to articulate their agenda. It is for the sake of their own survival and credibility that the mainstream outfits should assert them. They must move around among the masses in order to convince them that why it is suicidal to keep silent in the wake of repeated separatist efforts to harm their peace and prosperity. It would not take these parties very far if instead of doing their job at critical times they show angry eyes to New Delhi. Their main concern ought to be the ground under their feet --- whether or not it is slipping. The detention of Masrat Alam can't help them. At best it is an administrative response. 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

TAKE NOTICE

 

There is a message in it for those in charge of ensuring the smooth functioning of the Public Distribution System (PDS) in the country. For them it will be educative to sit up and take notice. Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma of the Supreme Court have made a few notable observations during inconclusive heating of public interest litigation (PIL) petition on streamlining the PDS. The former has remarked: "When people are dying of hunger, you (Central) must have done some evaluation by comparing the percentage of waste the world over. It is an extremely serious matter. You have a buffer stock. The kharif crop is due to come from October. The damage done in (the) two States (Punjab and Haryana) is very high. What action have you taken against the officials responsible for the wastage? Whatever that is likely to go waste at least that must not go waste. Ensure that it is properly distributed…If it is not fit for human consumption we do not suggest that it should be given to them (people). It should not be given even to animals." When told that there was wastage of 7000 tonnes and not 70000 tonnes in a particular instance, Justice Verma mentioned: "…it is a huge waste. How can you allow this to happen?" The apex court was informed that the Centre had supplied foodgrains to each state based on the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. In some states the figures are at variance. If identification of the BPL families by the states conformed to the Centre's norms, there would not be any difficulty in supply…On the basis of the revised poverty estimates based on the March 2009 population, the number of BPL families comes to 5.90 crore, which is less than the existing coverage of 6.52 crore BPL families. However, the government has continued with the earlier poverty estimates so that allocation of foodgrains could be made to larger BPL families."


On the other hand, the petitioner, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), wanted to know why the Centre had allocated only 2.5 million tonnes for the PDS. This was done even while there was a buffer stock of 22 million tonnes in addition to 33 million tonnes in godowns While the outcome of the petition is being keenly awaited all that has been said by the highest court in the land deserves serious consideration. Hardly a fortnight passes in our State without one PDS scandal or the other not haunting us.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

READY FOR CYBER WAR

BY RAKESH RAMAN

 

In an increasingly digital world, ironically, there may yet be a silver lining to the primitive nature of India's infrastructure: that it is not computer controlled may make India less vulnerable than some other nations. Cyber warfare by sophisticated attackers is a subtle and dangerous new tactic used by many armies and intelligence agencies.


Malicious entities can infiltrate computers running critical power grids, dams, air traffic control networks, bank networks, and so on. Under the remote control of hostile groups, power grids may shut down, dams may suddenly become "water bombs", and nuclear power plants may blow up and spew radiation, and planes may start colliding in the air. The implications are horrifying.


Some nations explicitly include cyber warfare in long range strategic plans. China, for instance, has a doctrine of "asymmetric warfare", most particularly against the US, a foe far stronger in conventional weapons, but vulnerable to cyber attacks. China has also been implicated in large-scale intrusion into computers in Indian embassies and ministries. 


It is certain that major powers have active defensive and offensive programmes to penetrate their enemies' computer systems. If India doesn't, it is at risk.


The latest example of cyber attacks is the so-called Stuxnet worm discovered a few months ago, which focuses on industrial control systems made by Siemens. Circumstantial evidence suggests that it is explicitly meant to cripple or slow down Iran's nuclear programme. But it could be turned against India as well.


According to Symantec, 60 per cent of Stuxnet infestations have been reported from Iran, 18 per cent from Indonesia and 8 per cent from India. Given the consistent hostility that western powers have shown towards India's nuclear programme, this should be cause for concern. This should also raise questions regarding failures in other sensitive programmes - for instance, the latest failed launches of the GSLV and the Prithvi. Are there worms in the ISRO's and DRDO's systems?


Iran is certainly taking this issue seriously. The reaction from Mohammed Liayi, head of the information technology council at the ministry of industries, was stark: "An electronic war has been launched against Iran". Forbes magazine called the attack a "game-changer". The worm is so sophisticated that Computerworld magazine felt it had to be government-backed. 


Microsoft reported that 45,000 computers are known to be infected with Stuxnet. It utilises several previously unknown security holes in Microsoft Windows to attack a Siemens application called Win CC that runs Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems that manage valves, pipelines and industrial equipment, according to The Economist.


Scada systems are usually not connected to the Internet, for obvious security reasons. 


Apparently, Stuxnet was spread using USB pen drives, the memory sticks used to transfer data. The attack also depended on that most low-tech device: human curiosity. People picked up thumb drives they found lying around, and unknowingly infected their systems, allowing the worm to spread around the local area network!
There are a number of factors that make this attack unique. For one, most worms and viruses are written to cause maximum, random damage and, therefore, target the most common systems - hence, for instance the preponderance of such attacks on Windows, which runs 90 per cent of the world's PCs, and not on Macs or Unix/Linux systems. This worm, on the other hand, is only interested in particular industrial equipment from a particular manufacturer, and furthermore, it targets only specific configurations or processes - it does not attack others. 


Therefore, the attackers knew precisely what they were looking to disrupt. The finger of suspicion at the moment points to the Iranian nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz. This facility hosts many centrifuges, those sophisticated devices (AQ Khan famously "transferred" centrifuge technology from Europe to Pakistan) that increase the proportion of U-235 in natural uranium to produce weapons grade material.


Given Israel's obsession with Iran's N-programme, it is the most likely suspect. Besides, experts decoding the "well-written", "ground-breaking", "impressive" code have found obscure clues about Esther, a character in Jewish mythology who helps fend off a Persian attack. Of course, this could well be disinformation. 


Nevertheless, India had better take this lesson to heart. Given its almost complete lack of friends on the world stage, the "string of pearls" strategy that China is using to contain India, and the hostility of the non-proliferation ayatollahs in the Obama Administration, India will be - and may already be - the target of sophisticated computer attacks that it is woefully unprepared for. (INAV)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

STATUS OF WOMEN TO IMPROVE

BY AMULYA GANGULI

 

So, Haryana isn't going to be known for khap panchayats alone. The perception of the state as a bastion of medieval obscurantism has been erased, to a large extent, by the remarkable performance of its sportspersons at the CWG. By winning 15 of India's 38 gold medals, and 28 out of the country's total of 101, they have showcased their exceptional talent. What is even more heart-warming is that six of them are women.
What these gifted young men and women have done is to show how the antics of a few ultra-orthodox individuals can give a distorted picture of the entire state. Even as the rest of the country were aghast at the cruel diktats of the khap panchayats against love affairs and marriages within the same gotra and seemingly even paving the way for the so-called "honour" killings of the accused couples, those interested in sports were quietly nursing and enhancing their skills. 


The impact of their success at the CWG cannot be overstated. It will not be easy now to look upon Haryana as backward, as was its image till now. Nor will Jats, the most dominant community in the state, be known only for their rough and ready ways. Instead, their energy and spirited attitude will be seen as the basis of the outstanding achievements of the sports fraternity, which have placed Haryana in the fifth place after Australia (177 medals), England (142), Canada (75) and India 73 - if Haryana's 28 medals are subtracted from India's total of 101. 


At the social level, the sight of young women in shorts and shirts performing at an international event cannot but sweep away old prejudices and act as a tool of empowerment. The crusty elders of the khap panchayats will now think twice before imposing their antediluvian opinions on the community. Such a momentous change will also be due to the fact that nearly all the sportspersons are from ordinary families. Wealth and lineage had nothing to do with their success. Driven by self-belief, they acted on their own and defied, with help of their forward-looking parents, the age-old customs of early marriage and drudgery in the kitchen in order to practice their craft for long hours with members of both the sexes. 


This emergence of middle class sportsmen and women from the decrepit mofussil towns has been one of the new features of "incredible" India. It was first seen in the appearance of cricket players from states which were not traditionally associated with cricket, like Mumbai. Now, the athletes, discus throwers, wrestlers, archers, shooters, et al are also emerging from a semi-rural background. If the inadequacy of training facilities and the low income of their families have not been a deterrent - the father of Deepika Kumari, winner of a gold medal in archery, is an auto-rickshaw driver in Ranchi - the reason is not only the fierce determination of the individuals themselves and their supportive parents and parents-in-law, as in the case of Anisa Sayyed, but also the realization that new horizons are opening up for those who aim high. 


One explanation as to why Haryana - and not, say, Bihar - has suddenly forged ahead in this spectacular manner is the northern state's economic progress. Although still largely an agricultural province, Haryana has effectively utilized its advancement in this field by becoming a leading contributor to the country's foodgrain and milk production. The state, which has the third highest per capita income, also boasts of having the largest number of rural millionaires. But it isn't agricultural development alone which is behind Haryana's prosperity. As the dazzling lights of Gurgaon will testify, the state's urban landscape is also undergoing a rapid transformation. 


What these changes show is that Haryana has come a long way from the uncertain days of its formation in 1966 following the Akali Dal's prolonged Punjabi Suba agitation, which paved the way for the separation of the Punjabi-speaking areas from the Hindi-speaking areas. In its early years, Haryana was very much the poor cousin of its more prosperous neighbour. But while Punjab suffered through the 1980s from Khalistani separatism and is currently experiencing a financial crisis, Haryana has shot ahead apparently because of its more stable social and political scene. 


An argument against the CWG is that so much expenditure - an estimated Rs 70,000 crore - is unwarranted in a poor country and that the money could have been better spent on providing drinking water and toilet facilities in the villages and improving rural heath centres and the quality of primary education. Much of this is true. But, at the same time, what can also be taken into account as a plus point is the role played by such an international event in, first, improving the status of women and, secondly, in refurbishing the awareness of India's essential unity as sportsmen and women from all over the country, from the north-east to the north-west to the deep south, participate in the different games. (IPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NEEDED: AN INTEGRATED ENERGY POLICY

BY S.P.WAHI

 

However, the social, economic and environmental impacts of its demand/supply are so great that only a holistic and objective consideration of all the related issues would enable the formulation of a sustainable and effective national policy.


In this context one would have expected that the Integrated Energy Policy (IEP), as developed by the Planning Commission, to consider all these issues objectively. Sadly, this document, when viewed from society's perspective, reveals that many of the crucial issues have been ignored while projecting huge growth (about five times from the present level) in the installed/production capacity of various conventional electrical energy sources by 2031-32.


IEP has implicitly or explicitly adapted the GNP maximising paradigm to estimate energy demand rather than trying to estimate the least amount of energy needed to wipe out poverty, and how best to meet it in a sustainable manner. Because of this approach it has failed to take note of the limits of nature, and has projected an increase from the present level of about 1, 60,000 MW to about 8, 00,000 MW by 2031-32, comprising increase of coal power capacity from about 80,000 MW to 4, 00,000 MW, hydel capacity from about 36,000 MW to 1, 50,000 MW and nuclear power capacity from about 4,500 MW to 65,000 MW.
IEP's huge projection in the total installed power generating capacity will mean the addition of about 25,000 MW every year, which is neither feasible on the basis of what has been achieved in successive five year plans nor acceptable because of huge implications.


Issues such as unbearable pressure on agricultural and forest lands, increased stress on the already stressed fresh water sources, unacceptable levels of displacement of vulnerable sections and deterioration of atmospheric pollution will indicate that there is a need for serious concern. Despite an enormous increase in the installed capacity of such energy sources since independence, about 40 per cent of households are still denied electricity, and the rest do not even get quality supply. Whereas there will be pressure on natural resources associated with a huge growth projection, the long term impact on the fragile environment and bio-diversity have not even been discussed in the IEP. As a policy document, the IEP has failed to meet the expectations of a welfare society.
What the country needs is a totally different and Indian cultural-biased approach, similar to the one recommended by late Amulya Kumar Reddy in the mid-80s. In view of the social, economic and environmental impact of fossil fuels, and their limited availability, India is in urgent need of a paradigm shift in the way it views the energy sector. The legitimate demand for energy must be objectively considered in the correct context of greater needs of the society such as clean air, water and healthy food, and the inescapable limits of nature in supporting an ever increasing demand. It is obvious that the conservation and enhancement of our environment and bio-diversity must not be compromised in order to meet the unabated demand for energy. Within the energy sector, there is a critical need to: clearly differentiate our needs from wants/luxuries; recognise that fossil fuels are fast running out; focus on improving energy efficiency to international best practice levels; effectively deploy all the alternatives available to meet the legitimate demand; and harness the renewable energy sources to the optimum extent.


In view of local environmental issues and global warming impacts of fossil fuels, it is the right time to lean towards non-conventional energy sources such as solar, biomass, wind and other renewable sources. Decentralised systems, meaning small power stations catering to local needs, will reduce transmission and distribution losses, and also help reduce the unacceptable levels of urban-rural disparity.
Electricity being a precious national resource, suitable tariff policies, including a feed-in-tariff for renewable energy sources, should be implemented urgently to heavily discourage its wastage, and to encourage very high efficiency in production and usage. There shall be no supply to any consumer without accurate metering.
International best practice level efficiencies must be adopted at all stages of energy cycle by 2020. Aggregate technical and commercial losses should be brought down below 10 per cent. The plant load factor of each coal /nuclear power project should be improved to a minimum of 90 per cent. Besides, the efficiency of end-use applications, including agricultural pump sets, should be comparable with international best practices.
From a societal perspective, the concept of cost and benefit analysis should become an integral part of the mandatory approval process for all power projects. Most of the coal power plants, if found essential, should come up only on the sites of existing old/ inefficient power plants and should be of much higher overall efficiency and with low pollution footprints.


The "polluter pays principle" is a novel idea put to practice with the desired effects in several countries and it is best applied at the stage of mining and electricity generation. A suitably designed carbon tax should be applied early to each tonne of coal, litre of diesel/petrol, kilo-litre of water and kWh of energy produced/ consumed/ generated so as to minimise the use of these resources for commercial purposes by 2020.
Instead of focusing on GDP alone, the vulnerable sections of the society should be at the centre of our energy policy to enable adequate human development. In this context, effective public participation in applying the much required course correction to IEP and in developing a sustainable and people-friendly energy policy is long overdue. (INAV)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CHALLENGE OF POVERTY

INDIA SLIPS UP ON HUNGER INDEX

 

FOR long academics have tried to define poverty without evolving a consensus. It is, therefore, natural for the Supreme Court to get baffled by the criteria set to determine poverty. The court is concerned at the wastage of food grains in a country with starving millions. On Monday it was surprised to find that the Central figure of food waste at 7,000 tonnes was much less than the actual loss of 67,539 tonnes in Punjab and Haryana. And it was truly confounded to learn that people who spent more than Rs 17 a day in Delhi and Rs 11 a day in villages were treated as living above the poverty line for entitlements under the public distribution system.

 

It is a recurrent embarrassment to discover that a country, which is getting global recognition as an emerging economic power, should have so many people suffering from malnutrition. In the 2010 Global Hunger Index, released recently by a US policy think tank, India has been ranked 67 — two notches below last year's rank of 65 — and much lower than China, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The International Food Policy Research Institute rated 122 countries on three indicators: child mortality, under-weight children and malnourished people. Earlier this year a UNDP survey had pointed out that there were more poor people in eight Indian states than in 26 African nations.

 

All this calls for an effective government response. It is obvious the fruits of growth are not reaching the downtrodden. India is growing, while Bharat is in the grip of poverty. Sixty per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture, which is growing at 2 per cent. Besides, there may be plenty of food in the country, yet it may not reach the poor, who may not have the purchasing power as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has pointed out in his study of the Bengal famine. The loopholes in the delivery system are well known, yet these are not plugged. 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

UP IN SMOKE

TOBACCO USE IN INDIA IS ALARMING

 

THAT tobacco is a ruthless killer is well known. Yet, India's romance with cigarettes and bidis continues unabated. Apparently, stark warnings on their packs are not having the desired impact. Then there are also those who use smokeless forms likekhaini (a tobacco-lime mixture). In all, the country has 274.9 million tobacco users, according to the 2009-2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey conducted by the Health Ministry and the Indian Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai. That is about one-third of the total adult population of the country. Ironically, nearly twice as many have full awareness about the debilitating consequences of smoking. Still, such a huge population does not mind lighting up.

 

Even more unfortunate is the fact that 20.3 per cent of adult women use tobacco. The male percentage is much more at 47.9. Yet, even 20.3 per cent is an alarming figure. Mizo women happen to be the most addicted, with 62 per cent using tobacco. Mercifully, the number of tobacco users is much less in Punjab, because of the abhorrence for it among the Sikhs, but the national figures call for a concerted drive against the evil.

 

More men may be smoking than women, but the fair sex is much more nicotine dependent than men, according

to the survey. The number of cigarettes smoked per day is higher among women (7 cigarettes a day) than men (6.2 a day). The awareness about the dangers of tobacco is increasing in urban areas, but not so in rural areas. There, both men and women can be seen puffing away merrily. Why, they even start at a fairly early age. The effects manifest themselves after a long interval, and by that time it is already too late. The ban against smoking in public places needs to be enforced more strictly. Such people not only ruin their own health, but also make others victims of passive smoking. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PM UNDER LOK PAL BILL

IT'S TIME PARLIAMENT ENACTED LEGISLATION

 

PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh's reported endorsement of the fresh proposal to bring his office into the ambit of the Lok Pal Bill is heartening. As he is a leader of high integrity and is sincerely interested in setting up the institution of Lok Pal at the national level to check corruption in high places, he should use his good offices to impress upon the Union Cabinet and Parliament the need to hasten legislation in this regard. Unfortunately, though the issue has been hanging fire for over four decades, there has been no consensus among the political parties which seem to be following a pattern. Whenever the issue comes to the fore, in the name of sorting out differences over the provisions of the Bill, they refer it to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament. This panel takes its own time to study the issue, and when it is about to give its report, the Lok Sabha's tenure comes to an end. There is a glimmer of hope this time that the Prime Minister will grasp the nettle and do the needful.

 

The re-drafted Lok Pal Bill envisages a three-Judge body, bringing all political functionaries at the Centre, including the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers, MPs and members of the defence services under the ombudsman's purview. However, it would not be fair if a number of constitutional functionaries such as the sitting judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, the Chief Election Commissioner, the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India, among others, are excluded from the Lok Pal's ambit. Consider the increasing cases of corruption involving the judges nowadays. Indeed, there is ample justification for including them in the Lok Pal Bill in addition to the measures the Centre is taking like the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill for dealing with corruption among them.

 

As the experience with the Lok Ayukta in many states shows, a lameduck ombudsman at the Central level, without teeth, will fail to check corruption in high places. If the Centre means business, the proposed Lok Pal should be given adequate powers to do justice to his work and act as an effective deterrent to corruption and nepotism. Of course, there is need for safeguards, including exemplary punishment, to check frivolous complaints against ministers and other VIPs. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

UNENDING JIHADI TERRORISM

INDIA NEEDS TO MAINTAIN TIGHT SECURITY

BY T.V. RAJESHWAR

 

AS the year 2010 is coming to a close, we find jihadi terrorism on the rise and seeking to strike at more and more Western countries. Al-Qaida remained the main source of inspiration and encouragement to jihadi elements. The militant outfit is served by various organisations and groups whose common objective is to spread terror.

There was a report from Washington towards the end of August that shedding its India-centric phobia, Pakistan' s main spy agency, the ISI, had in its new threat assessment determined that Islamist militants, not India, posed the main threat to Pakistan. The report went on to say that in a recent internal assessment of security, the ISI had come to the conclusion that much of the threat to Pakistan emanated from Islamist militants. This marked a major change in the ISI's perception of threat assessment. Prof Hoffman of Georgetown University, considered an expert on counter-terrorism, characterised the change of stance of the ISI as "earth shattering and a remarkable change" .

 

The reported change of stance on the part of the ISI, however, brings no consolation as far as India is concerned. Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief who was considered as the person responsible for raising the Afghanistan Taliban in the wake of Russian occupation of that country, declared in mid-August, 2010, that the Pakistani military would remain India-centric so long as the Kashmir dispute remained unresolved. Gen Ashfaque Kayani, the Pakistan Army Chief, had openly declared that he was India-centric. His preoccupation with Kashmir is well known. Having rejected the four-point formula of Gen Pervez Musharraf, who was General Kayani' s boss and mentor, the present Army Chief of Pakistan has reportedly promised a better solution to the Kashmir problem than was promised through the Musharraf formula.

 

This could only be by intensifying the activities of Kashmiri militants trained and pushed into Kashmir from Pakistan, particularly from PoK.

 

David Headley' s revelations during his interrogation by the National Investigation Agency threw sufficient light on the close collaboration between the ISI and LeT.

 

Hafiz Sayeed, chief of LeT, remains firm in his unceasing support to terror organisations and in their activities not only in Kashmir but also elsewhere in India. It may be mentioned that during one of Headley' s reconnaissance visits to Delhi, the ISI's targets included the National Defence College, Raksha Bhawan as well as the Prime Minister's residence — 7 Race Course Road. The 26/11 Mumbai attack was only a precursor. Headley revealed that several Pakistan Army officers and retired officers were continuously operating with the help of the ISI. One of the more alarming reports was that the ISI and LeT had discussed launching of more attacks in India on the Mumbai pattern by deploying militants who would be sent through Nepal or Bangladesh.

 

Bob Woodward, a celebrated investigative journalist and author, recently revealed that within 48 hours of the Mumbai attack Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of the ISI, was summoned to Washington through diplomatic channels where he admitted that among the planners of the Mumbai attack were at least two Pakistani Army officers who had been closely associated with the ISI. However, General Pasha reportedly claimed that the Mumbai attack was not an authorized operation but was a rogue one, whatever it might have meant.

 

The FBI and the CIA had done their own analysis of the Mumbai terrorist strike and felt that American cities were as vulnerable as Mumbai. They were convinced that LeT was created and continued to be funded by the ISI.

 

President Obama reportedly told President Asif Zardari on May 7, 2009, according to Bob Woodward, that the US did not want to arm Pakistan against India. However, the US had not been able to make things move in a positive direction and get the desired cooperation from Pakistan in the war on terror despite having increased the aid to Islamabad.

 

The journalist also referred to an American retribution plan, according to which the US would bomb or attack every known Al-Qaida compound or training camp which figured in the intelligence data-base of Washington DC. The retribution plan called for a brutal punishing attack on at least 150 or more associated camps, reveals Woodward's book, "Obama' s Wars". For all practical purposes, this plan would remain so in the foreseeable future.

 

The recent disclosures by Saudi intelligence agencies that the Al-Qaida elements based in Yemen were planning attacks on several cities in Europe like Paris were interesting. The ISI's plans for Afghanistan are of particular interest to the US. The WikiLeaks website, after having analysed thousands of documents, showed clearly that Pakistan was allowing ISI operatives to meet Taliban terrorists to organise an attack in Afghanistan and also another one on American soldiers there. The two attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul were at the instance of the ISI as established by various intelligence inputs. Islamabad was reportedly confronted by the CIA with facts in this regard and the ISI had no credible evidence to deny the role.

 

Topping them all comes the report that an Al-Qaida manual has surfaced in Yemen and it is a manual with numerous tips on how to carry out random terror attacks on innocent civilians in the West, including US citizens. It contains articles like "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom". The key player behind the magazine is reportedly an American who had declared that he was proud to be a traitor of America.

 

The depressing narrative makes it clear that the Western countries, the US in particular, have to be prepared to face acts of terrorism at any time which the jihadis may choose. India is the prime target because of the unending hostility of Pakistan over the Kashmir question and the unseizing activities of LeT and other allied jihadi organisations. India should be prepared to face the prospects of unending jihadi attacks not only in Kashmir but also in any part of the country. Eternal vigilance is the price India has to pay.

 

The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

MY LOST HOME

BY PRITAM BHULLAR

 

SIR Cyril Radcliffe's pencil divided India and sealed the fate of millions like me. I lost my home for ever and became rootless. Sixtythree years have rolled by. Yet I am filled with nostalgia when I think of my childhood home.

 

My home is (yes, is) in Lyallpur (now known as Faisalabad in Pakistan), a town 80 miles south-west of Lahore. My village — Sardar Sunder Singhwala — was named after my grandfather. Being on the periphery of municipal limits, the village enjoyed the benefits of both the village as well as the city life.

 

A landlord was virtually a "monarch" of his village; more correctly of his estate. His mansion with a luscious garden in front and open space on the other three sides looked really majestic. On the outer perimeter of his estate usually stood a hundred or so tenements in which lived his farm workers, artisans and a few others whom he liked to keep there.

 

In the beginning of the 20th century when all others from his family from village Bhullar in tehsil Batala, district Gurdaspur, refused to go to Lyallpur where the land had to be developed from scratch, my grandfather accepted the challenge, went there and started his new life with 125 acres of arid land. Being a land lover, he kept on adding to his land with the weat of his brow so much so that he owned 878 acres of land in Punjab and Sind at the time of Partition. But he remained poorly compensated in East Punjab as after applying various cuts, including the crippling "Punjab cut", the government slashed his entitlement to 140 acres. Of this, he was allotted only 134 acres.

 

The day of parting is indelibly printed on my memory. Our workers, most of them Muslims, gave us a tearful send-off. They gathered with chhannas (shallow utensils) filled with milk and made a fervent appeal to us to drink it. The milk still tastes fresh in my mouth.

 

I was so much in love with our race horses that I could not think of leaving them behind. While all other family members left for India in the first week of September, my grandfather and I decided to stay back and travel along with a kafla (caravan). I was only 20 years of age at that time.

 

Since the kafla was moving very slowly, after the first night's halt, my grandfather advised me to take the horses separately, while he himself continued to travel with our bullock carts with the kafla. So the next morning, I and three of our servants trotted our horses towards India. We rode on nonstop during the day, but halted with one of the kaflas at night.

 

On the second morning, when the kafla that we had halted with at night started crossing the Ravi bridge, a battalion of the Bloch regiment opened fire and killed about 30 people. On the third night, about 15 people from another kafla that we were halting with died of cholera. Finally, our tortuous journey came to an end when we crossed the Sutlej to enter into the Indian territory in Ferozepur.

 

Though the "cruel divide" had separated me from my home, I had left my heart behind. Now even in the twilight years of my life, a question that keeps crossing my mind is: Would I ever be returning to my lost home? 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

COUNTERING CHINA'S STRATEGIC ENCIRCLEMENT

BRIG KARTAR SINGH (RETD)

 

The Defence Minister and Army Chief have voiced concern over China's increasing assertiveness on the political, diplomatic and military fronts. Though there is no cause yet to sound an alarm, the Indian establishment should be prepared to checkmate the Dragon's moves

 

LOOK at some of the past and recent developments and then perceive the scenario of a Sino-Indian thaw. The occupation of Aksai Chin by China since 1962, construction of the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistan, supporting insurgency in India's North East since 1965 and claiming areas like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have been some of the direct interferences of China in Indian affairs.

 

A few recent developments, however, are more disturbing then the earlier ones. These include :

 

A proposed rail link, via Myanmar, to Chittagong port in Bangladesh

 

Construction of Sona deep sea port at Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh

 

Construction of Hambantola port in Sri Lanka

 

A full facility at Gawadar port, west of Karachi, in Pakistan

 

Occupation of northern areas of Gilgit by regular Chinese troops

 

Interference in internal politics of Nepal

 

Intruding in various places along the borders in the guise of herd-grazers

 

Construction of nuclear power plants in Pakistan

 

Sino-Indian relations started on a warm note after independence. Both countries were in search of their place in the new World Order and trying to find bread for their people. All this changed in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, which has left China and India in state of flux that continues till today. China started her economic development in late 80's and became a popular investment destination for Americans and Europeans.

 

Today she is poised to become an economic superpower and is in close competition with the US and Japan, leaving India far behind. China knows it well that after Japan and United Korea, no other country can compete with her. With India waking up very late to the new realities of economic developments, China now perceives India as a potential competitor in Asia and Afro-Asian regions. China has become the largest user of oil in the world overtaking USA. Her growing economy has also become the third largest economy of the world and she is fully a developed nuclear state with the largest Army in the world.

 

It is reported that China consumed 2,200 million tons of oil in 2009. Her consumption of energy in future is well perceived and in order to maintain future import requirements, she definitely requires a supply chain management system from the Gulf countries. Gawadar-Xinjang highway, gas pipeline from Myanmar and intermediate refueling facility at the port of Hambantola in Sri Lanka may be her genuine requirements.

 

These facilities may legitimatise as geo-economic necessities for the future. But her regular troops occupying Gilgit region in POK, direct support to the Maoist party in Nepal and openly declaring Kashmir as a disputed area prove her hidden intensions of deploying herself in the geo-strategic encirclement of India.

 

Recent developments in the Indo-US relationship paradigm may have also irked Beijing. US civilian nuclear deal with India, enhanced mutual trust between the two democracies, Obama's forthcoming visit to India, purchase of defence hardware by India from the US and Obama's clear indications of upgrading mutual relations with India could be seen as unwelcome developments by China.

 

China follows well-practiced strategies with her neighbours, like "teaching them a lesson", as she did with Vietnam in 1978. She also follows a strategy of "tactical arrogance", which she repeats with India, Nepal and Bhutan over and again during the livestock-grazing season. She also believes in the strategy of "bullying"' neighbours by actions more than words. Recently she denied a visa to one of our Army Commanders posted in Kashmir.

 

These postures and actions prove yet another point that China has grown so powerful that it does not bother about anyone, including Uncle Sam. She believes in having its cake and eating it too.

 

One of the biggest and saddest event that has gone in favour of China is downfall of the erstwhile USSR. The present Russian federation cannot engage China due to its internal problems and weak economy. So, what does it boil down to? What should India do to engage her bullying neighbour meaningfully?

 

One of the options available to India, as our economist Prime Minister stated, is that our engagement with ASEAN countries is a key element of India's vision of an Asian economic community. If we can meaningfully engage ASEAN countries in economies ties, then these countries will definitely look up to New Delhi in a supportive and friendly gesture. These countries will definitely upgrade India in their priorities over China. India should also keep close watch on SAARC countries and help them in their genuine economic development. This would remove their fear of India's big brother attitude and bring about an economic change in the region. We, therefore, must agree upon an economic development programme for SAARC countries to enhance their confidence in India and not leave them to any vulnerable threat from outside.

 

China knows it well that India today is not what she was in 1962. With a credible nuclear deterrence, a fairly well trained and well deployed army, India cannot be bullied or treated with arrogance. India could do well by organising some sort of offensive capabilities along the north-eastern borders. Indian defensive capabilities are fairly well developed and she is capable of countering any limited misadventure by China. A large-scale Chinese offensive, of course, would dictate different options for India.

