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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

EDITORIAL 11.01.11

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 media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Editorial

Month january 11, edition 000726, 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. BJP IN PURPOSEFUL MODE
  2. TIME TO CALL IT A DAY
  3. ITALIAN ATITHI IS DEVO BHAVA - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. LINKING WITH INDIA'S DIASPORA - JC SHARMA
  5. POLITICS OF VIOLENCE AND INTIMIDATION - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  6. THE VORTEX OF INFLATIONARY PRESSURE - SHIVAJI SARKAR

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. SCOUTING TALENT
  2. MAKE IT WORK
  3. WHEN THE AMERICANS GO HOME - GAUTAM ADHIKARI
  4. NONE FOR THE ROAD
  5. TECHNOLOGY CORRODES RESPONSIBILITY - DEEP K DATTA-RAY
  6. JOB PROFILED - RUPA SENGUPTA

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. A STEADY AND ASSURED FLOW
  2. AUCTION REPLAY
  3. NO MORE MR NICE GUY - ANIL DHARKER
  4. MERCY IN MEDINA - ARIF MOHAMMED KHAN

 

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. FISCAL TARGETS
  2. OFF TRACK
  3. GAINED IN TRANSLATION
  4. INDIA'S OWN POLITICS OF DENIAL - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  5. A NEW LINE IN THE SAND - ALIA ALLANA
  6. 'IF THE PM CAN APPEAR BEFORE THE PAC, WHY CAN'T HE APPEAR BEFORE A JPC? IT'S BEYOND COMPREHENSION' - SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SEASON 4 LOOKS GRAND
  2. BENGAL TO THE RAILWAYS
  3. ALL HAIL KING SHALE! - TNR RAO
  4. TEJAS IS NO LONGER A MIRAGE - DEBA R MOHANTY
  5. EAVESDROPPER - MAYA SCHEMES

 

THE HINDU

  1. BJP'S RETURN TO FORM
  2. AT RECORD LEVELS
  3. PUBLIC DIPLOMACY — THE TASKS AHEAD - RAJIV BHATIA
  4. BLASPHEMY LAWS AND THEIR SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS  - MADANJEET SINGH
  5. MY FATHER DIED FOR PAKISTAN  - SHEHRBANO TASEER
  6. SAVAGE ACT IN POLARISED COUNTRY - GARY YOUNGE
  7. SWISS BANKER WHO USED WIKILEAKS FACES TRIAL

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. BJP MUST CLEAN ITS OWN HOUSE FIRST
  2. NOOSE OR NECKLACE? - SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. ARMY MUST LIVE UP TO CARIAPPA - S.K. SINHA

 

DNA

  1. INDIA'S KABUL DILEMMA LOOMS LARGE
  2. IT IS NOT A GREEN VS GROWTH DEBATE
  3. IPL TELLS THE LEGENDS TO MOVE ON
  4. RSS IS RETROGRESSIVE BUT NOT A TERRORIST OUTFIT - PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR
  5. SRIKRISHNA COMMITTEE REPORT JUST REITERATES OLD ARGUMENTS - MOHAN GURUSWAMY

 

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. CAN' WE UNDO IT?
  2. TRAFFIC SNARLS
  3. THE SAINT SOLDIER - BY INDER JEET S 'PRINCE'
  4. ON THE CROSSROAD OF DISASTER - BY K.N. PANDITA
  5. FUNDS STASHED ABROAD - BY RAMESH KANITKAR

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. NRI PARTICIPATION
  2. BENGAL'S TRAGEDY
  3. VALUE FOR MONEY?
  4. WIKILEAKS ON BIO-TERRORISM - BY SUMAN SAHAI
  5. CLASSIC PRIDE - BY ROOPINDER SINGH
  6. UTTARAKHAND FOCUS TO BE ON VILLAGES
  7. HIMACHAL'S THRUST WILL BE ON EDUCATION

 

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. ADDING TO THE CONFLICT

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MANUFACTURING DEFENCE
  2. WEST BENGAL'S VIOLENT POLITICS
  3. THE SIX-ROAD T-JUNCTION - Y HARISH CHANDRA PRASAD
  4. DEFENCE ON GROUND, NOT CASTLES IN AIR - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. INDIA'S DULLER GREEN BELT - SURINDER SUD
  6. TAMPERING WITH TWAIN - NILANJANA S ROY

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. WHEN CHARITY IS SELF-INTEREST
  2. IPL IS ALIVE AND KICKING
  3. SHRINKING VALUES
  4. SECURITY LESSONS FROM HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY - RAJMOHAN GANDHI
  5. TH RO U G H TH E TH I R D EYE  
  6. ENTERPRISE TELANGANA - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  7. KNOWING WHAT ONE HAS TO LEAVE - MUKUL SHARMA

 

BUSINESS LINE

  1. A DIFFERENT FOOD OBSESSION
  2. ARE WE IN FOR A RE-RUN OF 1990-91?
  3. BJP RESURGENT, ONIONS MORE SO - RASHEEDA BHAGAT
  4. PUBLIC WORKS AND WAGES IN RURAL INDIA - JAYATI GHOSH
  5. VEGOIL SECTOR CRIES OUT FOR STRUCTURAL CHANGES - G. CHANDRASHEKHAR

 

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. BJP MUST CLEAN ITS OWN HOUSE FIRST
  2. NOOSE OR NECKLACE? - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. TOXIC RHETORIC BREEDING CLIMATE OF HATE - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. ARMY MUST LIVE UP TO CARIAPPA  - BY S.K. SINHA
  5. SHIV, PARVATI AND MARRIAGE  - BY YOGI ASHWINI
  6. GOD & INTOLERANCE - BY HUMA YUSUF

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. THE CM SPEAKETH
  2. PAC & THE CHIEFS
  3. SAYING NO
  4. AUTONOMY & STATEHOOD - AJAY K MEHRA
  5. THE CRISIS OF CREDIBILITY - RAJINDER PURI
  6. NOW & AGAIN - ANINDITA CHOWDHURY
  7. INDIA BAGS LEADING ROLE IN ANTI-TERROR PANEL

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. NEED TO CLARIFY
  2. MARGINAL PEOPLE
  3. WHERE IS LEARNING? - ASHOK V. DESAI
  4. THERE COMES A TIDE IN THE AFFAIRS OF NATIONS

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. COLD COMFORT
  2. POWER OF YOUTH
  3. HURRIYAT'S BIG LIE B G VERGHESE
  4. SOWING SEEDS -  NAMITHA ANNAIAH

 

OHERALDO

  1. JUSTICE & THE 'AAM ADMI'
  2. TEMPLE THIEVES
  3. CAN GOA'S NCP LEGISLATURE PARTY MERGE?
  4. ADV CLEOFATO A COUTINHO

 

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. LEARNING JUDAISM FROM GIFFORDS
  2. ONLY MORAL COURAGE CAN MAKE RABBIS RELEVANT  - BY SHMULEY BOTEACH 
  3. ENCOUNTERING PEACE: THE VIEW IS CLEARER FROM HERE  - BY GERSHON BASKIN 
  4. OUR WORLD: SUDANESE CROSSROADS - BY CAROLINE B. GLICK 
  5. CAN WE SAVE OUR DEMOCRACY? - BY ALON LIEL 
  6. IDEOLOGY BOUGHT WITH EUROS - BY DANNY DANON 
  7. WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD MEN GONE? - BY DAN KOSKY 

 

HAARETZ

  1. ISRAELI NGOS ARE ENTRENCHING THE OCCUPATION - BY YAGIL LEVY
  2. ISRAEL'S RADICAL LEFT HAS GIVEN UP ON TAKING POWER - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  3. ISRAEL - POVERTY AMIDST PLENTY - BY MOSHE ARENS
  4. SHAMEFUL IMPRISONMENT
  5. NETANYAHU IS THE KING OF SPIN - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. AN ASSAULT ON EVERYONE'S SAFETY
  2. NOT SO CHEAP FOR CHINA
  3. LUKASHENKO'S GULAG
  4. A WHIFF OF SPRING
  5. THE POLITICIZED MIND - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. A FLOOD TIDE OF MURDER - BY BOB HERBERT
  7. SWEET HOME ARIZONA - BY AURELIE SHEEHAN
  8. WHY POLITICIANS NEED TO STAY OUT IN THE OPEN - BY PAUL E. KANJORSKI

 

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON GUNS: POROUS LAWS HELP LUNATICS GET THEIR HANDS ON DEADLY WEAPONS
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON GUNS: FIREARMS CONTROL DOESN'T WORK - BY ERICH PRATT
  3. LET'S BE CAREFUL WITH CAUSE AND EFFECT IN TUCSON  - BY ROSS BAKER
  4. 'N-WORD' HAS BECOME AN INDELIBLE PART OF THE AMERICAN LEXICON - BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM
  5. MOMENT OF SILENCE WAS LONG OVERDUE FOR NATION - BY CHUCK RAASCH
  6. MASS SHOOTINGS ARE A FACT OF AMERICAN LIFE  - BY JAMES ALAN FOX

 

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. COUNTY MAYOR JIM COPPINGER
  2. SNOW EXCITES CHATTANOOGANS
  3. CHATTANOOGA'S OWN PASSAT
  4. DON WAMP
  5. DIFFICULT, DANGEROUS — DEADLY!

 

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. MARE COMMUNE EST ET OMNIUM LITORA
  2. DIMINISHING RETURNS IN TURKEY'S EU BID - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. ISLAM AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER
  4. POLITICAL IDEOLOGY - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  5. ÖCALAN NEEDS A TV - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  6. WHY THE ELECTRIC CAR WILL NEVER BECOME A WIDESPREAD PHENOMENON - KURT COBB
  7. WE ALL ARE PORNOGRAPHERS - YILDIRIM TÜRKER
  8. RESPONSIBILITY - YUSUF KANLI
  9. THE FUTURE OF FOOD RIOTS - GWYNNE DYER

 

THE NEWS

  1. GILANI'S PROMISE
  2. STREET POWER
  3. TAKING A LEAD
  4. AFTER THE MURDER  - ZAFAR HILALY
  5. PITFALLS OF A LAME-DUCK GOVT  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. HAVING THE WRONG DEBATE  - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  7. PAKISTAN HURTING - ZEENIA SATTI
  8. WHEN POLITICS TRUMPS THE ECONOMY -  DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. LIBERATION  - WILLIAM ASTORE

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. EVOLVE NATIONAL ECONOMIC AGENDA AS WELL
  2. INDIA TO STAY IN KABUL. FOR WHAT?
  3. LET THERE BE 24-HOUR LOAD-SHEDDING
  4. INDIAN CLAIM PROVED FALSE - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. SUSTAINED CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. UK CORRUPTION: FORMER MP JAILED - RIZWAN GHANI
  7. A BLOB OF SHAME - ALI SUKHANVER
  8. WHY AMERICANS ARE SO ANGRY? - LINDA FELDMANN

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. ONE IN, ALL IN IS A NATIONAL IDEAL
  2. MANAGING THE FORCE OF WATER
  3. BLAMING POLITICAL DEBATE DISHONOURS THE DEAD

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. GUNS AND RAGES IN AMERICA
  2. ON YER BIKE, GRAMPS?
  3. TIME TO HOLSTER US GUN LAWS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … CONDUCTORS
  2. BANKERS' BONUSES: BLIND EYE TO BLIND RAGE
  3. POLICING PROTEST: WHEN THE LINE IS CROSSED

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. THE YEAR OF THE ELECTRIC CAR
  2. BOOSTING JAPAN, U.S. COOPERATION
  3. CHINA'S TIGER-RABBIT HEART - BY BRAHMA CHELLANEY
  4. WALL BETWEEN RUST AND CREATIVITY IN CHILE - BY SEBASTIAN PINERA
  5. INDONESIAN PENITENTIARY A SCHOOL FOR CRIME - BY DONNY SYOFYAN

 

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. GAYUS RIDICULES THE NATION
  2. BUILDING SYNERGY BETWEEN G20 AND APEC - MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA
  3. IKE, JFK LEGACY: 50 YEARS ON - JUWONO SUDARSONO
  4. SEEKING A MADE IN INDONESIA'S SUGAR POLICY - AGUS PAKPAHAN

 

CHINA DAILY

  1. STRATEGIC TRUST NEEDED
  2. A BALANCED LOCOMOTIVE
  3. SEEKING COMMON DEVELOPMENT - BY LI KEQIANG
  4. SINO-US COOPERATION ESSENTIAL - BY DENNIS V. HICKEY (CHINA DAILY)
  5. CHINA, UK MUST DEEPEN RELATIONS

 

DAILY MIRROR

  1. LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLLS, TESTING THE UNITY CLAIMS
  2. OVERCOMING RECESSION
  3. I COULD HAVE BECOME A DICTATOR TO BRING IN THE CONSTITUTION: CBK
  4. THE WIN-WIN WAY OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BJP IN PURPOSEFUL MODE

PARTY MUST NOW FOCUS ON ALTERNATIVE AGENDA


Last weekend's National Executive meeting of the BJP in Guwahati has proved to be significant in more ways than one. Apart from the fact that the decision-making body of the BJP met in an election-bound State where the party is preparing to put its best foot forward, thus galvanising its cadre, after a long time a national conclave of the BJP was held without any controversy either before or during the confabulations. The discussions, by all accounts, were focussed, purposeful and reflected that the BJP senses its time has come again. With the Congress having painted itself into a corner over corruption and relentless price rise, the political space for the only national alternative is expanding by the day: The main Opposition now increasingly looks like the Government-in-waiting. Seen in this perspective, the BJP has done well to avoid getting ensnared in issues that are potentially divisive and can needlessly put the party on the defensive. Most notable among these is the fanciful allegation of 'Hindu terror' or 'saffron terror' being levelled by Congress leaders desperate to change the subject of public discourse and distract attention from its sins of omission and commission. Now that the courts are pro-actively dealing with the Ayodhya dispute (the Allahabad High Court's judgement has been challenged in the Supreme Court) the BJP naturally feels under no compulsion to worry about distractions of the past. It's a new leadership and a new party that prepares to face the challenges of the present and seize the opportunities of the future — that's the message which has been sent out by the party from Guwahati. A year after taking charge of the BJP, Mr Nitin Gadkari and his colleagues have infused a new dynamism in the organisation and crafted a new plank that has served the party well.


However, reviving a listless organisation by enthusing the cadre is only half the job done. As a national alternative to the Congress, the BJP must now come up with an alternative agenda of governance that is both credible and radically different from that of its main political foe. It's not sufficient to point out flaws — of which there are many — in the Congress's policies and programmes; it's important to posit what the party plans to do if voted to power. That's what had propelled the BJP to victory in 1998 and 1999. And while doing so, it must look at the future of an aspirational India where voters are clear in their minds as to what they want for their country as well as for themselves. It has to be a multidimensional agenda of governance which is inclusive and touches the nation as a whole. Second, the BJP should now simultaneously focus on expanding its base as well as recovering lost ground in States like Uttar Pradesh. It is obvious that this holds the key to the party trumping the Congress in the next election, which may be held earlier than 2014. This is apart from reviving the NDA by strengthening relations with existing allies and reaching out to new partners. By no means is the latter going to be an easy task, but nor was it easy in 1998 either. If the BJP could do it then, surely it can do so again. Yes, as its electoral fortunes dip the Congress will step up its attack on the BJP and resort to every possible dirty trick. But that should neither distract nor dissuade the BJP from its goal.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

TIME TO CALL IT A DAY

SOURAV'S RECORD REMAINS UNDIMINISHED


The IPL auction has demonstrated that when it comes to commercial considerations, even legends have to swallow the bitter pill. Players like Brian Lara and Sourav Ganguly — who some years ago set cricket stadiums on fire with their feisty shots — found no takers because they were seen as past their prime in a format that demands instant results. Their exclusion is ironic since the shorter versions of the game demand the kind of play these batsmen have made their mark in. But clearly, while past achievements are to be acknowledged they are insufficient without current form. Owners of the IPL teams are investing crores of rupees on players and they legitimately expect returns. It's only pure business concern that made Kolkata Knight Riders pay a whopping close to Rs 11 crore for an in-form Gautam Gambhir, while Deccan Chargers shelled out some Rs 4 crore for Dan Christian — relatively unknown but touted as the next big all-rounder in the game. If the 10 bidding teams spent more than Rs 358 crore in acquiring players, they did so with the expectation of performance on the field. And performance is where the two have been found wanting in recent times. Sourav, for instance, has repeatedly failed in IPL tournaments, letting down his legion of followers and Kolkata Knight Riders, the team that he represented, initially as captain.


There is no shame in failure at this stage and attempts to ridicule the left-hander are uncalled for. Witness how the media went to town screaming (almost gleefully) that no team bid for him on day one of auctioning and again ignored him on the second day as well. Sourav has served cricket and India magnificently, going down as among the best players in the game. In his heyday he was an inspiring captain for Team India as well. Since achievers and doers often court controversy, he too has had his share of that — sometimes confronting a fellow player and on other occasions clashing with the coach. But not even his worst critics can deny him his greatness. Even if the entire cricket establishment ignores him today, it cannot take a bit away from his achievements. Having said that, Sourav too should realise that he is past his prime — he is not the first legend to be so — and would do well to gracefully withdraw from competitive cricket. He should be devoting time to training youngsters and being involved in cricket administration like his erstwhile colleague and another legendary figure, Anil Kumble. Given his articulation and deep knowledge of the game, Sourav can make an excellent commentator too. These are just some of the options that he can explore once he announces his retirement from T20 cricket which, in any case, showcases money and glamour more than the intricacies of what used to be a gentleman's game.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

ITALIAN ATITHI IS DEVO BHAVA

DIGVIJAY SINGH'S DEFENCE OF OTTAVIO QUATTROCCHI SHOWS CONGRESS LEADERS CAN PLUMB THE DEPTHS OF SYCOPHANCY TO PLEASE THEIR PARTY BOSS

A SURYA PRAKASH


Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh'Fs concern for Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian businessman who knocked off $7.3 million as commission from AB Bofors when we bought field guns from the Swedish company for our Army, is truly touching. Obviously he believes that the concept of Atithi Devo Bhava (guest is god) should extend to all guests, be they crooks, wheeler-dealers or commission agents.


According to Mr Digvijay Singh, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal order naming Quattrocchi as a recipient of commissions is suspect on three counts. First, the timing of the order is "highly intriguing". The tribunal, he claims, advanced the date of the order from January 4 to December 31.


Second, the tribunal made the order public on January 3, a day before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate was to take a view on the CBI's plea to close the criminal case against the Italian middleman. This 'haste' raises doubts about the ITAT's motive. Third, the tribunal was hearing the plea of Mr Hersh Chadha, son of Win Chadha, who was the agent for Bofors. Yet, it paid so much attention to the commission paid by Bofo closure examination. First of all, even if this were to be true, why is an Indian citizen like Mr Singh troubled by the fact that the ITAT advanced the date of the order regarding the tax liability of some commission agents, one of whom is a foreigner? Further, what is this 'haste' that he is talking about? Does he not know that the ITAT order has come a good 22 years after Bofors deposited the kickbacks in Quattrocchi's Swiss bank account?


Second, why is this citizen complaining that the order was made public on January 3? An alert citizen ought to ask why the order was not uploaded immediately after it was passed on December 31. Those who care for transparency and accountability in Indian institutions should be troubled on this score rather than crib about the fact that the order was publicised at a time that was very inconvenient to Quattrocchi.


Finally, we need to ask why this Congress worthy, who holds an important office in a party which was in the vanguard of India's freedom movement, is so stressed about the fact that the tribunal made a clinical analysis of the illegal payments made by Bofors to this Italian businessman.


That Mr Singh's concerns are grossly misplaced becomes obvious when one reads the order of the ITAT. The tribunal notes that despite a ban on agents, Bofors entered into a fresh consultancy agreement with AE Services Limited of the UK on November 15, 1985 "at the behest of one Mr Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian". According to this agreement, if Bofors was awarded the contract before March 31, 1986, it was to pay a fee equivalent to three per cent of the total value of the contract pro rata with the receipt of the payments.


By a strange coincidence, the Bofors-India contract was signed on March 24, 1986, just a week before the expiry of the deadline. Bofors deliberately suppressed the fact of this agreement in their letter of March 10, 1986 to the Ministry of Defence. The ITAT noted that Quattrocchi remained in India from February 28, 1965 to July 29, 1993, except for a brief interval from March 4, 1966 to June 12, 1968. He was a certified Chartered Accountant by profession, working with Snamprogetti, an Italian multi-national company. "Neither Snamprogetti nor Mr Quattrocchi had any experience of guns, gun-systems or any related defence equipments."


Based on bank documents obtained from Switzerland by Indian authorities, the tribunal concluded that after India paid Bofors SEK 1,682,132,196.80, equivalent to 20 per cent of the contract value, on May 2, 1986, Bofors remitted a sum of SEK 50,463,966.00 on September 3, 1986, to account number 18051-53 of AE Services Limited at Nordfinanz Bank in Zurich. This was exactly three per cent of the amount paid to Bofors in advance. Thereafter, Quattrocchi transferred funds from one account to another, all of which were operated by him and his wife Maria. The tribunal also noted that Quattrocchi gave a fake address in India ('Colony East, New Delhi, India') while opening one account.


In fact, the ITAT appears to have anticipated that some pro-Quattrocchi politicians like Mr Singh would raise questions about its order. Therefore, with a view to educate people like him the ITAT has said that "Indian income tax is leviable on all types of income, including legal and illegal income, whether recipients are Indian or foreign residents". It has, therefore, expressed surprise that though Win Chadha was proceeded against, "no action seems to have been taken" against Quattrocchi and other related entities.


"In our view, to enforce the rule of law, these steps were desirable to bring all the relevant income tax violations to a logical end by the Income Tax Department," the ITAT has said, adding. "Inaction in this regard may lead to a non-existent undesirable and detrimental notion that India is a soft state and one can meddle with its tax laws with impunity." Will any citizen who cares for India question such an order?


Fortunately, despite politicians like Mr Singh, who try to wreck the system from within, there are individuals and institutions in the country who help us keep the faith with the system. Among them are the two members of the ITAT who passed this order and Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav who has rubbished the CBI's plea for closing the case against Quattrocchi and observed that there were mala fide intentions in defreezing the bank account of Quattrocchi. The judge has also questioned the CBI's decision to approach Interpol for removing the 'Red Corner' notice against Quattrocchi.


Obviously, the ultimate test of loyalty within the Congress is to genuflect before the Italian friends of the expatriate who is the party boss. To them, every Italian atithi is devo bhava! It is people like Mr Singh who had turned India into a slave nation for over a millennium.


Mr Singh has given us a glimpse of the depths to which sycophants will sink if Ms Sonia Gandhi were to become Prime Minister. This was exactly the concern of those who raised the foreigner issue a dozen years ago. The Congress general secretary has now proved that those concerns remain valid to this day.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LINKING WITH INDIA'S DIASPORA

THE PROFILE OF THE INDIAN DIASPORA HAS GONE THROUGH MANY CHANGES SINCE THE ORGANISED MIGRATION OF INDENTURED LABOUR STARTED IN 1834. IT WAS THE NDA GOVERNMENT THAT DEVELOPED A HOLISTIC POLICY FRAMEWORK COVERING ALL SEGMENTS OF THE DIVERSE INDIAN DIASPORA AND LAID THE FOUNDATION OF PRAVASI BHARATIYA DIVAS TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE OF INDIAN ORIGIN LIVING AROUND THE WORLD

JC SHARMA


The profile of the Indian diaspora has gone through many changes since the organised migration of indentured labour started in 1834. The diaspora policy of the Government of India has also gone through changes in accordance with the circumstances and priorities of the Government.


Organised migration started in the wake of abolition of slavery by the UK, France and Holland in the years 1834, 1846 and 1873 respectively. All the major colonial powers recruited workers from India under indenture and similar other systems. The Congress took keen interest in the welfare of these workers and strongly protested the inhuman treatment meted out to them. The policy of the colonial Government was to protect the interests of the employers. They, however, did some window dressing to manage the sentiments in India.

On March 18, 1946, addressing a gathering in Singapore, Jawaharlal Nehru said, "India cannot forget her sons and daughters overseas. Although India cannot defend her children overseas today, the time is soon coming when her arm will be long enough to protect them." However, after independence, Nehru's policy went through a major change.


In response to the issue of overseas Indians raised by Seth Govind Das in Lok Sabha, he stated, "Our interest in them becomes cultural and humanitarian and not political." His response to exodus of Indians from Myanmar disappointed the community. Mrs Indira Gandhi basically followed the policy of her father. Indians who had to leave in the wake of aggressive nationalism in East Africa felt that India had not done enough for them.

The emergence of a large Indian community in West Asia, migration of Indians from East Africa and change in citizenship laws of the US and Canada changed the profile of the Indian diaspora. Facing acute shortage of foreign exchange and economic difficulties, Mrs Gandhi's diaspora policy became remittance centric. Rajiv Gandhi did initiate efforts to leverage the talents of the diaspora for realising his vision of India of 21st century.

The NDA Government led by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the first Government to take a comprehensive view of the 20 million strong overseas Indian communities. It was the first Government to develop a holistic policy framework covering all segments of diverse Indian diaspora.


Because of its extraordinary achievements, the Indian community in the US had earned the reputation of a model minority. A new class of technocrat entrepreneurs had emerged among the Indian-Americans. Gujarati migrants from East Africa had also established a reputation for entrepreneurship in the US and the UK. Economic liberalisation and globalisation, end of Cold War and dissolution of the USSR had created the right environment for development of relations with the US and its allies.


The NDA Government assumed power at the most opportune moment for opening a new chapter in the relationship with the Indian diaspora. It introduced the Person of Indian Origin Card in March 1999 and established a new set-up in the Ministry of External Affairs headed by an Additional Secretary. The Government appointed a High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora under the chairmanship of LM Singhvi. The committee's report provided the blueprint for a comprehensive engagement of all segments of the diaspora. Accepting the report of the committee the Government declared January 9 as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and organised the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas from January 9 to 11, 2003.


The objective of the PBD was to send a clear message of India's intent to open a new chapter in its relationship with the diaspora, create consciousness of the concept of a global Indian family and develop a web like relationship among various segments of the diaspora and India. The invocation by Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan's jugalbandi set the tone for the grand celebrations.


In his inaugural address, Mr Vajpayee clearly emphasised his Government's priorities and stated, "We are prepared to respond to your expectations from India. We invite you, not only to share our vision of India in the new millennium, but also to help us shape its contours. We don't want only your investment. We also want your ideas. We don't want your riches, we want the richness of your experience. We can gain from the breadth of vision that your global exposure has given you." He addressed the concerns of every section of diaspora.

In his address at the plenary session, Minister for External Affairs Yashwant Sinha said, "India has completely shed whatever ambivalence it might have had towards its diaspora. There is today wide recognition of the important contribution the diaspora has made to India and the role it can play in the advancing of India's interests." The first PBD was the largest ever gathering of overseas Indians attended by more than 2,000 delegates from 62 countries.


The Government projected the national consensus on engagement of diaspora. It had included Mr RL Bhatia, MP and a former Minister of State from the Congress in the High Level Committee as well as in the organising committee for the Pravasi Divas. A number of senior Opposition leaders and known critics of the Government were invited to chair or be panelists in the sessions. The Prime Minister of Mauritius was invited to be the Chief Guest of the celebrations. The cultural evenings included several Bollywood superstars and leading artistes from the diaspora. Pravasi Samman Awards were given to 10 leading PIOs.


The second PBD was celebrated from January 9 to 11, 2004. Mr Bharat Jagdeo, the President of Guyana, was the chief guest on the occasion. In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister announced the grant of suitable land and `25 crore for establishment of the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra. It was visualised that Kendra would be the focal point of all diaspora related activities including research facilities for diasporic studies. Twenty-five youth from the diaspora were invited for the Know India Programme. The number was to be increased to 50 from the third PBD.


-- The writer is a former Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs. He was involved with formulating the concept of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and launching the initiative. To be concluded.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

POLITICS OF VIOLENCE AND INTIMIDATION

THE CONTEST FOR POLITICAL HEGEMONY HAS MADE VIOLENCE INTEGRAL TO THE CURRENT POLITICS OF WEST BENGAL. AT THE END OF THE DAY, THIS VIOLENCE AND COUNTER-VIOLENCE ADDS UP TO A LOT OF 'INNOCENT' LIVES LOST ON ACCOUNT OF ADMINISTRATIVE FAILURE

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


Like statistics, facts are open to a multiplicity of presentations. The shoot-out in Netai in Lalgarh area of West Midnapore, the deaths in Ketugram and Mangalkote in Burdwan district, the death of one student and the lost vision of another are not tragic and brutal deaths. Slaughter is now integral to the politics of ceaseless violence in West Bengal, supplanting every other means of conducting politics.


By the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's reckoning a total of 104 people have been killed, 1,435 people have been injured as a result of political conflict between the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Trinamool Congress and the Congress in the State. The Maoist killings — 170 people slaughtered for allegiance to CPI(M) — are in a separate category. It all adds up to a lot of 'innocent' lives lost on account of the failure of political parties to conduct their rivalry in a democratic manner. It makes nonsense of the process that ends with elections where regimes change through a smooth and peaceful transition.


Early elections, the Chief Minister's exit, dismissal of the existing Government and elections under emergency provisions on the Indian Constitution will do very little to end the slaughter of whoever gets in the way of political rivalry. Collective wisdom has it that the Communists started the vicious politics of capturing territory and holding it by bribery, corruption, intimidation, violence; the Opposition was threatened and physically prevented from operating freely in the areas where the red flag fluttered. The way the politics worked was that there was no alternative to the CPI(M).


The fight back of the Opposition has followed the pattern already established. The CPI(M) has been pushed out of the territories liberated from its domination. Instead, there are territories where the Trinamool Congress was till recently in complete control, such as the area described as 'Nandigram'. In other words, between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress, the pattern of politics currently in force in West Bengal is of capturing territory, holding it and resisting any restoration of normalcy, by which is meant a politics of competition that is not accompanied by intimidation and violence.


The fact of the matter is that neither the CPI(M) nor the Trinamool Congress can engage in politics without converting it into a war of liberation. The argument in West Bengal runs on the following lines, even among otherwise level headed persons: The only way to bring about a change of regime is by appropriating and using the methods deployed by the CPI(M) to remain in power for 34 years. Deconstructed and shorn of the veneer of righteousness what this translates into is a politics that uses the idea of occupation and liberation.


It discards without guilt the idea of a plural politics and the freedom of thought and choice that goes along with it. It legitimises the idea of 'cleansing' territories making refugees out of householders. Thousands of people have been compelled for reasons of politics to leave their homes and live in camps or relocate where their allegiance will not inflict punishment. These thousands are no less innocent than the innocents who were, according to one version, trapped in the cross fire between the CPI(M)'s armed militia in Netai and the armed militia that operated from behind the villagers who went to confront the CPI(M) holed up in the house of Rathin Dandapat. There are other versions of what happened, including one that alleges that the innocents who died were caught in a cross fire between two groups of CPI(M)'s militia.

Singur was the turning point. An adamant Government that failed to develop a dialogue over the land acquisition in Singur was matched by an Opposition that was equally resistant to the idea of negotiating a compromise. Accused of appropriating the land that some owners refused to sell, the West Bengal Government and the CPI(M) were converted into villains with the rest of the Opposition playing the role of victims and good guys. The fact that the Singur project was abandoned by the Tatas, who obviously could not see how a factory could operate given the intensity of political conflict was the game changer. It set the terms of the engagement.


Despite the spectacular victories of the Trinamool Congress in the panchayat, Lok Sabha and municipal elections in 2008, 2009 and 2010, through the normal democratic process, it was followed by a politics that demanded instant gratification. The demand was simple — the CPI(M) should quit and the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance should take over. What followed and continues are the after effects. The cleavages that were created have made it impossible for West Bengal's politics to run on normal lines. The fight for domination which is what the politics has boiled down to will go on and on till one side gains the position of hegemony.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THE VORTEX OF INFLATIONARY PRESSURE

THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION IS BEING BUFFETED BY THE EXPANSIONARY MONETARY POLICIES ADOPTED BY THE DEVELOPED ECONOMIES. ESCAP SAYS IT IS A VORTEX THAT DEVELOPING COUNTRIES NEED TO BE AWARE OF SINCE IT WILL IMPACT THEIR GROWTH PATTERN

SHIVAJI SARKAR


India along with the Asia-Pacific region faces a major economic crisis and may worsen food crisis in view of the soaring inflation. The economic growth rate of the entire region may slip to seven per cent from 8.3 per cent. This is the warning of UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific.


This is despite the fact that the Asia-Pacific region made impressive recovery in 2010 after the financial meltdown of 2008-09, led by China and India. But ESCAP in its latest review says that it faces new challenges in 2011 from weakening growth in the developed economies to possible bursting of economic bubbles and predatory moves. It has issued an indirect caution for keeping off western banking institutions as the West is gradually facing a deepening sovereign debt crisis. It hints at worsening of the situation this year.


With developed countries increasingly turning to monetary policy to stimulate growth, many developing economies in the region are facing a heavy influx of short-term speculative capital flows. It is causing exchange rate appreciation and building up inflationary pressures, especially in food prices, it notes.


In short, it is a forecast that even in India food inflation may surpass 18.32 per cent that touched on January 6. Inflation rate in India is the highest in the region. In all other major economies in the region — China, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore — inflation remains below five per cent. In Vietnam it is at nine per cent and South Asia in double digit.


The ESCAP recommends increased spending on poverty alleviation to boost domestic demand within the region and sustain the economic dynamism seen in 2010. It also raises the question of the Government's capability to sustain developmental programmes in the wake of heavy inflationary pressure, which ESCAP says is bound to impact growth pattern. Even Home Minister P Chidambaram has expressed concern over the Government's inability to contain inflation and called it a tax on poor people.


Reserve Bank is mulling over interest rate increase despite the known fact that rising rates dampen demand and choke economic growth. ESCAP says it is a vortex that developing countries need to be aware of and save them.

ESCAP chief economist Nagesh Kumar says slowing economic growth in developed US and Europe and their effort to revive this with large-scale liquidity injections, which has triggered huge capital inflows into the India and Asia-Pacific region attracted by high interest rates is causing "significant exchange rate appreciation in a number of countries and added to inflationary pressures, particularly in basic food commodities".

Another fall-out of the weakening western economies is the exports, which has come down on poor demand in developed markets marked by the worst Christmas sales. The Asia-Pacific regional demand is unlikely to fully replace the demand from the developed economies. Despite the problems in India, the UN body says India is likely to play a more important role in the coming years due to its high proportion of consumption in GDP, rapidly increasing household incomes and the fact that it is running a trade deficit with most economies of the region.

It wants India to open up and reduce many non-tariff barriers to increase business in the region. It appears to be a good suggestion but if the report is read in totality it would be wise for India to remain insulated at least for some time. The step is required to save its domestic market from predatory practices of some of these countries, including China. A major reason for inflation, the ESCAP report says, is the high transportation cost in the region. The cost could be reduced by bringing down fuel cost and also the latest practice of increasing transportation and travel cost by imposing toll on national roads.


The benefit of toll goes to some corporate, who in most cases recover the cost within three years of completion of each road project but are allowed to extort for 30 years or more. The low interest rates in the developed economies are pushing investors towards India. In the so-called globalised economy where capital is easily transferable, global fund management industry is causing havoc. They are controlling an estimated $61.6 trillion. A part of it goes to stock market and rest to other investment tools. This is time to see whether the appreciation of the rupee should be seen as a benign sign or not.


The Asia-Pacific region is being buffeted by the nature of the expansionary monetary policies undertaken by developed economies as part of their efforts to recover from the crisis. The western steps are leading to a currency rate war. India needs to watch the situation carefully.


Balance of trade is in favour of India. It needs to debate whether it should allow rupee to appreciate or not. A stronger rupee, on the one hand, would further bring down its import bill particularly of petroleum crude, on the other hand it might lead to a complex domestic economic situation.


Apart from devaluing their currencies, developed nations have resorted like in 2007 to carry trade using borrowed funds. ESCAP says while the size of the present carry trade is difficult to measure with certainty, estimates put it at around $750 billion, approaching the size of the previous carry trade at its peak. One may recall a major reason for the US and European crisis was carry trade and borrowings — a warning for India!

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

SCOUTING TALENT

 

Last weekend's Indian Premier League (IPL) auction not only threw up interesting trends but also reaffirmed India's dominant position in global cricket. As player after player went under the hammer, surprise and disbelief went hand in hand. Some stalwarts of the game found no takers while younger, lesser-known players were bought for astronomical sums. It is clear that corporates have taken cricket to a whole new level with everyone wanting a piece of the IPL pie.


With two new franchisees on board - taking the total number of teams to 10 - IPL IV is set to be bigger and better than previous editions. That the marquee event has come to be viewed as the barometer of a cricketer's worth speaks volumes of the importance that the cricketing fraternity attaches to IPL. The franchisees have more to lose than national selectors and, hence, their evaluation of players has less room for error. A market-driven standard that takes into account a player's current form, brand value and potential has more weight than selection norms based primarily on perception and more susceptible to nepotism. It is no surprise that good performances in the IPL have been rewarded by calls for national duty.


The preference for younger players is also logical. If Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya and Sourav Ganguly - all in or close to their forties - were spurned by the franchisees it is because someone like 27-year-old Daniel Christian, bought by Deccan Chargers for Rs 4.06 crore, was seen as a budding talent who could be groomed over the next three years. T20 is a relatively new format and it is for the next generation of cricketers to take it forward. Old hands like Ganguly would do well to become mentors of the game, an example Anil Kumble has set with the Bangalore Royal Challengers.


If professionalism is key to IPL's success, it is very important that professional ethics are preserved. It is therefore a matter of grave concern that franchisee owners have raised the issue of conflict of interest vis-a-vis BCCI secretary and president-elect N Srinivasan. The latter's position as an owner of the Chennai Super Kings franchisee and a member of the IPL governing council is unfair. Conflict of interest was the reason Lalit Modi was removed from the board of IPL, but the matter doesn't seem to have ended there. Concerns about conflict of interest need to be immediately addressed to build a sound foundation for the future of T20 cricket. A transparent and fair system will reduce the scope for manipulations and secure IPL's future.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

MAKE IT WORK

 

The communal violence (prevention, control and rehabilitation of victims) Bill has been debated since 2005, and seen formulations and reformulations. It's time to push it through now. The Bill's current version seems to have addressed some of the previous lacunae in addressing sins of omission or commission by a state's political, bureaucratic and security machinery by clearly detailing what constitutes dereliction of duty by government officials and increasing the prison term for anyone found guilty. A national council will be appointed that will act as an ombudsman in case of communal disturbances. There will also be state councils to be notified by the states. They are meant to monitor investigations and prosecution of cases, make sure FIRs are filed, and oversee rehabilitation of victims.


There has been opposition to the Bill, on the ground that it allows the Centre to encroach on the state subject of law and order. But given today's security environment and the necessity for states to coordinate on law and order issues, some of this is inevitable. Besides, such oversight should have a salutary effect in compelling state action to contain communal violence. Having an ombudsman in place, after all, is better than declaring President's rule in a state that allows communal violence to go unchecked. It goes without saying that such a law shouldn't be politically misused by the Centre to harass states where the opposition is in power, as that would defeat its very purpose. But given administrative laxity that's often the cause of communal disturbances getting magnified, and the grave risk to national integration that this poses, it's time for the pendulum to swing in the other direction.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

WHEN THE AMERICANS GO HOME

GAUTAM ADHIKARI

 

WASHINGTON: Change may be afoot in the US-Pakistan relationship. If carried out as recently reported, a new US approach may prove to be a turning point in the nine-year-old Afghan conflict. It may even bring a semblance of peace and stability to the region in the medium term. But New Delhi must watch the developments closely.


The Washington Post reported last week that the Obama administration would give Pakistan more military, intelligence and economic support after assessing that the US could not afford to alienate Pakistan, a precariously perched nuclear armed state and an indispensible ally in the Afghan conflict. In arriving at that assessment, the White House rejected proposals made by military commanders who, after losing patience with Pakistan's refusal to go after the Afghan Taliban, recommended that the US deploy ground forces to raid the insurgents' safe havens inside Pakistan.


The idea is to forge a regional peace with Pakistan's cooperation. Joe Biden, the US vice president, will be in Islamabad soon to explain the new approach, which aims for a political solution to the Afghan conflict. The US has realised that the war cannot be won without the Pakistani army wiping out the shelter and support the ISI provides the Taliban insurgents. Since that won't happen, why not buy peace?


The Obama administration faces mounting domestic pressure somehow to bring about a conclusion to its involvement in Afghanistan. Public opinion is now clearly against the war. A presidential election is due in 2012. President Barack Obama would like to show visible progress in Afghanistan by then.


If General Ashfaq Kayani agrees to cooperate with the new US approach after extracting all the goodies he can from the deal, the AfPak region might in fact witness some stability and apparent peace in the medium term. The Pashtun regions of Afghanistan will be effectively under Taliban control with the ISI promising to keep its wards on a leash; Kabul can have a token Afghan government while various warlords continue to manage the rest of the country.


The remaining al-Qaida biggies, who are all inside Pakistan and not in Afghanistan, can be quietly shipped off to Yemen or whichever sanctuary money can buy. The Pakistani army, in perennial search of 'strategic depth' against India, will have got what it wanted and the region's war-weary face might acquire a patina of peace.


In other words, Pakistan's army has the US over a barrel. General Kayani and his cohorts know well that the Americans want to leave the region without appearing to lose face. And he is aware that Washington is acutely nervous about an unstable Pakistan that has a nuclear capability within possible reach of terrorists.


Attempts at democratising and de-radicalising Pakistan have so far failed. The recent assassination of a liberal governor of Punjab merely underscores that reality. As India knows well and as the Americans have apparently accepted, the only source of stability in Pakistan is the military. Or, to put it another way, there can be no peace within Pakistan or in the region unless the Pakistani army agrees to ensure it.


But where does the new US approach, if implemented and successful over the next couple of years, leave the region as a whole? And where does it place India?


The AfPak region, for better or for worse, will somewhat resemble a status quo ante bellum. In other words, it won't be all that different from what prevailed in the decade preceding the outbreak of war in 2001. This time, the ISI-backed Taliban will effectively control a large part of Afghanistan while a weak Kabul will go along with the arrangement as long as it can persuade the Taliban not to take over the whole country. Pakistan will once again obtain space outside its borders to shelter radical Taliban as well as other potential insurgents. An international force will continue to guard Kabul while the Americans can see it all in the driving mirror as they depart.

Such a scenario, if it indeed comes about, will not be very different from what Robert Blackwill, a former US ambassador to India, has been suggesting for a while, his latest articulation coming in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. Which is that Afghanistan be partitioned de facto; the US gets out of a mess; al-Qaida goes away somewhere; Pakistan is left to its devices; and AfPak moves out of prime time TV.


As for India, there's little to do but wait and watch while weighing our options. We must keep looking over our shoulder at the looming presence of China, with which we can't see eye to eye in many matters, from unsettled borders to its unsettling camaraderie with our hostile neighbour. And we have to watch every move by a Pakistani military that we know needs an India bogey to justify its hold on power.


In a disturbed neighbourhood, we probably have to fend for ourselves. In case there is trouble, can we rely on support from newfound partners like the US when their national interest and domestic pressure call for a quick exit from the region? Who knows. Maybe it's time to put together a few wise heads to rethink policy options.

( The writer is a FICCI-EWC fellow at East West Centre in Washington DC.)

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

NONE FOR THE ROAD

 

On the heels of New Year's revelries comes news of an automobile technology being developed that checks drivers for alcohol content. Located in contact points across a car, this measures the alcohol its driver has consumed. The vehicle goes into 'lock-down' mode if this quantity is found to exceed a legal limit.


The innovation comes as a breath of fresh air. In America, in 2007 alone, more than 30% of all fatal accidents occurred because of drunk driving. In Britain, 400 deaths happened in 2008 due to 'driving under the influence'. And in India, an estimated 40% of accidents are linked to intoxicated driving.


In recent years, startling cases of drunk driving have occurred. Many remember the infamous 'BMW case' involving Sanjeev Nanda who, driving drunk down Delhi's Lodhi Road on January 10, 1999, killed three pedestrians and three policemen. On January 30, 2010, Nooriya Havelivala roared down Mumbai's Marine Drive, killing two policemen and wounding four others. Upon examination, the alcohol content in her blood was apparently nine times over the legal limit.


These cases hit the headlines; however, there are several instances of 'tipsy' drivers let off by police once money crosses hands. The weakness of law enforcers should not mean pedestrians and other drivers are subjected to danger from those irresponsible about their indulgences. In this scenario, a car that can judge a driver's capacity is timely technology, forcing the intoxicated to take alternative transport or sleep it off. Everyone wins; the sober are safer while those on a high can enjoy themselves without worrying about navigation or police checks. Technology is about enhancing our quality of life. A car that cannot be bribed or cajoled is an excellent apparatus. Arguing against it is a waste of time. And lives.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TECHNOLOGY CORRODES RESPONSIBILITY

DEEP K DATTA-RAY

 

Implementing technology that prevents drunk driving poses a danger to society because it corrodes human agency - the idea that people can make their destinies. Human agency implies that it's up to human beings to act responsibly. In other words, the ability to behave ethically is being threatened by technology and the divestment of ethics to machines will only exacerbate social problems.


We must drive responsibly. However, since some choose to be irresponsible, society set up enforcement agencies, thereby making the authorities responsible for ensuring laws are enforced. None of this can be outsourced to machines. Since no technology is perfect and a car is a very personal object, it should be controlled by its driver, not the other way round. What happens, for instance, if the car's sensors fail to work and seize even when the driver is sober?


Transferring responsibility - and the onus for maintaining it - out of human hands produces a society of childlike people. Freed from the responsibility of making decisions, they will also lose the ability to act ethically. Furthermore, being technologically astute, but lacking the ability to differentiate between responsibility and irresponsibility, what is to stop people from manipulating technology for irresponsible ends? The concerns we face today, from drunk-driving to environmental issues such as excessive CO2 production and overfishing are due to the irresponsible use of technology. It undeniably produces opportunities, but these are limited to the mundane, to helping us do routine tasks more easily, from writing to travelling. Technology also increases the opportunities for doing those tasks in an irresponsible way. The solution then is a renewed emphasis on ethics. Not the other way around.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

JOB PROFILED

RUPA SENGUPTA

 

Curriculum vitiated. The art - and craftiness - of resume-writing is about to get revolutionised. Put another way, CV-writers should prepare for terminological lobotomy. Business networking site LinkedIn recently unveiled a list of self-promotional terms job hunters use that apparently no longer dazzle would-be employers. Tell potential bosses you have "extensive experience" as post-seekers in North America are said to do, and they'll yawn. Say you're "motivated" as British white-collar wannabes do, and they'll fidget. Claim as job applicants do in continental Europe that you're "innovative", and they'll roll their eyes. Say you're "dynamic" as job supplicants do in Brazil or India, and you might get fired even before you're hired.


Similarly, claiming to be "entrepreneurial" doesn't seem to sell well on the skills-vending market anymore. And if you do have "good analytical skills", analyse this. The net result of your professing to be "results-oriented" may be your resume landing in the trashcan. Say you're a "team-player" and it won't smell like team spirit: you might get left out. Boast about "communication skills", and potential hirers may go incommunicado. Hello, anyone there?


It's like every self-praise you were told to peddle on naukri-dot-con has suddenly gone out of recruitable fashion. Now, indignation is only natural among vacancy trackers who've so long been groomed to earn-by-rote. Without handy cliches like "proactive" and "skills set", how in high hyperbolic heavens do they convince their present tormentors to deign to be their future oppressors?

 

Well, to start impressing head-hunters, placement agencies and career counsellors say job-seekers should go for no-frills self-presentations. Lose the adjectives, especially the superlatives, and focus on the evidence: academic and employment records, educational and professional achievements, et al. For example, if you say you have long work experience, are you talking weeks or years (and don't say time's relative)? If you're a problem-solver, where's verifiable data on your "solutions'? And if you've truly muddied your knees in field work, was it in your backyard or beyond?


Solemnising head hunter-job hunter matches, some say, should now get easier. Keep it simple, and it's likely you're hitched. Or are you?

Extrapolating from LinkedIn's logic, a resume swearing by, say, "marketing skills" might have clicked earlier, complemented by a pleasant yackety-yack of a job interview. But now things may depend more on your naming previous employers sold on and/or products actually riding on those skills. It's like a door-to-door vendor having to prove how many cures for baldness he's offloaded when yesterday all he needed to do was vaunt "salesmanship" with or without its hair-raising impact. Or take a would-be medical intern: from now on, not fainting at the sight of blood isn't something he can secretly learn 'on the job' while pre-announcing his suitability for it. Brand manager, wedding planner, chef or circus act, job-pursuers must furnish dates, numbers, references, facts, darned facts...No more readymade resumes, where image-tinkerers and truth-tailors only fill in the blanks. One (inflated) size doesn't fit all.


Is this starting to show in India's political jobs bazaar as well? New opportunities or reinstatements to "serve the public" are sought periodically from voter-bosses, and political CVs can't do without terms like "socialist", "secularist", "pro-poor", "pro-kisan", "anti-corruption", "anti-crime", etc, besides the mandatory "patriot". Only, it seems ballot-casters are beginning to link a supplicant's "pro-people" credentials with decent service records. Sorry, "desh bhakts" too must deliver bijli-sadak-pani. Ditto for "janata ka sevaks", "seva" having to increasingly manifest in results on education, health and incomes. As for "upholders of the law", Bihar shows leaders can be hired or fired according to how many scamsters and gangsters they actually put away. Wow. The employment trend-spotters must be right. The trend's really catching on.


Question: aren't recruiters making it tougher to get a job than to do it? Answer: if all a would-be appointee had to do was shoot the bombastic breeze to get signed on, the job would probably get done badly, or not at all. So, either clean up that CV - or back it up. Chances are you'll find hire love.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

A STEADY AND ASSURED FLOW

 

New Delhi rolls out the red carpet to its diaspora once every year. This carpet is now getting frayed at the edges. The government trots out a clutch of ministers to make the right noises to a motley audience of non-resident Indians shivering in Delhi's freezing January. The accumulated prodigals, on their part, are principally interested in getting a Person of Indian Origin card that allows them an easier run of the place. The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas jamboree is as exciting to the mainstream media as a Gandhi Jayanti and the tokenism on display is far removed from the fanfare that accompanied its launch. A cynical acceptance that India's labour exports will keep sending money home come what may has replaced the desperation of a time when every incoming dollar mattered. Why chase the NRI's piggybank when World Inc comes knocking?

 

It's not love alone for the old homestead that the Indian diaspora will send across upwards of $55 billion in 2010-11, one of the largest flows of remittances on the planet. India offers among the best returns on investment to its emigrant workforce. A decade of the economy growing at above 8% has spawned fabulous profits for India Inc, and the fastest growing tribe of dollar billionaires; there's no reason why this fact should escape the attention of the maid in Muscat or the doctor in Devon. So long as they have something to save, it makes sense for them to remit it back home. The flight of capital following the 2008 crash neatly sidestepped remittances, which continued to grow from $43.5 billion in 2007-08, just before global credit markets seized up, to $46.9 billion in 2008-09 and to $53.9 billion in 2009-10.

 

Yet this steadfast income stream has lost some of its sheen in India's economic policy establishment. Not because it is not growing, but because other flows are growing much faster. Between 2003-04 and 2007-08, remittances by India's exported labour pool doubled from $21.6 billion to $41.7 billion. Over the same period, foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country jumped six-and-a-half times from $2.3 billion a year to $15.4 billion while portfolio investment grew two-and-a-half times from $11.3 billion to $29.5 billion. In April-October 2010-11, FDI had already crossed $14.9 billion and portfolio investments $52.6 billion. What, however, sets remittances apart from investments is — as the last two years have amply demonstrated — that it does not change direction even under extreme provocation. This should qualify it for more nurturing by New Delhi.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

AUCTION REPLAY

 

The latest Indian Premier League (IPL) auction has caught the fancy of everyone who likes the chi-ching sound of a cash register with the thwack of leather hitting wood in the background. But it has also got the attention of some folks hiding behind the skirts of economics. The latest sub-field of research in psycho-econometric theory: the Joginder-Sourav Anomaly (JSA).

 

The JSA refers to all-rounder Joginder Sharma being snapped up for R68 lakh by the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) while Sourav Ganguly gets picked by absolutely no one. Does this mean that Joginder is a better player than the semi-retired Sourav Ganguly. Nope. It simply means that CSK is probably more willing to take a chance on Joginder than risk the old warhorse failing. The case of Gautam Gambhir is actually logical. He's in the national team and is thus invested with 'low risk'; he's young and well-suited to the histrionic nature of the Twenty20 format. It's not capability alone that marks one's value, but also one's brand equity — the same way Nikhil Chakravorty, even after being the more talented sitar-player of the two, was less famous ('valuable') than Ravi Shankar. So Gambhir's getting R11.04 crore, some R3 crore more than Sachin Tendulkar's price tag, is because of factors not strictly within the realm of cricket.

 

Also, in the shortest format of the game, the difference between a 'good' and an 'okay' player is minimal. The chances of Daniel Christian (R4.14 crore) getting a wicket off the last delivery to win a match is roughly the same as those of Bret Lee (R1.84 crore). But the chances of Lee being unavailable for an IPL match for Kolkata Knight Riders to play a match for Australia are higher. Thus, the logic of 'better' players getting less money — in addition to the 'strange' JSA cropping up.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO MORE MR NICE GUY

ANIL DHARKER

 

Last week's newspapers carried the stock photograph at the end of a cricket series, showing the  captains of the two competing sides on the rostrum with the trophy. Since the series was shared 1-1, South Africa captain Graeme Smith and his Indian counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni held the trophy together, both of them looking into the camera, Smith a head taller than his rival. But Dhoni was in no way dwarfed because his stance and his hands on the cup complemented the expression on his face. This wasn't the look of an upstart who is delighted to be in august company. It wasn't the look of defiance of someone who has done better than expected. Dhoni's expression was one of confidence, just a bit of short of arrogance.

 

If you go back to accounts of India's cricket tour of the 1950s, they make for dismal reading. Bowlers didn't make an impression; the fielding was slovenly while the batsmen were terrorised by fast bowlers like Freddie Trueman. But for one aspect of India's cricket, there was universal praise: everyone agreed ours were Gentlemen Cricketers. Though there was a hint of condescension there, it was an acknowledgement of the good manners shown on and off the field by our cricketers. Some of these players were as talented as any of today's. Vijay Hazare, for example, scored a century in each innings in a Test in Australia against Don Bradman's team while a Lord's game was called Vinoo Mankad's Test because of his incredible all-round display (scores of 72 and 184, 73 overs bowled in England's one innings for five wickets).

 

But in spite of their talent, our teams always underperformed. They were beaten before they started. In their minds they were playing against 'superior' foreigners, so how could they do anything but lose? You can understand that in a way. These cricketers were all born in British India; they were brought up in an atmosphere where the white man was king.

 

Many of our cricketers of that time came from simple backgrounds. They were thus doubly handicapped, first vis-a-vis the English-speaking Indian elite and then the British

 

ruling class. No wonder they behaved like gentlemen: history weighed on their shoulders; they were equipped to be only good losers.

 

The change began imperceptibly with the transitional generation, those born just before 1947 but brought up in independent India. The one who could have exerted a huge influence on the team was Mansur Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi, the Nawab with an Oxbridge education. But as a captain he was, by temperament, too laid-back and since he didn't see any difference between himself and the foreigner, he couldn't imagine why anyone else would.

 

Sunil Gavaskar changed all that. As a batsman and captain he was defensive; as a cricketer he was combative. You see that in his columns even today. He spots the condescension, the assumed superiority, the ill-disguised double-standards of English and Australian cricketers and sportswriters, and goes for them no holds barred. On the field he gave no quarter, playing the game as hard as the Aussies, but without their boorishness. We all remember the famous incident in Australia in the era before neutral umpires, when incensed with yet one more biased decision against him, he almost walked off the field with his team. That was obviously an over-reaction, but indicative of the way Gavaskar played cricket.

 

Captains since then, each in his own way, have sent the same message across to the opposition: I play for India. Don't mess with me. Some captains have conveyed this quietly, while someone like Sourav Ganguly did so in a deliberate way as when he kept Steve Waugh, supposedly a stickler for time and tradition, waiting near the pitch for the toss. When Greg Chappell became the coach of the team and tried to play the 'Superior Australian', sparks inevitably flew. Chappell may have been a legend as a batsman, but reputations now only took you so far with our players. The Indian cricketer could not be bullied. If India is the number one team in the world, it is this attitudinal change that has taken it to the top.

 

Obviously cricketers don't live in isolation. The changes in Indian attitudes have taken place not just on the cricket field but in society as a whole. This has to do with the country's increasing prosperity and its rise as an economic power. Even as recently as the 1970s and 1980s, many Indians were embarrassed to be Indians. No one is now. Embarrassment has given way to pride.

 

We look at a Dilbert cartoon strip and the brainiest guy is an IIT graduate called Asok. Indians are at Nasa, they are at Silicon Valley startups. They head international banks and major multi-nationals. Unknown to us, a sense of pride creeps into our subconsciousness, and adds a swagger to our step. Why do you think Indian sportsmen have suddenly begun to win a record number of medals at international events like the Commonwealth or Asian Games?

 

Look at that photograph again. Dhoni is a small town boy from one of our poorer states. He comes from a modest family. He didn't go to college. But none of this matters. He holds that trophy with the confidence of one who belongs, and belongs without dispute, on the world stage.

 

(Anil Dharker is a Mumbai-based author and columnist)

 

*The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

MERCY IN MEDINA

ARIF MOHAMMED KHAN

 

The brutal murder of the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province Salman Taseer was shameful for any civilised society. But the statement of the leading clerics forbidding mourning his death added insult to injury. Their behaviour needs to be scrutinised on the yardstick of the Koran and sunnah (Prophet Mohammad's practices) as these two sources constitute the basis of both morality and law in Islam.

 

The prophet's biographies have instances of his dealings with both his friends and foes. After his ordainment, Mohammad stayed for about 13 years in Mecca. This period is marked by hostility from the Meccan elite who persecuted the prophet and his followers, forcing them to migrate to Medina. Subsequently, Medina too was attacked and besieged.

 

How did the prophet deal with these enemies who oppressed and humiliated him and his followers, forcing them to leave their hometown? After taking over Mecca, when the Meccans were expecting retaliation, he told them: "Go, for you are free" and recited a verse of the Koran: "No reproach on you this day; may God forgive you and he is the mostmerciful of those who show mercy" (12.92).

 

 

Medina was also not free from detractors. Here they tried to damage the reputation of the prophet and harm the Muslim community. They were led by  Abdulla ibn Ubai, who had notionally accepted Islam but nursed deep animosity towards the prophet.

 

The Bukhari (a collection of the prophet's narrations) reports at least two episodes where Abdulla bin Ubai used insulting language but the prophet ignored it. On the occasion of Uhud, when Quraysh had organised an armed attack on Medina, about 1,000 Medinites marched under the leadership of the prophet to repel the aggressors. Abdulla and 300 associates walked some distance and then abruptly withdrew. This was a case of treachery that endangered  Medina. But the prophet ignored it.

 

In 626 AD, during his return from Banu Mustaleeq, Mohammad and his people stayed at a camp. Here one immigrant and a local had an altercation over water. Abdulla used this to inflame bitterness and, according to the Koran, threatened to throw Mohammad out of Medina. Something more sinister took place during the return journey. It is known in Islamic history as the episode of slander, described in the Koran in chapter 24 (Noor). Abdulla and his associates started a malicious campaign to tarnish the reputation of Mohammad by launching a smear campaign against Aisha, the prophet's wife.

 

It is ironic that in this campaign, Abdulla was able to enlist the support of some Muslims, including a poor cousin of Aisha named Mistah, who received financial assistance from her father on a regular basis. After the mist cleared, Abu Bakr promised not to help Mistah anymore. The Koran disapproved of this and a verse was revealed: "Let not those among you  endued with grace and amplitude of means resolve by oath against helping their kinsmen those in want" (24.22). Abu Bakr recanted and resumed helping his kin.

 

And how was Abdulla dealt with? He received no punishment. After his death, the prophet gave his shirt for his shroud and led his funeral prayer. The Bukhari reports that when Umar tried to stop him and referred to a Koranic verse saying: "If you ask 70 times for their forgiveness, Allah will not forgive them, the prophet said: I will ask more than 70 times."

 

The Koran commands Muslims to emulate the prophet and declares: "You have indeed in the messenger of god a beautiful pattern of conduct" (33.21). The beauty of his conduct consists in forgiveness, charity and compassion. Surely the inhumane Pakistani law on blasphemy and the insensitive and cruel behaviour of the clergy do not fit into the compassionate profile of Prophet Mohammad.

 

(Arif Mohammed Khan is a former union minister)

 

*The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FISCAL TARGETS

 

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has stressed the need for fiscal consolidation. This is welcome; in recent months India has been displaying the classic signs of an overheating economy. High and persistent inflation has come to characterise India at a time when the industrial world is still seeing low inflation or even falling prices. The inflationary situation in India is constitutive of an economy witnessing high GDP growth, a large current account deficit and a continuous rise in real estate prices. However, monetary and fiscal policies continue to be loose.