 

In all fairness, China is definitely not an irresponsible state and recognises India's regional and international aspirations. If New Delhi and Beijing can settle their long-standing border disputes and engage in economic development between themselves as well as ASEAN and SAARC countries, then the 21st century definitely belongs to these Asian giants. After all, Panchsheel, the basic document guiding India's foreign policy, was first signed by these two countries. 


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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

OMINOUS MOVES ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN BORDERS

WG CDR N.K. PANT (RETD)

 

MUCH water has flowed down India's rivers ever since former defence minister George Fernandes declared that the 1998 Pokharan nuclear tests had been aimed at the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). In 2008, Pranab Mukherjee, the external affairs minister, repeated this, calling the security challenge posed by Beijing as an important priority for New Delhi. These were not off-the-cuff remarks by politicians, but a clear comprehension of the impending threat looming large on our northern mountainous borders since 1950 when the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) overran Tibet.

 

Tibet had racial, cultural and religious characteristics entirely different from China. It was rightfully emerging on the world stage as an independent nation, but PLA's brutal military occupation and human rights abuses altered the course of history. Subsequently, mass migration of Hans to the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from the Chinese mainland rendered Tibetans a minority in their own homeland.

 

The myopic leadership in New Delhi, with exception of then deputy prime minister Sardar V. Patel, at that crucial time failed to see the writing on the wall and went ahead to recognise China's sovereignty over Tibet. This shortsighted approach to China's Tibetan invasion has cost the country dearly in terms of the defence of our Himalayan borders. After strengthening its grip on Tibet and improving road communication till the Indian borders, Beijing invented a thorny boundary dispute with New Delhi, which it is unwilling to resolve. In 1962, Communist China, that lays claim on vast areas in the Himalayas and refuses to recognise Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim as integral parts of India, launched a humiliating military attack on India.

 

That China's hostile policy towards India is not going to change, is clear from a recent online poll conducted by a Chinese website, huanqiu.com, which stated 90 per cent participants believed India posed a big threat to China. About 74 per cent said China should not maintain friendly relations with India anymore, while 65 per cent thought India deploying additional troops in Arunachal was damaging bilateral ties.

 

Recent reported confiscation of tourism brochures by the Chinese police from the Indian pavilion at the Shanghai Expo because these showed Arunachal Pradesh as part of India is perhaps a forewarning of a military blitzkrieg across our Himalayan frontiers. New Delhi must take foolproof countermeasures to avoid a 1962 type fiasco.

 

Despite rapidly rising trade relations, China has, off and on, been provoking India on military and diplomatic fronts. The year before, there were media reports about increasing incursions by PLA along the borders. China has now reportedly deployed 11,000 regular troops in Gilgit-Baltistan region of Jammu and Kashmir that is under Pakistan's occupation. China is the only country that issues stapled visas to Indian citizens from J&K and Arunachal on the pretext that these territories remain disputed. Last year it raised objections when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh. As quoted in the media, Singh now rightly wants the nation to be prepared in view of the new assertiveness among the Chinese, which "is difficult to tell which way it will go".

 

Beijing's refusal to issue visa to Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal, the Northern Command chief, for a high-level military exchange visit on grounds that he commanded troops in the disputed area of J&K has added salt to the injury, leading New Delhi to cancel defence exchanges with China. Indian officials found China's behaviour particularly provocative because in August 2009, Gen V.K. Singh, currently the Army Chief and then the Eastern Army Commander, had visited China for a similar exchange. If territorial sensitivity was the issue, then Gen Singh's visit should have been even more problematic because, as the Eastern Army Commander, he had jurisdiction over Arunachal Pradesh, which China has provocatively started calling South Tibet.

 

It now transpires that besides amassing troops along the 1,700-km Indo-Tibet border, China has menacingly deployed nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at the Indian mainland. Last year when India decided to bolster defences in Arunachal, Global Times, China's English language mouthpiece, in an editorial termed it "dangerous if it is based on a false anticipation that China will cave in". It also commented India's current course can only lead to rivalry between the two countries and cautioned that India "needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China". The bottom line, unambiguously, was India should not have any illusions as China would neither make any compromise in border disputes nor would sacrifice its sovereignty in exchange for friendship.

 

Should India not revisit its policy on the Tibetan issue in view of China's continued aggressive intransigence? Sometimes in the middle ages, China may have had "suzerainty" over Tibet, but the territory has always functioned as a free nation till Mao's army annexed it in 1950. In fact, the region, in cultural, trade and religious spheres, was much closer to India than to China. Some imperial dynasties ruling Chinese mainland in the distant past had association with Tibet that can be loosely compared to the British monarch's connections with some Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia. However, present-day Britain never laid territorial claims on these sovereign nations that had once been its colonies. New Delhi, besides bolstering defences on the Indo-Tibet border, must strive to create a strong international opinion for creating a genuinely autonomous Shangri-La where indigenous Tibetans can preserve their vanishing cultural and religious identity.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

GAMES WRITERS PLAY

IT APPEARS WE BELONG TO A CULTURE IN WHICH SUPERFICIAL SENTIMENTS, BOTH POETICAL AND POLITICAL, OFTEN GET THE LOUDEST WAH-WAHS


When things seemed to be going seriously wrong with the Games, and teams and individual players were withdrawing, a writer friend said the organisers would have to recruit the writers who were in Delhi at the same time for a cultural festival, to take part in the events. He suggested I opt for the javelin and hurl it at the nearest politician. 

 

Yes, I was in New Delhi for two days from October 4, but no, not at the javelin event. The Sahitya Akademi in Delhi organised readings, a seminar titled "Historical Legacy and Writing in the Commonwealth" and an exhibition of books from the Commonwealth (Oct 4-13). The poets reading were from India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Canada, Cyprus, South Africa, New Zealand, Gambia, Botswana, Guyana, Pakistan and many others. 

 

Reading at Sahitya Akademi events can be intimidating: all those expressionless faces and mud-coloured clothes from head to foot (One could be at an archaeological dig for fossils instead of a poetry reading). This time round it was better, for me at least. The chairperson for our evening, Ranjana Kaul, a lecturer in the Dept of Vocational Studies, was an exceptionally congenial person. And in the audience were writers such as Mamta Kalia who writes in English and in Hindi, and whose poetry in English I have always admired for its wit, its economy and its lasting freshness. And Madhu Kapparath, a gifted photographer who has taken some fine photographs of writers. 

 

The Nigerian poet Odia Ofeimun very kindly presented me with two of his books. He writes, on the back cover of his book Go Tell the Generals (Hornbill House Lagos 2008), ( writtenduring a period of "military mayhem"), "It was not intended that this collection should have a quick-fix political message…the abiding inspiration remains…not to let poetry abandon the need to represent memories of unfinished struggles… They look towards the reclamation of a besieged, more or less, lost city…of civic and artistic integrity." 

 

Civic and artistic integrity. At the session at which I read, mercifully there was Jeet Thayil, and not so mercifully two vernacular poets whose work was just verbiage: a profuse number of words which say nothing. The poet who read in Bundeli seemed to be innocent of all knowledge of poetry. He intoned, read, translated, had to be reminded his time was running out, fiddled with an SMS, and took no notice of the other writers on the dais. The one who read in Bengali used subjects with ready-made emotional appeal – the rape of a girl in Manipur. He gave us no insights, and roared into the mike as a substitute for real feeling and expression. 

 

After the reading, some people commented on these tendencies typical of a number of vernacular writers. I think we belong to a culture in which superficial sentiments, both poetical and political, often get the loudest wahwahs. Many are self-satisfied merely because they write in the vernacular and see themselves as the genuine article regardless of the quality of their work. Others are merely daughters or sons of well-known people. They whiz about the country and abroad on sponsored trips, inform people abroad that we are spiritual, win numerous awards, and use such spare time as they have taking pot shots at those who write in English. 

 

And then there are the wannabes who thrust their manuscripts at you. I was given one by a young woman, who had inscribed it to Jeet Thayil. I pointed out the error she had made in giving it to me. She then said, unabashedly, that Jeet had said he wouldn't be free till 2012 to read it. Clever Jeet!

 

EUNICE de SOUZA

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

EDITORIAL

HEAT FROM COOLING CHINA

THE WORLD WORRIES ABOUT CHINA'S MONETARY POLICY

 

Economic data coming out of China on Thursday would partly explain why China's macroeconomic authorities chose to surprise, many said "spook", global markets with a 25-basis point rate hike on Tuesday. Many analysts believe that China may report better-than-expected growth numbers and higher-than-expected inflation numbers. With an intent to cool down a potentially overheating economy, China's policy-makers may have taken this surprise decision. The so-called "surprise" in the rate hike decision was for two reasons: first, that China had not touched rates for close to three years and there were no indications it would; second, China had been resisting western calls for yuan appreciation and so this move was not anticipated because it would have the effect of aiding the yuan's appreciation. There would be several other reasons behind the rate hike. Some knowledgeable analysts with an eye on geo-economics and strategy see the rate hike as yet another snub to the United States. That is, since there is no automatic transmission of the rate hike impact to the yuan's exchange rate, given that the yuan's exchange rate is officially determined, there is unlikely to be the latter impact of the rate hike forcing an appreciation of the yuan. Rather, the rate hike may become a substitute for yuan appreciation inasmuch as it addresses the problem of over-heating at home, curbs domestic demand and enables Chinese authorities to deal with high growth, rising commodity prices and inflation without yuan appreciation. If this argument is valid, then the strategy is "cock a snook"!

 

Whatever the factors that may have shaped the rate hike decision, the 25-basis point increase has had a global impact. Currency, commodity and equity markets around the world have responded to the rate increase showing once again the globalisation of the Chinese economy and its importance for global growth. What the decision also points to, and coming as it does days after the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and days before the G20 Summit, is that China intends to do whatever it thinks is in its best interests without worrying too much about what others say. Of course, its defiance is within limits, given that China has allowed yuan appreciation even if not at the pace at which the United States would like it to move. In fact, China's 3-5 per cent rate of appreciation of the yuan is way below the 20 per cent that the US demands and the 10 per cent that players like George Soros seek. But the direction is set. Chinese authorities have also let it be known that China intends to cap the current account surplus to gross domestic product ratio at 4 per cent for the next three years, down from the 6 per cent and 7.5 per cent highs of the past few years. The full impact of the Chinese move will depend, however, both on real economic indicators coming out of China this week and the US response to them.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

FERTILISER REFORMS

RATIONALISING FERTILISER PRICES WILL HELP FARMERS

 

Several committees have gone into issues concerning the fertiliser sector ever since the industry producing this vital farm input slipped into doldrums in the early 1990s. However, their reports have largely been treated with disregard. It would be a pity if the latest report on reforms in the fertiliser sector, submitted to the cabinet secretary by the committee headed by former Agriculture Secretary T Nanda Kumar, also meets the same fate. For, this report makes several recommendations that are well-meaning and aimed, quite aptly, at carrying the reforms process to its logical destination of total decontrol. Not surprisingly, therefore, the report has called for extension of the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) scheme to urea, the only fertiliser kept out of this scheme so far for inexplicable reasons, and freeing its pricing. The committee has rightly observed that there is a strong case for reducing the subsidy on urea and allowing a higher price to discourage its unproductive use. The underlying idea, obviously, is to strike a balance between the prices of urea vis-à-vis those of phosphatic and potassic fertilisers to ensure need-based application of all the three major plant nutrients — nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potash (K).

 

Worsening price parity between urea and other fertilisers after the introduction of the NBS in April last has actually tended to exacerbate the imbalance in their use to the detriment of soil health and its fertility. Moreover, decontrolling urea prices is desirable for reining in the overall fertiliser subsidy bill, which has been overshooting the budgeted figures year after year. The subsidy bill for this financial year, too, seems set to exceed the budgetary provision of Rs 52,000 crore by a big margin. Current estimates put it at between Rs 75,000 crore and Rs 80,000 crore. Going a step ahead, the Nanda Kumar panel has suggested higher subsidy under the NBS for key micronutrients like sulphur, boron and zinc, which have been depleted from the soils. Their deficiency in the soil does not allow fertilisers to show the desired effect on crop yields. It, therefore, makes sense to offer micronutrient-specific fiscal incentives to encourage the industry to churn out fertiliser products fortified with these micronutrients.

 

 The government's reluctance to allow urea manufacturers to fix the farm-gate prices stems largely from the fear of adverse political fallout from such a move. But this apprehension does not seem well-founded. It may be recalled that the government had increased urea prices by 10 per cent in April, at the time of switching over to the NBS regime for decontrolled fertilisers, but without any backlash from politicians or farmers. This could be due to the fact that the minimum support prices of foodgrain have been stepped up liberally in the past few years and the prices of other agricultural commodities, too, have been ruling at record highs. Besides, even farmers now seem to realise that rationalisation of fertiliser prices and ensuring adequate availability of soil-specific fertiliser products would lead to balanced use of plant nutrients and result in better yields to compensate for the higher prices of fertilisers. If the government still intends to play safe, it can at least begin the decontrol process with some 100 districts which account for nearly 50 per cent of the country's total fertiliser consumption. The smooth transition in these districts may later spur the government to extend it to the whole country.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

COLUMN

THE URBAN CHALLENGE

TRANSPARENT LAND MARKETS, MUNICIPAL FINANCE AND LEADERSHIP ARE THE REAL CHALLENGE

NITIN DESAI

 

Over the past few weeks the country has been obsessed with whether our spoilt brat of a city, Delhi, will perform well in front of a global audience. Now that it has, with all and sundry observing traffic regulations and not making a nuisance of themselves, there is general elation.  In the end, disaster was averted. The whole situation was managed like an Indian wedding with the parents throwing vast sums of money at all problems and a bunch of siblings pitching in at the last minute to make up for the main organiser's incompetence.

 

The fears of the weeks before the Commonwealth Games (CWG) have given over to an orgy of self-congratulations. The pessimism and the doubts before, and the euphoria after, are part of our national character, reflected quite accurately by our media, which suffers from what some would describe as a bipolar or manic depressive disorder — unjustified pessimism and equally unjustified self-satisfaction alternating wildly.

 

 But if you thought the CWG was badly managed, wait till you see the scale of the urban management effort that confronts us in the decades ahead. What had to be done for the CWG in Delhi is small compared to what will be required to prevent urban India from falling apart over the next few decades.

 

According to the UN population projections, the absolute size of the rural population will start declining by 2025-30 and by 2050, it will be 125 million less than now. Urban population will grow continuously and be 525 million larger in 2050. The numbers would look even larger if we were to include many peri-urban villages that the census persists in classifying as rural.

 

Some 200 million people or so will have to shift from their traditional family occupations. An occupational shift of this order will imply a massive change in the urban-rural distribution and the pace of urbanisation may be even more rapid than the trend projections, particularly in the northern states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

 

The scale of effort required to cope with the projected growth in urban population is mind-boggling. Take for instance the provision of mass transit. Delhi is planning nearly 400 km of metro and bus rapid transit corridors. The McKinsey projection* for the country as a whole calls for 7,400 km by 2030 — a bit like putting up the equivalent of a Delhi Metro per year! Or take water supply; we will need several plants the equivalent of Sonia Vihar every year.  As for housing and commercial space, forget the Games Village. The McKinsey report calls for a scale of construction that would be like putting up a Chicago from scratch every year. The report also estimates the investment requirement to be $1.2 trillion over the next two decades, or about $60 billion per year or ten times what we spent on the CWG.

 

The key challenges are the functioning of urban land markets, the financing of massive infrastructure investments and the reform of municipal governance. We do not have adequate answers in any one of these three areas of concern.

 

When it comes to urban land markets, our only answer is large-scale public ownership of land and drastic controls on the operation of private land markets. This poorly functioning land market and inadequate or poorly conceived public interventions in this market, push the poor into slums. Developers are pushed to an urban fringe, like Gurgaon or the distant suburbs in the north and east of Mumbai, leading to an urban sprawl that taxes the infrastructure to breaking point.

 

All big cities have been developed because large tracts of land were assembled for development by private or public entities. Transport and infrastructure investments directed rather than followed land development. We need a system where the public authorities mobilise resources for urban infrastructure directly or through partnerships with the private sector and lead the evolution of the city through actual investments rather than through master plans.

 

The private sector part of urban development needs a land market system that operates transparently to allow land aggregation for large-scale housing and commercial development. One approach is to use land adjustment schemes that aggregate a large tract of land, with the developer using some part and returning the rest in agreed proportion to the original owners, who can then cash the capital gains in any way they wish. This was tried recently in Ahmedabad and it worked. Better land records would also help towards this end.

 

A transparent urban land market can also help unlock the values trapped in public holdings of land and help address the second big bottleneck which is municipal finance. The Thirteenth Finance Commission has made a beginning in this area; but much more fiscal decentralisation is needed to allow this third tier of governance to function effectively. One way of tapping resources is to unlock the value trapped in the large land holdings of public authorities like the railways, India Post, the defence department, port trusts and urban development authorities like DDA and MMRDA that were vested with acquired land.

 

None of this will happen unless we have effective leadership. Directly elected mayors could provide the political entrepreneurship that our cities and towns need so badly. But they must be fully empowered and the spectacle we saw in Delhi where the chief minister and the lieutenant governor were jockeying for leadership and visibility must be avoided. More than that, municipal governments must exercise full territorial authority and be in charge not just of municipal and social services but also transport and land use in the urban fringe and law and order.

 

One more big change is needed.  We are wedded to a philosophy of town planning that places great faith in master plans and bureaucratic controls to implement it. In reality, this leads not to better planned cities but to more corrupt and criminalised municipalities and urban authorities. In place after place, people are making their own cities, often in unauthorised colonies, while planners cater to a small elite. Planners must learn to work with these entrepreneurial city dwellers to improve water, drainage, health, safety and housing quality. Urban planning and architecture must move out of their engineering origins and become social science disciplines, working with the ebb and flow of social forces.

 

nitin-desai@hotmail.com

 

*India's urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth, McKinsey Global Institute, April 201

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

ARVIND SINGHAL

 

All of us acknowledge that India is changing and that the pace of change is accelerating. We also know that India (and the Indian economy) will be very different five years from now in more ways than one. In the context of private consumption, how much India would be different in 2015 can be best understood if we look at some of the data relating to where India was just five years ago, i.e. in 2005.

 

India's GDP in 2005 was about $785 billion, which has increased to almost $1,400 billion in 2010 and should cross $2,000 billion by 2015, implying that Indian economy would have added almost one India of 2005 to its size in the next five years. This spectacular growth, on a relatively high base of almost $1.4 trillion, translates into unprecedented opportunities and greater challenges than what India has faced in the past. Let us look at 2005 and then try to crystal ball 2015 for a few consumption categories.

 

 In 2005, our domestic market for four-wheelers was just about 1.1 million vehicles. It will cross 2 million in 2010 and touch 4 million by 2015 (including as many as 110,000 in the luxury and premium segments). There were less than 100,000 users of smart-phones in 2005, about 25 million in 2010, and perhaps as many as 225 million in 2015. From a user base of about 8 million laptop users in 2010, there could be as many as 50 million by 2015. There were less than 25 million Internet users in 2005, increasing to about 75 million in 2010, and projected to grow to more than 250 million by 2015. From less than 250 multiplex screens in 2005, to about 800 in 2010, the count could cross 2,000 by 2015. Similar increases in multiples ranging from 2x-10x could happen across many consumer product categories.

 

The opportunity side, therefore, should be quite obvious and the message for all businesses is really to put less relevance to what happened in their sectors and segments in the last five or ten years, and try to understand what is likely to happen in the next five or ten years. Since the market opportunity is likely to grow in multiples of the current size, most businesses should rework their strategies and rewrite their business plans rather than just continue with incremental additions to their current plans.

 

It is, however, more important to also give a hard look at the challenges that Indians and Indian businesses will encounter in the coming years. The first and more critical is the physical infrastructure. Doubling of number of cars and two-wheelers on the roads will need a corresponding increase not only in the road network but also in parking spaces, auto repair workshops and fuel vending stations. Adding of almost $400 billion in additional private consumption by 2015 will require a mind-boggling increment of nearly 1.5 billion square feet of retail space alone (or about 6,000 shopping malls of 250,000 square feet each). E-waste from the installed base of hundreds of millions of electrical and digital devices will run into tens of millions of tonnes, requiring enhancement of waste-management capacity by almost 10 times of what exists today. Steady increase in urbanisation will imply an additional demand for almost 20 million urban dwellings in cities where the infrastructure is already creaking to its limits. Strain on social infrastructure, be it education (primary, secondary, higher, and vocational) or health care (primary, secondary, and tertiary) or clean drinking water or sanitation will further increase manifold, rather just in simple double-digit percentages.

 

As in the context of opportunities that entrepreneurs and current businesses have to write their strategies and business plans, in the context of challenges too Indian planners and policy-makers have to reorient their political and economic ideologies to the needs of today and tomorrow, and come up with frameworks and policies that may be a total departure from the past. From a "control" mentality, the governments and bureaucracy have to shift to a "facilitator" mode and put a premium on saving time, rather than saving cost, to bridge the increasing physical and social infrastructure gap. How India handles the next five years may well determine how we will fare in the decades to come.

 

arvind.singhal@technopak.com

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

A WEDDING WITHOUT GUESTS

IF SPECTATORS ARE CONSIDERED THE SOUL OF ANY PUBLIC EVENT, THEN THE DELHI GAMES WERE A LIFELESS FORMALITY

BARUN ROY

 

By the time the Commonwealth Games 2010 ended in Delhi, the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai had received 60 million visitors and was still counting. It runs till October 31. But no, I am not making a comparison of numbers, because an 11-day event can't be compared with one that lasts six months. I am making a point. If spectators are considered the soul of any public event, then the Delhi Games were a lifeless formality, like a wedding without guests, while the Shanghai Expo is an outright winner.

 

 Forget the opening and closing ceremonies. These were meant to entertain and impress, and did. But on the intervening 11 days of hard-fought competition — days that really mattered — all we saw, in all but a couple of events, were rows upon rows of empty seats, against which the Games looked like a training exercise in which the athletes performed for themselves. The emptiness in the stadiums was even more pathetic when our own boys and girls weren't competing. Not a soul was around, other than volunteers and team managers, to cheer when the cyclists were racing down the deathly streets of Delhi.

 

Was it a lack of popular interest or the failure of the Games organisers to mount a sustained campaign to whip up public enthusiasm? Was it the security overkill that scared people? Or the transport chaos that Delhi was thrown into because of the Games? Or a scam involving tickets? We'd like to know, because the lack of spectators was an even bigger embarrassment than the collapse of the parking lot footbridge or the filthy conditions in the Games Village. But self-examination isn't an Indian trait and accountability isn't in our culture.

 

At the Expo in Shanghai, the organisers are smiling. Even if they don't hit their target of 70 million visitors by October 31, 60 million is still a huge number. There were times when the number of daily visitors averaged 400,000. The organisers' goal was to expose as many Chinese as possible to the new global urban reality, to internationalise, so to say, their mindset, and prepare them for change. In this they have eminently succeeded.

 

But this success wasn't the result of any last-minute magic, but of tenacious, innovative and dynamic campaigning to build up a sustained hype. The promotional plan was finalised as early as 2007 and launched in full swing in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics, when China made its first epochal discovery of the outside world, perhaps as important as the dismantling of its bamboo curtain.

 

A new internationalism was in the air and to cash in on this new spirit, road shows and entertainment events were held all over the country during the entire countdown period, and a massive advertising campaign was mounted at airports, ports and railway stations, along highways, and on buses, taxis and public buildings, promoting the Expo as China's image in the 21st century.

 

A similar strategy marks the preparations for another mega event that's going to hit China in three weeks' time — the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, from November 12 to 27. With 11,500 athletes from 45 countries to compete in 42 sports (including Twenty-Twenty cricket for the first time) at 70 venues, it will be the biggest and most digitised Asiad ever, and the organisers are determined to make it as flawless and well-attended as the Olympics and the Expo.

 

At $18.37 billion, this Asiad is also the costliest so far, and an overwhelming chunk of the expense ($16.33 billion) has gone into giving Guangzhou an impressive makeover, including brand-new subway lines, railway stations, new and repaved roads, manicured landscaping, new housing complexes, and better water treatment and environmental protection facilities. The Games Village, covering 622,000 square metres, looks like a garden city, big enough to accommodate 40,000 athletes, officials, media personnel and volunteers.

 

At least 40 promotional events, 15 press conferences and an equal number of test sporting events have been organised so far to work up a nationwide Asian Games craze. A special campaign called "Hand-in-Hand: University Students Greet Asian Games" has toured various campuses across South China. CCTV, the Chinese television, continues to present special Games road shows and give extensive coverage of every stage of the Games preparations. At the Shanghai Expo, promotional films were regularly projected on large LED screens, while Games volunteers distributed Games-themed giveaways among Expo visitors. Early this month, over 2 million Games tickets went on sale, and the Guangzhou authorities have offered free bus rides to the Games venues.

 

Image aside, there's one overwhelming reason the organisers of the Guangzhou Asiad haven't left anything for the last minute or to chance. With a desire to bid for a second Olympic Games in China (perhaps 2020?), they want to prove they are no less capable than Beijing.

rbarun@gmail.com

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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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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIAN LESSON FOR BRAZIL

WALLS BEAT TAXES IN CURRENCY WARS

 

AT A time of supposed currency wars, India has been able to shrug off currency movements even while Brazil is screaming murder. Foreign institutional inflows may cross $20 billion in 2010. Yet, with India running a large current account deficit, its foreign exchange reserves have risen only a little, and are well below their peak, and an exchange rate of . 44.30 to the dollar is bearable. Brazil is acting as a lightning rod for global hot money, saving countries like India from being hit by lightning. Brazil's per capita income of $8,100 is more than twice China's and almost eight times India's. It is a country where domestic investors demand (and get) government bonds denominated in dollars, something unthinkable in China or India. Brazil is substantially integrated with the global financial world. Today, the short-term interest rate in Brazil is 10.75%, far higher than in India. India's 10-year gilts yield 8% in rupees, while Brazil's yield is 6.2% in dollars. Most global investors like dollar-denominated bonds, and so have flooded into Brazilian bonds rather than those of other emerging markets. To check currency appreciation, Brazil has raised its foreign inflow tax from 4% to 6% and increased margin deposits for transactions from 0.38% to 6%. US banks today can borrow at virtually zero interest from the Fed and invest at high rates elsewhere. Borrowing cheap in one currency to invest in another at high interest rates is called the carry trade. But borrowing in the US and investing in Brazil can be done without currency risk, a super-carry trade. 

 

 China and India have non-tariff barriers rather than taxes on inflows. These have spared them the problems Brazil faces. Inflows into Brazil are not moderating despite inflow taxes, suggesting that non-tariff barriers may be a more effective, though much blunter, alternative. Economic theory lays down that tariffs are better than non-tariff barriers in trade. But the Asian financial crisis and other episodes have shown that what holds for merchandise flows does not hold for financial flows. Brazil might soon have to follow the Indian example.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONTROL, THE KEY

BUT MINIMISE SUBJECTIVITY


THE government now wants to redefine a foreign company, giving primacy to who controls the company. This is welcome. Reportedly, the move is to align the definition of control provided in the Companies Bill with the notion of control used to define a foreign company in the press notes that govern the subject. This does do away with some of the problems associated with the earlier definition that stressed ownership and restricted the meaning of control to the right to appoint a majority of directors on the board. This approach had led to some companies being classified as foreign-owned, although they are indisputably controlled and managed by clever Indians who have successfully tapped into a global pool of capital to build their business in India. It also led to some companies that are actually controlled by foreigners escaping being classified as foreign companies, thus securing the freedom to enter sectors prohibited for foreign companies. By preventing Indians from utilising foreign capital to the best of their ability without losing their companies' status as Indian companies, and by defeating the policy of maintaining sectoral caps on foreign investment, the earlier policy stood in need of revision. But the problem is in defining control in very objective terms. As we have pointed out in the past, it is possible for a foreign entity to exercise total control over an Indian company without owning even a single share in the company — for example, by arranging its finances through a letter of comfort issued to a willing domestic lender. No regulator can capture elements of control wielded through such arrangements purely by looking at shareholder agreements and voting patterns. An element of qualitative assessment of the way a company is owned and run would be called for. And that, in turn, would provide room for subjectivity. Such subjectivity would be difficult to avoid. All that can be done is to restrict the number of officials who are authorised to exercise such subjectivity to senior levels of the civil service. 

 

All regulation, ultimately, depends on sound judgment. Distrusting the integrity of judges as a matter of principle is as unsound as leaving everything to the discretion of the wise.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GENE TONIC

GET DRUNK TO STAY SAFE

 

OGDEN Nash may have been onto something when he said, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker" but the improbable-sounding CYP2E1 was probably not what he had in mind. Indeed, the very idea of preventing alcoholism by accelerating the effects of drunkenness sounds like a very bizarre way of combating a social evil — by promoting another one — but genes are making that happen. In fact, all those who cannot hold their liquor can now blame their parents, but they would be better off thanking them, for a study by the University of North Carolina has shown that the presence of a gene that makes people get drunk quickly makes them less prone to becoming alcoholics. This variant in a gene located in the 10th chromosome of one in five people tend to curtail their liquor intake far quicker than those with a 'head' for it, as CYP2E1 provides the code for making an enzyme that breaks down alcohol faster and generates free radicals that cause that tipsy feeling. 

 

The gene, however, also has immense lateral possibilities for those caught between having a good time and staying safe. Considering that drunken driving laws have played party pooper for years now, if R&D can translate the effects of this gene into a tablet, then it could provide a way of achieving that ineffable lightness of being, without overstepping the alcohol limit. Conversely, a reverse formulation could sober up people who have had one too many before they hit the road. That should lift the spirits of bar owners and liquor producers as more people can make merry but not break the law or damage their liver by over-consumption. And it could also mollify temperance advocates as the gene actually seems to protect against alcoholism by making people less prone to drinking too much

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

FOR A GRAND BARGAIN AT G20

CURRENCY AND TRADE WARS CAN BE AVOIDED, IF THE US AND CHINA STRIKE A GRAND BARGAIN IN WHICH THE CHINESE DIRECTLY FUND THE STIMULUS PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS BEEN WOOING CONGRESS FOR, SAYS T K ARUN


THE current travails of the US economy and the specific policy response of the US administration have brought war back to the headlines: currency war, threats of a trade war. A specific focus is China, with its unyielding proclivity to keep its currency undervalued and run up huge trade surpluses on the strength of the resultant artificial competitiveness. There is little reason for the rest of the world to sympathise with China, as its currency manipulation depresses exports of other countries and forces them also to intervene to hold down their own currencies. However, a full-fledged trade or currency war would do immense harm to all economies, including India's that depends mostly on domestic sources for both demand for goods and services and for capital but derives significant momentum from the global economy. India, therefore, has a stake in promoting cooperation over confrontation at the forthcoming meetings of the G20, first of finance ministers and later, of heads of governments. 