 

The fiscal deficit of the Central government rose from 3.1 per cent of GDP in 2007-08 to 7.5 per cent of GDP in 2008-09 due to increased expenditure and lower taxes during the global financial crisis. However, after the crisis, in 2009-10, it remained high, at 6.8 per cent of GDP. In the current year, too, it's projected to be at 6.6 per cent of GDP. The total deficit of the Centre and the states combined also rose sharply during the crisis. Before the crisis, in 2007-08, it stood at 4.4 per cent of GDP, and in the current year it's projected to be 9.6 per cent of GDP. At this point in India's recovery, therefore, it appears that the expansionary stance of fiscal policy — the stimulus was rolled out in the face of uncertainty in the world economy — has perhaps overshot the needs of the domestic economy.

 

The government must now translate the finance minister's intent into action that should be seen in the forthcoming budget. The Centre needs to embark on a path of reduction of subsidies, and streamlining benefits from its various schemes. The price of diesel needs to be decontrolled; and it should begin rolling back the oil subsidy to petroleum companies. The government also needs to think innovatively. For instance, could stepping up and expanding the UID allow local governments to use the system to provide cash transfers such as food stamps directly to the poor, and reduce the food subsidy bill by preventing large leakages from the PDS? The theft in today's system has become a liability for the government, and the system needs a substantial overhaul. Some good suggestions have come from Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu for a new system that would target food subsidies better and reduce the subsidy bill. These need informed consideration.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

OFF TRACK

 

If the Indian Railways finds itself near-bankrupt on the eve of the railway budget, it should be recalled that this road to perdition was illuminated many months ago. As reported in this newspaper on Monday, the railways' "turnaround story" is bust; its earnings have sharply declined and expenses escalated. It's not likely to be left with money for its Capital Fund and Development Fund — the two critical reserves that finance its new assets and passenger amenity improvements. Today, the railways have a net deficit of Rs 2,500 crore; its operating ratio, about to exceed 94 per cent, should ideally be below 80 per cent.

 

When Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee presented her first railway budget in 2009 as part of the UPA, among some welcome innovations, there was a core of disturbing sentiment — the implications of her argument of "social viability" as opposed to "economic viability". Well, we've seen where "social viability" has got the railways — sports academies, eco-parks, Tagore museums, bottling plants, the railways taking over catering.

 

Lost is Banerjee's promise of a hassle-free railway experience, notwithstanding ever-newer trains, new routes, ladies' specials or luggage trolleys for the elderly. These are much-needed improvements to passenger welfare, but just the spate of railway accidents under her negligent eye can cancel all the benefits out.

 

The problem is the railway budget itself. It's time to deprive railway ministers, present and future, of this opportunity to bestow largesse, exploiting what should be just another government department for electoral populism. This outdated system of legitimised blackmail of the exchequer has jeopardised railway infrastructure development. Since the railway budget is now only a small fraction of the general budget, the transport giant cannot make expenditure estimates well above its revenue estimates. This thinly spreads out the funds among innumerable pending projects, which then get delayed by years and have cost overruns of more than 100 per cent. If this quasi state within the state cannot be immediately trimmed and remodelled as an efficient transport provider — no more, no less — and upgraded to the 21st century, its future will be much shorter than its storied past.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GAINED IN TRANSLATION

 

The languages that are spoken and sought after in a land have multiple roots: they are sometimes historical/ colonial hand-me-downs, an economic necessity at other times, a social imperative at yet other times. When India, a modern-day Babel with many languages and multiple dialects, finally decided to learn the lingo of its biggest neighbour, China, it was a huge cultural shift — from an obsession with the West and European languages, to glance at the East — and simultaneously an indicator of China's growing relevance in the world.

 

A month after the decision to introduce Mandarin in CBSE schools, India has announced, in a furthering of its Look at Asian Languages theme, the establishment of undergraduate courses in Pashto and Dari, the official languages of Afghanistan.

 

While this is part of Indo-Afghan diplomacy, its significance goes beyond that. There's a gentle but essential cultural nostalgia at play and an acknowledgement of our linguistic past. If Dari or Afghan Farsi was one of the court languages of the Mughals, Pashto is still spoken by many this side of

 

the Radcliffe Line. Both reveal the linguistic heritage of the region — a cultural and commercial intersection for centuries — and it's time to review and research the give-and-take that has happened.

 

This century could see the resurgence of multilingualism, a broad linguistic spectrum — facilitated by advanced translation tools and apps. Then, as it is now, it should need little reminder that both Dari and Pashto are not foreign to India.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

INDIA'S OWN POLITICS OF DENIAL

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

Swami Aseemanand's "confession", detailing the activities of Hindu terror groups, has produced a deep moral vertigo. There is, to be sure, much more that needs to be investigated and explained. This evidence needs to be squared with other sources, particularly on the Samjhauta Express blast. The timing of the "leak" of the confession will certainly raise political eyebrows. The confession, without corroborating evidence, may not prove to be decisive.

 

But, as strategic expert B. Raman has rightly said, the circumstances make it difficult to dismiss this confession out of hand. This much is crystal clear. First, that terror groups inspired by Hindutva exist. It is not much of a comfort to say that these are fringe elements. The significance of these elements is often revealed only in long hindsight; they can trigger fears and anxieties far in excess of their numbers. Who knows what sort of subterranean counter-politics these revelations will generate? Even if they are only a few drops, they are a poison that can vitiate the whole. Pious homilies about their marginality cannot disguise this possibility.

 

Second, these are groups that, even within their own paradigm, have created a new moral abyss. They have cloaked themselves in the garb of victims seeking retaliation. They are not only tempted by violence, they have no compunctions about striking the holiest places of worship like the Dargah at Ajmer, the deepest manifestations of our civilisation's connection to the sacred. What kind of sickness has allowed the appellations "swami" and "sadhvi" to be colonised by a tissue of violent resentments?

 

Third, our response to this challenge has been, at best, an embarrassed denial. In the process we have put on display our double standards. We could not even get ourselves to admit that anyone claiming the appellation Hindu could be terrorists. This is more a symptom of our prejudice than a fact. This also seemed to blindside investigative agencies enough that they kept on pursuing the wrong leads and targeting the wrong groups.

 

But there is also a national security challenge posed by this episode. The BJP, perhaps instinctively, but true to form, is not handling these revelations well. The leaks may well be politically motivated. But in the larger scheme of things the motivation behind the leaks is a small sideshow. Whichever way you look at it, India's credibility is seriously dented. We all understand that the CBI can be used politically, and no one puts it past this government to use law enforcement agencies selectively. Yet, if the BJP attacks the credibility of the state lock stock and barrel, think of the consequences. The one thing about credibility is that you either have it or you don't: you cannot cherry-pick. If we legitimise the argument that there is nothing to law enforcement agencies but politics, where does it leave any action of the state? After all, it is the very same state that prosecutes Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab.

 

God knows, there are serious miscarriages of justice and abuses of power in our system. But to simply dismiss the state on partisan grounds would be to say exactly the same thing states like Pakistan say about India: that this state cannot be trusted with any investigation and any evidence. Instead of attacking the state, the BJP needs to help examine the case on the merits. The only way to deal with possible miscarriages is to examine the veracity of a charge, not change the subject by impugning the source.

 

Besides, the BJP needs to learn a political lesson. Nothing diminished L.K. Advani before the last election more than his artless, passionate and entirely a priori defence of Sadhvi Pragya. Their attack on Hemant Karkare haunts them to this day; it suggested a level of pre-commitment, small-mindedness and a lack of institutional judgment not befitting a leader. Nitin Gadkari's equivocations and Ravi Shankar Prasad's defensiveness are in the same vein.

 

The BJP has to recognise that a strong and credible state is incompatible with any form of community partisanship. It could have turned this crisis on the head by at least being consistent on the issue of possible miscarriages of justice. It could have shown equal concern for Muslim youths falsely arrested.

 

The RSS will, on the surface, make all the right noises distancing itself from terrorism. But the revelations are so damaging that if it has any semblance of genuine nationalism left, it will have to do more than verbal distancing. It will have to actively cooperate to root out this menace, and find a way of atoning as an organisation that is unprecedented. This is highly unlikely. But it is the only way of answering the question as to why the organisation should be tolerated at all.

 

Let us, for a moment, even suppose that the Congress is playing cheap politics with the timing of these revelations. But even cheaper politics, in return, will do more damage. In some ways, for us as citizens, the charge that the investigation is politicised is also a psychologically easy let-off. It prevents us from fully confronting the significance of all that is being revealed.

 

A few self-selected crazies on the net notwithstanding, there is little reason to believe that the activities of the terror groups being identified has wide political support. If anything, there is likely to be revulsion. But there is a danger that this revulsion will be overshadowed by embarrassment, producing a silence that smacks of complicity. This silence can only add to the political damage we have already inflicted on ourselves.

 

We also need to understand that India has been diminished by these revelations. We can go on all we want about the difference between India and Pakistan. We can say that the Pakistani state has supported terrorism, but the Indian state has not. But to most of the world this will appear to be more a matter of degree than of kind. It will once again relate the issue of terrorism, not to a particular state, pursuing its objectives through violence, but to the general history of Hindu-Muslim violence and counter-violence.

 

The only way this damage can be repaired is if the Indian state credibly and relentlessly pursues its investigations, without us impugning its credibility from the start. Perhaps this serious crisis can be turned on its head. By admitting our mistakes, blind spots and omissions, we can at least send a signal that we have the resilience and courage to correct our mistakes. Otherwise, we will be exactly in the same boat that we place Pakistan: a society that practises the politics of denial.

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A NEW LINE IN THE SAND

ALIA ALLANA

 

When the world's sexiest man, George Clooney, dresses in a safari suit and braves the Sudanese sun, you know something's up. On Sunday, southern Sudan voted in a highly-anticipated referendum. The result, almost definitely a yes to succession, will change the map of Africa, dismembering the continent's largest country.

 

Preparations were underway for months. UN planes flew in electoral cards, a new national anthem was approved by the majority, names for Africa's 54th country were shortlisted and elaborate blueprints for new cities drawn up. (The regional capital Juba, the only developed city in the south, will be designed in the shape of a rhinoceros, the largest animal on the new flag.)

 

Behind the fanfare, however, are the complications associated with the birth of a nation.

 

The idea has been germinating for years. The referendum was born out of a peace that ended Africa's longest civil war. The peace agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) agreed that with a 60 per cent majority in a referendum, the south would be free.

 

The southerners are African Christians with longstanding grievances. It is tempting to glance merely at the colonial period, where borders were created with little sensitivity to ground realities. But the southerners look back further, to almost two centuries of northern (Arab Muslim) injustice. They allege that the Arab north oppressed the south, and raided it throughout the 18th century for slaves.

 

Matters were exacerbated by the policies of Sudan's current president, Omar al-Bashir, a northern career soldier with Islamist leanings who developed the north at the south's expense. Though the majority of Sudan's oilfields are in the south, its infrastructure is in the North. Through Sudan's turbulent recent history, as Darfur trials continued, its economy grew — but almost all of this growth has been centred in the north. Ninety per cent of the south lives on less than $1 a day even as Khartoum in the north mimics a modern Arabian metropolis.

 

Calls for secession have been sounded since the departure of the British, but it was only under the leadership of Salva Kiir, a cowboy hat-wearing, charcoal bearded ex-rebel, that progress has been made. One of the founders of the political wing of the SPLA, Kiir has governed the south with a tight fist. A member of the Dinka tribe, the largest in southern Sudan, he has managed to keep the second most powerful tribe, the Nuer, appeased.

 

Despite his success, the south he inherits is a state verging on collapse. Roughly the size of France, it has less than 65 km of paved roads; one in 10 children dies in infancy; and one in seven women dies during pregnancy. Eighty per cent of adults are illiterate. This is one of the least developed areas of the world, its dire situation evidenced by the childlike referendum voting cards: just a Yes or a No, and a hand for secession and closed fist for unity. Bashir, merely four days prior to the referendum said, "The south suffers from many problems. It's been at war since 1959. It does not have the ability to provide for its citizens or create a state or authority."

 

The problems do not end there. There is also the issue of the rebel armies. The new state will have to grapple with individual militias that are already vying for control. Just prior to the referendum two militia leaders, David Yauyau and Gatlauk Gal, attempted to derail the process.

 

Then there is the issue of Abyei, the central oil production site. The peace agreement was to settle the issue, but one thorn in the process has been the Arab-origin Misseriya tribe which has traditionally used the lands for grazing. A 2009 ruling from The Hague ruled that the Misseriya be excluded from the referendum, unacceptable to both Khartoum and the tribe. Analysts predict that, should a war restart in Sudan, the casus belli will most likely be Abyei.

 

The agreement mandates that, post-referendum, both sides, north and south, share oil revenue. But the south inherits the oilfields while the north will control infrastructure. Squabbles as to how the revenue will be divided have stalled progress.

 

This is where international powers can play a major role. The Obama administration has made Sudan a foreign policy goal; the African Union has acted as mediator; and Qatar has been hosting peace talks. China, a major oil purchaser, is also in the picture.

 

Partition always causes refugees. Thousands have started moving south, both for the vote and due to intimidation by northerners. A six-month period has been allotted to accommodate new settlers; this will be the biggest challenge for the new country. Our own history and that of the Balkans shows the partition of a land makes neighbours strangers. Now, more than ever, a tool needs to be yanked out, one seldom used in Sudan: diplomacy.

 

alia.allana@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'IF THE PM CAN APPEAR BEFORE THE PAC, WHY CAN'T HE APPEAR BEFORE A JPC? IT'S BEYOND COMPREHENSION'

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

Shekhar Gupta: My guest today is my old friend, and if I may say so, a friend with whom my friendship is as old as her political career and my journalistic career. This has been the best year for the Opposition. Aapne ek chief minister gira diya, aapne ek mantri girwa diya, Bihar ko sweep kar liya. Could there be a better year for the Opposition?

Sushma Swaraj: It will be better. 2011 will be better, 2012 will be even better.

 

Shekhar Gupta: 2011 could be the year of woman politicians. Mamata (Banerjee), Jayalalitha, then you are there in the ascendant.

 

Sushma Swaraj: It started from 2010. Rather before that when we got our first woman President.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And don't forget Sonia Gandhi, your very close friend now. We only see pictures of the two of you smiling.

 

Sushma Swaraj: That's my duty towards democracy. I'm leader of the Opposition, she is chairperson of the ruling alliance. And I think it's the beauty of Indian democracy that in the opposition we are not enemies. We are only ideologically opposed to each other. There is opposition on policies, but we are not enemies.

 

Shekhar Gupta: One notices a degree of personal warmth that one did not see earlier. Is there a new respect? Or what is it?

 

Sushma Swaraj: When I became Parliamentary Affairs Minister, it started from there. I thought it was my duty as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs to call on the then leader of Opposition and she was the leader of the Opposition at that time. So I went and called on her at her residence. It started from there and I think she is reciprocating that now.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Has she changed over the years?

 

Sushma Swaraj: In personal relationships, yes. Earlier, she was very quiet, she never used to speak, she very rarely smiled and she was not interactive. Now she interacts, now she has opened up.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Let me take you back to 2004. Go back to your anger—you threatened to shave off your head if she became PM. Do you think it was misplaced? Has that changed?

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, not at all. It was my duty towards my country. And let me tell you that today if she (Sonia) claims that post, I will do the same thing. This is my duty towards democracy.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But what is the difference between being that and being chairperson of the UPA? She is so powerful, she is more powerful than the PM.

 

Sushma Swaraj: Maybe, but being Prime Minister is totally different, constitutionally or officially. I will never accept a foreigner as Prime Minister of the country. She may be the chairperson of the ruling alliance, she may be the chairperson of the Congress, that is their matter. A party chooses whoever as its president, it is for the Congressmen to decide. But the Prime Minister of the country, Indians must decide. It hurts my sensibilities. It hurts the sensibilities of Indians.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So that has not changed?

 

Sushma Swaraj: That has not changed and that will not change.

 

Shekhar Gupta: It doesn't look like that when you see your pictures now.

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, that is what I am saying. That was my duty towards this country and even today if the same thing is repeated, I will repeat the same vows. But as my duty towards democracy, I will always give her respect and I remind you even during the Bellary election...I didn't speak a single word against her as a person. I always said main ek videshi ko pradhan mantri nahin dekh sakti. Meri ladai wahi thi. 2004 main bhi meri ladai wahi thi. (I always said that I cannot see a foreigner becoming the Prime Minister of India).

 

Shekhar Gupta: Sushma, lately we see both trends. We also see, on the one hand, the Opposition and the government talking, at the same time we saw a whole Parliament session completely stalled for the first time. Where are we heading?

 

Sushma Swaraj: It is only due to the obstinate and stubborn attitude of the government. What were we demanding? We were demanding a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) probe into these three scams. And why was the government so stubborn? I don't know. Earlier also, on two occasions, the Congress gave us a JPC. On two occasions, during six years of our rule, we gave a JPC. And if I may remind you, as Health Minister, I gave a JPC within 15 minutes of the demand. I was Health Minister and there was an issue of pesticides in cola and there was one irritating remark that some Congressman made and the other person said can you give us a JPC and I said, 'Speaker saab, inhe JPC de do (Give them a JPC)'.

 

Shekhar Gupta: What was the irritating remark?

 

Sushma Swaraj: Ki chanda kitna khaaya hai (How much donation did you take)? I immediately said—Manohar Joshi was in the chair—'Speaker saab, give them a JPC'. And I would like to tell you that according to the rules, a JPC is always headed by a person from the ruling coalition, ruling party. Then Sharad Pawar said, JPC de denge, kya mujhe aap adhyaksh bhi bana dengi (you will give us a JPC, but will you make me its head)? Within 15 minutes, I gave a JPC and Sharad Pawar was made the chairman.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But why is the government so firm on that if it is so simple?

 

Sushma Swaraj: I'm unable to spell it out because in three meetings, two convened by Pranab Mukherjee and one convened by the Speaker earlier, all members of the Opposition were asked, why a JPC? We gave them 10 reasons and we asked the government to give us one reason for not setting up a JPC. They could not spell out even a single reason. Even the media is asking them this. Earlier, I heard something that a JPC may call the Prime Minister and so that was the fear. Now, the Prime Minister has offered to appear before the PAC (Public Accounts Committee). If the Prime Minister can appear before the PAC, why can't he appear before a JPC? It's beyond comprehension.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But what is your reading?

 

Sushma Swaraj: My analysis is that they think that the issue may remain alive if they constitute a JPC and they don't want the issue to remain alive. So again and again they were pressing for a discussion. Because if the issue is discussed...

 

Shekhar Gupta: Then it is over...

 

Sushma Swaraj: Then it is talked out. You say Parliament was stalled and that it did not function for the whole session. I tell you, I have reached the conclusion that stalling of Parliament has proved more effective than the functioning of Parliament at this time because the issue is in focus now. Everybody, even in a village, they may not know anything about spectrum, but they may know about 2G. They may not know about 2G, but they say, daal main kuch kala hai, kha gaye aur kuch zyada kha gaye. Kitna kha gaye? 1,76,000 crore kha gaye. This issue has reached the people. So this has been their miscalculation. Had they constituted a JPC, its members would have worked on one side, the session would have also started. The House could have functioned. The issue would not have been focused in this manner as it has been done now.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So what do you see happening? If they don't concede a JPC, then no Budget session?

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, then we will sit again—as the NDA, we will sit also with other parties—and then we will chalk out a strategy.

 

Shekhar Gupta: This government has three-and-a-half more years. You can't sustain this for three-and-half more years.

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, that's what I'm saying. Now the Speaker is calling meetings. Day before yesterday, she called us. Yesterday also she called some Opposition leaders and now again the signals are going to the government that no JPC, no session. Maybe they will concede. We are not asking for the moon.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But you gained a lot. See, the Supreme Court is monitoring the investigation which would not have happened. Do you accept that?

 

Sushma Swaraj: Yes.

 

Shekhar Gupta: The PAC is getting more empowered. So, it's not that you haven't gained. So can you declare victory at sometime, short of a JPC?

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, not short of a JPC, because one issue remains unanswered. All these investigations are into frauds but after the Nira Radia tapes disclosures, there is a question mark on the very existence of democracy in India. The corporates' interference in Indian polity is to this extent that all the four pillars of democracy are under cloud—legislature, judiciary, executive and press. I don't know whether you have listened to those tapes or not, I have listened to those tapes. Corporates decide how a ministry will be formed, corporates decide which portfolio will be given to whom.

 

Shekhar Gupta: No, there is a lot of name dropping and tall talk. There is no evidence that it got done.

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, it got done because the same person became the minister. See the spectrum allocation took place in 2007. Why was the same person, Raja, made the minister in 2009? It needs an inquiry. I'll be happy if we reach the conclusion that there was no influence.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You are saying something very interesting now. Are you nuancing what the JPC would do instead of investigating the 2G scam?

 

Sushma Swaraj: I'm saying, and we have told the government also, that we do not want only to probe 2G spectrum or CWG or Adarsh Society or anything. There are larger questions of governance. There are larger questions of broader corruption. We want a JPC because in a JPC, all parties send their very senior members and the JPC does focused thinking. Agar main Hindi mein kahoon, toh ek sagar manthan ki zaroorat hai (there is a need for some churning). We need introspection. We don't want to keep the government in the dock, even we need introspection.

 

Shekhar Gupta: That is very significant, a JPC not to catch the thief, not to put the government in the dock. A JPC for introspection. And for systemic correction.

 

Sushma Swaraj: For systemic correction because we need remedial measures. Who will suggest those remedial measures? Will the Supreme Court?

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, this will not be a vindictive, name-calling body?

 

Sushma Swaraj: Not at all. We have told the government that there are larger issues of governance which we need to sit and talk about.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You will not call the PM and humiliate him?

 

Sushma Swaraj: The PM has himself offered to appear before the PAC. We never decided because we cannot hijack the powers of a JPC. Whosoever will be members and chairman of the JPC, they will decide on whom to call and whom not to call. What I'm saying is that we need to sit together.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But there is honour among thieves. Some broad contours can be agreed upon between the Opposition and the ruling parties?

 

Sushma Swaraj: But only after a JPC is formed. A JPC is always headed by the ruling party and generally the majority of the members also belong to the ruling coalition. They will sit and talk. We need to sit and talk. We need to ponder over all these things.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Is there sufficient communication between the government and the Opposition now?

 

Sushma Swaraj: Not sufficient because in the earlier sessions—the fourth and fifth sessions—there was more communication. This time though the session was stalled for about 17 days, only two meetings were called. One by Pranab Mukherjee and one by the Speaker. I won't call it very sufficient because in the meeting that was called by Meiraji (Meira Kumar), it was at her initiative and not the initiative of the government.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So what is your personal view? You think come February you will be sitting and debating in Parliament or there will again be...

 

Sushma Swaraj: I can't say.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Are you optimistic that there will be a session?

 

Sushma Swaraj: I am always optimistic. For example, in this meeting with Meira Kumarji, Pranabda (Pranab Mukherjee) was saying that a JPC is an ineffective body, it doesn't do much. Even its earlier recommendations, nobody saw and nobody implemented them. I joked, agar itni ineffective hai toh de kyon nahin dete hain aap (If it's so ineffective, why don't you give it)? So he asked, faydaa kya hai. What is the gain? I said, there is one gain, Parliament will continue. He had a hearty laugh and then said, 'This is a matchless answer, I can't match this'.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But now you propose a JPC that looks into the larger picture of systemic reform?

 

Sushma Swaraj: Not now, right from the word go.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Sushma, the Congress will always turn around and throw Karnataka at you.

 

Sushma Swaraj: They both are not comparable. As regards Karnataka, Advaniji has said that the party is already seized of the matter.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Doesn't it undermine your party's moral position on corruption?

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, it doesn't because we are seized of the matter. The day Advaniji was addressing the press conference, somebody asked the same question. He said you are presuming that we have not done anything and we will not do anything. So, I think that answers it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So the presumption that the party will do nothing about (BS) Yeddyurappa is wrong?

 

Sushma Swaraj: Yes, he (Advani) said you are presuming this. Don't presume this.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Before we conclude, the big challenge lately has been Naxalites and the country is in some way intellectually very polarised. Where do you stand now, particularly after Binayak Sen's case?

 

Sushma Swaraj: See, I don't know whether you see my tweets or not. But the very day this judgment was pronounced, I tweeted, 'violence against the state, massacre of innocent policemen and civilians and propagating this is certainly treason'. I'm of the firm opinion that such activities have to be curbed and have to be condemned. The problem is that there is a dilemma in the government. The PMO and the NAC (National Advisory Council) are at loggerheads on this question.

 

Shekhar Gupta: I thought the government and the Opposition were at loggerheads.

 

Sushma Swaraj: The government and the Opposition are not at loggerheads on this question but on this question of Naxalism, there are vast differences of opinion between members of the NAC and people close to the PMO. For example, the Home Minister wants to deal with the situation with a tough hand. We have always supported him in that. But have you seen the statements made by NAC members? They remind us of the colonial Raj. The NAC is an active body of policy making. They are not the Congress party.

 

Shekhar Gupta: It's not an NGO.

 

Sushma Swaraj: That's what I'm saying. If five members of the NAC speak against the judgment, they raise their voices. So the government is in a dilemma. Madam Sonia Gandhi today is wearing three hats. She is president of Congress party, she is president of the ruling alliance and she is chairman of the NAC. So, I think this dilemma must go. If the NAC members speak in this voice, then how will the PMO work and how will the Home Minister work because he (the PM) also gets the signals.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Did anybody in the government ever admit to you that they are confused by this?

 

Sushma Swaraj: No, they have not, this is my own analysis. This is very obvious. There is no need of any analysis on this, even you would agree.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, the next time you meet Mrs Gandhi and exchange smiles for cameras, maybe you give her a word of advice on this.

 

Sushma Swaraj: I will. Thank you so much.

 

Transcribed by Priyanka Sengupta

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SEASON 4 LOOKS GRAND

 

IPL auctions break its losing streakIPL has been battling controversies ever since its third season ended. Fans would well remember how Lalit Modi was giving a victory speech at Navi Mumbai's DY Patil Stadium even as BCCI was preparing to suspend him as IPL chairman and commissioner. He said he had lived the dream of India boasting a sports league that the whole world would envy. He was filled with joy and happiness that the dream had been realised. This was a dream that the country had climbed abroad. As Modi got ousted, suspicion grew that the dream would be brought down. It looked like that was happening for a while. Was the Kochi team in or out? Were the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab still in the fray? If they were, could they put up the guarantees that would allow them to participate in the IPL 4 auctions? Wasn't the auction format confusing, what with retentions et al? But over this weekend, many of the doubts about the 2011 season were put to rest. The world's richest cricket tournament has set new auction records, appropriately taking off with Gautam Gambhir going from the Delhi Daredevils to the Kolkata Knight Riders for $2.4 million while Sourav Ganguly went unsold. Teams are no longer as attached to the local connect as they were when IPL was launched. The past doesn't matter as much as the present.

 

None of this is to say that the league has gotten cleaned up. Lots of questions still remain about, for example, the Chennai Super Kings owner also being BCCI secretary and part of the IPL decision-making team. There are also questions about exactly what the franchises will be paying to the retained players. Debates will continue about why foreign players attracted as little attention as they did, particularly the Brits who have been riding on the glory of being both the Ashes and the World Twenty20 champions. Cleaning up the house at both IPL and BCCI still remains very much in order. But, for now, all the glamour and high spirits associated with the league can flow freely. And while big-pursed Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings may have walked away with a premier line-up between them, fans know from past experience that the magic of the league lies in its unpredictability. Some uncapped players may yet become heroes of the hour, come April, as may some underrated teams obviously. All of us may end up quoting Modi quoting the Zen proverb, "The obstacle is our path."

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BENGAL TO THE RAILWAYS

 

While the railway minister continues to focus on West Bengal, as an Indian Express report brought out on Monday, her charge teeters on the verge of bankruptcy and may even have to default on paying its annual dividend to the government—if not, it will have to suspend contribution for depreciation. That's quite a turnaround from the days of Lalu Prasad, when the Railways were the toast of management schools, both locally as well as internationally. That this is happening shouldn't come as a surprise, given the window-dressing in the budget and also the fact that the impact of innovative schemes, like raising the axle load of the freight trains, has now been almost fully exhausted. As pointed out by the railways finance commissioner in an interview with FE yesterday, the impact of the increase in diesel prices and the larger-than-anticipated outgo on payments for implementing the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations has been worsened by the reduction in freight earnings, mainly on account of the ban on ore exports from Karnataka. Though the implementation of the Pay Commission report has pushed up the ordinary working expenses of the Railways by more than 50%, from Rs 41,033 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 65,810 crore in 2009-10, estimates made by the Railways show it will need a total of around Rs 55,000 crore between 2008-09 and 2010-11 to fully meet the Pay Commission commitments.

 

Another area where the railway ministry has faltered is its PPP projects. Though the Railway Budget has a plan to raise between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000 crore from PPP projects during 2010-11, the response has so far been limited to a few projects for laying rail lines and running special freight trains. The Railways sought to paper over the cracks by projecting that the growth of working expenses would come down from 16.1% in 2009-10 to only 4.4% in the current year. The Budget also exaggerated the net revenue flows, which were estimated to increase sharply by 50.7% in 2010-11, as against a decline of 29.3% in the previous year. At the broader level, Banerjee has done little to correct the fundamental flaw in the Railways operations—overcharging freight and undercharging passengers. The Railways lost Rs 7,500 crore in 2007-08 on passenger revenues of Rs 20,000 crore; and made profits of Rs 20,500 crore on cargo revenues of Rs 47,000 crore—so it overcharges freight by around 40% and undercharges passengers by roughly the same amount. Lalu Prasad tried to get over this by introducing novel concepts like the Garib Rath that, while keeping rates the same, packed in so many passengers that the train was hugely profitable. Banerjee is making no attempts to come up with more such schemes. Perhaps there are no more rabbits to pull out of the hat.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ALL HAIL KING SHALE!

TNR RAO

 

The year that has just ended was witness to the emergence of four major gamechangers in the world of hydrocarbons. They were shale gas, rising non-OECD demand for energy, the accident in the Gulf of Mexico (BP's deepwater well) and the rise of Iraq on the supply side. Shale gas, however, has had, so far, a more dramatic effect both on the supply and price of gas as well as the geo-strategies of the western world.

 

The US provides an example of a nation that, almost overnight, became a gas surplus country. Their existing LNG receiving terminals are being mothballed and the start up of new ones are being kept on hold. Gas prices locally have steeply fallen, impacting LNG prices worldwide. The largest LNG producer in the Gulf is forced to hawk it at a price that barely covers its processing costs. Even though shale gas is yet to come up in Europe, Russia and China, feverish drilling has commenced in Europe, wanting to free itself from the whimsical Russian supplies. Similarly, the US view of the Middle East as a major supply source of its fuel could change and thus influence its geo-political perspective of the region.

 

Many parts of the world have rock formations with extractable shale gas. North America alone is estimated to have 900 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas. Several parts of Europe, too, have considerable reserves about to be extracted. One study of world potential estimates 688 shale formations in 142 basins. It is the development and deployment of the hydraulic fracturing technology that has rendered shale gas commercially viable. Though categorised as an unconventional gas, it is going to overwhelm conventional gas in the near future, if the current rate of exploitation is maintained.

 

The question that naturally arises is its availability and exploitability in India. Preliminary surveys have shown Assam-Arakan in the northeast, Cambay in the west and Gondwana formations in central India to hold potential for shale gas development. Its exploitation, however, throws up several technological, environmental, policy and regulatory challenges.

 

The technology known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking was mostly developed by smaller independent oil companies, rather than oil majors, who had not paid attention to shale. Hence, the scramble to take over the independents with technology and acreage, or enter into agreements with them or farm in to their fields. But before we deploy the technology, India has to do more extensive and intensive exploratory surveys, for delineating such producing areas. Mere estimates of in-place reserve do not justify optimism. It is necessary to establish proven and recoverable reserves. The old adage that you have to drill a well to find oil or gas is still valid. Commercially viable production requires thousands of wells to be drilled, as the US has shown. But our drilling intensity, even in conventional oil/gas, is so poor that a large number of fields have been abandoned for poor prospectivity. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake if we want to exploit our shale potential optimally.

 

The more challenging will be environmental issues. Each well requires enormous quantities of water, estimated to consume anywhere between two to five million gallons, only half of which can be recovered for re-use. Vast amounts of chemicals also get pumped in, which contaminate ground water. Though technologies are available to treat sea water for use, it will be of little use in non-coastal areas, requiring transportation over long distances. Fresh water for human use is already short in India and this will be further aggravated if large-scale development of shale gas takes place.

 

Another environmental issue would be the possible damage to human habitation in and around these areas of development. Fracking involves the use of high power blasts of the order of 50,000 HP for cracking and loosening underground formations. These blasts could damage buildings in and around the site, especially given the population density in India. This will be in addition to the problem of acquisition of vast tracts of land for its operations. Both land and water are scarce in this over-populated country. A delicate balance, therefore, has to be achieved between shale gas production for energy security on one side and the environment on the other.

 

Even assuming we overcome these issues, there remains the policy and regulatory concerns to be tackled. The experience so far in oil and gas is hardly encouraging. Policy somersaults have bewildered foreign investors, mostly tilted to suit the ruling government's favourite corporates and shutting out foreign competition. No stable fiscal or pricing policy has been followed, even after promising fiscal stability and marketing freedom in the production sharing contracts (PSC). If such a policy captured by domestic vested interests continues, there is very little hope of overseas capital and technology coming in. For example, of all the oil/gas blocks auctioned so far, 70% have ended up with national oil companies, amounting to re-nationalisation of oil/gas fields through the bidding route. So much for attracting foreign investment. India seems to be repeating the mistake for shale gas areas also. Prospectors are asked to wait till a new shale gas policy is formulated. All over the world, drilling for shale has commenced under their existing mineral development policies. Some producing fields in India, where shale formations have been struck, are made to wait for the yet-to-be-evolved new policy, thus holding up further development of an existing field covered by a valid PSC. It is really not clear why gas from shale beds needs a policy different from the one for natural gas. A molecule of methane from shale rock is no different from methane from any other source rock. Such tardiness and ill-preparedness on the part of government does not augur well for shale gas in India. What is required is an overarching mineral exploitation and development policy, and a regulatory regime that is perceived to be independent. Only then can India expect to have a vibrant oil and gas development.

 

The author is chairman of the Energy Think Tank and former secretary, ministry of petroleum & natural gas

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TEJAS IS NO LONGER A MIRAGE

DEBA R MOHANTY

 

January 10, 2011, is a special day for at least three generations of scientists, technocrats and industrial producers as they are joined by the whole country in celebrating the initial operational clearance (IOC) ceremony of the indigenously built tail-less, single-engine multirole fighter Tejas (light combat aircraft—LCA) at Bangalore in the presence of the defence minister and the Chief of the Air Staff. This is the first step towards a productionisation stamp for the fighter, whose naval variant is also in the pipeline. The Tejas is expected to receive final operational clearance (FOC) in the next 18 months after which serial production will begin.

 

Conceived in the late 1960s as a fresh attempt after the eventual failure of India's first supersonic project 'HF-24 Marut', the LCA was approved as one of the five flagship programmes in Indian defence in 1983 (other programmes are main battle tank, guided missiles, warships and submarines—which were approved between 1978 and 1989) with an initial capital of Rs 560 crore. The development cost has now escalated to Rs 6,000 crore. With the IOC, LCA will most probably be the second successful programme with a definite 'induction' into the armed forces after three series of guided missiles. If IAF's long-term acquisition of fighter aircraft is any indication, then about 10 squadrons of LCAs, accounting for nearly 20% of the entire fighter arsenal, would be required by 2030. In the development cycle, LCA is likely to be a globally competitive fighter by the mid-2020s, with considerable export orders in the future. Further improvements in its stealth components could elevate this wonderful 4th generation fighter to the 5th generation club in the future.

 

While the US defence secretary Robert Gates believes that F-35 would be the last of the fighters generation, hinting that unmanned systems like UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles) and UUAVs (unmanned underwater aerial vehicles) are likely to replace manned systems like fighters, land systems and warships in future digitalised battlefields, it is time to ask a fundamental question—are India's ambitious current project LCA and probably future projects like MCA (medium combat aircraft) or even HCA (hyper combat aircraft) worth their value for money? The answer to this question is not easy but an attempt is made to justify LCA's worth here.

 

India needs LCA for a variety of reasons. First, it is a requirement, not a 'symbol of statehood' project as scholars like David Kinsella and Jugdeep Cheema might like to argue. Basic principles of self-reliance in defence would necessitate such projects. Robert Gates's prediction is right yet, at the same time, reasonable assessments on employment of aerospace powers in future battles, especially involving countries like India in its neighbourhood or even far off places are not insignificant either. Second, imported engine (in this case GE-404 initially and GE-414 later) makes LCA seem less an indigenous project, more an assembled one. However, indigenised components like avionics and airframes coupled with a successful future Kaveri (aero-engine programme) powered LCA may not be a distant dream. Third, it is argued by many that the LCA comes at a high cost and might fail to keep up with latest technology cycle. Let's actually not get carried away by the beauty of politics of technology in modern age, which brands every programme obsolete by the time it sees the light of the day. If that is the case, then projects like F-16 or MiGs would even have been abandoned by now. It is only that basic designs get improvement and LCA has that scope. The $1.5 billion development cost for LCA is nothing in comparison to the F-series, Mirage, or even Embraer projects. Fourth, time delays, cost escalation, technology denial and scientific brain drain are all intertwined and facts of life. As LCA has demonstrated its worth, it is high time that decision makers not only treated critical scientific projects as national priorities but more importantly made sure that budgetary allocations are not interrupted in the development process. And last but not the least, it must be realised that LCA's spin-offs in civil and military aerospace domains would be immense. India's near and distant future military and civil aerospace demands would be so gigantic that even LCA and Saras (the indigenous civil aircraft programme) will keep plant utilisation capacity of a few production units at high levels for several decades. All it requires is a little more national affection, priority and support.

 

The author is a senior fellow in Security Studies at the Observer Research Foundation. These are his personal views

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

Rediscovering America

At a lecture organised by CII and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the guest speaker, Kishore Mahbubani started his presentation mulling over different opening tactics—with a joke like in the West or an apology like in the East—and decided to go with both, apologising for his bad joke. He had the answer to the age-old mystery of who discovered America. No, it wasn't Columbus, or Vespucci or the Portuguese, it was the Chinese! But why didn't they stick around? Their inland exploration led the Chinese to a bunch of Red Indians dancing naked around a fire. One look and they packed up and left. Reason? No laundry business there. In another comment, Mahbubani called the US one of the most peaceful countries in the world—given its recent record in Iraq and Afghanistan, one wonders if this was just another off-colour joke.

 

More audible now

 

At a discussion for the late LC Jain's book, Civil Disobedience, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen asked the audience if he was audible and got a reply in the affirmative. Just then, a cameraperson put a recording mike for Aaj Tak—Sen pointed at it and said, "More audible now!"

 

Nariman Farm

 

At the discussion, senior journalist P Sainath spoke of the gentlemen farmers who lived in Nariman Point and cited government data to show 50% of agriculture credit in Maharashtra was disbursed from metro and semi-urban branches of banks. And you still have people who argue India's agriculture isn't going places.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

MAYA SCHEMES

 

On her birthday, Lucknow will light up with welfare schemes and light bulbs worth Rs 25 lakh

 

Marking 55 years of Mayawati, the city of Lucknow is all set to look like it does Diwali night. Government agencies are burning the midnight oil to light the city up as a part of the carefully choreographed celebrations. Contracts are being given out hilly-nilly and even though neither the PWD or LMC are in the loop, the preparations are going ahead full steam. Contrary to prevalent practice, the BSP makes no attempt at casting a veil on finance mechanisms—the Memorials, Sthals and Institutions Management, Protection and Maintenance Committee has undertaken this project. But most importantly, her birthday will see Mayawati dedicate public works projects, public welfare schemes, if you will. This will be the second year in a row (if things go to plan) that she will have deviated from the usual ostentatious song-and-dance routine, instead using the occasion to announce ambitious projects like a sewage treatment plant, new housing schemes, mobile medical units, a new auditorium, to name a few.

 

These celebrations will mark quite a change from the celebrations of 25 years of BSP, a rally steeped in money. The function saw tradition snubbed in favour of extravagance—flower garlands were unceremoniously dumped for garlands made with thousand rupee bills. This or that, it is without doubt that Mayawati cannot be typecast. She forges her own path—not giving tuppence for the cardiac arrest-like effect she has on her detractors.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

BJP'S RETURN TO FORM

 

It is politically significant that the Bharatiya Janata Party has managed to put itself on the path to recovery within a year of being all but written off. With miseries coming in a pack through 2009, the principal Opposition party battled existential questions at this time last year. Consider what it was up against: two general election defeats in a row, the lowest Lok Sabha tally in two decades, personality clashes compounded by ideological confusion, and a succession war only partly stemmed by the arrival of the underestimated Nitin Gadkari. But all this might have been an eternity ago, judging by the signature aggression on display at the recent national executive meet in Guwahati — which concluded with the party announcing corruption as its main poll plank. It is not a coincidence that the BJP has recovered its sense of purpose at a time when the Congress, beset by scam and scandal, is fighting with its back to the wall. Indeed, it is plain enough that the ruling party has offered the issue on a platter to its main rival.

 

For the BJP, the opportunity presented itself when the Manmohan Singh government, already in all manner of trouble over corruption in the Commonwealth Games, akratically refused to heed the united Opposition's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee enquiry into the 2G spectrum irregularities. The BJP astutely assumed leadership of the pro-JPC agitation in Parliament, taking care to ensure that the target of Opposition attack was none other than the 'untainted' Manmohan Singh. Since then the First Family has come directly under fire — thanks to Bofors returning in the form of a damning order of the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal. What more can the Congress' principal adversary ask for? On the face of it, it is an ironic reversal of fortunes between the two main parties in the political system. Yet the BJP has a long way to go before it can truly challenge the Congress, not least because of its own track record of stonewalling corruption charges in Karnataka. In contrast to Union Telecom Minister A. Raja, who was asked to resign pending investigation into the 2G scam, Chief Minister B.S Yeddyurappa has dug in his heels in the face of irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing. To the mortification of BJP votaries, there is growing evidence on the involvement of extremist Hindutva elements in some terrorist bombings. Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that the BJP's former allies are not exactly queuing up to return to the National Democratic Alliance — this despite the party's impressive showing in the Bihar Assembly election, where it outscored Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United). The BJP hopes that a popular mood swing of the kind that Bofors brought about in the late-1980s against the government of Rajiv Gandhi can be achieved against the coalition regime of Dr. Manmohan Singh by a focussed campaign on the 2G spectrum scam and other corruption scandals. We must wait and see if history will be repeated.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

AT RECORD LEVELS

 

For Indian consumers reeling under high food prices, it might be small comfort that the rest of the world too is sharing the problem in varying degrees. In Algeria and a few other North African countries, riots have occurred over high food prices, although other factors such as the high levels of unemployment also contributed to the unrest. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food prices hit a record high in December 2010, surpassing the levels touched in 2007-08, when food riots occurred in countries as far apart as Haiti and Bangladesh. The FAO's food price index, which tracks the wholesale prices of commodities such as wheat, rice, corn, oil seeds, dairy products, and meat rose to 214.7 per cent in December. The previous peak was 213.5, reached in June 2008. The FAO has said that the increase does not constitute a crisis, but admitted that the situation was "alarming". The near-term outlook for food prices too is gloomy.

 

The rise in the food price index is attributed to an increase in the prices of sugar, oil seeds and meat. Sugar prices recently reached a 30-year high. While some comfort can be derived from the fact that the prices of rice have remained relatively stable, wheat prices are set to rise on the back of poor harvests in some major producing regions. As in India, high food prices are driving inflation beyond the comfort levels of central banks in many other countries. Also, macroeconomic management has become more complex as the price rise has been particularly sharp in the case of commodities such as vegetables, milk, and meat, which are increasingly preferred by consumers over cereals. Even as it seems certain that the global food imports by countries facing shortages will hit a record high in 2011, the policymakers in many countries are forced to adopt short-term measures such as banning exports of critical food items. At another level, the high agricultural prices are a further disincentive to conclude the Doha round of trade talks. Large agricultural exporters such as Brazil and Argentina that stand to gain enormously appear much less interested. Yet a globally coordinated strategy is necessary not only for furthering multilateral trade but also in areas such as checking the unbridled financialisation of commodities markets and encouraging speculation.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY — THE TASKS AHEAD

THOUGH IT HAS BEGUN WELL, INDIA HAS MILES TO GO FOR SECURING OPTIMAL PROJECTION OF ITS FOREIGN POLICY CONCERNS.

RAJIV BHATIA

 

Confidentiality and conventional diplomacy go together. As diplomacy is about communication and negotiation involving governments, they have inevitably to undertake their sensitive work outside the media's reach.

 

However, the 21st century is characterised by globalisation, assertive public opinion, an ever present 24x7 media and Web 2.0 technology. This combination lends increased significance to public diplomacy. Recognising the magnitude of the changing scene, India has begun well, but it has miles to go for securing optimal projection of its foreign policy concerns.

 

What is public diplomacy? Barack Obama told the Indian Parliament that he was "mindful" he might not be standing before it as the U.S. President "had it not been for Gandhi[ji] and the message he shared and inspired with America and the world." Michelle Obama won hearts by dancing with Indian children. Carla Bruni, the French President's wife, communicated by doing a perfect namaste, besides informing the public that she prayed for "another son" at a shrine near Agra. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proclaimed that China and India "would always be friends and would never be rivals." Our distinguished guests were thus using tools of public diplomacy to connect with their hosts in India.

 

Public diplomacy is a web of mechanisms through which a country's foreign policy positions are transmitted to its target audiences. The term was first used by U.S. diplomat and scholar Edmund Guillion in 1965. He saw it as "dimensions of international relations beyond traditional diplomacy, the cultivation by governments of public opinion in other countries …" Indian diplomats, however, rightly maintain that public diplomacy has to do with both foreign and domestic audiences. When you put out a story on television, blog or YouTube today, it is consumed by a university student in Bhopal as much as by a financial analyst in Toronto.

 

Delhi conference: Recently the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) hosted, in collaboration with the CMS Academy, a two-day conference and workshop in Delhi to explore the challenges of "Public Diplomacy in the Information Age." Attended by a cross-section of scholars, communication experts, media personalities, business leaders and diplomats, it aimed at crafting a new understanding of how India could exploit the full potential of public diplomacy.

 

Participants, including this writer, gained much from the presence of four top experts in public diplomacy and communication in the world today, namely Nicholas J. Cull and Philip Seib, both professors from the University of Southern California, Prof Eytan Gilboa from the Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Nik Gowing, chief presenter, BBC. Select panels of Indian and foreign speakers, interacting with an informed audience, examined diverse themes such as "Public Diplomacy in a Globalized World," "21st Century Statecraft and Soft Power," "24x7 News and Public diplomacy," "Web 2.0 and the New Public Diplomacy," and "Corporate Diplomacy." Three workshops were also held focussing on fascinating aspects of the subject. It may be useful to recall the key takeaways for a broader audience interested in foreign policy projection.

 

Key conclusions: First, public diplomacy and "new public diplomacy" (which uses social media tools for reaching younger audiences) need to be situated in the post-Cold War context. With a clear trend towards multipolarity, globalisation and democracy, non-state actors, NGOs, business enterprises and others have been playing an increasingly important role. The emergence of global television and Internet-based communication have now empowered governments to reach out to constituencies as spin doctors of yesterday could hardly dream of. Hence the importance of the medium has grown enormously.

 

Second, the message nevertheless retains its significance: if it is not clear and credible, it will not get through. The former Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, suggested that while "Incredible India" has been a great campaign, what we needed was to project a "credible India."

 

Third, the link between public diplomacy and foreign policy formulation is inextricable. If policy is flawed, projection alone cannot help. Therefore, senior public diplomacy officials should have a seat on the policy-making table.

 

Fourth, thinking about how to put across one's message has undergone a fundamental change. The advice now is to transcend government-to-public communication and, instead, focus on two-way communication, on "advancing conversations." Public diplomacy is about listening and articulating. Beyond the traditional media, the cyber space sustains a "Republic of Internet" and a "Nation of Facebook" which cannot be ignored. If the government does not cater to their needs, someone else, possibly with an adversarial orientation, will. Perhaps this perspective led the MEA to embark on a new journey last year, establishing an interactive website, a Twitter channel, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a BlogSpot page and a presence in online publishing sites like Scribd and Issuu. These may still be "baby steps," but they are laudable.

 

Fifth, the importance of speed in communication was repeatedly stressed. "Tyranny of deadline," impact of the ticker, "Breaking news" and "citizen-journalist" were referred to. Image managers no longer have the luxury of time nor leisurely weekends. Addressing them, a television professional put it bluntly: "If we don't sleep, you don't sleep!"

 

Sixth, management tools such as planning and evaluation are essential for devising and assessing the impact of public diplomacy strategies. They clearly form part of a continuing process, to be handled with transparency, integrity and professionalism.

 

Finally, the concept of nation branding is highly relevant to the task of projecting India.

 

After the conference, Prof. Seib, a keynote speaker, reportedly observed that India lacked "a consistent profile that it can present to the world," that it did not have "a comprehensive public diplomacy strategy." I find it difficult to accept this assessment. India's foray into public diplomacy in the digital era may be new, but it can certainly lay claim to a decent record of projection abroad. Turning Western public opinion in Delhi's favour prior to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 is a shining example. India has a broader conception of public diplomacy encompassing all facets: media, cultural, educational, and economic and Diaspora diplomacy. Speaking at the conference, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao aptly observed that "the tradition of public outreach and interpretation of foreign policy positions" had been "ingrained in our conditioning as diplomats."

 

Tasks ahead: In the MEA, projection is driven by the External Publicity division as well as the Public Diplomacy division. Beyond them, the bulk of work is handled by our missions abroad, often the unnoticed members of our collective choir.

 

They all perform very well, but room for improvement exists. Our ambassadors should be trained to become savvier at handling TV interviews. Our diplomats should rapidly acquire skills relating to Web 2.0 technology. The rising importance of non-state actors should be factored in fully.

 

Finally, the striking disconnect between India's self-perception and the world's view should be addressed. Amidst unprecedented visits by leaders of all P-5 states within five months, our nation's attention was primarily focussed on internal concerns — scams, onion prices and excessive politics. Assuming we want India to become a truly Great Power, we, as a polity, must deepen interest in world affairs. The MEA would do well to use all its weaponry of public diplomacy to increase our awareness of the world and India's place in it. It must sustain its initiatives to project India's soft power. The task begins at home!

 

( The author is a former ambassador with considerable media experience.)

 

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THE HINDU

BLASPHEMY LAWS AND THEIR SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS

THE PROPOSED U.N. RESOLUTION, "ON COMBATING DEFAMATION OF RELIGIONS," IS BUT A BID BY CERTAIN COUNTRIES TO ENFORCE SHARIA LAW.

MADANJEET SINGH

 

The 57 states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, led by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt, have proposed a United Nations resolution, "On Combating Defamation of Religions." It is but a Trojan horse to promote a fundamentalist agenda and enforce blasphemy laws and other discriminatory pieces of legislation. It is intended to legalise threats and violence against minorities and other vulnerable groups, as Human Rights Watch of Pakistan has pointed out.

 

A euphemistic corollary to the proposed U.N. resolution is the enforcement of Sharia law. The resolution encourages Al-Qaeda terrorists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri who urges Muslim women to be "holy warriors" like the students of the two Jamia Hafsa madrassas that Abdul Aziz Ghazi had established at the Lal Masjid in Islamabad. Clad in shuttlecock burqas and armed with sticks, they shouted " Al-jihad, Al-jihad" and went on the rampage. They threw out from libraries non-Islamic books, burned and destroyed music and CD shops, and dabbed ink on the faces of male and female actors on billboards. Schoolgirls were threatened that if they did not conform to the Islamic ways of dressing, their faces would be smeared with acid.

 

The trend is clear from the death sentence imposed on November 8, 2010 on Aasia Bibi, an unlettered farmhand from Sheikhupura district in Punjab province, and the shocking assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer on January 4, 2011. He had wanted to repeal the blasphemy law under which she had been accused and convicted. Her "crime" was to enter into an altercation with fellow-farm workers who had refused to drink water she had touched, contending that it was unclean because she was a Christian. She has been on death row for over a year, pending appeal to a higher court. Salman Taseer condemned the blasphemy law that bigoted dictator, Zia-ul Haq had promulgated in 1980, as the "black law".

 

The dastardly murder of a secular and progressive Salman Taseer by his security guard represents the tip of the iceberg of terrorism in Pakistan. The assassin was showered with rose petals and garlands by hundreds of his supporters as he appeared before a magistrate in Islamabad and declared that he was "proud to have killed a blasphemer". More than 500 religious clerics of Jammat-e-Ahle-Sunnat, a leading Barelvi religious party, forbade its followers to pray for or attend the funeral of the "blasphemer." The "moderate" sections of the society did not condemn the assassination.

 

Salman Taseer personifies the halal of Pakistan's democracy that is painfully bleeding to death and paving the way for another military takeover, supported by Islamist bigotry. Salman bravely stood against the military dictator Zia-ul Haq during the Movement for Restoration of Democracy in 1983, and was subjected to horrendous torture in the notorious Lahore Fort where his uncle, the renowned poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was incarcerated in 1958. Salman Taseer opposed the imposition of Shariah law by the Nawaz Sharif government and was beaten black and blue by his goons, suffering multiple fractures.

 

Since the Pakistani military government of Zia-ul Haq unleashed a wave of persecution in the 1980s, violence against religious minorities has increased. Attackers kill and wound Christians and Ahmadis, in particular, and burn down their homes and businesses. The authorities arrest, jail, and charge members of minority communities, heterodox Muslims and others with blasphemy and related offences because of their religious beliefs. In several instances, the police have been complicit in harassing, and framing false charges against, members of these groups, or have stood by as they were attacked.

 

Balochistan's Home Minister shamelessly justifies the hair-raising horror of "Karo-Kari" as "mere customary punishment." Several cases have been reported from the tribal region where screaming young girls were buried alive and stoned to death in conformity with Sharia law.

 

"Pakistan once had a violent, rabidly religious lunatic fringe. This fringe has morphed into a majority. It's the liberals that are now the fringe...Europe's Dark Ages have descended upon us," wrote Pervez Hoodbhoy, Chairman, Department of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University.

 

(Madanjeet Singh is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. These are excerpts from his forthcoming book, Cultures and Vultures .)           

 

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THE HINDU

MY FATHER DIED FOR PAKISTAN

'THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY MY FATHER'S DEATH WAS THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN FOR A TOLERANT PAKISTAN. BUT WE BURIED A HEROIC MAN, NOT THE COURAGE HE INSPIRED IN OTHERS.'

SHEHRBANO TASEER

 

TWENTY-SEVEN. That's the number of bullets a police guard fired into my father before surrendering himself with a sinister smile to the policemen around him. Salmaan Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province, was assassinated on Tuesday [January 4] — my brother Shehryar's 25th birthday — outside a market near our family home in Islamabad.

 

The guard accused of the killing, Mumtaz Qadri, was assigned that morning to protect my father while he was in the federal capital. According to officials, around 4:15 p.m., as my father was about to step into his car after lunch, Mr. Qadri opened fire.

 

Mr. Qadri and his supporters may have felled a great oak that day, but they are sadly mistaken if they think they have succeeded in silencing my father's voice or the voices of millions like him who believe in the secular vision of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 

My father's life was one of struggle. He was a self-made man, who made and lost and remade his fortune. He was among the first members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party when it was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s. He was an intellectual, a newspaper publisher and a writer; he was jailed and tortured for his belief in democracy and freedom. The vile dictatorship of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq did not take kindly to his pamphleteering for the restoration of democracy.

 

One particularly brutal imprisonment was in a dungeon at Lahore Fort, this city's Mughal-era citadel. My father was held in solitary confinement for months and was slipped a single meal of half a plate of stewed lentils each day. They told my mother, in her early 20s at the time, that he was dead. She never believed that. Determined, she made friends with the kind man who used to sweep my father's cell and asked him to pass a note to her husband. My father later told me he swallowed the note, fearing for the sweeper's life. He scribbled back a reassuring message to my mother: "I'm not made from a wood that burns easily." That is the kind of man my father was. He could not be broken.

 

He often quoted verse by his uncle Faiz Ahmed Faiz, one of Urdu's greatest poets. "Even if you've got shackles on your feet, go. Be fearless and walk. Stand for your cause even if you are martyred," wrote Faiz. Especially as Governor, my father was the first to speak up and stand beside those who had suffered, from the thousands of people displaced by the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 to the family of two teenage brothers who were lynched by a mob last August in Sialkot after a dispute at a cricket match.

 

After 86 members of the Ahmadi sect, considered blasphemous by fundamentalists, were murdered in attacks on two of their mosques in Lahore last May, to the great displeasure of the religious right my father visited the survivors in the hospital. When the floods devastated Pakistan last summer, he was on the go, rallying businessmen for aid, consoling the homeless and building shelters.

 

My father believed that the strict blasphemy laws instituted by General Zia have been frequently misused and ought to be changed. His views were widely misrepresented to give the false impression that he had spoken against Prophet Mohammad. This was untrue, and a criminal abdication of responsibility by his critics, who must now think about what they have caused to happen. According to the authorities, my father's stand on the blasphemy law was what drove Mr. Qadri to kill him.

 

There are those who say my father's death was the final nail in the coffin for a tolerant Pakistan. That Pakistan's liberal voices will now be silenced. But we buried a heroic man, not the courage he inspired in others. This week two leading conservative politicians — former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and the cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan — have taken the same position my father held on the blasphemy laws: they want amendments to prevent misuse.

 

To say that there was a security lapse on Tuesday is an understatement. My father was brutally gunned down by a man hired to protect him. Juvenal once asked, "Who will guard the guards themselves?" It is a question all Pakistanis should ask themselves today: If the extremists could get to the Governor of the largest province, is anyone safe?

 

It may sound odd, but I can't imagine my father dying in any other way. Everything he had, he invested in Pakistan, giving livelihoods to tens of thousands, improving the economy. My father believed in our country's potential. He lived and died for Pakistan. To honor his memory, those who share that belief in Pakistan's future must not stay silent about injustice. We must never be afraid of our enemies. We must never let them win. — New York Times News Service

 

(Shehrbano Taseer is a reporter with Newsweek Pakistan .)

 

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THE HINDU

SAVAGE ACT IN POLARISED COUNTRY

THE ARIZONA GUNMAN WAS NOT LIKELY TO BE ACTING UNDER DIRECT INSTRUCTIONS BUT IN AN ATMOSPHERE THAT MADE SUCH AN ATTACK MORE LIKELY RATHER THAN LESS.

GARY YOUNGE

 

Jared Loughner, the suspect in Saturday's shooting spree in Arizona which killed six people and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was not working alone. True, the rampage apparently emerged from his confused, unstable and troubled mind. But it was also the by-product of a polarised political culture underpinned by increasingly vitriolic, violent and vituperative rhetoric and symbolism.

 

Fights outside town hall meetings, guns outside rallies, Facebook pages calling for assassinations, discussions about the most propitious moment for armed insurrection. In late October I asked a man in the quaint town of Salida, Colorado, if President Barack Obama had done anything worthwhile. "Well he's increased the guns and ammunitions industry exponentially," he said. "My friends are stockpiling." To dismiss these as the voices of the marginal was to miss the point and misunderstand the trend. America is more polarised under Mr. Obama than it has been in four decades: the week he was elected gun sales leapt 50 per cent year on year.

 

Where the right is concerned the marginal and the mainstream have rapidly become blurred. Neither the Tea Party nor Mr. Obama created these divisions. But over the past two years they have intensified to an alarming degree. Polls last year revealed that a majority of Republicans believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim and a socialist while two-thirds of Republicans either believe or are not sure that the President is "a racist who hates white people".

 

In this alternative reality armed response becomes, if not logical, then at least debatable. After all, if Mr. Obama truly were a foreign-born, white-hating terrorist sympathiser who has usurped the presidency, drastic action would make sense. One anti-Obama campaigner carried a placard saying, "It is time to water the tree of liberty" — a reference to Thomas Jefferson's famous quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." In few places was the national atmosphere played out more dramatically than in the border state of Arizona. In April Raul Grijalva, in Gabrielle Giffords's adjacent constituency, faced bomb threats for opposing a new anti-immigration law. In August, Ms Giffords called police after a man dropped a gun at an event similar to the one she attended on Saturday. A few months ago Sarah Palin, targeting Ms Giffords's marginal constituency, put the seat in crosshairs, and encouraged supporters to "reload and take aim".

 

The connection between this rhetoric and Saturday's events are not causal but contextual. The shooter was not likely to be acting under direct instructions but in an atmosphere that made such an attack more likely rather than less.

 

In April 2009 a homeland security report on right-wing extremism concluded: "The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American President present unique drivers for right-wing radicalisation and recruitment." As Ms Giffords struggles for her life and the country mourns its dead some insist it is too soon to draw broader political conclusions from this tragedy. But if those conclusions had been understood sooner, it is possible that such a tragedy might have been prevented.

 

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

 

SWISS BANKER WHO USED WIKILEAKS FACES TRIAL

 

A Swiss banker whose actions caused a U.S. judge to briefly shut down WikiLeaks three years ago faces trial for allegedly distributing confidential documents showing how his former employer helped rich clients to dodge taxes.