 

The US economy is growing at about 1% a year, which, while not spectacular, is far from insignificant, given its size. But domestic politics is not willing to look on the bright side for two reasons. One, this growth is not producing jobs anywhere on the scale required to dent near double digit unemployment. Two, part of the US economy's problems are perceived to arise from global imbalances, with economies like China saving too much, consuming too little and dumping their output and surplus savings in the US economy. Dumped goods are seen to kill jobs, and dumped savings, inducing overconsumption in the US and artificially depressed cost of capital, leading to unsound financial practices of the kind that led to the subprime crisis. Of course, such outsourcing of all economic sin is facile and glosses over deep flaws in financial regulation that allowed a deluge of foreign savings to undermine domestic finance. But politics rules supreme and the US government is expected to act, to produce jobs and force errant foreigners to mend their ways. 

 

So, the US government is talking protection, curbing outsourcing and removing tax breaks for companies that shift jobs out of the US, and threatening penal duties on imports from currency manipulating countries, read China. At the same time, it is printing dollars by the gazillion (the respectable name for this operation is quantitative easing) and buying up US government bonds with such freshly-minted money, keeping interest rates very, very low. Simultaneously, it is exerting diplomatic pressure on China to appreciate the yuan. 

 

As dollar rates of interest turn negligible, funds move out of the US and into commodities like gold and oil and into emerging market assets, seeking safety and higher returns. In other words, cheap money in the US jacks up India's oil import bill and pumps froth into India's stock market. As the dollars gush in, they push up the rupee, increase liquidity and inflation and also put upward pressure on domestic interest rates, as the RBI sells government bonds to mop up the extra rupees created when it buys up dollars. 

 

China bristles at the notion that the US should seek to solve its own economic problems by creating distress in China's export sectors. Beijing has reason to worry about the turmoil that would be created if the yuan hardens, its exports turn less competitive and export industries lay off workers in large numbers. In any case, sheer nationalist sentiment would make it impossible for Chinese leaders to be seen to buckle under US pressure. 
    IF THE US and China persist with their present policy stances, there could be currency wars and possibly trade wars and associated disruption of the global economy, depressing growth all over, including in India. The solution is for the US and China to cooperate at a forum like the G20 and strike a grand bargain. 
    Washington needs jobs, restoration of confidence and some accommodative remedial action by foreign governments. Beijing needs to show defiance of external pressure and lots of space to gradually shift the source of demand for Chinese produce from the rest of the world to China itself. 

 

The elementary Keynesian insight in a situation like in the US, of a crisis of confidence keeping the economy in thrall, is that the government must initiate action that would generate jobs, incomes and demand, leading on to private sector investment. Investment in high-tech infrastructure and non-tradable services is the only kind of stimulus that will not leak away to lower cost suppliers in other countries. But developed country debt is already so high that further government borrowing withers rather than boosts business confidence. Nor is mere lowering of interest rates sufficient to restore confidence. Quantitative easing is seen as postponing the problem, only to make it bigger. So, how can the US government fund investment in high-tech infrastructure such as smart grids, fast trains and universal broadband without borrowing? How can the federal government prevent cash-strapped state and local governments from laying off teachers and health workers by droves, hiking the jobless count and eroding long-term competitiveness? Get the Chinese to fund it. 

 

Create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to which the Chinese would contribute the bulk of the capital but as preferred stock with no voting rights. The rest of the capital could come from the big American banks that are now once again paying their managers obscene bonuses. A gentle hint about withdrawing the current suspension of the mark-to-market rule that allows the banks to value their assets at profit- and bonus-generating levels should persuade bankers to do their duty to the flag and the country. The SPV could then invest in specific companies to build specific kinds of infrastructure, and to finance state and local governments. 

 

Why should the Chinese oblige? The pressure would be off to revalue the yuan and rebalance the world by the next meeting of the G20, they avoid disruption of export industries and a trade war and, in general, would come out smelling of roses. Sure, there is investment risk but the Chinese are used to sovereign wealth investing. In the present instance, they might not own the infrastructure assets created, but the superior financial returns, as compared to investing in US treasuries, would be a bonus. 

 

Can such a grand bargain be struck? No harm trying, and the entire world would benefit.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

N EU RAL N ET

ASSUMING THE WRONG POSITION

ULLEKHN P 


JUST when several western practitioners of yoga thought the time was still ripe to grab as many patents for poses (asanas) as possible, a few party poopers have surfaced, much to their anguish. And just what has been said? Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, has called yoga 'demonic'. Prior to him, R Albert Mohler Jr, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, warned believers against yoga, which he calls 'pagan' in its roots. He also adds, "All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions." 

 

It is true that several of those targeted — followers of Jesus Christ who study and teach yoga — have hit back, saying there is no harm in it. But many others are confused. Indeed, the world is reminded once again that a section of the Christian clergy is against yoga. Unfortunately, that section includes the Vatican. 

 

A 1989 document by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, widely referred to as the Vatican's watchdog body for doctrinal orthodoxy, had cautioned Roman Catholics against pursuing what they called eastern meditation practices — such as Zen and yoga, which, it said, "degenerate into a cult of the body". The 23-page document was approved by the 'pop' Pope, the late John Paul II, and signed by the current one, Pope Benedict XVI, who was then head of the West German congregation. In 2003, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued another, 90-page booklet, A Christian reflection on the New Age, calling yoga aNew Age phenomenon. 

 

So, is yoga a New Age phenomenon? No. But there is New-Age yoga. 

 

What all these men of theological flourish refuse to acknowledge, or rather realise, is how far this ancient, traditional physical and mental discipline, said to have originated in India many centuries ago, has travelled from its spiritual, religious roots. In fact, this very New-Age yoga irks so-called purists for its big departure from being a rigour-oriented physical-mental discipline to a crassly commercial product that some pastors find threatening and un-Christian. 

 

Look at its journey. From Paramahansa Yogananda to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to B K S Iyengar, yoga found its way to being hugely popular in the West, bringing even egotists, drunkards, drug addicts and others under its spell. The transition that yoga underwent as it went commercial also, to a large extent, made it secular. If it is the concomitant Sanskrit chanting, especially, the sound of Om, that is ruffling feathers, it could be said that it has become a sort of secular sound. Not just secular, sexy, too. 

 

From Bikram Choudhury's hot yoga, which is generally practised in a room heated to 105°F with a humidity of 40%, things have reached as far as naked yoga. Doing yoga in the nude to de-stress the body is not anything new. And it was popular with gays in the West long before our own Baba Ramdev suggested that yoga could "cure" homosexuality! Naked yoga is back in the news in big, titillating way, thanks to a series of recent ads for ToeSox, which makes toe socks for everything from yoga to Pilates to several forms of martial art. 

 

The ads feature LA-based yoga instructor Kathryn Budig in a series of semi-naked or completely naked photos, performing different asanas. Even while she is fully dressed, she attracts eyeballs — going by huge hits on YouTube. This has, as expected, created a controversy, not as much over how non-Hindus should practise yoga, but over mindless commercialisation in a wild quest to grab more slices of the global multibillion-dollar business: the great yoga market place. It is not just about postures and mats and related stuff, but also about how sexy your yoga instructor looks. 

 

Then, of course, there is this war over yoga patents. The Indian government is said to be taking steps to check how certain poses are being patented, especially by the US Patent and Trademark Office, which has so far issued more than 130 yoga-related patents. But the big question is — just how can the USTPO patent a few poses from the purported 84,000 ones that already exist in traditional yoga? 
    And the even bigger question is — who is more demonic for the clergy in question? The pagan yogi or the sexy instructor?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

WHAT HAVE CLIMATE ACTIVISTS LEARNT?

BJØRN LOMBORG 

 

ADVOCATES of drastic cuts in carbondioxide emissions now speak a lot less than they once did about climate change. Climate campaigners changed their approach after the collapse of the Cospenhagen climate change summit last December and the revelation of mistakes in the United Nations climate panel's work — as well as in response to growing public scepticism and declining interest. 

 

Although some activists still rely on scare tactics — witness the launch of an ad depicting the bombing of anybody who is hesitant to embrace carbon cuts — many activists now spend more time highlighting the 'benefits' of their policy prescription. They no longer dwell on impending climate doom, but on the economic windfall that will result from embracing the 'green' economy. 

 

You can find examples all over the world, but one of the best is in my country, Denmark, where a government-appointed committee of academics recently presented its suggestions for how the country could go it alone and become 'fossil fuel-free' in 40 years. The goal is breathtaking: more than 80% of Denmark's energy supply comes from fossil fuels, which are dramatically cheaper and more reliable than any green energy source. 
 

I attended the committee's launch and was startled that the 'Climate Commission' barely mentioned climate change. This omission is understandable, since one country acting alone cannot do much to stop global warming. If Denmark were indeed to become 100% fossil-free by 2050, and remain so for the rest of the century, the effect, by 2100, would be to delay the rise in average global temperature by just two weeks. 
 

Instead of focusing on climate change, the Climate Commission hyped the benefits that Denmark would experience if it led the shift to green energy. Unfortunately, on inspection, these benefits turn out to be illusory. 

Being a pioneer is hardly a guarantee of riches. Germany led the world in putting up solar panels, funded by 47 billion in subsidies. The lasting legacy is a massive bill, and lots of inefficient solar technology sitting on rooftops throughout a cloudy country, delivering atrivial 0.1% of its total energy supply. 
    Denmark itself has tried being a green-energy innovator — it led the world in embracing wind power. The results are hardly inspiring. The sorry state of wind and solar power shows the massive challenge that we face in trying to make today's technology competitive and efficient. Direct-current lines need to be constructed to carry solar and wind energy from sunny, windy areas to where most people live. Storage mechanisms need to be invented so that power is not interrupted whenever there is no sunshine or wind. 

 

Proponents of carbon cuts argue that green-energy technologies only seem more expensive, because the price of fossil fuels does not reflect the cost of their impact on the climate. But allowing for this would make little difference. The most comprehensive economic meta-study shows that total future climate impacts would justify a tax of around 0.01 per litre of petrol ($0.06 per gallon in the US) — an amount dwarfed by the taxes already imposed by most European countries. 

 

Despite the fact that changing from fossil fuels to green energy requires a total economic transformation, Denmark's Climate Commission claimed that the price tag would be next to nothing. The commission reached this conclusion by assuming that the cost of not embracing its recommended policy would be massive. It believes that over the next four decades, fossil-fuel costs will climb sharply, because sources will dry up and governments will place massive taxes on them. But this flies in the face of most evidence. There is clearly plenty of cheap coal for hundreds of years, and with new cracking technology, gas is becoming more abundant. Even oil supplies may be significantly boosted by non-conventional sources like tar sands. 
    By the same token, the prediction that governments will impose massive carbon taxes has little basis in reality. Such assumptions seem like a poor framework on which to build significant public policy, and seem to ignore the substantial cost of eliminating fossil fuels, which is likely to amount to at least 5% of GDP per year. 
    The shift away from fossil fuels will not be easy. Policymakers must prioritise investment in green energy research and development. Trying to force carbon cuts instead of investing first in research puts the cart before the horse. Breakthroughs do not result automatically from a combination of taxes on fossil fuels and subsidies for present-day green energy: despite the massive outlays associated with the Kyoto Protocol, participating countries' investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP did not increase. 

 

The change in message after the disaster of the Copenhagen summit was probably inevitable. But the real change that is needed is the realisation that drastic, early carbon cuts are a poor response to global warming — no matter how they are packaged. 

 (The author is adjunct professor at     Copenhagen Business School) 

    © Project Syndicate 2010

 

The new theme of climate campaigners is the economic windfall that will result from the 'green' economy 
But benefits are largely illusory, because of the challenge we face in trying to make green technology competitive 
Policymakers must first prioritise investment in green energy R&D before planning the shift away from fossil fuels

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

FIREBIRD AND HOPE

VITHAL C NADKARNI 

 

DID God have a hand in the rescue of 33 miners in Chile's Atacama Desert? Mario Sepulveda, the second miner to be brought up, has spoken about how the experience tested his faith and belligerence. "I was with God and I was with the devil, they fought me, but God won," he said. "He took me by my best hand, the hand of God." It was actually a capsule built by Chilean Navy under guidance from mining engineers and NASA experts that finally did the trick. 

 

The more prosaic explanation was that it wasn't the hand of God, but the capsule working like an elevator running down on a cable through a shaft drilled 622 metres into solid rock. But the operation that drew global headlines did not entirely preclude poetic fancy: the rescuers named the capsule Phoenix, after the mythical firebird that resurrects itself after being completely burnt down to ashes. 

 

According to Roman poet Ovid, the phoenix could therefore be considered the classical equivalent of a modern clone: "Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself," he wrote. The phoenix supposedly did not live on fruit or flowers, but on inflammable stuff like frankincense and odoriferous gums. 

 

After it had lived five hundred years, the firebird built itself a nest in a palm or an oak where it collected other pyromaniac things like cinnamon, spikenard, and myrrh, from which it fashioned a pyre lit by its dying breath! Then from the ashes of the parent bird arose the young phoenix, supposedly destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. 

 

It's this fabled ability to rise out of its own ashes whichmakes the phoenix 'first cousin to Man', says noted sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury. For as a warmongering society, humans are continually burning down things and getting born all over again, he says in Fahrenheit 451. 

 

Ill-starred poet Sylvia Plath also evokes the phoenix at the end of her famous poem Lady Lazarus, where the protagonist describes her unsuccessful attempts at suicide not as failures, but as successful resurrections, like those of the Biblical characters Lazarus and Phoenix. Then she rises "out of the ash/ with my red hair/ And I eat men like air". 

 

As for the riddle which came first, the phoenix or the flame, the only answer is 'The circle has no beginning', according to Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The rescue highlights that.

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

CHINESE CHEQUERS

CONSENSUS ON LEADERSHIP, NOT REFORMS

 

THE line of succession in China is fairly clear with Monday's elevation of the Vice-President, Xi Jinping, to a key post in the Communist Party's omnipotent Central Military Commission. Though he ranks sixth in the party hierarchy, as vice-chairman of CMC he seems set to succeed President Hu Jintao as the party chief when he retires next year. Mr Xi, with a pivotal role in the affairs of the People's Liberation Army, can be expected to take over as the Head of State in the fullness of time. His promotion appears to have been unanimous, which itself is a critical development for a party that is on occasion hobbled by internal bickering rooted in ideological differences. Clearly, Mr Hu has shed his initial reservations about Mr Xi which are believed to have been because of the latter's proximity to the former President and party chief, Jiang Zemin. Much as the party has settled a key appointment through a consensual approach, the prospect of political reforms remains ever so uncertain and little in Mr Xi's career tells us of his thinking. The son of a man who was both revolutionary hero and strong critic of the Tiananmen killings, Mr. Xi had a privileged childhood but suffered personal hardship during the Cultural Revolution. He is also possibly the only senior party leader to have served in the armed forces. Thus, on reforms and on much else, he remains an enigma; indeed some observers have dubbed him a political cipher. In any event, a consensus on reforms may elude the party for sometime yet. The top leadership remains divided on the issue; the relatively liberal Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, is on record as having opposed the conservative section within the party. 


The CPC plenum has pledged to make "steady and vigorous" efforts towards political restructuring. This might entail further bouts of hierarchical change after Mr Hu and Mr Wen bow out after two consecutive terms. A change in political personnel and reforms are two distinct facets of contemporary China. A reformist agenda is a different kettle of fish, a more thorny issue than an indication of a change of guard. Nonetheless, there is a ray of hope with the party plenum conceding that reform is a powerful driving force and deserves to be pushed forward with "resolution and encouragement". That landmark process will hinge profoundly on the new generation of leaders who will be in office in 2012. For now, China's reaction to the Nobel Peace prize illustrates that democratic dissent is an entrenched anathema.

 

FOOTPATH FURORE

BALL NOW IN THE CENTRE'S COURT

THE significance of the Supreme Court order on pavement hawkers is not that it recognises a problem exists across the country with  massive migrations from rural to urban areas in search of livelihood, but that it confirms street vendors have a right to do business. This should come as a boon to organisations which have taken up the cause of hawkers against those defending the rights of pedestrians. The conflicting interests and opinions, perhaps another round of legal battles, could make it difficult for the Centre to observe the June 2011 deadline set by the Court to frame what it describes as a National Policy on Urban Street Vendors. There can be no doubt that the nature of urban chaos varies from state to state. The Centre cannot begin the exercise without consulting the states where the problems have been aggravated by a variety of causes, invariably aided and abetted by ruling parties. While rural poverty and lack of employment opportunities may account for the distress in several states that has caused movement to urban centres, West Bengal has been severely hit by the large number of allegedly illegal migrants from across the border who have found a safe haven in the state courtesy the vicious practice of vote-bank politics.

That efforts by local governments to address the problem would come to nought was predictable. What the Court is now evidently keen on emphasising on the basis of applications made by hawkers' associations is that the Centre cannot run away from the problem by keeping the Model Street Vendors Bill, that aims at protecting livelihood, pending for more than a year, especially when hawkers can press for their right to resist eviction. The Centre now has the near-impossible task of accommodating the conflicting rights of hawkers and other citizens using public thoroughfares. At the same time, it is obliged to ensure that metros are rescued from the consequences of unending migration. The problem demands an administrative remedy when elections are due in some states and parties have tended to shy away from a solution that could cost them votes. Things can only get worse. But with the Court putting the ball in the Centre's court, there is some hope of decisive action though a solution could still be far away.

 

'GRUDGE' MATCHES

EXCITING, NOT ELEVATING

RIVALRIES have ever honed the competitive edge of sport. Even its "purest" form ~ athletics ~ has had its share of personalised contests. Today it is Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, earlier it was Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, and on the domestic circuit in the late 1950s the Milkha Singh-Makhan Singh sprint contests drew crowds to the stadiums. Inevitably a little "needle" does get injected into the equation. Yet none, or at least precious few of those "positives", appear to be at play in the headline-making, cash-rich challenge reportedly proffered by Australian discus thrower Dani Samuels to the first Indian woman to strike CWG gold, Krishna Poonia. For "reports" suggest that a remark by Poonia that Samuel was ducking the Delhi Games because of poor form not illness (Krishna's husband/ coach says no Dani-specific comment of that nature was made) has provoked this tossing down of the gauntlet. Samuel's coach is quoted as saying a sponsor is offering a 20,000 dollar purse (US or Aussie dollars?) for a winner-takes-all face-off Down Under (under whose auspices?). Krishna's husband initially responded, outlining a time-frame, insisting on a "neutral" venue. Then Krishna herself stated that: though she was clearly uncomfortable when pushed by her interviewer on TV who was blatantly seeking to sensationalise the affair.


Such egoist hype ~ often media-induced ~ is a flashback of the era of prize-fighting, which has ever been on the seamier side of sport. It is true that athletes no longer contest for only a wreath of laurels and the Diamond League events offer lucrative awards, but surely the athletics federations of both countries need to step in. Maybe an Indo-Australian meet (for women only?) is one way out, but a one-on-one punch-up is not to be countenanced. Krishna has the Asian Games ahead of her, she must also seek to raise her personal best ~ her gold medal throw was below that ~ and not let herself, her training and aspirations be sidetracked. Sure a prize of 20,000 dollars (even if Australian dollars) is tempting, but would it not be best if both women prepared to resume their rivalry in the London Olympics? Or earlier, at another meet that is part of the established circuit? Wiser counsel must prevail, sport must retain its ethical element.

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

AT THE TOP TABLE

INDIA ATTAINS A GREAT VANTAGE POINT

BY SALMAN HAIDAR


After a gap of nearly two decades, India is back on the UN Security Council for a two-year term as a non-permanent member. When the voting took place a few days ago, the result was not in doubt for there was no other candidate for the Asian seat, but yet the Indian team worked hard to ensure that there should be a large turnout and that India should be strongly supported. The External Affairs Minister himself was reported to have been working the telephones late into the night as polling time approached. In the event, India obtained the largest number of votes of any candidate, its tally running to 187, which was one more than that of a similarly unopposed Colombia. MEA can take legitimate satisfaction from this outcome. It now returns to a forum from which it has been absent for longer than customary, for the rotation period has not earlier been as long as the roughly two decades since the last time India was a member.


Even before permanent membership became a great national aspiration, India made successful bids every few years to be in the Security Council because it felt it belonged there, as witnessed in its commitment to UN ideals and its consistent contribution to UN activities, especially peace-keeping. The emergence of the non-aligned group at the UN, and India's prominence within it, reinforced the country's high standing and made it a powerful candidate whenever it made a bid. There was a setback in 1996, however, when India lost out to Japan: this election took place in the aftermath of the vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which India was practically the only country to oppose, and as a result of which there was a considerable campaign against India's candidature by the supporters of the CTBT led by the P-5, prominent among them the USA ~ which has had second thoughts since and has failed to ratify the treaty it had at that time steered so ardently. It is not for nothing that the UN has been described as a dangerous place! 
Since the last time it was on the Security Council, India's goal has shifted significantly. It is now not content with on-and-off non-permanent membership but feels qualified to take its place with the current five others as a permanent member. Most countries agree, and with every passing year, as India continues its rapid ascent, its case becomes stronger and more self-evident. But accommodating India will require reform of the UN Charter, which is a very tricky matter. Expansion of the Security Council cannot be done only by majority decision of the members of the UN, for the ultimate say lies with the entrenched P-5, who must all agree if any change is to be brought about, and they tend to pull in different directions. Even the post-Cold War USA, unrivalled hyper power as some called it at the time, was not able to re-shape the Security Council according to its choice. In fact, the notion of its expansion was introduced by the USA which wanted Germany and Japan to join, in order mainly to pay much larger UN dues and relieve the burden on the USA which is by far the biggest contributor to the UN coffers. This attempt to enlarge the Security Council became a Pandora's Box for many other contenders cropped up, as well as many rivals to hold them back. And so it has remained: no conclusion is yet in sight but the serious contenders, India prominent among them, have begun to outdistance the rest. For India, prospects look better than they did some years ago; some of the P-5 are now supportive, but not all of them. So much remains to be done.
Joining the Security Council even in a non- permanent capacity brings with it a whole new range of responsibilities. Some of these are relatively straightforward, relating as they do to immediate operational matters. Skilled and practised staff will have to be deployed to handle Security Council matters. It is a long time since India was there and senior staff familiar with its procedures will by now have largely faded away. By contrast, P-5 countries, and others who have been more frequently there in recent years, have a permanent core of staff for the Security Council and long experience of its procedures. The right people will have to be selected with care and whoever is in charge will have to be a quick learner. Similarly, while the UN mission is being strengthened, counterpart reinforcement at HQ will also be necessary.
More important than these necessary but essentially housekeeping tasks is to consider how best India can add its distinctive input to the Council's deliberations. Along with other developing and non-aligned countries, India has been a prominent spokesman at the UN for some causes with which it has been associated from the start, though the regretful observation is sometimes heard that India has moved on and become less vocal in its advocacy of such causes. The muting of India's voice may have something to do with the decline of NAM whose collective say was much more compelling in past years than it is today and whose impact is no longer so strongly felt at the UN. Yet even though the dynamics of international relationships may have changed, several of the issues remain on the agenda and will surely come up for consideration during India's Security Council tenure. Palestinian rights and a peace settlement in the Middle East are among them, and the matter of sanctions against Iran is another. There are more such issues where global opinion may be sharply divided and where India's decisions will be closely scrutinized, both within the country and internationally. After all, the Security Council is the most elevated of forums and its decisions ring out loud and clear.


Membership of the UN Council provides India with an important opportunity to demonstrate its credentials internationally. Being there should not be regarded as just another brief sojourn at the top table. During previous tenures, the East-West divide dominated the UN and countries like India had to steer clear of the confrontation between the two sides in order to make of the UN something truly relevant to their own needs and aspirations. Now, for the first time, India will be a member of a Council where entirely different issues have risen for consideration. And if it is a different Council, it is also a different India. It has an individual role to play and has become the strategic partner of choice for many major countries as new global challenges arise. India thus has a great vantage point to observe, judge, and contribute to the fashioning of new international structures of cooperation.


The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

 

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THE SATESMAN

PAKISTAN CJ SEEKS HIS POUND OF FLESH

NORMALLY ONE WOULD HAVE EXPECTED PAKISTAN CHIEF JUSTICE IFTIKHAR CHAUDHURY 

TO ACT WITH GRACE ASSOCIATED WITH HIS OFFICE BUT HE HAS HAD OTHER IDEAS SINCE HIS RETURN, 

SAYS ML KOTRU

 

 The success of the lawyers' agitation in Pakistan which brought Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhury back to the country's apex court may not, after all, have been such a good thing to happen to that country. The Chief Justice had been sacked along with several other members of the higher judiciary by the military leader General Pervez Musharraf, kicking off an unprecedented agitation by the lawyers and civil society at large.


When Iftikhar Chaudhury finally made it back to his chamber in Islamabad many saw it as a triumph for democracy. Celebrations carried on for days as Chaudhury set about reinstating the judges dismissed by Musharraf. And given that the lawyers and civil society had made the point sternly, one would have expected the Chief Justice to show magnanimity and restraint. Unfortunately, the Chief Justice in his subsequent conduct has given enough indications that he is there to seek his pound of flesh.


It is perfectly in order to restore dismissed judges though some may still question its merit. For one, Musharraf himself, while dismissing Chaudhury, had accused the latter of gross misconduct and of having misused his position. It would have been in keeping with the highest standards of judiciary had the Chief Justice himself chosen not to be vindictive, particularly when his bête noire, General Musharraf had already lost office by then. Musharraf himself was no angel. He was the one to encourage Benazir Bhutto to return home to participate in the general elections while simultaneously advising her that the time was not propitious for a return just then. In the event Benazir, ignoring the latter half of the Musharraf advice, managed to reach Karachi, to a brutal welcome followed by her assassination in Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi. He has continued to be accused of having masterminded the murder.


Prior to relinquishing office, Musharraf, exercising his presidential powers, issued a National Reconciliation Ordinance granting pardon to some 8,000 people including Benazir's husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Under enormous Saudi pressure he had earlier agreed to let the man whom he had ousted in a coup, Nawaz Sharif, to return home but not before humiliating him when he reached Islamabad from Riyadh, refusing him permission to land.


Sharif eventually did join Zardari in contesting the election, in the oddest of coalitions which never worked. All this was preceded by the General's ouster and the restoration of the Chief Justice. Normally one would have expected the Chief Justice to act with grace associated with his office. But Chaudhury has had other ideas ever since his return.


Predictably, he did not act against Nawaz Sharif whose family is involved in serious corruption cases. Instead, he sharpened his knives to get at Zardari whom he has perceived as someone who had a private deal with Musharraf. One of the major decisions he took after his return was to abolish the National Reconciliation Order bringing the President in the direct line of fire. And things obviously did come to a head last week when the war of nerves between the judiciary and the executive reached a shrill pitch when Chaudhury's court, during an unprecedented midnight session, took suo motu notice of an alleged bid by the government to dismiss the higher judiciary. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, bleary-eyed with sleep, woke up to deny the charge as pure speculation - and baseless.


It speaks very poorly of Chief Justice Chaudhury and his colleagues to demand a written explanation from the Prime Minister, observing that toppling of the judiciary would amount to subversion of the Constitution and, therefore, an act of high treason. Chaudhury didn't stop at that. Acting like politicians normally do, he constituted a 17-member full bench of the court to meet the next working day to ask the government to furnish a written statement.


Poor Prime Minister Gilani was running from pillar to post, from print to electronic media, telling anyone who cared to listen to him that the allegation made by the Chief Justice was not correct. Chaudhury, on his part, was convinced that Gilani, a PPP leader from Multan, was clearing the decks to save President Asif Ali Zardari from facing the consequences of withdrawal of the NRO. The government had on an earlier occasion, though, made it known that a sitting President could not be tried or dismissed while he held the Chief Executive's office.
It it is true that the Chief Justice was worried that the Gilani-led government might withdraw the 16 March, 2009 order restoring the Chief Justice and the superior judiciary. It shows the CJ and his 17-member bench in poor light. According to a news report describing the incident, the fear of the move by the government prompted him to convene a late-night meeting of all the Supreme Court judges after which it was decided that a 17-member bench would look into the alleged move by the government.


The hearing was posted for early Friday morning (a holiday) and a notice was issued to the Attorney General past midnight. The Prime Minister, alerted by the Attorney General, issued a statement saying "certain elements are trying to create bad taste among the institutions but these conspiracies will fail. We respect the judiciary. The Government will take every possible step to strengthening of institutions of the State. The Pakistan People's Party has sacrificed their (sic) lives for the independence of judiciary".


A Pakistani friend tells me that, while it is possible that a lunatic fringe in the PPP may have been toying with the idea of doing a Musharraf (dismissal of the CJ and senior judiciary), Zardari is in no position to take the risk. On the contrary, the friend told me it is quite likely that some legal eagles and mischief-mongers within Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (N) may have set the ball rolling. Yet the view persists that the removal of the Chief Justice and higher court judges by General Musharraf in November, 2007 triggered the political turmoil in the country and led to Musharraf's ouster. The uneasy relationship between the President and the Chief Justice, in any case, is a loaded one which may plunge Pakistan, still struggling to overcome the recent devastation caused by floods, into a much graver crisis. Remember terrorists of all shade are still very much part of the Pakistan scene and the stench of the floods pervades the air so much so that serious efforts at the international level are being contemplated, many weeks after the disaster, to offer relief to millions of still suffering victims.


The writer is a veteran journalist and former Resident Editor, The Statesman, New Delhi

 

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THE SATESMAN

DIM PROSPECTS OF CWG PROBE

 

The PM was quick off the mark to order a high-level probe by multiple agencies into the irregularities preceding the Commonwealth Games (CWG). Sensing the public mood, it was politically a smart move. But was it purely cosmetic or could it lead to meaningful results? The first indications are most discouraging. The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) was entrusted with looking into all the deals. But a retired official was designated to head the probe. Why? What was wrong with the sitting chief of CAG? The Group of Ministers (GoM) inquiring into the CWG scams is headed by the urban affairs minister. His ministry was heavily involved in building the infrastructure of the CWG. By what logic is this glaring conflict of interest justified?
Immediately after the closure of CWG, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit took credit for instantly transforming "magically" the CWG Village. She was appropriately snubbed by Lieutenant- Governor Khanna who drew attention to the large number of central agencies which actually did the job. Even after a high-level probe had been ordered to submit findings within three months, Dikshit named Organising Committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi for corruption. Why the panic? Kalmadi does not smell like roses. But then, despite the media projecting him as the main villain, was he the only villain? Could he possibly have been the only villain? Naturally Kalmadi hit back and accused Dikshit of being corrupt. Both Congress leaders most likely were speaking the truth. 


The probe itself displayed the motivated slant of the authorities. Enforcement Directorate (ET) raids were conducted simultaneously on 26 targets. However, the identity of only one of the 26, a senior BJP leader, was leaked to the press. TV channels descended on that one victim like a ton of bricks. Not a word about the identity of the remaining 25 raided. The BJP president has hit out at the PMO for the ultimate responsibility for the mismanagement. The Congress hit back at the BJP, accusing it of diverting attention from the one BJP leader who was raided.


 With such motivated politicking under way at the very start of the probe, what hope can there be of obtaining the truth? The answer is, precious little. 


Unless non-official agencies, citizens' groups and sections of the media get into the act with a vengeance, little might be expected from the official probe. The litmus test of a genuine probe would, of course, be how far high the nailing process reaches. Kalmadi and Dikshit are small fry. So can non-official sources achieve meaningful results? I believe they can. Recall the MA Films scam unearthed by British investigative agencies regarding corruption related to the Queen's Baton Relay (QBR). It was good fortune for India that the Queen's displeasure provoked British agencies to act with zeal. 


It might be recalled that the corruption related to QBR involved a small little-known British firm, AM Films, headed by one Patel. Why was this unknown British firm selected? According to Kalmadi, one Raju Sebastian, a low level employee at the Indian High Commission in London, made the recommendation. Kalmadi confidently displayed the letter from Raju Sebastian on TV, mentioning the Indian High Commission, to justify the selection of AM Films. The Indian High Commission promptly rubbished Kalmadi. It denied that Sebastian was authorised to make the recommendation. He was too junior to have been assigned such a responsibility. So what was Sebastian's clout to make Kalmadi jump? To catch the big fish behind the curtain, all that the media must do is to zero in on Raju Sebastian and find out his links. The media might hit the jackpot. Provided, of course, the media is genuinely interested in getting at the truth. 


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IS LIBERAL MUMBAI A THING OF THE PAST?

 

The Shiv Sena is at it again, attacking products of the mind and creative ventures. This time around it is Rohinton Mistry's acclaimed novel Such a Long Journey that has attracted the ire of the chauvinist outfit. Under Bal Thackeray's leadership over decades, the Sena has made its stock-in-trade to display violent xenophobia, and to hit out at books, libraries and, more generally, artists and the arts. More often than not, it has got away with it. This is chiefly because the Maharashtra government of the day has permitted the outfit, which doesn't balk at lumpenism, significant latitude. This time too the state's Congress-NCP government offered surreptitious endorsement to the Sena's goon tactics. This is a pity. It detracts from the Congress' credo of supporting liberal social values and a secular mindset.


Canada-based Mistry's book had been a part of Mumbai's University B.A. syllabus for many years until, recently, the student body of the Sena made the discovery that it showed Maharashtrians in poor light, and that expletives had been used in the narration. They demanded that the book be pulled out of the syllabus. Shockingly, the university's vice-chancellor obliged, after completing mumbo-jumbo formalities. At no stage did he seek to raise questions about academic freedom, artistic independence and the imperative to check the forces of public disorder as represented by the Sena's youth brigade. Not showing spine, and kowtowing to the demands of semi-fascist social or political organisations, is the surest way to ease their way. The ugly episode is a reminder what our leading universities have become. Higher education authorities would do well in the current instance to take the lead and pull up the Mumbai University vice-chancellor instead of waiting for the state government to act.


It is easy to see that the Sena was keen to provide a dramatic moment to mark the entry into politics of Mr Thackeray's grandson Aditya, an undergraduate student in Mumbai who was launched with some fanfare by a doting grandfather. A Parsi author who grew up in the city and made his name overseas became an easy prey. In the circumstances, only the state government could have called the Sena's bluff. In the event the Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Chavan, chose to succumb. It was shocking to hear him say on television that the book had "bad language". It is to be hoped that his party's national leadership does inform him that the leading citizen of a state, especially one who resides in a city that is India's pride, cannot afford to be a narrow and silly bigot. If "bad language", that is one laced with sexual overtones, is what troubles Mr Chavan and his cohorts, he should be invited to lead a march to destroy the famous Hindu temples at Khajuraho.It is a shame on the Chief Minister that in a discussion such as this he should be bracketed with those who threaten to take the law into their hands.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

FOREIGN ASSIGNMENT

BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

India's election to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member is rightly seen as an opportunity to stake claim for permanent membership. The question of UNSC reforms has been on the cards for some time now. And the government will look to provide much needed impetus to the debate. But it also recognises that India's performance at the high table over the next two years will be an important factor in determining the outcome. The external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, has noted that the tenure would enable India to establish its credential in handling major international issues with responsibility.

 

What exactly this entails is a matter of some debate. It is easy to frame this question as a discussion of what stance India should adopt on a range of problems: Iran, Palestine, North Korea, Sudan and so on. It is equally tempting to consider whether India's position would be strengthened by convincing the United States that it can play ball or by signalling to the wider international community that it can stake out an independent stance. These issues are undoubtedly important and are bound to be considered when specific problems come to the fore. But the window of strategic opportunity now open to India is a larger one.

 

The nub of the matter is how we understand the markers of power. Great powers do have the capacity to impose (by whatever means) their wishes on other states; but they also have the ability to control which issues actually come up for discussion in international institutions. As anyone who has chaired a meeting knows, setting the agenda is as important as prevailing in the discussion itself. The use of "hard" and "soft" power certainly enables a great power to influence the behaviour of other states. But much of its influence also flows from its ability to create or reinforce political norms and practices that shape other states' choices and conduct.

 

Our own history of involvement in the UN suggests ways in which we can leverage this dimension of power. Indeed, Jawaharlal Nehru's approach to the organisation drew on this insight into the multi-dimensional character of power. The "Kashmir question" casts a long shadow on any discussion of Nehru's India and the UN. But there were significant, and now forgotten, successes as well.

 

As vice-president of the interim government constituted in September 1946, Nehru paid considerable attention to the UN. His views on the UN were quite pragmatic. He recognised that the structure of the UN accorded a privileged position to the great powers of the day. Yet he thought that the veto was an essential concession for the viability of the UNSC. At the same time, Nehru believed that the UN afforded an opportunity for India both to position itself as a major actor and to transform key aspects of the existing international system.

 

From the outset, he felt that India should be elected a non-permanent member of the UNSC: India should put forward its case for election "even if we fail in getting elected, the very fact that we have put out a strong case will influence world opinion and raise India in the eyes of the world". The major issue where he wished India to frame a new agenda was on the position of the colonised territories. Nehru was well aware that the UN Charter was biased in favour of preserving the position of the major imperial powers. Two issues gave Nehru the opportunity he was looking for to change the agenda.

 

The first was the enactment by South Africa of a law that virtually segregated the Indians living in that country. India claimed that the treatment of Indians in South Africa was incompatible with the latter's obligations under the UN Charter. But Article 2(7) of the UN Charter proscribed interference in matters falling under a state's "domestic jurisdiction".

 

When the issue came up for discussion, the US, Britain, South Africa and other Commonwealth states wanted to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice. On Nehru's instructions, the Indian delegation insisted that the matter was a political not legal one. This stance resonated with several members of the General Assembly. Eventually, when India's motion was put to vote, it was upheld by a comfortable majority.

 

The second issue in which India played an important role concerned the future status of south-west Africa.

South Africa sought to annex this erstwhile League of Nations "mandate". Significant opposition, however, came from other African states. India was forthcoming in its support for the cause. The Indian delegation energetically opposed the annexation of any "mandate". Instead it demanded UN trusteeship based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people. These efforts paid off. When the issue came up for discussion in the General Assembly, the great powers backed off and South Africa was asked to come up with trusteeship arrangements.

 

India's stance on the Korean War was another case in point. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, India

went along with the UN resolutions blaming North Korea for the attack, demanding the cessation of hostilities

and the restoration of status quo ante. But Nehru declined to send troops to fight as part of the UN Command.

His efforts to convince the international community to take into account the role and interests of China in the conflict met with considerable disdain in Western capitals. But once the US and its allies were bogged down in the armistice negotiations, India's ideas for breaking the deadlock were welcomed. What's more, India was asked to chair the international commission on repatriation of prisoners.

 

Sixty years on, India's is a much stronger player on the international stage. Yet in its quest for major power status it can learn a thing or two from its past. The key point is that the power of argument is as important as the argument of power. Two years at the UNSC will hopefully provide ample opportunity to hone our skill in setting the agenda of world politics.

 

- Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GERMANY GETTING QUEASY AGAIN

BY SIDHARTH BHATIA

 

Immigration, ethnic minorities, assimilation, always hot subjects in Europe are back in the news. The German Chancellor, Ms Angela Merkel's forthright and somewhat shocking statement declaring multiculturalism a failure in her country and demanding that minorities integrate with the population has brought this sensitive topic to the forefront in a controversial way.

 

Much of Europe is composed of nation-states formed of populations of similar ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds and while differences do exist, the vast majority is alike, in religion and language. Not surprisingly, "outsiders" always stand out and ahave to face hostility.

 

The degree of discomfort in European nations differs, but arguably the one country that has had the most problems with such minorities is Germany. The most extreme case of discrimination against minorities in Germany in the 20th century is all too well known, but even post-World War II, the divided country could not reconcile itself with the idea of thousands, and later hundreds of thousands of seemingly different people living in it. It imported thousands of Turks as temporary labour in its companies and called them gastarbieters, or guest workers, who would go back to their homeland in a couple of years after making some money. The inevitable happened and many of these Turks stayed back.

 

Germany did not give them citizenship and even children born to such immigrants were not made fully German, gaining only a kind of resident permit. Today, the immigrant Turkish population has reached 3.5 million and has been joined by many more from other countries, including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and many African countries. Germany is no longer the all-German country it used to be.

 

This naturally makes people uncomfortable and provides fodder for right-wing groups in the country. Mainstream politicians know they have to tackle the issue but tend not to take extreme stands, not the least because they do not want to lose the support of minority groups. Chancellor Merkel's declaration is thus unique. She has declared that multiculturalism in Germany has "utterly failed" and the approach in which different cultures live side by side "should be abandoned". "Those who do not accept this have no place here", she has stated bluntly.

 

Though Germany has no multiculturalism to speak of, at least not in the way it is practiced in Britain or Canada, it still has tried to live with its ethnic minorities. What she is saying is that the minorities have failed to assimilate and by holding on to their own cultures they are not "becoming German enough". The minorities complain that all attempts to integrate are rejected and they are constantly perceived as outsiders despite living there for three generations. With no citizenship, they had no incentive to learn German or become part of society. Both sides have their own take on it, but the context and sub-text is unmistakable: the Muslims of the country stand out and by insisting on pushing their own culture and traditions, are a misfit in the predominantly Christian society.

 

Anti-immigrant (and minority) sentiment is growing elsewhere in the continent too. France's president Nicholas Sarkozy recently got into a spat with the European Union for his policy in throwing out Roma (gypsies) from his country though under European Union rules they had a perfect right to be there. Populations across Europe are greying and even falling. Most countries need workers and young people to keep the economy humming. So many governments come up with plans to woo skilled migrants and turn a blind eye to illegal ones who work in farms and low-paying jobs. Germany's ambitious scheme to bring in Indian techies failed because migrants felt uncomfortable with the local language and customs. Yet, European nations have not been able to come up with an immigration policy, like Canada or Australia, which lets in qualified foreigners and allows them to settle down legally and with dignity.

 

We, in India, too have had to tackle anti-immigration sentiment, though, of course, our right-wing politicians tend to attack their own countrymen and women. With all our problems, we have come to understand that diversity is our strength. The situation in Europe, for a wide variety of reasons, is very different and has led to brutalities on an unprecedented scale. Once again, the portents are not good. In the coming years, this conflict within European societies could become combustible. With the economy faltering and jobs becoming scarcer, there is a temptation for even sober, mainstream politicians to join the anti-minority brigade. Ms Merkel, who may or may not have taken this step due to her own political compulsion, has now opened a Pandora's Box which will be difficult to shut.

 

- The writer is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

VANISHING WARTS & VOTES

NITISH KUMAR IS PSEUDO-SECULARIST

PREM KUMAR MANI

 

At a time when the politics of parody is the order of the day in Bihar, how do you expect "principle" to stand scrutiny? In the '90s, Lalu Prasad Yadav arrested L.K. Advani during the latter's "rath yatra", and now Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who cannot arrest the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, is trying to match his arch rival in wooing Muslim votes by seeking to block the senior BJP leader from campaigning in areas with a dense Muslim population, and blocking some other BJP leaders altogether.

 

Mr Kumar wants to look "secular" at a time when he is running the government with the support of the BJP. As a member of the ruling Janata Dal (United), I find nothing wrong in taking support from the BJP and running a coalition government. But to hide the BJP symbol and its leaders is a grossly unprincipled act and I wonder why the saffron party is allowing this to happen.

 

As far as Nitishji is concerned, he is a unique political character. He felt "at home" when he attended a BJP party meeting in Mumbai and shook hands with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Jalandhar after Lok Sabha polls concluded in the state last year. But when it comes to Patna, he has reservations about being associated with BJP stalwarts like Mr Advani and Mr Modi.

 

If Nitishji wants to be projected as "vikas purush" or a symbol of development, he should indeed learn a thing or two from the Gujarat chief minister. Mr Modi has enough in his kitty to share with the Bihar government and our man at the helm should utilise that.

 

The Bihar National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leadership's unprincipled act of blocking Mr Advani from campaigning in the first phase of elections only shows that the state's BJP leaders have become ideologically bankrupt.

 

Mr Kumar is indulging in reactionary politics, which has nothing to do with either ideology or principle. He should not forget the role Mr Advani played in propelling him to the leadership position in the NDA, and helping him in coming to power in Bihar. Mr Kumar had appreciated and supported Mr Advani when the BJP leader praised Jinnah.

 

Once Mr Advani coined the term "pseudo-secularism" to define the Congress and the Lalu-Mulayam brand of secularism. Now it seems that the term has made a full circle. The kind of secularism Nitishji is pursuing, I can safely say that for Muslims in the state he is a "pseudo-secularist". As the others, as per Mr Advani's definition, were pursuing pseudo-secularism to capture power, Nitishji is doing the same but the other way round.

 

Prem Kumar Mani, senior JD(U) leader & member of Legislative Council

 

NDA can't fool Muslim voters

 

Shakeel Ahmed

 

To begin with, you must have something of positive value, and when you depart from this people say you are wrong. This is why, by hiding senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani from Muslim voters, the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Bihar cannot be said to be doing something that is either right or wrong. As I see it, the electoral battle in Bihar is not around Mr Advani's name. If he couldn't campaign in Muslim areas for reasons of political expediency, this will have no impact at the level of principle, although all voters — Muslims and others, will draw the appropriate conclusion.

 

People say that the ruling NDA is making the saffron leader duck on account of his anti-Muslim image. And

this has forced the chief minister to deny the "state visa" to the former deputy Prime Minister in the first phase of polling. A similar hype to show chief minister Nitish Kumar as a secular leader had been created earlier in the case of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and BJP MP Varun Gandhi.

 

No doubt, Muslim votes are important for political parties, and all are out to grab them. But to get their votes you need to show some honesty. They are not fools. Bihar Muslims are politically very conscious and know what is good or bad for them.

 

Mr Nitish Kumar is running his government with BJP support, and at least five Rashtirya Swayamsevak Sangh's swayamsevaks are ministers, including Aswini Choubey, Nand Kishore Yadav and Giriraj Singh. They are no different from Mr Advani as far as ideology and political conduct is concerned.

 

Is this not enough to show how shallow the chief minister's secular credentials are? Mr Kumar and his party want to fool Muslims by creating a facade by objecting to one or another BJP leader. If Mr Kumar comes back to power, will he object to these same leaders coming to the state and savouring the state's hospitality?

 

For the BJP, the situation is no less ridiculous as it abides by Mr Kumar's diktat, especially in relation to its most revered leader. If the party cannot stand by its most senior leader, how can it remain loyal to the people of the state? All voters in Bihar, not just Muslims, are aware of this. They are not naive. They are able to see what is cooking in the NDA fold. The ruling alliance should not think it can fool voters by clamping down on Mr Advani. They are watching the developments and will give a befitting reply to Mr Kumar for his attempt to befool them.

 

(As told to Mukesh Ranjan)Dr Shakeel Ahmed, former Union minister and AICC spokesperson

 

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

EDITORIAL

WINDS OF CHANGE

'DEVELOPMENT IS THE DOMINANT THEME OF BIHAR.'

 

When the campaign for the first phase of Bihar's assembly elections has ended in 47 constituencies in the state's north-east which will go to the polls on Thursday, what is most striking is the shift in the electoral issues from the past. The polling process will stretch for a month through six phases till November 20 and the campaign now under way in the rest of the state also follows the themes set in the first phase. Whatever be the people's verdict in the elections, chief minister Nitish Kumar, who heads the JD(U)-BJP alliance in the state, has succeeded in setting the agenda for the campaign. The issues now dominating the campaign are development of the state and good governance as against considerations based on caste and religion which have been the bane of Bihar's politics and elections for decades.


Bihar has made remarkable economic progress in the last five years and is in the forefront of states which have recorded over 10 per cent growth. There is good infrastructure development with improved roads and other communication facilities. The law and order situation is much better with crime rates falling all over the state. Nitish has rightly claimed credit for these achievements, especially presenting a contrast with the performance of the state during the rule of his arch rival and RJD leader Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi. Nitish has also been careful to distance himself from the politics of his alliance partner in a state where the Muslims  account for 15 per cent of the electorate. He objected to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi campaigning in the state. Even the BJP has stuck to the development theme, as the campaign speeches of senior leader L K Advani show. Last month's Ayodhya case verdict has also not become an electoral issue.


The alliance between the RJD and Ramvilas Paswan's Lok  Janshakti Party (LJP) has a substantial social base and Lalu Prasad would well take the credit for the empowerment of backward castes in the state. The election is politically crucial for Lalu who wants to make a comeback after years in the wilderness. The Congress,  which is no major player, has only the limited aim of improving its performance which will help it in the next Lok Sabha elections. The elections therefore are a test of the changing mood, and the question is whether the people would endorse Nitish's claim of credit.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ABANDONED CAUSE?

'RAJAPAKSA SEEMS AVERSE TO DEVOLUTION OF POWER.'

 

There has been little forward movement in the quest for a political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It is 17 months since the Sri Lankan government defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, removing an important obstacle in the way to a negotiated settlement to the conflict. However, the government has not come up with a clear plan for a political solution yet. Neither has it done much towards reconciliation with its Tamil people. While the government claims that rehabilitation is going well — Sri Lanka's external affairs minister G L Peiris has claimed that the number of displaced Tamils who need to be rehabilitated has come down from 2,80,000 to 20,000 — the situation on the ground is not that rosy. While India has contributed in a big way to the reconstruction of infrastructure in the North, it has done little to push President Mahinda Rajapaksa to find a political solution. Colombo has blamed divisions among the Tamils for the lack of progress in finding a political solution. While there are indeed differences on details between various Tamil parties, they are one in the perception that a solution lies in substantial devolution of power to the Tamils. However, the Rajapaksa government seems averse to devolution of power and is increasingly talking of sharing of power at the centre. It remains reluctant to move away from a unitary system of government.


The guns have been silent for over 17 months in Sri Lanka and  peace has taken hold. However, this peace is a negative one as it is not a just peace. Rights organisations have charged several in the Rajapaksa government with war crimes and demanded greater accountability on the part of the government. The government has responded by instituting an eye-wash of a probe.


Reconciliation will not be possible unless justice is done and a political solution found. Rajapaksa is dragging his feet on both fronts. He has the mandate and the support in parliament to resolve the ethnic conflict. His reluctance indicates the lack of political will. Rajapaksa is undeserving of the honour that India bestowed on him by inviting him as a guest of honour to the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony. In doing so, India has sent out a message that it has abandoned its long-standing commitment to a just settlement of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

INDIA'S LIMITED OPTIONS

BY HARSH V PANT


Obama has avoided talk of victory all along, suggesting that America needs a plan as to how to get out of Afghanistan.

 

Bob Woodward of the Watergate fame is back once again with his new book, 'Obama's Wars'. Despite the hype, there's nothing in the book that is really shocking or revelatory. There is no analysis, commentary or policy assessment in the book, only narrative and an unyielding focus on relationships among its principal subjects.

What Woodward lays bare, however, are rifts at the highest echelons on decision-making in Washington over America's mission and strategy in Afghanistan as well as vociferous and highly personal nature of policy disagreements.

Woodward's book is largely a near-verbatim account of US National Security Council meetings last fall where the administration hashed out its Afghanistan policy. It should come as no surprise to learn that the Obama administration was deeply divided and riven with suspicions. America's civilian and military leaders were divided on Afghanistan and the level of distrust between the two was so high that Obama ended up designing his own strategy.


Obama comes across as a cold, calculating decision-maker who ultimately decides to pander to his political base by including a deadline for withdrawal. He was frustrated with his military advisers who he felt were thwarting his search for an exit plan. In the end, all the US seems to have got is a plan to exit but no strategy to win the war.


Obama has been looking for a way out of Afghanistan ever since he took office. He has avoided talk of victory all along, suggesting that America needs a plan as to how to get out of Afghanistan.' Looking for an exit, Obama took the extraordinary decision in December 2009 of sending 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan along with the announcement of an American withdrawal from July 2011.


It is now clear that this decision has led American adversaries to conclude that they simply had to wait out the Americans as the President's heart is not in the war with no will to fight. What is equally confounding is the basis on which Obama made this decision. After repeatedly arguing during elections that Afghanistan was the 'good' war, the 'necessary' war, Obama started searching for an exit strategy because he couldn't "lose the whole Democratic Party." As Woodward argues, "He was looking for choices that would limit US involvement and provide a way out."


The shadow of Vietnam looms large over the debate on Afghanistan strategy. The US Vice President Joe Biden, is said to be "pessimistic and more convinced than ever that Afghanistan was a version of Vietnam." The President himself is reported to be so determined to avoid a Vietnam-like morass that he ends up writing his own strategy memo. An administration review of the Afghan war is scheduled for this December and it is unlikely to convince the Obama White House that America needs to win the war in Af-Pak.

Fear about Pakistan


Though Pakistan remains key to success in defeating the Taliban and eliminating al-Qaeda's activities in the region, the Obama administration has grown impatient with Pakistan for its foot-dragging against the militant sanctuaries in border areas. Fears about Pakistan — a nuclear power with a fragile civilian government, a dominant military and an intelligence service that sponsored terrorist groups — have shaped the trajectory of Obama's Af-Pak policy.

The US intelligence has been warning that not only does al-Qaeda and the Taliban continue to operate from safe havens within Pakistan but terrorist groups have also been recruiting westerners to wreak havoc in Europe and North America. 

 

For Obama the reason to create a secure, self-governing Afghanistan was to prevent the spread of the 'cancer' from Pakistan. Pakistan's main priority has been to take on its home grown branch of the Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP). But the links between TTP and other terrorist organisations are much too evident to ignore. The US has also pressured Pakistan on Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).


India will have to fight its own battles. The US will start moving out of Afghanistan next year. As a consequence, Indian footprint in Afghanistan should increase if it wants to preserve its vital interests. Pakistani military has become adept at the double game they are playing with Washington. It recognises that America's reliance on Pakistan is at an all time high and it will extract its pound of flesh from the West.


As the threat of instability increases, the centrality of Pakistani military is only likely to grow. And given the well-known anti-India views of Pakistani army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, New Delhi would be fooling itself if it believes that negotiations with Islamabad are likely to lead to any sort of a desirable outcome.

Much like General David Petraeus, many in India also continue to believe that America will retain a substantive presence in Afghanistan as long as the mess in Af-Pak is not sorted out. But Woodward makes it clear that this is a dramatic misreading of President Obama. He means when he says that America is not in the business of nation-building over the next 20 years.


India will be facing some tough choices in the coming months. It will have to raise its game if it wants to retain any relevance in the evolving strategic milieu in Af-Pak.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

CHINA'S RETALIATION: RARE AND FOOLISH

BY PAUL KRUGMAN, NYT


The embargo on rare earth exports to Japan was a blatant violation of inter-national trade law.

 

Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan's Coast Guard. Japan detained the trawler's captain; China responded by cutting off Japan's access to crucial raw materials.

And there was nowhere else to turn: China accounts for 97 per cent of the world's supply of rare earths, minerals that play an essential role in many high-technology products, including military equipment. Sure enough, Japan soon let the captain go.

 

I don't know about you, but I find this story deeply disturbing, both for what it says about China and what it says about us. On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of US policy makers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials. On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.

Some background: The rare earths are elements whose unique properties play a crucial role in applications ranging from hybrid motors to fibre optics. Until the mid-1980s the United States dominated production, but then China moved in.


Competition
"There is oil in West Asia; there is rare earth in China," declared Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's economic transformation, in 1992. Indeed, China has about one-third of the world's rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs — reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards — allowed China's producers to undercut the US industry.


You really have to wonder why nobody raised an alarm while this was happening, if only on national security grounds. But policy makers simply stood by as the US rare earth industry shut down. In at least one case, in 2003 — a time when, if you believed the Bush administration, considerations of national security governed every aspect of US policy — the Chinese literally packed up all the equipment in a US production facility and shipped it to China.


The result was a monopoly position exceeding the wildest dreams of West Asian oil-fuelled tyrants. And even before the trawler incident, China showed itself willing to exploit that monopoly to the fullest. The United Steelworkers recently filed a complaint against Chinese trade practices, stepping in where US businesses fear to tread because they fear Chinese retaliation. The union put China's imposition of export restrictions and taxes on rare earths — restrictions that give Chinese production in a number of industries an important competitive advantage — at the top of the list.


Then came the trawler event. Chinese restrictions on rare earth exports were already in violation of agreements China made before joining the World Trade Organisation. But the embargo on rare earth exports to Japan was an even more blatant violation of international trade law.


Oh, and Chinese officials have not improved matters by insulting our intelligence, claiming that there was no official embargo. All of China's rare earth exporters, they say — some of them foreign-owned — simultaneously decided to halt shipments because of their personal feelings towards Japan. Right.

So what are the lessons of the rare earth fracas?


First, and most obviously, the world needs to develop non-Chinese sources of these materials. There are extensive rare earth deposits in the US and elsewhere. However, developing these deposits and the facilities to process the raw materials will take both time and financial support. So will a prominent alternative: 'urban mining,' aka recycling of rare earths and other materials from used electronic devices.


Second, China's response to the trawler incident is, I'm sorry to say, further evidence that the world's newest economic superpower isn't prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status.


Major economic powers, realising that they have an important stake in the international system, are normally very hesitant about resorting to economic warfare, even in the face of severe provocation — witness the way US policy makers have agonised and temporised over what to do about China's grossly protectionist exchange-rate policy. China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear — if denied — violation of international trade law.


Couple the rare earth story with China's behaviour on other fronts — the state subsidies that help firms gain key contracts, the pressure on foreign companies to move production to China and, above all, that exchange-rate policy — and what you have is a portrait of a rogue economic superpower, unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

BONDS OF STEEL

BY NAVARATNA LAXMAN


The Russian families alloyed themselves with Indian culture with ease.

 

Having spent nearly all my professional life in the service of Bhilai steel plant in central India I cannot help recollecting at this post-Ayodhya juncture the manner in which we steel-men observed and followed religious concepts. The giant steel plant, replete with every conceivable cutting-edge technology, with a work force of over 60,000 from practically every part of the country, is a world by itself. Being an integrated steel plant, its complex operations are fraught with potential hazards at every step. Outside the plant premises we were Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc, with our respective religious shrines adorning our vast township; once inside the plant, our religion was just one, ie, the 'karmachari' religion and our faith (dharma) was one, ie, the 'suraksha' dharma! And our common objective? Production of rated capacity steel of highest quality to meet the global competition.

This was how religion was practised in Bhilai — our own mini-India. For each one of us — be it an engineer, doctor, administrator or a field worker — their profession in the respective field was considered a holy commandment. The home-maker, too, had her own responsibility which she religiously shouldered in bringing up her children in the cosmopolitan ambience while preparing them to face the competitive world.

Let this not give an impression that we steel-men lived a mechanical, robotic life. It was indeed an enviably colourful one! Every linguistic group had its own cultural association which actively organised quality cultural programmes on a regular basis providing ample scope for the talented ones to display their abilities, besides giving an opportunity for members of other regions to have an insight into its rich cultural heritage — thereby bringing out a delightful rainbow glimpse of mini-India. Bound by abiding friendship each one participated in the religious festivals of the other with absolutely no inhibition and stood by one another in happy as well as sad events with utmost involvement and concern as would happen only in a well-knit joint family, irrespective of religious affiliations.


Since this plant was constructed with Soviet collaboration we had a good number of Russian experts and their families who alloyed themselves with Indian culture with remarkable ease and relish, enabling the formation of an Indo-Soviet cultural forum, adding further to the cosmopolitan and truly secular character of the township.
If the above scenario of happy co-existence — which continues to this day there — could prevail at the national level, could there be any issues, even those involving deeply religious connotations, that cannot be sorted out amicably?

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

DISGRACEFUL REJECTION OF A LATTER-DAY RUTH

 

Descendants of Holocaust victims should be welcomed among us with open arms.

The Biblical Ruth endeared herself to the Jewish people and embodies our acceptance of foreigners who link their lot with ours. Ruth tugged at our collective heartstrings when she said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." (Ruth 1:16–17).


This selfless, evocative declaration of allegiance sufficed for welcoming Ruth into the fold of ancient Israel. But were Ruth's story transported to our day, Israel's Ministry of the Interior would disdainfully reject her application under the Law of Return.

 

This is precisely what is befalling a latter-day Ruth who altruistically left comfortable and peaceful Switzerland to live a likely less comfortable life in not-always- peaceful Israel.