 

The case appears to be the first time a WikiLeaks informant will go on trial. It comes as the U.S. government also is trying to prosecute individuals linked to the website for publishing secret military and diplomatic files. Rudolf Elmer, a former employee of Swiss-based Bank Julius Baer, has been ordered to appear before a Zurich regional court on January 19 to answer charges of coercion and violating Switzerland's strict banking secrecy laws. If convicted he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison and a fine.

 

Mr. Elmer said he will admit certain counts of coercion, but insisted he did not break Swiss banking laws because the files he distributed belonged to a Julius Baer subsidiary in the Cayman Islands.

— AP

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

BJP MUST CLEAN ITS OWN HOUSE FIRST

 

The BJP occasioned no surprise when it sought to flag the issue of corruption at its recent national executive meeting in Guwahati. After all, only weeks earlier, the Congress — against whom all of BJP's exertions are understandably tilted — had focused on the same question at its Burari conference near Delhi. The principal

 

Opposition party would not have lived up to its billing if it had not accorded the subject of institutionalised corruption — which casts a lengthening shadow on our public life — the significance it deserves. However, it was the manner in which the issue was broached in Guwahati that is likely to raise concern. So long as the BJP shies away from even acknowledging that rampant corruption, said to involve the most prominent elements of the government the party runs in Karnataka, is making a mockery of governance, democracy and justice in the southern state, a call on its part to cleanse the system and to interrogate the UPA government at the Centre is likely to carry little weight. It is doubtful the party's own rank and file will be persuaded by the doughty words and the lofty language its leaders employed at the national executive to corner the Manmohan-Sonia duo.
Even while the BJP conclave was in progress, an empowered committee of the Supreme Court recommended the cancellation of mining licences of a Karnataka company owned by two ministers of the state government. Except for those who are in the dock, no one from the party or the state government has had anything to say about this. On the ground the BJP appears to be in double jeopardy on the corruption issue. It has few allies at the Centre outside of the parties of the National Democratic Alliance. The Left, while demanding a JPC probe on the 2G spectrum affair just as the BJP does, sharply demarcates itself from the saffronites on the corruption matter, and arraigns it. In Karnataka, the state that matters to the BJP nearly as much as Gujarat, the corruption question provokes disquiet. Within the state BJP, some have harboured the view that corrupt ministers in the Yeddyurappa government are being sheltered by the most senior elements in the party's national leadership. It is not far-fetched to imagine that strong words issuing at the Guwahati conclave against the Prime Minister and the Congress' "first family" are a thin attempt to put up a brave face in the backdrop of a deeply embarrassing home front, and to paper over leadership factional squabbles sharpened on account of the corruption-related goings-on in Karnataka. Resurrecting the ghost of Bofors to do battle against the Congress is to tilt at windmills. Realistically speaking, that subject is archival material. Re-makes of movies are not known to be box-office hits.


If statesmanship had prevailed in the country's principal Opposition party, it might have taken up the government's challenge to have a special session of Parliament on the question of the utility of a demand for a JPC on the spectrum scam, with the proviso that such a session also debate the nuts and bolts of how to checkmate institutionalised corruption in the country. Political partisanship does not point the way to defeat systemic corruption. If democracy and parliamentary give-and-take have any meaning, then there must be a consensus on overarching national issues that threaten to hold back our progress. Corruption is certainly one of them. With its own backyard emitting a disagreeable odour, the BJP's bravado in announcing a programme to run up and down the country crying foul about corruption might render the party a laughing stock. It will, of course, be laughable if the Congress seeks to prise partisan advantage out of the situation. It is incumbent on the ruling party to devote attention to building a working consensus on dealing with corruption, not merely talking about it at convenient forums.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

NOOSE OR NECKLACE?

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India in December 2010 provides an appropriate occasion to ruminate on issues that were not reflected in the official agenda. Amongst them is the resurgence of China's maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean, popularly captioned as "string of pearls", coined from a report prepared for thePentagon in 2003 by Booz Allen consultants. "String of pearls" is in some ways a contemporary re-enactment of the legend of Zheng He, a Chinese admiral who made seven voyages into the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1430, leading an armada of 50 warships at a time, up to the eastern shores of Africa, that have rarely, if ever, been matched elsewhere at any time.


"Pearls" refers to the chain of maritime facilities fronting the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal built with Chinese assistance by various host countries in the littoral regions proximate to India — at Gwadar on the Mekran Coast of Pakistan, Hambantota on the southern extremity of Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Burma. Except Gwadar, which is also a naval base for the Pakistan Navy, the stated purpose of these complexes is purely commercial. They are used to provide way stations and transfer points connected overland with China by rail, road and pipeline to offload and transport Gulf oil cargo for China from tanker shipping, thus bypassing the critical chokepoint of the Malacca Straits seen to be dominated by India's "metal chain" of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and thus reduce vulnerability to interdiction in the event of a conflict.
Commercial ports are intrinsically dual capable assets that can be morphed into naval bases without too much effort. The Booz Allen report talks of the potential bases under Chinese lien for a naval presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, though from an essentially American perspective. But given the perceived adversarial relations between India and China, the two principals in the region, the "string of pearls" is seen as tightening into "knots on a garrotte" to encircle and choke Indian maritime endeavour and confine it to a sub-region in northern Indian Ocean. India must, of course, take due note of this as also other strategic contingencies, but dispassionately and without hysteria or paranoia as "maritime encirclement" of a country of India's dimensions and capabilities is just not possible.


No single country or combination of countries with such a capability is as yet visible on the horizon. Also, such an eventuality may be considered implausible under the present circumstances.


India is on home ground in the Indian Ocean between the Malacca Straits and the East African littoral. Here the country is in a position of huge and unassailable maritime dominance. The large peninsular landmass of the "Horn of India" juts out deep into the northern Indian Ocean, creating an unsinkable aircraft carrier in relative proximity to the maritime Silk Route transporting hydrocarbon resources from West Asia and Africa to China.
The Indian Air Force has taken cognisance of this with the proposed stationing of fighter aircraft in peninsular India, initially with the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and big brother Su-30s to follow. It is an initial step in the right direction, and another indication of the three-front role of Indian aerospace power as also the requirement to build up for it.


Freedom of unchallenged and peaceful navigation in international waters, including of warships in passage, is an inalienable right of all nations. Attempts to act to the contrary, such as North Korea's reaction to US-South Korea joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, or China's belligerence at the US-Taiwan naval presence in the South China Sea region, are misplaced and in any case difficult to enforce. India must, of course, take due note of foreign naval presence in the Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal. However, excessive public umbrage would be hollow and even counterproductive if the capability to enforce them are lacking (as witnessed in the futile exercise of Operation Parakram, a hastily ordered kneejerk reaction after the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001).


But that is not to say that the roots of future maritime rivalries do not exist in the "upper" Indian Ocean region. With potential for escalation to conflict levels, the most likely contingency would be the coming scramble for undersea resources, particularly hydrocarbons that are seen as more or less inevitable as deposits on land get increasingly depleted. Oil discovered in the Mahanadi basin off the Orissa coast and in the Andaman Sea tend to support this view.


India has long held friendly relations with all the countries where the "string of pearls" are located, except Pakistan. It must initiate a focused drive to utilise these port facilities in its "Look East" policy to enhance mutual trading and maritime activity. At the same time, India's perspective of its own national interests should also be conveyed to these countries as diplomatically as possible. Nevertheless, unambiguously the possibility of the "string of pearls" as bases in the vicinity for any potentially hostile Navy would be unacceptable.


The port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is a typical example of Indian foreign policy at work, having initially been offered for construction to India. But official responses were so apathetic and lethargic that China was able to move in quickly and snap up the offer, driving India out of the race with its offer of $360 million for building a harbour, cargo terminals, and refuelling facilities by a consortium of China Harbour Engineering Company and Sino Hydro Corporation Limited. While Hambantota is not listed as a "Chinese pearl" by a foreign sources examining the energy situation in the region, others, including the Joint Operating Environment 2008 by US Joint Forces Command, have associated it with China's wider naval ambitions.


India must retrospect on the conduct of its own foreign policy, particularly in its immediate neighbourhood. The "string of pearls" is as much the outcome of assertive diplomacy by China, as it is of corresponding functional lethargy and policy shortcomings by India.

 

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

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

ARMY MUST LIVE UP TO CARIAPPA

S.K. SINHA

 

The Indian Army celebrates January 15 as Army Day. This is a landmark date in its history. It was raised as a colonial army nearly three centuries ago and became a national Army on August 15, 1947. Yet, till January 14, 1949, the top leadership of the Army was British; only on January 15, 1949 did an Indian for the first time become its chief. This was the fulfilment of a demand for inducting Indians as officers in the Army made by Rammohan Roy before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1833.

 

The Uprising in 1857 ruled out the acceptance of that demand. Starting with the second session of the Indian National Congress in 1886, this demand was revived repeatedly in its subsequent resolutions. The imperialists vehemently opposed this. Two well known commanders-in-chief had strong views in the matter. Lord Roberts wrote, "Native officers cannot take the place of British officers. Eastern races, however brave and accustomed to war, do not posses the qualities that go to make good leaders of men". Lord Kitchener wrote about deep-seated racial repugnance in the Army: "Chiefly it is due to an honest belief — which is not altogether unfounded — that any substitution of Indians for British officers must be detrimental to the interests of the Army". It was only after the First World War that in recognition of the outstanding contribution of the Indian soldier, recognised the world over, the British government allowed a very small trickle of Indian officers into the Army. General, later Field Marshal, K.M. Cariappa was among the first batch of some half a dozen Indians commissioned in 1919.


I was a student in Patna when I first heard of Cariappa. There was a news item with his picture in the national newspapers in 1942 saying he was the first Indian to be promoted to the rank of Lt Colonel. Soon after I joined the Army in 1944, I heard that he was the first Indian to be promoted to brigadier. Little did I then imagine that I would have the great good fortune of working closely under him.


I first met Cariappa on August 14, 1947 at a farewell party given by Indian officers to departing British and Pakistan officers. Cariappa was the chief host and among the guests were Lord Mountbatten and Field Marshal Auchinleck. In his speech he gave fulsome praise to British officers for building our wonderful Army. He was sentimental about officers going to Pakistan, saying, "We have shared a common destiny for so long that our history is inseparable. We have been brothers. We shall always remain brothers". A silver trophy showing a Hindu and a Muslim soldier holding their rifles pointing towards a common foe was presented to Brigadier Raza, the senior officer going to Pakistan. What an irony. In less than three months Indian and Pakistan soldiers were shooting at each other on the battlefields of Kashmir.


On August 15, 1947 Cariappa was promoted to major-general and became the first Indian general officer. On January 20, 1948, he took over as Western Army Commander in the rank of lieutenant-general, again the first Indian officer to hold that high rank. I was a major at that headquarters as General Staff Officer, Operations. We were conducting operations in Kashmir. I had to brief him in the Operations Room about the operational situation in Jammu and Kashmir. He complimented me on my briefing and enquired about the most threatened place in the state. I replied that there were reports of heavy enemy build-up against Naushera and a major attack appeared imminent. He said he would like to go there the next day. I accompanied him to Naushera. He went round the defences and then told Brigadier Usman that Kot feature overlooked our defences and must be secured. Two days later Usman mounted a successful attack against that feature. He named it Operation Kipper, the general's nickname. A week later, over 10,000 enemy attacked Naushera. With Kot held by us, our troops inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy, who retreated leaving over 900 dead. This was the biggest battle of the Kashmir war. Usman became a national hero.

Cariappa would spend some 10 days every month on tour in Kashmir and I invariably accompanied him as his staff officer. I recall two instances of his personal courage.


We were travelling in a jeep to Uri. The brigade commander suggested to him that the flag and star plate on the car be removed as the area near Hemen Buniyar was under enemy observation and prone to sniping. Cariappa refused and said he wanted to see how accurate the enemy firing was. On another occasion, Cariappa stood on a hilltop near Tithwal to survey enemy positions. The local commander told him that the enemy could observe us and we should view the area from inside a bunker. He ignored his advice. We all stood in the open for a few minutes. As we started coming down the hill, an enemy shell landed where we had been standing.
Cariappa was a few years older than my father in age. I marvelled at his stamina and energy. I found it not easy to keep pace with him. He was a staff officer's nightmare. No detail, no matter how small, escaped his eyes. I had to keep jotting down numerous points and prepare copious tour notes.


One day, as we returned from tour, we saw his two children coming out of his other staff car. They had missed the school bus. The ADC had sent the staff car to fetch them. Cariappa was furious at the misuse of government transport. He directed me to initiate disciplinary action against his ADC. Next morning he sent for me and enquired what action I had taken. I told him that I had admonished him and he had assured me that he would not make that mistake again. He enquired, "What about the loss of petrol to the government?" I replied that we were depositing `40 in the Treasury, at the prescribed rate for the eight miles for which the staff car had been used. He said the amount should be debited to his personal account.


Apart from the highest standard of personal integrity, Cariappa was a strict disciplinarian. He summarily sacked three serving major-generals, one for being drunk at a function in Raj Bhavan at Mumbai, the second for being unduly friendly with a junior officer's wife, and the third for misuse of regimental funds. In 2010, a year of scams galore, the image of the Army has also been besmirched along with that of the judiciary, bureaucracy, media, and, of course, the political leadership. The Army needs to recall the high standards set by Cariappa and endeavour to live up to them.

 

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

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DNA

INDIA'S KABUL DILEMMA LOOMS LARGE

 

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai's assurance to visiting external affairs minister SM Krishna on Sunday that India's interests would be protected in Kabul reflects New Delhi's weak position in the troubled country.

 

Right from 2001, when the US-led Nato forces ejected the Taliban regime and ushered in a fragile democratic regime through the conference in Bonn held in 2002, India was kept on the margins. It was partly done keeping in mind Pakistan's sensitivity in the matter. This was also the reason that there was no insistence that India sending troops as there was during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

 

India was confined to economic reconstruction and other humanitarian aid projects. Now that the US is planning to pull out its troops, and there is an attempt to reintegrate some of the Taliban elements into the political system, the Indian presence in Afghanistan becomes a matter of concern.

 

It is evident that Pakistan will regain some of its clout in Afghanistan, though a majority of the common people there are not in favour of Pakistan for the simple reason that Islamabad had supported the hated Taliban regime. Neither the Pentagon nor the US state department is opposed to increased Pakistan role in Afghan affairs. It also follows that Islamabad will do all it can to make things difficult for the Indian mission as well as for all India-aided projects and programmes. This is the reality that Indian foreign office will have to deal with, notwithstanding the promises made by the Karzai government.

 

The new situation necessitates a rethink in New Delhi as to what its Afghan policy should be. There is no doubt that though there is no contiguous boundary with Afghanistan; that country is a strategic neighbour as far as India's security interests are concerned.

 

The return of Taliban, it does not matter that the hardliners among them will be kept out, creates problems for India in terms of obstructing Indian efforts. India will have to do what it can to influence the opinion-makers and the traditional leaders of the majority Pashtun. India should come to terms with the Taliban reality, and open an independent channel of dialogue with them.

 

This would mean a sort of reversal of New Delhi's stated policy that there can be no good Taliban, and that the religious extremists are just bad, for Afghanistan and for India. The Americans have made their bargain with the Taliban elements, and Pakistan was the mediator. India will have to figure out how it would deal with the Taliban, moderate and otherwise.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

IT IS NOT A GREEN VS GROWTH DEBATE

 

The redoubtable minister of environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, with a penchant for staying in the news, has come out with new coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms. The latest proposals come two decades after the previous CRZ was notified with the aim of protecting both the coastline and the communities that dwell along the coast.

 

India has a long coastline of over 7,500km and many islands in the Indian Ocean, all of which need some regulation, if only to ensure that the coastline is not damaged and the livelihood of the communities along the coastline not threatened. The initial proposals seem quite promising: allowing new buildings with extra FSI near the coast without harming the coastline; protection to the traditional fishing communities, etc.

 

As can be expected, activists have jumped into the fray and opposed many of the proposals. Ramesh needs to hear out the criticisms carefully and not ignore suggestions when they make sense. But he must not either resist them doggedly or yield to every demand indiscriminately.

 

No one will deny that our coastline needs protection from predatory land developers. But one cannot, and should not, stop development of any kind. If fishing communities have lived for a long time along the coast, then it does not make sense to force them inland in the name of environmental protection. What needs to be done is development that helps the coastal community, which would factor in the environmental concerns as well.

 

Preserving the habitat is one of the ways of protecting livelihoods. The either/or choice of development versus environment is false.

 

Towards that end, Ramesh's recent flip-flops go a bit against him. He starts out as a green warrior, hell bent on rolling back projects (as in the case of the Lavasa project), and then slowly agrees to them (as he did with the Mumbai airport). He needs to be clear on what is required, and be firm in taking a decision that benefits India as a whole. Let the CRZ be a beacon of his ministry's clear-headed policy-making.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

IPL TELLS THE LEGENDS TO MOVE ON

 

The auction mode of spreading players in different teams in the Indian Premier league remains as repugnant as ever. The argument that it benefits players does not really hold water.

 

The football clubs in England and in Europe do offer huge contracts to attract star players. Auctioning has something demeaning about it. Since the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the IPL, the franchisee teams owners, and even the players are not unhappy with it, all that we can do is to express our disapproval.

 

Having said that, it is clear that this year's IPL auction showed a definite trend that legends do not matter, and stars count only as much as the runs they have made in the last match. That should explain why Gautam Gambhir, the Pathan brothers — Yousuf and Irfan — found favour with the team owners. This is no disrespect towards the legends.

 

Just a gentle reminder that their time is past. The IPL auction also showed hard thinking and strategising done by the coaches and others while the owners let them do it. That is some good news.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

RSS IS RETROGRESSIVE BUT NOT A TERRORIST OUTFIT

PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

Even as it is inaccurate and untrue, if not unfair, to call Binayak Sen a Maoist rebel who wants to overthrow the Indian state through violence, it is also inaccurate and untrue to call the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) a terrorist organisation.

 

For the people who defend Sen against the calumny heaped on him by the state and the right-wingers, it becomes morally obligatory to defend the RSS as a right-wing, retrogressive but not a terrorist organisation. Similarly, those who defend the RSS also have to speak by the same token of principled stand to defend Sen as a leftist who is not a terrorist. But the ideological divisions we see all round with regard to Sen and RSS are stark, and facts be damned.

 

The fact that the RSS is a right-wing extremist but not a terrorist organisation does not mean that there are no Hindu terrorists, as there are Muslim terrorists. Muslims organisations like Jamaat-e-Hind or Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind can be dubbed right-wing but not extremist. In the case of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the investigation agencies failed to establish beyond doubt the linkages between individuals who committed acts of terror and those who expressed belief in terror acts even though they may not have been personally involved.

 

It is true that some people should have doubts about the RSS' pacifist credentials because its members are known to be involved in acts of violence, especially communal riots and arson. These acts cannot be legally proved, not just against the cadres of the RSS, but also political parties and minority organisations. This may be called terrorism but that would be blurring the differences between acts of violence, and causing confusion.

 

For example, the killing of a person or a group of persons cannot be called genocide however heinous the killing was. There is, of course, the issue of the RSS 'shakha', which is seen in sinister light by all those who hate, and they have a right to hate too (a democratic right), the RSS. But the 'shakha' is not actually a terrorist camp. It is just a juvenile attempt at being militarily prepared; to instil discipline and to supposedly make non-martial people, martial. So the 'shakha' in the eyes of the objective observer is a subject of mirth rather than terror.

 

Does it prove there are no Hindu terrorists? It does not. And it is more likely than not that Hindu terrorists must be admirers of the RSS or even derive inspiration from it. But there is need to be legally scrupulous in these matters. The secular credentials of the anti-RSS people will be strengthened if they observe this rule. The problem with the RSS is that it believes in the secular creed of nationalism but it has no understanding or respect for religion proper as such. The RSS' religion is that of blinkered nationalism.

 

The RSS is inferior in many ways to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which has a steadfast ideology rooted in Islam — however wrong it may be in its interpretation of Islam — and it has a clear political programme as well. The RSS dare not enter politics and operates surreptitiously through the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

 

Even its claim to be a mere cultural organisation — and it has no understanding or appreciation for anything to do with the rich Indian culture — is false. There is delectable irony in the fact that the people who seem to lend substance and respectability of some kind to the RSS, which it does not deserve, are the ardent secularists, especially those from the Congress.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

SRIKRISHNA COMMITTEE REPORT JUST REITERATES OLD ARGUMENTS

MOHAN GURUSWAMY

 

 

The long-awaited Srikrishna committee report is out. It makes no specific recommendations and has thrown the ball back to the politicians. Thus, even though it was completed in time, it has been a waste of time. All it did was to keep Telangana tempers bottled up for some months. Now be prepared for the explosion.

 

The report tends towards retaining the status quo with some palliatives to assuage the widespread sentiment in the Telangana area.

 

To serve this end it has sought to disprove the claim of most Telangana protagonists that the Telangana region has remained a backward and under-developed part of Andhra Pradesh even after more than half a century. It has marshalled numbers and used data to support its case.

 

As a professionally qualified economist and policy analyst, I know very well that facts can be used to prove or disprove pretty much any proposition. The Srikrishna committee has used the economist on board to good effect and he has done a good job of what he was tasked with. But what Dr Abusaleh Shariff misses is that the issue is not one of regions as much as it is about people.

 

The essential grouse of the Telangana protagonists is that the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1956 was not adhered to, and the people of Telangana were excluded from the development process and given a short shrift in the political process.

 

Two examples are all it takes to establish this. At the time of integration, it was promised that Telangana would have a regional council that would oversee the development works and, most importantly, all the land transfers. This was to ensure that wealthier migrants from the coastal Andhra region did not buy out the poorer people of Telangana.

 

But this has happened in every Telangana district where large migrant populations from coastal Andhra have bought up vast tracts of the best canal and tank-irrigated lands. The migrants will argue that land was bought legally. That is exactly what the Jewish settlers in occupied Palestine say.

 

If the Srikrishna committee had spent some of its time studying who owned how much, it would have got a pretty good understanding of what the Telangana protagonists were talking about. Instead it went out of its way to make a case that all was well in Telangana.

 

It was this fear of being swamped, widespread among Telangana people, which was very apparent to the States Reorganisation Commission(SRC) (1953-55) headed by Justice S Fazal Ali. The SRC recommended that "the residuary state of Hyderabad might unite with Andhra after the general elections to be held in about 1961, if by a two-thirds majority the Legislature of Hyderabad state expresses itself in favour of such a unification".

 

The SRC also recommended that the residuary state should continue to be known as Hyderabad state and should consist of Telugu-speaking districts of the then-princely state of Hyderabad, namely, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Warangal (including Khammam), Karimnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Hyderabad and Medak, along with Bidar district, and the Munagala enclave in the Nalgonda district belonging to the Krishna district of Andhra. This recommendation of the SRC was not heeded and it is the root of today's demand.

Water for agriculture has been a big issue for the people of Telangana. The region is home to two of India's greatest rivers, the Godavari and Krishna, yet canal irrigation accounts for little more than 10% of the irrigated acreage. The area irrigated by private sources, such as wells and tube wells account for about 65%. Tanks, which used to account over 60% of the irrigated acreage in 1956, now account for less than 5%.

 

By contrast, over 50% of the irrigated acreage in Coastal Andhra is by canals and another 15% or so from tanks. Mind you, water from canals and tanks comes free, whereas well irrigation entails huge capital costs and recurring expenses. To rub salt into Telangana's wounds, a good part of the water from the essentially Telangana projects like the Nagarjunasagar project is drawn away into Coastal Andhra.

 

The Srikrishna committee was constituted to examine issues that have led to widespread alienation in Telangana. Instead of doing that in a dispassionate manner, it seeks to establish that the claim for a separate Telangana is without any economic or social basis. Its main recommendation is that a single state with some Constitutional provision to assuage Telangana sentiments will suffice. The least the learned judge should have known is that such Constitutional arrangements will be unconstitutional, if they are only applicable to one region.

 

The sorry state of our democratic process is illustrated by the fact that despite the demand for the Telangana state being supported by all the elected representatives of the region and by every political party except the CPI(M), it is sought to be fobbed off taking recourse to the specious and nonsensical logic that the Naxalites will somehow take over Telangana in the end. If malgovernance becomes the only reason for the takeover by Naxalites, then it would seem the whole country is ripe for it?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CAN' WE UNDO IT?

 

There are good reasons for Dr Farooq Abdullah to have shed tears about the exodus of the members of the small Kashmiri Pandit community from the Valley. Actually all of us in this State would share his sentiments. At a public function in the national capital he has made relevant utterances which are laced with high emotions without being divorced of realities. He has, for instance, stated: "One of the major tragedies that we had to go through was the ethnic cleansing that took place in the State of Jammu and Kashmir…I think it was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the State that will always remain and for which even for years if we ask God for forgiveness I wonder if it will ever come." In fact, almost all of his reported observations are worth mentioning: (a) "People in Kashmir don't know what Pandits look like, what the now empty temples meant for them, they have become aliens, I wonder if I'll be able to see it (the repatriation) in this birth; (b) "Everyone wants to die, be buried and cremated in his own land. I lived in England for 12 years but I never became English though I married an English woman. For me those narrow lanes in Kashmir meant far more than the beautiful roads in England," (c) "With the rate of extremism I see today I wonder whether secularism will survive. My fear is of the younger generation who know that they belong to Kashmir but haven't seen the place but then there is a yearning to get back to their land and at the same time the fear in them if it's safe enough to live in peace stops them from doing so. It is these younger people we need to look and cater to" and (d) "Muslims are also suffering. We believe in the Sufi culture. There are forces in the State trying to push out that too."

 

Dr Abdullah is concerned about the young people living in cramped quarters of refugee camps. Such environment, according to him, is detrimental to youngsters as it breeds "hatred" and "extremism" which will be "the biggest danger in future." He has pointed out that the level of religious tolerance has dropped over the years. The National Conference (NC) patriarch, who is also a Union minister, has brought into sharp focus our collective sense of loss. Of all the tragedies of separation that have struck the State and the sub-continent as a whole it is possibly the exit of the miniscule Kashmir Pandit community from its centuries' old abode that was easily avoidable. There was communal inferno in 1947: it led to the division of the State in the midst of murder and mayhem, the migration of Hindus and Sikhs from Mirpur and Muzaffarabad and that of Muslims from Jammu. Only the Valley had at that time stood as what Mahatma Gandhi described as a ray of hope in the midst of chaos. For decades after that the Mahatma's assertion was inscribed in black and white at a big signboard outside the Summer Capital's leading women's college on the Maulana Azad road. This hoarding was among the first casualties of radical violence that struck the Valley from 1988 onwards. What followed was almost a natural corollary. Liberal Muslim scholars and leaders were killed, a NC worker in the downtown Srinagar being the first in the list of those unforgettable martyrs. Then, the Kashmiri Pandits were selectively targeted and hounded out. There was no consideration for the fact that some of their leaders had in 1947 supported the accession to Pakistan or pleaded for independence; in fact, one of them in front of the vociferous anti-India demonstrations even in the 1990s was also gunned down. The intention of the killers was to engineer, as Dr Abdullah, has recalled now, "ethnic cleansing."

 

The leaders like Dr Abdullah had to withdraw behind unprecedented security cover. Their names did not find any mention in the militancy-dictated media for quite some time. It was a hopeless situation worsened by a misplaced discourse by the NC and its leaders, Dr Abdullah not excluded. It is a part of history that the NC leaders had then blamed Mr Jagmohan, Governor at that time, for having caused the migration of Kashmiri Pandits. They had gone on to label him as "Changez Khan" and "Halaku." At this point too, Dr Kamal Mustafa, brother of Dr Abdullah and a NC legislator, has refused to acknowledge that there was ethnic cleansing of the Pandit community attributing its exit instead to "Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (the then Union Home Minister), Mr Jagmohan, Army and other Central agencies." Dr Abdullah has already publicly made it known what he thinks of Dr Mustafa. No well-wisher of the State or a serious student of politics will be interested in difference of views between the two brothers. Suffice it to say for the moment that Dr Abdullah has shown signs of repentance which, although belated, can considerably alter the existing scenario if there is proper follow-up. Let the mistakes that we have made in the past not continue to haunt us for centuries. Let the NC and other like-minded parties lead the Kashmiri Pandits back to their homes from the front. The extremism thrives if one acquiesces in it because of fear or any other reason. To crush it we have to strengthen the forces and symbol of secularism with double the vigour. The biggest setback to radical elements will be undoing the mischief done by them. It should not be difficult to do so in a land in which the seeds of love, affection and tolerance have been planted and nurtured by Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani, Habba Khatun and Lal Ded, among a host of others.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TRAFFIC SNARLS

 

Traffic jams caused in this city during the highly revered Gurpurab procession last week-end have been amazing. There were long queues of vehicles on all roads. The people had to wait for hours to get the passage and reach their destinations. It is a miracle that no tragedy because of the delay in getting timely medical attention has been reported so far. Nevertheless there has been a tremendous loss of man-hours. Clearly, the traffic police must take the entire blame. It is its prime responsibility to regulate the vehicular traffic in a manner that no inconvenience is caused to commuters. In this instance, it did not think it necessary to strike a note of caution by giving prior publicity to the route of procession. Such negligence should not happen again.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

THE SAINT SOLDIER

BY INDER JEET S 'PRINCE'

 

Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, was born on 7th day of the month of Poh, Samvat 1723, (1666 AD) at Patna Sahib in Bihar. Guru Ji came to reside at Anandpur Sahib when he was a child of only 7 years old. After some years, a deputation of Kashmiri Pandits came to Anandpur Sahib and met the 9th Guru Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, (father of Guru Gobind Singh Ji) and told them the cruel acts of injustice of the Mughal rulers towards the Hindus. They sought his help Guru Tegh Bahadur became silent and was absorbed in deep thought. At that time Guru Gobind Singh Ji, then only a child of about 9, asked his father reason for his silence. Guru Tegh Bahadur ji explained that these helpless people from Kashmir had no one to protect their religion. The sacrifice of a great & brave soul was needed. The child (Guru Gobind Singh Ji) immediately said, ''Who can be more brave and greater than you? Please have mercy on them and do whatever is necessary to protect 'Hindu Dharma' .


Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji was pleased to hear this and went to Delhi to sacrifice his life to save the Hindu religion. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb asked him to either embrace Islam or face death. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji said, ''my religion is the most dear to me. I am not afraid of death.'' At the Chandni Chowk in Delhi where the great Gurudawara Sri Sisganj Sahib stands was the site chosen for Guru Ji's execution. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji died a hero's death. His execution strengthened the resistance against Aurangzeb's religious fanaticism.
When Guru Gobind Singh Ji was told that no one came forward to protest because of the fear of death, he declared that he would lay the foundation of the ''Khalsa Panth'' and would train it in such a way that its members would be ready to sacrifice everything for the right cause.


According to Dr Gopal Singh, ''Guru Ji had to fight both Hindus (Rajput princes of hilly states) and Muslims (Mughal Kings) and yet both Muslims and Hindus also fought alongside of him against his enemies. The Hindu Temple and the Muslim Mosque cry out to the same one God. Men are some all over, though in appearance they seem so different. One of his devoit disciple, Bhai Kanaihya ji, when asked why he was distributing water to the wounded on the battle field without the distinction of friend and foe, replied ''My Guru Ji has instructed me to do this, to see only the face of the beloved in all''. And it is a fact of history that although emperor Aurangzeb had given the Guru Ji, every conceivable cause for grievance against his house, the Guru Ji had helped his eldest son, Bahadur Shah Zafar, in the battle of succession.''


Though a matchless warrior, Guru Gobind Singh Ji always remained a saint at heart. Guru Ji was a saint who had dedicated himself to God, a God-intoxicated philosopher. He was a sincere lover of man who wanted to see all man made differences created by barriers of formal religion and social distinctions brought in by caste, to be obliterated from society.


Guru Gobind Singh Ji's creation of ''KHALSA PANTH'' in 1699 AD was an event of world significance.

 

Noted historian Annold Tonybee has called it the precursor and fore runner of Lenin's communist party two centuries later in history : an idealistic minority fighting, with the weapons of the adversary, in the name and for the sake of majority.''


Guru Gobind Singh Ji convinced his devotees that no God or Goddess would be sent from heaven to give protection to the downtrodden masses. He told them to assemble at Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Baisakhi of 1699. At Guru Ji's call, when 5 Sikhs offered their heads in surrender, Guru Ji baptised them by administring 'AMRIT' prepared with double-edged sword. They were known as the 'Chosen Five' (''PANJ-PIAYARE'') and Satguru addressed them thus: ''There is no difference between you and me''. They were given a common surname 'Singh' and were called 'Khalsa'. They were Khalsa of the lord-God.


''Khalsa Akal Purakh Ki Fauj,


Pargatiyo Khalsa

Parmatam Ki Mauz''


('Khalsa' is the army of the Eternal God raised by him out of his pleasure. Their distinguishing features were their uncut beard, unshorn hair with a turban, an iron bangle ('Kada'), a sword dangling on the left, an underwear ('Kachhara') and a comb ('Kanga') in the hair. They were given the surname Singh. They were meant to be legions of the timeless God, commissioned to establish the rule of 'Dharma' on land and uproot all evil.


Guru Ji held his 'Chosen Five'- the Khalsa of the lord in so high esteem that he knelt before them and asked them to initiate him in to 'Khalsa' Panth in the same manner as he had done them. Guru Ji was thus administered 'Amrit' in the same way and was given surname 'Singh' (Previously Guru Ji's name was Gobind Rai.)


The 'Khalsa' with God's light shining within was meant to be a global society. They were not to form a separate denomination as that was totally against the Guru's concept of universal brotherhood. The creation of the Khalsa was the crowning event of Guru Gobind Singh Ji's life. Ideologically the creation of the Khalsa aimed at a well balanced combination of the ideals of 'Bhakti' and 'Shakti', of moral and spiritual excellance and millitant valour and heroism of the highest order. They were expected to salute one another with, ''Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa - Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh!''


This was meant to remind them that they were knighted as God's soldiers to carry out his mission and that victory was theirs.


But the 'Singhs' were not to be merely soldiers. It was imperative that they must at the same time be saints deeply devoted to God, singing his hymns as composed by the Gurus, observing the daily religious discipline prescribed in the 'Rahit' of the Khalsa panth and bearing a high moral character.


Guru Ji breathed his last on Oct 7, 1708 at Naded in Maharashtra due to a conspiracy hatched against him by Governor of Punjab, Wazir Khan, Guru Ji, before leaving for his heavenly abode declared that the Sikh community had to be guided by the decisions of the 'Panj-Piare' (the chosen- Five) chosen from among the devotees. Guru Ji handed over the stewardship of the Sikh Panths- the Sikh way of life- to the holy Granth.
Those who wish to seek God, can find him in the 'Holy Granth Sahib'.


In the end , it can be said that Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the son of martyr Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, the great grandson of Guru Arjun Dev Ji, laid at the alter of the Almighty all that he could call his own-his father, mother, all his 4 sons and even his own life for the freedom of all, including those who considered themselves his enemies.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ON THE CROSSROAD OF DISASTER

BY K.N. PANDITA

 

Assassination of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer by the trusted guard reminds one of the assassinations of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard gunman. Political figures of eminence have always lived a life of constant threat from their adversaries and assailants.


But there is a marked difference between the two cases of assassination cited above. Indira Gandhi was assassinated because she ordered military action in the holy shrine at Amritsar against armed insurgents holed up in the shrine and armed to the hilt as if in war preparedness. As head of the government, Indira Gandhi had to ensure and enforce national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country as these were threatened by a anti-national elements supported and abetted by an inimical county in the neighbourhood.


On the other hand, late Salman Taseer was not called upon to defend the integrity and sovereignty of the state nor had he ordered any military or police action against any person or organization. He had gone to the market on a non-official vsit when he was gunned down by his guardsman.


The assailant Malik Qadri threw down his gun and pronounced the reason why he had taken the life of one he was supposed to protect.


Taseer was gunned down for his ideology of rationalism and humanism. The group of TTP who claimed responsibility for this heinous crime asserted that Taseer was eliminated because he was against the blasphemy law and supported its withdrawal. The group to which the assailant belonged celebrated the act of murder and issued warning that others holding ideas of tolerance and coexistence would meet with the same fate. This blanket warning, obviously, was directed more towards the dispensers of justice in Pakistan than ordinary civilians.


Rabid fundamentalists lionized the act or murder as the victory of the faith they adhered to so much so that they would not allow the burial of the assassinated Governor with due rites, leave aside giving him a befitting state funeral.


The killing and related developments speak of the level of brain washing of jihadis in Pakistan and the level of hatred spread against other religions. Were Governor Taseer's rationalism and humanism as dangerous to the Islam of these radicals as necessitated his elimination? Was his humanism of showing sympathy to an oppressed Christian woman such an un-Islamic act that he had to pay for it with his life? Is there no precedence of humanistic treatment to an oppressed person in the history of Islam? Isn't Islam called the religion of peace and compassion? Is only the Allah of the Muslims rahaman and rahim (compassionate and forgiving) and not the Muslim ummmah? Are there no examples in the biography of the holy prophet of him forgiving his adversaries? Don't the pious Muslims believe in the words of the holy prophet that killing of an innocent man is tantamount to the killing of humanism?


It appears that now in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan radicals are a law unto themselves and the state is a silent and helpless spectator of mayhem let lose by them. It has failed to contain extremism, which is emboldened to challenge the authority of the state.


Broad-day assassination of the Governor of Punjab for his sympathy towards an oppressed person and his views that the blasphemy law was not compatible with modern views of justice are pointers to a critical situation steering into Pakistan's eye. What will be the fate of a state in modern world where tolerance of other religions and religious factions is practically and not virtually refused, attacked and decimated? The source of religious interference in Pakistan lies in the anti-Hindu philosophy of the founding fathers of the concept of an Islamic state for the Muslims of undivided India. Having extirpated its Hindu population soon after the new theocratic state came into existence, Pakistan must now find the religious other to revitalize its zeal for religious hatred.
Indoctrination into Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism has gone deep and wide into Pakistani civil society. It has one very serious dimension. Surprisingly, the armed forces, too, are now brought within the ambit of rabid indoctrination and these have also towing the line of the rabid extremists.


Pak watchers in the western world are looking at this serious development in terms of security threat to the region and the world at large. If the fundamentalists could make a dent into the bodyguard columns of a governor, what guarantee is there that they have not penetrated the nearly 2000 persons who are equipped with considerable nuclear know-how from among 70000 persons working in Pakistan's nuclear industry.


American and European stakeholders are now wondering if Pakistan government's claims that her nuclear arsenal is well protected against infiltration and subversion can stand the test of time after the assassination of the Governor. There seem to be a fair chance that religious extremists, behaving with impunity as they are, may find access to Pakistan's nuclear devices something not really forbidding. Pakistani Army's claim that the jihadis form the second or maybe the first line of defence has to be taken seriously. The quality of weapons confiscated from the killed or surrendered militants in Kashmir clearly show that this line of defence is provided with most sophisticated weaponry and latest communication gadgets by their sponsors from across the border. Pakistani army, from top to bottom, remains sensitized to India as a potent enemy. It would want an excuse to let the dirty weapon finished the "unfinished job of partition".


That Pakistan's civil administration has been fully penetrated by the TTP, which the Army considers a decisive thrust delivering force, there remains little doubt that in case the dirty weapon falls in their hands, they will use it to maximum effect.


The US and the European Union both frugal in providing Pakistan with financial, military and other assistance over the years, will have to reconsider whether democracy has any chance in Pakistan. The level of military action against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the rugged terrains of Waziristans may not really break the backbone of the warring tribesmen because they are receiving perennial reinforcement in manpower from the vast numbers of indoctrinated youth in the Islamic seminaries in Pakistan. There might be the need for a drastic change in the regional strategies if not in the war tactics now underway. New alignments might be forged with wider space for action and maneuvering depending on the building of consensus among the stakeholders. Washington needs regular re-appraisal of its strength and strategy in a region in which state interests of China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are fast deepening. At least one thing is clear. Pakistan is split vertically between supporters or sympathizers of militant religious extremism on the one hand and paralyzed and dysfunctional rational segment of her civil society on the other. It is a revival of the long-drawn battle between the orthodoxy and liberalism in Islam. In this scenario of crumbling structure of civil society, Pakistan Army is enjoying the sadistic pleasure of increasing its power and role at great speed. Where will it lead the country to is anybody's guess?

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FUNDS STASHED ABROAD

BY RAMESH KANITKAR

 

The Global Financial Integrity - a non-profit research organisation working in the area of tax havens - has estimated that the present value of illegal financial flows of India held abroad is at least US$462 billion.
This means that the money stashed abroad is nearly 40 per cent of our GDP of $1.2 trillion. When this became an issue before the last Parliamentary elections, some leaders in the ruling party denied the issue outright. But the current prime minister was gracious enough to acknowledge the gravity of the issue and promised action on coming to power.


Since then the whole world has moved against the menace of untaxed money. But the Indian response has been just symbolic, like signing tax treaties, with no decisive attempt to get at the root of the problem.
As early as February 2008 German authorities had collected information about illegal money kept by citizens of various countries in the Lichtenstein bank and the German finance minister offered to provide the names to any government interested in the list. Our government did not take any action for many months and, only after much prodding by the opposition, asked for the list in late 2008.


Recently it agreed, in the Supreme Court, in response to a petition moved by Ram Jethmalani and others that "18 Indians have put Rs.43.83 crore in Liechtenstein bank". The list is said to contain names of more than 100 Indians. Interestingly, in the case of Hasan Ali of Pune, who was found to have been operating massive Swiss accounts, the Union government indicated that tax demands of Rs.71, 848 crore have been raised on the said person, his wife and other associates. If this were the tax demand, then the income on which this would have been raised would be more than Rs.1.5 lakh crore. Likewise, the IPL, 2-G spectrum, Madhu Koda and CWG scam issues, all point to linkages to tax havens.


The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is not inclined to reveal even the "total volume of such money" to an applicant using RTI. During the hearing, ED stated that they cannot either confirm or deny media reports about the likely volume of black money stashed away in foreign banks illegally by Indian nationals.
It is suggested that India is updating its double taxation treaty with many countries, including Switzerland. Actually the double taxation treaty is only a part of the solution. Many of these tax havens do not consider tax evasion by depositors in host countries as a crime. Also they have stringent laws to punish bankers providing any information regarding the depositors. Nearly 1 trillion out of 2.8 trillion of Swiss money is black money says Konrad Hummler, the Chairman of the Swiss Private Bankers Association.


The steps needed to monitor and control funds which are diverted and used for terror financing from these tax havens also need to be looked at. As early as 2007 the concern was expressed by the then national security advisor, MK Narayanan, about possibility of terror funds coming in through financial markets. A recent report suggests that "on instructions from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Intelligence Bureau has taken up the task of identifying the sudden quantum jump in the foreign money flowing in the country through withdrawals by foreigners on credit and debit cards issued by the foreign banks.


In the last few years many countries in Europe as well as the US have taken several steps to get back their illegal funds from abroad. For instance, the US got names of more than 4000 clients of UBS bank from Switzerland after persuasion, threats and related legal actions. It has been successfully demonstrated by countries which attempted to recover the assets stashed abroad by their corrupt leaders and businessmen that this can be accomplished.

There was a report in India Today (February 18, 2008) regarding foreign travels of Central ministers. It stated that a large number had visited Switzerland, including on personal trips and certainly not for skiing in the Alps.

 

Given all these aspects why is the government not initiating any action?


One possible reason could be the culpability of our leaders. There was a report in the Swiss journal Schweitzer Illustrierte, which did an expose on politicians of the third world and developing nations who had stashed their wealth in Swiss banks.


The prime minister has announced to "redouble efforts" to "cleanse the system" in 2011. For a start, can he inform the nation about the total number of foreign trips - including personal trips - undertaken by his cabinet colleagues to various tax havens after UPA-2 came to power? INAV

 

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EDITORIAL

NRI PARTICIPATION

THEIR SHARE IN INVESTMENT MUST GO UP

 

The three-day annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in New Delhi have brought out the hard reality that the investment in the country by the Indian diaspora is abysmally small. India's growth story is the result of investments mainly from within the country. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia did well to tell the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) on Sunday that the country was not after their money. All these years the NRIs have been mainly airing their grievances and getting one concession after another. They have not done enough for the well-being of the people here. It is time for the NRIs to launch a drive on their own to increase their investment share substantially from the present 1.3 per cent of the total foreign direct investment.

 

This is, however, not to say that people of Indian origin are not welcome in the land of their forefathers. The Central government, which has a full-fledged ministry to look after their interests, organises Pravasi Bharatiya Divas every year and honours those who achieve distinction in different areas of activity. The country feels proud of them. But the people in general will have such feelings for the NRIs only when they contribute in a big way to India's economic growth, as President Pratibha Patil pointed out. She made it clear that there are sufficient investment opportunities in sectors like infrastructure development, education and health care. They can be sure that if their investments benefit the resident Indians, the NRIs, too, will gain much.

 

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Saturday, the government was going ahead with a scheme to merge the Overseas Citizens of India and the People of Indian Origin cards to accord visa-free travel and stay rights to all NRIs. Soon they will also be allowed to register themselves as voters to take part in the democratic process of the country. The NRIs are justified in expressing their disgust over corruption and red tape in India. It is vital that there be an efficient system for fast clearance of NRI schemes with no loopholes for their harassment and exploitation at any stage.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BENGAL'S TRAGEDY

UNENDING CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

 

The West Bengal Chief Minister appears to be in no hurry to visit New Delhi on summons from the Union Home Minister to discuss political violence in Lalgarh. With the Assembly election due any time now, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has much to think about. While the current cycle of violence is traced back to the police firing in Nandigram in March, 2007, all parties in the state have been guilty of raising and protecting armed groups. Mr Bhattacharjee has consistently blamed the Maoists and Ms Mamata Banerjee for the never-ending violence while the latter predictably blames the Marxists for the mayhem in the state. Still, the latest carnage in which seven civilians , including two women, were gunned down by shots fired from a house converted into a camp by CPM cadres in Lalgarh, is shocking because of the inaction of the state and the police. Neither the administration nor the state police seems to be able or inclined to stem the tide of violence. They have instead allowed political rivals to battle it out on the street.

 

The West Bengal Governor, Mr M.K. Narayanan, like his predecessor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, has been a helpless spectator, unable to do much besides issuing statements and wringing his hands. " No democracy can allow such violence; no civilised society can tolerate such wanton disregard for human lives and no state can accept such mindless discord," said the Governor in the last such statement issued on Friday. If the Centre had been serious about its Constitutional responsibility, it would have taken reports by successive Governors more seriously and acted on them. Even at this late stage, the situation calls for the imposition of President's rule. But such a decision appears unlikely because neither the Congress nor Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would like to let the Left Front walk away as martyrs following dismissal of the elected government.

 

Ms Mamata Banerjee is clearly unwilling to part company with the Maoists. The Left Front appears keen to regain the lost ground at gun-point before the election and with New Delhi reluctant to step in, there is no end in sight to the political tragedy unfolding in the eastern state. For the people in West Bengal, it is time to feel both sad and sorry.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

VALUE FOR MONEY?

IPL AUCTION FULL OF SURPRISES

 

Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguli is shocked and his Bengali fans are livid that he remained unsold even in the second round of the IPL auctions. They should not have been, because similar has been the fate of Brian Lara, Mark Boucher, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chris Gayle. Instead of picking holes in the strategy of the bidding teams, they should look for the definite method in this madness. The team managers are hard-boiled business men who have refused to act like star-struck fans. They have not gone for the names of the players, but the recent runs and wickets against their names. In Sourav's case particularly, the die was cast when it became known that the captainship was to go to someone else — most probably Gautam Gambhir, who was picked up for a record Rs 11.04 crore. Knight Riders' co-owner Shah Rukh Khan has said that Ganguly's vast experience will be utilized in some other capacity, but that is only a consolation prize.

 

The new pattern of team making has laid stress on the merit and the players' current form. That is why even little-known Australian Daniel Christian was picked up by the Deccan Chargers for as much as Rs 4.14 crore. The message is clear: international names do not matter. The all-important test is how much you can deliver and how easily you gel in a team. Everyone was out to make a winning combination with a youthful team. The Test or even one-day reputation is no guarantee of success in the T20 format.

 

Australian players were picked up liberally, while those from England and the West Indies were not that lucky. One reason was that a player had to be available for the whole duration to find favour with the bidders. All the teams laid stress on Indian players. As a result, even L. Balaji, Vinay Kumar and Murali Kartik fetched considerably high prices. A noticeable trend was that there was no extra eagerness to hire local heroes. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

WIKILEAKS ON BIO-TERRORISM

INDIA IS VULNERABLE TO ATTACKS BY NOVEL ORGANISMS

BY SUMAN SAHAI

 

The media has been spilling the contents of the Radia tapes with salacious gossip about a minister running Air India into the ground to benefit private airlines, or the promiscuous ways of an industry tycoon. WikiLeaks is also getting space with stories of the less than reverential US attitude towards us despite all the soft-soaping going on in public about the power of rising India. What went unnoticed in this milieu of gossip and innuendos was a set of postings having unnerving contents. Dealing with bioterrorism, these minutes of the meetings of US diplomats with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) reveal the US evaluation of India's lack of preparedness to handle any kind of bioterrorism.

 

Indian officials have been aware of the threat of bioterrorism at the hands of jihadi elements for some time. Two years ago a terrorist apprehended in Kashmir was found to be carrying a sophisticated device looking like a fountain pen, which contained strange and toxic chemicals. According to a WikiLeaks document, MEA officials admit that Indian intelligence agencies have picked up the conversation of suspected terrorists discussing the use of bio-terrorism. According to this leaked report, jihadi groups have opened up channels to identify people with PhD degrees in biology and biotechnology to recruit those sympathetic to their cause. No guesses for figuring out what these PhDs should be doing for their jihadi masters.

 

Though old-style bio-terror agents like anthrax bacteria and cholera germs are still effective, antidotes are known for these and can be deployed fast if the state agencies are alert and can respond in real time. The real fear of bio-terrorism, however, now comes from the next generation of biological organisms that are being created in the lab using new tools like genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Advances in biotechnology have put in the hands of scientists and laboratory technicians several methods and techniques, all of them quite uncomplicated, that can be used to create new organisms with hitherto unknown traits.

 

Given that there are hundreds of labs engaged in the exercise of cutting and splicing genes from one organism to another and that all the equipment and chemicals needed to do this are easily available, the potential of creating God-knows-what in the lab is magnified several-fold. India's rich biological diversity offers a range of bacteria and viruses and thousands of lethal toxins that can be obtained from sources like micro-organisms and plants. All these have the potential of being cut and spliced at will, creating dangerous new organisms that have no pedigree and for which no antidotes are known. These are the monsters on the horizon, waiting to be picked up by terrorists with mayhem and destruction on their agenda.

 

So far as bugs like anthrax are concerned, we know their structure and understand their way of functioning. We know how to control and destroy them. If there were to be an anthrax attack as it occurred in the US a few years ago, people would know how to contain the bacteria in a short time after the smallest number of casualties. In the case of new organisms created by genetic engineering or synthetic biology, nobody knows their structure or their properties. Since they are not natural, they are not related to other organisms, which could offer clues about their functioning. The spread of such new organisms in a population could cause devastation because we would have no way of containing them or knowing how to destroy them fast enough.

 

Since threats from such novel organisms are rated as serious, the technologies of genetic engineering and synthetic biology are highly regulated. In May 2010, when Craig Venter announced his breakthrough "artificial life" a newly constructed micro-organism made up of genes synthesised in the lab, one of his first actions was to notify the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues so that official circles were in the know about what he was developing and could keep track of it. Since then the Presidential Commission has issued a number of recommendations for the emerging field of synthetic biology, most notably for coordinated federal oversight of scientists working in both large and small institutions.

 

In India, it is a matter of concern that there is little such oversight. It is ridiculously easy to procure biological materials such as harmful bacteria, viruses or toxins from academic laboratories since the supervision in these institutions is notoriously lax. According to the WikiLeaks report, there is a real fear that getting into a supposedly high containment facility to obtain lethal bio-agents is not very difficult in India and that "India's notably weak public health and agricultural infrastructure coupled with high population density means that a deliberate release of a disease-causing agent could go undetected for quite a while before authorities become aware".

 

Of a piece with all this is our shabby regulatory system for genetic engineering which is known to be full of holes. Premier academic institutions do not follow the rules and prescribed regulatory procedures. A few years ago the field trials of Bt brinjal being conducted in the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in Delhi had to be burnt down because they were being done in violation of the process laid down for such trials. The Mahyco company has been conducting field trials of Bt rice in Jharkhand in flagrant violation of all prescribed norms. When evidence of their violations, which were contaminating the native rice, was pointed out to the regulators, they refused to take action against the company and began to harass Gene Campaign instead for bringing this to light. There are rumours of even worse. That regulation can be influenced and clearances obtained for a price

 

In addition to leaky and compromised science and technology systems, India is particularly vulnerable to bioterrorism attacks because there is almost no coordination between the ministries and departments that would need to pull together in immediate response to such an eventuality. Turf guarding, lack of communication and the near-total absence of cooperation among key stakeholders from different departments is a glaring and dangerous impediment to the country's capacity to respond to a bio-terrorist attack. For officials milling around inflated with self-importance, sober introspection about our terrifying vulnerability to modern bio-terrorism would appear to be an urgent requirement. It is high time this "emerging global power" got its house in order to protect the life of its citizens.

 

The writer, an expert in genetics, is the convener of Gene Campaign.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CLASSIC PRIDE

BY ROOPINDER SINGH

 

Oh! Google, that child of cyber space, finally came out with its electronic book store, which promises to create yet another revolution in the way people use their screens, on computers and other devices, like cell phones, e-book readers and what have you.

 

Google has finally made an entry into the world dominated by Amazon.com Inc, a company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, which started as an online bookstore, but morphed into an online marketplace for DVDs, toys, CDs, MP3 downloads, computer software, electronics, apparel, video games and even furniture.

 

Amazon Kindle, an e-book reader that the company launched in November 2007, slowly changed the way people read books and a year later, Amazon's Kindle-based library included two lakh titles.

 

The publishing world and the public at large were shaken up when in July 2010 Amazon announced that e-book sales outnumbered sales of hardcover books. The latest figures say that the company sells as many as 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover books.

 

Coupled with the enormous success of the i-Pad as an e-book reader, with Nook by Barnes and Noble and Sony e-book reader, there is a growing number of platforms for e-books and now Google has entered the game.

 

Actually, Google has been digitizing books since 2004 and has the largest digital library in the world, some 1.2 crore books and counting. They have been putting their copyright-free books and magazines like 'Life' online for years.

 

The new project, however, is different, it allows readers to buy or download free books and sync them across various platforms, thus you can read it on a computer in office, continue reading the book on your Internet-enabled cell phone while commuting, and then boot up your home computer to read on…. Sounds alluring, and thought most of us are usually so tired of watching the computer screen in office that the last thing we want to do is read from another screen.

 

While publishers debate about whether e-books will allow self-published volumes to swamp cyberspace and bemoan the inevitable loss of quality that will follow, I was quite amused to see the first title that Google Books had made available for the new service. It was the Jane Austen classic 'Pride and Prejudice', digitized in 2007 from the volume published by R. Bentley, in 1853.

 

Ah, the pride I felt at this selection. For me, the debate was settled there and then. Quality writing is timeless; it will always win, no matter which format it is presented in. The permanence of word written well transcends media, and indeed, limitations of time, too.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

UTTARAKHAND FOCUS TO BE ON VILLAGES

 

Education, health and roads are the three top priorities of the governments of both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The governments of the two hill states also plan to accelerate the process of industrialisation after the recent withdrawal of the Central incentives

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand

 

Uttarakhand has a very difficult and unique geographical situation. About 65 per cent land of the state is forest-covered. The agricultural land is very limited. Industries have so far been limited to two districts of the State but we endeavor to extend the reach of industries to all districts of the State.

 

Despite these challenges the state has scaled new heights of development over the last ten years. The state has managed to reach the third position in the country so far as the GDP rate is concerned. The GDP rate of Uttarakhand has reached 9.5 per cent, which was 2.9 per cent when the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh. The per capita income of the state has increased from Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 42,000. Similarly, the revenue is also increasing gradually.

 

The 13th Finance Commission of India has sanctioned an additional grant of Rs. 1,000 crore as an incentive in addition to the regular budget of the State because the Commission was convinced that Uttarakhand was utilizing the funds allocated to it properly and adequately. We have prepared a concrete action-plan of development under 'Vision-2020' and its implementation has started yielding positive results. We intend to develop and convert Uttarakhand into an 'Ideal State'.

 

I strongly believe that the welfare and development of the last man of society is directly proportional to the welfare and development of the State as well as the nation. Unless the poor and downtrodden people of society make progress, the country can't move ahead in the right direction.

 

We want to extend the reach of developmental activities to each and every person of the State. So we are trying to maintain co-ordination between the private and public sectors. With a view to ensuring the all-round development of the villages, we have launched 'Atal Adarsh Gram Yojna' in the 670 'Nyay Panchayat' headquarters at the first stage. As many as 16 departments have been included in this scheme and every department has been assigned fixed targets. All these departments will provide the villagers with all the basic facilities at the village level and they will reach their targets by the end of the financial year 2010-11.

 

We are also trying to make the youth of the State self-reliant. The government wants to utilise the 'pani' and 'jawani' (water and youth) properly in the interest of the State itself — something the previous governments could not do effectively. We have tried to link employment with tourism at the same time making tourism the chief source of livelihood for the local populace. We are also trying to bring forth the celestial natural beauty possessed by the State before the world. We are also determined to develop the State into an 'Educational Hub' and also to make it a 'Herbal State'.

 

Besides, for the first time a 'Special Hill Industrial Policy' has also been implemented in addition to the Industrial Incentive Policy. We are whole-heartedly committed to enhancing employment opportunities in the State. We have managed to provide employment to more than 2 lakh people through an industrial package. It was a great setback for the State that the Central government stopped the industrial package prematurely.

 

With a view to providing better employment opportunities to the unemployed youth of the State, the government has launched the 'Ashirwad' scheme. Under this scheme Ashok Leyland imparts world-class engineering training to students in the remote areas of the State, thereby creating employment opportunities for talented but poor students. The students are also getting scholarship during the training. A target of imparting training to 1,000 students during the year has been fixed. About 300 students are getting training at present.

 

We are also encouraging self-employment in the State with schemes, like, 'Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Swarojgar Yojna'. Tourist villages are also being initiated in all the districts of the State. We have also been successful in enhancing employment opportunities in the government sector. As many as 21,000 vacancies are likely to be filled ery shortly.

 

We are very shortly implementing our schemes to make wheat and rice available to the BPL families of the state at the rate of Rs. 2 per kg and Rs. 3 per kg respectively. A scheme of giving concession of Rs. 2.6 per kg in the wheat price and Rs. 2.45 in the price of rice to the APL families of the state has also been launched.

 

The services of the employees working on a daily wages/work charge/contract basis from the year 2000 or prior to the said date will also be regularised very shortly. This step of the government will benefit thousands of the employees.

 

We are committed to make Uttarakhand an 'Ideal State' of the country and we are engaged in developing it into a healthy, cultured, prosperous and green state. We want Uttarakhand to lead the world in all walks of life. My recent Mauritius visit also served the same purpose. We will not leave any stone unturned to attain the goals set under Vision-2020.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HIMACHAL'S THRUST WILL BE ON EDUCATION

 

The government's endeavour is to make Himachal Pradesh an education hub by opening institutions of excellence so that local students do not have to go to other states for getting quality professional and technical education
Prem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister

 

Prem Kumar Dhumal, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister To put Himachal Pradesh at the top is the vision of my Government for the year 2011. This vision will be realised in the near future when there are ample opportunities for employment.The State is self-dependent and every Himachali lives with pride. The betterment of the common man, speedy and balanced development of the State is the focus of all our policies and programmes, besides fulfilling the promises made to the people on the eve of last Assembly Elections.

 

Education, health and roads are the three top most priorities of the Government. The Government's endeavour is to make Himachal Pradesh an 'Educational Hub' of the country by opening institutions of excellence in the State so that students of Himachal need not to go to other States for getting quality professional and technical education. Besides, students from outside the State will be attracted to Himachal Pradesh for getting quality education. The State Government has decided to set up a Regulatory Body. Besides, the Private Universities (Regulation and Establishment) Act has also been enacted so as to ensure quality education in private universities being opened in the State. The approval for the opening of 16 universities in the private sector has been given. Of these, ten have started functioning.

 

Road, education and health are top most priority of the Government and 'Self-employment, Self-reliance and Self-respect' is the ultimate motto. For this emphasis has been laid on the speedy exploitation of natural resources available within the State. The State Government plans to harness 17,000 MW of power by 2017, which will not only go a long way in meeting the energy requirements of the country to a great extent but also help the State to become prosperous.

 

Industrial development has been given big boost for income and employment generation. Environment-friendly, income and employment-oriented industries are being encouraged in the State. The approval for setting up of 3,334 industrial units involving an investment of Rs. 13,365 crore and providing employment to 1.27 lakh persons has been given. 

 

Various new tourists circuits are being developed so as to attract tourists. Adventure, religious, heritage, rural and eco-tourism are being encouraged in the State. For the development of tourism infrastructure in the State, Rs. 428 crore will be spent. Of this 70 percent amount will be made available by the Asian Development Bank to the State through the Government of India and the remaining 30 percent will be spent by the State Government.