As The Jerusalem Post's Ruth Eglash revealed in Wednesday's paper, Interior Ministry functionaries are about to refuse the aliya application of pediatric nurse Monique Martinek, who left the Alpine serenity of Switzerland last April and has been studying Hebrew here ever since. She decided on the move after having discovered that her paternal grandmother was murdered by the Nazis in 1941 Vienna.


Martinek researched her roots in Austria's National Archives and uncovered, among other documents, a Third Reich-issued identification card categorizing her grandmother and great-grandmother as Jews. She likewise found the great-grandmother's grave in a local Jewish cemetery.

NONE OF this could sway ministry officials. Instead of being impressed with a young Swiss professional's fervent resolve to dwell with her slain grandmother's people, they characteristically nitpicked with all the petty antagonisms for which the Shas-run bureaucracy has become so infamous.


The ministry men discovered small print on one of the documents noting that the grandmother testified that she had practiced Roman Catholicism. At the time, plenty of Jews asserted likewise in the vain hope that they might thereby avoid some measure of persecution.


Invariably this had no effect upon the Nazis, though they methodically registered whatever claims desperate Jewish supplicants made.


That the officialdom of the Jewish state should seize on a notation at the bottom of a Nazi document to renege on Martinek's rights under Law of Return is particularly cynical and coldhearted. Martinek's grandmother was Jewish enough to be put to a premature death due to her lineage but isn't Jewish enough to satisfy Eli Yishai's subordinates.

This must outrage each and every Jew in this country, regardless of politics or degree of religiosity. This is spine-chilling callousness.

Moreover, ministerial scrutiny is not evenhandedly applied to all halachically non-Jewish immigrants who enter Israel under the Law of Return. This seminal law accords automatic Israeli citizenship to anyone with even a single Jewish grandparent.


It is this law which brought to Israel during recent decades hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, mostly from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. In many cases, their ties to the Jewish people are much more tenuous and far less verifiable than Martinek's.Jewish Agency emissaries have been accused of recruiting Russian-speaking aliya candidates with only the vaguest of hearsay assumptions about a Jewish grandparent.


The Falash Mura of Ethiopia have even less of a connection.


COULD IT be that Martinek is discriminated against because she is on her own and not backed by one of the large vociferous immigrant lobbies and their political patrons? But Martinek's case is not an individual travail. Europe, especially countries like Poland, has thousands of Jews who grew up as children in non- Jewish care and only belatedly were apprised of their tragic origins. The offspring of many hidden Jews now wish to make their home among us.


Will we spurn them, as we have Martinek? That would be a grievous and unforgivable sin.


If Martinek indeed takes her case to the Supreme Court, we wish her unequivocal success. She and other descendants of Holocaust victims should be welcomed among us with open arms and embraced with all the affection reserved for Ruth.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

ON PEACE, LEBANON, IRAN AND GILAD SCHALIT

BY MERON REUBEN  

 

The new Israeli ambassador to the UN gives his first speech at the Security Council.

Excerpted from the speech the ambassador gave on Monday


I wish to state the profound and enduring wish of my nation to establish peace with the Palestinians. A peace based on security and mutual recognition. A peace that will ensure prosperity for our two peoples.

Peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations and compromise from both sides.

Israel has continued to show that it is willing to take bold measures and make difficult decisions in pursuit of peace.

To this end, Israel helped encourage impressive growth in the Palestinian economy, removing hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank. We took this action despite legitimate security concerns and continued terrorism.


With a heavy heart, Israel put in place a self-imposed and unprecedented 10-month moratorium on settlement construction.

We are hopeful that the Palestinians will take the measures necessary for peace. After refusing to engage in direct negotiations for nine months during the moratorium, the Palestinians – who at first belittled the gesture – now demand its extension as a precondition for continuing talks.


Settlements are one of many issues that need to be resolved in final status negotiations. History has shown that they do not stand in the way of making peace – as seen by peace agreements that were achieved with Egypt and Jordan.

Furthermore, when Israel dismantled all of its settlements in the Gaza Strip, it received terrorism and rocket fire on towns and communities in return.


Israel welcomes the extremely important efforts of the US administration to promote peace and security in the region.

In this regard, the US is closely engaged with Israel and other parties to get direct talks back on track.

In looking for a way forward, we must build any future agreement on the principles of mutual recognition and security.

A request that Israel recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people must be met with an acknowledgement that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. After generations of conflict, mutual recognition will be essential in overcoming a long history of incitement, combating terrorism and establishing peaceful coexistence between our two peoples.


Any peace agreement must also clearly address Israel's security concerns with strong arrangements in the field. The diverse and dangerous threats facing Israel remain significant.

With support from the Iranian and Syrian regimes, extremist terrorist organizations in the region continue to rearm and stage attacks on Israeli civilians. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip remains an epicenter for terror and a launching ground for continuous rocket attacks against Israel. In Lebanon, the Hizbullah terrorist organization serves as a constant obstacle to peace and security for all in the region.


Establishing peace will require more than declarations or signatures on a piece of paper, it will necessitate concrete actions on the ground. With this in mind, the wider Arab world must also show Israelis and people around the globe that its declarations of peace will extend beyond words – and translate into deeds.


THE UNSC will discuss in detail the implementation of Resolution 1701 in a few weeks, but in advance of that discussion I would like to share a few thoughts about the continued challenges emanating from Lebanon, where radical forces continue to pose a threat to stability in the region.

 

As we approach the upcoming report on Resolution 1701, it remains clear that Hizbullah continues to build up its military capabilities and armaments, acquiring sophisticated weaponry and missiles from its Iranian and Syrian patrons.


Its deadly rearmament endangers Lebanon itself as well as the wider Middle East. This terrorist organization continues to deploy weapons and builds its military infrastructure throughout the civilian villages of southern Lebanon, adjacent to schools, hospitals, houses of worship and residential buildings.

Evidence of this phenomenon can be found in a series of explosions of Hizbullah weapons caches south of the Litani River over the past 15 months. The last such explosion took place in the Lebanese village of Sheabiyya on September 3.


Unfortunately, despite having real-time information about all of these incidents, the Lebanese Armed Forces did not intervene in a timely or robust manner. Furthermore, there is clear proof that Hizbullah removed evidence from all of these sites.


Its provocations and continued rearmament must not go unanswered by the Security Council, which has repeatedly and clearly stipulated that this terrorist organization must disarm and disband as a key issue addressed in Resolution 1701.


We also call on the Syrian government to refrain from engaging in actions that destabilize the region. While Syria claims to seek peace, it continues to support terror. There are numerous indications that the Syrian regime is hosting Hizbullah training camps inside of its territory, including locations where operatives receive training on missiles and other weapons. This reflects just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Syria's extensive support for terrorism in the region.


If Syria truthfully wants to embrace the full spirit of peace, it must completely abandon its support for terror.

LET ME now turn to the greatest danger facing the Middle East and the world: Iran. The visit last week of Iran's president to Lebanon underscores the destabilizing impact of this extremist regime in our region. A leader that denies the Holocaust, promotes conspiracy theories about the September 11 terrorist attacks and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, Iran's president only advances the causes of destruction and instability.

His regime's support provides a lifeline to the terrorist organizations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, which could not exist without Iran. Relying on these proxies, Iran seeks to foil any movement toward rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians as well as other parties in the region. Thus, in searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians we must also confront this threat with firm resolve.


I would like to note that while Iran's president and his extremist allies seek to impose fear, bloodshed and jihad on the population of Lebanon, there are many other voices in the region. An open letter to President Ahmadinejad that was recently published in the Lebanese media offers an example of one such voice. One passage reads: "You are attempting to interfere, just like others that came before you, in our affairs, where foreign interference was just to use Lebanon internally; the big slogans and the good intentions could not decorate or block the actual truth of this use."

Even more alarming than its continued support of terror is Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities.

Such behavior endangers not only our region, nor merely a specific group of countries. It endangers us all – and must continue to be met by strong and effective action.


My comments would be incomplete without expressing our ongoing deep concern that for more than four years our kidnapped soldier, Gilad Schalit, has remained deprived of his most basic human rights, including any visit from the Red Cross. Israel expects the international community to do all in its power, and more than has been done thus far, to bring about his swift release.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

MORE FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

BY D. BLOOMFIELD  

 

Illinois's Ninth Congressional District race between two Jewish candidates should be one of the most closely watched contests this fall.

 

Nowhere are Republican efforts to transform support for Israel from a long-standing bipartisan national consensus into a divisive partisan wedge issue more on display than in Illinois's Ninth Congressional District race.

Since both candidates are Jewish and pro-Israel, Republican challenger Joel Pollak can't call the incumbent, Rep. 
Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, an anti-Semite or an enemy of Israel, so he accuses her of cavorting with them.

 

Specious charges like that plus over-the-top rhetoric earned him rebukes from both Chicago newspapers, which emphatically endorsed Schakowsky for a seventh term.


Schakowsky, 66, represents Chicago's North Side and northern suburbs, including Skokie and Evanston. She was born, raised and had her bat mitzva in the ninth district, which is about 10 percent Jewish and has a large number of Holocaust survivors. Pollak, 33, who is Orthodox, was born in South Africa, emigrated to the US in 1977 and became a citizen 10 years later.


He has been endorsed by the Tea Party movement and she by J Street, the pro- Israel/pro-peace lobby, and the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs, a Chicago-based pro- Israel/pro-women's rights group, and that tells much of what separates them.


Pollak's penchant for name-calling led the Chicago Tribune to tell him to "dial down the disdain for people who disagree with him."


And the Chicago Sun- Times chided him for his "right-wing scornful rhetoric" and called him an opportunist .


Undeterred, he has continued to attack his opponent as "the most extreme left-wing member of Congress," "the #1 biggest spender in the House of Representatives," the "worst in the House on economic growth and national security," a "hypocrite" and an "ideologue" who "represents the worst of Washington."


POLLAK BOASTS of endorsements by Tea Party groups; the notorious Islamophobic blogger Pamela Geller; Alan Dershowitz, his former Harvard professor; and Rep.


Paul Ryan, the GOP's new economic voice who advocates draconian cuts in federal spending that would shred the social safety net, replace progressive income tax with flat tax, privatize social security, replace Medicare insurance with a voucher system and repeal the health care reform law.


Pollak and Schakowsky also differ on immigration, the minimum wage, climate change, gun control, abortion, the Iraq war and taxing the wealthy.


But instead of honing in on these issues, Pollak has chosen to focus most of his energy on attacking Schakowsky as weak on her support for Israel although the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has praised her "excellent record" and the Chicago Sun-Times said his attempts to portray her "overwhelmingly strong pro- Israel voting record" as anything less are "nonsense."


His strategy may be understandable in light of a conservative agenda that seems out of step with much of the district that has been sending liberals to Congress since before either candidate was born.


Pollak's tactics are founded less on facts than on a Republican strategy of turning support for Israel into an emotionally charged partisan wedge issue.


Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren has called this Jew-vs.-Jew strategy harmful to his country's interest in building broad bipartisan support. A non- Jewish politico following the race said that Pollak risks opening rifts in the Jewish community that "create opportunities for non-Jews to be more anti- Israel."


One big reason Republicans are trying to "out- Israel" Democrats is because they have so few other issues appealing to Jewish voters and they carry the baggage of the radicals of the religious right and the Tea Party.


Even in this year of recession, frustration and antiincumbent anger, the latest American Jewish Committee poll of Jewish voters shows that despite some decline, they still prefer the Democrats by a margin of three-to-one.


In recent election cycles, GOP outreach groups, particularly by the Republican Jewish Coalition, have spent millions on fear and smear campaigns to paint Democrats as soft on Israel, if not outright dangerous.


Their bitter anti-Obama campaign in 2008 backfired, actually enhancing support for the Democratic presidential nominee in places like Florida.


Pollak accuses Schakowsky of supporting anti-Israel groups, cozying up to Israel's foes and people like President Barack Obama, who Pollak told me "has not behaved" as a friend of Israel but instead has "made it acceptable to hate Israel."


Pollak has been scornful of Schakowsky's support from J Street. When I asked him about his support for the peace process, he questioned Palestinian leaders' commitment to peace, saying it is "not a priority" for them.


He sounds to the right of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and more like his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who says he's in favor of peace, but not for the foreseeable future and not before the Palestinians meet his standards of good behavior.


This should be one of the most closely watched races this fall, a test of whether divisive GOP tactics on the Israel issue can sway Jewish voters – and whether those voters will be turned off by a raging Tea Party movement, as most analysts predict.


bloomfieldcolumn @gmail.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

BARACK OBAMA'S PLUMMETING SUPPORT AND US JEWS

BY ISI LEIBLER  

 

The findings of two recent opinion polls conclusively demonstrate that assertions that US Jews are becoming disenchanted with the Jewish state are unfounded.

 

For months, even years, the media have been feeding us gloomy reports about how American Jews are becoming disenchanted with Israel, alleging that indifference and even hostility were rampant.


Misnamed "pro-peace, pro- Israel" organizations like J Street claimed to have achieved dramatic inroads among young people allegedly alienated by "right-wing Israeli policies" or the "hawkish" pro-Israel lobby. This theme has been repeated so frequently that it became ingrained in the public consciousness.

 

The findings of two recent opinion polls conclusively demonstrate that these assertions are unfounded.


The American Jewish Committee survey just released clearly reveals that American Jews remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel (69 percent stating that they felt close to it).


Amazingly, the majority (62%) even support the left's bogeyman, "right-wing" Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – a 5% increase since the last poll taken in March. Support for Netanyahu would have been even higher had it not been for opposition from some hard-line Orthodox respondents who presumably felt that he was too accommodating toward US President Barack Obama.


Ironically, American Jewish approval of Netanyahu today is higher than that of Obama, whose approval rating on the issue of USIsrael relations has sunk to as low as 49% with 45% disapproving of his performance. The rapid plummet of Jewish support for Obama – 78% of whom voted for him during the elections – is indicated by his dramatic decline since the March AJC poll which then showed a 55% approval rating and 37% disapproving.

This confirms that many American Jews were shocked with the public disagreements and shameful manner in which Obama treated Israel and now regret having voted for him. Nor were they impressed with his superficial charm offensive toward Israel which failed to overcome their suspicion that he intends to continue acting in a biased manner and applying double standards toward Israel. In contrast to Kadima, American Jews blame Obama, not Netanyahu, for the erosion of USIsrael relations.


That only 51% support Obama's reelection is unprecedentedly low for Jews who traditionally have overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party. Indeed it represents a sea change with as many as 33% of American Jews responding that the nation would be better off with a Republican dominated Congress.


THERE ARE of course caveats to this. The anti-Obama mood of the Jewish community also reflects the broad American resentment of his handling of other issues, especially the administration's failure to restore the economy.

American Jewry's long-standing commitment to liberalism still inhibits most of them from severing their political umbilical cord with the Democratic Party. Thus, while in reply to one question they condemn Obama's approach toward Israel, in another response 49% still approve of his administration's handling of US-Israel relations, while 45% disapprove.

Moreover, despite clearly resenting most of his policies, 51% still gave him an overall positive rating.


The confusion is exemplified by the fact that a majority of Jews (52%) even support the controversial Arizona law to curb illegal immigration, with only 46% opposing it.


However, it is indisputable that there has been dramatic erosion in Jewish support for Obama and his administration. David Harris, the CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (not to be confused with David Harris of the AJC), conceded that most Jewish voters are traditionally inclined towards the Democratic Party, but "need to be comfortable that their candidates support Israel" before "they move on to other issues."


Another falsehood exposed is the repeated assertion by the media and left-wing academics that Jews at the grassroots level are far more dovish than their allegedly hawkish leaders.


The survey indicates that the reverse applies.


The AJC survey reports that 95% of American Jews believe that the Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; 76% believe that the goal of the Arabs is the destruction of Israel rather than return of the occupied territories; 60% say Israel should not agree to any division of Jerusalem and must retain it as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction, while only 35% are in favor of ceding sections of the city to the Palestinians; and 70% support Israeli military action against its adversaries.


An even more extraordinary statistic is that no less than 45% actually oppose the creation of any Palestinian state, with only 48% supporting it. No less revealing is that whilst 62% favor the dismantling of some settlements, 37% totally oppose the disassembling of any settlement.


ANOTHER POLL by McLaughlin and Associates also refutes the allegation that that the American public is turning against Israel. It reveals that as many as 93% of those polled felt that the US should be concerned with the security of Israel, a tribute to the decency of the American people.


Over half said that their elected representatives should be pro-Israel and that they would not vote for a candidate who was anti-Israel, even if they agreed with other policies he was promoting.


However, the growing divide in attitudes toward Israel between the Democrats and the Republicans is disconcerting because it threatens to undermine the long-term bipartisan approach which traditionally prevailed. Whereas 40% of Democratic voters are likely to support a pro-Israel candidate, as many as 33% are less likely. In contrast, close to 70% of Republicans are more likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate with only 15% less inclined to do so. This reflects alarming trends with conservatives strengthening their support while liberals are drifting away from Israel.


But despite the doomsayers and contrary to the disinformation disseminated by the Left, the survey confirms that Americans remain overall strongly supportive of Israel. The survey also suggests that as many as 46% of American Jews would even consider voting against Obama.


This demonstrates the absurdity of the claims by J Street and other far left-wing groups that they represent a sizable proportion of the Jewish community. In fact, it suggests that those American Jewish leaders who lacked the courage or were loath to condemn Obama's one-sided policies, failed to represent the views of their constituency.

But let us not be under any illusions.

The road ahead will be difficult.


The Obama administration appears determined to pursue a policy of pressuring Israel to revert to the 1949 armistice lines and demanding further concessions without reciprocity. If it is willing to even condemn us now for construction in the exclusively Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, we should grit ourselves for what will come after November 2.


Perhaps in the light of these polls, more American Jewish leaders will be encouraged to follow the example of ADL leader Abe Foxman, who was the first of only a handful of Jewish leaders with the courage to speak out against the bullying tactics and double standards being applied by the Obama administration.


The role of Jewish leadership after the congressional elections may be crucial should Obama, as many predict, be inclined to intensify his onesided pressures.


ileibler@netvision.net.il

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

RATTLING THE CAGE: FORCING ARABS TO BE ZIONISTS

BY LARRY DERFNER  

 

Zionism is a political ideology. Making people swear loyalty to a political ideology as a condition of citizenship is as anti-democratic as it gets.

 

There is a name for people who believe the Jews are entitled to a state of their own in the Land of Israel, who believe that the State of Israel is rightfully a Jewish state and should remain one. They are called "Zionists."

The new thing in Israel is to force Arabs who live in this land to declare that they are Zionists, too.

 

Whether they're Palestinians in the West Bank who want to be free of armed Israeli control, or they're Arabs who want to marry Israeli citizens and make their lives in this country, first they have to say publicly that they're Zionists – they have to recognize, accept, affirm that Israel is a Jewish state. Any Palestinian who wants to negotiate freedom and independence from Israel, any Arab who wants to become a citizen alongside his or her Israeli spouse, has to first raise his or her hand for the Jewish state, for the Zionist cause.


On the loyalty oath for new citizens, the government decided last week to require it only of naturalized citizens – i.e. gentiles, mainly Arabs, who marry Israelis and want to come live here. But this was so obviously unfair to Arabs, it played so badly overseas, that now the government wants to change it to require all new citizens, gentiles and Jews alike, to take the oath.


The new version is less obvious in its unfairness, but it's still completely unfair – this time to Jews as well as Arabs. Why does anybody have to be a Zionist to become an Israeli citizen? By saying that, the government is saying about one-third of the population – including virtually all the Arabs and haredim, along with a small minority of secular Jews – don't deserve their citizenship. They don't belong in this country.


WHEN SUPPORTERS of the loyalty oath go on about how Israel is a democracy, I wonder what they could possibly mean. Zionism is a political ideology. Forcing people to swear loyalty to a political ideology as a condition of citizenship is about as anti-democratic as it gets.


On the demand that Palestinian negotiators recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it seems that the point of this is to close the loophole in the Palestinians' standing recognition of Israel, which is that they can still demand the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, which, if implemented, would spell the end of Israel.


But we've always insisted on the Palestinians giving up the right of return, or at least giving up the implementation of it, so why make it harder for them to reach an agreement with us – unless that's the point of this new demand? And that is the point of it, the whole point.


It was cooked up three years ago during the Annapolis peace talks by – who else? – cabinet ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai for the purpose of doing what they made no secret of wanting to do – hamstringing the Annapolis peace talks. Until three years ago, no Israeli government ever demanded that any Arab entity recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a condition for peace, but Lieberman and Yishai came up with a brilliant "motherhood and apple pie" issue that no loyal, patriotic Israeli could refuse to support.


Since then, a solid consensus has formed behind this novel idea that any Arab who wants something from Israel – say, freedom or citizenship – has to first show his respect by endorsing Zionism.

To discredit this policy, it should be enough to recall that its originators were Lieberman and Yishai. But evidently, this is not enough.


Millions of Jews who are wary of Lieberman and Yishai have signed on to the demand that Palestinian negotiators and prospective Israeli Arab citizens declare for Zionism.


The ironic thing is that it's not the Arabs who are being coerced by this attempt, it's the Jews. Arabs show no inclination ever to make any statement in favor of Israel as a Jewish state, yet Jews have fallen into line behind the spiteful, futile idea of forcing Arabs into it.


It's Jews who've been coerced into taking a loyalty oath – a new one. Once they had to swear that they'd never agree to a Palestinian state, then that they'd never agree to redivide Jerusalem, now it's that the Arabs have to become Zionists, or at least say they have.


The demands for Arab recognition of, or loyalty to, the Jewish state are expressions of the extreme national egocentrism that's been suffocating this country. If we're committed to keeping Israel Jewish, the Arabs have to be committed to keeping Israel Jewish, too, otherwise we can't trust them. If we say it's our right to build settlements, they have to say it's our right to build settlements, otherwise we can't trust them. If we say Jerusalem is our capital and not theirs, they have to say Jerusalem is our capital and not theirs, otherwise we can't trust them.


This is beyond egocentric, it's monomaniacal, autistic. I think it's fair to expect the Arabs to tolerate a Jewish state, to agree not to try to destroy it, but we shouldn't expect them to see the justice in it. That's for Zionists to see, and Arabs cannot be expected to be Zionists.


Unfortunately, Zionists, or most of us anyway, are the only people in the world who refuse to understand this.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

WHAT THE JEWS ARE TALKING ABOUT

 

At this week's JPPI Conference, delegitimization, Israel-Diaspora relations, "Who is Jew" and peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world are the main topics on the agenda.

 

Delegitimizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people 


Ever since its inception, Israel has faced a wall of alienation and delegitimization, mainly by its neighbors. Nevertheless, it managed to secure wide international acceptance as an undisputed fact and as a legitimate member of the family of nations.


Yet a little more than six decades later, delegitimization seems to be on the rise, progressing from the Middle East and the margins into the mainstream of international discourse. The manifestations of this phenomenon are numerous and they are gathering momentum to the extent that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called it a strategic threat. Concurrently, we are witnessing dangerous phenomena of delegitimization of the Jewish people and its connection to Israel, essentially touching upon critical questions such as is there a justification for the existence of a nation-state for the Jewish people.


It is a mistake to devalue delegitimization. The State of Israel and the Jewish people do not exist in a vacuum. Their robustness, strength and thriving rest on the acceptance of their legitimacy within their local and international environments. This phenomenon aims at Israel's international standing, its freedom to use military power to defend itself, its deterrent power, its economy, its sense of identity and its relationship with the Diaspora.

As the trend increases, spreads and becomes mainstream, its destructive power will increase and could gain strategic currency.


The present challenge is graver than the challenge we had known in the past, because this is a different world, less familiar with the legacy of the Bible and the horrors of the Holocaust, more "globalized" and focused on human rights in the international discourse. It is a multipolar (some say nonpolar) world of asymmetric warfare and new patterns of information generation and message absorption. Western culture – especially in Europe with its growing Muslim community – is reassessing the classic institution of the nation-state, and the world increasingly blames Israel for the violation of Palestinian human and national rights.


Clearly then, delegitimization phenomena must not be taken for granted, let alone ignored. Yet, in the face of it, Israel and Jewish leadership in the Diaspora seem to lack a clear strategy that can be translated into action plans.

At the moment, there are more questions than decisive answers.


Where, for example, is the line separating legitimate criticism of Israel and rejection of the legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish state? To what extent is delegitimization driven by Israel's image as a "peace naysayer" and to what extent is it driven by a desire to negate or revoke Israel's right to exist and defend itself? It is important to clarify to ourselves the extent to which, where and how, Israel and the Jewish people – together and through international partnerships within and outside the Jewish world – can affect the trend of delegitimization and reverse its course. Time is of the essence.

– Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute. The Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) has initiated a long-term strategic project on delegitimization phenomena. The discussion of this topic by a working group as part of JPPI's 2010 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People is designed to help formulate a conceptual framework for this project 


Fifteen points on Israel's national security challenges 


1. Deep conflict causes need time, understanding and coping. This includes violence accompanying the establishment of a new state (Israel), coping with Islamic traditions, clash of cultures, conflict over sacred ground and so on.


2. Reaching an agreement with main Islamic actors, or at least a modus vivendi, is very important and perhaps critical. Muslims constitute 23 % or the world population, Jews 0.2 %.


Islamic global power is increasing. Therefore, accommodation with Arab and Islamic states as a whole should be the goal of Israeli statecraft.


3. Without an agreement with main Islamic actors on the Holy Basin, no accommodation is possible.


Not recognizing this fact is a serious symptom of reality denial.

 


4. The Palestinians are not the core of the conflict, however important and, even more so, conspicuous.

"Two states" will be a component of every peace, but to benefit, Israelis must be component of a comprehensive agreement.


5. Only massive intervention with deep historic processes can achieve the critical mass needed to bend them into a desirable direction. The Arab-Israeli conflict has a robust core of violence. Only a large-scale peace can achieve the mass needed to bend the violence-prone processes into a peaceful direction. Agreement with the Palestinians is inadequate.


6. The real need is for a comprehensive Greater Middle East agreement within the context of Islamic states.


The lack of a fitting shift in Israeli statecraft following the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 was a serious error.


7. Within a comprehensive agreement, a Palestinian state is an essential component. But, by itself, it is not worth it. Israel has limited bargaining chips. They must be used to achieve a comprehensive peace. Otherwise Israel will give a lot without adequate benefits.


8. Active Jewish support towards Islam is needed. It is essential for peaceful co-existence, involving Diaspora support of Muslim communities and rights.


9. "Permanent" is a misnomer – "relatively stable" is the maximum. The Middle East is turbulent. Even if a "permanent agreement" is reached, its fragility must be recognized.


10. All statecraft is a fuzzy gamble. Therefore, success cannot be assured and preparations to cope with failure are essential. Israel needs military superiority and much support by the Diaspora for at least most of the 21st century.

11. An innovative Israeli statecraft violence paradigm is an essential counterpart. Israel's power should be re-directed to facilitating and stabilizing peace while hitting all who attack it.


12. Real and demonstrated Israeli capacity to thrive even without peace is essential. Paradoxically, demonstrated Israeli ability to flourish without peace, will make peace easier to achieve and stabilize.


13. Radical implications for the Jewish people are certain, whether the peace process succeeds or fails. The Jewish people have to adjust to the possibilities of both a Middle Eastern peace or a protracted bloody conflict.


14. Consultative serious discourse by Jewish people forums is urgent.


Israeli choices are of profound importance for the future of Judaism and the Jewish people. Israel must make the decisions, but after consultation with Diaspora leaders and organizations.


15. Jewish-Islamic and Israel-Arab relations are a long-term process to be understood and coped with as such. It will take another two generations until Israel's standing in the Middle East will be stabilized.


– Yehezkel Dror is a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the former founding president of JPPI. These points were prepared for the Conference based on his forthcoming book Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges and Responses (Routledge).

 

Will Muslim growth in Europe be a blessing or a curse for the Jewish people? 


Among the trends shaping the future of Europe, two interconnected ones, the growing Muslim presence and the emergence of opposing post-nationalistic xenophobia require special attention from Jewish people policy planners. These developments are of concern for the future of the Jewish people as a whole because, beyond their critical impact on the local Jewish communities, they act as historical precedents and announce situations that may further occur along additional horizons.


Following massive immigration and the failure of cultural and social integration, Muslim presence is transforming Europe. In a context of growing economic instability, social uncertainty, rapid globalization, technological developments, welfare state erosion and increasing social gaps, the presence of massive exogenous populations foments a growing popular resentment.


Islam is perceived as a heterogeneous component of the traditional European culture. Many Europeans feel that their core belief system is under threat and are reticent to accept Islamic practices in the public sphere. This year, anti-Islamic parties garnered 28% of the vote in traditionally tolerant Holland.


The presence of the tenfold more numerous Muslim populations affects the political, electoral, economic and even symbolic status of European Jewish communities. Moreover, in the context of the unresolved Israeli- Palestinian conflict, social jealousy and Muslim resentment toward the West, European Muslims regard Jews with hostility.


Do European Jews have any sway over this anger? This is less than certain.


Muslim antipathy primarily derives from geopolitical shifts: developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iranian nuclear ambitions and the consequent sanctions, reinforcement or dismantling of radical Islamic actors, the global status of Muslims and oil-producing countries. The resentment also has derived from specific European factors: migrant social integration policies and European attitudes regarding cultural relativism as well as Muslim migrant attitudes toward European enlightenment values.


The development of these attitudes will fundamentally depend on whether global geopolitical factors nurture a willingness to integrate into the general society among children of Muslim immigrants. All these factors, with the exception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are beyond the direct influence of Jewish people institutional actors. Jewish-Muslim dialogue and cooperative projects may eventually mitigate the impact the Muslim resentment, but this is mainly limited to the local and personal levels.


The radically opposing scenario will be a nationalistic reaction that will target Muslims and attempt to exclude them from leading positions. The Christian and nationalist movements, which seek to protect and defend Europe's Judeo-Christian and democratic heritage, are gaining audience and political support. A large part of this movement's activists oppose rampant multiculturalism, associate past European thriving with its core belief system and wish to preserve Europe's unique cultural character.


Many among them are aware of the Jewish sources of Christianity and are sympathetic to Jews and Israel. In a 20-year time frame, there is a wide spectrum of possible scenarios.

Muslims can and should be encouraged to become partners in our dream to reconstruct an open and pluralistic Europe.

– Dov Maimon is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute.


A fundamental solution to the 'conversion crisis' or a practical one? 


The difficulty of defining who is a Jew and, accordingly, the increasingly difficult task of agreeing upon the nature of the "gateway" to the Jewish people (conversion), has accompanied the Jewish people throughout history. From time to time a crisis erupts when a change in policy is made regarding the question of conversion.

Such a crisis recently arose in response to the attempt of Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, with the agreement of the haredi parties in the Knesset, to change the conversion law.


This recent attempt was met with great criticism on the part of Diaspora communities – alleging that the proposed bill will empower the Chief Rabbinate and its ability to enforce its agenda.


The first question that must be raised in every discussion related to conversion is whether to take a fundamental or practical approach. In other words, is there any point in a debate over the essence of conversion, which purports to suggest a formula for determining who is a Jew, or is it perhaps better to limit the discussion to the question of practical solutions while avoiding as much as possible fundamental questions that would inevitably lead to crisis? In this context, the Rotem bill offers an interesting "war game" model.


In a schematic description, this is the model: If the Rotem bill intends to solve a problem that requires an urgent solution (the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Israeli residents); and if it is possible to suggest a practical solution that would help alleviate the problem (privatized conversion by community rabbis, for instance); and if it is possible to arrive at a skeletal version of a solution that does not touch upon the fundamental issues (in this, the Rotem bill, in its final and tabled version, ultimately failed); then the skeletal, limited solution must be chosen.

Of course, the difficulty of making an unequivocal recommendation on this schematic model stems from the fact that in the Rotem bill war game, it turned out that even the skeletal model had vigorous opponents who might further thwart it in future iterations. In the case of the Rotem bill it was the haredi parties, but there are other possible skeletal models that other groups will likely oppose.


In a certain sense, the difficulty in constructing a consensual skeletal model derives from the fact that even practical solutions to the issue of conversion are always accompanied by priorities that reflect ideological viewpoints. Legislative action around the Rotem bill, carried, even in its skeletal version, the following beliefs: 


• Conversion of immigrants from the former Soviet Union is beneficial and important for the Jewish people. This is a belief that may inspire argument on the grounds that mass conversion of those who are not interested in keeping the mitzvot makes the very definition of a Jew superficial.


• The current conversion process is too strict, and a way must be found to create a more lenient procedure. This is an assumption that many rabbis will argue against.

 


• Rabbis recognized by the Chief Rabbinate are those authorized to convert.


This practice will also have opponents, even among Orthodox rabbis.


The practical reflects a priority of fundamentals, and therefore does not ensure a solution. The question whether to choose local, limited solutions – whose success is also not assured – over an attempt to resolve at least some of the fundamental problems is still open.


– Shmuel Rosner is a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute and a Jerusalem Post blogger.


Meaning and belonging in Israel and the Diaspora today 


The challenge of managing and deepening relationships between Israel and world Jewry has been with us for decades. Today far-reaching changes are being rung on these familiar questions.


For Diaspora Jews, Israel is one possible element of their Jewishness; for Israeli Jews, Jewishness is one possible element of their Israeliness.


What has changed? We live in an historical moment which complicates perhaps as never before relationships between the particular and the universal, the global and the local. The welter of forces to which we refer in shorthand as "globalization" and "the Internet" are collapsing distances and reconfiguring the very shape of identity.

Jewish identity itself is hard to define, but whatever it is, it is some synthesis of meaning and belonging, of finding and experiencing meaning – moral, religious, spiritual, social, cultural – in and through one's being attached to some larger entity, a people, land, civilization. Building that attachment in an age of discussion is a defining challenge of our time.


For younger Jews, particularly in the Diaspora, belonging as such, certainly as defined by external threats, is far less compelling than meaning.


What then can be done? We must work to increase the multilayered and crosshatched weave of connections between Jews everywhere, including between Israel and the Diaspora. The idea behind Birthright points a way – creating the framework for I-thou encounters between Jews and through the medium of Israel. Social media are fascinating and helpful but limited; even today there is no substitute for meeting and building face-to-face, through study, group projects and more.


On the political side, the challenge is how to keep discomfort or criticism from turning into estrangement. Though all politics are local, Jewish politics are global. Surveys show that the Israeli policies which most deeply disillusion and distance Jews, in particular younger Jews, are less those revolving around issues of territory and security as such and more those relating to the Jewish and democratic character of the state – such as "Who is a Jew?" and religious coercion (and now maybe loyalty oaths).


Jews who are fundamentally committed to Israel will not necessarily give any Israeli government a blank check, nor should they. But their criticisms will be rooted in engagement and care.


Efforts to strengthen Jewish identity abroad necessitate a parallel effort by Israelis to strengthen their own Jewish identity, awareness of their belonging to the Jewish people as a whole and familiarity with Jewish communities abroad. Without a shared cultural language, Israel and the Diaspora will simply talk past each other, if they talk at all.


– Yehudah Mirsky is a member of the Board of Yerushalmim, a fellow of the Jewish People Policy Institute and a Contributing Editor at Jewish Ideas Daily.

When our destiny is at stake 

Facing the enormous challenges, internal and external, of the Jewish people in 2010, it sometimes seems that looking at the 2030 time horizon is overly ambitious, a luxury we cannot afford. The Jewish People Policy Institute's 2010 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People focuses on some of the most daunting concerns in the Jewish world today while also bearing in mind the 2030 time horizon.


The most crucial process we are undergoing is the effort to achieve peace with our neighbors.


Even if at the end of the day the main responsibility for the Jewish character of the state, its capital city, the holy sites and its final borders rests on the shoulders of the elected leadership of Israel, the voice of the Jewish Diaspora cannot be ignored.


The Zionist movement, since its inception at the end of the 19th century, was based on the Jewish yearning for Jerusalem. Millions of Jews made the life decision to leave the countries in which they were born, their mother tongues and their cultural roots for the unknown Promised Land to live among their brothers. Millions of Jews who decided to remain where they were born and to be loyal to their countries, as they should, still face Jerusalem when in prayer or at least feel part of the Jewish civilization which has made a huge contribution to the whole of humanity.


For these reasons, prime ministers of Israel, have defined and represented it as the core state of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spelled it out when he declared, in his Bar-Ilan University speech last year his demand for a binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people as part of any final peace agreement. The Palestinian leadership's negative response and its echoes in the Arab League made Israelis suspicious that the Arabs are pushing a two-state solution, one Palestinian and the other a binational Israel. In their eyes this won't bring an end to the conflict.


But in this postcolonial era, when many other states are challenged by social, demographic and cultural shifts, the Israeli demand for a national Jewish identity is not easily digested. It fuels the delegitimization phenomenon not only in the Muslim world but also around the globe, and it's not only directed against Israel but against Jews wherever they are.


This may have a negative impact on Jewish identity and identification.


Jerusalem and the Jewish holy sites are not just an Israeli issue. We are a small people without a global Jewish structure to support our natural desires. There is no Jewish League to consult.


– Avinoam Bar-Yosef is the founding director of the Jewish People Policy Institute.
The 2010 Conference on the Future of the Jewish People is not convened to supersede the existing decision-making structures, but it may create, a roundtable to discuss the challenges faced today and to try to formulate a set of recommendations to keep us united when the destiny of our people is at stake.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

TURKEY, SYRIA CALL ON ISLAMIC NATIONS TO PRESSURE ISRAEL TO END GAZA OFFENSIVE

 

Diplomats say Syria has ruled out resumption of indirect talks with Israel any time soon.

 

The leaders of Turkey and Syria called on Arab and Islamic nations Wednesday to pressure Israel to end its air offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, warning the attacks undermine Mideast peace efforts.

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicked off a four-nation tour of the region to consult on ways to halt Israel's attacks that have killed more than 374 Palestinians and sparked street protests in Arab and Islamic nations.

 

Syria's official news agency SANA said Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad discussed ways to end the Israeli offensive, and both warned of the danger and consequences a continued aggression would have on the region.

 

The report said both stressed the impossibility of talking about any peace under Israeli stubbornness.

 

While in Damascus, it was not immediately known if Erdogan had met with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

 

After Syria, Erdogan visited Jordan later Wednesday and met with King Abdullah, according to a statement from the Royal Palace in Amman. Abdullah reiterated warnings the bombings would have dangerous repercussions on the peace process and urged the international community to move immediately to stop the attacks.

 

Erdogan travels on Thursday to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

 

Sources: Syria hesitant to pressure Hamas over Gaza conflict

 

Syria does not want to put pressure on Hamas in its conflict with Israel, diplomats said on Wednesday, although the Israeli assault on Gaza has harmed prospects for a Syrian-Israeli peace deal.

 

"Everyone wants this to end. The question is, how? Egypt and Saudi Arabia want Hamas to stop firing rockets, but given the ferocity of the Israeli response Syria will not be party to any solution that punishes Hamas," one of the diplomats said in the Syrian capital.

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad set out his viewpoint at talks this week with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a staunchly pro-Israeli republican law maker who regularly visits Damascus, where Hamas's exiled leaders are based.

 

A source familiar with the meeting said Assad told Specter Israel's offensive jeopardized the chances of peace in the long run. The way to deal with Hamas, Assad told Specter, was to stop asking Syria to pressure the group and push for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the source said.

 

The Israeli assault, which has killed almost 400 people in Hamas-ruled Gaza, has further divided Arab governments on how to deal with the Palestinian Islamist movement, which is also backed by Iran.

 

Several Western-backed Arab governments, including Egypt, say Hamas shares the blame for the attacks.

 

Syria described the offensive as a "massacre" and allowed protests in front of the Egyptian embassy in Damascus against Cairo's cooperation with the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

 

Another European diplomat said championing Arab resistance served Syria well. "The Syrians see Arab governments like Egypt as getting undermined as a result of this, not them," the diplomat said.

 

Syria has said the Israeli attacks have ruled out a resumption of indirect talks with Israel any time soon, although Specter said after meeting Assad that the Syrian president was still interested in pursuing peace with Israel.

 

Israel and Syria held four indirect rounds of peace talks in Turkey this year, which were suspended following the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in September.

 

 

Specter said Assad wanted to be "helpful" in solving the crisis in Gaza but he did not give details of the meeting.

 

 

"I was pleased to see how deeply involved president Assad is and how much interested he is in a peace treaty. He said the talks would have to be suspended because of what happened in Gaza but expressed the hope that they could be resumed and that there could be a peace treaty," Specter said.

 

Syria first cultivated relations with Hamas during the rule of Bashar's late father, President Hafez al-Assad, in the 1980s, while he was crushing the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.

 

Little is known about the dynamics of the relationship or whether Syria supported Hamas's recent moves not to extend a truce with Israel and step up rocket attacks on the Jewish state from Gaza.

 

Syrian officials have dismissed Israeli demands to cut support for Hamas and Lebanon's Shi'ite movement Hezbollah and distance itself from Iran as a pre-requisite for peace.

 

But they say Syria's external posture could change if a deal with Israel was achieved.

 

Bashar decided this year to resume peace talks with Israel, which collapsed in 2000, shortly before his father's death.

 

The talks have focused on the Golan Heights. Israel captured the fertile plateau in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it more than a decade later - a move unanimously rejected as null by the United Nations Security Council.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAELI DOCTORS ARRIVE IN ROMANIA TO TREAT BABIES BURNED IN HOSPITAL FIRE

 

Seven premature babies were in critical condition after a fire in an intensive care unit at a Bucharest hospital, in which four babies died.

By The Associated PressTags: Israel news Romania

 

Israeli doctors who rushed to Romania on Wednesday said they feared there was not much they could do to help seven premature infants who were critically burned in a hospital fire that left four other babies dead.

 

Romanian doctors at Bucharest's Grigore Alexandrescu children's hospital where the injured babies are being treated said the infants weigh just 1 to 2.5 kilograms (2.2 to 5.5 pounds) and are burned on up to 80 percent of their bodies and respiratory tracts.

 

Monday's blaze at Giulesti maternity hospital forced the evacuation of dozens of babies and women - some in labor. The accident provoked a wave of public indignation, throwing light on Romania's poorly funded and understaffed health system.

 

Doctor Josef Haik, part of a team from Tel Aviv University, told reporters that he doesn't think they can do any more.

 

"Their condition can change at any moment, but they are cared for by a professional team," he said. "We've treated premature babies, but we have not seen so many cases in one place."

 

Thousands of doctors have left Romania in recent years for better paid jobs abroad. Hospitals are understaffed and cannot hire, as the government battles a sharp economic downturn and tries to keep the budget deficit down.

 

Relations with Israel have become closer in recent months, after six Israeli airmen died in a helicopter crash in July during joint training exercises with

 

Romania. Romanian President Traian Basescu promised Israeli President Shimon Peres that his country would be a loyal partner of Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran.

 

Romanian health official Marius Savu said he had discussed transferring some of the infants to Israel, but was advised against it.

 

Dozens of people gathered outside the hospital, where the fire occurred, to light candles and leave flowers and

fluffy toys.

 

Responding to calls for his resignation, Health Minister Attila Cseke called on Bucharest city hall to fire the

managers of the maternity hospital.

 

It is still not clear what caused the fire, but unconfirmed media reports pointed to a malfunctioning air conditioning unit. An investigation is still under way to determine the cause of the blaze.
 

 

This story is by:

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IT WAS GOOD RADIO

FORMER ARMY RADIO COMMANDER YITZHAK LIVNI'S BASIC ASSUMPTION WAS THAT IF THE IDF IS THE PEOPLE'S ARMY, THE STATION CAN AND SHOULD BROADCAST ABOUT ALL THE ISSUES THAT CAN AND SHOULD INTEREST CIVILIANS.

BY MICHAEL HANDELZALTS

 

Gideon Levy wrote a profile of the 60-year-old Army Radio station ("This is Army Radio," Haaretz, September 19 ). As a "controversial journalist," he wrote with warmth about his first days as a newsman on Army Radio and critically about "the intoxicating, deceitful embrace of the establishment" in the early 1970s. He also wrote about Army Radio's "statesmanlike" spirit, (which was fraught with too much opportunism and propaganda and not courageous and critical enough ), which has since prevailed in the entire Israeli media.

 

"Generations of journalists learned their craft in that atmosphere and were corrupted by it," he said.

 

Today the military radio station will hold a gathering of its alumni over the years in Hayarkon Park. It is advisable to add some shading to the black picture Levy depicted. In its formative period at the end of the '60s and the '70s, Army Radio had a far-reaching positive influence on Israeli culture. The Army Radio spirit of those days was inspired by its then-commander, Yitzhak Livni. He shaped it, to a large extent, with the station managers who worked with him and continued after him (Gideon Samet, Morderchai Naor, Zvi Shapira and Elon Shalev ), and was sometimes at odds with his Army superiors.

 

While military broadcasting stations throughout the world concentrated on music and programs intended for soldiers and their families, Livni's basic assumption was that if the IDF is the people's army, the station can and should broadcast about all the issues that can and should interest civilians. So the station broadcast music and messages from soldiers as well as military news magazines (20 minutes a day ). Agreed, it did not deal with straight politics, but it did address issues of culture in the widest sense.

 

Even by the end of the '60s, when the Army Radio broadcast from 6 A.M. to midnight (with a one-hour intermission between 2 and 3 P.M. to let the transmitters rest ), its listeners received a 10-minute monologue by various philosophers and David Avidan read a new poem once a week.

 

True, there was a list of taboo subjects and people. But the young, opinionated, curious and diligent people Livni brought to the Army Radio were educated to think no issue was impossible to broach, in one way or another. They believed they should interview those people who were not banned but would go on the air and could say things similar to what the banned individuals might say. No, not against the occupation; who spoke at the time against the occupation? Even Levy didn't - but about a host of other issues, even controversial ones.

 

In the 70s the Army Radio carried ambitious and multilayered highbrow programs, radio plays, and initiated "University on the Air". Natan Dunevitz held broadcast live telephone conversations with listeners for the first time on this station. Talk shows hosted by Ram Evron were broadcast live nightly and toward the end of the '70s the station came out with programs consisting of music and short recorded items with unexpected guests as "Two hours from two" and "Right now" with Yitzhak Ben-Ner. This was the first time that regular people, not only broadcasters, spoke on the radio.

 

I and many of my generation in the Army Radio did not think - in contrast to Levy - that this is how journalism should be made. We knew the limitations and made within them the most interesting and exciting radio we were allowed to. Why should a military station broadcast a live theater review of a play that had just ended? Because I suggested it to Livni on the stairs and he muttered something that sounded like "yes."

 

Only after the joint Yom Kippur War studio broadcasts ended did the station continue to broadcast 24 hours a day, including news magazines, without any formal decision. A few years later came the first Lebanon war and the station began to listen to its listeners, becoming, together with Israeli society, what it is today. The media reflect the society they operate in, even if for a moment they delude themselves that they are molding it.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE OPPOSITION ON TRIAL

 

Kadima's commitment to human rights and citizen equality is cast in doubt, owing to party members' support for proposed racist and anti-democratic laws.

 

On Tuesday, the Knesset hosted an "Emergency Conference for Democracy," featuring the participation of MKs who are active with social organizations, and various public figures. Out of 28 parliamentarians who took part in the initiative, 11 belonged to the Kadima party. Whoever is worried about the future of Israeli democracy should welcome the mobilization of members of the main opposition party in this struggle over the character of the state: a dark, racist and discriminating state, or, on the other hand, a state dedicated to equality, which faithfully carries out its responsibilities toward its citizens, including Arab citizens.

 

Yet Kadima's commitment to human rights and citizen equality is cast in doubt, owing to party members' support for proposed racist and anti-democratic laws. MK Shai Hermesh, one of the conference's initiators, signed onto a proposed law for admission committees on communal settlements that would enable them to disqualify candidates for residency due to the "candidate's lack of suitability for the social fabric of the community." In practice, this would prevent Arabs from being admitted as members of Jewish communal villages, in a fashion that would bypass the High Court's ruling in the Kaadan case, holding that the leasing of state land exclusively to Jews constitutes unlawful discrimination. Two other Kadima MKs, Gideon Ezra and Otniel Schneller, are signed to a proposed law that aims to prevent the employment of Palestinian tour guides in East Jerusalem, owing to the "inappropriate presentation of national interest". (Their party colleague, MK Nachman Shai, signed his name to the bill, but then revoked his sponsorship ).

 

A number of racist, anti-democratic bills will reach the Knesset rostrum during the parliament's winter session. Their aim is to suppress political demands and expressions of protest voiced by the Arab community. The main opposition party should lead opposition to these proposed laws and mobilize to thwart their legislation. That is Kadima's task right now.

 

However, regrettable positions expressed by some members of the party in speeches and in legislative actions, in addition to the silence of party leader Tzipi Livni, inspire considerable concern. The opposition should not cooperate with anti-democratic legislation, either in deed or tacit consent. Kadima faces the test of presenting a forceful position against racism; not only during a one-time conference, but also throughout the committee's session, and in the work of its committees.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONE-NOTE TAX DEBATE

 

Several tax cuts are slated to expire at the end of the year, which means that the lame-duck Congress will face several tough decisions come November. To hear campaigning lawmakers tell it, however, the only tax issue out there is whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. The debate and the work can't end there.

 

Voters need to hear more about where their representatives stand on extending far more equitable, and economically sound, Obama-era tax cuts. Those cuts — part of the 2009 stimulus law so reviled by the Republican Party — are targeted on low- and middle-income Americans, constituencies all politicians vow to defend until it actually comes to doing it.

 

Consider the "Making Work Pay" tax credit. It has cut taxes by as much as $800 a year for couples making up to $150,000 and $400 annually for single taxpayers making up to $75,000. The extra cash has been delivered through reduced withholdings in each paycheck. Its objective is to temporarily support incomes in a downturn so there is no reason to permanently extend it. With the economy still in tough shape, a one-year extension makes sense.

 

Other Obama tax cuts due to expire include expanded tax credits for millions of low-income working families. Under the 2009 law, a family with two children and a single parent working full time at the minimum wage qualifies for annual child tax credits of $1,725. If that credit expires, the family would receive $248.

 

Current law also ensures that low-income working couples who are married keep more of their earned income credits, which help to ensure that employed people do not fall below the poverty line. Both of these credits foster work and stability and should be permanently extended.

 

President Obama's budget calls for making the bolstered credits permanent along with the Bush middle-class tax cuts. The Republicans insist that all of the Bush tax cuts be extended permanently — including those for taxpayers making more than $250,000 a year — but don't mention keeping the improved low-income tax credits.

 

The 10-year cost of the expanded low-income credits would be roughly $90 billion; extending the Bush middle-class tax cuts would cost $2.9 trillion. Extending the high-end Bush tax cuts would add another $700 billion, an unaffordable and unnecessary giveaway in the face of deep deficits.

 

The country needs a full debate on all the pending tax decisions — the benefits and costs of each. If the politicians keep talking solely about tax cuts for the rich, whether for or against, everyone will be shortchanged.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

YOUR COURT IN ACTION

 

"Let me correct some things that Mr. Frederick said that were not true." That was as close as a Supreme Court lawyer comes to calling her adversary a liar. The speaker was Kathleen Sullivan, a formidable advocate and former dean of Stanford Law School, challenging David Frederick, just as impressive and well credentialed, at the court last week.

 

If you were lucky, you attended the feisty argument. Otherwise, you had to wait until Friday when the audio recording was released. The Supreme Court leapt forward this term by deciding to release recordings at the end of each argument week — rather than waiting until the next year's term. Americans would be even better served if they could listen the same day, while arguments and coverage are fresh. The court has occasionally done so, and we can't explain why it can't happen every time.

 

The justices are even more resistant to televising arguments. Some have warned that lawyers would ham it up for the camera and justices would feel less comfortable trying out ideas. Many state appellate courts have been televising oral arguments for years. The new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom does so, to high praise in Britain.

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill from Senator Arlen Specter that would compel the court to permit televised coverage of all open sessions — unless a majority of justices decides that doing so would violate due process rights of one or both parties. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan testified in their confirmation hearings that they favor televising oral arguments. Justice Samuel Alito said he would support the practice if all the other justices were for it.

 

Senator Specter was right when he argued that the rights of all Americans would be "substantially enhanced" if we could watch the court reaching "critical decisions that affect this country." If the court won't agree on its own, then Congress should require it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

TILES, FARMS AND THE DEAD ZONE

 

Every year, usually beginning in late spring, an oxygen-depleted dead zone forms in the Gulf of Mexico at the Mississippi River's mouth, killing off fish, shrimp and other marine life. By the time cooler weather restores life to the zone, the fishing industry has sustained substantial losses.

 

Scientists have long known that the dead zone — this year it covered 7,000 square miles — is created largely by nitrate washed downstream from fertilized fields as far north as Minnesota. A study in the Journal of Environmental Quality by scientists from Cornell University and the University of Illinois has now conclusively identified the largest source of that nitrate: tiled farm fields.

 

For as long as farmers have been farming in the Midwest, they have been laying drainage tile — often perforated plastic tubes installed 2 feet to 4 feet below the surface — to drain wetlands and create arable fields in places that would normally hold standing water. The problem is that the system also sluices away nitrogen fertilizer, which eventually flows through tributaries into the Mississippi and ends in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Mark David, a University of Illinois researcher, observed that "farmers are not to blame." We agree. Tiling is as old as Midwestern farming. What's needed now is more research and direct incentives from the Agriculture Department to find ways to mitigate this problem.

 

These include: restoring wetlands, where possible; growing cover crops to absorb water in the spring, when runoff is heaviest; different methods of applying fertilizer; and even methods of treating the runoff before it reaches creeks and rivers. Sacrificing life in the gulf for corn in the fields is a trade-off that has to stop.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

FEAR AND LOATHING IN NEVADA

 

Sharron Angle did not show up at the huge Tea Party Express rally in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. She rarely makes public appearances anymore. But the event was almost entirely in support of her and the divisive, anti-immigrant platform she has promoted in her accelerating drive to replace Senator Harry Reid.

 

There was a folk song praising Arizona for its immigrant crackdown, and the featured speaker was Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., who marches illegal immigrants through the streets of Phoenix to tent jails in the broiling desert.

 

Ms. Angle said last week that every state should have a sheriff like Mr. Arpaio, and he returned the compliment, in his own particular, chilling way. "You guys have got a desert here," he told the cheering, foot-stomping crowd. "Why don't you put up some tents?" The laughter of his audience of about 2,000 people, most wearing free Angle T-shirts or buttons, practically shook the walls of Stoney's Rockin' Country nightclub, where hand-held signs proclaimed Mr. Reid, the Senate majority leader, a traitor, a socialist and garbage.

 

Mr. Reid's campaign had once looked forward to running against Ms. Angle, figuring that her extreme positions would quickly marginalize her in the minds of voters. But he somehow failed to recognize just how attractive those positions would be in a state with the nation's highest unemployment rate and highest rates of foreclosure and bankruptcy. And he was lifeless in last week's debate instead of making the forceful, animated challenge to Ms. Angle's radicalism that might have motivated his supporters.

 

Now she is favored in the year's most high-profile Senate race. Unless Mr. Reid can muster a huge turnout, there is a strong chance that Ms. Angle will become a United States senator, and she will have done so largely by exploiting fears of illegal Hispanic immigrants in an economically nervous state. One of her television ads, which calls Harry Reid "the best friend illegals have ever had," shows dark-skinned characters sneaking along a border fence, juxtaposed with a Mexican flag.

 

In a particularly preposterous bit of spin, she told a group of Hispanic students a few days ago, when she did not realize she was being recorded, that those people were not necessarily Hispanic. They might have been coming through the Canadian border, she said, calling it "the most porous border that we have" and adding that that is "where the terrorists came through." (The Canadian ambassadorimmediately protested this nonsense.) For a candidate who famously told Mr. Reid to "man up" at the debate, she should at least take responsibility for her own sneering innuendo.

 

She is, however, willing to persist in her illusion that Social Security can be fixed only by turning it over to private accounts, a toxic position with older voters that many of her fellow Tea Party candidates pretend they haven't considered. And she has gone much further than even Christine O'Donnell, the Republican candidate for United States Senate in Delaware, in repudiating the need for separation of church and state. That doctrine, Ms. Angle has said, is "unconstitutional"; she prefers to give religion an expansive position in public life.

 

Mr. Reid, who is far more comfortable maneuvering compromises through the back rooms of the Senate than campaigning among actual voters, lost his best chance to skewer his opponent's positions in the debate. Those voters who did not know about his efforts to save jobs in Nevada, or his proposals for using tax incentives to create even more, still don't.

 

He might have laughed at her assertion that the nascent health care law is responsible for persistent joblessness, or demanded to know her alternative plan for covering the millions of uninsured. Instead of saying he would leave it to "the experts" to decide what to do about tax cuts for the wealthy, he should have clearly explained to voters how important it is to the nation's long-term future to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000.

 

Many Nevadans may not like their choices, but they have a clear one. They can show that they will not cave in to the politics of division and fear.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE FURY FAILURE

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

Rage is not working out.

In Delaware, the Republican voters were so angry that they rejected a popular congressman and gave their Senate nomination to an apparently unemployed 41-year-old woman whose major life success had been an ongoing performance as Wacko Conservative Girl on late-night talk shows. In Alaska, they were so mad that they tossed out their incumbent senator for Joe Miller, a lawyer who believes unemployment compensation is unconstitutional, except when his wife is receiving it.

 

So now in Delaware the unangry Democrat candidate is way ahead. In Alaska, Miller keeps dropping in the polls, which made him so mad that he had his private security guards take an inquiring reporter into custody.

 

That did not go over very well even in Alaska, an extremely angry state that hateshateshates all forms of government, despite the fact that 40 percent of its economy comes from government aid, and the state's oil-revenue-sharing program gives families thousands of dollars in payments every year. "Unemployment has never been lower; there is no housing crisis; banks are solvent. We just got Permanent Fund Checks — and, boy, are we pissed off!" said Michael Carey, an Anchorage Daily News columnist.

 

Really, people, rage never gets you anything but overturned garbage cans and broken windows. If you want to do rage, go to France.

 

We are talking here about undifferentiated anger, which creates nothing but a feeling of moral superiority on the part of the irate. It's natural to get furious at specific things: a tax increase or an unfaithful spouse or a blown tire. Or, in the case of the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, a debate opponent who asks: "When is it ever appropriate to tie up a woman and have her kneel before a false idol that you refer to as Aqua Buddha?"

 

This involved a college prank that Paul told reporters he doesn't remember. You can see why he was angry, although it does sound hard to forget.

 

It's the difference between Joe Manchin, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia, who has ads showing him metaphorically shooting a bullet into the heart of the cap-and-trade bill, and the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona, who had herself filmed spraying machine-gun fire all over the place while an announcer said: "Pamela Gorman — conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot." Even if you don't agree with Manchin's position, you have to admit that Gorman would probably be more difficult to work with.

 

In New York, Republicans were so full of free-floating rage that they nominated Carl Paladino, a hotheaded developer from Buffalo, for governor. For a while this summer, upstate New York was littered with "I'm Mad As Hell, Too, Carl!" lawn signs.

 

Paladino quickly developed a gender gap the size of the Grand Canyon. A recent Siena College poll showed that 71 percent of female voters preferred his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, while 21 percent supported him, demonstrating yet again that women will not vote for a guy who yells.

 

The Republican nominee got into fights, promised to "take out" one reporter and insulted gays. He trotted out his poor wife, who gave interviews recounting how she had forgiven Carl for fathering a 10-year-old daughter after he broke the news while she was getting ready for their son's funeral.

 

Cuomo, meanwhile, has not only refrained from yelling, he's barely had to leave his office.

 

On the rage-o-meter, this week's gubernatorial debate in New York was not quite as stirring as Kentucky's, possibly because it involved seven people, some in alarming get-ups, sitting on uncomfortable chairs in a line. Actually, it looked less like a debate than a tryout for some particularly embarrassing reality show.

Several third-party candidates, including a former Black Panther in a Nehru jacket, were more experienced in the politics of unproductive rage than Paladino. In a late-breaking attempt to change the tone, Paladino announced that he was not actually angry but simply "passionate." Unfortunately, the world will remember his performance only for the part in which he had to run off to go to the bathroom before his concluding remarks.

 

The person who got the most postdebate attention was Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. McMillan wore black gloves and had a moustache that wound around his head like a ribbon, and a goatee that looked like two little fuzzy gerbils hanging from his chin. He was very, very, very angry. Particularly about the rents, which he pointed out were too damn high.

 

Afterward, Sarah Maslin Nir of The Times tracked him down in Brooklyn and discovered that McMillan's own personal rent is, he said, zero. His landlords, he added, are "like family. They don't want me to pay any money at all. I am basically living rent free."

 

Which doesn't mean he can't be ticked off about it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DR. GREG AND AFGHANISTAN

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

KABUL, Afghanistan

A visitor to Afghanistan who ventures outside the American security bubble sees pretty quickly that President Obama's decision to triple the number of troops in Afghanistan has resulted, with some exceptions, mostly in more dead Americans and Afghans alike.