 

To promote rural tourism in the State 'Home Stay' and 'Har Gaon Ki Kahani' schemes have been started. A Hotel Management Institute has been set up in Hamirpur and a Food Craft Institute at Dharmasala is being set up soon. Heli Taxi Services are being started to facilitate high-end tourists. In this regard an agreement has been signed with three private entrepreneurs. An agreement for the construction of a ropeway between Shree Naina Devi and Anandpur Sahib is likely to be signed soon. Three ropeways -- Bhunter-Bijli Mahadev, Palchang-Rohtang, Dharamkot-Triund, Shahtalai-Deothsidh and Neugal-Palampur -- have also been planned.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

ADDING TO THE CONFLICT

WHEN KUMBLE SAID HE WOULDN'T BE UP FOR SALE, IT SEEMED HE WAS SENDING A MESSAGE TO MODI AND SRINIVASAN. BUT THE NEW KARNATAKA CRICKET PRESIDENT'S REFUSAL ONLY LANDED HIM AT THE RCB TABLE


Of all the little bits of news in the run up to the IPL's auction jamboree, the one that brought a momentary spring in my stride was that Anil Kumble wouldn't be up for sale for the tournament's future editions.

 

Hats off, I thought. Here is a man who is leading the way in the cleansing we've been wanting for so long. Now the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association, and therefore a Board official, he's decided that being associated with an IPL franchise is no longer appropriate. He's sending a message to Lalit Modi, who admits his friends and family got a thick slice of the pie; to N Srinivasan, who continues to own a team despite being the BCCI secretary and a member of the governing council; and to Kris Srikkanth, a brand ambassador of the Chennai team even though he's the chairman of selectors.

 

The announcement was consistent with the Kumble I'd covered, and occasionally interacted with, for more than a decade. I was at Kotla when he got his all-10 against Pakistan, at Antigua when he bowled with a broken jaw, at the media briefing on the eve of his 100th Test when he first lamented that critics still asked why he didn't turn the ball enough, and at his last Test, when, as captain of India, a split finger signalled the end of a career known for excellence, grace and integrity.

 

Kumble was always an unlikely hero. Instead of the typical macho, outdoorsy cricketer, he seemed to have walked out of engineering school having studied trajectories and rotations, and now applying them on the field with the precision of a physics professor. He started as an honest trier whose effort couldn't be questioned, and ended as an elder statesman whose sense of self-worth was never more than his actual value.

 

It was, therefore, heartbreaking to see Kumble on the Bangalore table at the auction, as the team's 'mentor', whispering sweet somethings into the ear of owner Vijay Mallya.

 

Granted that Kumble, who is also chairman of the National Cricket Academy, doesn't have a direct conflict to the extent some of the others mentioned above do. He doesn't pick players for the Indian team like Srikkanth; he doesn't directly control funds for the IPL like Srinivasan; and he's not in a position to do blatant favours for his friends like Modi was. But by aligning himself to the Bangalore IPL team, Kumble, the official, lost an opportunity to do something expected from him – the right thing.

 

In a tournament fraught with conflicts – commentators on team rosters, the governing council, and even the BCCI rolls – this same disregard for appearances was clear across news channels.

 

The journalists who had proclaimed the IPL was plagued by financial irregularities, who had pronounced it to be nothing more than a house of cards during Modi's dramatic fall last year, were now anchoring all-day, general-electionlike shows. There were panels of experts analysing every pick, celebrating every multi-crore buy, reacting to every 'breaking news', unconcerned about the moral high ground they'd taken just a few months ago. It was as if the big, bad IPL had become good the moment they had something to gain from it.

The fact that the tournament is a celebration of mediocrity, of one-dimensionally whacking 35 runs in 15 balls, as opposed to the quality Test cricket witnessed in the Ashes and in the South Africa series, was somehow lost on all the former players. Most of them privately scoff at the game's falling standards due to the focus on Twenty20. But isn't what they say in public more important?

 

Someone once said it's not who you are, it's what you do that defines you. If the IPL is our acid test, have we, as a serious cricketing nation, failed once again?

 

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

COLUMN

MANUFACTURING DEFENCE

OFFSETS POLICY MUST FACILITATE MORE PRIVATE INVESTMENT

India has emerged as a major arms purchaser in the past few years, despite the slow pace of acquisition and defence modernisation. India's defence imports, of which there is no accurate figure, are estimated to have been around $15 billion in 2010-11. A heightened threat perception and a determined effort to overcome technological obsolescence in defence equipment are driving this process. However, such a high level of imports tacitly admits to the failure of the domestic defence production establishment, barring a few exceptions, to meet the requirement of the armed forces, both in terms of requisite volume and cutting-edge sophistication. The current offset policy requiring foreign vendors bagging deals over Rs 300 crore ($60 million) to procure 30 per cent of components from domestic vendors was formulated to ensure a steady supply of components and spares intended to insulate the armed forces from unforeseen events, as well as ramp up domestic manufacturing and technical capabilities through technology transfer from the foreign vendor to domestic firms. The programme to date has met with limited success due to a combination of policy schizophrenia, which results in confusing signals to the private sector and the inherent limitations of the Indian manufacturing sector.

Lack of policy clarity has restricted private sector participation in defence procurement to supplying components and subsystems. Of the 30 per cent of defence supplies procured domestically, the private sector barely supplies 9 per cent. Research and Development and mass production are still largely the preserve of the state sector. However, more recently the Indian private sector has demonstrated capability to undertake complex manufacturing required for defence. Hence, a clearly articulated defence procurement policy would encourage the private sector to invest in R&D and ramping up manufacturing capabilities. Indian industry has rightly complained that the absence of an assured stream of orders does not permit the scale economies, without which profitability is not possible. Greater involvement of the private sector in defence production would allow the defence PSUs to focus on the more risky R&D, where returns are more uncertain. It would arguably take India closer to its cherished objective of sourcing more than 70 per cent of military hardware domestically. Ironically, a vibrant domestic manufacturing sector would make joint ventures between foreign vendors and domestic players more successful, by way of enhancing the technology-absorption capacity of the latter.

 Collaboration between the public and private sectors needs to be taken several notches higher. This would call for an active system of technology diffusion, which would also involve universities, to ensure that the science and technology capabilities are optimally utilised. Such a system has been widely implemented in the United States for over five decades. The technology spillovers generated have had economy-wide effects and have, in turn, spawned several industries such as semiconductor, supercomputing, biotechnology among others. India should seek to create a similar system even if on a smaller scale. It makes little sense for India to fund the development of capabilities in the US, Russia, France and Israel. India's defence spending should benefit the Indian economy, either directly or through a more calibrated offset policy. To this end, the defence ministry's decree that all future battleships will be built in India is welcome as is the decision to extend the scope of defence offsets to civil aerospace and in developing weapons and equipment for internal security roles. A clearly focused policy can imminently meet the dual objectives of ensuring an uninterrupted stream of defence equipment, while simultaneously deepening domestic manufacturing capability.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WEST BENGAL'S VIOLENT POLITICS

THERE SEEMS NO DELIVERANCE IN SIGHT

 

The death of eight villagers, including two women, in the hands of armed CPI(M) cadre in Maoist-infested Lalgarh in West Bengal will be seen by many in the state as one more nail in the coffin of the Left Front rule, a process that began with the death of 14 villagers in police firing in 2007 in Nandigram. Immediately after the carnage, Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee rushed to the area to express sorrow and display solidarity with the bereaved. The state is firmly in the grip of "body politics" whereby after every act of violence leaders rush to the affected areas to claim ownership of the unfortunate dead to further their own cause. The essential dynamic of the state's politics in the countryside is not one of power changing hands simply by changing popularities getting reflected in the votes cast. Changing popularities are both manifested and transfer of power effected by periodically one armed group driving out another armed group from a particular area, under different political banners. That is why the ouster of the Left in the state assembly elections signalled in May will not end this kind of violence.

 

To understand why and how the Trinamool Congress is seeking to oust the armed and entrenched Left, it is necessary to gauge the role of Maoists in the whole process. Days before the CPI(M)-inflicted atrocity, the media was agog with reports of a missive from the CPI(Maoist), that it considered the Trinamool Congress an ally if it would follow pro-poor policies and help end the CPI(M)'s misrule. The overriding irony is that the Congress and the Trinamool Congress are firm pillars of UPA rule in Delhi and are headed for a joint front against the Leftist in the coming West Bengal elections, but the UPA government is fighting Maoist insurgency in central India even as its flag-bearer, the Congress, is having to live with the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists making common cause against the CPI(M) in West Bengal. What is more, there is ample evidence on the ground that the armed CPI(M) cadre, against whom Union Home Minister P Chidambaram wrote a letter to the West Bengal chief minister towards the yearend, is offering invaluable support to the central forces which are slowly recapturing territorial control in three West Bengal districts extensively overrun by Maoists. If the Trinamool Congress comes to power with the help of the Maoists, they will be unlikely to disband themselves. With West Bengal seemingly condemned to extended violence, governance is an inevitable casualty. Mr Chidambaram's letter, sent by Speed Post, took five days to travel from North Block to Writers Building, leading to disciplinary action against a few postal staff, which, in turn, led to a half-day's cease-work at the Kolkata GPO!

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

THE SIX-ROAD T-JUNCTION

Y HARISH CHANDRA PRASAD

By adopting a participatory approach, the SKC has given a voice to all stakeholders

Fred Allen was one of America's most famous comedian and radio show hosts in the 1940s and 1950s. In one of his shows, while delving into the nature of committees, he defined them in his typical dismissive style as a group of men who can do nothing individually but as a group decide that nothing can be done. With the Srikrishna Committee (SKC) providing several options on the situation in Andhra Pradesh with respect to the demand for a separate Telangana state, one can't help but wonder if the reaction of the people of Andhra Pradesh to the committee report will be similar to the views of Fred Allen.

 The uniqueness of the Telangana agitation

The demand for Telangana is unique as far as the history of various struggles for new states are concerned. States formed after the reorganisation along linguistic lines in 1956, such as Gujarat in 1960 and Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand in 2000, have had a common theme of being far away from the capital cities and hence had a comparatively less trickle-down effect. Even among the ongoing agitations of Gorkhaland, Vidarbha and Bundelkhand, the Telangana struggle is the only such agitation which has the capital city within its area.

Though the Srikrishna Committee has articulated six main scenarios to resolve the situation in Andhra Pradesh, it has found only three of them practicable. The feasible options presented were: (a) Bifurcation of the state into Seemandhra and Telangana, with enlarged Hyderabad metropolis as a separate Union Territory (b) Bifurcation of the state into Telangana, with Hyderabad as its capital, and Seemandhra, and (c) United Andhra Pradesh with definite constitutional/statutory measures for empowerment of Telangana.

Analysing the options

In the committee's view, the best option that would be workable to a majority of the people would be that of a united Andhra Pradesh with definite constitutional/statutory measures for the empowerment of Telangana. In this scenario, with a sizeable 42 MPs, the state's lobbying power at the Centre will continue to be immense. The state will also have a larger capability in mobilising resources to combat the Maoist menace. Though Andhra Pradesh has 16 of the 72 Naxalite-affected districts, it has been consistently ranked as the best in combating this internal threat.

As a part of this option, the committee suggests to establish a Telangana Regional Council to deal with planning and economic development, apart from additional confidence-building measures such as more political representation in leadership positions for the legislators of the Telangana region.(Click for table)

The second-best option, according to the committee, is that of a separate Telangana with Hyderabad as its capital and a Seemandhra formed from the merging of Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions with a new capital. The expectation on the political leadership of Telangana to perform will be immense from the people of the region. While an expectation of greater accountability from its leaders will always benefit the area, the risk of facing political instability as a result of electoral dissatisfaction leading to fractured verdicts cannot be ruled out. The fear is that Telangana could then become like Jharkhand, which has failed to impress in most areas of governance with eight chief ministers in the last ten years, besides being under President's Rule twice. The internal security problems created by the Maoists could also hamper growth and development in a separate Telangana state.

For the Telangana state to be successful, a revenue stream such as Hyderabad, which contributes almost 50 per cent to the modern services GDP of the region, will need to be present to create a trickle-down effect for the hinterlands. As Telangana is land-locked, it would be better to leverage the proximity of Hyderabad to build a corridor of service sector industries. The region of Andhra will need to increase its manufacturing base by leveraging the newly created capacities of the Krishnapatnam port and power sector-related growth from the gas findings of the Krishna-Godavari basin. Moreover, the surplus revenues generated from electricity in the coastal region will no longer need to be subsidised to the power-deficit regions of Telangana, which consume 60 per cent of the state's total agricultural power for the lift-irrigation schemes.

The third most-workable scenario, according to the committee, is that of a separate Telangana and Seemandhra with an enlarged Hyderabad metropolis as a separate Union Territory. In this scenario, the limits of Hyderabad territory is increased to give access to Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. A trickle-down effect can still be created in the areas surrounding Hyderabad that fall into the Telangana region, in a way similar to the National Capital Region of Delhi that created satellite towns such as Gurgaon in Haryana and Noida in Uttar Pradesh. From a size-of-economy perspective, Telangana as a new state can sustain itself both with and without Hyderabad as it ranks 13th and 15th, respectively, among the 28 Indian states, excluding Andhra Pradesh.

A possible blueprint

To address the water issues, the committee should have gone further from just recommending a water board with its composition. Instead of the current methodology of allocating water on a proportional basis for different uses in different states, it should have advocated a principle of water-sharing that allows the benefits generated to be enjoyed by all stakeholders. However, by adopting a participatory approach, the committee has given a voice to all stakeholders who wanted to participate. In this aspect, the committee report has the potential to be treated as a blueprint based on which the political leadership can take tangible measures to reverse more than half a century of perceived and real injustices.

The author is the chairman of Malaxmi Group. He served as the chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Andhra Pradesh, for 2009-2010, and is currently the chairman of the Infrastructure and Logistics Federation of India, Andhra Pradesh

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

DEFENCE ON GROUND, NOT CASTLES IN AIR

AJAI SHUKLA

On the 13th of January, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) intends to promulgate its first-ever Defence Production Policy that, officials say, will ease the way for private Indian companies to compete for an impending flood of lucrative contracts for arms for India's defence forces. But India's private sector is not holding its breath; over the last decade, starry-eyed CEOs, who had believed that their technological skills and entrepreneurial dynamism would translate quickly into weaponry for the military and profits for them, have moulted into jaded cynics who perk up only while complaining (justifiably) about South Block's unwillingness to walk the talk.

They point, most recently, to the just-announced Defence Procurement Policy of 2011 (DPP-2011), which has India's private defence industry reeling. With foreign arms vendors now allowed to canalise offsets into the easy byways of civil aviation instead of the tightly regulated defence industry, the Indian defence industry correctly points out that the aim of the defence offset policy — never clearly enunciated, but generally believed to be the catalysing of domestic defence production — has been effectively undermined.

 In these circumstances, snort these disillusioned CEOs, it is foolish to hope that the Defence Production Policy (let's shorten this to DProP, since DPP is already the acronym for Defence Procurement Policy) might display flashes of enlightenment.

That may be overly pessimistic. From the grapevine chatter that has accompanied the DProP's formulation, it seems likely to include several welcome initiatives. The first of these is unambiguously mandating that in-country defence contracts be awarded by competitive tendering, rather than by nominating one of the defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) or an ordnance factory (OF), which the MoD has tended to do since it owns the entire lot of 9 DPSUs and 49 OFs.

Next, the DProP is likely to detail procedures for compiling, organising and maintaining data banks of the Indian defence industry so that, when a particular technology, industrial capability or equipment is needed, the MoD knows where to go. Furthermore, outlining procedures for self-registry would be a welcome relief for companies that aspire to enter defence production. Currently, they are at the mercy of touts who claim to have connections with key bureaucrats and procurement managers.

The DProP will also lay down procedures for short-listing companies that will be eligible to bid for specific contracts. With the MoD having turned down the Kelkar Committee's recommendation to nominate a group of Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RuRs), or champions of industry — private companies with demonstrated capability, capacity and financial depth to participate in the capital and technology-intensive business of developing complex defence platforms — a transparent process for short-listing candidates is badly needed.

Cynical private sector CEOs will undoubtedly argue that they've heard all this before. The DPP-2011 already mandates that, for each "Make" procurement (i.e. in which the product is developed indigenously), a sectoral multi-disciplinary indigenisation committee (SMDIC) must short-list companies/consortia that possess the structure and know-how to develop that product. But the DProP can reinforce that message and detail a set of procedures that will help MoD procurement managers to internalise it.

The DProP is also likely to elaborate guidelines and procedures for allocating MoD funding for development projects that are undertaken by private companies or consortia under the "Make" procedure of DPP-2011. The DProP could also formalise the operation of a Rs 100-crore "defence technology fund", which will fund specific cutting-edge R&D projects by small- and medium-scale private sector companies. While cutting-edge defence technology has historically emerged from small and medium companies (defence biggies tend to be systems integrators rather than developers of technology), the small companies lack financial muscle and require R&D funding from the government.

These laudable initiatives notwithstanding, it is the DProP's fine print and the attitude with which the MoD implements its provisions that will determine whether the policy succeeds or fails. In the 20th century, the ministry has regarded private companies as useful ancillary suppliers to the public sector; this last decade, as private companies began to confidently challenge the DPSUs and OFs, the MoD establishment switched to an astonishing new argument: since the DPSUs and OFs produce only about 30 per cent of India's defence requirements — much of that relatively low-tech — India's private sector should focus on biting into the high-end 70 per cent that was being supplied by foreign vendors.

Consider the logic of this argument: if, even after half a century on the learning curve, the DPSUs and OFs seemed incapable of developing high-tech defence equipment, leave them in peace to paddle around ineffectually in the shallow end of the pool. Instead, throw the private sector into the deep end, asking them to build high-tech defence systems right off the bat… without funding them in any way!

Just a year ago, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju told me in an interview that this newspaper published in February 2010: "(The private sector) should play a complementary role, not try to compete in those areas where the public sector is already present… . But they should look at what the country needs. We don't need low-tech, we need high-tech. And that is where I feel that the private sector should focus."

That Mr Raju would probably be embarrassed to repeat that statement today says much about how the minister has grown in his job. It is to be hoped that his ministry, too, evolves in its thinking.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

INDIA'S DULLER GREEN BELT

FARMING IN EAST INDIA IS SUFFERING BECAUSE OF POOR MARKET SUPPORT AND DISCRIMINATION IN ALLOCATING CENTRAL PLAN FUNDS.

SURINDER SUD

The Indo-Gangetic plain is known as the cradle of the Green Revolution. But this is true only of the region's north-western part. Its eastern part remained unaffected for a long time despite being better endowed with basic natural resources for crop growth, such as fertile land, water and sunshine. The north-western part is largely semi-arid.

There are many reasons for the farm sector's below-par performance in the eastern region of the Indo-Gangetic plain. The significant ones among them are the pattern of demographic changes, discrimination in the allocation of central developmental resources and poor market support.

 A publication by the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) titled "State of Indian Agriculture — The Indo-Gangetic Plain" provides a detailed analysis of factors related to agriculture in this key food bowl. It reveals that in Punjab and Haryana, high agricultural growth was accompanied by an increase in the pace of urbanisation and reduction in population pressure on agricultural land, but this was not the case in Bihar and West Bengal. The share of urban population increased by 10 per cent in Punjab and 11 per cent in Haryana in the first three decades after the Green Revolution. In Bihar and West Bengal, on the other hand, the urbanisation rate has been almost static.

The migration of some farming population from agriculture caused the average farm size in Punjab to increase from 2.89 hectares in 1971 to 4.03 hectares by 2001. The number of farm holdings below 2 hectares fell appreciably. But in Bihar and West Bengal, the lack of migration from the farm sector caused the average farm size to shrink from 1.5 hectares in 1971 to 0.58 hectares in 2001 in Bihar and from 1.2 hectares to 0.8 hectares in West Bengal. Besides, the proportion of small holdings of less than 2 hectares was as high as over 93 per cent in Bihar and more than 95 per cent in West Bengal.

The NAAS report also details the allocation of central plan funds to the states right from the start of the planning era to bring out the bias against the eastern states. In the first Five-Year Plan, the per capita central plan expenditure was only Rs 27 in Bihar and Rs 58 in West Bengal, against the national average of Rs 109. The trend is no different in the 11th Plan — the per capita average plan expenditure in Bihar is Rs 6,575 and Rs 7,405 in West Bengal. This is much lower than the national average of Rs 13,187.

The government's intervention in agricultural marketing to provide price support through official procurement also seems to discriminate against the eastern region. More than 80 to 90 per cent of total market arrivals of wheat in Punjab and Haryana were picked up by government agencies at minimum support prices. However, hardly any wheat was procured from Bihar till recently. Similarly, in the case of rice, Punjab accounted for an official procurement of over 80 per cent and Haryana more than 50 per cent. But there was no such procurement in Bihar. "This shows a strong regional concentration of government intervention in selected few states, and the farmers of Bihar were denied the support they deserved," the report points out. The justification offered for this lack of adequate marketable surplus does not hold ground. The truth is that Bihar has experienced a sharp increase in marketable surplus of rice and wheat after 1982. Market arrivals have increased from 16 per cent of total output in 1982-83 to 24.5 per cent in 1999-2000 in the case of rice. In the case of wheat, the surpluses have increased from 13.8 per cent to over 17 per cent. This apart, the north-western region had a better and more extensive network of irrigation compared to the eastern region. The farmers in the north-western region owned relatively large number of better-quality livestock than their eastern counterparts. "I earnestly believe there is utter neglect of agriculture in the region and many of our priorities are misplaced," observes NAAS President Mangala Rai, who has co-authored this report.

His voice needs to be heard.

surinder.sud@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

TAMPERING WITH TWAIN

NILANJANA S ROY

 

Well, if I ever struck anything like it, I'm a nigger. It was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race.
—Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

It's impossible for those outside the US to understand just how loaded the "n-word" is, and how much weight it carries. It may be the one word in the English language that has become truly unsayable; what was an uncomfortable pejorative at the turn of the 19th century is now the last (and perhaps the only) truly taboo word in the American lexicon.

For teachers and parents, the use of the n-word in one particular American classic has caused intense debate and anguish: Mark Twain used the word 219 times in Huckleberry Finn, each casual, offhand instance a reminder of how deep prejudice ran in the Old South. So when Dr Alan Gribben, a Twain scholar, released a new edition of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he knew he would cause controversy with his decision to bowdlerise Twain's works. "Far more controversial than this reuniting of Twain's boy books will be the editor's decision to eliminate two racial slurs that have increasingly formed a barrier to these works for teachers, students, and general readers," he writes in his Introduction to the NewSouth edition. The other excised word is "Injun"; in Gribben's edition, the n-word is replaced by the word "slave", and "Injun" by "Indian".

Gribben's reasons are solidly practical, and are similar to the reasons why Charles Lamb, several centuries previous, cleaned up Shakespeare's plays and rendered them into sanitised prose so that they would reach a wider audience. And Gribben explains, "The n-word possessed, then as now, demeaning implications more vile than almost any insult that can be applied to other racial groups. There is no equivalent slur in the English language. As a result, with every passing decade, this affront appears to gain rather than lose its impact." His aim, by editing Twain, is to return the books to school syllabi and to readers who might be made so uncomfortable seeing taboo words in print that they would rather not read these two classic American novels at all.

The problem is not with Gribben's reasoning, but with the general principle — and with the precedent he might set. In the subcontinent, we are perhaps more aware of the dangers of sanitising the past than readers in America might be. By excising the n-word and softening the "Injun" word, Gribben is making the classics more accessible, but at a significant cost. In order to ensure the comfort of a set of readers, he is in danger of eroding the historical past; of creating a cosy set of books where the full impact of racism as it operated in Twain's times is lost.

Back in the day, when Amar Chitra Katha released its series of the Indian classics in comic book form, it set up an interesting contradiction. The comic books allowed far more readers to access Indian history, literature and mythology; but Amar Chitra Katha freely bowdlerised their versions, and added in their own biases. The skin colour of characters was a glaring, tell-tale sign: rakshasas and demons were dark, gods and goddesses fair, reinforcing one of the uglier Indian prejudices.

With abridged editions, some readers are led back to the originals at a later stage. I remember my shock, after reading the sanitised, children's version of Gulliver's Travels, at discovering the full breadth and scatological vitriol of Jonathan Swift's satire. The abridged version of the Travels and the original were so far apart, as with Lamb's version of Shakespeare's tales, that they might have been written by two completely different authors. The original was always accessible; but how many readers will bother to access the original?

Here's what Gribben, and his defenders, are missing in the course of the Twain debate. Discomfort, even acute discomfort, is not a reaction that readers should be protected against; literature that makes you flinch, or that might even seem repellent, is almost always literature that makes you re-examine your own entrenched prejudices. And as many supporters of the unexpurgated Twain editions have pointed out, the abridged version can rapidly replace the original, leaving only the most academic of scholars with a faint trace memory of the power of the original to offend.

And here's a final argument against sanitising Twain. It took about three decades in the US, and almost seven in the UK, for the n-word to acquire its present status as the ultimate unspeakable epithet. All of us, including Gribben, are very much the prisoners of the prejudices of our time. There's a difference between speaking out against the use of an offensive word or term, and in releasing an edition that changes the writer's intent. Gribben is cleaning up Twain in deference to the sensibilities of readers of this decade; but in another five decades, those sensibilities may have changed. Make your protest as an editor and reader in the appendices and forewords; but don't tamper with the text.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHEN CHARITY IS SELF-INTEREST

FOLLOW ENLIGHTENED PIONEERS IN GIVING


THE theme at this year's function to distribute the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence was giving. Animated discussions led by leaders in giving, such as Shiv Nadar and Sunil Mittal, policymakers such as Pranab Mukherjee and Salman Khurshid, sought both to give impetus to giving and yield insights into how to give best. While clarity on the different concepts of philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and investing for social impact is slowly diffusing into the collective consciousness of corporate India, what is more commonly appreciated is the convergence between enlightened self-interest and individual goodwill. Thus, Azim Premji and Shiv Nadar both focus attention on education at different levels. While this transforms individual lives and contributes to the social good, it also directly tackles the talent crunch industry faces. Rohini Nilekani, who moderated a panel discussion on giving, laid emphasis on new strategies in giving, such as alliances and partnerships. The Azim Premji Foundation deploys this strategy in primary education, working with the government school system to raise its standards and make it effective. There is enormous scope to deploy similar strategies in healthcare, skill development, etc. The point is to go beyond the satisfaction of writing out a largish cheque in the name of some earnest voluntary agency and deploy some of the skills that produced the fortune to organise the spending of the amount in a way that generates optimal impact.
    The idea of tradable CSR credits would make sense when CSR spending is mandatory — a company that has done more by way of CSR than it is obliged to would be able to sell some of the earned credits to a company that has fallen short of its obligation. But the desirability of making CSR mandatory is suspect. CSR happens when profit-earning corporate activity advances the social good, such as when HUL spreads awareness on the benefits of washing hands with soap or when Britannia sells nutrient-fortified biscuits. Diversion of profits for a social cause, as happens at Infosys, is philanthropy. Neither lends itself easily to being made compulsory.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

IPL IS ALIVE AND KICKING

BUT HAS TO GET MORE PROFESSIONAL

 

 THE weekend auctions have demonstrated that the Indian Premier League (IPL) continues to be the world's fastest-growing sports league despite the allegations which saw the ousting of the commissioner who ran it for the first three years of its existence. Indian opener Gautam Gambhir was bought for a whopping $2.4 million (. 11.04 crore) per season. Gambhir, it is said, will earn almost as much in a week as the English Premier League's (EPL's) best-known footballer Wayne Rooney. The essential difference, of course, is that the IPL is played for seven weeks every summer while the EPL begins in August and ends in May!

 

The question could also be asked whether IPL is fulfilling its objective of promoting domestic cricket by discovering and rewarding new talent. Australian allrounder Daniel Christian was snapped up by Deccan Chargers for $900,000 (. 4.1 crore). Uncapped Indian players — those who have not represented the country — cannot be sold in the IPL auction. The 21-year-old Manish Pandey, the first Indian to score a century in IPL and the top run-getter in first-class domestic cricket in the '09-10 season, cannot be auctioned and could get a fixed salary not exceeding . 10 lakh for those who started playing first-class cricket in 2009-10! IPL's exponential growth is due to the millions of cricket-crazy fans of Indian origin who watch the telecast of each and every game. The IPL organising council has to work overtime to ensure that there is no money laundering of any kind by any investor, what with underworld betting syndicates being actively involved in spot-fixing in cricket of the kind that implicated Pakistani cricketers who were reportedly given money just six months ago, during an Oval Test between Pakistan and England. If the functioning of IPL is to be perceived as completely transparent, there cannot be any conflict of interest of the kind where Chennai Super Kings owner N Srinivasan is also the BCCI secretary and president-elect and a member of the IPL governing council which excludes the other franchise owners. Finally, taxes should be paid in full by not just individual cricketers but by the world's most affluent cricketing board, the BCCI.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SHRINKING VALUES

WHO CARES FOR A CRORE ANY MORE?


WHAT is a crore of rupees these days? Once upon a time, it was an amount that short-circuited a former telecom minister's political career when it was found in his house, inelegantly stuffed in a motley collection of receptacles. The number of zeroes now needed to mobilise a minister has apparently gone past that 1990s' figure of seven. It helps when there are neat numbered accounts in salubrious climes that preclude the need for cumbersome storage facilities. Some 18 years ago, a crore of rupees could be touted as inducement enough for a prime minister to be benevolent towards a crooked bull operator. Indeed, the idea of such an 'enormous' sum being lugged about as a political sweetener was met with such incredulity in those innocent times that it took a theatrical Ram Jethmalani to prove that it could be done, by dramatically stuffing a case with the requisite moolah. By 2008, such was its devaluation that a crore each apparently got just a few MPs to change sides during a vote of confidence, that too stuffed in crass leather bags. Come January 2011, a crore is allegedly barely enough to grease the palms of a mere superintendent in the central excise and customs department in Pune. Soon, judging by the way food inflation is rising, it may be just about enough to buy a few sacks of potatoes and onions.

 

India no longer disbelieves that a crore can be fitted into a container — appropriately shrunk from a suitcase to a briefcase. Now that gameshow crorepatis are a reality, no one was surprised that bossy Salman Khan did a Jethmalani with a crore and a container for the benefit of a wide TV audience. Only, the intention was not to shock but to tantalise and tempt.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SECURITY LESSONS FROM HISTORY & GEOGRAPHY

INDIA SHOULD HELP PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN FIND WAYS TO MOVE TOWARDS A HEALTHIER ECONOMY, A MORE STABLE AND STRONGER POLITY AND A FREER SOCIETY, BECAUSE IT WOULD BE IN OUR OWN INTEREST, SAYS RAJMOHAN GANDHI


FOR long, parts of what is now Pakistan and India faced dangers and invasions from northwest. Today the subcontinent again faces a threat from the northwest, with Pakistan facing even more of it than India, with some elements in Pakistan, as we know all too well, contributing fresh force to it. That threat is from an ideology that worships hate, celebrates death and destruction, and dismisses the value of life. This ideology of violent extremism or violent radicalism uses phrases from Islam but it is actually anti-Islam.

 

 Afghanistan and the tribal lands between Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to contain many of this ideology's dedicated believers, but it would be absurd and risky to think that the northwest of the subcontinent is the only place where the banner of violent extremism or violent radicalism is being raised today. Historical, economic and psychological reasons have always existed for the appeal of violent extremism. But all of us in India and Pakistan must daily ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to defeat, around us, the ideology of extremist violence. While it is the state's task to defeat militancy, it is the citizen's task, and the thinker's task, to explore avenues more intelligent than violence.

 

Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew, Badshah Khan and Dr Zakir Husain were in a minority among the subcontinent's Muslims when they expressed scepticism about Partition. Opinions have now changed. While some Hindu extremists openly say that nothing as good as Partition ever happened to the Hindus, some in Pakistan voice disappointment at its results. After decades of rejection, Dr Kitchlew stands vindicated, but his soul desires nothing less than friendship between India and Pakistan. Given the widely-held Indian view that Pakistan is India's actual or potential enemy, a view for which history seems to offer some justification, we should ask whether India's security is enhanced or endangered by a rise in violent extremism in Pakistan, by a growth in Pakistan's enmity towards India, and by a weakening of Pakistan's economy, polity and society.

 

It is natural, perhaps, for Indians injured and angered by Pak-sponsored violence to wish murderous attacks in Pakistan on Pakistani targets. This wish has been granted. Yet, it is not clear that the rise in extremist militancy in Pakistan has helped India, except perhaps by reminding the Pakistani people that violent extremism is South Asia's common danger and foe. If the situation in Pakistan worsens, if the country begins to disintegrate, if a vacuum is created in our neighbourhood and lawlessness takes over, then, by the inescapable logic of geography, a troubled and endangered India will be forced to examine the risks of intervening or not intervening in its neighbour's agonising affairs.

 

May Pakistan and India never reach such a scenario. If Pakistan can find ways to move towards a healthier economy, a more stable and stronger polity, and a freer society, that would be very much in India's interest. Meanwhile, we in India must remind ourselves that Pakistan's governing agencies and its people are two very different entities, and we must ask whether as a people and a government we have done what we can to reach both entities, especially the more important one, the people of Pakistan.

 

India's enemies in Pakistan need to know that if attacked India will fight back hard. It is probable that they know this. But India's friends there, who greatly outnumber our foes, need to know that they have a place in our thoughts, including the thoughts of our Prime Minister. Unfortunately, they do not know this. And the people of India do not know that Pakistan today witnesses a courageous, untiring and growing effort for tolerance and pluralism, and for strong, unwavering and uncompromising opposition to violent extremism.

 AT PRESENT,India seems by and large to be liked by the Afghans, Pakistan by and large disliked. But such inclinations are unlikely to cancel the realities of geography — the physical joining together of Pakistan and Afghanistan; or the realities of religion; or the reality of family ties. Not that active hostility between Pakistan and Afghanistan is impossible. If Pakistan is India's enemy, such hostility may seem desirable in a short-sighted view. But India's true and long-term interest in Afghanistan is in the well-being of the Afghan people. That interest is also linked to Central Asia's oil and gas, and to Afghanistan's own untapped mineral riches. Any active hostility between Afghanistan and Pakistan would cripple India's trade route to Afghanistan and beyond. That cannot be what we wish to promote.

 

We should of course continue with our effort, India's effort, to assist with Afghanistan's roads, electricity, and hospitals. But picking tribes or ethnicities to back in Afghanistan is a thankless exercise and a hazardous one as well. This is a truth for India and Pakistan both, and for the US too. Like his fellow-Kashmiri, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Kitchlew was a staunch believer in India's non-alignment. And nonalignment remains a sound policy for our region, for India and for Pakistan.

 

We do not know when will come the day on which India becomes a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Amending the UN Charter in order to achieve a reformed UNSC, in which India would be included, will be a complicated exercise. Yet it is not a given that India's elevation will diminish Pakistan, or injure China, or upset regional equilibrium. Our leaders, diplomats and commentators should do all they can to indicate that India would want to represent not just itself but the region as a whole.

 

As we did during the final phase of our freedom struggle, as we did year after year following independence, but as we have regrettably not done for several years now, we must now speak up again for the rights of the Palestinians. And we should do so also for the ears of President Obama, for he too has failed to speak up for the freedom of the Palestinians. Speaking up for Palestinian rights will indirectly help with India's and South Asia's security. In fact, it will also win us wider support in the United Nations for our permanent seat bid. But we should do also it for moral reasons. For, our history, from Asoka to Akbar and down to our freedom struggle, challenges us to bring to the international table not gold, or oil, or missiles with nuclear warheads, but the human conscience.

 

(Edited excerpts from the Second Annual     Saifuddin Kitchlew Lecture at Jamia Millia     Islamia Jamia, New Delhi, on January 10)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TH RO U G H TH E TH I R D EYE


Rebel-cum-manager!

 

THERE may be political reasons/ compulsions for Telangana Congress leaders to threaten to rebel against their own party high command in the wake of the Srikrishna Commission report. But this has put senior Congress leader K Keshav Rao in a piquant situation. He has been leading the Telangana Congress leaders' rebellious posture in Hyderabad. But this CWC member, as AICC in-charge of poll-bound West Bengal, is also expected to be the eyes and ears of the high command in executing the party's electoral strategy in Bengal. As the Congress players are positioning themselves ahead of the upcoming reshuffle of the AICC setup, some party sections have started wondering how Rao can simultaneously act as a rebel in Hyderabad and the high command's loyal manager in Kolkata. Rao should know his party isn't one where a tricky question is ever asked without an attendant agenda.

 

Playing it safe?

USUALLY, developments in Pakistan catch the attention of the political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir in a big way. Yet, the killing of Punjab's liberal governor Salman Taseer for his opposition to the blasphemy law, has made no impact on the mainstream and separatist leadership of J&K, with none of these leaders choosing to display their take on the incident. The J&K media too, by and large, chose to just report the killing of Taseer in a matter-of-fact fashion without offering any insightful perspective on why the leaders and intellectuals are playing it safe.

 

No losers here

THE in-house reactions to Nitin Gadkari making Arun Jaitley BJP's election strategist for Assam and West Bengal and Sushma Swaraj for Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry have been insightful. It is felt that since the BJP has no serious presence in the poll-bound southern states, Jaitley fans could enthusiastically blame his competitor Sushma for a poor show down south. Though West Bengal remains BJP's barren land, Jaitley fans are hoping that if the Congress loses to AGP in Assam, they could still shout about how their leader's strategic acumen pipped the Congress! The fact that the Tarun Gogoi-led state Congress, with Digvijaya Singh as AICC manager, is trying for a hat trick victory that no political party has, so far, achieved in Assam, has Jaitley fans hoping they will have some occasion to declare him a winner against Sushma. And in case Assam acts a spoiler, one can always blame it on poor Varun Gandhi, the party secretary in-charge of the state!

 

Wheels within wheels

JUSTICE V R Krishna Iyer's verbal missile has finally forced AKG Bhavan to end its deafening silence on the corruption allegations against ex-CJI K G Balakrishnan's family members. Once the CPI(M) HQ was forced to speak up, the Kerala leadership too issued a matching response. Incidentally, the state CPI-M leadership and its mouthpiece had not only been keeping mum, but they had even dubbed as 'quotation journalism' sections of the media that reported details of how the former CJI's family members allegedly amassed wealth. This, despite the LDF CM ordering a probe into the allegations. When the state CPI-M ferociously denounced media reports that linked the party leadership's initial silence to some alleged services of the ex-CJI in the sensitive Lavalin cases, the talking point is what prompted the usually reactive Prakash Karat & Co to remain mum for a long time.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NOW&TH EN

ENTERPRISE TELANGANA

JAIDEEP MISHRA



THE report of the Committee for Consultations on the Situation in Andhra Pradesh, or the Justice Srikrishna committee, is clearly economical with the truth when it avers that there is no real regional disparity vis-à-vis Telangana and coastal Andhra. As a matter of fact, entrepreneurship is highly developed in the coastal region of the state, and it is this skewed tradition of profit-earning that seems to have coagulated into a sense of grievance and continuing resentment in Telangana.

 

It is a celebrated fact that in the last couple of decades, star entrepreneurs from coastal Andhra have made it big on the national stage. In recent years, big airports, large power plants and other infrastructure, such as highways, have come up pan-India thanks to the business savvy and entrepreneurship emanating from coastal Andhra. The committee has suggested a regional council to address the imagined sense of backwardness in Telangana, but it's a moot point whether the move would boost entrepreneurship in the region.

 

In business, nothing succeeds like success, and is it predictable that entrepreneurs, contractors and suppliers from coastal Andhra — albeit now based in Hyderabad and elsewhere — are much more likely to prosper and thrive in the state and well beyond. Also, how regions and whole societies become enterprising and entrepreneurial, across time and space, is well worth study and follow-through.

 

But in the Indian context, the experience of the last several decades is that statehood can give rise to, sustain and actually boost entrepreneurship. Hence the rationale for a separate Telangana state, bifurcated from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra, or Seema-Andhra. It ought to rev up entrepreneurship across the board in Telangana, and benefit the region and the nation.

 

The committee report has an entire chapter (No. 2) on why Telangana is not economically or otherwise backward compared to coastal Andhra. But to begin with, a historical perspective would be relevant. The demand for Telangana state, and a lack of thriving entrepreneurship, has much to do with proactive water policy or otherwise, going back over a century and more.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Godavari Barrage, built circa 1850, veritably transformed the famine-prone districts of coastal Andhra into a huge granary. Sir Arthur Cotton, who designed the barrage and oversaw its construction in the high noon of the colonial era, was a remarkable technocrat with rare vision. The annals record that he engineered the 'magnificent project' making the best use of local material such as lime, quarry and excellent teak. The dam across the river Krishna followed next. And after completing the Krishna and Godavari anicuts, Sir Arthur did envisage a port and harbour at what is now Visakhapatnam. The point is that proactive policy on irrigation then did lead to surpluses, and when the economy opened up in the path-breaking 1990s, it meant a flowering of entrepreneurship from coastal Andhra.

 

It is plain that in adjoining Telangana, the Nizam, whose writ prevailed, lacked the foresight to build canals and waterways, as in coastal Andhra during the days of the Raj. And despite the fact that both the Godavari and the Krishna also flow through Telangana. Note that because of the historical lack of modern irrigation systems in Telangana, there has been reliance on traditional tank and well irrigation. However, in recent decades, we have witnessed a neglect of policy focus and funding for tank irrigation nationally, Telangana being no exception.

 

The report mentions that there are over 13,000 industrial establishments registered under the Factories Act in coastal Andhra — a large number of which are rice mills — compared with over 12,000 such units in Telangana area, including Hyderabad. Also, per factory, the number of workers is 33 in Telangana, 44 in Hyderabad city and 25 in coastal Andhra. The report then jumps to the conclusion that there is a 'degree of comparability' between Telangana and coastal Andhra. But one will still need to factor in entrepreneurship or the lack of it to analyse the sense of misgiving in Telangana.

 

In a similar vein, the greater drawal of power in Telangana, which the report takes note of, may simply point at the lack of irrigation supply on the ground. On employment, the report calls for better implementation of the Presidential Order of 1975, which divided Andhra Pradesh into six zones for recruiting 'local' candidates for government jobs, mainly non-gazetted categories. A better solution would be greater scope for entrepreneurship in Telangana.

 

It is only towards the end, in chapter 6, that information technology-led business development of Hyderabad is stressed, and how entrepreneurs from coastal Andhra have been much involved in the field. It underlines the need for a Greater Hyderabad with Union Territory status, and one that is capital of two new states. Statehood for Telangana is an idea whose time has come.

 

The rise of businessmen from next-door coastal Andhra to the national stage contrasts with Telangana's no-show


Sir Arthur Cotton's infrastructure initiative in the coastal area in 1850 built the foundation for flowering of business


A separate state of Telangana will lead to incubation of enterprise that will benefit the region and the country

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

KNOWING WHAT ONE HAS TO LEAVE

MUKUL SHARMA


FACE it, when we wait for the lights to change and a beggar comes up to the window, there's tension. It doesn't matter if you're not alone and can carry on talking about some business deal or the new beer bar, there's still a sudden unspoken hiccup in the conversation that doesn't go away till the car's moving again. The discomfort isn't about giving some money or not; not even about how much — you lose up to a hundred bucks all the time. No, the tension's because the person outside is doing the unthinkable: he or she has a smashed and obliterated ego and is actually begging. You know what you felt like when you had to beg on the few occasions in your own life. Anyway, so what does one do?

 

A long time ago Jesus had a solution. We read in Mark 10:17 that as he was walking one day with his disciples a rich man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, "Good teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?" At first, Jesus advised him to follow the commandments and told him not to commit murder or adultery, nor to steal or accuse anyone falsely or cheat and to respect his mother and father. When the man responded by saying he was already obeying the commandments, Jesus looked straight at him and said, "You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor... then come and follow me." That was the rich man's hiccup moment. Gloom spread over his face and he went away sad.

 

 So, does this mean that as soon as the lights turn green you leave the automobile on the side of the road, bid farewell to your friends or family and allow the beggar to help you for the rest of your life? Like, was Jesus talking through his hat or what?

 

When the German philosopher Eugen Herrigel was studying traditional Japanese archery, he was having a tough time learning to let the arrow leave the bow at 'the right moment'. Even after three years he just wasn't getting it. Finally, his instructor drew his attention to a bamboo leaf in winter. It bends lower and lower with the weight of the snow, he said, till suddenly the snow slips to the ground without the leaf having stirred. One has to stay like that at the point of highest tension till the arrow leaves the bow like snow leaves the bamboo leaf. Herrigel still didn't leave the arrow properly for a long time but that day at least he knew what had to be left. And it wasn't the arrow.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

A DIFFERENT FOOD OBSESSION

STRENGTHENING THE FARM PRODUCTION BASE AND RAISING PRODUCTIVITY MUST NOW BECOME A NATIONAL OBSESSION.

 

If you thought the worst of food inflation was behind you and hoped 2011 would bring genuine relief, you were mistaken. If anything, conditions — global and domestic — could get worse. The signals pointing to further upside risks to food prices are real. While the demand side grows robustly, driven primarily by rising consumption needs of the developing world, represented largely by Asia, weather aberrations have played havoc with food production elsewhere. Too much wet weather in Canada was followed by drought in Russia and the Black Sea region. More recently, while Australia reels under unprecedented floods, South America, especially Argentina, faces the ravages of La Nina-induced dry weather. These supply-side concerns have sent out strong bullish signals to the world market, where everyone is scurrying to cover their food requirements.

 

Quick to spot the tightening market fundamentals, speculative capital has moved into the bourses, taking long positions in many food commodities. With globalisation of the food market, the price signals are almost instantly transmitted around the world. Many economies, even if emerging, are no more insulated from global influences. There is nothing on the horizon to suggest that the price situation will ease, let alone improve markedly. No wonder, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation cautioned recently that food prices may head higher. Most countries, especially food importing ones, are truly worried. The Indian situation is worse. Despite rebound in kharif crop production (rice, pulses, coarse grains, oilseeds, sugar) and massive fine cereal stocks with the government, food has become unaffordable for a vast majority of the poor. Unseasonal rainfall has damaged vegetable crops in some parts of the country. At the end of December 2010, rabi planted area (mainly rice, coarse cereals, oilseeds) was lower than it was a year earlier, which suggests that the new crop is unlikely to be large enough to dampen food prices. . If anything, some crops, such as wheat, are vulnerable to weather shocks. New Delhi must recognise that food inflation, already at elevated levels, hurts the poor the hardest. The policymakers have nearly exhausted all the weapons in their armoury for inflation control with but little success. The scope for further tightening of monetary, fiscal and administrative measures is limited.

 

 The only way forward is to address with great seriousness and urgency the much-neglected supply-side. Strengthening the farm production base and raising productivity must now become a national obsession. This calls for visionary and committed leadership as also the political will to implement programmes and schemes covering mainly input supplies, irrigation, agronomy and rural infrastructure. There is a glaring lack of research and commercial intelligence within the government to help it form a price outlook or offer a timely price prognosis for commodities. Decision-making within the government must become more market-savvy. This calls for a certain level of de-bureaucratising, and taking the industry and trade on board in policy formulation.  

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

ARE WE IN FOR A RE-RUN OF 1990-91?

AS 2011 GETS UNDER WAY, IT IS HARD NOT TO BE REMINDED OF THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THEN AND NOW.

 

Like the UPA-II Government, the National Front (NF) Government of V. P. Singh (December 1989-December 1990) was at the mercy of other parties for survival. It was not a coalition government but depended instead on the 'outside' support of the BJP and the Left. But the gun being held to its head was of the same calibre as at the head of the UPA. It was highly vulnerable to sudden political squalls, and the danger of capsizing was ever present. Economic policy was framed within this larger political context.

 

In 1990, the main problem lay not on the economic side, which could have been managed if the political mandate had been forthcoming. It lay, instead, in the tangled and highly unstable political situation.

 

Only a few internal and external jolts were needed to unravel the whole thing.

 

These came in the form of, first the announcement of the Rath Yatra by the BJP in July 1990, then the V. P. Singh riposte of Mandal in August and the simultaneous invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.

 

By October 1990, all semblance of political direction had vanished, and the Finance Ministry, having sought in the previous six months to cater to the political needs of the Prime Minister, became like a man who watches an accident that is about to happen, and not having been able to act in time, is unable to prevent it. If one must put a date on it, the Finance Ministry lost control of the economy around October 1990. The same thing could happen now in the summer when the present Finance Minister gets properly busy with the West Bengal elections. And just as V. P. Singh had lost control, it is starting to look as if Ms Sonia Gandhi is also in similar trouble. Look at the way Mr Kapil Sibal has gone off half-cock.

 

Economy then and now

 

By the time he was defeated in November 1989, Mr Rajiv Gandhi had persistently ignored the repeated danger warnings from the RBI and the Finance Ministry from early 1988 onwards. It is not fashionable these days to say such things about him but the truth is that he left the economy in absolute shambles.

 

Fortunately, in 2011, things are not as bad on the fiscal side as they were then and, today, exports are doing well. But the current account deficit in 1990 was over 3 per cent. It is over 4 per cent now.

 

Even more importantly, even though its owners were different, the proportion of quickly reversible foreign capital inflows was very high then, just as it is now. The RBI has been warning about this.

 

Commodity prices were also high and climbing, just as they are now. Inflation, too, was high; and equally significantly, the US economy was in the doldrums, just as it is now.

 

Other similarities

 

There are other similarities as well. In December 1990 a new RBI Governor was appointed; a new Governor is due in September this year. A new finance secretary was appointed in February 1991; a new finance secretary is due in March 2011.

 

The new chief economic advisor who was appointed in March 1991 was an academic, just as the current one is.

 

The Congress spokesman then was K. K. Tiwari. Today, it is Manish Tiwari. Both are loud speakers.

 

But, most important of all, in 1991, the Budget could not be presented. The same thing could happen now, albeit for a different reason. From September 1990 onwards, two things happened: The dodgy political situation led to a sudden and massive withdrawal of NRI deposits and an almost total halt to remittances from them (leading a RBI wag to call them Non-Reliable Indians) caused largely by the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.

 

Could, similarly, de-stabilising shocks happen again? There is no way of telling, just as there wasn't in 1990.

 

Consequence

 

In 1991, the consequence was that between January and July, for all practical purposes, the RBI under the extraordinarily able guidance of Mr S. Venkitaramanan was in charge of the economy.

 

The Finance Ministry simply did not have the mandate or the direction that was needed to take important decisions.

 

Given how tenuous the political situation has become now, the same fate may be about to befall the RBI soon, especially if there are some external shocks.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

BJP RESURGENT, ONIONS MORE SO

RASHEEDA BHAGAT

 

The BJP has decided to cash in on the plethora of scandals that have tumbled out of the UPA fold. But what pinches the people the most are the staggering prices of essential commodities.

 

It is a resurgent BJP and the National Democratic Alliance that it leads, that has crept back into the reckoning in electoral politics.

 

An aggressive mood and optimism that the BJP-led NDA's vanavas from Central politics is coming to an end were the forerunners of the party's two-day national executive meet held in Guwahati last week. Quickly forgotten at the idea of return to power were infighting and petty bickerings and the party leaders spoke in one voice against the scam-tainted UPA Government.

 

While the steep hike in the prices of essential commodities is oppressing the aam admi as well as the chattering classes, who are also talking about onions having breached the Rs 100 a kg mark, the BJP has decided to cash in on the plethora of scandals that have tumbled out of the UPA fold and go for its jugular.

 

But when it comes to that, the battle zeroes in on the First Family of the Congress — the Gandhis. So, at the BJP executive meet, no attempt was made to keep this under wraps. In the political resolution passed at this meet, the 1988 resolution of the BJP executive, passed in Ernakulam, which berated Rajiv Gandhi for his alleged involvement in the Bofors case, was revisited.

 

It was recalled how Rajiv Gandhi who began his career as 'Mr Clean' later became 'Mr Disaster'. In 2010, said the resolution, the present prime minister is giving us "a scandal a day".

 

Targeting the Gandhis

 

But, clearly, it is only for form's sake that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, whose image and integrity are widely hailed, is attacked, or even mentioned, by the BJP.

 

For the party, the principal rival or the arch enemies are the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, and her son, Mr Rahul Gandhi. For it is not Dr Singh, who can form alliances, or even more important, garner votes in an election.

 

The one responsible for ousting the NDA from power in 2004 was Ms Gandhi — the alliances she formed, the political calculations she made, and the huge Congress ego that she put on the sidelines as she wooed allies such as Bihar's Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, Tamil Nadu's DMK, and the like, were responsible for the NDA's surprising loss.

 

If in 2004 Ms Gandhi's magic worked, by 2009, the young Mr Rahul Gandhi was ready to take on electoral responsibility in Uttar Pradesh. During the last phase, as intelligence reports predicted a touch-and-go situation, at the insistence of senior Congress leaders, Ms Priyanka Gandhi was brought in to tour the constituencies of her mother and brother — Rai Bareilly and Amethi.

 

The Indira Gandhi magic and charisma she has inherited much more than her brother, the wide ranging interviews she gave where she came through as direct and sincere, the personal and trite attacks launched on her by senior BJP leaders such as Mr Narendra Modi, all helped the Congress make the final leap towards formation of the UPA-II.

 

Mr Rahul Gandhi's bold decision to go it alone in Uttar Pradesh, spurning the two bits thrown by the Samajwadi Party chief, Mr Mulayam Singh, the Congress' way with a few paltry seats, and coming up trumps with an unbelievable 21 Lok Sabha seats from UP for the Congress kitty, helped a lot in that formation, where a sulking but subdued Mr Mulayam Singh was forced to fall in line.

 

Last time around, in the 2009 elections, Mr Advani launched personal attacks against Dr Singh. But this time around, it will be the Gandhi family which will be the primary target. Of course, the BJP will make use of every opportunity to attack the Prime Minister here, or the Congress General Secretary, Mr Digvijay Singh there, or any other senior Congress leader elsewhere. But the quintessential target will undoubtedly be the Gandhis.

 

And if that requires the resurrection of the Bofors ghost, Ms Sonia Gandhi's Italian origin, Mr Rahul Gandhi's total failure to make any inroads in Bihar, and persistent and relentless demand for a JPC to probe the 2G spectrum scam in the hope the trail will lead right to the top, it will all be done.

 

Coalition mantra

 

In recent times, the BJP has also learnt the importance of alliance politics; the landslide victory of the JD(U)-BJP combine in Bihar has proved once again that the days of single-party rule in Indian politics — even at the State level — are coming to an end.

 

In Orissa, the BJD's Navin Patnaik was allowed to give the NDA the right royal slip on the eve of the 2009 elections. His thumping victory in Orissa has taught the BJP yet another lesson on the dangers of allowing allies to leave the NDA fold. So, now, the BJP's national meets try to include NDA leaders.

 

This time, coinciding with the party's national executive meet in Guwahati, was an NDA rally attended by allies such as the JD(U), Akali Dal, etc. It was announced that the NDA would haul the UPA regime over the coals on the corruption issue, and a series of programmes were announced to keep the heat on.

 

That the BJP is fast learning the coalition mantra and is striving to enlarge the NDA, perhaps by wooing back parties such as the BJD and Chandrababu Naidu's TDP, could be seen by the tone and tenor at the BJP executive meet and the subsequent NDA rally.

 

Mr Narendra Modi who was present at the meet on Saturday was conspicuously missing from the NDA rally on Sunday. So was the case with the party's latest poster boy vis-à-vis Hindutva politics, Mr Varun Gandhi. Apart from being a national secretary, he is also in charge of BJP's Assam affairs.

 

At the meet, the party did not come hammering down on the Centre for leaking the confession of Swami Aseemananda on the involvement of Hindutva elements in the Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Malegaon blasts.

 

The coinage of "Hindu terror" was merely criticised in passing. All this makes it clear that the BJP is willing to trade its hardcore Hindutva ideology for a larger coalition and more inclusive politics.

 

But much more than corruption or a particular ideology, what pinches the people of India the most are the staggering prices of essential commodities. Remember how 12 years ago, the humble onion, which was selling at Rs 50 a kg in cities such as Delhi, brought down the BJP government?

 

The Opposition would do well to concentrate on this aspect and the UPA, and the Congress' top leadership would do well to remember how the onions once made the BJP cry.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

PUBLIC WORKS AND WAGES IN RURAL INDIA

C.P.CHANDRASEKHAR
JAYATI GHOSH

 

Data from the 64th Round of the National Sample Survey, which was specifically concerned with migration and employment conditions, allow for an examination of trends in real wages and the impact of the MNREGS on wages and unemployment. This edition of MacroScan considers the evidence of the effects on the work conditions of rural casual labour, especially women workers.

 

The "small round" surveys of the NSSO are usually not considered to be so good at capturing trends, because their smaller size makes them non-comparable with the quinquennial large surveys.

 

However, the 64th Round was a much larger survey than normal (with a sample of 1,25,578 households: 79,091 in rural areas and 46,487 in urban areas, covering a total of 5,72,254 persons) and was concerned primarily with employment and migration. It therefore allows us to examine the effects of one the biggest public intervention in rural labour markets in several decades: the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) which was implemented from 2006-07 and by 2007-08 had formally spread to cover all the districts of the country.

 

The MNREGS has been critiqued from different angles and at many levels: for the corruption and leakages; the patchy and often inadequate implementation; the non-payment of minimum wages, and so on. But more recently, another more unexpected kind of critique has emerged, and that too in the highest policy-making circles: that the MNREGS is pushing up the wages of rural workers in a manner that is raising costs of cultivation for farmers and making it hard for them to compete in a very uncertain world economy.

 

To some it may come as a surprise that this is even seen as a criticism. After all, surely the purpose of any such scheme would be at least partly to improve the conditions and the bargaining power of rural labour? And if that is then reflected in higher wages, should that not be proof of its success?

 

At the very least, surely government representatives should be happy when the wages come closer to the legal minimum wage – that is, of course, if they are at all serious about implementing their own laws.

 

Such a tendency for increasing wages should definitely be celebrated in a country in which poverty and under-nutrition are so rampant especially among the rural labouring class.

 

In addition, they should be happy because higher wages in the countryside also mean increased effective demand for rural goods and services, and contribute to reviving a very distressed rural economy through the multiplier effects of workers' spending out of wages.

Ground reality

 

But what is the actual evidence of such a tendency of rising wages in rural areas? The 64th Round of NSS allows us to compute the changes in wages of male and female casual workers. Chart 1 shows the pattern of rural wages (deflated by the CPIAL).

 

It is clear that for both male and female workers in rural areas, the NREGA has made a difference in terms of increasing the wage rates for casual work.

 

Real wages increased for both male and female workers, and indeed more rapidly for female workers.

This was in marked contrast to the pattern in urban areas, where wages for casual work were more or less stagnant for female workers.


However, female workers in rural casual work did experience an increase in wages, and indeed quite a significant increase especially when compared to the decline of the previous period.

This was also in contrast to the wage trend for female workers in urban casual work, which also showed a decline.

 

Incidentally, it is also worth noting that casual wages in agriculture did not increase in real terms according to this survey; rather they remained stagnant.

 

It should be noted that the tendency of higher rural wages to push up costs of cultivation can be greatly overplayed, because wage payment typically account for less than half and usually around one-third of total agricultural costs. In any case, a public procurement system that takes into account all paid labour costs (as the CACP measures do) would adequately compensate for such costs, which would at most lead to only a marginal increase in prices.

 

MNREGS impact

But to what extent can the increase in rural women's wages be ascribed to the effects of the MNREGS? Quite a bit, it turns out. It is well known that women's involvement in this scheme has been much greater than was mandated by the 30 per cent reservation of employment and also much greater than expected in many parts of the country.

 

Chart 2 shows that, while involvement in public works accounted for a much greater proportion of economic activity in rural India, the increase was particularly sharp for rural women.

 

Between 2004-05 and 2007-08, the days of employment of rural women in public works increased around 4.4 times, a remarkable shift in terms of involvement in paid work.

 

Trends in gender gaps

 

An important reason for that emerges from Chart 3: the MNREGS has been so successful in attracting women workers because there is hardly any gender gap in the wages paid, unlike almost all other forms of work in rural areas. In fact, the average wage received by women workers in MNREGS was slightly higher than the average wage received by men. This compares very favourably even with other form of public works, but particularly with non-public work, where the gender gap remains huge. Further, average wages received in MNREGS were significantly higher than those received by casual labour in other kinds of work.

 

A look at the trends in gender gaps in wages confirms this point. Chart 4 shows female wages as a percentage of male wages in both urban and rural parts of the country.

 

India already had one of the highest gender gaps in wages in the developing world, and in urban India this gap worsened in the first half of the past decade and remained at around the same level thereafter.

 

However, in rural India there has been a significant reduction in the gender gaps in the latest period, and this can be related very substantially to the impact of the MNREGS. This impact is both direct, in terms of the higher wages paid to women in this scheme; and indirect, in terms of the effects on women workers' reservation wages and bargaining power.

Surely, even the most diehard opponent of the scheme would find it hard to argue that this is a bad thing. Indeed, even if the MNREGS has been only marginally successful in raising male wage rates in the countryside, the effect of the scheme in raising female wages is already a major positive feature that should be applauded.


Unemployment rates

The gender-differentiated impact of the scheme in terms of the impact on rural labour markets continues to be evident in terms of unemployment rates, shown in Chart 5.

 

For male workers, there has been no impact on this feature: in fact, unemployment rates (by both Current Daily Status and Current Weekly Status indicators) have continued to rise. However, female open unemployment rates have shown decline, albeit relatively marginal falls from their previous highs. So, at least on the basis of the data from 2007-08, there is no evidence to argue that MNREGS caused an increase in rural wage rates on average. The average rural wage for casual work barely increased at all and that for male workers actually fell.

 

However, what this does indicate is that, for all its flaws, limitations and difficulties, this scheme has already had positive effects on women workers in rural labour markets. It has caused real wages to rise, gender gaps to come down and open unemployment rates of women to decrease. Before the scheme was implemented, these were not really anticipated as likely outcomes. But this positive impact may well have longer term beneficial effects on social and economic dynamics in rural India.

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

VEGOIL SECTOR CRIES OUT FOR STRUCTURAL CHANGES

G. CHANDRASHEKHAR

 

Supply growth is most unlikely to match demand growth in the coming years, widening demand-supply mismatch and dependence on imports.

 

In what is arguably one of world's fastest growing significant economies, rising incomes and demographic pressure continue to drive demand for foods, including vegetable oil . While growth in demand for vegetable oil in India has been strong in the last five-six years, consumption growth is expected to remain robust in the foreseeable future. .

 

Even as the demand side is decidedly healthy and certain, supply side issues pose serious concerns. If the past is any guide, supply growth in most unlikely to match demand growth in the coming years which will inexorably result in widening demand-supply mismatch and greater dependence on imports. Policy vagaries

 

For years, policymakers have taken the facile option of liberalising imports to the meet the internal supply gap. What started as a temporary measure has now become a permanent fixture. In recent years, trade and tariff measures have become the focus of attention of policymakers and trade/industry alike, rather than structural issues. The government tinkers with trade and tariff policies from time to time and the market remains highly vulnerable to policy changes.

 

Unaddressed issues

 

Most unfortunately, structural issues have remained largely unaddressed, although some politically correct noises are made from time to time. Unless structural issues - from oilseed cultivation to processing to distribution are addressed holistically, all the stakeholders and market participants will remain vulnerable to policy changes and market volatility.

 

For a country that suffers pervasive malnutrition and under-nutrition, rising demand for vegetable oil is a positive sign. However, there is a worrisome skew in actual consumption which the per capita availability numbers mask. The less-affluent sections get to consume just about half the national average of 13.5 kg. These sections are in dire need of calories.

 

We need to put in place policies to ensure that the really vulnerable and needy, several hundred millions, are able to access vegetable oil at affordable rates because cooking oils provide the much-needed calories. This will of course result in a huge expansion in demand. The least we should do is to attempt to freeze import volumes at current levels by ensuring that incremental domestic supplies are sufficient to meet incremental demand on an annual basis.

 

So, the first target should be to freeze import volumes (80 lakh tonnes or so); and make serious attempts to produce domestically the annual incremental demand of an estimated 600,000 - 700,000 tonnes. How to do this?

 

Raising productivity

 

A simple stratagem would be improvement in yields; and we are not talking about ambitious numbers. Our yields per hectare are abysmally low at about 1,000 kg per hectare. Can we not target an annual yield growth of just 100 kg/ha over the next five years? The four major oilseeds — soyabean, groundnut, rapeseed/mustard and sunflowerseed - together occupy about 20 million hectares. An increase of a mere 100 kg/ha will generate two million tonnes of oilseeds equivalent to about 600,000 tonnes of oils.

This is surely achievable because we have all endowments to make us agriculturally strong. Policymakers have to assess financial, technological and human resources required . It also requires tremendous 'political will' to implement the programme as a national priority.

 

Role of industry

 

The industry has a major role to play. It must become the 'change agent'. It is a pity there is hardly any backward integration by the processing industry. On the other hand, the industry has been clamouring for tariff changes on imported oils from time to time to make speculative profits. Often, the industry pays growers lip service without delivering any real benefit.

 

Fragmentation of the industry is a bane that denies scale economies. There is huge idle capacity. There is no modernisation either. There is a strong case for consolidation of processing capacities to ensure that the operating industry benefits from economies of scale. This will incentivise investment in modernisation.

 

Often, consumers are short-changed. Quality of oil sold in the market is suspect. Unfortunately, enforcement of food laws in our country is lax. In its own interest, the industry must evolve guidelines and work on the basis of self-imposed discipline. The sector needs vision and mission statement. It should be backed by a strategic action plan. Land constraints and water shortage are set to pose serious risks. Also, global warming and climate change make agriculture vulnerable.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BJP MUST CLEAN ITS OWN HOUSE FIRST

 

The BJP occasioned no surprise when it sought to flag the issue of corruption at its recent national executive meeting in Guwahati. After all, only weeks earlier, the Congress — against whom all of BJP's exertions are understandably tilted — had focused on the same question at its Burari conference near Delhi. The principal Opposition party would not have lived up to its billing if it had not accorded the subject of institutionalised corruption — which casts a lengthening shadow on our public life — the significance it deserves. However, it was the manner in which the issue was broached in Guwahati that is likely to raise concern. So long as the BJP shies away from even acknowledging that rampant corruption, said to involve the most prominent elements of the government the party runs in Karnataka, is making a mockery of governance, democracy and justice in the southern state, a call on its part to cleanse the system and to interrogate the UPA government at the Centre is likely to carry little weight. It is doubtful the party's own rank and file will be persuaded by the doughty words and the lofty language its leaders employed at the national executive to corner the Manmohan-Sonia duo. Even while the BJP conclave was in progress, an empowered committee of the Supreme Court recommended the cancellation of mining licences of a Karnataka company owned by two ministers of the state government. Except for those who are in the dock, no one from the party or the state government has had anything to say about this. On the ground the BJP appears to be in double jeopardy on the corruption issue. It has few allies at the Centre outside of the parties of the National Democratic Alliance. The Left, while demanding a JPC probe on the 2G spectrum affair just as the BJP does, sharply demarcates itself from the saffronites on the corruption matter, and arraigns it. In Karnataka, the state that matters to the BJP nearly as much as Gujarat, the corruption question provokes disquiet. Within the state BJP, some have harboured the view that corrupt ministers in the Yeddyurappa government are being sheltered by the most senior elements in the party's national leadership. It is not far-fetched to imagine that strong words issuing at the Guwahati conclave against the Prime Minister and the Congress' "first family" are a thin attempt to put up a brave face in the backdrop of a deeply embarrassing home front, and to paper over leadership factional squabbles sharpened on account of the corruption-related goings-on in Karnataka. Resurrecting the ghost of Bofors to battle against the Congress is to tilt at windmills. Realistically speaking, that subject is archival material. Re-makes of movies are not known to be box-office hits. If statesmanship had prevailed in the country's principal Opposition party, it might have taken up the government's challenge to have a special session of Parliament on the question of the utility of a demand for a JPC on the spectrum scam, with the proviso that such a session also debate the nuts and bolts of how to checkmate institutionalised corruption in the country. Political partisanship does not point the way to defeat systemic corruption.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NOOSE OR NECKLACE?

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India in December 2010 provides an appropriate occasion to ruminate on issues that were not reflected in the official agenda. Amongst them is the resurgence of China's maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean, popularly captioned as "string of pearls", coined from a report prepared for the Pentagon in 2003 by Booz Allen consultants. "String of pearls" is in some ways a contemporary re-enactment of the legend of Zheng He, a Chinese admiral who made seven voyages into the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1430, leading an armada of 50 warships at a time, up to the eastern shores of Africa, that have rarely, if ever, been matched elsewhere at any time.

 

"Pearls" refers to the chain of maritime facilities fronting the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal built with Chinese assistance by various host countries in the littoral regions proximate to India — at Gwadar on the Mekran Coast of Pakistan, Hambantota on the southern extremity of Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Sittwe in Burma. Except Gwadar, which is also a naval base for the Pakistan Navy, the stated purpose of these complexes is purely commercial. They are used to provide way stations and transfer points connected overland with China by rail, road and pipeline to offload and transport Gulf oil cargo for China from tanker shipping, thus bypassing the critical chokepoint of the Malacca Straits seen to be dominated by India's "metal chain" of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and thus reduce vulnerability to interdiction in the event of a conflict.

 

Commercial ports are intrinsically dual capable assets that can be morphed into naval bases without too much effort. The Booz Allen report talks of the potential bases under Chinese lien for a naval presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, though from an essentially American perspective. But given the perceived adversarial relations between India and China, the two principals in the region, the "string of pearls" is seen as tightening into "knots on a garrotte" to encircle and choke Indian maritime endeavour and confine it to a sub-region in northern Indian Ocean. India must, of course, take due note of this as also other strategic contingencies, but dispassionately and without hysteria or paranoia as "maritime encirclement" of a country of India's dimensions and capabilities is just not possible.

 

No single country or combination of countries with such a capability is as yet visible on the horizon. Also, such an eventuality may be considered implausible under the present circumstances.

 

India is on home ground in the Indian Ocean between the Malacca Straits and the East African littoral. Here the country is in a position of huge and unassailable maritime dominance. The large peninsular landmass of the "Horn of India" juts out deep into the northern Indian Ocean, creating an unsinkable aircraft carrier in relative proximity to the maritime Silk Route transporting hydrocarbon resources from West Asia and Africa to China.

 

The Indian Air Force has taken cognisance of this with the proposed stationing of fighter aircraft in peninsular India, initially with the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and big brother Su-30s to follow. It is an initial step in the right direction, and another indication of the three-front role of Indian aerospace power as also the requirement to build up for it.

 

Freedom of unchallenged and peaceful navigation in international waters, including of warships in passage, is an inalienable right of all nations. Attempts to act to the contrary, such as North Korea's reaction to US-South Korea joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, or China's belligerence at the US-Taiwan naval presence in the South China Sea region, are misplaced and in any case difficult to enforce. India must, of course, take due note of foreign naval presence in the Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal. However, excessive public umbrage would be hollow and even counterproductive if the capability to enforce them are lacking (as witnessed in the futile exercise of Operation Parakram, a hastily ordered kneejerk reaction after the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001).

 

But that is not to say that the roots of future maritime rivalries do not exist in the "upper" Indian Ocean region. With potential for escalation to conflict levels, the most likely contingency would be the coming scramble for undersea resources, particularly hydrocarbons that are seen as more or less inevitable as deposits on land get increasingly depleted. Oil discovered in the Mahanadi basin off the Orissa coast and in the Andaman Sea tend to support this view.

 

India has long held friendly relations with all the countries where the "string of pearls" are located, except Pakistan. It must initiate a focused drive to utilise these port facilities in its "Look East" policy to enhance mutual trading and maritime activity. At the same time, India's perspective of its own national interests should also be conveyed to these countries as diplomatically as possible. Nevertheless, unambiguously the possibility of the "string of pearls" as bases in the vicinity for any potentially hostile Navy would be unacceptable.

 

The port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is a typical example of Indian foreign policy at work, having initially been offered for construction to India. But official responses were so apathetic and lethargic that China was able to move in quickly and snap up the offer, driving India out of the race with its offer of $360 million for building a harbour, cargo terminals, and refuelling facilities by a consortium of China Harbour Engineering Company and Sino Hydro Corporation Limited. While Hambantota is not listed as a "Chinese pearl" by a foreign sources examining the energy situation in the region, others, including the Joint Operating Environment 2008 by US Joint Forces Command, have associated it with China's wider naval ambitions.

 

India must retrospect on the conduct of its own foreign policy, particularly in its immediate neighbourhood. The "string of pearls" is as much the outcome of assertive diplomacy by China, as it is of corresponding functional lethargy and policy shortcomings by India.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TOXIC RHETORIC BREEDING CLIMATE OF HATE

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?

 

Put me in the latter category. I've had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton's election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The US department of homeland security reached the same conclusion: In April 2009 an internal report warned that Right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

 

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

 

It's true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn't mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

 

Last spring politico.com reported on a surge in threats against members of Congress, which were already up by 300 per cent. A number of the people making those threats had a history of mental illness — but something about the current state of America has been causing far more disturbed people than before to act out their illness by threatening, or actually engaging in, political violence.

 

And there's not much question what has changed. As Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings, put it, it's "the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business". The vast majority of those who listen to that toxic rhetoric stop short of actual violence, but some, inevitably, cross that line.

 

It's important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It's not a general lack of "civility", the favourite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there's a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren't the same as incitement.

 

The point is that there's room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn't any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

 

And it's the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

 

Where's that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let's not make a false pretence of balance: it's coming, overwhelmingly, from the Right. It's hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be "armed and dangerous" without being ostracised; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the Grand Old Party (GOP).

 

And there's a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you'll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won't hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at the Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly, and you will.

 

Of course, the likes of Mr Beck and Mr O'Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal Presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that's what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there's a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

 

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn't excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

 

Unfortunately, that hasn't been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the GOP establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we're discovering we work for Fox".

 

So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It's really up to GOP leaders. Will they accept the reality of what's happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?

 

If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn't, Saturday's atrocity will be just the beginning.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ARMY MUST LIVE UP TO CARIAPPA

BY S.K. SINHA

 

The Indian Army celebrates January 15 as Army Day. This is a landmark date in its history. It was raised as a colonial army nearly three centuries ago and became a national Army on August 15, 1947. Yet, till January 14, 1949, the top leadership of the Army was British; only on January 15, 1949 did an Indian for the first time become its chief. This was the fulfilment of a demand for inducting Indians as officers in the Army made by Rammohan Roy before a Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1833.

 

The Uprising in 1857 ruled out the acceptance of that demand. Starting with the second session of the Indian National Congress in 1886, this demand was revived repeatedly in its subsequent resolutions. The imperialists vehemently opposed this. Two well known commanders-in-chief had strong views in the matter. Lord Roberts wrote, "Native officers cannot take the place of British officers. Eastern races, however brave and accustomed to war, do not posses the qualities that go to make good leaders of men". Lord Kitchener wrote about deep-seated racial repugnance in the Army: "Chiefly it is due to an honest belief — which is not altogether unfounded — that any substitution of Indians for British officers must be detrimental to the interests of the Army". It was only after the First World War that in recognition of the outstanding contribution of the Indian soldier, recognised the world over, the British government allowed a very small trickle of Indian officers into the Army. General, later Field Marshal, K.M. Cariappa was among the first batch of some half a dozen Indians commissioned in 1919.

 

I was a student in Patna when I first heard of Cariappa. There was a news item with his picture in the national newspapers in 1942 saying he was the first Indian to be promoted to the rank of Lt Colonel. Soon after I joined the Army in 1944, I heard that he was the first Indian to be promoted to brigadier. Little did I then imagine that I would have the great good fortune of working closely under him.

 

I first met Cariappa on August 14, 1947 at a farewell party given by Indian officers to departing British and Pakistan officers. Cariappa was the chief host and among the guests were Lord Mountbatten and Field Marshal Auchinleck. In his speech he gave fulsome praise to British officers for building our wonderful Army. He was sentimental about officers going to Pakistan, saying, "We have shared a common destiny for so long that our history is inseparable. We have been brothers. We shall always remain brothers". A silver trophy showing a Hindu and a Muslim soldier holding their rifles pointing towards a common foe was presented to Brigadier Raza, the senior officer going to Pakistan. What an irony. In less than three months Indian and Pakistan soldiers were shooting at each other on the battlefields of Kashmir.

 

On August 15, 1947 Cariappa was promoted to major-general and became the first Indian general officer. On January 20, 1948, he took over as Western Army Commander in the rank of lieutenant-general, again the first Indian officer to hold that high rank. I was a major at that headquarters as General Staff Officer, Operations. We were conducting operations in Kashmir. I had to brief him in the Operations Room about the operational situation in Jammu and Kashmir. He complimented me on my briefing and enquired about the most threatened place in the state. I replied that there were reports of heavy enemy build-up against Naushera and a major attack appeared imminent. He said he would like to go there the next day. I accompanied him to Naushera. He went round the defences and then told Brigadier Usman that Kot feature overlooked our defences and must be secured. Two days later Usman mounted a successful attack against that feature. He named it Operation Kipper, the general's nickname. A week later, over 10,000 enemy attacked Naushera. With Kot held by us, our troops inflicted a crushing defeat on the enemy, who retreated leaving over 900 dead. This was the biggest battle of the Kashmir war. Usman became a national hero.

 

Cariappa would spend some 10 days every month on tour in Kashmir and I invariably accompanied him as his staff officer. I recall two instances of his personal courage.

 

We were travelling in a jeep to Uri. The brigade commander suggested to him that the flag and star plate on the car be removed as the area near Hemen Buniyar was under enemy observation and prone to sniping. Cariappa refused and said he wanted to see how accurate the enemy firing was. On another occasion, Cariappa stood on a hilltop near Tithwal to survey enemy positions. The local commander told him that the enemy could observe us and we should view the area from inside a bunker. He ignored his advice. We all stood in the open for a few minutes. As we started coming down the hill, an enemy shell landed where we had been standing.

 

Cariappa was a few years older than my father in age. I marvelled at his stamina and energy. I found it not easy to keep pace with him. He was a staff officer's nightmare. No detail, no matter how small, escaped his eyes. I had to keep jotting down numerous points and prepare copious tour notes.

 

One day, as we returned from tour, we saw his two children coming out of his other staff car. They had missed the school bus. The ADC had sent the staff car to fetch them. Cariappa was furious at the misuse of government transport. He directed me to initiate disciplinary action against his ADC. Next morning he sent for me and enquired what action I had taken. I told him that I had admonished him and he had assured me that he would not make that mistake again. He enquired, "What about the loss of petrol to the government?" I replied that we were depositing `40 in the Treasury, at the prescribed rate for the eight miles for which the staff car had been used. He said the amount should be debited to his personal account.

 

Apart from the highest standard of personal integrity, Cariappa was a strict disciplinarian. He summarily sacked three serving major-generals, one for being drunk at a function in Raj Bhavan at Mumbai, the second for being unduly friendly with a junior officer's wife, and the third for misuse of regimental funds. In 2010, a year of scams galore, the image of the Army has also been besmirched along with that of the judiciary, bureaucracy, media, and, of course, the political leadership. The Army needs to recall the high standards set by Cariappa and endeavour to live up to them.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SHIV, PARVATI AND MARRIAGE

BY YOGI ASHWINI

 

We all know the importance of "balance" in Creation. Everything in the universe is in its place because of balance. Similarly, all the forces of nature, higher or lower, have to be in balance all the time for the sustenance of Creation. The smaller forces are nothing but a microscopic representation of the higher forces of universe.

 

The Ardhanareshwar form of Lord Shiva represents the union of Mata Parvati and Lord Shiva, the union of purush and prakriti. Both are two different aspects of nature but come together to create a perfect harmonious balance. The Ardhanareshwar form represents the union of complementary forces in nature to create a complete whole. They are one, existing without duality. That is the concept of marriage in Vedic philosophy.

 

Marriage between a man and a woman symbolically represents the Ardhanareshwar, a union between two people. When two people come together in marriage, they become an inseparable part of each other for an entire life. There is no individual identity and, therefore, no scope for divorce. In the Vedic period there was no such thing as a divorce.

 

Once a marriage was consummated, the man had to take full responsibility of the woman's needs — financial and physical — for the rest of her life and the woman in return looked after the man and his entire family with complete devotion and respect. She was responsible for expanding his family and inculcating proper values in the children.

 

Woman is considered as a force or shakti in a man's life. A woman is like fuel and man the vehicle, both come together to complete the journey of experiences they chose to go through in their lifetime. It is a certainty that a woman committed completely (in thoughts, words and deeds) to her man can take the man to any heights. There's nothing impossible for him to achieve in the physical world.

 

As every phenomenon in nature serves a purpose, there is purpose behind two people coming together also. As the root of every action is desire, this desire decides the purpose they unite for and, accordingly, they go through the experiences they had asked for. The union of two forces always occurs for Creation. Based on their desire they connect together at different levels to create, experience and go beyond. These connections, based on desire and purpose, also decide the length of that relationship.

 

The higher the purpose, longer the union. Connections are the bonds established between two people at the level at which their energies merge, that is to say connecting at the level of chakras. As we know there are certain characteristics pertaining to each chakra, and union happens at the level of these characteristics.

 

The lowest or the grossest level is that of the basic earthly desires, characteristics of mooladhar chakra. They merely satisfy the grosser needs of life such as sharing of material wealth, belongings etc. There's no higher purpose of them coming together. A little above this is the connection based on sexual desires at the level of swadhishthan chakra, or the level of physical Creation. Above this is the connection established on the plane of power, be it social, political or economic. Like it used to be in earlier times, where two empires used to come together by way of marriage between the heirs.

 

The purpose of this union was to expand the political or economic status that led to the expansion of kingdoms. Also, a merger of two kingdoms meant stronger defences against enemy aggression.

 

This is the first of a two-part series.


The second part will appear on January 26.

 

— Yogi Ashwini, an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences, is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. His most recent book is Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.


Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

GOD & INTOLERANCE

BY HUMA YUSUF

 

THE madness of one man is a tragedy, but the madness of a whole nation is a farce. The world is rightfully more shocked by Pakistan's reaction to governor Salman Taseer's brutal, senseless murder than the heinous deed itself.

 

The collective epiphany is almost audible — everyone now knows that the rot in Pakistani society is far more poisonous than anyone believed it to be. Rose garlands and Facebook fan pages? Support for the smiling assassin from so-called moderate clerics, lawyers and assorted crazies? Muted or ambivalent mumblings passed off as condemnation by the media? It is no wonder that foreign correspondents have penned the obituary of Pakistani liberalism along with eulogies for Taseer.

 

In the coming months, we can expect the international community to take greater notice of the appalling state of religious freedom and the freedom of expression in Pakistan, and to carefully monitor the debate about the blasphemy law. An editorial in the New York Times recently, for example, called for the US and the world at large to express suitable outrage over Taseer's killing.

 

In addition to being described as the foremost exporters of terrorism, Pakistanis can certainly expect to have their human rights record scrutinised and slammed. Unfortunately, Pakistan can also expect the global despondency over its society's downward spiral to have little effect on the local situation.

 

The fact is, such rhetoric will not transform into real repercussions anytime soon. The world, and especially the US, is more interested in Pakistan's utility in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, and the role that Islamabad might play in brokering a deal with the latter. International concerns about nuclear terrorism, regional stability and geostrategic one-upmanship also trump concerns about the state of human rights within the country. Although the US, European Union and other donor countries have the option to make aid and trade deals conditional on Pakistan's rights record, they are unlikely to exercise it.

 

This is unfortunate because Pakistan's blasphemy law is easily discredited within the international human rights framework. Articles 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code restrict basic freedoms of religion and expression. As pointed out in an October 2010 Freedom House report on blasphemy laws and human rights, Pakistan's law lacks safeguards against abuse since it is vague, offers no clear definitions of blasphemy and has weak evidentiary standards.

 

Moreover, although the United Nations has declared that the death penalty can only be imposed for the "most serious crimes" — understood to mean offences that result in the loss of life — Article 295-C makes the death penalty mandatory. The law also flouts the non-discrimination and equality principle because it protects one religion while targeting minority groups such as the Ahmadis for their beliefs. The implementation of the law also routinely leads to the violation of the right provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights not to be held in arbitrary detention.

 

While the international community will not exert direct pressure on Pakistan to address these myriad violations, there is one multilateral platform where an immediate backlash to Taseer's killing should be felt. Pakistan is currently leading a call at the United Nations for an internationally binding instrument to prohibit the defamation of religions.

 

Acting on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Pakistan first introduced such a resolution to the Commission on Human Rights in 1999, and similar resolutions have been passed each year since then. In October 2009, Pakistan upped the ante at the Human Rights Council by revamping its call for an international blasphemy law on the basis that defamation of religions is a form of, or catalyst for, incitement to religious hatred.

 

Let's first take a moment to consider the irony: Pakistan's greatest legislative stain — its blasphemy law — is currently its primary calling card in the human rights context on the international stage. One would think that we wouldn't have the audacity to champion the international implementation of a version of a law that has proven so dubious and dangerous at the domestic level.

 

On this front, however, many UN member states have pushed back, and are increasingly voting against the defamation of religions resolutions. They counter that an international blasphemy law violates the most basic principles of international human rights. As Freedom House puts it, the defamation of religions concept "turns human rights upside down, restricting the speech and actions of men and women for the sake of disembodied ideas".

 

Lobby groups are planning to use Taseer's murder as proof that the very existence of a blasphemy law, even when it is not being directly applied, can lead to increased intolerance, incitement to hatred and religiously motivated violence within a society — and not the other way around, as Pakistan's resolution would seem to suggest. Human rights groups are hopeful that recent events in Pakistan will help discredit the defamation of religions concept.

 

As such, the international community's tangible response to Pakistan's blasphemy law will unfold at a distant multilateral platform, one where most Pakistanis are unaware that their government is involved in any form of advocacy.

 

This, however, is a good thing. As intolerance proliferates and religiously motivated violence becomes more savage and sweeping, Pakistan will have to confront the profound failings of its blasphemy law. This confrontation must be internally motivated and directed, and cannot be perceived as an external imposition. It will also have to occur simultaneously in the streets and schools, in mosques, parliament and the courts.

 

The long process of re-evaluating, and eventually repealing, the law will only come to fruition if it is not

delegitimised in any way. As it turns out, all our lives might depend on it.

 

* The writer is the Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC

By arrangement with Dawn

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE CM SPEAKETH

A FAMOUSLY PERFUNCTORY RESPONSE

 

"IT would have been better had it not happened." The quality of mercy is strained. After deafening silence for 24 hours, this the mildest response conceivable to the Lalgarh killings. The Chief Minister's statement at the inauguration of a bridge in the Sundarbans must rank as wholly inadequate and famously perfunctory. Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had apologised after Nandigram; post-Netai, he has been breathtakingly generic and insensitive. He has urged all parties to exercise restraint; this is the standard homily on the part of the head of a tottering administration. To some, he may have come through as non-partisan; to most, however, the Chief Minister has stopped short of outright condemnation, which was the least that was expected of him. Mercifully, he has avoided a numismatic analogy ~ "They have been paid back in their own coin" (Nandigram, phase II; November 2007).


While the Chief Minister skirted the butchery, the response of the Left Front's Chief Whip in the Assembly was at once sinister, silly-smart and altogether disgraceful. Mohammad Masih has come to an oblique defence of the killers with the remark: "The assailants did not have lollilops in their hands; it wasn't rasogollas that were being thrown from outside. Every person has the right of self-defence." So what exactly is the Chief Whip trying to convey? That the party cadres had to kill eight people, including women, in self-defence? If so, Netai must have witnessed the retreat of the Chief Minister's politicised police department. Mr Masih's analogy with confectionery is infantile piffle that has made a travesty of the enormity of the tragedy.
Clearly, the party is floundering in search of a response. Today's top administrators are more tightlipped, evasive, even contradictory, than their predecessors during the Nandigram offensive. The presence of Maoists in the crowd was denied on the day of the carnage, but fairly confirmed the next. The information deficit has been appalling, the truth lost between understatement and bluster. After a partial reconquest, the party has lost Junglemahal. The Politburo, that was expecting at least 100 seats in the Assembly election, will now have to rejig its calculations. Biman Bose's pregnant silence is suggestive of the looming denouement. Benoy Konar's signal that "we hope to hold on to our base" will spell further bouts of mayhem. It is to such leaders that the Chief Minister must speedpost his message for restraint. The mildly reassuring turnaround has been lost in the bonfire of sanity.

 

PAC & THE CHIEFS

MANY A TRICKY QUERY…

GIVEN the huge importance attached to prestige, protocol and status (pique too), the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament asking the Service Chiefs to appear before it in person is decidedly unusual, and is likely to cause much misgiving in the military community. For while the "army" has always extended full respect to parliamentary institutions, it does not hold individual MPs in equal esteem ~ so the Chiefs being quizzed by politicians (generally perceived in poor light) will hardly be appreciated. Hence it would be appropriate for the PAC to spell out why this time around it deviated from the norm of the Defence Secretary and the Vice-Chiefs assisting its inquiries. Surely the PAC must be aware that the Chiefs have no personal or direct role in procuring rations. Was it because, as some reports suggest, the Service Headquarters had not responded to its queries based on the CAG's observations on foodstuffs supplied to soldiers? In that case the MoD too could be faulted for not keeping the brass in line and responding on the military's behalf, as has been the practice. But what causes disquiet even beyond the military are suspicions that the government is asking the Chiefs to go before the Committee as part of a strategy to accord exaggerated status to the PAC only to negate the Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G Spectrum scam. That would be dragging the Services into the murky arena of politics, and merits the most severe of condemnation. Yet if the CAG can be slammed by UPA-II, what's to prevent it from sacrificing the dignity of the Chiefs when covering-up its shortcomings? If the Chiefs feel they are being thus misused they must place the honour of the uniform above all else and make their unease known to the Supreme Commander ~ the President. A major precedent is being set, all implications must be duly weighed. Never before ~ not after the 1962 debacle, Bofors or the IPKF misadventure ~ were the Chiefs personally queried by a parliamentary panel. The defence minister/ministry was "answerable" to the legislature. Why the change?


This complex "development", however, ought to generate deep introspection in the military, veterans included. For it is a reflection of how recent involvement of senior defence officials in a series of unsavoury activities ~ corruption, sexual misconduct, dereliction of duty, fake encounters, land scams and so on ~ have corroded the aura of probity that once shielded the military from normal public scrutiny. Who would have dared "summon" a Cariappa or Manekshaw?

 

SAYING NO

A WOMAN'S REFUSAL

SOME men simply wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. A 75-year-old pensioner in Britain was served a restraining order for stalking the 90-year-old Dowager Duchess of Devonshire ~ the last of the notorious Mitford Sisters from the lost pre-World War II era of debutantes and unapologetic degenerate excesses. Deborah Devonshire had chatted in effortless German with Adolf Hitler over tea and translated with ease for her family when a sister enamoured with the Fuhrer had dragged them all the way to a rumbling Europe for an audience in 1937. With her husband, the late 11th Duke of Devonshire, she transformed the family's showpiece Chatsworth House, owned by the Devonshires since 1549, into a successful stately home that drew a staggering number of visitors even in an age when royalty is as irrelevant as corsets.


  And yet, when a chance visitor to her estate lost his heart to her and sent a proposal for marriage evocative of Robert Browning's "Grow old with me, the best is yet to be…", the long-term friend of the British Queen first declined politely and then sought the help of police when her admirer  refused to go away. The Press tittered and the young were indulgent, doubtless amused that the old devil called love could strike someone so obviously past the age of inviting such afflictions and that the blue-eyed object of his affections was a nonagenarian, no less, so what if a royal?


But the point remains that the Duchess' admirer refused to take 'no' for an answer. Much like the slain legislator from Bihar's Purnia district who was stabbed to death by a woman who claimed to have been raped by him a number of times. The arrested school principal said she took matters into her hands when complaints to police went unheeded and the MLA continued to take liberties with her. The Bihar legislator had to pay with his life at 51 because he didn't take a woman's refusal for what it was ~ a refusal, no more and no less. Wonder when men will learn to let it go?

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

AUTONOMY & STATEHOOD

TELANGANA REPORT RENEWS THE DEBATE

AJAY K MEHRA


THE five-member Srikrishna Commission's six-point report on Telangana has not offered a clear solution to this 50-year-old imbroglio.  In the commission's reckoning, the first three available options ~ status quo, bifurcation with Hyderabad as UT, and bifurcation into Rayal-Telangana with Hyderabad and coastal Andhra ~ are unworkable. The three workable options are: bifurcation into Seemandhra and Telangana with enlarged Hyderabad as a UT; bifurcation into Telangana and Seemandhra as per existing boundaries with Hyderabad as capital of Telangana; and unified Andhra with constitutional/statutory measures for empowerment of  the Telangana region. The committee deems the last option as the most workable. But the Telanganites are rooting for the last but one. Politics over the fate of Andhra Pradesh has intensified after the report.


One can well imagine the predicament of a government confronted with so many conflicting recommendations. The dilemma inherent in the six proposed options must be seen in the larger perspective of governance. This is what the States Reorganisation Commission did when it visualised the advantages of Vishalandhra in terms of large water and power resources, adequate mineral wealth and valuable raw materials, utilisation of the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad as the capital, and a unified control for the development of the Krishna and Godavari rivers. The economic affiliation of Telangana with the existing Andhra State would meet its food deficit with the surplus of Andhra State. The lack of coal in Andhra would be fulfilled with supplies from Singareni. Telangana will also be able to save considerable expenditure on general administration in case it is not established as a separate unit.


Obviously, the SRC rested its case for a united Telugu speaking state on economic viability and regional inter-dependence, not a weak case by any standard. Indeed, it goes against the principle of linguistic states discussed since the Motilal Nehru Committee report of 1929, but it ought to sharpen the debate on autonomy. The UPA government is trying to adopt the path of least resistance by insisting on an all-party meeting to discuss the report.


The Republic of India celebrated its diamond jubilee in 2010. Fifty-five years have passed since the Fazal Ali Commission submitted its report on the reorganisation of states, creating 14 states and seven Union Territories. Yet the principle behind the drawing of the country's internal boundaries and the issue of autonomy within the sovereign republic remains opaque. The rules of engagement have been marked by ad hocism and partisanship.
Post-Partition, the country's integrity was the major concern. The Constituent Assembly subordinated autonomy to sovereignty. While state autonomy was defined within India's 'strong-centre federalism', local autonomy was lost in Ambedkar's belief: "What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow mindedness, and communalism." Since the Sixties, scheming state leaders have pursued their agendas.


Jawaharlal Nehru questioned the idea of linguistic states. A committee set up by his father, Motilal, noted: "In a linguistic state what will the smaller communities look forward to to? Can they hope to be elected to the legislature? Can they hope to maintain a place in the state civil service?"  He was opposed to the bifurcation of the Bombay state and the Punjab. His impassioned debate with CD Deshmukh in the Lok Sabha against bifurcation of the state of Bombay ranks as one of the finest parliamentary moment.


In the second layer of federalism, the number of states has been doubled since the reorganisation of states in 1956. The country has witnessed a mini-reorganisation in each of the following decades ~ the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and at the turn of the century. The second decade of the millennium has begun with the demand for a Telangana state. This may buttress similar demands for Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand, a tri-furcation of Uttar Pradesh, and the creation of yet more states in the North-east. However, autonomy at the local level is a matter that is decided by the states despite the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments.


The demand for Telangana covers ten districts  of the north-western region of Andhra Pradesh ~ Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam, Nalgonda, Mahaboobnagar, Medak, Nizamabad, Hyderabad and Rangareddy. Altogether it covers 98,811 sq. km, constituting nearly one-third of the state. Even when the Andhra state was constituted in 1953, the demand for Vishalandhra and Telangana was raised. Nehru visualised a 'tint of expansionist imperialism' in merging Telangana with Andhra, but when the SRC recommended the merger despite a bias for a separate Telangana, he described it as a matrimonial alliance with 'provisions for divorce' if the partners in the alliance cannot get on well.


However, CH Hanumantha Rao in his book, Regional Disparities, Smaller States and Statehood for Telangana, published by Academic Foundation in 2010, has shown that from the mid-1950s to the late-1960s, the expenditure (38 per cent) on the region was less than receipts (40 per cent). Krishnamurthy Subramanian of Indian School of Business (Economic Times, 3 January 2011) has statistically demolished the claims of the Telangana protagonists.


The Srikrishna Commission has not found statistical support for claims regarding under-development of the Telangana region. Economic and human development in multi-region states has been caught in the web of avoidable partisan politics, strengthening the argument for smaller and more homogenous states.
Social scientists are yet to establish a clear co-relation between autonomy and development. The views differ.

 

Mancur Olson argues that democracy provides the best socio-political environment for economic development. Douglas Lummis maintains that development undermines democratic ideals. Amartya Sen laments that the record of democracy in ensuring development in developing countries is mixed or even negative.  Bruce Bueno De Mesquita argues that the link between economic development and what is generally called liberal democracy is actually quite weak and may even become weaker.


The Indian experience reflects this dilemma. Why did state autonomy not ensure adequate power and resource-sharing among regions? Other instruments of autonomy ensured by the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution, such as the panchayati raj under the Balwant Rai Mehta scheme and now under the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments have not ensured  autonomy either.


In India, autonomy and development are  linked to good governance and optimum distribution of powers and resources. The linkage of  autonomy and development in the era of economic liberalisation is an imperative under which the issues of small governable states, effective sub-state democratic institutions and judicious distribution of power and resources should be addressed. Given the demands for ethno-regional autonomy and new states, it is necessary to set up a second SRC to attend to disputes and evolve a consensus towards a long-term solution.


The writer is Honorary Director, Centre for Public Affairs, Noida

 

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THE STATESMAN

THE CRISIS OF CREDIBILITY

IT'S NEITHER CORRUPTION NOR INDIFFERENT GOVERNANCE.

THE BIGGEST CRISIS AT THE MOMENT IS THAT PEOPLE NO LONGER KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE WHEN THE UPA GOVERNMENT ASSERTS ANYTHING, WRITES RAJINDER PURI

 

The biggest crisis facing the UPA government is not that it is corrupt. The scale of corruption is mind boggling but people have been seeing corruption for a long time. The biggest crisis is not that the government cannot govern. People have lived with lack of governance for decades. The biggest crisis right now is that people do not know what to believe when the government asserts anything. Rightly or wrongly ministers are perceived as a bunch of liars. The biggest crisis is the crisis of credibility. The government has to blame itself if it is perceived to be congenitally unreliable.


For months, the government rushed to the Press asserting that there was Pakistan's hand in the Samjhauta Express blast. It claimed that the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) was involved in the Malegaon blast. Followers of SIMI were questioned and even arrested for perpetrating the terrorist attack. Now we are told that sections of the RSS perpetrated these terrorist acts. This is based upon the confession before a magistrate by Swami Aseemanand who is in police custody. So was Pakistan blameless in these terrorist attacks? Surely then, apologies to Pakistan are in order.


Congress general secretary Mr Digvijay Singh said that Mumbai's slain police officer Hemant Karkare spoke with him on phone just three hours before being killed in the 26/11 terror. Singh said that Karkare told him that he was being threatened death by Hindu right-wing extremists. According to media reports Singh gave two versions. He telephoned Karkare and that Karkare telephoned him. Mumbai investigators said there was no record of Karkare having spoken on any such call. The telephone authorities said that they did not preserve the records after 13 months.


Mr Digvijay Singh used his influence and obtained the recorded call from BSNL. He displayed to the press the copy of the recorded call. Mr Singh shared his information with the media two years after the event. But did he convey the crucial information he had gathered in his conversation with Karkare to the investigative authorities immediately after Karkare was killed? The investigative authorities should tell us. If he did not, it was an astounding omission by a senior political leader! Now lay people ask whether Mr Singh's paper record of the phone conversation is genuine or fraudulently created by the phone authorities. One is sure it is genuine. Mr Singh speaks the truth. But after the erratic manner of disseminating information can ordinary people be blamed for being skeptical? Will it surprise if someone actually does utilise the Right to Information Act for verifying the truth? The CBI's disclosure of Aseemanand's confession came on the heels of Mr Digvijay Singh's tirade against RSS terror.


Telecom minister Mr Kapil Sibal has discovered that there was zero loss in the award of Spectrum 2G licenses and former telecom minister Mr A Raja had merely violated procedure. Should not Mr Sibal step aside and allow the financially blameless Mr Raja back in his post? Meanwhile, the court has accepted the plea by Mr Subramaniam Swamy to prosecute Mr Raja. The judge said: "I have gone through the complaint and the bunch of annexures…and I am of the view that this complaint is maintainable and the proceedings will continue." So who is right, Mr Kapil Sibal who claims that Mr Raja merely overlooked procedure, or the court which believes that his alleged corruption deserves judicial hearing? People are confused.


One can go on. But one does not have to specify the self contradictions of this government in various spheres. One is sure that all the ministers are very, very honourable people. But as wise politicians they must know that politics is a matter of perception. And rightly or wrongly the people are beginning to perceive this government as being totally unreliable. The people must be very mistaken of course. But it is for our wise government to make sure that they are made to correct their mistaken view. Otherwise the crisis of credibility can extract a frightening price from our democratic system.


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

NOW & AGAIN

ANINDITA CHOWDHURY

 

Amake amar moto thakte dao

Aami nije ke nijer moton guchiye niyechi"


(Crudely translated: Let me be, I have learnt to lead life on my own terms)


The first time I heard this, the crooner was my five-year-old daughter who had reduced it to a two-line chant for want of familiarity with the rest of the lyrics. The tuneless refrain shocked me first, stunned that my little girl should demand independence barely out of babyhood. And, then it hit me. It was but a popular song from a recent release that has taken Tollywood by storm and not just because it is touted as the director's contemporary interpretation of Satyajit Ray's Nayak from four decades ago. Since I lead a life exclusive of the idiot box and the FM, I depend on my daughter to update me on the city's pop culture. But her latest rendition certainly rendered me speechless, I couldn't help wondering if the lyricist had nagging mothers as his inspiration.
And, I am not alone. A friend told me that her 15-year-old son would break into the song whenever she tried to tell him that life was also about studies, some discipline and giving an occasional ear to hapless parents. The song is everywhere ~ as an increasingly popular cellphone ringtone, blaring from the FM, belted out by irrepressible youngsters on public transport, as caller tunes and even in the exhortation of cellular companies who beg you to adopt it as your caller tune. That a song glorifying personal privacy should be so popular in the Indian milieu is flabbergasting. And, it may even prove effective. The most persistent caller can be discouraged with the song as one's caller tune. After minutes of an unrelenting tribute to time alone, it may just sink in that the subscriber doesn't want to be disturbed, after all.  


The other day, I found my forty-something colleague humming the tune. It became immediately apparent that the song, which I had discarded as a fad favoured by, well, a younger generation, had certainly managed to breach the age barrier. I read somewhere that the song was meant to depict the emotional state of a man tending a broken heart. A study of the rest of the lyrics made it clear that as far as we were concerned, it could very well go for a toss. It was the first two lines that mattered. Why so?


Because we have all had enough! Enough of bone-crushing expectations from family and friends, colleagues and peers. Enough of leading a life on terms not entirely our own. Enough of hiding behind euphemisms that refuse to drown out an emptiness of the soul. And, enough of politicians who will go on insulting our intelligence, forever. Really, we have had enough! 

 

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THE STATESMAN

INDIA BAGS LEADING ROLE IN ANTI-TERROR PANEL

 

The United Nations Security Council has elected Indian Ambassador to the UN, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, to chair the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) established pursuant to resolution 1373 of 2001. It also appointed him to a working group established pursuant to resolution no 1566 of 2004 concerning threat to international peace and security by terrorist acts, according to a Press release issued by the Indian mission in New York. Mr Puri has been elected to chair the Security Council committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, the mission said in the statement. India assumed a non-permanent seat in the Security Council in January 2011 for a two-year term.


The Counter-Terrorism Committee was established by a Security Council resolution (number 1373) that was adopted unanimously on 28 September, 2001 in the aftermath of 11 September terrorist attacks in the USA. It monitors the implementation of resolution 1373, which enjoins upon all countries to implement a number of measures intended to enhance their legal and institutional ability to counter terrorist activities at home, in their regions and around the world. The countries are urged to: criminalise the financing of terrorism, freeze without delay any funds related to persons involved in acts of terrorism, deny all forms of financial support to terrorist groups, suppress the provision of safe haven, sustenance or support for terrorists, share information with other governments on any groups practicing or planning terrorist acts, cooperate with other governments in the investigation, detection, arrest, extradition and prosecution of those involved in such acts and criminalise active and passive assistance for terrorism in domestic law and bring violators to justice. The committee is assisted in its work by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate which coordinates the process of monitoring the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001).


India, during its chairmanship of the CTC, will work to further strengthen the international legal framework for counter-terrorism. It will endeavour to increase international cooperation in the fight against terrorism by the UN member states uniformly and without exception, given its experience in its fight against the menace of terrorism for more than two decades, the mission said in the Press release. India will seek to enhance cooperation among different international institutions and national authorities engaged in fighting terrorism that will help strengthen the implementation of best practices globally and will provide adequate assistance for building the capacity of nation-states to fight terrorism, it added.


The Security Council committee, established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, oversees the implementation of a number of measures, including imposition of arms embargo and travel ban on listed individuals and entities, including freezing of their assets as it deems appropriate. India will promote full implementation of these measures, given its experience in fighting terrorism for more than two decades, the mission statement read. Also, India will bring its wide experiences in nation-building and that of its Navy in fighting piracy to further international cooperation so that Somalia does not become a safe haven for terrorists and pirates, the Indian mission in New York said in the statement.

NEPAL IMPASSE WORRIES UN AS MISSION

DEPARTURE NEARS

The representative and the head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), Ms Karin Landgren, told the Security Council in a final briefing that the country's peace process was largely deadlocked and predictions of its failure could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, when the UN closed its political office in the country on 15 January. Ms Landgren said that there had been little progress on the most critical issues of forming a new government and integrating 19,000 former Maoist rebels, and scant advances on writing a new Constitution. The UN set up the political mission in 2007 after the government and Maoists reached a peace agreement that marked the end of a civil war in which 13,000 died. "While Nepal's dramatic political gains are not likely to be reversed, the risks have clearly grown," she said. "There have been, at times, fears among many Nepali people over the prospect of a 'people's revolt' which remains an explicit Maoist threat; of the President stepping in or of an army-backed coup. Any such measure would sorely threaten peace and Nepal's fragile democracy". The UNMIN will leave the country on 15 January, when its Security Council mandate expires. Its activities included monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of the state and Maoist armies, while the parties themselves were to complete the reintegration and rehabilitation of former Maoist rebels either with the Nepal army and police or in other sectors. She said that arms monitoring had been "strikingly successful" with violations the exception, but the stakeholders were yet to agree on a monitoring mechanism to replace UNMIN when it ended its mission.


"It is not clear what will happen after the UNMIN withdraws," Ms Landgren added, warning of "legal void". She described how the Maoists had rejected Prime Minister Mr Madhav Kumar Nepal's proposal to exempt the Nepalese army from UN monitoring. As for the Maoist reintegration, Ms Landgren noted that major issues remained unresolved, including the number of former rebels to be integrated into the security forces as also whether former rebels would be integrated into the army and police or other security forces and the value of the proposed rehabilitation packages. There has been little progress on forming a new government since Mr Nepal resigned in June. "At issue is not merely whether a new government can be formed, but whether Nepal's peace process can move forward without it," she warned. She cited growing differences within and mistrust among the major political parties. "The failure of the peace process to advance has strengthened the hand of those on all sides who deride it as unproductive or far too slow," she said. She noted how close the Constituent Assembly had come to a premature end in May owing to these differences. Ms Landgren urged the parties concerned to show flexibility in charting a way forward and she praised the UNMIN for performing its mandated tasks even as the process remained incomplete.


"This peace process can be brought to a close in two ways: satisfactorily, through the negotiated resolution of outstanding issues, or abortively, with one or more parties reneging on their solemn commitments," Ms Landgren said. "Setbacks and challenges are inevitable but it is in the interest of the country, the region and the international community as a whole that the peace process be maintained, respected and steered to a proper close."

Ban condemns Pak Governor's assassination

UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon has condemned the assassination of the Governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, Mr Salmaan Taseer. He described the death of the prominent leader as a loss for Pakistan in a statement issued by UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky in New York. Mr Ban extends his condolences to the family of Mr Taseer and to the government and the people of Pakistan, the statement read.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEED TO CLARIFY

The precise nature of the scam concerning the second-generation telecom licences in 2007 continues to be elusive. The notion of a "presumptive loss" to the exchequer is too abstract to pin down. Moreover, any loss to the exchequer, presumed or otherwise, must be separated from the alleged personal corruption of a minister. Theoretically, it is possible for a minister to make money on a deal without any significant loss to the exchequer. To validate the charge of a scam, it is necessary to present figures that prove that the exchequer suffered real (not notional) losses. To this extent, the calculations of Kapil Sibal, the telecommunications minister, sound credible because they scale down the losses from the colossal and improbable amount of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. Mr Sibal's exercise is important and should have been done much earlier by the government to save itself from getting egg on its face. It is significant that Mr Sibal has offered no comments on the alleged misdemeanour of his predecessor. It is entirely possible that the issue of 2G telecom licences became a cause célèbre and was blown out of proportion because of matters that were central to it: the allegations of corruption, the phone tapping, the revelations about Niira Radia, and so on. The comptroller and auditor general of India needs to remain focused on the precise nature and amount of the loss inflicted without getting excited by the extraneous issues.

In the matter concerning the allocation of 2G licences for spectrum, some other factors need to be considered. Before these allocations commenced, the market was monopolized by certain big players. There was a need to open up the market and bring in newer players. The latter could be attracted only if the prices were not exorbitantly high. The government's priorities, at this stage, were not to maximize gains to the exchequer but to break the monopoly and prepare the ground for larger gains in the future. The success of this approach made possible the money that was made in the course of the 3G allocations. The figures of the 3G allocations cannot be projected backwards on to the 2G process, since the priorities on which the two allocations proceeded were different. It is because of this projection that the idea of "presumptive loss" has gained currency. This perspective has nothing to do with the venality or otherwise of the concerned minister. The principles and the individual must be kept distinct.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

MARGINAL PEOPLE

Ethnic tensions require governments in the Northeast to act fast and decisively in times of crisis. The challenge is greater when such tensions simmer on the border between two states. The carnage on the Assam-Meghalaya border clearly shows how the two governments failed to tackle the challenge. Such was the lack of preparedness on the part of the authorities that killings and arson continued even during a curfew. Yet, neither Dispur nor Shillong could have been unaware of the conflicts between sections of the Garo and the Rabha communities living close to each other. There had been examples in the past of conflicts leading to widespread violence. It was tragic, but not surprising, that a sluggish administration could not prevent the latest violence that left at least four people dead, scores injured, and thousands homeless. Politicians have now made their customary visits to burnt-down homes and to relief camps sheltering the homeless. Peace committees comprising members from both ethnic groups have been formed. The curious thing is that the two governments did not think of doing such things when the tension was simmering. Politicians, on both sides, probably find the violence-hit area too far away and the people there too poor to merit their attention.

The first task for both Assam and Meghalaya is to provide succour to the homeless. With the number of the people sheltered in the relief camps rising almost daily, it is absolutely crucial that road links be kept open in order to ensure the supply of essential items, drinking water and medicine. The Assam government must foil attempts to block the road linking Goalpara to Meghalaya. A major humanitarian crisis could explode if the government fails to do this. Involving the peace committees in the task will be a huge challenge for the local administration. But there are more important, long-term measures the governments in the region need to work on. There are several other flashpoints on interstate borders in the Northeast. Assam periodically faces tensions and even conflicts on its border with Nagaland as well. Some of these conflicts are territorial and their resolutions require the Centre's intervention. But the violence involving the Garos and the Rabhas was triggered by isolated acts of crime. It may not be the last of such tragedies if governments and politicians in the region ignore the warnings.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

WHERE IS LEARNING?

 TECHNOLOGY HAS PROVIDED A UNIQUE TOOL FOR THE SPREAD OF EDUCATION WRITING ON THE WALL ASHOK V. DESAI

I have been a critic of the government's efforts to make all children go to school, and its self-congratulation at having pushed up the proportion of children in school close to 100 per cent. From what I have observed, I believe most government schools to be jails for children, where teachers are often absent or not conscientious and children learn very little from them. Since the government thinks otherwise, it is unlikely to allow objective studies of how much children learn in schools. Meanwhile, interesting information has been thrown up on this question in the United States of America, and reviewed by John H. Falk and Lynn D. Dierking in the American Scientist.

The context of the debate in the US is somewhat different. It has long been known that American children do less well in standardized science tests than European ones. The generally assumed explanation is that less science is taught in the US, and that American schoolteachers teach less well. Out of this belief arose a movement to expand and improve the teaching of science in American schools.

Meanwhile, new data have accumulated that change the picture somewhat. American children in elementary schools perform as well as, or better than, children elsewhere in science tests. Older children's performance is worse than their peers' abroad. But American adults perform better than their compeers in Europe, Japan and Korea. It would therefore seem that American elementary schools are better, secondary schools worse, and universities better than elsewhere — and that Americans are good at making up later for their early deficiencies in education.

 

However, it now emerges that elementary schoolteachers in the US are largely unqualified in science, and that they teach very little science in school. So if their pupils perform better than European children, it can have little to do with their school lessons. They are taught science much better in middle school — precisely when their performance falls behind that of children in other countries. And while science teaching improves in US universities, less than a third of US adults took a science course in university. If they end up being better than adults in other countries, it has little to do with what they were taught.

 

Where then do they pick up their scientific knowledge? One obvious possible source is museums, exhibitions, botanical gardens and other public facilities. They must play a role. An example is a 50-ft statue of a woman laid out in California Science Center in California, showing physiological processes such as circulation and digestion. Before this statue was displayed, only seven per cent of Los Angelists could explain the concept of homoeostasis — the tendency of an organism to return to healthy equilibrium after it was disturbed. After it was displayed, the proportion tripled. A more convincing example is the recent oil spill on the Texas coast. It got so much exposure in the media that millions picked up elements of oil drilling and its dangers. Peddlers on Indian streets and in bazaars obviously work out all the time how much money their customers owe them and how much change to give them. It is doubtful if many of them learnt those skills in school.

 

Thus, science in people's day-to-day life teaches them a high proportion of what they own or retain as adults. A part of this life, for children, is life with their parents; having parents who are educated or curious immensely increases their chances of learning science. This is true not only of science, but of all knowledge. Indians in general, are politically quite sophisticated. That is not because they are painstakingly made to memorize the names of parties and politicians in school; it is because media of one sort or another reach something like a half of the population, and people discuss and disseminate what they learn thereby.

 

It would be futile to campaign against the public stress on universal schooling. It is a part of the ruling establishment's ideology; the establishment is blind to all evidence of the ineffectiveness of its schools, and bent on wasting crores on useless schools. We should, instead, ask ourselves how we can improve the circulation of knowledge in the adult society; if adults become wiser and more knowledgeable, their children will automatically acquire knowledge.

 

In this respect, the dissemination of political sophistication is instructive. India has an enormous number of newspapers and magazines. They are dirt-cheap by world standards, and consequently reach a high proportion of the population. We only have to compare ourselves with our neighbours, the Pakistanis. Their newspapers cost three to five times as much as ours, so much fewer Pakistanis read newspapers, and many more fall prey instead to free but poisonous propaganda of mullahs financed by the Saudis.

 

We already have vibrant media with a wide reach across the population. Just now, however, they propagate a very limited range of subjects – basically, politics, Bollywood and cricket. In these areas they are amazingly effective. Even a child in India can discuss the relative strengths of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, or the relative attractiveness of Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoor. It could acquire the same sophistication in the relative merits of different soils, or the relative costs of different sources of electricity — if only the media conveyed these.

 

Why then do the media not convey such knowledge? Because they live on advertisements, advertisers place their advertisements in the media with the highest circulation, and Katrina and Sachin generate circulation. If the media are to disseminate knowledge, someone has to pay them to do so. The most appropriate paymaster is the government. One way would be for the government to start education channels. But it will run them just as it does its other channels now. One only has to look at the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha channels today to see how good the government is at putting off the viewer. The government may finance education channels, but it should leave their management to teachers skilled in propaganda. Or it should find such teachers, and let them buy time on popular television channels. The way to spread education is to mix it up inseparably with entertainment.

 

This does not apply only to the media; it applies even more to the internet, which is even better suited for imparting education. The cost of production and dissemination of content for the internet is a fraction of the cost on other media. The government should subsidize the internet to the point that it becomes available to the bulk of the population; it should pay to place content on the internet which is structured enough for progressive education. I can say from personal experience that my own education has been greatly accelerated by the internet. Above all, the internet has given me the opportunity to pick up knowledge on the go; it has diversified my knowledge. This happened to me in my old age; I wish it had happened in my childhood. But it can happen to our children today; if it did, they would contribute far more to the country's development. Technology has brought us an unprecedented, invaluable opportunity; if only the government could see it, we would become a unique superpower.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

THERE COMES A TIDE IN THE AFFAIRS OF NATIONS

 

In spite of the goodwill generated by the visit of the prime minister of Bangladesh to India sometime ago, bilateral ties between the nations are still caught in a bureaucratic stupor, writes Krishnan Srinivasan

 

Of all parts of India, West Bengal has the closest emotional, cultural, trade and linguistic ties with Bangladesh, and the coverage of Bangladesh in the West Bengal media is more extensive than that in the rest of India. Thus Calcutta is, naturally, the first to register storm warnings in relations when they arise.

 

A year has passed since the visit of the Bangladesh prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, to India. It led to an optimism that portended a new dawn for ties between the two neighbours. Both countries seemed acutely aware of the interests of the other, and undertook to protect and enhance these interests to the best of their ability. But with the passage of time, there have been mutterings in Dhaka, even among India's well-wishers, that while Bangladesh has been responsive to India's priorities, New Delhi has been negligent in living up to its undertakings. Such negativity has a bearing on Wajed's political stability and future electoral prospects, and, therefore, should be a cause for concern in New Delhi and spur immediate remedial measures.

 

The necessity for excellent relations with Bangladesh is an objective shared across party lines in India. The government of India is not wittingly causing harm to Bangladesh or the Awami League-led alliance that came to power in the elections of December 2008. The malaise stems from India's lamentably apathetic bureaucracy, the lack of time and attention from those in charge of Bangladesh affairs in the South and North Blocks in New Delhi, and the non-engaged style of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is unable to have his wishes translated into action by his subordinates. For the Indian bureaucracy, the timeline stretches perhaps as far as the next elections in Bangladesh in 2013, and Bangladesh is regarded as just another country in the wide agenda it deals with. But for the Bangladesh leadership, time is fast running out for operationalizing the decisions taken during Wajed's visit to show some solid achievements on the ground.

 

Indian security concerns about terrorist infiltration from Bangladesh, assistance to militant organizations in the Northeast, connectivity through Bangladesh and the use of Bangladesh's ports appear to have been addressed satisfactorily. The lower level of insurgency in the Northeast can be directly attributed to the crack-down on safe-havens in Bangladesh for Islamist terrorists and on militants across the border. Wajed has taken political risks and has gone out on a limb to protect Indian interests, and she deserves high praise and show of gratitude for her courage.

 

Nevertheless, on many of Bangladesh's concerns to be addressed by India, action and urgency are hardly apparent. On the sharing of the Teesta river waters, there is yet no interim agreement although the second dry season after Wajed's visit is rapidly approaching. Has the government of West Bengal, the state most directly affected, yet been consulted by New Delhi? The government in Calcutta is inert on all issues, and so may not be willing or able to respond. Perhaps there is logic in waiting for the state elections to take place. India's domestic compulsions may seem plausible, but the delay lends energy to its antagonists across the border. Besides, the public in Bangladesh has no understanding of such arguments. Singh is expected to reciprocate Wajed's visit this year, and a Teesta settlement cannot possibly be postponed beyond that date.

 

On the land border, the joint boundary working group met in November last year after an inexplicable delay. Field work is done through surveys in the dry season and it is hoped that a comprehensive settlement of all outstanding issues will be possible not later than Singh's proposed visit. The long-standing problem of Tin Bigha in West Bengal is part of the boundary issue. India has agreed to build a flyover to ensure 24-hour access, but land procurement is running into predictable opposition. There is no acquisition without such problems nowadays, even where Indian interests are adversely affected. One obvious answer to the problem lies in traffic management by both sides that would allow 24-hour access immediately to both parties till India is able to construct the flyover. Such practical solutions should not be beyond the imagination and physical capacity of both countries.

 

Until the boundary is resolved, clashes between the Bangladesh Rifles and the Border Security Force will continue, such as the recent one in the Sylhet-Tamabil sector, because there are always elements on one side or both who act mischievously to secure greater advantage. The inspector-general of the BSF has recently claimed in Calcutta that his forces exercise the greatest restraint, but according to his own estimate, there have been 20 cases of firing in the past four months — which is excessive and unacceptable.

 

Matters are moving steadily on power grid connections between West Bengal and Bangladesh and on the feasibility study of the Khulna and Chittagong thermal plants by the National Thermal Power Corporation. Bangladesh has expressed interest in participating as equity shareholders in power projects, whether hydro, thermal or gas, in the states of West Bengal, Tripura, Mizoram, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This is highly desirable and should pave the way to a network of interdependence that would help both countries in securing energy security. In this case, however, the Indian power ministry to yet to schedule a steering committee meeting after several months.

 

Turning to trade, the physical infrastructure of the customs stations on the Indian side is pathetic compared to that on the Bangladesh side, but nothing has been done to rectify this. Petrapole station remains as chaotic as before despite New Delhi's approval of an upgrade. This is attributable directly to the stasis in the West Bengal government, but such delays play into the hands of Wajed's political opponents and arouse the ire of Bangladesh's traders, who interpret these as attempts to deliberately erect non-tariff barriers against Bangladesh.

 

There has been no progress on Bangladesh's request for removal of another five dozen items from the "sensitive list" of the south Asia free trade area. Of these, four dozen relate to the textile sector. India's protectionist lobby must never be underestimated, and a firm political directive is required to overcome the habitual obstruction to any liberalization. However sympathetic Singh and Anand Sharma, the Union minister for commerce and industry, may be, they are hostage to the textile ministry, which in turn is hostage to the strong textile lobby in south India. An announcement on the import concessions needs to be made before the prime minister's Dhaka visit. Failing this, the powerful garments sector in Bangladesh will become increasingly hostile. This will generate a strongly anti-India sentiment on the domestic political scene and have implications for Wajed's political stability.