 

So what can we do instead? Some useful guidance comes from the man whom Afghans refer to as "Dr. Greg" — Greg Mortenson, an American who runs around in Afghan clothing building schools, as chronicled in the best-selling book "Three Cups of Tea."

 

The conventional wisdom is that education and development are impossible in insecure parts of Afghanistan that the Taliban control. That view is wrong.

 

An organization set up by Mr. Mortenson and a number of others are showing that it is quite possible to run schools in Taliban-controlled areas. I visited some of Mr. Mortenson's schools, literacy centers and vocational training centers, and they survive the Taliban not because of military protection (which they eschew) but because local people feel "ownership" rather than "occupation."

 

"Aid can be done anywhere, including where Taliban are," Mr. Mortenson said. "But it's imperative the elders are consulted, and that the development staff is all local, with no foreigners."

 

In volatile Kunar Province, which borders Pakistan, the Taliban recently ordered a halt to a school being built by Mr. Mortenson's organization, the Central Asia Institute. But the villagers rushed to the school's defense. The Taliban, which have been mounting a campaign for hearts and minds, dropped the issue, according to Wakil Karimi, who leads Mr. Mortenson's team in Afghanistan.

 

In another part of Kunar Province, the Central Asia Institute is running a girls' primary school and middle school in the heart of a Taliban-controlled area. Some of the girls are 17 or 18, which is particularly problematic for fundamentalists (who don't always mind girls getting an education as long as they drop out by puberty). Yet this school is expanding, and now has 320 girls, Mr. Karimi said.

 

It survives because it is run by the imam of the mosque, and he overcomes Taliban protests by framing it as a madrassa, not a school. That seems less alien to fundamentalists and gives them a face-saving excuse to look the other way.

 

In Uruzgan Province, Mr. Mortenson and Mr. Karimi are beginning to pay imams to hold classes for girls in their mosques. That puts a divine stamp on girls' education.

 

Each month, Mr. Mortenson's team gets another 50 requests from villages seeking their own schools. And for the cost of a single American soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, it's possible to build 20 schools.

 

Education is only part of the puzzle. My vote would be to scale back our military footprint: use a smaller troop presence to secure Kabul and a few other cities, step up training of the Afghan National Army, and worry less about the Taliban and more about Al Qaeda. We also should push aggressively for a peace deal between President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, backed by Pakistan. (Would all this harm Afghan women? That's the topic of my next column.)

 

Some of these initiatives are already in the works, but what is neglected is education and development, especially in Taliban areas. It's true that this is tough, uncertain and sometimes dangerous going, with much depending on the particular Taliban commander. But, in most areas, it is possible, provided the work is done without Westerners and in close consultation with local people.

 

Government schools regularly get burned down, but villagers tell me that that's because they're seen as alien institutions built by outside construction crews. In contrast, CARE runs 300 schools in Afghanistan and not one has been burned down, the aid organization says. TheAfghan Institute of Learning, run by a redoubtable Afghan woman named Sakena Yacoobi, has supported more than 300 schools and none have been burned, the institute says. Another great aid organization, BRAC, runs schools, clinics and microfinance programs — and operates in every single province in Afghanistan.

 

Then there's the Global Partnership for Afghanistan, which is based in New York and helps Afghan villagers improve agricultural yields in the most unstable parts of the country. Some Taliban commanders have even sent word inviting the group into their areas.

 

Mr. Mortenson says that $243 million is needed to fund all higher education in Afghanistan this year. He suggests that America hold a press conference here in Kabul and put just 243 of our 100,000 soldiers (each costing $1 million per year) on planes home. Then the U.S. could take the savings and hand over a check to pay for Afghanistan's universities.

 

Is this talk of schools and development naïve? Military power is essential, but it's limited in what it can achieve. There's abundant evidence that while bombs harden hearts, schooling, over time, can transform them. That's just being pragmatic.

 

For advice from aid organizations about how to operate in Taliban areas, please visit my blog. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON FOOTBALL: SUNDAY'S LIGHTS-OUT BODY COUNT SHOWS NFL NEEDS TO CHANGE

 

Football involves conquering and defending territory through force. Its core athletic activity is hitting people, notes former NFL linebacker Dave Meggyesy. Violence isn't a sidelight; it's part of the very essence of the game. And no matter how much they might protest, the NFL, its fans and much of the news media covering the sport revel in it.

 

Even so, it is a game, and those who run it and those who play it have an obligation to do all they can to prevent life-altering injuries. Sunday's carnage on the playing field, startling even by NFL standards, was just the latest indication of the inadequacy of efforts so far.

 

By the end of the day, five players had been knocked out by helmet-to-helmet hits, which are supposedly illegal under NFL rules. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison sidelined not one but two Cleveland Browns players with head injuries.

 

After delivering the blows, Harrison bragged about the hit that left Josh Cribbs unconscious for several minutes: "A hit like that geeks you up, especially when you find out that the guy is not really hurt, he's just sleeping." Harrison's comment encapsulates everything you need to know about the culture of America's favorite pastime and the need for change.

 

On Wednesday, the NFL responded by vowing to strictly enforce rules that have been largely ignored. Coaches were directed to teach clean play or face discipline. Officials were reminded of their authority to eject players for dangerous hits to the head and neck, the way baseball umpires can throw out pitchers who hurl bean balls. Players were threatened with suspension without pay, even for first infractions.

 

Such tougher sanctions are necessary, because fines have been little deterrent. Harrison, for example, was fined $75,000 for his two-fer, an amount that's less than 1% of his $8.75 million average yearly salary.

 

As might be expected, some players are balking. Said the Minnesota VikingsRay Edwards: "Things happen. You can't alter the way you play the game."

 

But players, and anyone who has a child who plays football or aspires to, should hope Edwards is wrong.

 

An avalanche of evidence in the past few years has shown how dangerous concussions can be to NFL players as they retire and age, contributing to dementia and other memory-related diseases. The laws of physics dictate that today's bigger, faster, stronger players will have more violent collisions. Better helmets can help, but only so much. Already this season, more than 40 players have suffered brain injuries.

 

And concussions aren't the worst of it. Just last Saturday, football's violence blighted one young life. While making a tackle, Rutgers' Eric LeGrand sustained a neck injury. He's paralyzed below the neck, the same fate that befell the New England PatriotsDarryl Stingley in a 1978 collision.

 

Players down to the pee-wee leagues take their cues from their NFL heroes. If vicious helmet hits are treated lightly and celebrated in NFL highlights, young players get the message that the way to succeed is to ensure that opponents get "jacked up!"

 

The NFL can push its own players and younger ones in a healthier direction. But it will need to do more than lay out strict policies. It will need to ensure that this is a turning point, in enforcement and in attitudes. Hitting is a part of pro football. Maiming should not be.

 

Football involves conquering and defending territory through force. Its core athletic activity is hitting people, notes former NFL linebacker Dave Meggyesy. Violence isn't a sidelight; it's part of the very essence of the game. And no matter how much they might protest, the NFL, its fans and much of the news media covering the sport revel in it.

 

OPPOSING VIEW: 'You don't aim, you react'

 

Even so, it is a game, and those who run it and those who play it have an obligation to do all they can to prevent life-altering injuries. Sunday's carnage on the playing field, startling even by NFL standards, was just the latest indication of the inadequacy of efforts so far.

 

By the end of the day, five players had been knocked out by helmet-to-helmet hits, which are supposedly illegal under NFL rules. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison sidelined not one but two Cleveland Browns players with head injuries.

 

After delivering the blows, Harrison bragged about the hit that left Josh Cribbs unconscious for several minutes: "A hit like that geeks you up, especially when you find out that the guy is not really hurt, he's just sleeping." Harrison's comment encapsulates everything you need to know about the culture of America's favorite pastime and the need for change.

 

On Wednesday, the NFL responded by vowing to strictly enforce rules that have been largely ignored. Coaches were directed to teach clean play or face discipline. Officials were reminded of their authority to eject players for dangerous hits to the head and neck, the way baseball umpires can throw out pitchers who hurl bean balls. Players were threatened with suspension without pay, even for first infractions.

 

Such tougher sanctions are necessary, because fines have been little deterrent. Harrison, for example, was fined $75,000 for his two-fer, an amount that's less than 1% of his $8.75 million average yearly salary.

 

As might be expected, some players are balking. Said the Minnesota VikingsRay Edwards: "Things happen. You can't alter the way you play the game."

 

But players, and anyone who has a child who plays football or aspires to, should hope Edwards is wrong.

 

An avalanche of evidence in the past few years has shown how dangerous concussions can be to NFL players as they retire and age, contributing to dementia and other memory-related diseases. The laws of physics dictate that today's bigger, faster, stronger players will have more violent collisions. Better helmets can help, but only so much. Already this season, more than 40 players have suffered brain injuries.

 

And concussions aren't the worst of it. Just last Saturday, football's violence blighted one young life. While making a tackle, Rutgers' Eric LeGrand sustained a neck injury. He's paralyzed below the neck, the same fate that befell the New England PatriotsDarryl Stingley in a 1978 collision.

 

Players down to the pee-wee leagues take their cues from their NFL heroes. If vicious helmet hits are treated lightly and celebrated in NFL highlights, young players get the message that the way to succeed is to ensure that opponents get "jacked up!"

 

The NFL can push its own players and younger ones in a healthier direction. But it will need to do more than lay out strict policies. It will need to ensure that this is a turning point, in enforcement and in attitudes. Hitting is a part of pro football. Maiming should not be.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON FOOTBALL: 'YOU DON'T AIM, YOU REACT'

BY HUNTER HILLENMEYER

 

I suffered a concussion in the Bears' third preseason game, against the Cardinals. Lingering symptoms from that incident and a history of multiple concussions landed me on injured reserve after only one game.

 

My path in the NFL might lead you to believe I would give the loudest applause for harsher penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits. Yet, I think immediate suspension and ejection of players for these violent hits would be a huge mistake.

 

Take this past weekend's example when Falcons corner Dunta Robinson hit Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. To mandate a fine, much less a suspension or ejection, in that incident would imply malicious intent on Robinson's part.

 

Let me level with you from the defender's perspective: DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive players in the NFL. Defenders are in panic mode when DeSean gets his hands on the ball. The mind-set is "make the tackle, hopefully knock the ball loose."

 

The speed of our game is so fast that, on a hit like that, you don't aim, you react. Would Dunta really choose to knock DeSean (and himself) out for the game? Of course not. In fact, as a defensive player, if I don't make that play, coaches will find someone else who will.

 

It's too easy to slap a fine on a player and ignore the fact that every other incentive in his football universe rewards that same aggression. The onus is not just on the players. The whole culture of football has to change to really make the game safer.

 

I have sat through multiple competition committee meetings where great football minds deliberate about ways to adjust the rulebook to make our game safer. The primary role of the fines system is to deter future behavior. Sending fines through the roof or instituting an immediate ejection policy midseason would be a PR move, not a legitimate step towards safety.

 

Judging intent is a very tricky thing to do. Punishing players for anything but the most egregious, deliberate

headhunting would not make the game safer. Reaching that goal requires a comprehensive overhaul, including improvements in health care, equipment and research, not just a reaction to the gasp-inducing hits on Sunday.

Hunter Hillenmeyer is in his eighth season as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears. An NFL Players Associationplayer representative, he serves on the NFLPA Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and the Player Safety and Welfare Committee.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ELECTION 2010 MANDATE: TACKLE THE DEBT

BY CAL THOMAS AND BOB BECKEL

 

Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot. View the video version of this column atwww.opinion.usatoday.comor at USA TODAY's YouTube channel at youtube.com/usatoday.

 

Today: The Nov. 2 elections.

 

Bob: In my 30 years in politics I've never seen the voters as angry or impatient as they are today. Sure, Democrats will take a beating in November, but don't assume that represents only anger at them. This is an anti-incumbent movement, and Republicans should be thankful there are so few of them and hence fewer targets. Both parties suffer historically low approval ratings, but in a bad year for Democrats, Republicans are viewed even worse.

 

Cal: Agreed. The voters are beyond Republican vs. Democrat, Left vs. Right. They are angry at everybody, and I think this provides the best opportunity for Republicans to actually govern and begin to fix what has gone wrong, rather than posture and act like they are more politically righteous than the Democrats. Very recent history proves they are not.

 

Bob: The Republicans would be foolish to jump right in and try to, for instance, repeal President Obama's signature issues like health care and financial reform. It might feel good, but one, they won't have the votes, and two, do they really want to start the next Congress with these political temper tantrums? Such actions also would lead to total paralysis.

 

Cal: I might be convinced that paralysis is a good thing given the activism we've been experiencing.

 

Bob: Obama's best move — politically and practically — would be to meet Republicans somewhere in the middle and be willing to change parts of his agenda. For starters, he could include tort reform as an add-on to the health care law. It's not giving Republicans everything, but it would be a meaningful olive branch and show a willingness to go against the Democrats' trial lawyers base.

 

Cal: We're not talking Bill Clinton and his triangulation after the 1994 election. This president has shown himself to be a hard-core leftist with an agenda and not a practicing compromiser. What Republicans must do is something similar to what is happening in New Jersey and Virginia with governors telling their people we can't go on like this. In Britain, too, "common ground" co-prime ministers David Cameron and Nick Clegg are making significant cuts in government spending.

 

Bob: A hard-core leftist? Tell that to the real leftists in this country who think Obama has abandoned them. To your point about Republicans behaving responsibly in other places, that's heart-warming. But Republicans in Congress have not had a long history of telling the people what they don't want to hear. But there may be a silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud for President Obama.

 

Cal: Only you could find any silver lining in the coming disaster for the Democrats.

 

Bob: Obama promised a bipartisan effort at civility when he campaigned for president, but — to put it mildly — it never happened. In my view this was because Republicans wanted Obama to fail from the beginning or because Obama insisted on ramming through his proposals on virtually party line votes — or perhaps both. However one sees it, Obama has a rare chance to make good on his campaign promise. It may look like back-peddling on the president's part, but I see it as a road to common ground if only for his survival

 

Cal: The public doesn't care about politicians "surviving." They care more about their own survival. New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last week about "the paralysis of the state." Brooks noted that many states can no longer afford useful projects because of deals they've made with unions "that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones." New Jersey, he points out, "can't afford to build (a train) tunnel, but benefits packages for the state's employees are 41% more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16% a year." The public is receptive to reducing these kinds of costs.

 

Bob: And they're receptive to responsible and civil government, too. Pew Research asked a question in April of last year whether people thought Democrats and Republicans have been bickering more in Congress. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans, 55% of Democrats and 50% of independents thought so. In the same question asked this month, 80% of Democrats and Republicans agreed, while 78% of independents agreed.That's a staggering rejection of the Washington mess. If both sides made a serious effort at compromise, the voters would reward them. If not, their time in office will be very short.

 

Cal: After every presidential election, the pundits look at the final tally of votes and decree whether the incoming commander in chief has that all-important "mandate." Well let me say this, the American people have already provided a mandate for this election: Get America's fiscal house in order, and do it in a civil way. That's it. The rest is background noise. Consider it, "It's the economy, stupid: Version 2010."

 

Bob: Congress is paralyzed because special interest money has a stake in the status quo. And the money load we're seeing in this election is proof that all is alive and well in the world of peddling influence. Much of this comes from stealth contributors who are not forced to report until late 2010. This Supreme Court is too partisan to stop this atrocity. But once again, it gives Obama a chance to open the process up and make his contributors transparent while challenging the GOP to do the same.

 

Cal: That awful Supreme Court, allowing the First Amendment to be the law of the land. Just terrible. That's not where the real problem lies, Bob. And with nearly 10% unemployment, the only people wringing their hands over that court decision are embattled Democrats and think tank fixtures. What a sideshow! It's what happens afterpeople are elected that's the problem. I have to say, though, I wonder why Democrats aren't this interested in finding out where the unions' cash is being collected.

 

Bob: Let's get back to the meat of the matter: Spending and our nation's dysfunctional fiscal situation. In any polling you can find, the economy is where people's minds are. It's about jobs. It's about spending. It's about the trajectory. Democrats and Republicans have a historically unique situation here — especially those new to Washington. They can be part of a Congress that puts the United States on a fiscally sustainable path. The path we're on right now ends in a ditch.

 

Cal: You're right, and the solution doesn't have to be a partisan solution. It really doesn't. Republicans and Democrats — especially the incoming freshmen — can start anew in this Congress. Show up and stand up. There is a residual strain of that old Puritan ethic left in America that could be revived with the right type of leadership. That ethic says: live within your means, avoid debt, don't covet. A political leader who lived by that example might persuade the rest of us to follow him (or her) into national solvency, which would strengthen this country far beyond its military might.

 

Bob: So we're going to hope political Washington can change?

Cal: I think we've had enough "hope" and "change." At this point, I think the American people would settle for "competent."

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

SCHOOL PRAYER AND THE LAW

 

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jim Scales responded correctly to a complaint about prayers broadcast over loudspeakers at school-sponsored football games here. He ordered an end to them. The superintendent e-mailed all principals in the school system on Tuesday, reminding them that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled such prayers unconstitutional and that the practice should be stopped. School administrators should comply immediately.

 

Doing so won't be popular. Indeed, Scales said he's already received many complaints about the decision to ban prayers at school events. He will receive more. That doesn't matter. Compliance with the law does. His decision, in fact, does not prevent any individual from praying or otherwise exercising his or her religious freedom. Rather, it properly upholds and honors constitutional principles and government neutrality toward religion.

 

Putting an end to prayers at ball games — and, presumably at all other school events like graduation ceremonies — does not undermine those principals. Neither does it encroach on individual freedom. It simply and clearly sustains well-established laws that say schools and school sponsored groups cannot promote a religious message or give an official endorsement to religious beliefs. That is an important principle in contemporary society.

 

Those who rail against the law banning school prayer here and elsewhere are short-sighted. They overlook the fact the public schools by nature serve a diverse population — predominantly Christian to be sure, but with many Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic and atheist students as well. The schools are funded by all taxpayers and therefore should be free of any school-approved religious activity. Public prayer at a school event oversteps that sensible requirement.

 

Public prayer at school events here is not a new phenomenon. Despite the law, it's gone on for years without serious complaint. That changed last week when the Freedom from Religion Foundation, acting on behalf of some students from Soddy-Daisy High School, sent a letter to Scales demanding that the school system end the custom of prayers at the school's football games and graduation ceremonies. The missive pointedly reminded Scales that the prayers were "unconstitutional" and said that if changes were not implemented the foundation would take steps to "remedy this serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment."

 

Scales' order to end the prayers is the appropriate response. Religion and prayer are private and should be free of any government control or influence. Parents and religious institutions, not taxpayer-funded schools, should provide religious training. Promotion or support of prayer or religion at a public school might be popular, but it is against the law: it inherently favors the majority's religion, leaves those with other beliefs feeling left out. Putting an end to the practice is the right thing to do.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

HASLAM'S SPINELESS WAFFLING

 

Bill Haslam has been considered a centrist Republican. But he's either been hiding his more extremist views, or he's willing to kowtow to the far right wing of his party to win their vote, or he doesn't have the spine to keep the stands he used to make. Regardless of the reason, he has just folded to the extreme guns-and-pro-life lobbies.

 

He promised the Tennessee Firearms Association on Monday that if the Legislature were to pass a bill to eliminate the state's requirement for a permit to carry guns, he would, as governor, sign it into law — and let anyone carry a gun all the time without the need for a permit.

 

In a bow to the extreme end of the anti-abortion faction, he's also just declared himself an opponent of the family-planning contraceptive program now provided to poor people under Tennessee's Medicaid program, TennCare. He now says that doesn't fit his strict pro-life views.

 

When Haslam melted on reasonable gun-carry rules in an address to the Tennessee Firearms Association, he missed an opportunity to defend Tennessee's process for authorizing gun-carry permits, now held by approximately 300,000 Tennesseans.

 

Asked by several TFA members why the permitting process was necessary if the Constitution's 2nd Amendment authorizes a personal — "natural" — right to go armed, Haslam said it has been viewed as a practical way to implement gun-carry rights.

 

Pressed further, he failed to defend Tennessee's law and the most recent United States Supreme Court decision, which asserted not only the personal right to possess firearms, but also confirmed states' authority to impose regulation on gun-carry rights to protect public safety.

 

Instead, he just folded. He made no mention of how the permitting process allows the state to withhold permits from felons and criminals, from people subject to court-ordered restraining orders, and, through a mandatory background check, from people with mental health disorders and other legal issues.

 

If the Legislature were to pass a law eliminating state control and its permitting process for gun-rights, he said simply, he would sign the bill into law.

 

Willfully leading the state into such Wild West territory, of course, would be a reckless and gross abuse of public policy. Current state firearms laws, though weaker than those of many states, at least provide a semblance of public oversight to weed out felons and the unstable. It also requires applicants to pass a gun-safety course.

 

In an era when the extreme gun-rights crowd — a fraction of Tennessee's citizenry — has already persuaded the Legislature to allow gun-carry by permit-holders in parks, restaurants and bars that serve alcohol half the night, Tennessee needs a governor willing to stand as a voice of reason.

 

The National Rifle Association's legislative agenda in states across the nation has amply demonstrated the NRA's unending zeal to push for constant expansion of gun-carry rights. Without a governor willing to stand for police chiefs, district attorneys, mayors and citizens who object to wholly unfettered gun rights, there would soon be no limits on open gun-carry.

 

Haslam's surrender to the TFA is surprising for another reason. As Knoxville's mayor, he joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" campaign. Without a permitting process, police and law-abiding citizens would have to contend with the Darwinian consequences of a gun-carry society totally at odds with readily enforceable standards on gun-carry.

 

Haslam's reversal begs support for his Democratic opponent, Mike McWherter. The Democrat, though a member of the NRA long before Haslam joined, strongly supports the state's present gun-carry permit procedures. He also supports continuance of the family-planning aid for poor people, which has served both families and the anti-abortion cause by helping reduce unwanted pregnancies.

 

If Haslam can't stand up for reasonable positions when he's already a heavy favorite in the November election, he doesn't deserve to win the governor's race. Mike McWherter does.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

CONSTITUTION AND PRAYER

 

What does the Constitution of the United States of America say about our freedom?

 

It is important to know the facts, because, from time to time, there are efforts by some to limit, deny or impose improperly upon our Constitution-protected personal and public freedom.

 

The issue is pertinent in our community at this time because a Wisconsin-based group has intervened in Hamilton County in an effort to deny the long-prevailing local custom of having voluntary prayer at public school occasions such as athletic events and graduations.

 

This is what the Constitution says in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights:

 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

 

Obviously, we should obey — and defend, uphold and respect — what our Constitution provides.

 

It should be clear to all that there should be no governmental action either to impose or prevent religious expression, or to curb free speech, or deny a free press, or limit peaceful expressions on governmental issues.

 

No one should be required to pray, and no one should be prohibited from praying, in public or in private. There should be free participation or non-participation for every individual, with no denial of free choice to anyone.

 

A problem arises, however, if anyone seeks to deny personal choice concerning voluntary expressions.

 

There is no better standard than to let each individual choose for himself or herself, and participate or not participate, in public prayer — without imposing one's own views and prohibiting free choice.

 

Freedom is a wonderful, hard-won right that should be defended! Americans long have enjoyed personal freedom, insisting that we do not deny it to others. We must continue to be free to make our own personal choices — with freedom of diversity — without denying equal rights for all.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

AT PENTAGON — NOT AFGHANISTAN!

 

Many of our members of the military are facing daily dangers in combat in Afghanistan, but who would expect there to be gunfire at the Pentagon, the Defense Department headquarters in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from our nation's Capitol in Washington?

 

Early Tuesday, at about 4:55 a.m., someone unknown, for reasons unknown, fired five to seven shots into the

Pentagon.

 

Two bulletproof windows were hit in empty offices being renovated. Fortunately, there were no casualties.

 

With little solid information available, the shooting was described as a "random event." But that a gunfire attack was made on the Pentagon is obviously a serious matter.

 

Questions were asked also about any possible connection with rifle bullet holes found Monday at windows at a Marine museum at Quantico, Va.

 

Certainly, any such events are disturbing.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

TOO MUCH HORRIBLE VIOLENCE

 

We necessarily and properly make great efforts through our police forces, through our armies, and in many personal and private ways, to protect our people from threats of violence and other dangers.

 

Sadly, our best efforts are not always successful in deterring crime — or war.

 

There are so many evil individuals and groups that are determined to have their way, victimizing others.

 

We see attacks upon our people domestically, and in our community, by law-defying individuals. And we see death-dealing violence in many wars throughout the world.

 

In far-away Russia, Islamic militants have suicidally attacked the regional Chechen parliament, murdering six people and wounding 17 other victims.

 

And in Baghdad, the chief U.N. envoy to Iraq was targeted by bombers. Though he fortunately escaped death, a member of the Iraqi security forces was killed, and others were wounded.

 

These are but examples of "man's inhumanity to man" that are all too prevalent in our world of varied enmities and evils.

 

We should not have to live in fear, and fortunately, for the most part, we do not. But we must take precautions, and condemn all lawlessness — at home and abroad — that threatens anyone.

 

We recall the classic words of John Donne (1572-1631): "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

 

Humanity seeks to defend against inhumanity, sometimes sadly without success.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

JOBS DESTROYED FOR NO REASON

 

You may recall the controversy a couple of decades ago when the northern spotted owl gained protection under the Endangered Species Act, and logging was banned across millions of acres of forested lands in the Pacific Northwest.

 

The thinking behind that ban was that man's harvesting of timber in the region must have been what was causing the spotted owl's numbers to decrease. It was assumed, therefore, that protecting the forest would protect the owl, and that the species would rebound. The loss of logging jobs by the thousands was considered by environmentalists to be a price worth paying to protect the spotted owl.

 

Well, those workers lost their jobs, but the spotted owl is now in even more danger.

 

Here is how McClatchy Newspapers put it in a recent article: "Twenty years after northern spotted owls were protected under the Endangered Species Act, their numbers continue to decline, and scientists aren't certain whether the birds will survive even though logging was banned on much of the old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest where they live in order to save them."

 

The head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's effort to help the owls recover said there was only slight evidence that the ban had done any good.

 

It seems nature did not cooperate with the federal government's big plans to stabilize and increase populations of spotted owls. The extremely aggressive barred owl has been moving into the region in high numbers, displacing its much more placid cousin, the spotted owl.

 

The end result? "Regionwide, the owl populations are dropping 2.9 percent a year. In Washington state, they're declining at 6 to 7 percent a year," McClatchy reported.

 

"Nothing we do seems to work for the spotted owl," said Eric Forsman, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station. He should know. He has been studying the spotted owl for 42 years.

 

So in the end, the spotted owl could disappear — just like all those logging jobs that were destroyed by misguided environmental policies.

 

Is it any wonder that the American people are suspicious of so many alarmist claims by environmental activists — and by the "solutions" those alarmists propose?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - EQUALITY FOR LEFT-HANDED CITIZENS?

 

In many ways, it is a sad reflection on the state of the world that German President Christian Wulff felt compelled to comment in the run-up to his visit to Turkey that he is the president of Germany's Muslims.

 

And it is a similarly sad state of affairs that Turkish President Abdullah Gül felt compelled to respond in a joint press conference as we reported yesterday that, "we have non-Muslim citizens, we have Christian and Jewish citizens. I am their president also."

 

We have no doubt of their good intentions. But we really wish that in the 21st century such statements could be treated as absurd. Such statements should be the equivalent of a nonsensical presidential declaration of solidarity with those "citizens with blue eyes" or taking responsibility to be the leader of "left-handed as well as right-handed citizens."

 

Of course they represent citizens regardless of faith. Or faithlessness for that matter. But in a world of rising religious and ethnic tensions, their statements are, in fact, not absurd at all.

 

For in both Turkey and Germany, the implementation of such basic principles of equality before the law still falls short of the mark.

 

Germany has long since abandoned its infamous and racist laws of the 1930s. But German law still operates under the principle of jus sanguinis, or "blood law." At present, citizenship is passed on by parents and not by a person's place of birth. Thus, not everyone born in Germany is afforded German citizenship. We believe this is wrong. We also believe it feeds the absurd state of affairs that compels a German to state what should be simply assumed.

 

Turkey has long abandoned its own set of racist policies dating to the same era of the 1930s and 1940s, the famous "wealth tax" aimed at non-Muslims and the assimilationist policies of the era captured by the slogan, "Vatandaş, Türkçe konuş," or "Citizen, speak Turkish." The events that caused the mass emigration of so many of Turkey's Christians and Jews in the last half century scarcely need repeating.

 

But Turkey still has unwritten rules against minorities in the civil service. While it is not specifically prohibited

by law, a Jewish general leading the Turkish military or an Armenian-origin diplomat representing Turkey abroad is unimaginable. But we should be able to imagine this. And so Gül is left reminding the world that he represents citizens who go to church or synagogue as well as to the mosque.

 

We thank presidents Wulff and Gül for their sentiments. They are admirable. But they are hardly noble sentiments. Now, we hope the civil societies of both countries will hold them accountable to their claims. Wulff can and should lead Germany toward further reform of citizenship laws that effectively discriminate against many Muslims in his country. Gül must lead the creation of a deeper consciousness in Turkey that rescues attitudes fully from the prejudiced past.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

A DAY IN SABRA AND SHATILLA

MUSTAFA AKYOL

 

BEIRUT - Anybody old enough to recall the 1980s would probably also recall the horrific fate of Sabra and Shatilla. These two adjacent Palestinian camps just outside of Beirut had become the setting of the massacre of more than two thousand people in September 1982. Not just men but women and children were mercilessly slaughtered by the Christian Maronite militias, while their Israeli allies watched uncaringly at arm's length. It was a truly dark episode for mankind.

 

Almost three decades later, which is just the other day, I had the chance to see Sabra and Shatilla for myself for the first time. And I felt hardly any better than when I first saw the photos of that shocking massacre.

 

Longing for home

 

I actually came to Beirut for a brief research on the impact of Turkey's new foreign policy in the region – a story that I hope to share later. Yet none of my meeting and observations were as eye-opening as the couple of hours I spent in these refugee camps. In fact, nothing that I have seen in a long time was as touching as the old woman in Sabra who was still longing for her parents' home in Haifa, from which they were expelled in 1948 to live in these destitute camps.