 

In short, too many issues that should have been settled by now are caught in a logjam and are to be addressed before or during Singh's expected journey to Dhaka. It is most unsatisfactory that pending matters should be resolved this way. The highest level of the New Delhi establishment has clearly been unable to convey its commitment to the working levels or to the West Bengal government. When India is trying to reconfigure its relationship, based on mutual benefit, with Bangladesh, it would have been logical to appoint a person with close access to the prime minister to closely monitor progress along a fixed timeline, identify bottlenecks and convey the prime minister's instructions on how those should be removed. Instead, India-Bangladesh relations have been left to the customary inter-ministerial process led by an over-burdened external affairs ministry that now deals with ceaseless VIP visits, each with claims for undivided attention. The government of India is unchanged since Lord Curzon's lament: "Round and round", he noted, "like the diurnal revolution of the earth went the file — stately, solemn, sure and slow." This will just not do in the case of Bangladesh today. The stakes for India are much too high.

 

Is anyone in New Delhi listening?

 

The author is former foreign secretary of India

 

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

EDITORIAL

COLD COMFORT

''INDIA'S WANING INFLUENCE IN AFGHANISTAN IS EVIDENT.''


The warm words exchanged between Afghan president Hamid Karzai and external affairs minister S M Krishna during the latter's visit to Kabul will provide India with cold comfort. The scenario that is likely to emerge in Afghanistan after the pullout of US troops begins in July is expected to have serious ramifications for India's security. It is expected that a government, which includes the Taliban and closely aligned to Pakistan will emerge in Afghanistan.


Given India's past experience with the Taliban, Delhi is understandably concerned. Negotiations are on to determine the content and complexion of the dispensation. Karzai has assured India that his government will not make any move that is detrimental to India's interests. However, whether Karzai wields the kind of clout to ensure this is debatable.


Several meetings between regional actors and global powers have been taking place in recent months on building peace in Afghanistan. India has not been invited to any of these dialogues. Clearly, with Pakistan calling the shots and every actor in the Afghan drama aware that it is Islamabad, not Delhi that determines the future of reconciliation in Afghanistan, governments have preferred to toe Pakistan's line to exclude India.


It is a pity that Afghanistan's future is being crafted abroad — in Pakistan to be precise. A lasting peace requires the process to have strong foundations among the locals. It must be made in Afghanistan and for Afghans if the people should develop a strong sense of ownership over the peace process.


India's waning influence in Afghanistan, notwithstanding its enormous investment in the reconstruction, is unfortunate. A part of the reason for this lies in Delhi's failure to build bonds with local Pasthuns.


It has only itself to blame for the growing isolation it faces in the region, reduced to the role of a helpless bystander. Delhi hitched its Afghan policy to that of the Americans and with the fortunes of the latter fading in Afghanistan, India too has been pushed to the sidelines. India has been talking about coordinating its approach with that of Iran and Russia but has done little to take this forward.


In the context of deteriorating relations with Iran, the possibility of India and Iran working together to deal with a resurgent Taliban has come to a naught. Delhi's failure to see the emergence of Turkey as an important actor in the evolving Afghan situation indicates how isolated it is in the region today.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

POWER OF YOUTH

''THE FRANCHISES WANT GOOD RETURNS FOR INVESTMENT.''


The player auction ahead of the Indian Premier League's fourth edition clearly indicated that the old boys' network no longer has the charm. Legendary names, who enthralled cricket lovers for well over a decade or so, failed to attract any serious bid from the ten franchises, a pointer to the fact that the momentum has shifted in favour of the youth.


Players like Saurabh Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan and Rohit Sharma, still the babies of international cricket, bagged eye-popping contracts and it's also a pointer to the fact that the franchises have put utility ahead of sentiments. Sourav Ganguly, Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas had bowled us over during their active stints. But the quartet elicited no response in the bidding process, effectively snuffing out any hopes of seeing them once more on a cricket field.


Even before the auction started franchises had made their mindset clear, by not retaining many of the big names. The exceptions were Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, but then they have been exceptions to common norms all along their respective careers.


Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman should consider themselves fortunate to attract bids, lowly ones though, after Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers decided not to buy them back. To a cricket fan, the franchises' cold logic might have appeared disrespectful to some of the modern greats of the game. But if you tear the veil of sentimentalism, the calculative and professional approach of the franchises can be discovered.

The franchises have been spending big money to acquire the players and they want to see the returns. A similar thought went behind not purchasing many players from England, for instance. They will not be available for the entire duration of the IPL due to international commitments and the franchises did not want to invest in players with truncated tenures. Similarly, the Pakistani cricketers have immense talent and they have proved their ability at the top-flight cricket, but extraneous circumstances prevented them from being a part of the auction.

The recent allegations of spot fixing against their players ended the Pakistani players' ambitions of adding substantial sums to their back account. But the absence of Pakistani players in no way reduced the glamour or power of youth in the auction. Let's raise a toast for the youth.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

HURRIYAT'S BIG LIE B G VERGHESE

 

The US support for the military-mullah combine has been at the cost of Pakistan's fragile democracy and civil society.


The deepening political gloom in Pakistan is fast darkening into a dangerous and uncertain night of medieval barbarism that threatens its very coherence and the entire neighbourhood.



Two seemingly separate but related events last week point in this direction. Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat confessed in Srinagar that the Hurriyat has been living a lie. In Pakistan, a bold, liberal voice for sanity was silenced with the brutal assassination of the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer.


Prof Bhat told a seminar that Maulvi Farooq (the former Mir Waiz), Abdul Ghani Lone and other leading intellectuals were killed not by the Indian Amy or police but "by our own people." The separatist movement needed such 'martyrs' for the cause, which Pakistan has mentored, financed and armed.


The present Mir Waiz, Umar Farooq, has disowned his father, who spoke in accents of peace as did Ghani Lone. Fear stalks Kashmir, where truth has been and remains a prime casualty: the ethnic cleansing of Pandits, the false charge of mass rape at Kunan Poshpora, the wanton destruction of Charar-e-Sharif by Must Gul and his thugs from Pakistan, the artificial frenzy whipped up over the alleged evil design to effect a demographic change through the machinations of the Amarnath Yatra Board, the Shopian incident, the more recent stone pelting carnival and other events, all of which have unravelled. 'Martyrs' are needed for myth-making.

This is not to dismiss or condone human rights violations by the State in J&K. It is to underline the role the 'Big Lie' plays in furthering the 'cause' by instilling fear and hatred of the 'enemy' and putting it on the defensive. The separatists' silence after Prof Bhat's denunciatory truth-telling is eloquent. The counterpart is the BJP's wholly negative role in whipping up counter-jingoism through a march to the Lal Chowk on Republic Day to hoist the national flag.


In Rawalpindi, Taseer was gunned down by a member of his own bodyguard (who had earlier been temporarily removed from the special branch duty on suspicion of being a security threat) while the rest of the security detail merely watched. Taseer's crime: he criticised the death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, under Pakistan's obnoxious Blasphemy Law.


The mullahs and religious extremists have applauded the murder. It was not easy to find a member of the clergy to lead the funeral prayers for the deceased. By volunteering to defend him, members of the Bar (who fought Musharraf's tyranny not so long ago) and powerful sections of the media have virtually upheld the assassin. The Lahore high court said it would annul any pardon the governor might grant Aasia Bibi.


A senator, Sherry Rehman, who has moved a Bill for repeal of the Blasphemy Law, has been threatened. PPP ministers have spoken in favour of the blasphemy law (which makes a mockery of due process and justice). Nawaz Sharif has said Taseer should have acted more cautiously as both fundamentalists and liberals must speak with balance and moderation as 'people here want the blasphemy law.'


Talibanisation

The clerics have raised their voice in Pakistan and democrats are in retreat. The Talibanisation of Pakistan has proceeded apace. Radical Islam has displaced the humanistic sufi, syncretic Islam of the sub-continent, as in J&K too. Rival fanaticisms feed on one another and threaten peace and social harmony.


This was not the Pakistan Jinnah envisaged. But he unleashed a tiger by championing false two-nation theory buttressed by 'direct action' that inevitably went out of control.


The rot started with the language riots in East Pakistan and the anti-Ahmediya movement in the early 1950s.


Religious zealotry could not bind the nation. Nor was the new state able to define what or who it meant by Islam. Failing to develop an identity of its own, Kashmir (the theory of a moth-eaten Pakistan) and an ever more radical Islam became a political opiate, pushed long by Zia-ul-Haq (with American/western encouragement to battle Soviet communism) until Talibanisation was put on auto-pilot, bringing into being an enigmatic military-mullah combine. Afghanistan fuels this partnership.


American support for the military-mullah combine has been at the cost of Pakistan's ever-fragile democracy and civil society which has struggled to take root in a feudal, militarised society in which both the military and the mullahs seek legitimacy in battling a permanent 'enemy' in (Hindu) India which 'occupies' Kashmir. This denial of its own identity in favour of the 'Ideology of Pakistan' has been the country's undoing.


However, deep down, the ordinary people of Pakistan remain liberal and yearn for democratic self-determination for themselves. The Pakistan human rights commission, the newly formed Citizens for Democracy and similar groups symbolise this yearning. These are elements with which India (and the world) must engage even as we dialogue with the powers-that-be. Yet we have erected barriers against intellectual and cultural exchange on exaggerated security considerations.


There has to be a serious national debate on how we engage with Pakistan and not only with its government. Let us try and get liberal Pakistan (and Bangladesh) scholars to join their Indian counterparts in writing a common, objective, popular social and cultural history of the sub-continent. Poisoned and parochial histories divide and build walls of hate and suspicion.


These may be small beginnings, apart from finding common ground for partnership in matters of global trade, climate change and so forth. A liberal, united, stable, prosperous Pakistan is in India's highest interest. A sensible J&K solution (internal and external) is also urgently necessary to remove illusions and irritants. This is where Prof Bhat has blazed a new path.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

SOWING SEEDS

 NAMITHA ANNAIAH


When people talk of innovative teaching methods, making classrooms more interesting or educating the educators, I'm reminded of one particular teacher who taught us English in college way back in the 80s.
A kind person with a perpetual smile on his face, teaching was a passion with him.


I would find guys who normally bunked college, thronging his lectures and I soon found out why. His classes were more like a chatting session done in a very informal and interactive atmosphere.


He would often deviate from text and touch on various other topics which could be about contemporary issues or say, the origin of certain words or maybe discuss a book like 'Catch-22' and what a Catch-22 situation would be like and so on.


There was a time when he made us note down a beautiful passage, which was actually from an inscription found in an old ruined church in Baltimore dated 1692. In fact, even after 20 years I have this piece of writing with me, which I pass on to others from time to time and is still so relevant in this jet-set age.


There was also a day when he walked into class with a tape-recorder in hand and can you guess which piece of music he played for us? It was Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata'. A lot of us must have yawned our way through the whole piece back then, but in retrospect, the seed for appreciating fine music was being sown in our young minds.

Good teachers mainly inspire students to relax and have fun because true learning can take place only in a stress-free environment. They pay more importance to preparing a student for life than mere academics. We would have had so many teachers walking into our young lives but the kind of impression a few good ones make, last a life time. These teachers may remain unsung but not forgotten.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE & THE 'AAM ADMI'


It is strange justice indeed that houses of fisherfolk have been knocked down in coastal villages like Velsao for so-called 'violation' of CRZ, when much larger commercial structures built at the seashore on the pretext of 're-building' original fishermen's 'khopies' continue to stand, operate and earn their owners large sums of money. For some fisherfolk in coastal villages, the new draft Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) notification 2011, which allows for structures of traditional coastal dwellers to be protected, has come too late. Following the High Court order directing that all structures built post-19 February 1991 be demolished, those without the economic means to mount a strong legal challenge seem to have got the short end of the stick.


The 'aam admi' is rarely very well organised. When it comes to paperwork, (s)he is usually found to be sorely lacking. Is that why 200 structures in Velsao have been razed even as the debate over protecting the houses of traditional fisherfolk went on over the past year and more?


The same yardstick, it seems, does not apply to all structures. This is evident in that there are many that have survived, and very few of those owned by wealthy people or big companies have come down. Why? Only because those who are economically well off can hire expert lawyers to move courts and obtain stay orders? But what of those who cannot afford to pay a lawyer thousands of rupees for each hearing in cases that could go on for years, if not decades?


India is supposed to be a democracy where all citizens have equality of opportunity. But, in a situation where so much is dependent on the depth of one's pockets, does this so-called equality really exist? The tragedy is that one of the places that this deep divide is felt most acutely is in the courts of law; the very temples of justice that have been created to uphold the rights of citizens and their equality. To fight a case in a High Court costs not less than a lakh of rupees. To do the same in the Supreme Court costs many times more. How many can afford this? Besides, the income limits set for free legal aid are so absurdly low that they effectively exclude most Goans.


So is it any surprise that while fishermen's houses have fallen prey to the government's bulldozer, huge projects by large companies have not only survived, but have been able to expand? It used to be said in colonial times that climbing the steps of the courts was recommended only for the wealthy. What is really sad is that 63 years of independence for India and 49 years of liberation for Goa have not really made much difference at all. But what is really surprising is that the rulers who run the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – the so-called three pillars of democracy – have not made much of an effort to change this situation. Are they really unaware of the gross injustice that it represents?

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

TEMPLE THIEVES


No sooner did Goa's temple trustees get together to form a federation to resist the ongoing spate of burglaries, when temple thieves struck once again, this time at Fatorda, where they burgled the Nag Temple. They robbed Rs15,000 from the donation box but, fortunately, could not lay their hands on gold and silver items.
It is high time the government initiates strong measures to stop these burglaries. Surely the Goa Police cannot continue to be clueless about temple thieves for so many months and years. It is time they started showing results.

 

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OHERALDO

EDITORIAL

CAN GOA'S NCP LEGISLATURE PARTY MERGE?

A MERGER BY GOA'S NCP MAY NOT STAND THE SCRUTINY OF LAW, SAYS ADV CLEOFATO A COUTINHO


The tiny state of Goa has always been a laboratory for the anti-defection law; it has contributed tremendously to the development of the law. A number of cases were carried to the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. Various issues pertaining to defections, the role of the Speaker and procedures have been settled on issues raised in Goa.


A strange political situated is again developing in Goa. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an alliance partner of the UPA government at the centre and the Congress-led coalition in Goa, has demanded that its two ministers – Jose Filipe D'Souza and Nilkanth Halarnkar – be removed from the state cabinet, and replaced by another MLA, Mickky Pacheco.


The Congress Chief Minister, based upon his party's dictates, has not accepted the request of the alliance partner, and this is leading to a head-on confrontation. Though inclusion and exclusion of a minister is always the Chief Minister's prerogative, in the new coalition dharma, the prerogative has shifted to the respective parties.


The NCP has replaced the leader of its legislature party and its whip in the state legislature. It is widely reported that the NCP duo in the cabinet were negotiating joining the Congress Party, which would have led to the liquidation of the NCP, which acted with alacrity in the matter.


The NCP is facing a strange situation with two of its three MLAs not accepting the party diktat to quit the state cabinet. The party is now forced to depend upon a single member, as against two members.
What would happen in case of a possible confrontation between the two members, constituting a two-third majority in the legislature party as against the single MLA? What could be the outcome if the CM refuses to induct Mickky Pacheco in the cabinet?


The replacement of the legislature party chief and the whip in the state legislature by the NCP is seen as a prelude to its possible withdrawal of support to the government. It is the NCP that decides whether its MLAs sit on the government side or the opposition side, and NCP MLAs in the legislature are bound by their party's decision. The Bombay High Court has held: "to vote against the party is disloyalty, to join with others in voting for other side smacks of conspiracy".


In case the NCP decides not to press the issue of dropping of the two ministers and inducting of the third member, the matter would rest at that. However, if the NCP presses its demand, continued refusal by the CM could lead to a confrontation, and possible withdrawal of support. In case the NCP decides to withdraw support to the government and the two ministers refuse to abide by the party's whip to vote against the government, it would be tantamount to rebelling against the party, incurring disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law.
Another possible situation is if the two MLAs decide to merge the NCP with the Congress in terms of clause 4 of the 10th schedule (anti-defection law), which says that a member cannot be disqualified if and when his original political party merges with another political party, for which two thirds of the members of the legislature party ought to agree to such a merger. In this particular case, the two NCP ministers constitute two-thirds of the legislature party.


Whether the NCP could be merged with the Congress by two MLAs in the state when there is no merger at the national level and at other levels is the question. A similar situation arose in Goa itself in the year 1998, when a group led by Dr Wilfred de Souza met at his residence and resolved to split from the Indian National Congress to form the Goa Rajiv Congress under his leadership, reducing the Pratapsingh Rane government to a minority.
The major argument raised on behalf of Pratapsingh Rane (now the Speaker) before the Bombay High Court in Writ Petition 317/1998 was that a split as recognised under the anti-defection law is a split in the political party.
The argument was that the members splitting ought to constitute a group representing a faction that has arisen as a result of a split in the original political party. Rane's contention was that "a national political party has a vertical hierarchy, commencing from the lowest constituted level within the organisation right up to the highest policy making body…" And if some members of the legislature party break away, it would not be split without a split at various levels in the political hierarchy. Crossing of the floor that owes its genesis to a split in the political party is legitimate, but not when the split is in only in the legislature party.


The High Court clearly rejected such a contention. "It is not at all necessary that it should be a vertical split at all levels or rungs of the political party. It is not for the Speaker to find out that extent or percentage of the split in the political party. However, when it comes to the legislature party, the group claim representing the faction has to be not less than one-third of the members of the legislature party".


The above interpretation of the Bombay High Court was on the question of a split. The concept of split has now been done away with. However, the concept of merger has been retained. The Supreme Court in 2006 (Jagjit Singh vs State of Haryana) held: "…it cannot be held that for the purposes of the split, it is the legislature party in which the split is to be seen…" The court was clear that the split of the legislature party must form a group to make the split in the political party effective.


The words used to define split in the then Clause 3 of the 10th schedule are similar to the definition of merger. From that, it is almost clear that a stand of merger by the Goa NCP Legislature Party may not stand the scrutiny of law.


In case such a stand of merger is taken by the two members of the NCP, the matter may have to decided by the Speaker in case a petition is brought before him. However, whatever view the Speaker takes in the matter would be subject to judicial review.


Disqualification is never automatic, but requires adjudication by the Speaker of the Assembly, and that places the Speaker in a pivotal position. The fate of the two members shall be in the hands of the Speaker before the matter is taken up before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be.


With time running out for the House, the Speaker's decision may be extremely crucial.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LEARNING JUDAISM FROM GIFFORDS

WITH ALL OUR DESIRE FOR A UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED DEFINITION, WE CAN'T IGNORE REALITY THAT MANY "NON-JEWS" ARE MORE JEWISH THAN THEIR "JEWISH" FELLOWS.

 

Talkbacks (12)

 

As we join in praying for the speedy and complete recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, we cannot help but note how splendidly the Democratic congresswoman from Arizona has served – and, we are hopeful, will continue to serve – as a Jewish role model.

It was her "sense of the Jewish value around how we treat the stranger" that informed Giffords on the highly divisive issue of rights for undocumented immigrants in her border state, according to Josh Protas, former director of the Tusconarea Jewish Community Relations Council. At the same time, she did not lose sight of her constituents' security concerns over the unchecked influx of illegal aliens.

Perhaps this was thanks to her acquaintance with Israel's defense challenges. As representative for the 8th District in southern Arizona, Giffords had to straddle the disparate political opinions of liberal Tucson and its rural hinterlands. The eminently Jewish strategy she employed was a willingness to hear diverse opinions. In fact, it was during one of these exercises in intellectual openness – outside one of her signature "Congress at Your Corner" events at the entrance to a mall in Tucson – that Giffords's strength as an attentive lawmaker was despicably exploited, becoming, at the pull of a trigger, her tragic vulnerability.

Giffords's very Jewishness might have even been a motive in the shooting, according to a US Department of Homeland Security memorandum. Jared Loughner is believed to have had links to American Renaissance, an anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic organization. The memo notes that Giffords is the first Jewish woman elected to high office in Arizona and that Loughner's alleged anti-Semitism is being considered as a possible motive.


SPEAKING HALACHICLY, of course, Giffords is not even considered a Jew. Her father is Jewish, but her mother is a Christian Scientist.


This genealogy did not prevent her from stating in 2006, "In my family, if you want to get something done, you take it to the Jewish women relatives. Jewish women, by and large, know how to get things done."

According to JTA, her grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, changed his name to Giffords after moving from New York to Arizona, "in part because he did not want his Jewishness to be an issue in unfamiliar territory." Perhaps, the grandfather's visceral survival instinct was right on target. The shooting definitely raises concerns about renewed anti-Semitism (and about the highly polarized nature of political discourse in today's America).

But the attack, which brought to the forefront Giffords's noble and very Jewish personal traits, highlights the changing nature of Jewish identity in America. An increasingly more inclusive answer to the question of "Who is a Jew?" has developed in recent years. In part, this is a result of the Reform Movement's 1983 decision to recognize patrilineal descent. This decision, which recognizes Giffords as a full-fledged Jew, made it easy for the congresswoman to integrate into her local Reform shul, Congregation Chaverim, when she began to actively embrace Judaism after a transformative 2001 trip to Israel.

 

But the broadening definition of Jewishness is not restricted to the Reform Movement. A similar trend is sweeping Conservative Judaism, as Dr. Adam Ferziger, senior fellow at Bar- Ilan University's Rappaport Center for Assimilation Research, noted in a recent article in Oxford's Journal of Jewish Studies. In "Between Catholic Israel and the 'K'rov Yisrael': Non-Jews in Conservative Synagogues (1982-2009)," Ferziger showed that halachicly non-Jewish offspring of intermarried Jews were no longer excluded from membership and active ritual life in American Conservative congregations. This change in policy is due, in part, to the unprecedented intermarriage rates during the last decades of the 20th century. Another possible reason might be that more and more people like Giffords have made a conscious choice to identify as Jews, yet have no intention of undergoing a conversion.


As it should, Israel's Law of Return accommodates this complex Jewish reality by granting automatic citizenship to people like Giffords, her husband and her offspring. Critics of the Law of Return might complain that it has extended citizenship to more than 300,000 former Soviet Union immigrants who are not halachicly Jewish. But is it conceivable to exclude these "non-Jews" despite the fact that the vast majority integrate fully into Israeli society, serve in the IDF and become productive citizens? Is it conceivable to exclude Giffords, another "non-Jew," who is so unequivocally Jewish?


With all our desire for a universally accepted definition of "Who is a Jew?" that would unify the Jewish people, we cannot ignore the complicated reality that many "non-Jews" are much more Jewish than their "Jewish" fellows. Congresswoman Giffords is one of them.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

ONLY MORAL COURAGE CAN MAKE RABBIS RELEVANT

BY SHMULEY BOTEACH 

 

We've become bland by refusing to be opinionated; we should understand that people 'want' to hear something compelling, whether they agree with it or not.

 

Few columns I have written have generated as much heat and as many responses as the last two about rabbis. The first dealt with the failures of the British Chief Rabbinate in curbing the sewer of anti- Semitism that has erupted in Britain, especially on campuses. The second addressed the growing irrelevance of the American rabbinate to mainstream Jewish and American life. Few rabbis have any impact on wider American culture, and even within the Jewish community, it's mostly secular writers and lay leaders who are determining the future.

In my column I maintained that we rabbis are becoming nice guys, popular among our flocks specifically because we refrain from dishing out discomfort. The modern rabbi is your tennis partner and drinking buddy, but never the guy who criticizes your lavish bar mitzva. The rabbi rarely makes himself unpopular with the board by taking controversial stands, like insisting that all weddings he performs be kosher-catered. The net result is that rabbis have been declawed, which accounts for why at major communal conventions like AIPAC or the federations' General Assembly, rabbis are reduced to such niceties as a monotonous invocation or the grace after meals.

Rabbi-as-nice-guy also means allowing yourself to be treated derisively, and I shared how, although the American Jewish University website boasts that it was given $33 million for adult education, it offered me a fraction of what I later learned it was paying two atheist speakers for a debate on the afterlife that I had proposed, and which I had earlier staged with Christopher Hitchens in New York in front of 800 people.

I regularly accommodate organizations with no funding, but I objected to this insulting double standard on principle, even as the AJU moved to cut me from the event.

RESPONDING TO my argument that rabbis have been neutered, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, a lion of our local community, agreed in part, but said my Hollywood associations risked the same trivialization of the rabbinate that I decry.

His words have merit. I have yet to fully become the man or rabbi I wish to be. But I know who that man is – an exponent of Judaism who brings the glory of our tradition to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences wherever they may be. I have one overriding desire: to make Judaism relevant. And I live with endless frustration at how the world's first monotheistic faith seems to take a permanent backseat to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and secular humanism. We rabbis are guilty of allowing what is arguably the world's foremost repository of wisdom to be confined to .003% of the earth's population.

There is a spiritual thirst in America, just not for Judaism. There are Jew-Boos (Jewish Buddhists), Jews who practice yoga and meditation, Jews who study Kabbala, and millions of Jewish women who watch Oprah to quench their spiritual thirst. They just don't come to synagogue. I believe the principal reason is that rabbis have become bland by refusing to be opinionated. We fear balkanizing our audience.

But people want to hear something compelling, whether they agree with it or not. CNN is being destroyed in the ratings because, unlike Fox and now even MSNBC, it will not take a stand. Sarah Palin is relevant because she is unafraid to speak her mind. Vastly talented hosts such as Anderson Cooper have seen their audiences shrivel because of their neutrality, and his producers are now encouraging him to get in the face of his interviewees.

Not long ago I vouched for a man who wished to convert to Judaism, and told the beit din he was Sabbath observant. A few weeks after his conversion, he had Friday night dinner with us and then drove home. I knew I was risking our friendship when I told him he owed those who vouched for him more. He took the admonishment to heart and stopped driving.

 

BUT SOME in the Jewish community still believe that rabbis must win popularity contests. A case in point was the response to my criticism of British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks by Saul Taylor ("A tough act to follow" January 4), who apparently believes that the staggering anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing that has erupted under Sacks's leadership is irrelevant because "his recent appointment to the House of Lords is an indication of the high esteem in which he is held."


Indeed, he added, "the whole community joined to congratulate him on joining the House of Lords."


He was seemingly blind to how his bizarre "defense" condemned the chief rabbi to being a perfect caricature of the toadying court Jew who will allow himself to be muzzled to placate his non-Jewish overlords. Taylor put the nail in coffin of the chief rabbi's reputation by saying: "We were very proud when it was our chief rabbi who was chosen to address Pope Benedict during his recent trip to the UK."


Ah, non-Jewish acceptance at last.


Is Taylor right, that British Jews are so enamored of vacuous titles – polls show that a majority of Britons would like to see the stodgy House of Lords abolished – and empty pomp that they would applaud a oncecourageous rabbinic institution falling silent even as the Jewish state has become more reviled in the UK than North Korea? Taylor's fixation with non-Jewish legitimacy conjures images of past Israeli prime ministers glowingly raising the Nobel Prize in Oslo for the "peace" they achieved amid the din of thousands of Israelis being blown up by suicide bombers.


But Taylor is not done yet. Sacks has been a paragon of moral courage because he "welcomes [homosexuals] at [British] synagogues."


Oh, yes. Valor indeed.


How tragic for our community when leaders become heroes for simply welcoming equal sons and daughters of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob back to their rightful home.


We all like to be loved. We all desire to be admired. I myself am no stranger to the inner demons that draw one to the limelight. But we rabbis must resist the urge for mainstream approval and promote the interests of our people, at whatever price. We rabbis must serve as lights unto the nations, whatever the cost.


The writer is founder of This World: The Values Network, which promotes universal Jewish values in the mainstream culture. He was the 2000 Times of London Preacher of the Year. www.shmuley.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

ENCOUNTERING PEACE: THE VIEW IS CLEARER FROM HERE

BY GERSHON BASKIN 

 

Many Diaspora Jewish communities are already perceived us to be on slippery slope of xenophobia, racism and witch-hunts against human rights and peace activists.

 

Iam writing from Vancouver, the first leg of my North American speaking tour. My first stop is the University of British Columbia. Its student body, like much of Canada, is a rainbow of striking diversity. The cultural environment on campus is a proud blend of pluralism and politeness, acceptance and curiosity, a thirst for knowledge and academic achievement.

Along with Dr. Sami Adwan, a colleague from Bethlehem University, I addressed an audience of more than 700 – members of the academic community and local Jews and Arabs. Our subject: building peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

I had the opportunity afterward to speak with most of the Jews and Israelis in the audience. They were all very thankful to hear a proud Israeli who is optimistic about the country's future and the chances for peace. Most of what I heard was a deep sense of embarrassment from what they read about Israel. They explained how they feel increasingly alienated from the behavior of the government.

They cannot understand its refusal to freeze settlement building to enable negotiations. They feel deep shame about the rabbis' letter, and dread the thought of how it is perceived by their friends and neighbors. They are profoundly disturbed by what appears to be a witch-hunt against those political and human-rights groups that do not support the policies of the Netanyahu government. They express a sincere sense of fear that the day is coming when they too will have to cease their support.

A rabbi who took me for dinner after the event told me there is growing alienation from Israel in the Jewish community. Jews in Canada suffer from a lack of organizational structure in which they can express their love and support, while also asserting their dissatisfaction with its government and policies.

The choice here is to either join the 'Israel right or wrong 'camp or to join those who side with the boycott, divestment and sanctions. Active members of the community who do not join the Israel right or wrong camp are automatically labeled anti- Israel or self-hating Jews – far from the truth.

The local Hillel has dismissed the tradition of Hillel, which encouraged openness, learning, inquiry and pluralism in favor of leading the campaign to purge the Jewish community of those critical of Israel. In this way, the Jewish establishment here is apparently a mirror image of the establishment in Israel. It's a sad day when criticism loses its legitimacy in Jewish society.

IN ISRAEL and in many Diaspora Jewish communities, we are already on the slippery slope of xenophobia, racism and witch-hunts against human-rights and peace activists. The general demise of the rule of law and liberal democracy, lead by Israel Beiteinu, Shas, the silence of Jabotinskyites like Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor and the tacit support of the ultimate populist Binyamin Netanyahu, is causing Israel to become a pariah state not only in the minds of non-Jews but also in the eyes of many Jews.

Because of what I heard here, I've decided to return to North America in March to attend the second annual conference of J Street in Washington.

Canada has no J Street, and it is sadly absent. J Street is the soulmate of progressive democratic Israelis. It represents American Jews who are Zionists, proud of their Jewishness, true lovers of Zion who are fighting for Israel's soul and know, like me, that its uniqueness and true potential will emerge only once we make peace with our neighbors. J Street, like the peace movement in Israel, human rights organizations and liberal democratic values are under attack on both sides of the ocean.

 

AS I was writing these words, I received the following e-mail: "It is Israel, not the 'Palestinians' who should take unilateral action before it is too late: Annex Judea and Samaria immediately, and begin negotiations with Jordan about a long-term solution. I am convinced that many Arab dwellers in Judea and Samaria would acquiesce, maybe even endorse such a solution... Incentives, financial and others, could be offered to Judean and Samarian Arabs who would move to Jordan, while similar incentives could be offered to Jews all over the world who wish to settle in the territories. This should alleviate the demographic worries of some Israelis."


It amazes me that there are people who actually believe this. The author claims: "I proudly include myself among the few experts who truly comprehend the interminable conflict in all its aspects– culturally, historically, geographically, legally and politically."


It is clear to me that this person has never spoken with a Palestinian or a Jordanian; this person is completely detached from reality, like many of those who think time is on our side and that we don't have to work round-the-clock to save the two-state solution.


Each additional country that grants recognition to the Palestinian state should be a wake-up call.


Instead, some of our politicians prefer to amuse themselves with their own wit in talking about a "Facebook state of Palestine."


The Palestinian state is already much more than virtual. It is emerging with each passing day, with a sense of purpose and a compelling logic of rationality and justice, with a force of immediacy that even Avigdor Lieberman will not be able to stop.


Perhaps the view from the Canadian Rockies that I see from my dormitory window enables me to see the future more coherently than it can be seen from the window of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. What I see on the horizon is a road that splits with one path leading toward the sun, the other toward doom and destruction. We are 100 meters from that junction. Time to make the right turn.


The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and is in the process of founding the Center for Israeli Progress (http://israeli-progress.org).

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

OUR WORLD: SUDANESE CROSSROADS

BY CAROLINE B. GLICK 

 

With the West openly supporting southern Sudanese independence, a new war's consequences will not be limited to Sudan itself.

 

On Sunday, the southern Sudanese began voting on a referendum to secede from the Republic of Sudan and establish their own sovereign nation. By all accounts, they will soon secede from the Arab, Islamic country and form an independent African, Christian and animist state.

The consequences of their actions will reverberate around the world.

This week's referendum takes place in accordance with the US-brokered Comprehensive Peace Treaty between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement signed on January 9, 2005.

The CPT officially ended the second Sudanese Civil War that began in 1983.

The South Sudanese referendum will not settle the issue of control over all of southern Sudan. Numerous flashpoints remain. Most importantly, the disposition of the town of Abyei remains undetermined. Abyei is where most of Sudan's oil deposits are located.

Unlike the rest of the south, its population is a mix of Arabs and Africans and its residents are split over the issue of separation from Khartoum. If there is war after independence, Abyei will likely be its cause.

Abyei's residents were supposed to vote on a referendum to determine the disposition of their town at the same time as the rest of the south. But fuelled by their conflicting interests, they could not agree on how to run the poll, and so it did not take place.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is playing a contradictory role in the South Sudanese referendum. Al-Bashir has been indicted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

Last week he visited South Sudan's capital city Juba and pledged to support the referendum's results. As he put it, "I am going to celebrate your decision, even if your decision is secession. Even after the southern state is born, we are ready in the Khartoum government to offer any technical or logistical support and training or advice – we are ready to help."

But then, last Friday, pro-Khartoum militias attacked anti-Khartoum targets in Abyei. By Monday, 23 people had been killed. According to South Sudanese military spokesmen, militiamen captured in Abyei said they were ordered to attack by Khartoum.

MUCH OF the international discourse on southern Sudan has centered on what South Sudan's independence means for its citizens and for Africa as a whole. And this is reasonable.

In its 54-year history, Sudan has suffered from civil war between the north and south for 39 years. Some 200,000 south Sudanese were kidnapped into slavery. Two million Sudanese have died in the wars. Four million have become refugees.

But the fact is that with the West openly supporting southern Sudanese independence, a new war's consequences will not be limited to Sudan itself. Therefore it is worth considering why such a war is all but certain and what southern Sudanese independence means for the region and the world.

There were two main reasons that Bashir agreed to sign the peace treaty with the south Sudanese in 2005. First, his forces had lost the civil war. The south was already effectively independent.


The second reason Bashir agreed to a deal that would give eventual independence to the oil-rich south is because he feared the US.


In 2004, led by then president George W. Bush, the US cast a giant shadow throughout the world. The US military's lightning overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime frightened US foes and encouraged US allies. The democratic wave revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon were all fuelled by the world's belief in US's willingness to use its power to defeat its foes.


Bashir's regime is closely linked to al-Qaida, which he hosted from 1989 until 1995.

 

When the US demanded that he accept the south's victory, he probably didn't believe he could refuse.

Today, the US is not feared or respected as it was six years ago. And according to a recent article in the online Small Wars Journal by US Army Lt. Col. Thomas Talley, Bashir's current dim perception of the US makes war inevitable.

Talley argues that without Abyei, South Sudan will be rendered an economically nonviable failed state. South Sudan, he claims is too weak to secure Abyei from Khartoum without outside assistance.

According to Talley, the deterioration of the global perception of US power has convinced Bashir that the US will not protect Abyei for the south and so his best bet is to invade the town or at a minimum prevent the south from securing it.


As Talley notes, for Bashir, far more than oil is at stake. If Bashir agrees to cede southern Sudan without a fight, he will be discredited both by his fellow Arab leaders and by his fellow Islamic leaders.

Arab leaders as diverse as Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal have decried South Sudan's independence. Gaddafi warned that southern secession would be the beginning of a "contagious disease."


Faisal called it a "dangerous move" that no member of the Arab League should support.


THE FACT of the matter is that the Arabs have reason to be concerned about what is happening in Sudan. If South Sudan becomes an independent nation, it will be the first case of rollback of Arab imperialism since World War I.


One of the central aspects of Middle Eastern politics that is overwhelmingly ignored by scholars is Arab imperialism and the role it has played in shaping the region's politics.


Both during the post-World War I breakup of the Ottoman Empire and with the breakup of the British and French empires after World War II, British and French imperial authorities colluded with Arab imperialists to guarantee the latter's nearly uninhibited control over the Middle East.

For the Kurds, Shi'ites, Druse, Alawites, Copts, and other non-Sunni, non-Arab, or non-Muslim populations in the region, the end of Western rule meant the end of their relative freedom.


In the case of southern Sudan, during the half century of British rule, the south was administered separately from the Arab north.


But when the British withdrew in 1956, in their haste to leave, they placed the south under Arab rule. Fearing disenfranchisement and oppression, the south began the first Sudanese civil war in 1955 – the year before independence.

There were only two exceptions to Europe's collusion with Arab imperialists – Christian- majority Lebanon and the Palestine Mandate. In both these areas, Western powers allowed non-Muslims to take charge of territory claimed by Arab imperialists.


As the post-independence history of both Lebanon and Israel shows, the Europeans eventually attenuated their support for non-Arab governments. The French have pressured Lebanon's Christians fairly consistently to appease the Arabs. This pressure has caused continuous Christian emigration from Lebanon which has rendered the Christians a minority in Lebanon today. And the Lebanese Christians attempts to appease the Arabs, opened the door for Hizbullah to take over the country for Iran.


As for Israel, in light of its failure to convince the Arabs to be appeased by its concessions and the Arabs' failure to overrun the Jewish state, since 1973 Europe has collaborated with the Arabs in recasting reality to suit the aims of Arab imperialism.


Whereas Israel was established and repeatedly defended by the Jewish national liberation movement against the wishes of Arab imperialists, with European assistance, the Arabs have inverted history. The current Arab-European claim is that the Arab imperialist war against Israel is a Jewish imperialist war against Arabs.


AGAINST THIS backdrop of Western perfidy towards the Middle East's non-Arab minorities, the West's support for South Sudanese independence is nothing short of miraculous.


Unfortunately, the West's support for South Sudan probably owes to Western ignorance rather than a newfound Western will to defy Arab imperialists. That is, it is likely that West is doing the right thing today in Sudan because it doesn't understand the ramifications of its own policy.


If the West doesn't understand its policy, then it is unlikely to understand the significance of a challenge to that policy by Khartoum and its allies. And if it fails to understand the significance of a challenge to its policy by Khartoum, then it is unlikely to defend its policy when it is challenged.


Against the backdrop, it is important to recall Lt. Col. Talley's claim that Bashir will attack Abyei because he does not believe that the US will defend South Sudanese control of the border town. The shallowness of Western support for South Sudan will lead to war.


But again, it isn't just the Arabs that will force Bashir to go to war. He also has the pan-Islamic jihadists to consider. His erstwhile friends in al-Qaida have made clear that they will not take the surrender of southern Sudan to non-Muslims lying down.


Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al Zawahiri has denounced Bashir for signing the peace agreement with the south. In an article Friday in The Daily Beast, former US National Security Council official Bruce Riedel wrote that in 2009 Zawahiri called on Sudan's Muslims to fight "a long guerilla war," because "the contemporary Crusade has bared its fangs at you."


Zawahiri told Bashir, "to repent and return to the straight path of Islam and jihad."


And it is not only al-Qaida that will feel disconcerted by the south's secession. At a time when jihadist regimes and forces throughout the Arab and Islamic world are using violence to repress Christians and other non-Muslims and force the full implementation of Sharia law, the notion that the Dar el-Islam or Muslim world is shrinking in Sudan is widely perceived as unacceptable. Islamic attacks against the West for its support for southern Sudanese independence are highly likely.


None of this means that the West should end its support for South Sudan. The South Sudanese have earned their independence in a way that most nations never have.


They deserve the support of all nations that value freedom and decency.


But what it does mean is that as they move forward, South Sudan's leaders must recognize that the West is likely to abandon them at the first sign of trouble. They must weigh their options accordingly.


More importantly, the all but certain results of South Sudan's independence serve as yet another reminder to the West about the nature of power, war and friendship.


Power is inextricably linked to the perception of power. You are perceived as powerful when you show you can tell friend from foe, and stand with the former against the latter.


caroline@carolineglick.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

CAN WE SAVE OUR DEMOCRACY?

BY ALON LIEL 

 

Israel is headed toward a critical ideological junction that will force it to choose between its Jewish identity and its democratic nature.

 

This year finds Israel safer and wealthier than ever. During 2010, border casualties were down to a minimum and the per capita GNP is on par with many southern European countries. For this reason it saddens me that the country may soon have to give up the identity it has worked so hard to shape over the past six decades. Israel is headed toward a critical ideological junction that will force it to choose between its Jewish identity and its democratic nature. At this stage, and considering the extenuating circumstances, it can no longer keep both titles.

Armed with impressive economic achievements, the current leadership has already made up its mind; it prefers to stick to the Jewish identity and give up the commitment to being a full-fledged democracy. Last week, a Knesset motion was passed to establish a committee that would investigate the loyalty of several NGOs. These include organizations whose very existence attests to the country's democracy.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The government prefers to keep control of Palestinian land in the West Bank, but doing so necessitates giving the people living on it full human and political rights. But fret not: Under our current leadership, the Palestinians are unlikely to gain their rights or their land.


IT SEEMS we are headed toward a post-democratic Jewish state in which most Jews will be able to live in financial and physical security. But what of those of us who will not tolerate a non-democratic country?

There are many who cherish their democracy at least as much as their religion. As an Israeli-born secular Jew who fought for the country's survival on both military and diplomatic battlefields, I believe that democracy is more important than religion. This raises a number of troubling issues. What will the country do with citizens, like me, after it has surrendered its democracy? And if we choose to object to a non-democratic country, where will we find ourselves? In jail perhaps? Are there enough cells to accommodate us all?

 

I pray that my beloved country – the only one I ever had – will never reach this point. It will be the end of the Israel I grew up in and love so much.


So the question remains: Can the state still remain both democratic and Jewish? The answer is, not as long as Palestinian land is under Israeli control.


Six decades of life here have afforded me the ability to understand the Israeli mentality. The majority of Jews living here today prefer ownership of the West Bank to ownership of democracy. This biblical piece of land existed long before democracy was even thought of, which for many is a very powerful reason to stick to it.

To quash the momentum directing us toward this frightening junction, all those who believe in democracy as being at least as important as religion – any religion – should stand together. Only a united and democratic front can force governments to stay within the lines of Israel's democratic nature.


The writer, a former chargé d'affaires in Turkey and ambassador to South Africa, was director-general of the Foreign Ministry between 2000 and 2001. Today he lectures at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

IDEOLOGY BOUGHT WITH EUROS

BY DANNY DANON 

 

It is inconceivable that any sovereign state would allow foreign elements to influence internal matters.

 

They call themselves the guardians of human rights as a way to ease their conscience.

But some extreme left-wing organizations are financially supported by foreign governments that are clearly anti-Israel. A more obvious term comes to mind for such organizations: fifth column. This is the appropriate name for those who work nonstop to weaken the very state they live and work in.

Many of these groups have been working for years against the IDF and the government, as we strive to deal with the complicated realities of the Middle East. In many other democracies (including those that fund these organizations), these groups would have to deal with legal action against them – not to mention widespread public outcry.

As much as these organizations try to claim that their actions are advancing the cause of peace, they are actually pushing peace further and further away. Their campaigns don't hold back from using any method available – they delegitimize the state, attempt to limit our options and deter us from defending ourselves. Moreover, they are causing irreparable damage to our interests overseas – damage that no amount of effort by our dedicated diplomats will be able to rectify.

WHILE WE recognize the importance of freedom of expression, we all know that reasonable limits must prevail. There must be fair and reasonable rules. How can we allow these foreign interests to buy ideologies by paying millions of euros every year? We must understand that that they have only one true goal – the end of Israeli sovereignty over our hard-earned society.


Those who question our obligation to investigate this noxious challenge must first ask themselves important questions. What right do these countries have to claim an interest in the internal social issues of our society? Why do they feel entitled to meddle in our most sensitive diplomatic and security decisions through devious, deceitful methods? Can one imagine the Vatican allowing foreign groups to undermine its duly formulated policies? Would the US sit by while nongovernmental groups stalk and monitor its soldiers' every move during dangerous combat missions?


Of course not! Such behavior is routinely described as aiding and abetting terrorist organizations, and its perpetrators usually face stern justice, including imprisonment and fines. This natural reaction comes from all democratic nations, without even mentioning the draconian punishment meted out to terrorists and their facilitators by the not-so-enlightened justice systems of our less-democratic neighbors.


It is inconceivable that any sovereign, enlightened state would allow foreign elements to influence the internal workings of its society. It is further unimaginable that rational and fair leaders would not work diligently to uproot such behavior. We should not be embarrassed, but rather proud to state that it is our responsibility as leaders to do the right thing for our country. We must never shy away from defending our citizens.


If these organizations do not realize that they are being manipulated by outside extremists to harm our state, then it is our duty to act decisively and legislate appropriately to protect our society.

Just as we send our young men and women to the front to risk their lives for our state, we must embark on this war of social norms to protect our democracy and reinstill a sense of trust, confidence and pride in our society.

The writer, deputy speaker of the Knesset and chairman of World Likud, was appointed chairman last week of the Knesset commission of inquiry to investigate the foreign funding of Israeli organizations.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD MEN GONE?

BY DAN KOSKY 

 

We boast an impressive pool of gifted people. They're found in business, industry, military and academia, but the cream of our talent is rarely in the Knesset.

 

The dramatic conviction of Moshe Katsav exposed the gravity of the former president's crimes.

Although the guilty verdict was a powerful proof that nobody is above the law (as noted in these pages by Liat Collins in "Justice for all..." on Sunday), Israelis must not kid themselves that all is well. Katsav's crimes are merely the latest in a long list of serious misdemeanors committed by those in public office. Moreover, unless the public demands more from its leaders, people will find themselves sleepwalking into a future with little direction.

The list of high-profile figures involved in serious crime is shamefully long. The police enquiry into Katsav, which began in the summer of 2006, was shortly followed by an investigation into Ehud Olmert's conduct during his time as finance minister, sparking a chain of events which culminated in his resignation as prime minister and the filing of corruption charges against him. Another former finance minister, Avraham Hirchson, was sentenced to five years in jail for embezzlement in 2009, while former justice minister Haim Ramon was convicted of indecently assaulting a female soldier in 2007.

Far too many officials apparently view public office as an opportunity for personal gain rather than societal change. One can only conclude that the caliber of our leaders is woefully poor. This is surprising, given that this country is lauded as an engine for innovation, a hub of creativity and a leader in important global industries. The cache of Nobel Prizes awarded to Israelis and the well-worn "start-up nation" tag are evidence that we boast an impressive pool of gifted people. Yet although these individuals can be found in business, industry, the military and academia, the cream of our talent is rarely to be found in the Knesset.

SADLY, IT appears that the best of the best are reluctant to assume the leadership of the country at a time when it faces stern challenges to its security, identity and democracy.

Although other vocations provide more lucrative alternatives, there is certainly no financial barrier to entering parliament, with members of the Knesset enjoying a relatively generous deal. Yet top businessmen, entrepreneurs and academics, who have already enjoyed successful careers, are hardly beating down the doors to enter the political world.

High achievers succeed in environments which encourage innovation and creativity. In contrast, our political system maintains a status quo where mere survival is usually the limited ambition of most governments. While the private sector fosters leadership, imagination and purpose, the country's political echelon is paralyzed by a selfserving ethos.


Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin recently lamented the lack of true leaders in parliament. He compared today's leaders to a blindly obedient dog, endlessly attempting to curry favor with the people and thus obtain power, regardless of the ideological price or negative impact on the greater good.

 

Yet the solution is not only to be found in replacing political hacks with individuals of substance, it is also systemic.

Until the country's outdated political framework allows the government to govern without the straitjacket of a patchwork coalition, we are unlikely to make much progress diplomatically, or in solving the myriad of issues continually polarizing society. It is hardly an attractive environment for those with ambition, efficiency and achievement.

Unless the gap is bridged, expect our finest to continue making their mark outside public office, sitting largely on the sidelines of national debate.


Katsav's conviction is a reminder of the extent to which power can be abused if left unchecked and in the wrong hands. Some have emphasized that the judges' verdict reaffirms Israel's commitment to equality before the law.

It is no more than a crumb of comfort.


Until we can take pride in the achievements of our political elite rather than their downfall, we must ask how much longer we can afford to wait for a new cadre of leaders.


The writer is a communications professional based in Tel Aviv.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAELI NGOS ARE ENTRENCHING THE OCCUPATION

ONE MAY HAVE EXPECTED YISRAEL BEITEINU AND PARTS OF THE LIKUD TO OFFER HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS STATE FUNDING INSTEAD OF THREATENING THEIR EXISTENCE.

BY YAGIL LEVY

 

The Knesset's decision to probe the human rights' groups funding sources, a move motivated by the right's desire to clamp down on the organizations' activity, should be denounced on several accounts.

 

However, the right-wing parties should be interested in continuing these organizations' activity, for the simple reason that they - albeit unintentionally - are advancing those parties' long-term interest: entrenching the occupation.

 

In the past decade organizations such as B'Tselem, Machsom Watch and even Breaking the Silence have entered the vacuum in the government's control over the army and in the senior command's control over the field units. The center of gravity of conducting the warfare in the midst of the Palestinian population has been diverted, as is characteristic of this kind of policing-warfare, from the high command to the lower field command, which frequently exercises unbridled force on the population.

 

The army has difficulty effectively controlling the units, and so the task taken up by the human rights' organizations.

 

It suffices to read military advocate general Avichai Mendelblit's statements about those organizations in an interview with Haaretz in 2009: "The organizations are a channel for passing on information about very important things, to make the IDF's activity normative...I strive to reach the truth and they are really helping us with this."

 

In other the words, the organizations whose activity the Knesset wants to restrict are part of the army's control system over its forces. Machsom Watch supervises the roadblocks and B'Tselem documents, thus monitoring soldiers' aberrant conduct while on duty. As for Breaking the Silence, it has recently proved its documentation system is better than the army's, whose first reaction to accusations of illegal conduct in Operation Cast Lead was sweeping denial.

 

The army has good reason to cooperate and exchange information with some of the organizations, as the MAG conceded.

 

Even if the leftist groups' intention is to ensure upholding Palestinian rights, though, the unintentional result of their activity is preserving the occupation. Moderating and restraining the army's activity gives it a more human and legal facade. Reducing the pressure of international organizations, alongside moderating the Palestinian population's resistance potential, enable the army to continue to maintain this control model over a prolonged period of time.

 

No wonder Machsom Watch activists have commented critically that the group's activity is "improving the roadblocks" rather than helping to remove them. Rather than acting against the IDF's presence in the midst of dense Palestinian population, B'Tselem tries to make this presence more moral.

 

In this spirit, Breaking the Silence opposes disobedience and does not act against the occupation. Its documentation helps the army clean its ranks, thus reducing the "moral price of dominating a civilian population," as the organization puts it.

 

So one may have expected Yisrael Beiteinu and parts of the Likud to offer human rights groups state funding instead of threatening their existence. In the absence of these groups, the basis of Israel's domination - whose legitimacy is unraveling - of the Palestinian population will be further undermined, contrary to the Israeli right's agenda.

 

The writer is a professor at the Open University and is author of the book "Who Governs the Military," published by Magnes Press.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL'S RADICAL LEFT HAS GIVEN UP ON TAKING POWER

IT'S WORTH STUDYING HOW ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS MAYORS IN THE MIDDLE EAST, JERUSALEM MAYOR NIR BARKAT, GOT ELECTED; LEFTISTS VOLUNTEERED FOR HIS CAMPAIGN, IN THE NAME OF HATRED OF THE ULTRA-ORTHODOX.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

 

Two days after he murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir made the following speech to journalists in the courtroom: "Rabin isn't my prime minister as long as he was elected by the Arabs - clearly by the Arabs, 20 percent. I was at that demonstration, 50 percent of them were Arabs. Did anyone cover that, did anyone say that 50 percent were Arabs? Are the Arabs the ones who will decide my future in this country?" (Haaretz, November 7, 1995 ). This was the gist of his spontaneous speech, at a time when everyone assumed the "parricide" would ensure the rule of the left for many years to come.

 

It's true, the 1992 coalition headed by Rabin could not have won without the votes of the Arabs, who voted en masse for Labor and Meretz. Rabin's Knesset majority also depended on Shas, led by Aryeh Deri, and on Hadash and the Arab parties as well.

 

A week before the demonstration at which he was assassinated, Rabin summoned the leader of Hadash, MK Tawfik Ziad, and asked him to make a concentrated effort to mobilize Arab demonstrators. The last demonstration of his life was a Jewish-Arab demonstration, stemming from an understanding of the new strategy required for the left.

 

But the Tzav Piyus campaign to encourage dialogue among different sectors of society, which began immediately after the assassination, symbolized the left's betrayal of Israel's Arab citizens. It didn't call for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, but between Jews from the right and Jews from the left. October 2000 brought the final rupture.

 

The Zionist left did not return to power, and it is now on the verge of disintegration. Ehud Barak succeeded Rabin; Shinui and later Kadima succeeded Meretz; and on the left-wing street, only a few hundred radicals remain. Parts of this minority are very courageous, but it doesn't want to be a major political force whose constituents are Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike.

 

While the bulldozers are destroying any chance of a solution, the common denominator of these vestiges of the radical left - it's hard to believe they don't have a single umbrella organization - is the "human rights politics" of nongovernmental organizations, which has become a well-financed, paralyzing serum throughout the West, a substitute for changing the government.

 

The government cannot be changed without mobilizing those on whom it rests. A country where the cost of living, including the price of water, is rising beyond the ability of a working person to pay for them, where poverty is spreading, where a large percentage of the youth don't want to serve in the army and, with some political persuasion, could become opponents instead of "draft dodgers," does not have to slide rightward and participate in a witch hunt for "the ultra-Orthodox who don't serve in the army."

 

Yet no leftist organization is trying, for example, to connect residents of the Arab city of Shfaram with those of the Haifa Bay area, even if only on the issue of the oil refineries and the danger they pose to the entire region (environmentalists held a demonstration against the refineries on the last day of 2010 in the rich heart of the Carmel, which is far from the refineries' real Arab and Jewish neighbors, but it was attended by only a few dozen demonstrators ). It seems as though the radical left has given up on what the Communist Party sought.

 

It's worth studying how "the great white secular hope" - one of the most dangerous mayors in the Middle East, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat - got elected. Dyed-in-the-wool leftists volunteered for his campaign, in the name of hatred of the ultra-Orthodox.

 

Add to all this the radical left's indifference toward workers' struggles, and the fact that it has given up on Russian immigrants in advance, and a picture of the situation comes into focus: The energy is concentrated, if at all, on two points of friction with the occupation - the separation fence and East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

 

It's more difficult and demanding to create opposition all over the country. But doesn't the government have any other weak points?

 

The call for a Human Rights Day demonstration on December 10 was signed by 125 organizations. Yet the demonstration was attended by 5,000 people at most. And what is left of the Zionist left will participate in any government at any price.

 

It is so disappointing that the radical left has no desire to bring down the government and take it over. It is satisfied with its demonstrators' feeling they are right, with manifestos, condemnations and devouring each other.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

ISRAEL - POVERTY AMIDST PLENTY

WE SHOULD EXAMINE THE CAUSES OF THE GROWING ECONOMIC INEQUALITY THAT CHARACTERIZES ISRAELI SOCIETY AT THIS TIME.

BY MOSHE ARENS

 

For years it has been said that Israel has no natural resources below the ground and that the country's natural resources are above ground - its population. Even though it now turns out that Israel does have natural resources below the ground, or more correctly under the sea, for years to come Israel's economy will still have to rely primarily on the talents and skills of its population. It is they that have propelled the Israeli economy to record heights in recent years.

Even the usually not Israel-friendly weekly, The Economist, in last week's issue applauded Israel's achievements in advanced technology. An article by its business commentator stated that adjusted for population, "Israel leads the world in the number of high-tech start-ups and the size of the venture-capital industry".

 

Israel has become "a high-tech superpower," he writes. The result of these high-tech achievements is that Israel, as a country, is growing wealthy. And yet, as Israelis rightly insist on reminding themselves, while many Israelis may have become richer, there is poverty amidst plenty in Israel. The gap between rich and poor is growing yearly, and inevitably the attendant social stresses are bound to follow.

 

Before we jump to the conclusion that this distortion in the social fabric of Israeli society is the result of capitalism running wild in Israel and can easily be rectified by a more progressive fiscal and welfare policy, we should examine the causes of the growing economic inequality that characterizes Israeli society at this time.

It turns out that it is the direct and inevitable result of the growing high-technology sector in the local economy developing in an age of world globalization. In a world in which there are essentially no borders for scientific and technological activities and the businesses that develop from them, the pay scale for those engaged in these activities tends to be more or less uniform throughout the world. The high level of pay in the high-tech sector of the economy drags along with it the pay of the many sectors associated with its business development - attorneys, accountants, investment bankers, analysts and stockbrokers.

 

Everyone else - from physicians to unskilled workers - is pretty much left behind, though raised somewhat by the rising tide. This situation is exacerbated by the massive import of foreign workers who provide the economy's needs for manual labor at a pay scale considerably lower than that appropriate for Israeli workers. They, in turn, are either driven out of the labor market or forced to work at lower wages, further increasing the economic inequality in Israeli society.

 

On top of this, two large sectors of Israeli society - ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs - are barely represented among the population of skilled workers who participate in the high-technology industry. Much of the poverty in Israel is concentrated there. We need to look no further for the causes of the large degree of economic inequality that exists in Israel today.

 

Welfare payments can only partially alleviate this problem. The importation of foreign workers needs to be stopped once and for all. Ultimately, the solution lies in an educational framework that will make it possible for those sectors of Israel's population that lack the skills needed in a high-technology economy to acquire these skills.

 

Fortunately, such a framework already exists. It is the IDF. It performs its primary function of defending the country, while also serving as a melting pot, contributing to nation-building in Israel. But in addition it is an excellent school in which soldiers acquire skills. The Economist points out that the IDF "is more than a high-tech incubator, it sifts the entire population for talent ... and inculcates an ethic of self-reliance and problem-solving".

 

This is nothing new to Israelis. That Israel's economic development owes a great debt to the IDF is well known. What has been missing until now is the participation of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs in the army. Whereas the ultra-Orthodox community and many Arabs seem to think that Israel is doing them a favor by exempting them from military service and some see in civilian national service a proper substitute, by not serving in the IDF they are actually being deprived of the best education that Israel can provide.

 

The road to creating greater equality in Israeli society leads through compulsory military service for all. Military service in Israel is not only a burden but also a great benefit. It is also part of the equality of obligations that any democratic society demands of all its citizens.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

SHAMEFUL IMPRISONMENT

 

Non-violent demonstration is not merely the right of every citizen, but also the duty of everyone who wishes to fight against wrong.

 

Jonathan Pollak, an activist against the occupation and a leader of the group Anarchists Against the Wall, is due to enter Hermon Prison this morning to serve the three-month term to which he was sentenced for illegal assembly. In January 2008 Pollak took part in a protest by bicycle riders in Tel Aviv against the siege of the Gaza Strip. Some 30 riders participated in the demonstration, but Pollak was the only one arrested, tried and punished. His arrest should trouble every citizen who cares about human rights in Israel.

 

Pollak had participated in a peaceful, non-violent demonstration, which is not merely the right of every citizen, but also the duty of everyone who wishes to fight against wrong. In similar demonstrations that took place on highways, such as that of the motorcyclists against raising insurance rates or the demonstration by firefighters, no one was arrested. The fact that Pollak was the only one arrested in the cyclists' demonstration raises serious suspicions that he was being singled out by police and the courts because of his long struggle against the occupation.

 

Pollak's incarceration is a link in a troubling chain of persecution by the establishment against leftist activists in the country. Following years of arresting non-violent Palestinian demonstrators, Israeli activists are now also being arrested: Nuri al-Okabi, who was convicted of setting up an illegal garage, received an aggravated sentence only because he was an activist for Bedouin rights, as Judge Zecharia Yeminy stated explicitly. Mossi Raz, a former MK, was beaten by a policemen and arrested during a demonstration against the killing of a protester in Bil'in. Now comes Pollak's arrest.

 

In parallel with anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset aimed at curtailing the activities of leftist organizations - which peaked with the establishment last week of a committee to investigate the funding of left-wing organizations - the police and courts are coming down hard on leftist activists.

 

In view of the legal system's inactivity against rabbis inciting racism and against violent and law-breaking settlers, one cannot escape the feeling that this is politically motivated persecution. The fact that the police and the courts contribute to this persecution is particularly grave.

 

Pollak's incarceration is a dark day: not only for Pollak but for all those who fear for democracy in Israel.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

NETANYAHU IS THE KING OF SPIN

BY MERE WORDS, PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU CAN TURN BLACK TO WHITE AND FAILURE TO SUCCESS.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the king of spin. By mere words, he can turn black to white and failure to success. He is capable of standing on the outskirts of a city, gazing in the direction of the rising sun and claiming that it is now night. Moreover, he would be armed with well-thought-out explanations and dazzling verbal pyrotechnics to explain his position.

 

This week, he handed Shas and United Torah Judaism an enormous gift: He legitimized evasion of army service by all yeshiva students who reach the age of 22. But to the rest of the nation, he announced that he had achieved just the opposite: a revolution that would actually result in conscripting yeshiva students into the army.

 

Last month, he decided to continue paying stipends to married yeshiva students, thus circumventing a High Court of Justice ruling that deemed the payments discriminatory. But he informed the general public that the payments were being capped: Yeshiva students would only receive the money for five years.

 

Two weeks ago, Netanyahu won approval for a two-year state budget that grants the ultra-Orthodox enormous subsidies and other benefits. Yeshivas were given NIS 1.1 billion. To that must be added the NIS 1 billion given the independent school systems run by Shas and UTJ, which will enable these parties to continue depriving their students of the core curriculum while inculcating them with anti-democratic, anti-Zionist values. But Netanyahu boasted of how good - even excellent - the budget was.

 

Netanyahu certainly fancies himself a Zionist and a patriot, but in reality, he is neither. He is undermining the state's fundamental values by enabling wholesale exemptions from military service for the ultra-Orthodox. He is exacerbating hatred between different population groups by perpetuating the situation whereby ultra-Orthodox parents can sleep well at night, but secular and religious Zionist parents won't be able to sleep at all after hearing about exchanges of gunfire in the north or south. A situation in which military funerals are held in all parts of the country save Bnei Brak and Mea She'arim cannot go on.

 

Netanyahu is pulling the wool over the public's eyes when he speaks of doubling the number of ultra-Orthodox conscripts by 2015. For he is talking about an increase from the ridiculous number of 2,400 to the equally ridiculous number of 4,800. This is a drop in the bucket given the tens of thousands who will receive wholesale exemptions.

 

Moreover, an ultra-Orthodox youth who does enlist in the army will not perform the standard mandatory three-year stint in the Golani infantry brigade or the Armored Corps. Rather, he will only have to do an abbreviated 16-month stint - or he could opt for a two-year course that offers extensive technical training. The state will invest NIS 130 million per year in ultra-Orthodox soldiers, each of whom will receive a salary of NIS 4,000 per month, while run-of-the-mill soldiers receive NIS 400-700 per month.

 

But this is nothing when compared to that mother of all spins known as "national service." For the plan would not really require 4,800 yeshiva students to begin army service. Rather, it calls for half the number - 2,400. The other half would register for "national service," which is just another means of transferring an additional NIS 70 million to the ultra-Orthodox.

 

For who will monitor what is really going on with "ultra-Orthodox national service?" Who will verify how the money is spent? As we all know, income tax officials are fearful of going into Mea She'arim.

 

Reports have surfaced recently about fictitious yeshivas and the enrollment of students who do not exist, all in an effort to siphon off more funding from the "tyrannical" government. Other recent reports have described ultra-Orthodox youths who perform their "national service" inside the yeshivas, where they "tutor" those younger than they. This "service" will give birth to an enormous system run by the ultra-Orthodox themselves, which will grant them more fake income while denying them the tools needed to be productive.

 

There are many who fantasize about ultra-Orthodox youth working in hospitals, the fire department, even the police. This is a ridiculous urban legend. Nobody needs them there. What is needed are professionals, not nuisances who will disrupt the work - if they even show up to begin with.

 

Such national service could also have an adverse socioeconomic impact. For what will happen with those already employed at these agencies? Do the "national service" enlistees replace them, resulting in mass layoffs?

 

But Netanyahu doesn't stop on red. He doesn't care that he is destroying a fundamental tenet of Israeli society. It is of little concern to him that he is deepening discrimination within his nation - that he is facilitating ultra-Orthodox draft-dodging at the expense of secular youths, who are forced to shoulder the burden.

 

From the prime minister's standpoint, the most important thing is political survival. To that end, he is willing to compromise every Zionist principle and pay Shas and UTJ any price they demand. Afterward, he will sit quietly in his office, dreaming up his next spin.

 

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

EDITORIAL

AN ASSAULT ON EVERYONE'S SAFETY

 

The Glock 19 is a semiautomatic pistol so reliable that it is used by thousands of law enforcement agencies around the world, including the New York Police Department, to protect the police and the public. On Saturday, in Tucson, it became an instrument of carnage for two preventable reasons: It had an oversize ammunition clip that was once restricted by federal law and still should be; and it was fired by a disturbed man who should never have been able to purchase it legally.

 

The ludicrously thin membrane that now passes for gun control in this country almost certainly made the Tucson tragedy worse. Members of Congress are legitimately concerned about their own safety now, but they should be no less worried about the effect of their inaction on the safety of all Americans.

 

As lawmakers in Washington engage this week in moments of silence and tributes to Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other casualties, they should realize that they have the power to reduce the number of these sorts of horrors, and their lethality.

 

To do so, they will need to stand up to the National Rifle Association and its allies, whose lobbying power continues to grow despite the visceral evidence that the groups have made the country a far more dangerous place. Having won a Supreme Court ruling establishing a right to keep a firearm in the home, the gun lobby is striving for new heights of lunacy, waging a campaign to legalize the possession of a gun in schools, bars, parks, offices, and churches, even by teenagers.

 

It reflexively opposes even mild, sensible restrictions — but if there is any reason left in this debate, the latest mass shooting should force a retreat. Is there anyone, even the most die-hard gun lobbyist, who wants to argue that a disturbed man should be able to easily and legally buy a Glock to shoot a congresswoman, a judge, a 9-year-old girl?

 

One of the first things Congress can do is to take up a bill proposed by Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat of Long Island, that would ban the extended ammunition clip used by the Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner. A Glock 19 usually holds 15 bullets. Mr. Loughner used an oversize clip allowing him to fire as many as 33 bullets before pausing to reload. It was at that point that he was tackled and restrained.

 

Between 1994 and 2004, it was illegal to manufacture or import the extended clips as part of the ban on assault weapons. But the ban was never renewed because of the fierce opposition of the N.R.A. At least six states, including California and New York, ban extended clips, which serve absolutely no legitimate purpose outside of military or law enforcement use. At a minimum, that ban should be extended nationwide, and should prohibit possession, not just manufacture.

 

The gun itself was purchased by Mr. Loughner at a sporting goods store that followed the bare-minimum federal background check, which only flags felons, people found to be a danger to themselves or others, or those under a restraining order.

 

Mr. Loughner was rejected by the military for failing a drug test, and had five run-ins with the Pima Community College police before being suspended for disruptive activity. Why can't Congress require a background check — without loopholes for gun shows or private sales — that would detect this sort of history? If the military didn't want someone like Mr. Loughner to be given a firearm, neither should the public at large.

 

At least two members of Congress say they will start to carry weapons to district meetings, the worst possible response. If lawmakers want to enhance their safety, and that of their constituents, they should recognize that the true public menace is the well-dressed gun lobbyist hanging out just outside their chamber door.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT SO CHEAP FOR CHINA

 

While the Obama administration has been pressing China to stop artificially cheapening its currency, Chinese leaders still resist, insisting that that would damage exports and risk the country's economic health and possibly its social order. Spiraling inflation — exacerbated by the cheap currency policy — could threaten both.

 

Right now, China is twisting itself into a pretzel as it tries to rein in prices while also holding down the value of the renminbi. The central bank has increased interest rates twice since October, and in recent months it has boosted banks' reserve requirements three times and introduced price controls on food.

 

Annual inflation still hit 5.1 percent in November, the highest in more than two years, while higher interest rates are pulling in more money from abroad, fueling a housing bubble and further complicating economic management. Price controls and crackdowns on hoarding might temporarily ease the inflation rate, but they cannot provide a lasting solution. They tend to push businesses to the black market and depress production of regulated staples, leading to shortages — and often more inflation.

 

Allowing the renminbi to rise substantially would be far more effective. It would reduce the domestic price of imports, pressuring local producers to keep prices low. And it would temper money inflows by introducing a dose of uncertainty to the exchange rate. A rising currency could ultimately prove far less damaging, in terms of lost growth and employment, than the raft of conflicting policies that the Chinese government is deploying, so far unsuccessfully, to keep rising prices at bay.

 

So why won't China let the renminbi rise? The most plausible answer is that powerful interests in the export sector are swaying its decisions. Cheap exports have turbo-charged China's growth, but these days it is generating very few new jobs. And the policies supporting the export sector are detrimental to many Chinese, who earn little and pay more than they might for imports.

 

A more expensive renminbi would cool inflation. It would bolster Chinese leaders' stated objective of developing the domestic consumer economy. The government could deploy some of the hundreds of billons of dollars of reserves it has amassed (now parked in American Treasury bonds in order to keep a cheap currency) to pay for pensions and health insurance for ordinary people. Chinese consumers would then be able to consume more, encouraging imports and slowing exports, and helping both the world economy and the Chinese people.

 

China would be wise to stop tailoring economic policy to satisfy its exporters and start thinking about the big picture, starting with its own people.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

LUKASHENKO'S GULAG

 

Belarus has long stood out as one of the most repressive of the former Soviet republics. Now we have fresh evidence of the cruel lengths to which its president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, will go to crush all challenges to his dictatorial rule. Jailing a leading opposition presidential candidate and the candidate's wife, a journalist, was not enough. His government is threatening to seize custody of the couple's 3-year-old son.

 

Danil Sannikov has lived with his grandmother since his parents — Andrei Sannikov and Irina Khalip — were arrested last month. Mr. Sannikov was severely beaten. They were among thousands who protested in Minsk on Dec. 19 after Mr. Lukashenko stole his fourth term.

 

More than 600 people were arrested, including seven of the nine presidential candidates. After monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe accused the government of election fraud, the government ordered the organization out of the country.

 

The United States and the European Union rightly condemned the repression and called for the release of opposition activists. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reinforced that message by meeting with Belarussian human rights activists. Washington imposed sanctions on Belarus after the fraudulent 2006 vote and should consider whether they should be tightened.

 

The European Union has greater leverage and must re-evaluate its effort to encourage reform in Belarus with offers of improved relations, credit and economic aid. When it comes to Mr. Lukashenko, there is nothing to encourage.

 

Poland is trying an alternative approach. It has announced plans to abolish national visa fees for Belarussian citizens, open universities to independent-thinking Belarussians who can no longer study at home and create a center in Warsaw for the Belarussian opposition. Poland, Sweden, Germany, Britain and the Czech Republic are also pushing the European Union to reinstate a travel ban that was imposed on Mr. Lukashenko and other officials after the 2006 vote.

 

Mr. Lukashenko clearly thinks that his improving relations with Russia means he can thumb his nose at the West. The Kremlin, of course, said nothing about the stolen election and has enabled him with recent oil and gas agreements. Europe and the United States must now push back hard. There is little hope for democratic change in Belarus unless Mr. Lukashenko is forced to pay a stiff price for his abuses.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A WHIFF OF SPRING

 

Perhaps this is the year to plant oca and yacon. Or maybe pink blueberries, a double row of kohlrabi, and a patch of Galeux d'Eysines pumpkins. Anything is possible in January, when the seed catalogues have nearly all arrived. You can practically smell spring coming in their well-thumbed, dog-eared pages, where every cabbage, every cucumber, is perfectly ripe.

 

Every year brings the same hopes and the same mistakes. Seeds seem so inexpensive — only $3.95 a packet — and soon your subtotal is as much as a round trip to Reykjavik. Somehow you forget how much arable land you have and the length of your growing season and — most critical of all — the labor you will actually expend in the garden. This harvest you promise to put everything up. Not one tomato will go soft on the vine. Nothing will bolt. The basil will never freeze.

 

That is the beauty of reading seed catalogues while the next snowstorm approaches. We seed in an imaginary spring, weed in an imaginary summer, harvest in an imaginary fall. To many gardeners, seed catalogues are the most accurate depiction we have of the Garden from which humans were expelled. We read them with hope and credulity. You must be more than a gardener when the catalogues come. You must be a philosopher.

 

When daydreams are done, you have, on paper, a workable garden made up of the good old reliable varieties, and perhaps an experiment or two. A modesty overcomes you, and you decide to plant some of last year's leftover seeds. Soon enough you'll be on your knees in the warm dirt, happy to be there.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE POLITICIZED MIND

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Before he allegedly went off on his shooting rampage in Tucson, Jared Loughner listed some of his favorite books on his YouTube page. These included: "Animal Farm," "Brave New World," "Alice in Wonderland," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Through the Looking Glass" and "The Communist Manifesto." Many of these books share a common theme: individuals trying to control their own thoughts and government or some other force trying to take that control away.

 

Loughner also made a series of videos. These, too, suggest that he was struggling to control his own mind. Just before his killing spree, Loughner made one called "My Final Thoughts." In it he writes about different levels of consciousness and dreaming. He tries to build a rigid structure to organize his thinking. He uses the word "currency" as a metaphor for an inner language to make sense of the world.

 

"You create and distribute your new currency, listener?" the video asks. "You don't allow the government to control your grammar structure, listener?"

 

All of this evidence, which is easily accessible on the Internet, points to the possibility that Loughner may be suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia. The vast majority of schizophrenics are not violent, and those that receive treatment are not violent. But as Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a research psychiatrist, writes in his book, "The Insanity Offense," about 1 percent of the seriously mentally ill (or about 40,000 individuals) are violent. They account for about half the rampage murders in the United States.

 

Other themes from Loughner's life fit the rampage-killer profile. He saw himself in world historical terms. He appeared to have a poor sense of his own illness (part of a condition known as anosognosia). He had increasingly frequent run-ins with the police. In short, the evidence before us suggests that Loughner was locked in a world far removed from politics as we normally understand it.

 

Yet the early coverage and commentary of the Tucson massacre suppressed this evidence. The coverage and commentary shifted to an entirely different explanation: Loughner unleashed his rampage because he was incited by the violent rhetoric of the Tea Party, the anti-immigrant movement and Sarah Palin.

 

Mainstream news organizations linked the attack to an offensive target map issued by Sarah Palin's political

action committee. The Huffington Post erupted, with former Senator Gary Hart flatly stating that the killings were the result of angry political rhetoric. Keith Olbermann demanded a Palin repudiation and the founder of the Daily Kos wrote on Twitter: "Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin." Others argued that the killing was fostered by a political climate of hate.

 

These accusations — that political actors contributed to the murder of 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl — are extremely grave. They were made despite the fact that there was, and is, no evidence that Loughner was part of these movements or a consumer of their literature. They were made despite the fact that the link between political rhetoric and actual violence is extremely murky. They were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.

 

Yet such is the state of things. We have a news media that is psychologically ill informed but politically inflamed, so it naturally leans toward political explanations. We have a news media with a strong distaste for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement, and this seemed like a golden opportunity to tarnish them. We have a segmented news media, so there is nobody in most newsrooms to stand apart from the prevailing assumptions. We have a news media market in which the rewards go to anybody who can stroke the audience's pleasure buttons.

 

I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I'm committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.

 

The good news is that there were a few skeptics, even during the height of the mania: Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast, James Fallows of The Atlantic and Jonathan Chait of The New Republic. The other good news is that the mainstream media usually recovers from its hysterias and tries belatedly to get the story right.

 

If the evidence continues as it has, the obvious questions are these: How can we more aggressively treat mentally ill people who are becoming increasingly disruptive? How can we prevent them from getting guns? Do we need to make involuntary treatment easier for authorities to invoke?

 

Torrey's book describes a nation that has been unable to come up with a humane mental health policy — one that protects the ill from their own demons and society from their rare but deadly outbursts. The other problem is this: contemporary punditry lives in the world of superficial tactics and interests. It is unprepared when an event opens the door to a deeper realm of disorder, cruelty and horror.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A FLOOD TIDE OF MURDER

BY BOB HERBERT

 

By all means, condemn the hateful rhetoric that has poured so much poison into our political discourse. The crazies don't kill in a vacuum, and the vilest of our political leaders and commentators deserve to be called to account for their demagoguery and the danger that comes with it. But that's the easy part.

 

If we want to reverse the flood tide of killing in this country, we'll have to do a hell of a lot more than bad-mouth a few sorry politicians and lame-brained talking heads. We need to face up to the fact that this is an insanely violent society. The vitriol that has become an integral part of our political rhetoric, most egregiously from the right, is just one of the myriad contributing factors in a society saturated in blood.

 

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, more than a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. That figure includes suicides and accidental deaths. But homicides, deliberate killings, are a perennial scourge, and not just with guns.

 

Excluding the people killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 150,000 Americans have been murdered since the beginning of the 21st century. This endlessly proliferating parade of death, which does not spare women or children, ought to make our knees go weak. But we never even notice most of the killings. Homicide is white noise in this society.

 

The overwhelming majority of the people who claim to be so outraged by last weekend's shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others — six of them fatally — will take absolutely no steps, none whatsoever, to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. And similar tragedies are coming as surely as the sun makes its daily appearance over the eastern horizon because this is an American ritual: the mowing down of the innocents.

 

On Saturday, the victims happened to be a respected congresswoman, a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge and a number of others gathered at the kind of civic event that is supposed to define a successful democracy. But there are endless horror stories. In April 2007, 32 students and faculty members at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute were shot to death and 17 others were wounded by a student armed with a pair of semiautomatic weapons.

 

On a cold, rainy afternoon in Pittsburgh in 2009, I came upon a gray-haired woman shivering on a stone step in a residential neighborhood. "I'm the grandmother of the kid that killed those cops," she whispered. Three police officers had been shot and killed by her 22-year-old grandson, who was armed with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle.

 

I remember having lunch with Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children's Defense Fund, a few days after the Virginia Tech tragedy. She shook her head at the senseless loss of so many students and teachers, then told me: "We're losing eight children and teenagers a day to gun violence. As far as young people are concerned, we lose the equivalent of the massacre at Virginia Tech about every four days."

 

If we were serious, if we really wanted to cut down on the killings, we'd have to do two things. We'd have to radically restrict the availability of guns while at the same time beginning the very hard work of trying to change a culture that glorifies and embraces violence as entertainment, and views violence as an appropriate and effective response to the things that bother us.

 

Ordinary citizens interested in a more sane and civilized society would have to insist that their elected representatives take meaningful steps to stem the violence. And they would have to demand, as well, that the government bring an end to the wars overseas, with their terrible human toll, because the wars are part of the same crippling pathology.

 

Without those very tough steps, the murder of the innocents by the tens of thousands will most assuredly continue.

 

I wouldn't hold my breath. The Gabrielle Giffords story is big for the time being, but so were Columbine and Oklahoma City. And so was the anti-white killing spree of John Muhammad and Lee Malvo that took 10 lives in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., in October 2002. But no amount of killing has prompted any real remedial action.

 

For whatever reasons, neither the public nor the politicians seem to really care how many Americans are murdered — unless it's in a terror attack by foreigners. The two most common responses to violence in the U.S. are to ignore it or be entertained by it. The horror prompted by the attack in Tucson on Saturday will pass. The outrage will fade. The murders will continue.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

SWEET HOME ARIZONA

BY AURELIE SHEEHAN

 

Tucson

I SPENT early Saturday morning writing a short story set in Tucson. I've lived here for a decade, but it's only recently that I've felt I can claim the place as a subject. The impetus for writing about it hasn't been love so much as anxiety, a sense that it's in danger somehow — on many fronts.

 

That feeling of danger hit hard when I slouched out of my office to get another cup of coffee and my husband, mid-chat, looked up from his computer to tell me Representative Gabrielle Giffords had been shot, as had several other people. At a Safeway, of all places.

 

We stared at the local news Web site, trying to understand this new reality. A headline for an earlier article describing a lesser calamity still dominated the page: "BB Gun Killed 80 Bats Found Under East-Side Bridge, G & F Concludes," with a picture of a frail bat clinging to an embankment. To the right of this, the stark words of a breaking news bulletin: Gabrielle Giffords, 40, shot point-blank in the head.

 

Our 11-year-old daughter came out of her bedroom. She was wrapped in her fuzzy blanket, ready to listen to Taylor Swift or play Fruit Ninja on her iPod. Instead she listened to her mother tell of the shooting of our congresswoman and, as the news came in, the killing of her aide, a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl (who, like our daughter, had served on her student council) and three elderly citizens. She watched her mother cry.

 

My daughter knew Gabby Giffords as a politician, as someone we'd supported in the last election. We talk a lot about politics at our house, and she's an attentive listener, fierce about what she thinks is wrong and right. But her response that morning wasn't politically motivated, nor was ours. It was the shock of violence, the fear and anger and sorrow that comes from hearing about deaths close to home.

 

We know that Safeway; we know the bakery where people ran to safety. The shopping center is both pleasant and mundane: an adobe and brick building with the Santa Catalina Mountains rising up behind it, a sleepy, easy place to get groceries or a muffin on a weekend morning. Given a modest shift in circumstance, we might have been there.

 

Earlier, over breakfast, my husband and I had shaken our heads to see our adopted city as the dateline of an article on the front page of The Times under the headline "Citing Brainwashing, Arizona Declares a Latino Class Illegal." Arizona has been in the national news a lot lately, and never for the right reasons. Now, as we senselessly hit refresh on our computers, we felt more than ever caught in a place where the tenor of America's political discourse was spinning out of control. The state felt as if it was closing in on us.

 

Over the weekend, that slowly changed.

 

Saturday night we had signed on to go to a benefit concert for a small organization that develops music programs for at-risk children in the Southwest. It was organized by a talented 12-year-old boy who took guitar lessons alongside our daughter, and we had been looking forward to it. Now no one really wanted to go — we were all too beaten down by the day. But we went anyway, to support the young guitarist and the nonprofit group.

 

We sat down in the school auditorium, restless, a little ill at ease, scattered in our thoughts. About 200 people were there. The lights went down and, after a weirdly protracted pause, Brad Richter, the nonprofit's co-founder, took the stage.

 

He talked quietly about what had happened that morning. He had played guitar at Gabrielle Giffords's wedding, in 2007. And that evening he played an original composition for us, something she had requested he play then: "Elation," the song was called. The feeling of community in the room was palpable, and if elation was beyond our reach, we were at least consoled.

 

The next night, my daughter and I stopped in front of Ms. Giffords's office on the corner of Pima and Swan. Hundreds of candles and flowers, many teddy bears, peace signs, handwritten notes and a dreamcatcher — vast, radiant displays of support and hope — were arrayed at our feet. A TV newscaster was putting on lip balm, readying for another round of pronouncements. A group of college students huddled in their hoodies, awkward and silent and sad, and a lone young woman sat by the edge, in prayer.

 

It's been a tough couple of years here since the presidential election, and our friendships with some Republicans have grown strained. In the wake of this attack, I don't know if we will be able to talk to each other more now, if we will reach out across the political divide, or if the sides will become further entrenched, if this is the harbinger of more divisiveness.

 

But experiencing the steadfast and determined ways so many people of this city are trying to keep it together, trying to reach out and make this a better place — Gabrielle Giffords being one of them — has made me understand how much this flawed, complex desert town means to me, how much it feels like home.

 

Aurelie Sheehan is the director of the creative writing program at the University of Arizona and the author of "History Lesson for Girls," a novel.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHY POLITICIANS NEED TO STAY OUT IN THE OPEN

BY PAUL E. KANJORSKI

 

Washington

 

THE shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords this weekend reminded me of another, similar event in 1954, when I was a page in the House of Representatives. While the House was in session, Puerto Rican nationalists burst into the gallery and shot five members of Congress assembled on the floor.

 

There were few security restrictions around the Capitol at the time; anyone who wanted to watch Congress in action was welcome to walk into the building and take a seat in the House or Senate public galleries. There were no metal detectors or even many Capitol Police officers. In fact, it was a congressman, James Van Zandt of Pennsylvania, who rushed from the House floor and tackled the assailants with the assistance of a gallery spectator.

 

Americans were shocked at the assault, but only minor security procedures were put in place afterward. Most people assumed the attack was an aberration committed by political extremists and unlikely to be repeated.

 

My fellow page and best friend Bill Emerson and I carried several of the wounded members off the House floor, and in the years that followed we often talked about what that searing experience had meant. We recognized that the Capitol building itself was a symbol of freedom around the world and was therefore an inviting target. But we concluded that working in the Capitol required the assumption of a certain amount of risk to one's personal safety.

 

Three decades later we were both members of Congress — he as a Republican from Missouri, I as a Democrat

from Pennsylvania — and we continued our debate about balancing members' security with the imperative to remain accessible.

 

It wasn't idle talk. During the run-up to the first Persian Gulf war there were threats from Middle Eastern terrorists against Congress, and the sergeant at arms tried to persuade Congress to install an iron fence around the Capitol and to encase the House gallery in bulletproof glass. We both strongly objected, and the plan was rejected.

 

Bill didn't live to see 9/11, but I suspect he would have been as uneasy as I was to see barricades around the Capitol complex and complicated new procedures for visitors, who are no longer free to roam the halls without ID cards. Like most of my colleagues who witnessed the smoke rising from the Pentagon in 2001, I accepted that we had to adopt reasonable restrictions to protect our nation's critical buildings.

 

Nevertheless, even in this post-9/11 world, the shooting of Ms. Giffords was especially shocking, because it was so personal. She was hunted down far from the symbolic halls of power while performing the most fundamental responsibility of her job, listening to her constituents.

 

As far as we know, her attacker had no grand political point; I doubt we will ever really understand his motives. What the shooting does tell us, however, is that it is impossible to eliminate the risks faced by elected officials when they interact with their constituents.

 

We all lose an element of freedom when security considerations distance public officials from the people. Therefore, it is incumbent on all Americans to create an atmosphere of civility and respect in which political discourse can flow freely, without fear of violent confrontation.

 

That is why the House speaker, John Boehner, spoke for everyone who has been in Congress when he said that an attack against one of us is an attack against all who serve. It is also an attack against all Americans.

 

More than 50 years ago, my friend Bill Emerson and I witnessed an unspeakably violent expression of a political message on the floor of the House, and we learned how easily political differences can degenerate into violence. At the same time, regardless of the political climate, there can never be freedom without risk.

 

Despite numerous threats, Ms. Giffords took that risk and welcomed her constituents at a grocery store in Tucson. She recognized, as we did, that accepting the risk of violence was part of the price of freedom.

 

Paul E. Kanjorski served in the House of Representatives from 1985 to 2011.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON GUNS: POROUS LAWS HELP LUNATICS GET THEIR HANDS ON DEADLY WEAPONS

 

After Saturday's mass killings in Arizona, the question was as familiar as it was painful: "How did a crazy person like that ever get a gun?"

 

And the answer was the same as it has been after more gun massacres in the USA than anyone cares to remember: The laws that prohibit people with mental problems from buying guns are, so to speak, shot through with holes.

 

Under the federal law used in most states, the only people barred from purchasing a gun because of mental-health reasons are those who've been committed to a mental institution, or ruled mentally defective, by a court. Even then, states aren't required to report those findings to the federal database checked by gun stores.

 

A measure passed in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings provides grants to encourage states to report disqualifying mental illnesses to the federal database. But many states still don't. From the beginning of 2008 through last August, 13 states — including Alaska, New Mexico and Pennsylvania — have reported no one as having a disqualifying mental illness, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. During that same period, Arizona filed 4,465 reports, and California filed more than 53,000.

 

If there is one area where gun-rights supporters and gun-control activists ought to be able to cooperate, it's on keeping high-powered weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. Yet, the killings just keep happening. Since 1980, there have been 13 mass shootings that claimed at least 10 victims. And the tolls are particularly grisly when deranged individuals obtain weapons that allow them to spray large numbers of bullets without having to stop and reload:

 

•Before the Virginia Tech shootings, Seung Hui Cho had been found mentally dangerous by a court and ordered to get outpatient treatment. But the finding never made it to the federal database. Cho used several 15-round magazines to kill 32 students before shooting himself.

 

•Jared Lee Loughner, the accused gunman in Saturday's spree in Arizona, appeared so disturbed to some classmates at a local community college that one wrote in an e-mail that she feared he would " come into class with an automatic weapon" one day. The school finally suspended him, saying he couldn't return without clearance from a mental health professional. Yet Loughner breezed into a local gun store, passed the instant background check and walked out with the Glock and the 33-round magazine he allegedly used to kill six people and critically wound Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

 

Striking the right balance between identifying those who pose a serious threat, and protecting the privacy of those who don't, is a delicate task, but it's one worth revisiting in Tucson's wake.

 

A far easier call is to reinstate the ban, which expired in 2004, on the sale of assault weapons and the high-capacity magazines like those used by Cho and Loughner. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was gunned down in a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad in 1993, is trying to restore the ban on such magazines. It will be an uphill fight against the powerful gun lobby.

 

Until Congress and states find better ways to keep guns — or, at the very least, the high-capacity magazines that make multiple killings easy — out of the hands of disturbed people, Americans will be asking the same questions after the next mass shooting.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON GUNS: FIREARMS CONTROL DOESN'T WORK

BY ERICH PRATT

 

In the wake of the weekend's tragic shooting in Arizona, USA TODAY is once again bent on blaming millions of law abiding gun owners for the actions of one depraved individual.

 

Among other things, the Editorial Board wants to ban self-defense magazines that hold extra ammunition. While such a ban would not stop thugs like Jared Loughner from getting them, it would impact good Americans who don't like breaking the law.

 

The problem is, a magazine that holds lots of ammunition is exactly what one needs when the police are not around and you are faced with mob violence. This was the situation during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Korean merchants used firearms with large magazines to defend themselves against violent looters — and it was their stores that were left standing while other stores around them burned to the ground.

 

We're being told now that more gun control is needed. Really? Let's not forget that Loughner bought his firearm from a gun store and submitted to a background check. He had a clean record. The background check was supposed to save us from gun violence, but no amount of gun control will stop people like Loughner from getting guns.

 

So what can be done?

 

Well, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., put his finger on the solution. He has a concealed carry permit, but confesses that he had stopped carrying his firearm last year. "Now I know I need to have (my gun) on me," Shuler said.

 

Is this too simplistic an answer? Consider that in 2007, a gunman entered the New Life Church in Colorado Springs intending to perpetrate one of the greatest massacres in U.S. history. He was armed with a thousand rounds of ammunition. Unfortunately for him, he was only able to kill two people.

 

The reason? He was met by a woman with a gun. Jeanne Assam is a concealed carry permit holder, and she used her firearm to fatally wound the gunman, thus saving hundreds of lives at this church.

 

The lesson? Gun control never stops armed criminals; law abiding citizens with guns do.

 

Erich Pratt is the director of communications for Gun Owners of America, a grassroots lobbying group with more than 300,000 members.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

LET'S BE CAREFUL WITH CAUSE AND EFFECT IN TUCSON

BY ROSS BAKER

 

C harles Guiteau. Leon Czolgosz. Joseph Zangara. These men have not achieved the notoriety of John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald as assassins of presidents. Perhaps it is because their singularly violent acts could not be connected to some tantalizing theory of conspiracy that might cause their names to come down to us in infamy. With all three of the assassins or would-be assassins (Guiteau shot James A. Garfield in 1881, Czolgosz assassinated William McKinley in 1901, and Zangara attempted to kill Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 but succeeded only in killing Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak), madness fully as much as malice provoked the assailant's act. So too, it appears in the case of Jared Loughner, who is charged with grievously wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and killing or wounding others Saturday in Tucson.

 

But it is not mental derangement alone that is the spur to action in these outrages. Psychopaths can push ordinary people in the paths of subway trains, and many people who would be considered clinically insane are not homicidal at all. The toxic synergism of madness and symbols of authority has proved especially destructive in American history. And even if we exempt Booth and Oswald from the category of those who were simply mad, we cannot dismiss the possibility that anyone who would undertake the murder of a president must be seriously deranged — even if his professed goal was a political one.

 

McKinley's assassin

 

A description of presidential assassin Leon Czolgosz reads very much like accounts of the behavior of Loughner. According to historian Margaret Leech, Czolgosz's "temper was cranky. He wanted to be let alone and was always fighting with his stepmother. It is evident that his mental condition progressively deteriorated. In his last year ... he became more withdrawn and irritable." At the same time, the assassin, according to Leech, "stayed by himself reading many radical newspapers and magazines and attending some Socialist meetings. In revolt against the injustice of the social order, Czolgosz was strongly attracted to the doctrines of anarchism." Clearly, the case can be made equally well for a political motive and a purely idiosyncratic mental condition.

 

The Garfield assassination is even more eerily evocative of the events of this past weekend. Bystanders who witnessed the shooting in Washington's train station claimed to have heard the assassin shout, "I am a Stalwart and now Arthur is president." The Stalwarts were a group of conservative Republicans who opposed civil service reform and sought unsuccessfully to renominate Ulysses S. Grant in 1880. Their consolation prize was Stalwart Chester A. Arthur as vice presidential candidate, who was to take office on Garfield's death. Despite the fact that Guiteau, the assassin, would plead innocent by reason of insanity, the news media condemned the Stalwarts not so much for inspiring the killer but rather for poisoning the political atmosphere.

 

The Stalwart leader who was instantly blamed for instigating political bitterness, Sen. Roscoe Conkling, remained silent and withdrew from politics. Some who have attributed the embittered tone of American politics to Sarah Palin might well expect the same fate for the former Alaska governor, even though the evidence of Loughner's mental illness is much more compelling than the unsubstantiated suspicion that the use of rifle-sight logos on Palin's website served as an inspiration for the assailant.

 

Assessing blame

 

A one-size-fits-all explanation can be expected — or at least sought — in the aftermath of an outrage of this nature. Advocates who seek to limit the use of handguns will press their case in the face of the limited historical success of gun control legislation. Those who blame the news media — specifically the 24-hour news channels and their incendiary commentators — will also be able to make a plausible case that inspiration for Loughner can be found in the words of people such as Glenn Beck or his radio counterpart Rush Limbaugh.

 

Many provocative statements can be culled from these right-wing commentators and their counterparts on the far left. And it's unmistakable that the language of political attack in America has been weaponized. However, it's worth remembering that access to firearms and inflammatory rhetoric might be necessary ingredients for political violence, but by themselves they are not sufficient. As U.S. history has shown all too well, sick and isolated individuals resentful of authority take very different paths toward achieving violent goals.

 

Investigators today are already trying to uncover the motivations of the alleged perpetrator in Arizona. Yet until this picture comes into focus, we must resist the urge to indict our society or our political system based on the acts of deranged lone assailants.

 

Ross K. Baker is a political science professor at Rutgers University and is writing a book titled Profiles in Cover. He also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

'N-WORD' HAS BECOME AN INDELIBLE PART OF THE AMERICAN LEXICON

BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

Tukufu Zuberi didn't know I'd be the one calling him about this thorny issue, but he knew someone would. Every time the N-word — the racial pejorative many Americans struggle to define — pushes its way back into the national spotlight, journalists want to know what he thinks.

 

"Don't worry, I get this all the time," Zuberi said when I apologized for bringing yet another N-word controversy to him. The University of Pennsylvania's Lasry Family Professor of Race Relations said he has grown used to answering questions about the social brush fires sparked by the use of this word, which many consider a hateful pejorative.

 

But this time, I had questions about the N-word that I thought he would find perplexing. I wanted to know what Zuberi thought of a book publisher's decision to release an edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that replaces the N-word throughout with "slave." NewSouth Books' effort to sanitize the book — in which the N-word appears 219 times — has been attacked by a lot of people, including some blacks, as a politically correct rewrite of Mark Twain's classic.

 

And I wanted to know whether Zuberi thought a federal judge's decision to let a jury decide whether blacks and whites should be held to different standards when they use the N-word at work made good sense. Late last month, Judge R. Barclay Surrick said former TV journalist Tom Burlington is entitled to have a jury determine whether he was unfairly fired for using the N-word on the job, while two black co-workers who allegedly did the same thing were not disciplined.

 

In other words, if it's alright for the word to be written throughout Twain's book, why should Burlington get sacked for speaking it in a television newsroom?

 

"The great literature teaches us about the nuances of culture in the past," Zuberi said. "If we take the N-word out

of these books, we would end up cleaning up material which is helpful for us to understand the racism of the time in which those works were produced."

 

But Burlington's case, Zuberi said, is different. "At a job, there are certain standards of language use," said the sociologist, who also co-hosts History Detectives on PBS. "The word 'nigger' is a form of profanity and is often used in that context by whites."

 

That view might prevail in the court of public opinion, but I suspect it won't fly in a court of law. I understand the cultural reasons for wanting to leave the N-word in Huckleberry Finn, which some think attacks racism while others believe that it promotes it.

 

Either way, Zuberi is right — "taking the N-word out of Twain's book would prevent us from understanding" the writer and the times in which he lived. But I think Zuberi misses the mark a little in drawing a distinction between a white and black person who uses that epithet in their workplace. Such different treatment might well constitute an "unlawful employment" practice violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The N-word is more likely to be seen as provocative speech when whites speak it because of the history of their use of the word, Zuberi said.

 

However it gets used, this much is certain: The N-word has become an indelible part of the American lexicon, one that migrates and mutates from one generation to another like a virus that outpaces its cure.

 

And it will keep Zuberi busy answering reporters' questions about its troubling social and cultural implications.

 

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

MOMENT OF SILENCE WAS LONG OVERDUE FOR NATION

BY CHUCK RAASCH

 

WASHINGTON — As President Obama and the first lady stood for a moment of silence on the White House lawn Monday, it was easy to see how much the nation needed a collective deep breath, and how scarce such opportunities have become.

 

Despite calls to dial back the political rhetoric, heat and finger-pointing still emanated from the usual corners in the aftermath of the killing of six people and wounding of 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., near a Tucson supermarket on Saturday.

 

But the awful truth is that violent eruptions from disturbed people are not exclusive to this period in American history. What is amazing is that it does not happen even more to public figures in a country with so much violence in its entertainment media, where political differences are so easily escalated, and where guns are so readily available.

 

Questions of when rhetoric goes from a safe political release to triggers for the violent urges of contorted minds have been around since at least Julius Caesar.

 

John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan and James Earl Ray all committed insane acts that altered history in a single moment. In the 1980s, a violent anti-government group called the Posse Comitatus erupted in many states, culminating with the death of three law enforcement officers and a tax protester in related 1983 shootings in North Dakota and Arkansas.

 

What makes these times different is how much more difficult it is to gather together in the aftershocks. And it is not just "the media" that's to blame. Some of the comments on the Internet in the minutes and hours after Giffords' shooting were anathema to any definition of civility, or humanity.

 

Can you imagine how different the Kennedy assassination would be seen today, how different that period of somber national mourning would have been, had there been an Internet and a 24-hour cable culture hashing in real time all the rumors and conspiracies that still swirl around that president's killing?

 

"We can always lower our voices, and these times are awful and these times are bad, but probably something in the future has got to be worse," said Stephen Hess, a veteran political scientist at the Brookings Institution, who saw Dwight Eisenhower's hate mail after the war hero left the presidency.

 

"There are just too many megaphones for people now — instant ones, Twitter and e-mail and everything else," Hess said. "There are some wonderful parts that our connected communications have produced. Other than that, there is a downside because we are a country that has these ugly cycles."

 

Make no mistake, there have been modern examples of constructive civility after national shocks.

 

After Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, he reset relations with Democrats in Congress, which helped Reagan get the tax cuts he had run on. Reagan's pluck during his recovery — which was far more difficult than he or his advisers were saying at the time — brought the country together at a time when it really needed it.

 

After the shock of Sept. 11, 2001, the country rallied in unison again. In Congress, ideological rhetoric cooled for several months, although that period of legislative comity produced bipartisan measures, such as the Patriot Act, which later became highly divisive.

 

On some things, we can simply never go back. Niche media have created a balkanized ideological world, one that has made a few loud voices quite rich but has devalued objective debate to a virtual nothing. It is easier than ever to have your viewpoints reinforced 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That won't go away.

 

And without gatekeepers, the Internet will continue to be a host for the most predatory, destructive and violent imagery that twisted minds can conjure. It has been built, and they have come.

 

Hess long ago saw that side of human nature. He opened Eisenhower's post presidential mail for years.

 

It was a different time, for sure. The day of JFK's inaugural, Ike loaded up his own car and drove to Gettysburg, Hess recalled. He had no Secret Service protection. When Hess flagged a threatening letter, it would be checked against a three-ring binder that the Secret Service had kept on people who had threatened the president. If the writer wasn't listed, the name would be added to the Secret Service's list.

 

Some of the threats still resonate today.

 

"Here (Eisenhower) was: two-term president, five star-general, the most respected person of his generation," Hess said. "And God, you should have seen the stuff people were writing him."

 

(Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett. Contact him at craasch@gannett.com, follow him at http://twitter.com/craasch or join in the conversation at http://www.facebook.com/raaschcolumn)

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

MASS SHOOTINGS ARE A FACT OF AMERICAN LIFE

BY JAMES ALAN FOX

 

There's nothing that prompts a livelier debate about gun control than a deadly mass shooting. And when the shooting victims — slain or surviving — include someone as prominent as a member of Congress or a federal judge, advocates on both sides of the debate seize the opportunity to advance their agenda.

 

No sooner had the gun smoke cleared following Saturday's tragic massacre at a shopping plaza in Tucson, than a duel of words and statistics commenced pitting gun control and gun rights advocates.

 

Folks like Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, pointed out that Arizona ranks near the bottom in terms of state gun restrictions in a country that ranks near the bottom among nations of the world. Yet, people like John Lott, author of More Guns Less Crime, dismissed the episode as an unfortunate aberration to the downward trending murder rate in Arizona and nationally.

 

More frustrating than suffering the endless and unproductive tug of war over the gun issue is the sad truth that nothing short of the complete and impossible disarmament of America will eliminate the risk of the kind of incident that stunned the nation so deeply that President Obama called for a collective moment of silence to remember the dead and honor the wounded. Notwithstanding changes over the years in regulations pertaining to background checks for gun purchasers, the temporary requirement for waiting periods, the passage and subsequence expiration of the assault weapons ban, and the spread of concealed carry laws, the number of mass shootings in the United States — averaging 20 per year — has remained relatively stable over decades.

 

Limits of background checks

 

The Tucson shooting may have led to spirited debate on gun control, but it also demonstrates the futility of either side's proposals. While it is abundantly clear that Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old man charged with Saturday's massacre, was bizarre in his thinking and behavior, he lacked any history of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization that would have disqualified him based on the federally mandated instant background check. Despite his instability, he was able to walk into a local sports shop in November to acquire a semi-automatic 9-mm Glock equipped with an extended magazine. Moreover, there is nothing about this case that exposes loopholes in our ability to determine fitness to purchase. If nothing else, the shooting illustrates the challenges of depending on background checks to weed out those who cannot be trusted with a deadly weapon.

 

As part of its liberal gun laws, Arizona has in place a broad provision for citizens to carry concealed weapons, even without a permit. Proponents of right-to-carry laws argue that such allowances create a deterrent effect on criminals. Law-breakers will recognize that a significant share of residents is armed and could overtake a gunman, the argument goes. And it follows that law-abiding and armed citizens could prevent greater carnage. In the Tucson massacre, neither factor influenced the tragic outcome. The gunman was determined to kill, no matter who stepped in his path, and panic at the scene may have disarmed — in a figurative scene — bystanders carrying concealed firearms.

 

Although gun proponents are correct when they contend that firearms are not to blame for the behavior of mass killers, guns do make their attacks far bloodier. The availability of high-powered, rapid-fire weapons is surely a large part of the reason why the death tolls in mass murders have been so large in the recent past. Three-quarters of the deadliest mass murders in the United States have occurred since 1980, most of which involved firearms as the exclusive or primary weapon.

 

Easier path to carnage

 

It would have been nearly impossible for the Tucson gunman to kill and wound so many with a knife or his own hands. In addition to the greater lethality of the firearm, guns also distance the attacker psychologically from his victims. It is possible that the shooter may not have been emotionally able to kill a young girl had he had any physical contact with her. But with a gun, he could dispassionately shoot down innocent strangers, along with his primary target, as if they were moving objects in a video game.

 

Notwithstanding the worn-out slogan that "guns don't kill, people do," guns do make it easier for people to commit murder. And semi-automatic guns, like the Tucson assailant's out-of-the-box spanking-new Glock, make it easier to commit mass murder.

 

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University and co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

COUNTY MAYOR JIM COPPINGER

 

After a series of tie votes on a successor for highly regarded Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, the County Commission on Monday put its unanimous support for the job of mayor behind current Commissioner Jim Coppinger.

 

We look forward to what we believe will be steady leadership by new County Mayor Coppinger. He is slated to serve until the 2012 election.

 

Earlier votes had split the commissioners evenly between Coppinger and Mike Carter, special assistant to Ramsey. Ramsey is leaving to serve as chief of staff to Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Haslam.

 

By all indications, both Coppinger and Carter are bright and competent, and either could perform well in the position of mayor. The commissioners' support ultimately went to Coppinger. After repeated tie votes, their unanimous decision on Monday should bring a sense of stability and unity to county government.

 

Given his capable work on the commission, we have every confidence that Coppinger will do well as county mayor, too.

 

Coppinger obviously has big shoes to fill. Ramsey has performed ably in his position for years. For instance, while many people deserve credit for helping attract the big new Volkswagen manufacturing plant to Chattanooga, Ramsey is considered to have played a major role in bringing that wonderful economic development here.

 

It is regrettable when two good candidates seek a job -- whether in government or the private sector -- that one must lose out. But Hamilton County should benefit from the leadership of our new county mayor, Jim Coppinger.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SNOW EXCITES CHATTANOOGANS

 

Since we have a temperate climate in our Chattanooga area, we always get excited when we have snow. We love snow — but not "too much," and we hope it doesn't "stay too long."

 

We have had a lot of it recently, piling up beautifully, many inches deep, on our mountains and hills and also in

our valleys.

 

There has been so much snow, though, that traffic has been stopped or slowed, demanding extreme care on our streets and highways. And remember, even when the snow begins to melt, there may be overnight freezes, creating major traffic dangers.

 

We always should remember our neighbors who may need help, with food and shelter and heat. And with our heating units being depended upon more than usual, we should be cautious to avoid fires.

 

Remember, too, that our pets need special attention if they are outdoors. And our wild birds, squirrels, rabbits and other animals will have difficulty finding enough food in deep snow. They surely will need some "handouts."

 

As we enjoy the snow, we need to deal safely with the challenges of the season.

 

And remember the classic poem's question: "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Spring is a couple of months away, but we'll surely welcome it.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CHATTANOOGA'S OWN PASSAT

 

Names are very important. Consider your own — it's "yours," distinctive and personal (even if some other people have it, too).

 

Shakespeare wrote memorably that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But a name is individual, particularly in commercial markets.

 

Names are important to identify excellent products. So we are very interested that as Chattanooga is excitedly welcoming Volkswagen's new manufacturing plant, the existing VW name "Passat" has been chosen for the midsize sedans that soon will be rolling off production lines here.

 

"Passat" means "tradewind" in German — and that name will be "sweet" in Chattanooga, as more than 2,000 local VW employees will do their best to produce attractive-looking, high-quality and very appealing Passats, selling in the $20,000 range.

 

We look forward to having VW and Chattanoogans build many exciting new Passats — and ship them to eager buyers throughout our country.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

DON WAMP

 

While the family name "Wamp" long has been familiar in our community because of the outstanding service that Congressman Zach Wamp performed for us as Tennessee's 3rd District member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the name has also been highly respected in Chattanooga and Hamilton County because the congressman's father, Don Wamp, long was one of our most prolific and able architects.

 

Tragically, Don Wamp's life came to an end at the age of 78 Friday as the result of a fall in his office.

 

Don Wamp was the designer of many of our finest local buildings — a total of 1,200 of them!

 

Earlier, he was a pilot in the U.S. Army, and he served in the Army National Guard.

 

The elder Wamp also served as commissioner of recreation in East Ridge, and was a co-founder of the United Bank of Chattanooga.

 

We greatly esteem the many lasting contributions that Wamp made in our community, and are saddened by his untimely death.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

DIFFICULT, DANGEROUS — DEADLY!

 

What do you do if you are associated in some way in our society with someone who is not just "odd," or "peculiar," but is possibly even "threatening"?

 

That can be a hard question to answer.

 

It comes to our attention from time to time — much too often.

 

A recent situation, of course, was the tragic case in Tucson, Ariz., in which Jared Loughner has been charged in connection with the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. She was gravely wounded, and six other innocent people who happened to be in the area when the shooting began were killed.

 

Now we are informed that there were "warning signs" — that there were several incidents and occasions when more than just mildly "unusual behavior" had been demonstrated by Loughner.

 

What should have been done? What could properly have been done? Too late we seek answers. But answers aren't easy.

 

Should someone have talked with his family, alerted teachers or even authorities, suggested psychological counseling or ...?

 

All such things come to mind. But what if they are tried and don't work? It's hard to separate "odd behavior" from a "psychotic threat." There may be reasons to suspect but not enough to act decisively to head off a potential threat.

 

It is obviously frustrating when we see questionable behaviors taking place but don't know what to do — or when we "do something" that doesn't work — and then a tragic event occurs anyway.

 

It's something to think about. We would not have any innocent person mistreated just because he is "different." Nor would we want to see any mentally ill person lack needed treatment. Sometimes the lines between suspicion, concern, proper action and no action are not clear in time.

 

Sometimes tragedy sadly is not avoided.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MARE COMMUNE EST ET OMNIUM LITORA

 

Back when Emperor Justinian was running most of the western world from his base in Istanbul, beaches along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, as elsewhere in the Roman Empire, were freely open to the public. Beaches, along with the sea and the air, were considered common property. If you care to check us on this, please consult the body of Roman civil law known as the Justinian Digest: "Mare commune est et omnium litora, sicut aer." 

 

Alas if Justinian were to check out his former territories of Antalya, Kemer, Bodrum or Marmaris, he'd be pretty upset. For while Turkish civil law has carried this concept forward some 16 centuries, nobody seems to be paying attention. As Monday's cover story in our weekly "South" documented, 455 areas of publicly owned coastal shoreline have been illegally locked up for private gain. In some cases, areas up to 145,000 square meters have been carved up into private, pay-for-access reserves for those willing to pay. Top this injustice with exorbitant rates for umbrellas and beach chairs and we have not just theft, but also a serious blight on efforts to create a thriving tourism economy.

 

Surely, Turkey is not alone. Spain, France and Greece generally get pretty good marks for upholding the public's legal rights to shoreline access. But Italy has succumbed to the same commercial temptations and pressures, illegally blocking some 5,000 kilometers of coastline to its rightful owners. But this should not be an excuse. 

 

We are pleased that a Parliamentary commission has brought these thefts to light. We are disappointed, however, that three political parties which have generally failed to cooperate on anything, found common cause in changing the law to encourage these practices. The same commission's report revealed that lawmakers from Turkey's coastal regions joined in 2008 to sponsor elimination of serious penalties for those fencing off public beaches. We are also disappointed that numerous government agencies have joined in this coastal land rush, locking out anyone but their own holidaymaking employees from choice parcels. That the Justice Ministry itself is among the culprits only adds insult to the injury of this scandal. 

 

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin has called for a timeout, suggesting legal challenges to these private expropriations be allowed to work their way through the court system. This, of course, will take years. So we disagree. 

 

Ergin, as well as Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, have more than enough legal ammunition to end this illegal occupation immediately. They can and should do so, before the critical tourism season begins again in late spring. 

 

Emperor Justinian was right. Existing Turkish law is right. Public property that has been illegally seized by private interests must be returned to its rightful owners: the public.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DIMINISHING RETURNS IN TURKEY'S EU BID

SEMİH İDİZ

 

An Arab journalist friend asked recently why Turks appeared so keen on EU membership when it is clear that there will always be some country or group in Europe that will throw nails in Ankara's path because it is a predominantly Muslim country.

 

This friend said that when looked at from the Middle East, Turkey appears to be managing well enough on its own without EU membership, with fairly good prospects for the future despite the countless political problems that it is grappling with at home.

 

It was clear from his remarks that the EU for him is some kind of an "exclusive club" that Turks want to join for the sake of international prestige but are constantly suffering the indignity of being turned back because they are Muslims.

 

In fact the EU perspective has helped Turkey's modernization process at critical moments in time. The constitutional changes and legislative reform, such as the abolition of capital punishment, which began under the Ecevit government, could not have been achieved so easily without this perspective.

 

As we told our Arab journalist friend, the overall question here is not a cultural and/or religious one, as many in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East appear to think. EU membership for Turkey does not mean that Turks will change their religion or culture and become like Germans or the French, something they clearly have no need for.

 

What the EU represents for Turkey is a set of culturally and religiously neutral social, economic and political standards that are incorporated in the "acquis communautaire," the body of law that comprises EU legislation. This "acquis" lays the groundwork for administering modern societies in terms of their contemporary social, political and economic needs.

 

Put another way, the "EU acquis" is there to serve the welfare of the citizen, not to turn him or her into something other than what he or she already is culturally or religiously. Despite this elemental fact, however, for many in Europe Turkey's EU membership has become a cultural and religious topic today.

 

In the meantime it is undeniable that as far as the real and practical advantages of its EU perspective are concerned, Turkey is increasingly coming under the influence of "the principle of diminishing returns." In other words, extra energy put into its membership bid is not necessarily going to change the current morass in Turkish-EU ties.

 

In practical terms there are only three chapters left in the membership talks today that can be opened for negotiation, and when that is done the "negotiation game" will come to an abrupt stop. It is clear at this stage that no Turkish government can concede anything on Cyprus for the sake of unblocking the eight chapters that cannot be negotiated because of this problem.

 

Any concessions, especially after the Annan Plan process, would be politically costly and possibly even suicidal for any government, a risk hardly worth taking given the mood in Europe concerning Ankara's membership bid.

 

Turks are aware that even if the Cyprus obstacle were to be overcome somehow by unilateral concessions, Turkey would still be faced with its "French problem." France has vetoed negotiations on five critical chapters, arguing that these concern full membership issues and therefore go beyond the "privileged partnership" that it – along with Germany – is calling on for Turkey.

 

These facts on their own are enough to turn Turks away from Europe, and it is clear that faith in the EU is at an all time low among them. In addition to these facts, there are also developments in Europe that make the prospect of EU membership less attractive for Turks.

 

The EU today looks more like it is in a state of "disunion" rather than being in a process of enhancing and deepening its "unity." Commentary in the European press about the state of affairs in the EU, on the other hand, hardly provides for much encouragement.

 

It seems from today's vantage point that clearing the economic mess the EU is in will take years, given the arduous mental, political and infrastructure reform that some member states will have to undergo for this to happen, while facing the domestic resistance that will inevitably come as a result of this.

 

The economic crisis will also increase social animosities within Europe, not just towards Muslims. Accusing Poles, Latvians or Lithuanians, etc., of taking jobs away from citizens is already something that is happening in certain EU countries.

 

In addition to this, the EU looks more like "a union of unequals" with every passing day, with some members actively discriminating against others. This is seen in the treatment being meted out to Romania and Bulgaria, two members that are currently being treated like the black sheep of the family.

 

Then there is the question of standards, which also appear to be falling by the wayside. Put aside the human rights problems relating to Muslims living in Europe; Hungary – a fully-fledged EU member – is introducing authoritarian legislation against the press and disregarding warnings from other EU countries. In the meantime members such as France and Italy are engaged in the mass expulsion of "undesirable elements" from other parts of the EU, in manners reminiscent of an uglier time in European history.

 

As for the Muslims in Europe, their lives are already becoming unpleasant as the ultra right and not so ultra, but nevertheless equally atavistic, right fan the flames of Islamophobia and ethnic hatreds based on considerations of race, culture and religion.

 

Given this overall situation it is wrong to assume, as our Arab journalist friend did, that Turks are as keen on EU membership as some appear to think. Turkey will have general elections in six months' time and it is a foregone conclusion that none of the politicians will run on a ticket that actively promotes the EU perspective.

 

Most Turkish politicians are aware that it is best to keep silent on this topic since appearing excessively keen on this membership, while disregarding the obstacles strewn on Turkey's path, is clearly a vote loser.

 

In the meantime Turkey's modernization needs are not going to disappear because of resistance in Europe to its EU membership, or because the prospects for membership look so bleak. Turkey has reaped advantages from its EU perspective to date and no doubt will continue to do so, albeit under the law of diminishing returns.

 

But if the EU perspective were to disappear altogether Turkey would still face the need for social, economic and political reforms given the pressures coming from society. But it will have to do so without the EU. Developments in Turkey over the past few years in particular show that this is not as impossible a prospect as some may think.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ISLAM AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

 

Professor Hayrettin Karaman is one of the most important authorities on Islamic law. He even handles the fiercest debates with the manner of a real believer and with tremendous tolerance.

 

Although I disagree with him on some of his views, I enjoy having conversations with Karaman.

 

Karaman wrote an article published by daily Yeni Şafak on Jan. 9: "Secularization and Degeneration." The next day Mehmet Yılmaz of daily Hürriyet expressed some of his views on Karaman's article (daily Hürriyet, Jan. 10)

 

Today I will quote a paragraph from Karaman's piece.

 

"People interpreting religion mull over how secular and liberal democracy can go hand in hand with Islam. Some of them say: 'No harmony and conciliation is possible between the two – if one exists, the other cannot – at least in full practice. Without changing the unchangeable in Islam it cannot be harmonized with liberal secular democracy. Therefore, if the pious are obliged to live in such a compelling order they will maintain their faith and viewpoint and will do practices within the bounds of possibility.' And I am one of them.

 

"Another group (Islamic modernists) says 'Islam is nothing but faith, religious practices and ethics. In other areas, religious principles (explanations in the Quran, the sayings and practices of the prophet Mohammed) are not binding all the time. The pious in politics, law, economic, social, internal and civil areas follow the requirements of modern times (rules of liberal secular democracy) and Islam is not an obstacle to this.'"

 

The professor clearly finds no conciliation between Islam and secular-liberal democracy, but on the other hand, he stresses the fact that Islamic modernists believing otherwise do exist.

 

One of the main pillars of liberal democracy is that a scientist can defend the right of thought. For, in democracies, there is a place for non-democrats, too.

 

Actually, I was puzzled by the following two questions:

 

1) do constituents who voted "Yes" by a margin of 58 percent at least year's referendum believe that Islam and democracy are compatible (the modernist view) or not (the traditional view)?

 

2) On which side are the leading figures of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP?

 

Let me simplify what I mean with an example:

 

In the first episode of a new TV soap titled "Muhteşem Yüzyıl" (The Magnificent Century), Süleyman the Magnificent was believed to be portrayed as a hedonistic drinker, therefore it was fiercely criticized by protesters who most likely voted "Yes" in the popular vote, with the expectation of more democracy.

 

As far as I see, Süleyman the Magnificent, also known as "Kanuni," according to them, is a supra-human being reproducing without intercourse, an asexual man thinking through the problems of the country day and night and giving Harvard-style education in the "Seraglio" (or Harem… I think Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç shares this view).

 

Do those protesting most likely come from a part of society asking for "progressive democracy" while mulling over whether Islam goes hand in hand with democracy, or are they democrats for their own self-interest?

 

2) At a dinner in the eastern province of Erzurum, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu asked around 150 ambassadors to take off their ties and made them dance. The ambassadors are said to have had fun. At first, no alcoholic beverages were served, but at a later time rakı was served upon the request of several ambassadors.

 

Considering that in line with his religious beliefs, the minister restricts others from drinking alcoholic beverages, I am puzzled if he is thinking that liberal-democracy concurs with Islam or otherwise.

 

I have my reservations. However, let's give him the credit that he did not turn down the request to serve rakı to the ambassadors. I wonder if the minister started the night in the understanding of "traditional Islam" but ended it as an "Islamic modernist"?

 

The distinction Hayrettin Karaman makes is vital for Turkey today.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

 

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

Why is the political left gaining ground in most Latin American countries while it is losing sympathy among the people in some Western European countries that were once called fortresses of social democracy?

 

If the reason is the difference between the ideologies and the people in those western countries who have started to dispute leftist ideas then the tendency can be understood. However, all political parties, from the left or the right, have nowadays been discussing almost the same social, economic and political maladies and propose almost the same remedies. What, then, is the difference? If there is not a serious difference why have people changed their minds?

 

The problem might be the gap between the definition of the ideologies by different political parties and the implementation of policies by those parties when they come to power. If a conservative party intervenes in every corner of the economy while defending the free market mechanism and free private enterprise, who can trust it? A social democratic party which promised a welfare state but then created a serious crisis due to the implementation of bad economic policy, thus further deteriorating income distribution, will naturally lose the sympathy of the people.

 

Ideology must be defined properly. In other words, political parties must define and explain their ideologies as they are written in the book, not in a way they prefer. Ideology consists of the common beliefs, approaches and concepts of a group of people – for example the sympathizers of a political party. This indicates that belief alone is not sufficient to define an ideology. It is necessary to have some approaches or policies to realize those beliefs and some concepts to support them.

 

For example, a person who supports the fight against poverty and unemployment cannot be at once called a leftist. Nowadays, every civilized member of society defends this idea. To be defined as a leftist one must think, discuss and, if given the chance, design policies to balance unjust income distribution and to create new job opportunities. And these policies must depend on realistic concepts, not on unrealistic dreams. Political parties on the right must also design and when in power implement policies that support the free market mechanism and fight against unjust competition, corruption, etc.