 

First, a little background: When Israel unleashed its first wave of ethnic cleansing on Palestinian Arabs in 1948, some 700 thousand of them became refugees. In 1967, Israel occupied the remaining part of Palestine, too, creating at least 300,000 more refugees, some of which came to Lebanon. While most Muslims and the Druze of Lebanon felt solidarity with these asylum seekers, Christian Maronites saw them as uninvited guests. When the Palestinians started to arm themselves, becoming a foreign army in Lebanon, the tension further peaked. Finally a civil war broke out in 1975, which would last for 15 years, and lead to brutality by all sides.

 

So, one could say, Israeli expansionism not only traumatized the Palestinian people, but also tore the Lebanese apart.

 

Today, the narrow, dark and dirty alleys of Sabra looks like a testimony of that doomed history. This is a giant shantytown where people live literally on top of each other. The three-story "buildings" are made up of bricks and pieces of metal and plastic, and are surrounded by an ugly web of cables. The distance between the blocks is sometimes less than a meter, which means that you can barely see the sky through them.

 

Not only the sun but also air is scarce in the camps. Most homes don't have any window. I saw a "kitchen" whose only utensils were a few rusty bawls, and whose floor was flooded by dirty water. "You actually see the camp in its cleanest mood," said one of the refugees. "In winter, when it rains a lot, water floats all around."

 

Yet poverty is not the real source of resentment in here. It is the feeling of oppression (by the Israelis) and discrimination (by the Lebanese). Most Palestinians have simply no legal status in Lebanon. So, they can't buy or even rent places and even need permits to leave their refugee camps. They are denied access to Lebanese schools and hospitals, a tragedy compensated only partly by the efforts of the United Nations. They are not even second-class citizens, to use that famous term: they are rather sub-humans.

 

All this plight looks all the more disturbing when compared to Beirut's extravagant nightlife, which presents a baffling synthesis of the most expensive cars, clothes and accessories you can imagine. This is an all-night-party city, full of fancy restaurants, bars and clubs. I have been to some of those places as well, and met wonderful people there, for whom I wish only the best. But I also wonder what they think, if they ever do, of the plight of Palestinians, which is caused and perpetuated partly by the decisions of their political leaders.

 

The right side of history

 

Of course, the same question is even more relevant for Israelis, who enjoy the privileges of their prosperous country, which is built on a country that used to belong to another people. I wish all the best, including peace and security, for the Israelis as well, but I also wonder what they think about the millions of people that they forced out of their homes. Does it really mean anything to them that their heaven is the hell of others? Does it give them any sense of guilt, any feeling of responsibility?

 

Or is humanity, as some claim, really overrated?

 

I admit: my visit to Sabra and Shatilla gave me all that cynicism. But it also gave me pride as a Turk, when I saw the poster of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on the walls of Sabra. It was a reminder that my government has stood by the Palestinians, and stood at the right side of history.

 

That right side is certainly not to call for Israel's destruction, and support terrorist acts against Israeli civilians, as Iran unacceptably does. But it is also not to worship "Israel's right to security," while seeing the Palestinians' rights as a side issue, as successive American administrations have unbelievably done.

 

It is rather to stand for justice for all. And if you believe for a moment that justice has been served in the Middle East, I would suggest you to go to Sabra and see it for your self. Facts on the ground are the best antidote to delusions in the mind.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SOCIAL SHOPPING HAS REACHED TURKEY

ERSU ABLAK

 

Online retail shopping is the next big thing. Everybody is sure about that. By 2012 online retail shopping will hit 45 billion pounds in the U.K., only in the first half of 2010 in USA people spent $60 Billion in online retail shopping. The global market is more than a trillion dollars.

 

In Turkey the market is rather small but slowly developing. According to The Interbank Card Center, or BKM, in 2008 the total online transaction was $1.2 billion and it is expected to be more than $2 billion by the end of 2010.

 

Until 2010 Turkish people bought media products more than anything else through online channels. One of the reasons was the fact that only around 1 percent of Turkish firms had an online sales channel until a few years ago. The number showed a rapid growth that diversified the products available to the Turkish market through online transactions.

 

However there is another phenomenon that will change the statistics about the type of products bought online and it is the social shopping fever. A day doesn't go by without a new social shopping website sending an email to millions of people to join in to get low-priced goods or services. It is one way the transactional model of current online shopping is changing and Turkey is catching up fast. The social shopper is not only concerned with the value. He or she is not only a buyer, but also a critic, a trend setter and a production manager.

 

According to research by Immediate Future, 54 percent of online shoppers are motivated by the lowest price alone. For those 54 percent there are group shopping websites. These websites make agreements with the brands to reduce the price if a certain number of buyers bid through the website. This enables the power of numbers to be on the buyer's side. You cannot bargain with an Adidas salesperson inside a crowded shop but through group shopping you can get around a 10 to 50 percent reduction for the same items. There are more than 10 such websites operating in Turkey. So far the most popular service or product sold were vacation deals and epilation for ladies. There is a social component to group shopping, but it is not the real concern for the website owners. Therefore people usually use Facebook or Friendfinder to shout out any dislikes about the products or services bought.

 

A social shopping website is a different thing altogether. It is not about getting the cheapest deal, it is about finding the best of the best product for yourself and helping others to find their dream products.  This change in retail buying happened because the social media and social networks changed the way we behave. An executive from a cosmetics producer once told me that sales are ever-growing since Facebook hit Turkey, because in the social network age any one can take a photo of you anywhere and publish it on any network. People think that they have to look their best whenever they go out. Of course there are many other aspects of sharing that drives social shopping, but being at your best all the time is one of the powerful driving factors.

 

The second driver is the immense power that shoppers acquire through social shopping websites. Before Internet if you didn't like a product you had to write a letter, engage in a phone dialogue or travel back to the shop just to make them listen to your complaint. Even if you made yourself heard you didn't have any chances to spread the knowledge. Therefore the brand didn't fear its customers. With the Internet people can interact and spread negativity about a product so quickly that the sales of the brand might fall faster than a meteor. This shifted the balance of power in favor of customers very quickly. Clever brands just surrendered to the new age and suddenly found themselves in a very favorable position. Customers became fans of the brands that really listened to them. They started giving ideas about new products and suddenly became innovation workers for those brands that they held close to their heart. Now, not only a friend's opinion, but also information on forums, blogs, news and peer-to-peer dialogues have also become a part of the buying process. This phenomenon will become even more important as the volume of transactions increases for goods and services bought in Turkey in the coming years. Turkish firms must get themselves ready for social shopping because its already here.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHINA'S RISE? AMERICA'S DEMISE?

RICHARD REID

 

China's rise and America's demise are articles of faith these days. Most commentators believe that Beijing will rule the world by mid-century. The United States, its vitality sapped, will soon be a bystander in the global power game. All signs point that way.

 

Or do they? Is there a body of serious analysis behind this notion? Has anyone measured China's prospects against the realities of global power? What does power consist of?

 

A country's power, the force it can exert in the world, its ability to get its way, depends on its reach – the effective projection of its influence. France has reach. It can project influence thousands of miles, from Paris to West Africa, and make things happen. Cuba has lost its reach – it can no longer orchestrate uprisings in the Andes. Britain recently showed its reach by making Libya gag itself on the anniversary of the Lockerbie convict's return. Russia has lost the reach it had when its warships, under the Soviet flag, could anchor at a vast Brezhnev-era missile cruiser base in Somaliland.

 

Reach has four forms. The first and most important is economic. The second, built on the economic, is military reach. The third, fostered by the first two, is diplomatic reach. The fourth, less dependent on the others, is cultural reach – also known as soft power. Combinations of these four make the difference between those who call the shots in the world and the also-rans.

 

Using the four, one can put the measuring stick to China, starting with economic reach.

 

China's economy is undeniably the world's racehorse. Its GNP has vaulted past Japan's, and is second only to that of the U.S. It is the workshop of the world. It has lifted half a billion people out of poverty and has the world's largest hard currency reserves. Yes, and good. But these domestic achievements serve mainly as showcase factors, have little to do with foreign impact and have to be balanced against China's harsher facts. A fourth of its people still live on $2 a day. This does not reflect a land of balanced plenty. The country ranks 92nd, behind Albania, in the U.N Human Development tables. Its school completion and enrollment ratios are less then Venezuela's. Half of its export products are designed somewhere else.

 

Why wouldn't China's GNP be more than Japan's, when its working age population is 11 times larger? The currency reserves it has parked in U.S Treasury bonds and spent on resource futures in Africa may be prudent investments, but they have brought Beijing no tangible leverage or policy benefits.

 

For all its furious economic growth, then, China remains a poor developing country, whose gains up to now have been the easy ones. It is no nearer economic superpower status than America was before its Civil War. Right now the U.S. GNP is three-and-a-half times larger, even though its working population is one-fourth of China's. Even if China were to average 7-percent growth to mid-century it would not overtake an America averaging 2.5 percent.

 

And there will be no sustained 7 percent, since in 15 years or so, China's swelling middle class and its restless rural peasants will have forced the country into political pluralism, ending the command system that has made the boom possible. Maybe China will be able to salvage economic growth as the process of democratization works itself out. That is a possibility, and no more. Before long, too, Beijing will need to come into line with World Trade Organization, or WTO, rules. The WTO says that governments of member states cannot subsidize their export products. China subsidizes nearly all its main export companies, and when it ceases being a deadbeat and faces global price competition its trade surpluses will surely shrink. Another kind of systematic economic slowing comes from Beijing's blocking of the Internet. This starves its entrepreneurs of the flow of information mined elsewhere by businessmen and venture capitalists for export opportunities.

 

Further, a demographic backlash will start to severely erode private savings in China within the next 15 years, as payback for the country's one-child policy comes due. The first cohorts of single children – who will be in their late 40s by 2025 – will each face the prospect of supporting two parents and four grandparents for the rest of their lives, since Beijing has no comprehensive pension system.

 

Many would argue that if not quickly its economy, then surely China's military will soon give it the reach to assume superpower status. It is hard to see how. China's huge land army is an anachronism in an age of asymmetric conflict. China is quite incapable of force projection beyond its immediate region and the South China Sea, and is less capable of effective long-distance armed reach than Britain, France, Russia or Israel. If it wanted to put boots on the ground on foreign soil it could not – the delivery systems are not there. Beijing lacks the sine qua non of military superiority, a blue-water navy. It will take it at least a decade to develop an ocean-ready fleet battle group and the aircraft carrier to go with it. While the decade passes, will the rest of the world, particularly Asian powers like India and Vietnam, sit still? (Worth mentioning here is that the United States has 11 carrier groups and will not stop assembling others).

 

Some have argued that China's missile-armed nuclear submarines are a kind of blue-water navy. This makes no sense, since such submarines are mere deterrence platforms, having little to do with the workaday play of global power.

 

However big China is, however energetic and however great the hype surrounding it, a lopsided economy and a penned-up military are weak grounds for voting it to the head of the class any time in the foreseeable future. China will qualify only when it begins to substantively overtake its rivals.

 

Diplomacy for the Chinese is still an exercise in inversion, a blocking game. A country of their size should be building and leading coalitions, but they are not. The less-timid ASEAN nations are pulling away from them; Chinese assertiveness about territory and oil rights in the South China Sea are driving them into America's arms. Beijing can claim only North Korea as a close ally; in fact Beijing and Pyongyang are mutually-enervating co-dependents. Pakistan sides with China – to keep India at a distance. In the U.N. Security Council, China's usual stance is reflexively anti-Western, a not-unreasonable position but one not designed to bring equals aboard. China lacks the clout to drum up Council majorities.

 

Nor does China muster much soft power in the world. It inspires wonder more than attraction. China's highbrow classical opera and drama appeal to few foreigners, the crouching tiger films have a vanishing appeal and neither stand a chance against Madonna or James Cameron. Only plus-30s outside China may remember the Tiananmen massacre, but most Western TV watchers sympathize with Tibet and the Dalai Lama. China's increasingly sharp class differences project little of the Confucian ideal of social harmony to the world; it may be that 50 years of Communist rule so thoroughly effaced the Confucian social norms that they will never make a broad comeback.

 

True, in any genuinely global popularity poll China might be better-liked than the United States. But that would be because the U.S. often does the distasteful things a superpower feels compelled to do, and China has shied away from doing them yet. Who can be sure that it ever will? The China myth has been larger than life since Marco Polo.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SHARING THE SAME ROOM IN YEREVAN FOR THE SAKE OF DIALOGUE

VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

 

Lengthy efforts are finally bearing fruit as Turks and Armenians are taking steps in the direction of dialogue. Somehow this happened, though undeniably painful.

 

I aimed high to bring Turkish and Armenian publishers together and my efforts worked this time. For once, I forgot that I am a journalist and promised myself not to make news stories out of this rendezvous. Did I meet my promise? Of course not! But I did my best and succeeded in bringing publishers and readers of the two countries together. We joined the "Tarz ar Kirk/Back to Book- International Open Space Book Festival," sponsored by the Armenian Culture Ministry and one of the most prestigious publishing houses of the country Actual Art's owner Migirdich Matevosian.

 

The festival's budget was limited. Although Matevosian wanted to invite more Turkish publishers to the event, that couldn't happen. However, I and other to journalists from Turkey hit the road to Yerevan. I also had some other responsibilities. I was participating in the fair as the representative of Istanbul Armenian Literature.

 

We set-out on the road with Ragıp Zarakolu, founder of the Human Rights Association of Turkey and the owner of Belge Yayınları publishing house, and Professor Ahmet İnsel joined us at the airport. İnsel was visiting Armenia for the first time, so he was excited. And it was Zarakolu's second visit. The two kept asking me so many questions. İnsel and Zarakolu slipped through passport control. However, I had a little surprise. I handed my Turkish passport to the officer, but he asked me whether or not I had a residence permit. I was surprised at first, but then I told him that I was born in Turkey, so I am a Turkish citizen. Anyway, the problem was solved and I passed through the check points.

 

We shared the same room for the sake of dialogue

 

After we landed at Yerevan Airport we were welcomed by an exemplary "dialogue" in Armenia. Armenian-French academic and journalist Michale Marian and İnsel couldn't find separate rooms at the hotel, so they stayed in the same room. Zarakolu and I had a big surprise because where we hosted was a house rented for a week. İnsel and Marian were surprised, so were we. Although it sounds strange to begin with, we immediately started to enjoy the situation. We experienced everything together – dialogue, discussions, chats, sorrow, offences… anything… Although the budget was limited, we had unlimited conversations. We openly criticized Marevosian at times, but then we appreciated him for this little surprise. Now, our biggest objective is to bring Matevosian to the leading book fair in Turkey, TÜYAP Book Fair, and give birth to several projects. During the event, İnsel and Marian participated in panels to introduce the book "Dialogue over the Armenian Taboo," recently published by İletişim Yayınları. They are co-authors of the book in which they shared personal experiences on the subject matter. It was translated into Armenian by Actual Art. Zarakolu shared his own publisher's experiences and struggles he went through. And I, as half writer/poet half translator identity, participated in the fair as the representative of Istanbul Armenian Literature. Therefore, I was kind of a bridge. There was a translator. However, I was translating for İnsel or Zarakolu at times and on one side I was trying to tell about my own experience in literature and about my books.

 

Turkish publishers faced a shower of questions

 

As a matter of fact, four of us were putting our mark on a historic rendezvous in Yerevan. Despite financial difficulties, we were uniting different Armenian generations from Istanbul and Paris in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. We were uniting two sides of the border. All right, if you ask me that if our duty is over, I could say "No, it is not. We'll continue." We will leave politics behind and as real intellectuals set out the road in order to create an atmosphere of dialogue between the two nations. İnsel and Zarakolu faced a shower of questions from Armenian readers. In fact, there were two Turks sitting across to them and they were representing very different viewpoints. So, readers listened to them, asked questions, some of which were quite to the point, but each time we found a common ground. Without doubt, İnsel and Zarakolu were the two figures that showed up on Armenian televisions and press for a week. First, İnsel left Yerevan and returned to Istanbul. The day after Marian flew to Paris. I and Zarakolu remained in Yerevan. I should confess that we got used to living in the same house, though we were critical at the beginning. Since I was in charge of the organization, I had wished to have no flaws. Still, we had a few surprises here and there. Sometimes, it is colorful to have Oriental kinds of surprises, don't you think?

 

We believe in dialogue

 

I should most definitely add that İnsel and Zarakolu took Turkish books to Yerevan. We had an exchange of books. We made promises to join other fairs in the future. If Matevosian manages, we will be back at the book festival in Yerevan next year. But this time, we will invite Turkish authors and publishers from different views because we believe in dialogue. If you want to join us, we will be happy to see you among us. Perhaps we will make a big group, share the same room or even a house. What do you say? As the world's poet Nazım Hikmet once said "We will see beautiful days, children / We will see sunny days…"

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SMILING FACE OF GERMANY WELCOMES…

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

German President Christian Wullf's Turkey expedition started on Tuesday. And the extremely critical visit coincides with the rocky terms of Turkish-German relations.

 

After being elected as the president for the third time, Wullf chose to visit Turkey. This is quite meaningful. Besides, he will spend five days in Turkey; almost a record stay.

 

What makes his first visit to Turkey after a decade and at the presidential level again more important is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel unexpectedly said a few days before Wullf's visit: "This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed…Immigrants have failed to adopt." Wullf visited the home country of the said immigrants immediately after.

 

To the contrary of her tough stance, Wullf was able to say, "Islam is a part of Germany." He is that courageous. Even more so, Focus magazine published a photo of Wullf in which a beard was added to create a hodja image through photomontage. Still, the German president did not change his attitude.

 

I think the German president represents the Germany of the future. I am talking about a Germany that left the Cold War behind and is at peace with Islam.

 

Let's put aside ups and downs. Germany is a locomotive to Turkey on its way to Europe. Without Germany Ankara cannot find its place in Europe. Even if Ankara decides to remain outside Europe, Turkey cannot make it without Germany.

 

Let's not feel an inferiority complex. After all these years, we are already intertwined. No matter what Merkel says Turkey and Turks are a part of German life.

 

According to figures released by TAVAK, there are 75,000 Turkish employers in Germany. That's not to be ignored.

 

Misunderstandings happen at times, or unnecessary quarrels. Still Turkish-German relations are vital in all aspects.

 

 12,000 judges are being treated unfairly

 

On Tuesday morning, on CNN Türk's Parameter program, daily Hürriyet Ankara representative Metehan Demir brought a point to the attention and said of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, elections that members of the judiciary cast secret votes; therefore, they could not have been under pressure.

 

The claim is that 12,000 members of the judiciary were handed out a list of candidates prepared by the Justice Ministry and they voted accordingly. Even if that so, I don't think it is logical to think that they were afraid of pressure and voted as they were asked so.

 

Official posts in Turkey can influence tens, or even hundreds, of bureaucrats working for them. In small places especially, judicial members may easily give into pressures. But, it is impossible to pressure 12,000 of them. This is simply a claim exaggerated way behind reason. However, there is the other side of the medallion.

 

A part of public opinion today perceives that the HSYK consists entirely of pro-government names. Whether you like it or not, or consider it exaggeration, public perception casts a shadow over the HSYK. No matter what is said, no matter how hard the ministry ties to deny it, the judiciary cannot save itself from such perception.

 

The ministry conducted the HSYK elections poorly. Public announcements were extremely inadequate. As every single step of past governments, especially that of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government today, they should've acted more carefully.

 

Was it necessary to elect a personnel general manager, or assistant undersecretary, or top bureaucrats of the Justice Academy to send to the board? The minister and ministry undersecretary are already in the HSYK anyway. So, there is no need for more in meetings.

 

The HSYK will clear 12,000 members of the judiciary

 

Taha Akyol of daily Milliyet made a point in an article published Tuesday. The stain on the HSYK will be removed by the institution itself.

 

Prospective appointments and future decision will exonerate 12,000 members of the judiciary in the middle and long run. Plus, everyone should act more sensitive on the issue. Incidents of the date shouldn't be swept under the rug by simply saying, "There the ill-thought opponents!" Unless the stain is removed, sense of justice will be harmed in the public eye. In such a period where no one trusts the judiciary enough, worries and concerns shouldn't be ignored.

 

To read the public opinion is a merit. Those who utterly fail it lose in the end no matter how righteous they are.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EUROPE ON ALERT

HENRY WILKINSON

 

The last weeks saw a string of events and warnings that suggested Europe was under a renewed threat from global jihadist terrorism. Some reports even indicated al-Qaeda was planning Mumbai-style armed rampages in several Western European cities. But just how credible is this threat and what are the implications for European security?

 

Most sources seem to agree that the first pointer to a major plot in Europe came from a German national captured in Kabul in July called Ahmed Sidiqi. He told interrogators of plans to attack a number of targets in Europe. Sidiqi, who may have links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, or IMU, was a member of an 11-man cell from Hamburg that had trained in camps in North Waziristan.

 

According to CNN, Sidiqi came under the command of a Mauritanian member of al-Qaeda's External Operations Committee (which plans attacks in the West) known as Younis al-Mauretani. Sidiqi revealed that al-Mauretani planned to travel to Europe with two other Germans to prepare attacks modeled on the November 2008 Mumbai assault.

 

Meanwhile a Briton, Abdul Jabbar, had traveled to North Waziristan in 2009 for terrorist training under the guidance of a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, commander close to al-Qaeda. Jabbar was reportedly in the process of planning attacks against European targets and setting-up a network in the U.K. called the "Islamic Army of Great Britain."

 

In the event, both al-Mauretani and Jabbar died in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan on Sept. 8. It seems that they met at a summit of some 300 militants from various al-Qaeda factions and affiliates that had come together to plan future terrorist operations, including in Europe.

 

A wider conspiracy

 

A third figure reportedly killed that day was Yemeni terrorist Fahd Mohammad Ahmed al-Quso. He had close links with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and was an important conduit between al-Qaeda in Pakistan and its Yemen-based franchise.

 

It is unclear what role al-Quso may have had in any European plot. But given his status, his presence at the meeting seems to indicate that al-Qaeda supported it and may indicate a continued role in ordering and planning attacks in the West.

 

Some recent reports quote intelligence officials supporting this assessment. They claim that Osama Bin Laden remains directly involved, and that he issued a "directive" to affiliates and partners via couriers several months earlier stating a desire to see a "Mumbai-style attack" in the United Kingdom, Germany or France.

 

Quite how far along any plot may have progressed is unclear. Several European intelligence sources told the

media that the plot was embryonic. But since Sept. 8, indications of a threat to Europe have continued to emerge.

 

French police arrested 12 people on terrorism charges, seizing a collection of firearms. On Oct. 3, U.S. drones struck again in Pakistan, killing eight suspected terrorists, four of whom were German nationals.

 

Yet despite these events and travel warnings, neither the British, German nor the French governments have raised national terrorism threat levels. This suggests none believe there was, or is, an imminent threat of attack.

 

While the latest plot may have been in its early stages, it seems that al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain intent on mounting attacks in Europe. Pakistani diplomats have dismissed the credibility of stories that these plans are being hatched in their country, but a senior Pakistani intelligence officer confirmed to the media that there are "several dozen" people with European citizenship operating in Pakistan's tribal areas. Media reports suggest that as many as 20 British-born jihadists are currently training at militant training camps there.

 

The director general of MI5 recently said plots that trace back to al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan have dropped from around 75 percent two or three years ago, to around 50 percent now. He attributes that to pressure exerted on the al-Qaeda leadership, but also increased activity in Somali and Yemen.

 

This highlights perhaps the most troubling aspect of the European plot story: diversification. Groups associated with Al-Qaeda – the IMU but also quite possibly affiliates from North Africa, the Gulf and Horn of Africa – appear to be demonstrating interest in working with European nationals to carry out attacks in their domestic space. That represents a new level of internationalization that will continue to challenge Western security forces.

 

*Henry Wilkinson is associate director of Janusian Security Risk Management, the security and political risk subsidiary of the Risk Advisory Group. This piece appeared on Global Expert Finder, www.globalexpertfinder.org, a project of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE HEADSCARF AND BEYOND…

YUSUF KANLI

 

The headscarf is such a contentious political-religious symbol that the spouse of the First Turk felt compelled to stay away from official protocol activities. Why should the spouse of the president of the country feel compelled to stay away from protocol requirements because she could not reconcile what she considered requirements of her religion with the established perception of one of the founding pillars of the modern Republic: Secularism? Is that a normal state of affairs in a democracy? Of course not, but that is the reality in Turkey, a secular and pluralist democracy with a predominantly Muslim population.

 

In this column and elsewhere in the Turkish media immense effort spent over the past years to explain why a piece of cloth covering the heads of young women has been creating such an immense human rights problem on the one hand and an acute phobia of radical Islamic advancing at the expense of secular, democratic pluralist modern Republic. Of course, converting head cover of women into a political-religious symbol of political Islam which has been in a revanchist campaign against the secular Republic was primarily the reason behind the headscarf ban and the resulting controversy. Thus the problem would obviously be resolved only after that piece of cloth ceased to be considered a political-religious symbol or flag of radical Islamist adversary to the modern Republic.

 

The Higher Education Council, or YÖK, which created the latest wave of headscarf controversy back in 1980s by banning it at universities, cannot resolve this problem by ignoring the so many lower and higher court rulings and advising the universities to go around the existing regulations as if they did not exist. Turkey must undertake some legislative effort and not only bring an end to the headscarf-related human rights sufferings of the young girls at the doors of universities but also soothe worries of the secular sections of the society that once the turban ban is lifted at universities the Islamist radicals will then start demanding "liberalization" of the turban at the public offices and even at primary and secondary schools. Is that a legitimate fear? If despite all calls for the past so many years the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, could never ever came up with an assurance that it won't demand "liberalization" of headgear at public offices and primary, secondary schools once the problem at universities is resolved, such fears are indeed valid an legitimate. If from time to time leading AKP personalities cannot stop but exclaim that "God willing after universities we shall liberate turban at public offices as well", obviously such fears are legitimate.

 

If just on the day the prime minister announced that executives of his party would start talks with other parliamentary parties for a reconciliation push aimed at resolving the turban problem at universities an 13-year-old T.Y. from an Adana primary school attempts to go to the school with a turban on her head and slogans on her tongue – obviously prepared by some other people far better lectured in targets of political Islam and who would turn the girl into a symbol of a fresh campaign – is it abnormal for some people having fears that their lifestyle might be at serious and growing risk?

 

Of course the 13-year-old girl cannot be taken responsible for her action. She is just 13 years old; a kid who cannot be held legally responsible of her actions. Indeed, that is exactly why girls at primary and secondary schools who are still small girls or juveniles cannot decide with their own free will, and no one would believe a statement from a father which might attempt to underline that he has not been pressuring his daughter to cover up. On the other hand, if this state is a secular democracy, there should be no place at all for symbols of any religion in the public offices.

 

The spouse of the president or a prime minister or minister attending a protocol event in a local attire or their heads covered in accordance with the religion they subscribe to of course is something different than allowing a religious symbol in the public area. The two cannot be mixed. Yet, for a long time such an absurd sensitivity prevented the spouse of President Abdullah Gül attending official protocol events. It is so nice to see today correction of that anomaly finally. Yet, probably we will be witnessing that some people will try to boycott the Republic Day reception to be hosted by the presidential couple at the Çankaya Palace on Oct. 29 evening. Why? To protest a return to normalcy and hosting one reception rather than two receptions; one "secular reception" for the military-civilian top bureaucracy not participated by the spouse of the president and the other for some civilian and non-governmental guests attended by the first lady.

 

Turban problem unfortunately is not that simple… It is not just the head cover of the first lady or whether or not she fulfilled her protocol duties. It is indeed just part of a bigger fight between modernity and radicalism and unfortunately radicalism disguised as progressive is advancing while modernity condemned and blamed for being conservative is retreating…

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE KARACHI CAULDRON

 Like a cauldron of bubbling liquid that stands constantly on the stove, violence in Karachi has spilled over again on to the streets and markets. At least 43 more people had died by Wednesday afternoon – 32 died on Tuesday alone; with the worst incident coming at a scrap market where seven or eight men, perhaps a few more, perhaps a few less, rode up on motorbikes and fired at random into the crowd. We are told that some have since been apprehended. Maybe the arrests can give police and rangers in Karachi some clue as to quite what is happening. So far they have stood virtually as spectators as the killings continue, apparently unable to do anything at all to stop them. The latest spate of violence came within hours of the interior minister's visit to Karachi. By now we would have expected him to have worked out some kind of strategy to calm the city and enable people to get on with their lives in something resembling peace. Strikes in the wake of killing sprees do little to ease their plight and, for most part, add to it. But what is especially disturbing is the fact that the government seems to have no real idea as to what to do or how. The reports of curfew being imposed in certain areas and a search operation being planned remain uncertain as these lines are written. The top leaders of the country have again made their statements, condemning the killings and seeking details. We know that these comments really mean nothing at all. Prime Minister Gilani is reported to have said that the army will not be called in. It is all very well to say what will not be done; what we need to hear is what will be and is being done that is meaningful. Mr Gilani is 'confident that the political leadership will be able to control the situation in Karachi.' But such confidence has been expressed in the past too only to be exposed as hollow as the promises that the government habitually makes every time terror strikes hapless people. 


For months now there has been a deployment of rangers across Karachi. The familiar sandbags and barricades have appeared in many places. But what purpose do these serve if lives cannot be saved? The effectiveness of the security measures taken need to be reviewed in depth. The government must call in experts – if necessary from abroad – to see what kind of measures are needed. If our forces need more training this should be offered. Quite evidently blockades on roads serve little purpose other than adding to the misery suffered by many commuters. There is outrage in Karachi over what is happening. The uncertainty in the city contributes to tension everywhere. It also brings up the question of why nothing has been done to contain the violence and prevent blood from spilling each time the flame is turned up a notch or two.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

QURESHI ON IRAN

 Pakistan's foreign minister, speaking at Harvard University, chose to direct some advice the way of Iran. He said that Iran did not need nuclear weapons and should consider dismantling them as it was facing no threat. He also suggested that Iran accept US overtures of friendship to 'engage the world'. In the first place, advice that is not called for is almost always unwelcome. We ask why Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi saw it fit to deliver his sermon. The fact that Pakistan itself possesses nuclear weapons adds to the irony. The foreign minister defended this on the grounds that Pakistan faces a threat from India. But if we look at recent history, the fact is that Iran has fought a bitter war with a neighbour – Iraq – far more recently than Pakistan's last battlefield encounter with India. Iran also believes it faces a threat from Israel and its powerful nuclear arsenal.


Quite beyond the issue of risk analysis, we must ask what impact the remarks, made on American soil, will have at home and in the region. Mr Qureshi's words have made Islamabad come out looking like a particularly naïve US stooge – toeing exactly the same line on Iran as Washington and apparently trying to get a pat on the back for doing so. This will not go down well at all at