 

When ideology is properly defined, it is easily understood why some political parties are losing ground when others are gaining. If political parties do not stick to their properly defined ideologies they lose the trust of the people who believe in those ideologies. Or more importantly, even when they stick to their ideologies, if they are not successful in solving problems because of unrealistic approaches or policies, in the end people naturally put the blame on them.

 

Britain and Sweden are recent examples. According to political commentary from seasoned analysts, Britain's Labour Party made two mistakes. First, the Labour government could not accomplish what it promised: reforming the education system, health care, transportation, etc. Secondly, when it was observed that the party was losing popularity, the headquarters began to adopt new approaches and the policies which the Conservative Party had followed for years. These two mistakes accelerated the loss of popularity.

 

On the other hand, there are some similar, but at the same time different reasons why the rightist coalition won a second victory in Sweden. First, they did not make the mistake the Labour Party made: they did not promise anything beyond their power to provide. As a result, they accomplished most of their promised rehabilitations of the economy. Secondly, they never tried to change any approaches or policies that defined them ideologically when they faced sudden and surprise changes in the economy and politics. Thus, they did not lose their constituency's sympathy.

 

There might be another element which played a role for the increasing popularity of the political right in Sweden, which was not as effective in Britain: the increasing negative reaction to migrant workers. It is sad to imagine that even in a civilized country like Sweden, such an allergy and reaction played a role in domestic politics. However, sometimes serious problems can force people to act beyond their training and education. This is a fact of life.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ÖCALAN NEEDS A TV

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

The Turkish Republic issued Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a role in the Kurdish issue. This is the impression you get when watching from a distance. He speaks up whenever he wants to, his every word becomes a headline and, more importantly, the PKK and Kurdish-origin citizens stick to Öcalan's directives. Öcalan is the leader of an important part of the Kurdish segment.

 

When considering the above it seems a reasonable approach to provide Öcalan the opportunity to watch TV channels. It is impossible for Öcalan to follow the ever-changing country by only listening to TRT FM or his lawyers and reading some papers.

 

On the contrary, he'd be in a better position to make healthier decisions when he receives more information about actors on the political stage and better perceives the sensibility of the Turkish public. A leader with insufficient information feed cannot channel very well.

 

To provide a TV for Öcalan is not to be perceived as "a reward" but a necessity for the above reasons I stated.

 

Papandreou was best understood by Erdoğan  

 

An interesting dance took place between the Turkish and Greek prime ministers in Erzurum last week. Papandreou and Erdoğan embraced each other in such a warm way, exchanged warm words and gestures that you'd cry. They wore Aegean blue shawls and embraced each other. They met for four hours and made no statements afterwards. Then the Greek prime minister addressed 200 Turkish ambassadors, maybe for the first time in history.

 

All signs were present to make it seem that an agreement in the Aegean region had been made.

 

But it was spoiled by the Greek prime minister.

 

He did not say anything new. He repeated almost the same words Erdoğan spoke at the press conference during his visit in Athens last year. He started out with the "invasion of Cyprus," he pointed out that before solving this issue there shouldn't be the expectation of full membership in the EU and then he showed some reaction to a Turkish jet plane that flew over a Greek island at that moment.

 

Including me, many could not understand his reaction.

 

It became soon clear when Erdoğan started his speech.

 

The prime minister did not increase his tone of voice. He did not choose harsh words. And you know how Erdoğan reacts when he is upset. On the contrary, this time he avoided it smoothly. As a matter of fact, he was even more relaxed at the press conference the next morning.

 

Erdoğan was empathetic because he must have noticed that Papandreou made his speech in this manner to send a message to his own public and especially to the nationalistic segment.

 

I agree with Soli Özel.

Despite all these internal messages with political content, I believe that Turkey and Greece have taken extremely vital steps in respect to solving the Aegean issue. I don't have concrete information but I can tell by looking at the developments.

 

I'd be surprised if after so many positive words and gestures, there still is no agreement. And beside, hopes fading in public would be a great loss.

 

What a scandal

 

We heard it and we knew but we were not aware that this had turned into such a scandal.

 

Oh my God, justice in this country has been non-existant for a long time and we were not aware of it.

 

We are talking about 1.5 million files sitting in the depositories of the Supreme Court of Appeals. And cameras that entered the depositories of the Supreme Court of Appeals have further stunned society.

 

Files lost in the depositories…

 

Filed cases that have not been dealt with as of yet…

 

Lost evidence, inquiries waiting at the Forensic Medicine Institute for months, court hearings waiting for

months because of investigation of a suspect objection, months passing by because it takes so long to bring a document…

 

Each passing day we find out details about why it takes so long for the courts to make a decision. And one story is more shocking than the other.

 

And amid all of this there are innocent people detained or criminals released because their time is up.

 

In this country the notion of justice has long gone and no one cared about it.

 

Let's not just blame the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

 

Each administration until now is responsible. They too didn't care. They ignored it because it was in their own interest. The military too committed a crime because they did not deal with it. They did everything possible in order not to lose control over the judiciary.

 

The judiciary was left alone. It was abused to protect the secular system. No one tried to work through it in order to dispense justice.

 

Today we have arrived at a point where Turkish society does not believe in any court decisions. Those who get away with it or obtain the desired result are considered lucky, those who receive a penalty are considered unfortunate.

 

To be honest, each administration has abused the administration for its own purposes.

 

What a shame…

 

What a scandal…

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY THE ELECTRIC CAR WILL NEVER BECOME A WIDESPREAD PHENOMENON

KURT COBB

 

Many automobile enthusiasts believe that the electric car is the wave of the future that will help save the environment while expanding the availability of private transport to the world's growing middle class. They are likely wrong on both counts.

 

One can easily cite all the obvious impediments that constrain the widespread adoption of private electric automobiles: the lack of charging infrastructure; the poor performance of electric vehicles for range and acceleration compared to gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles; consumer skepticism about electric vehicles; and the creaking existing electrical infrastructure which would probably need serious expansion to accommodate a worldwide fleet of private electric automobiles. Perhaps all of these problems could be overcome if the world had decades to work on them. But it is doubtful that we have that kind of time.

 

In addition, there are three issues that rarely get a hearing. First, in the United States, for example, transportation produced 33 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2008. (I was unable to find comparable figures for the world.) If the entire automobile and truck fleet were to be electrified, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions would decline, but not by as much as one might expect.

 

The problem is that as of 2006, 66 percent of the world's electricity is generated by conventional fossil fuel powered plants, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The number is 71 percent for the United States, the country with about one quarter of all motor vehicles in the world – about 256 million out of approximately 1 billion.

 

That means that simply replacing the current gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicle fleet with one running on electricity will not even come close to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from that source by the 80 percent that scientists say is vital to preventing catastrophic climate change. We'll simply be substituting cars powered by gasoline and diesel with ones powered indirectly by coal and natural gas.

 

Of course, we could greatly increase our deployment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to accommodate the need for new greenhouse gas-free electricity generation, couldn't we? There are three problems with this view. First, both sources are intermittent, so we will have to maintain a substantial base load generating capacity using fossil fuels to ensure adequate electricity production when the wind fails and the sun isn't shining.

 

Second, the scale of deployment would almost be unimaginable. The energy density of windmills and solar panels is at least an order of magnitude lower than that of fossil fuels. The square miles of photovoltaics and the number of windmills needed to generate electricity for an automobile and light truck fleet would imply an enormous footprint for these sources of power. Third, the time to scale up such solutions to the necessary level might be decades. This is the so-called rate-of-conversion problem. It actually takes time to implement alternative energy and infrastructure solutions. The key question is: How much time do we have? The answer appears to be: Not very much!

 

Let's assume for the moment that climate change can be ignored – a big and dangerous assumption, I know! The next question we must ask then is: Is there enough fossil fuel and nuclear power to run an electric car infrastructure?

 

The question is what can we do about transportation? The quickest way to reduce liquid fuel consumption and thus carbon dioxide emissions in transportation would be to implement ride-sharing programs based on successful pilot programs around the world. This would mean allowing people to use their private cars as essentially part-time cabs. The advantage is that it reduces traffic, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions NOW – not at some unspecified date in the future. The technical issues have already been worked out. It is the cultural ones that are the sticking points.

 

Second, we should in my view electrify public transportation to the extent possible. This would protect this part of our transportation infrastructure from sudden fuel shocks. And, it should be possible to do this with only a fraction of the outlays needed to make private electric cars available. In addition, public transportation should be vastly expanded with an eye toward new ways of configuring public transport that require significantly less energy, meet consumer expectations more readily, and can be cheaply and modularly constructed.

 

If the public had been able to foresee that the private automobile would lead to the despoliation of huge swaths of prime farmland to build roads and highways; high blood levels of lead in children (from leaded gasoline which is now outlawed); air pollution that regularly threatens human health; climate change through the production of greenhouse gases; and dependence on a fuel supply – petroleum – that has led to several wars and which regularly undergoes huge price swings; if they had known all that, would the public have agreed to allow the private automobile to become the dominant form of transportation in the so-called developed world?

 

It's time to let go of the car culture so we can rid ourselves of its myriad ill effects. And, it is time to let go of the electric car fetish that is merely an extension of that ruinous car culture.

 

* This article was originally published by OilPrice.com, which offers free information and analysis on energy and commodities. To find out more, visit the website at www.oilprice.com.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WE ALL ARE PORNOGRAPHERS

YILDIRIM TÜRKER

 

The porn thesis of a Bilgi University student, Deniz Özgün, seems to have had a success greater than what Özgün aimed for, in preparing ground for every social sect to exhibit similar attitudes on subject matter.

 

Özgün had said he wanted to see the limits of academic freedom rather than graduate with his senior project, especially at a university claiming to be the home to freedom: "I've come to the realization that subjects like the sad story of an elderly person, the cute patters of a kitten, women in the Old Age or time in the New Age do not motivate me. So I said to myself, I'll do something to show me the limits of academic freedom.

 

"University means tremendous unused freedom. Since I will not be a pornography director in the future – as filming pornography commercially is not legal – the only place I can do this was at school. If you do not harm anyone here, then everything is under academic protection. I was curious about the limits. And I decided that the thing to push me, the team, faculty members, the university and even the limit of freedom was pornography.

 

"The persuasion process was a bit difficult. Every time I did my presentation, my professors said: 'This is not enough. If you, as a design student, want to film pornography, you need better grounds.' They were trying to understand why I wanted to do this."

 

The issue was discussed at length. We all have seen Bilgi University go into a tailspin as a result of the toughest test of its short history. Yes, it was the toughest. Even during the Armenian conference, the university managed to find plenty of supporters and reinforced prestige with its resistance to pressures. But this time, a student willing to go extremes was throwing a stone in a glass box, so to speak; a box of hypocrisy, the heart of society.

 

Professor Oğuz Adanır questions the sincerity of the student for giving an interview to a magazine. Adanır finds Özgün insincere. As we ponder what sincerity has got to do with this, Adanır expresses his real thoughts: "He says that he wants to question the limits of academic freedom. Questioning this is not a student's business. It is faculty members' business. If he wants to be an academic, then he can question this."

 

That's right! A university is such a place anyway – a place where everyone behaves himself and gets educated by a tough chain of hierarchy and of responsibilities.

 

What irks Oğuz Bey is the student not knowing his place.

 

I believe the most embarrassing part of this story is that some academics hide behind feminism and pure moralism to apologize to conservatives. In the meantime, the fact that lazy feminists are against any type of pornography for its "exploitation of a woman's body" also shows how our world of thought is univalent. Such intellectual inertia and this "feminist status quo" is also fed by those who raised objections to the TV series "What's Fatmagül's Fault?" for encouraging rape and those that really believe in giving support to female parliamentary deputies regardless of their political thought.

 

Now, let's have our mind in the gutter:

 

  A short history

 

In the 1970s when the Turkish porno industry got richer by somewhat of a social acceptance, we see films in which the hero has sex with pretentious women whom he "does not deserve at all." The hero is mostly physically unattractive and the theme is more of a comedy. It is a sexuality of dirty jokes, touching and tongue games… The democratization of a sphere of "infantile" pleasure by laughter… Of course, there is nothing surprising in seeing the grammar of sexuality declaring freedom through vulgar slang that Yeşilçam [or Green Pine, which refers to the Turkish film industry in the same way that Hollywood refers to the American industry] tried to keep away from the audience. Yeşilçam was describing sexuality, which is used as a weapon of threats or of all kinds of gimmicks, as a quagmire where the good, beautiful and innocent can be easily consumed. "You can have my body, but can never have my soul" highlights virtue that never surrenders though it suffers. When it was realized that evil actresses in flamboyant films can have affairs with leading "funny man" actors, that happened to be the formula of Turkish pornography. And the spirit, which can never be owned by others, had already been forgotten.

 

The world of pornography being serviced in dusty cinemas that were never visited by women and their incorporation with life coincides with the emergence of the television kingdom.

 

And of course the entertainment life's jumping up to an upper class with a borrowed stylishness from the "Western lifestyle" is everything to do with this. Entertainment life was in the hands of "Turkish paparazzi," who were catching playboys and famous women on red carpets. It was promoted from being the masturbation material of the hungry classes to the sexual freedom of an artificial bourgeoisie. A tiresome touch-and-run game around the love traffic of a handful of men and women. But it was clearly not enough for the stimulated audience after a certain point. In fact, the famous were slowly turning into paper dolls and showing up at places such as Laila and Reina and it was not found as interesting as it used to be. Besides, this was purely an erotic product of cliches.

 

The "hardcore" in Turkey has become a world of news led by columnist Reha Muhtar. Media has always been an institution to meet the pornographic needs of the society. Muhtar and the likes have always been the best examples of legitimate pornography seen in entertainment news.

 

And now matchmaking programs or competition programs are functioning similarly. In these programs, life stories are presented to the audience and people are being provoked to assault each other. The speaker plays the mediator, who goes into the details of relations. The audience groups are vital to a program, of course. They come to the fore one by one, grabbing microphones and trying to cut into pieces the actresses of such life stories. The pleasure they have in fiercely criticizing the main figures of the stories of course penetrates to the TV watchers at home.

 

Groups who support the democratization of universities, setting universities free from the Higher Education Board, or YÖK, and allowing them to have unlimited academic freedom are now turning into ban promoters. And this is a way of surrendering to social hypocrisy.

 

Keeping the legitimate popular sphere away from the most popular secret production sphere and efforts to build a university education system on the inter-restrictive dynamics of rights and freedoms sphere and the sphere of creativity and questioning constitute the heart of conservatism.

 

Turkey is a country where everyone points out to each other and say, "Everything has a limit," and where people describe freedom not by experience, or even dreaming, but by its limits.

 

Now let me finish my article by sharing a headline from my most favorite Internet spot, Zaytung [a humor website with fake news]: "Common sense of citizens on the porno scandal at Bilgi University: Not right to say anything without seeing it."

 

* Yıldırım Türker is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RESPONSIBILITY

YUSUF KANLI

 

Amid growing public reaction to the release from prison of some of Turkey's most notorious criminals following the passing of a law limiting the periods of time suspects can be detained before being formally sentenced, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin and other members of the revamped Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, met at a Sapanca hotel over the weekend to discuss "the state of affairs of the Turkish judiciary."

 

And yesterday, a second workshop was convened at Sapanca, this time for the top executives of the Justice Ministry's General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses, as well as some leading law academics to discuss the introduction of electronic gadgets – such as bracelets, and anklets – that would allow a wider application of the practice of house arrest in Turkey not only for people sentenced but those facing some minor accusations which might not require arrest.

 

For well over two decades, such gadgets have been used in European countries. In the United States, the use of such devices probably goes further back. The gadgets might be used, particularly for people accused of domestic crimes of all sorts, as a protective measure – to keep those suspects within a certain area or out of certain locations. For people released from prison pending the outcomes of their trials, such gadgets might also be used to make sure they don't just vanish and escape punishment if eventually found guilty. Definitely, such gadgets might be far more effective than the present practice of asking people released on bail pending the outcomes of their trials to visit police stations once every day to prove their presence.

 

It is good that at least the minister has decided to come together with the HSYK members at a pre-planned and state-paid holiday-seminar to discuss what to do and how to do it without creating much public anger while at the same time not taking any backwards step in efforts to comply with European legal standards. It is good that the minister authorized the workshop on the use of electronic bracelets and anklets.

 

Turkey is late in introducing such legislation. So far there is no legal framework describing how such electronic devices would be deployed – for example, whether they would be used by the Turkish judiciary as a form of punishment. The workshop will of course discuss the issue at length and a report will eventually be submitted to the Justice Ministry. Unfortunately, because of the forthcoming elections most likely this issue will not be formally addressed until after the vote.

 

To put it straight, we have to concede the fact that even after the introduction of Article 102, the law on trial procedure, allowable periods of detention in Turkey are still exceedingly long compared to European standards.

 

It is not possible to explain to any European society why, even after the shortened maximum arrest periods clause entered into force, there is still a need to have in this country maximum arrest periods ranging between two and 10 years, depending on the severity of the crime committed.

 

If arrest is an exceptional practice and the fundamental concept of "everyone is innocent until found guilty by a court" is truly practiced in this country, it is of course inconceivable to keep someone behind bars for up to 10 years on the assumption that he might be guilty. If eventually found not guilty by the court, how would that person be compensated by the justice system – which for that particular person at least would have long become a system of injustice?

 

If the practice of house arrest can be enhanced by the introduction of such electronic gadgets at least people would be deprived of fewer of their freedoms, while still being held under some sort of "protective custody" – either society, or certain people in particular, could be protected from the suspect, while suspects themselves could also be protected.

 

Such efforts, of course, are far better than the much accustomed "blame the other" game. Is it not funny? The government is of the opinion that those Islamist radicals, murderers, and criminals of all sorts are getting out of the prisons because the higher judiciary, that is the Supreme Court of Appeals, did not finalize their cases. For the top judges, it was the government to blame because it did not undertake the required judicial reforms to speed up justice system of the country. For the opposition parties the government intentionally let the criminals out in order to build frustration in the public against the Supreme Court of Appeals and carry its domestication campaign to that high court also. The blame the other game continues.

 

The fact is that Turkey has introduced maximum arrest period for suspects and as trials of many suspects could not be completed within those maximum periods now they are all being released. So what's the problem? To be frank, the government is at fault because it did not undertake the required judicial reform. The justice minister is at fault because he has not made the necessary decisions to solve the personnel and structural deficiencies of the justice system. The Supreme Court of Appeals is at fault because it should have acted on files approaching the limit of the maximum period of arrest. The opposition is at fault because it failed to draw public attention to the issue before it acquired its new, critical dimensions. And the media is at fault because we saw the crisis after it came to light – even though the problem has been in front of all of us since 2005.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE FUTURE OF FOOD RIOTS

GWYNNE DYER

 

If all the food in the world were shared out evenly, there would be enough to go around. That has been true for centuries now: if food was scarce, the problem was that it wasn't in the right place, but there was no global shortage. However, that will not be true much longer.

 

The food riots began in Algeria more than a week ago, and they are going to spread. During the last global food shortage, in 2008, there was serious rioting in Mexico, Indonesia, and Egypt. We may expect to see that again, only bigger and more widespread.

 

Most people in these countries live in cash economies, and a large proportion live in cities. They buy their food, they don't grow it. That makes them very vulnerable because they have to eat almost as much as people in rich countries do but their incomes are much lower.

 

The poor, urban multitudes in these countries (including China and India) spend up to half of their entire income on food, compared to only about 10 percent in the rich countries. When food prices soar, these people quickly find that they simply lack the money to go on feeding themselves and their children properly – and food prices are now at an all-time high.

 

"We are entering a danger territory," said Abdolreza Abbassian, chief economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization, on Jan. 5. The price of a basket of cereals, oils, dairy, meat and sugar that reflects global consumption patterns has risen steadily for six months and has just broken through the previous record, set during the last food panic in June, 2008.

 

"There is still room for prices to go up much higher if, for example, the dry conditions in Argentina become a drought, and if we start having problems with winter kill in the northern hemisphere for the wheat crops," Abbassian said. After the loss of at least a third of the Russian and Ukrainian grain crop in last summer's heat wave and the devastating floods in Australia and Pakistan, there's no margin for error left.

 

It was Russia and India banning grain exports in order to keep domestic prices down that set food prices on the international market soaring. Most countries cannot insulate themselves from this global price rise, because they depend on imports for a lot of domestic consumption. But that means that a lot of their population cannot buy enough food for their families, so they go hungry. Then they get angry and the riots start.

 

Is this food emergency a result of global warming? Maybe, but all these droughts, heat waves and floods could also just be a run of really bad luck. What is nearly certain is that the warming will continue, and that in the future there will be many more weather disasters due to climate change. Food production is going to take a big hit.

 

Global food prices are already spiking whenever there are a few local crop failures, because supply barely meets demand. As the big emerging economies grow, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian citizens eat more meat, which places a great strain on grain supplies. Moreover, the world population is now passing seven billion, on its way to nine billion by 2050. We will need a lot more food than we used to.

 

Some short-term fixes are possible. If the U.S. government ended the subsidies for growing corn for "bio-fuels" it would return about a quarter of U.S. crop land to food production. If people ate a little less meat, if more African land was brought into production, if more food was eaten and less was thrown away, then maybe we could buy ourselves another fifteen or twenty years before demand really outstripped supply.

 

On the other hand, about a third of all the irrigated land in the world depends on pumping groundwater up from aquifers that are rapidly depleting. When the flow of irrigation water stops the yield of that highly productive land will drop hugely. Desertification is spreading in many regions and a large amount of good agricultural land is simply being paved over each year. We have a serious problem here.

 

Climate change is going to make the situation immeasurably worse. The modest warming that we have experienced so far may not be the main cause of the floods, droughts and violent storms that have hurt this year's crops but the rise in temperature will continue because we cannot find the political will to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

 

The rule of thumb is that we lose about 10 percent of world food production for every rise of 1 degree Celsius in average global temperatures. So the shortages will grow and the price of food will rise inexorably in the future. The riots will return again and again.

 

In some places, the rioting will turn into revolution. In others, the rioters will become refugees and push up against the borders of countries that don't want to let them in. Or maybe we can get the warming under control before it does too much damage. Hold your breath, squeeze your eyes tight shut, and wish for a miracle.

 

*Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. His latest book, "Climate Wars," is distributed in most of the world by Oneworld.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

GILANI'S PROMISE

 

As he continues his efforts to win back the support of disgruntled allies at all costs, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that all the demands put up by the PML-N will be accepted. The key demand, of a reversal of the petroleum price increase, had already been met as a result of the agreement reached earlier with the MQM. In return for the prime minister's promise, Mian Nawaz Sharif will retain PPP ministers in the Punjab government. He has already welcomed the acceptance of his nine-point list. But will the PPP government keep its promise? Indeed, can it do so? Or is this just a way to temporarily smooth ruffled feathers and find some less quivery ground to stand on. After all, as Mr Sharif knows well, sticking to pledges has not been the PPP's strong point ever since it came to power nearly three years ago. For practical reasons, the party may also find it hard to implement some of the points on the list. For example, there is doubt as to whether it is genuinely willing to act against corruption, or whether it even has the ability to offer better governance. The ruling party has so far proved unable to tackle the crippling energy crisis. Deadline after deadline set by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the minister for water and power, have come and gone. It is hard to believe things will be any different this time round.

We can only hope some wisdom can prevail. PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, a former finance minister, has said he can suggest means to cut administrative expenses. His advice should be taken. We desperately need to find resources and bolster an economy close to collapse. But there is reason to be apprehensive. Implementation of the Supreme Court's verdicts on the NRO would mean action against key PPP leaders. Such action is unlikely to come. We may, then, see the 45-day deadline set by Nawaz Sharif for the implementation of the demands his party has made come and go. This would bring us back to square one. For all the talks with its allies, there is still no real conviction that the government has decided to turn a new leaf or improve governance in any meaningful way. This does not augur especially well for the future, despite the reconciliatory words now being exchanged between the two largest parties which, for now, walk in step again.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

STREET POWER

 

 The participation of thousands of people in a rally held in Karachi by religious parties once more demonstrates the street power of the religio-political forces. Their ability to bring out so many onto the roads has acted to pressure governments in the past. They now appear to be doing so again. Even before the participants voiced a call to ensure there was no change in the blasphemy laws, government leaders had pledged they will not be amended.

While every group in society has a right to express its opinion, the incitement of hatred constitutes a violation of the law of the land. Warnings from speakers at the rally that anyone criticising the blasphemy law would meet the same fate as Salmaan Taseer are very alarming. Particularly disturbing is the fact that experienced political leaders including Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F were present when such threats were made, and they went along with the threats. In fact, Fazlur Rehman went to the extent of stating that Mr Taseer was responsible for his own murder. A society where expression of an opinion can bring death cannot be described as civilised. Warnings that anyone expressing a different opinion on the blasphemy laws will be killed have come from other quarters as well. Sherry Rehman is among those targeted in threats. The emphasis of everyone in any position of responsibility should be on upholding the law. Its violation must not be permitted, let alone encouraged. When this happens, the threat of anarchy looms closer. At the moment we have a deep division in society. Differences in opinion exist everywhere and religious beliefs deserve respect. But there should be no need to advocate murder or try to browbeat people, rather than winning them over by persuasion. This holds true for those on either side of the fence. The heated-up situation we see today is grim; we must hope it does not lead to more violence.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TAKING A LEAD

 

 The decision taken by Pakistan and Afghanistan to establish a Joint Consultative Commission in order to further the elusive peace process is a welcome one. Fresh life is being breathed into a number of old – some very old – ideas and bodies, and both sides have agreed to revive the smaller jirga that would feed into the Joint Commission and anchor its work firmly among the Afghan people and a process they trust and understand. Welcome as the Joint Commission is, its establishment should be seen against another significant shift in the Afghan conundrum, and our part in that shift. In late December the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan mooted an idea – slightly ironically – in a British newspaper. He proposed that the Afghan Taliban seek to set up an office in a neutral country in order to facilitate peace efforts, and provide a space that would allow all sides and interests to come together. This is perhaps the oldest of the 'new ideas' in play, and echoes efforts made by the Swiss a decade ago when they were exploring a similar initiative.


That was then and this is now and the emerging broker is Turkey, a long time supporter and ally of Pakistan. The idea of an office in neutral space was discussed at the trilateral meeting between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey held recently in Istanbul and attended by Prime Minister Gilani and Afghan President Karzai. The Afghans were comfortable with the notion of such a space in Turkey. This is beginning to take the shape of a local solution to a local problem, and is infinitely preferable to whatever might be cobbled together by the Americans and their allies. Our own solutions may not be the solutions the Americans prefer, but they are considerably more likely to be 'sold' by us to our people and the people of Afghanistan than anything that Uncle Sam may have in his basket.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

AFTER THE MURDER

ZAFAR HILALY


Like the screams of the woman beaten in Swat by the Taliban, which gripped the imagination of the public and transformed an ineffective anti-insurgency operation into a popularly backed full-fledged war against extremists, Salmaan Taseer's murder has had a dramatic impact. It has aroused feelings that are frankly intolerable; so much so that for many those who celebrate or are indifferent to Taseer's murder, are no longer viewed as the kind of people with whom they want to share a country with. There is thus today a sense of 'them or us' that has not existed before.


Yesterday's silent majority is today's bitter and dumb minority. Reality has finally overtaken them. They may say little out of fear or remorse but their actions will speak loudly in the months to come. One can guess what the well off amongst them will do. They will be reading up on foreign visa regulations. Interest will pick up in the 'second home' plan that Malaysia has to offer. Their children, if abroad, will be told not to return home, even for holidays. In due course, their houses will be up for sale and the search is probably already on for the hawalawala who will transfer funds without any questions asked. A Hindu fellow citizen said, 'this is the last straw'. As for the not so well off, their wailings will be confined to newspaper columns and a despair that is treated not by hope but dope.


Thus far this lot had affected a disdain for debates around issues of religion. It was not a subject that gentlemen discussed. The mullah scarcely mattered in their lives. He was someone that they had to tolerate on Fridays and only because his qutbas were delivered before rather than after prayers. The mullah's prattle had no connection with their world because, if poor, they were preoccupied with securing an income before practicing virtue and, if rich, how better to spend their lucre. As it turns out both the rich and the poor and the weak and the powerful were grievously in error. The mullah means to get their attention even if he has to kill for it, of course, under some religious pretext or the other.


The Pakistani elite never fully understood that the war against the TTP was a curtain raiser of what was to follow. And that the war was not merely about regaining control of territory or establishing the writ of the state but rather a deadly serious conflict between two entirely different perceptions of life and versions of Islam. Actually it was a war between two different religions, theirs and that of an adversary, comprising their fellow countrymen; and that the prize was Pakistan.


Had they studied history, they would not have left religion in the hands of the mullah because religion has more effect on moulding life than nationalism, the economy or a common language. And that every major question is a religious question. In Europe, for example, it was not until nationalism took on the hue of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries that it made any headway and it was only then that the Holy Roman Empire began to break up. The kings and princes involved in that war had to cry out that the only salvation that existed was within their church and not that of the Pope or Luther before they were able to persuade fellow Germans to kill each other. Much like the Taliban is doing today.


They forgot that the motivating factor for the Arab conquests was religion; or that the past and present Persian-Arab divide is due entirely – their other differences were suborned within this cleavage – to their very different versions of Islam, so much so, that one side regarded the other as worse than infidels.


Absurdly, they overlooked the obvious, namely, that religion mattered in their own country. Indeed, the very creation of Pakistan was, as it happens, exclusively on account of religion. The fact that Bangladesh exists as a separate country and, at times, as a fiercely anti India entity, reinforces rather than negates the profound impact of religion. Even the Indian 'mutiny' of 1857 had to be given a religious twist before the country rose in revolt.

They forgot that when Mustafa Kemal of Turkey rejected religion as the ideology of the state in favour of secularism, he had to fight and win a war against his fellow countrymen and continue to kill those who remained wedded to the old concept. Even the pro-Islamist government that is currently in power has continually to assert that it is not steering Turkey away from secularism. The wearing of the scarf has been made legal in Turkish universities under the aegis of a law guaranteeing such freedom in the present secular constitution.

Without Jinnah to guide them, our predecessors buckled to the mullah. But even if they rejected secularism and made Islam the 'grundnorm' of Pakistan, contrary to the advice of the very prescient Suhrawardy, why did they omit to ask the question whose Islam, that of the mullah, who celebrates Taseer's murder, or those who regard it as a heinous crime and itself punishable by death? And now that the question cannot be avoided, shelved or fudged any longer, why are they reposing their trust on those rotund yellow looking, yellow livered politicians who continue sitting on the fence, flirting with one side of the divide while blowing kisses at the other.

If they fail to come to their senses, they face a civil war and, like most civil wars, it will divide families and homes, judges, the legislature and the executive; nor will the armed forces remain free, their cant of martial discipline notwithstanding. A violent upheaval, albeit slow in the making, threatens the very existence of this country susceptible as it already is to fissiparous tendencies. Nor will regional and global powers sit back inertly while the country burns. Even as we speak extremists are emerging from their lairs to lead large demonstrations on the streets. Energised by the 'josh' among their ranks, even as embedded an establishment figure as Fazlul Rahman, is abuzz about a revolution in the making.


The question often asked by locals, as much as foreigners, is that now that the battle has been joined who will prevail. So will those whose responsibility is to safeguard the state and the fundamental rights of the people finally act? Or have we already embraced the doom assigned by fate?


The writer is a former ambassador. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PITFALLS OF A LAME-DUCK GOVT

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN


Under the pressure of its allies and opposition in parliament, the government has reversed its own decision of passing on the high cost of international fuel prices to domestic consumers. By backtracking on the fuel prices the government has attracted severe criticism from all those who have interest in Pakistan's economy. In so doing, the government has exposed itself as being a lame-duck government, desiring to stick to power at any cost and willing to be driven by the opposition's agenda. It has also lost its credibility in the eyes of the international financial institutions.


The natural outcome of the government's profligacy has been the unprecedented surge in public and external debt and loss of national sovereignty. The economic team is equally responsible for acceleration of the economic meltdown. The members of the team had been brought in to improve the economic health of the country. The team failed to make sufficient effort or display the work hard required.


The economic team failed to draw the line between profligacy and discipline, between bad and good economics, between reforms and status quo, and between expenditures of political and economic priorities. The economic team did not take any stand when the cabinet approved a 50-per-cent increase in the salaries of government servants, at a time when the country was facing severe financial difficulties. They just kept quiet and became party to this profligacy.


The team actively accommodated the Multan and Larkana Packages in the PSDP, but took no time in cutting the budget of higher education. In the process, they lost respect in the eyes of most educated members of the society. Despite its promises before the National Assembly to restructure eight rotten public-sector enterprises (PSEs) in 2010-11, the economic team hardly made a move in that direction. On the contrary, the political leadership continued to appoint people in these rotten PSEs in the thousands, putting enormous financial strain on the already bankrupt institutions. The economic team had no guts to say no to the political leadership, and as such became party to bad governance.


Despite the bad financial health of the Banks of Punjab and Khyber before us, the economic team, including the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, gave the license to the government of Sindh to set up Sindh Bank, with Rs10 billion's capital. At a time when bank mergers are taking place in Pakistan, the setting up of yet another public-sector bank was a bad decision. The new bank's fate will not be different from the fates of the banks mentioned above. A bailout from budgetary resources cannot be ruled out.


The RGST debacle can be traced back to the economic team. Failure to communicate effectively with people through the print and electronic media, and with all the stakeholders, in public language, to defend the tax in public debate, lack of preparation in answering questions on TV talk shows are some of the factors responsible for the debacle. Like the government, its economic team has also become lame-duck and would be ineffectual, with serious consequences for the economy.


What will be the economic consequences of withdrawing the fuel price hike? Firstly, at the current international price of oil, the revenue shortfall will be Rs5 billion per month. The government has a collection target of Rs110 billion on this account in the 2010-11 budget. The government has thus far collected Rs35 billion and the remaining Rs75 billion is to be collected in the next six months. Under the assumption that the international price of oil remains at the current level, there would be a Rs30 billion shortfall in PDL (non-tax revenue).

Secondly, the slippages on both the revenue and expenditure side are likely to take the current year's budget deficit in the range of 7.5-8.0 per cent of GDP. In other words, Pakistan would need at least Rs1,300 billion to finance its fiscal deficit this year. With dwindling external inflows, the reliance for financing of deficit would be on the domestic side—more so on direct borrowing from the SBP. Thus, the printing machine of the SBP will keep on pumping money into the economy, with all the inflationary consequences of such an action.


Thirdly, the government thought that by withdrawing the fuel price hike it provided relief to the people. But through printing more money it will fuel inflationary pressure with serious consequences for the same people. Fourthly, there are indications that oil prices are likely to rise further in 2011 on account of the stronger than anticipated recovery of the world economy, including the United States'. The lame-duck government will not be able to pass on the high cost of energy to domestic consumers. This will be a replay of 2007-08, when the-then government, including the caretakers, did not pass on the high price of oil, and the country had to pay a high price for its inaction. The nation should therefore be ready for action replay.


Fifthly, the agenda of tax reform, including the RGST, is dead, and as such, Pakistan's relations with the international financial institutions, including the IMF, appear to have become strained. In such an environment, external inflows to keep the economy afloat are likely to be affected. A lame-duck government and its economic team are very damaging for the economy. They have lost the capacity to take difficult decisions. Time is not on our side.


The writer is director general and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad.

Email: ahkhan@nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HAVING THE WRONG DEBATE

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI


One of the most instructive moments of clarity in the days since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer was provided by Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan, as he spoke to the press in Karachi on Sunday. At a rally at which more than 20,000 Pakistanis gathered in defence of Pakistan Penal Code's provisions on blasphemy, Hasan didn't mince any words. His exact words were: "The whole country, all the inhabitants of Pakistan back Qadri because he has done what the people wanted to do regarding a person like Salmaan Taseer." (Hasan basically meant that Pakistan stands behind and supports what Qadri did).


There are dozens of English-language op-eds bemoaning the state of Pakistan and condemning the murderer. My own immediate reaction was how it exposed yet again, the desperate incapacity of the Pakistani state to do simple things – like keep governors of provinces from being shot – 27 times. In broad daylight. By state employees.

We can write and speak volumes about the extremism and insanity on display in this murder. There are other Pakistanis who can write and speak volumes about how deeply victimized Pakistan's religious traditions are. Sure, one group is mostly right – the group condemning daylight murder, and one group is mostly wrong – the group equivocating about how the victim deserved it. But really, if we just take one second to step back, we have to ask ourselves, what is the point of normative arguments in an environment that celebrates murder? It is pretty clear we are way, way past even a basic consensus about right and wrong. Even on a black and white issue like the daylight murder of an unarmed person.


How deep and wide is the chasm between Pakistanis for whom Qadri is a murderer, Pakistanis for whom Qadri is a moral enigma, and Pakistanis for whom Qadri is a hero? I suspect all of the Chagai mountains could not fill the space between us.


The instinctive impulse is to demand an end to the exploitation of faith in Pakistan. Pakistanis of all shades have turned Islam into a form of capital. It is invested to reap rewards – whether it is social mobility for a village pesh imam, political power for Fazlur Rehman or financial gain for Hamid Kazmi and Co. However, banning Islamic parties or banning the use of Islam for personal gain would represent an unmitigated disaster. It is exactly the kind of thing that will transform one flame into a raging forest fire.


Though the Pakistani right wing is simply instrumentalising Islam, it is tapping into and channelling a political and social force whose appeal and power is unquestionable. Sure, it is unable to translate this appeal into electoral outcomes – but that is because this appeal is not located in the disbursement of patronage, or in administrative prowess. Pakistanis vote for the PPP, the PMLs, the MQM and ANPs because of the certainty that these groups can disburse resources as patronage. They vote for them because of the certainty that these groups can leverage administrative power in specific ways, ways that will benefit them.


In total contrast, it is clear that the religious right wing in Pakistan, while electorally impotent, has tremendous appeal. This appeal is not just on the street, and does not just involve innocent and misguided young men from the lower middle and lower classes. It is much wider. Across television news rooms, and on editorial desks. Within the bureaucratic maze of Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and Quetta. In the financial sector, in manufacturing and in agriculture. Across every nook and cranny of the country, the religious right has an appeal that we ignore at our peril.

It is not a permanent or universal appeal by any means. You won't find it pontificating at mehndis, or at Sufi shrines. It knows its limits. It is an appeal that is limited to a narrow band of specific issues, and an appeal that can only be triggered infrequently. In fact, over the course of the last quarter century, every ascendant moment for the religious right wing in Pakistan has been wrapped up in the issue of dignity.


Think of the biggest rallies that the religious right wing manages to pull off and find one common theme. From the Satanic Verses protests in 1989, to the US invasion of Iraq in 1991, to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, to the Danish cartoons in 2006, to what is now in 2011, promising to be a weekly show of strength in favour of the PPC provisions relating to blasphemy. At the heart of each of these political performances is the kernel of Muslim indignity.


Now, the common course for many Pakistanis, indeed, many Muslims around the world is to ask that the root causes for indignity be removed. On Sunday, Imran Khan made quite a reasonable case in The Guardian for why the US presence in Afghanistan for example, is fuelling the blinding rage of Pakistan's dignity-warriors. There is little fault in Khan's argument, except one deeply disturbing fact. The removal of the causes of indignity is based on a completely and deliberately warped and illogical reading of the world we live in.

The PPC, Pakistan's legal community, and Pakistan's judiciary are not exactly beacons of functionality. They do not deliver what an Islamic Republic should be delivering. Insaaf, aman and istehkaam. Instead, the compendium of laws, law enforcers and law interpreters are presiding, in some cases, helplessly, over a situation that resembles loot, maar and fasaad. For the Pakistani right wing to pick out this one set of provisions of law from the entire and entirely dysfunctional legal order, and defend this set of provisions seems awfully strange. It is strange, but it isn't inexplicable.


The truth is that right-wing rage over the provisions of Pakistani law that deal with blasphemy is really an opportunity for socially dispossessed and globally disconnected Pakistanis to slap the rest of the world back in its face. It is the day-labourers' way of saying, you can take everything, and you have, but you can't take the liberty of dissing my faith. The genius of the Pakistani right wing is that between the Rushdie affair, in which the antagonists were thousands of miles away, and the Aasia Bibi case, which is in the heart of Punjab – groups like the JUI and Jamaat-e-Islami have successfully transformed the villain from a faraway alien to a domestic violator. For Qadri and his supporters, that violator was Salmaan Taseer. It didn't matter that Taseer never uttered anything resembling blasphemy. It mattered that Taseer was a poster child of the socially possessed and globally connected Pakistani. This is, unquestionably a problem of religious extremism. But it is also a full-blooded manifestation of how Pakistan's Rush Limbaughs and Pat Robertsons conduct class and cultural warfare.

Pakistan will never be a country in which blasphemy is a legally protected right. But having a debate about blasphemy or how the law treats it is having the wrong debate. It is like handing over the microphone to Syed Munawar Hasan. Since Hasan can't win an election, he'll do what comes naturally, which is to milk the opportunity for everything he can. Pakistanis interested in challenging and changing the status quo and re-inserting reason into the public space have to define the terms of the debate themselves, rather than handing the right-wing an undeserved victory.


Insisting on talking about the one, single issue where the right-wing has a political advantage is a tactical blunder of epic proportions. If we are going to live up to Islam's principles and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), if we are going to help protect the poor and the weak, and honour the memory of those of us that lived courageously, we have to do much better.

 

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. www.mosharrafzaidi.com

 

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PAKISTAN HURTING

ZEENIA SATTI


Chris Cork, among others, in his article 'Under new management' printed on the Oped pages of this newspaper on January 6, interpreted Salmaan Taseer's murder as an example of Pakistan slipping into the hands of "the children of Zia". Being a resident of Pakistan since 1993, he should know that Zia does not have children, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto does. It is the legacy of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto that rules the hearts and minds of ordinary Pakistanis, not the legacy of Zia. The latter's most prestigious resting place is derisively referred to as 'Jabra Chowk' by the common man in Pakistan. Bhutto's is called the 'shrine' at Garhi Khuda Baksh.


The rise of religious intolerance the world over, including Pakistan, is the legacy of eight reckless years of the Bush era in world politics, not merely the legacy of the unfortunate years of General Zia.


Those who take the governor's murder as a proof of Pakistan's descent into religious fascism must enlarge their vision to scrutinise the rise of religious intolerance in the US, as epitomised in the current opposition to the building of a mosque at ground zero in New York. New York — the most cosmopolitan of cities in the world, belonging to the most multicultural societies in humanity — exhibited irrational and mindless religious intolerance. They must understand why President Obama backtracked his unequivocal support for the project. He obviously knuckled under a large and active community in his country that called the 'mosque' a place where 'terrorists' worship 'their God'.


From the rise of the Christian Hutaree Militia, to the rise of the Tea Party movement, to the official intolerance in Europe for the centuries old cultural practice of hijab and the building of minarets, to the Hindu Taliban, one sees the world slipping into the hands of the children of Bush, the president of a country with worldwide influence. Instead of ordering his intelligence to investigate the domestic crime of 9/11, Bush ordered his military to launch wars against weaker countries. Despite the fact that the decimation of Iraq has turned out to be on false pretexts, the Pandora's box has been opened. The manner in which Bush's wars were conducted, (Abu Gharib et al) and are being conducted to this day, has baptised religious fascism the world over, not just in Pakistan.

The event of the governor's murder in Pakistan cannot and should not be seen in isolation, or be used to isolate Pakistan even further. It cannot be divorced from the worldwide movement towards religious intolerance baptised by the world's hegemonic power – the United States of America.


Domestically, the event did not take place in a vacuum either. The occupation of Afghanistan by the West, its partnership with the local corrupts, the incessant drone attacks in Pakistan and Zardari's policies fanning Talibanisation because of his inability to make good on the promises of the secular movement against Musharraf have created an atmosphere of insecurity in Pakistan for both the secularists as well as the religious right.

As the American wars against Muslim countries are seemingly irrational, they are being perceived as wars against Islam by the Muslim masses that are otherwise unable to figure out what it is the US is doing. In leaked news from the secret US prisons, they see the American interrogators desecrating the Islamic holy book. On the other hand, The Pentagon released videos of terror attacks showing bomb blasts at a great distance, accompanied by the call of Allah O Akbar, the Muslim call to prayer. Interestingly, the proximity of the sound bears no relevance to the distance at which the attack is being filmed. The Wikileaks have dramatised the obsequious mindset of the Pakistani ruling elites in a way that has sent the masses into convulsions of disgust. Some have taken what is actually a decades' old obsequiousness to be partners in an enterprise that is out to destroy Islam.


Against this background, Salmaan Taseer's actions and statements were deemed as intolerable by the right. Had he taken the same stance in 1975, 1977, 1979 or even 1999, he would not have ignited the response he received at present. This is a time when the Pakistani masses are already hurting all over. Hunger hurts. Terrorism hurts. Loss of earnings hurts. Homelessness hurts. The let down of the post democracy movement hurts. Loss of sovereignty hurts. Loss of security hurts. America's military conduct hurts. Their leaders' alliance with America hurts. Loss of popular leadership hurts. The ordinary man has nothing left except solace in his religion – in his prophet (PBUH). Salmaan Taseer was wrongly perceived as one threatening that too. Hence his violent end.

Do not isolate Pakistan as the only country slipping into the hands of dark forces. These are dark times, everywhere. The murder of a Pakistani governor who was trying to amend a law he thought was vulnerable to abuse, and was trying to save a Christian women's life he thought was wrongly condemned to death, should be understood in the light of the opposition to the building of a mosque at ground zero in New York. There too, people are hurt and therefore, extremists.


If you casually touch an injured person's finger which was crushed and is hurting badly, he will scream violently. Before you condemn the person as insanely violent and dangerous, examine his injury. It will help you understand why he reacted the way he did. Once you understand his problem, you will find the right way of dealing with it.


The writer is a consultant based in Islamabad. Email: zeenia.satti@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHEN POLITICS TRUMPS THE ECONOMY

 DR MALEEHA LODHI


The writer is a former envoy to the US and UK, and a former editor of The News


By winning back the MQM's support in parliament, the PPP-led coalition has managed to avert a potential collapse and ease a political crisis. But this has been secured at a heavy price – the abandonment of urgent reforms that have put the economy in serious jeopardy and will place the government in a bigger bind later.

When the MQM walked out of the ruling coalition the PPP saw itself confronted with a choice between saving the government and saving the economy. To no one's surprise it opted for the first. Political expediency trumped the urgency to fix the economy.


The PPP government first announced the decision to reverse the fuel price increase that was to take effect from the start of the new year. This was followed by the deferment of legislation in parliament to enforce a reformed general sales tax – demanded by much of the opposition and the MQM.


These decisions won the government a political reprieve that may yet turn out to be temporary. But they entail serious repercussions for an economy in disarray especially if compensating actions are not taken to offset the impact on an unsustainable fiscal situation. And these will also not be politically easy to take.


The rollback of the petroleum price decision will involve an additional subsidy of at least Rs5 billion or $53.8 million a month. As an IMF spokesperson put it, the bulk of this subsidy's benefit will go to higher income individuals and large companies. Most deleteriously it will add to a spiralling budget deficit, which will likely be financed by printing more currency notes. The inflationary impact of this will soon offset the ostensible 'benefit of rolling back the fuel price'.


The government's economic team hopes to limit the damage by persuading its political principles to remove the fuel subsidy after one month – when the political crisis begins to recede. But it is not clear how such a weak government will make another policy U turn especially when the political environment remains charged and its position so fragile.


If the government fails to reduce the burden of the subsidy, mobilize additional revenue and cut inessential expenditure, the fiscal deficit will soar to a record level – around eight per cent of GDP. Financing such a large deficit mainly by borrowing from the State Bank will accelerate inflation, begin to deplete foreign exchange reserves and put pressure on the exchange rate.


The external side could then rapidly deteriorate and the present 'record' level of foreign exchange reserves slip quite quickly (as there is no offsetting financing and the oil import bill is rising) despite the continued robust inflow of workers' remittances. The government will then be compelled again to seek external funding.


As the programme with the IMF is off-track loan disbursement by the Fund remains suspended. This together with the oil price decision will make it harder to receive financing from other international financial institutions – the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Instead of phasing out subsidies and address the vexed circular debt problem the latest government move compounds it. In the absence of other action on energy sector reform this will further complicate management of the country's crippling energy crisis.

In an imploding fiscal situation created by the failure to mobilize revenue, limit expenditure and stem the losses in public sector enterprises including the energy utilities the government has been resorting to printing more currency notes as a politically convenient way to cover the widening fiscal gap. In an environment of high inflation further borrowing from the central Bank will undermine public confidence in the country's currency, fuel greater inflationary expectations, move the economy towards dollarization, and push it a step closer to a state of hyperinflation.


Thus the celebration over the government's rollback of the fuel price increase and RGST by most political leaders and much of the media overlooks the grave implications of these decisions in contributing to a deepening fiscal crisis and the danger this poses for the country's stability: the prospect of runaway inflation which is the most cruel tax on the poor, erosion of everyone's real purchasing power, retarding sluggish growth, crowding out the private sector, deepening poverty and ultimately engendering civil strife, even political instability.

It has been left to finance minister Hafiz Sheikh to warn parliamentary leaders about the gravity of this situation and the inflationary impact of continuing general subsidies particularly at a time when domestic resource mobilization measures in the form of the RGST are stalled in parliament. Many leaders seemed to understand the heightening risks but are unable to square the economic imperative with their politics.


Little understood by many who virulently oppose the RGST is the fact that this is the single most effective instrument that can generate substantial revenue. This is not to suggest that a VAT-like measure can unilaterally solve the country's fiscal problems but its ability to enhance tax revenue by 2-3 per cent of GDP in the medium term makes it a more important option relative to others.


The unstated presumption behind the lack of official resolve on reforms and a similar attitude among opposition politicians is that the US-led international community will prevail on the IMF to resume lending and prevent an economic collapse in a strategically vital country. The stream of messages sent by Islamabad to top officials of the Obama Administration to weigh in with the Fund indicates this.


These have so far got little traction. Instead, in a public rebuke, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the reversal of the petroleum price increase and described this as a mistake. Ministers of other development partners have been more blunt in stating that their country's taxpayers cannot be expected to help when Pakistan cannot get its own taxpayers to pay up.


Government leaders and others may therefore be miscalculating that Washington can or will ask the Fund to bail Islamabad out. At a time when the IMF is participating in programmes that entail sharp adjustments in many cash-strapped European countries is it realistic to think that it will apply different performance criteria here?

Can IMF funding be expected to resume to Pakistan without any national revenue effort or correction of fiscal policy and an automatic, flexible mechanism for administrative price adjustments that is by some measure symmetric and fair? Absent structural reforms to deal with the haemorrhage in public sector enterprises and worsening circular debt as well as significant control of expenditure, can any rescue plan even work?


Irrespective of what the IMF does, the growing economic disarray in the country should concern all leaders in and out of government. An economy with no direction and no policy reforms to halt the slide and the spectre of dangerously high inflation should engage the attention of all public representatives.


Tough economic decisions will ultimately have to be taken but the longer they are postponed the greater the adjustment that will be required. The political pain of necessary reform will have to be shared if Pakistan is to be saved from an economic breakdown.


This means forging a political consensus on a set of reform measures needed to restore financial stability. This can only be achieved by an informed debate in parliament and the media and an agreement not to politicize economic problems on whose resolution rests the very future of the country.


In today's strained political environment evolving consensus on a minimum reform agenda may seem a vain hope but the alternative – a descent into economic chaos – should serve as a reminder of what might happen if no policy correctives are implemented. This ought to urge different stakeholders to review their stance of putting short-term expediency before the country's economic security. After all without such stability their political gamesmanship will be in vain.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

LIBERATION

WILLIAM ASTORE


Two centuries ago, Napoleon led his armies out of France and brought "liberty, equality, and fraternity" to much of the rest of ancien régime Europe – but on his terms and via the barrel of a musket. His invasion of Spain, for example, was viewed as anything but a "liberation" by the Spanish, who launched a fierce guerrilla campaign against their French occupiers that sapped the strength of Napoleon's empire and what was generally considered the finest fighting force of its moment. British aid to the insurgency helped ensure that this campaign would become Napoleon's "Spanish ulcer."


The "Little Corporal" ultimately decided to indirectly strike back at the British by invading Russia, which was refusing to enforce France's so-called continental blockade. As Napoleon's army bled out or froze solid in the snows of a Russian winter, the Prussians and the Austrians found new reasons to reject French "fraternity." Within years, Napoleon's empire was unsaddled and destroyed, a fate shared by its leader, sent into ignominious exile on the island of Saint Helena.


Like Napoleon's fired up revolutionary troops, the American military also sees itself as on a mission to spread democracy and freedom. Afghans and Iraqis have, however, proven no more eager than the Spaniards of two centuries ago to be "liberated" at gun (or "Hellfire" missile) point, even when the liberators come bearing gifts, which in today's terms means the promise of roads, jobs, and "reconstruction," or even cash by the pallet.

Because we Americans believe our own press releases, it's difficult to imagine others (except, of course, those so fanatic as to be blind to reality) seeing us as anything but well-intentioned liberators. As journalist Nir Rosen has put it: "There's… a deep sense among people in the [American] policy world, in the military, that we're the good guys. It's just taken for granted that what we're doing must be right because we're doing it. We're the exceptional country, the essential nation, and our role, our intervention, our presence is a benign and beneficent thing."

In reporting on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rosen and others have offered ample proof for those who care to consider it that our foreign interventions have been anything but benign or beneficent, no less liberating. Our invasion of Iraq opened the way to civil war and mayhem. For many ordinary Iraqis, when American intervention didn't lead to death, destruction, dislocation, and exile, it bred "deep humiliation and disruption" as well as constant fear, a state of affairs that, as Rosen notes, is "painful and humiliating and scary."

In Afghanistan, Rosen points out, most villagers see our troops making common cause with a despised and predatory government. Huge infusions of American dollars, meanwhile, rarely trickle down to the village level, but instead promote the interests of Afghan warlords and foreign businesses. Small wonder that, more than nine years later, a majority of Afghans say they want to be liberated from us.


The US military is not "the greatest force for human liberation" in all history. It is the ideas and ideals of human dignity, of equality before the law, of the fundamental value of each and every individual, that are the greatest force for human liberation. Such ideals are shared by many peoples. They may sometimes be defended by the sword, but were inscribed by the pens of great moralists and thinkers of humanity's collective past. In this sense, when it comes to advancing freedom, the pen has indeed been mightier than the sword.


Courtesy: counterpunch.org


This is part of a larger article titled "Freedom fighters for a fading empire". The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history. Email: wjastore@gmail. com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

EVOLVE NATIONAL ECONOMIC AGENDA AS WELL

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani once again sprang up surprise when in a dramatic initiative on Sunday he talked to heads of all parliamentary parties before taking the bold step of contacting PML (N) Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to respond positively to the agenda proposed by him for addressing the problems of the people and challenges facing the country. This has indeed averted a major crisis for the time being that loomed large on the political horizon but it is difficult to predict for how long this new phase of détente would prevail.


The latest developments have, however, highlighted the fact that the Prime Minister has the capacity and ability to weave out political consensus and bring heterogeneous interests together for the sake of the system and the democracy. This being so, one would like the chief executive to focus attention on evolving a national economic agenda, which is a must for ensuring political sovereignty of the country and its stability. We say so because Pakistan has become so vulnerable to foreign pressure due to its fragile economy that now American ambassador says it at the beat of the drum "we pay so we intrude" and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had the audacity to offer negative comment on the announcement of the Prime Minister about reduction in prices of POL products with a view to lessening the sufferings of the people. Same is the case with IMF that dictates its terms to the extent of creating instability and uncertainty in the country. Otherwise too, the situation is pretty precarious as industrial activity is almost at standstill due to recession, electricity and gas load-shedding and frequent increases in interest rates by the State Bank. This is despite the fact that the country has enormous potential to grow but realisation of this goal is linked to implementation of sound and pragmatic policies that have the backing of all stakeholders and above all people of Pakistan. It is not enough to create consensus among political players for continuation of the government as completion of mandated term of a government itself would not be an achievement if the rulers failed to give something concrete to the masses. Now a stage has come when the Government alone would not be able to decide and implement any policy on its own, as we witnessed in the case of its unilateral decision to hike prices of oil. Therefore, we would urge the Prime Minister to focus now on evolving and forging a national economic agenda, which should be followed not only by this Government but its successors as well.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INDIA TO STAY IN KABUL. FOR WHAT?

 

INDIAN Foreign Minister S M Krishna vowed on Sunday that security threats would not drive his country out of Afghanistan. Speaking after talks with his Afghan counterpart in Kabul, Krishna said that threats to Indian mission were real but added his country was not going to be cut down by them.


We are glad that the Indian Minister himself has acknowledged the fact that India was not welcome in Afghanistan. Though he very prudently declared that they would stick to their mission undeterred by these threats yet the Indians cannot succeed in their agenda in Afghanistan because they have antagonised the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people ie Pushtuns. This is because since long India has aligned itself with the Northern Alliance and worked all along against the interests of Pukhtuns. Strategically, India is working for a pro-Delhi regime in Afghanistan to undermine strategic interests of Pakistan, which considers Afghanistan as its backyard. It is because of this that India, with the active connivance of the United States, is doing homework to influence the post-withdrawal Afghanistan and for this purpose it has embarked on a multi-directional strategy to get a hold in that country. India - which has no contiguous border with Afghanistan, and which cannot project significant military power at distance into Afghanistan - faces a stark strategic predicament is working for the dominance of the Northern Alliance to recreate a violently contested space in that country, which may shore up at least some of India's interests. Pakistan has legitimate concerns about Indian presence and role in Afghanistan as its intelligence agencies have been misusing Afghan soil to sponsor terrorism and violence in Pakistan. India's all neighbours are weary of its hegemonic approach and therefore it should change its policy for the sake of regional peace and stability.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

LET THERE BE 24-HOUR LOAD-SHEDDING

 

THE dual load-shedding of power and gas is bound to have a fatal blow to the survival of industrial sector in the country but no one in the Government appears to be concerned as all energies are being devoted to political survival. The situation has reached to a point that the KESC on Sunday announced to start 16-hour load-shedding for industrial areas of Karachi.


The KESC has justified the load-shedding saying all of its plants cannot run on oil as most of the units are gas fired and the SSGPL has drastically reduced the gas supply. The massive load-shedding would lead to closure of most of the industries in the commercial hub of the country resulting in colossal economic loss and unemployment and the consequences would be beyond the capacity of the Government to overcome. For the past three years we have been urging in these columns for urgent measures to overcome the energy crisis but except for a few small generation plants in the private sector, no major energy project has become operational in the public sector to reduce the gap between demand and supply of the vital source of energy. If the Government is so least concerned, we would say with pain, that it should announce 24-hour load shedding so that the consumers give up their hope of any respite and make their own arrangements to carry on their routine businesses. According to estimates almost 50 per cent production of exportable goods has already dwindled due to daily power outages causing massive financial losses. Pakistan has been facing an unprecedented electricity crisis for the last few years. The problem becomes more severe during summer but now there is load-shedding even in winter due to poor planning. The leaders and planners do talk a lot about making dams, utilisation of coal and setting up nuclear power plants but these are turning out to be hollow slogans. Our hydropower and coal resources are under-utilised as they provide for relatively little of our energy needs. Pakistan, as a country, has to get serious about creating a short and long term energy strategy, and then, the hard part, implementing it if we are to survive as a nation.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDIAN CLAIM PROVED FALSE

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

It is a matter of routine for Indian leadership to accuse Pakistan for every act of terrorism in India whereas it has been proved many a time that invariably every act of terrorism was committed by India's homegrown terrorists. All along, India had also been officially denying any link of Hindu extremists with the mayhem, death and carnage resulting from the blasts, and instead tried to shift the blame for the heinous crime to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Meanwhile, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief, Swami Aseemanand has confessed before a magistrate that he along with other Hindu activists was involved in the Malegon, Samjhota Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid bombings. This has knocked the bottom out of Indian Prime Minister's pretense. Indian weekly Tehelka magazine stated that his confession has unraveled the inner workings of the Hindutva terror network.


Pakistan on Saturday asked India that it should not squander the opportunity and bring to justice the perpetrators of the bombing of Samjhota Express train in light of a RSS leader's confession about the involvement of Sangh activists in the attack. "It took almost four years for the Samjhota Express investigations to come to this pass. We can only hope that no further time will be squandered in bringing the criminals to justice," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told Indian news agency PTI in a text message.


Basit was responding to a question on Pakistan's reaction to Swami Aseemanand's confession about the involvement of Sangh activists in several terror attacks, including the 2007 bombing of Samjhota Express that killed nearly 70 people, majority of them Pakistanis. Basit said. "We look forward to hearing from India officially. The relations of Pakistani victims of Samjhauta Express terrorist action are desperately awaiting their protracted trauma to come to an end," he added.


Aseemananad's statement made under Clause 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) is legally admissible evidence that makes it crucial for the investigators probing the terror bombings targeting Muslims. Aseemanand, who was arrested last year, also alleged that Indresh financed Joshi for the terror activities and provided him men to plant bombs. He also confessed to his own role in the terror plots and how he had motivated a bunch of RSS pracharaks and other Hindu radicals to carry out terror strikes at Malegaon, Hyderabad and the Ajmer Sharif shrine. Terming it as 'Sanghi terrorism', Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders should make their position clear in the wake of the latest revelations about involvement of an RSS activist in terror activities. He said that the government should 'take strict action against people involved in terror and those who are supporting them'.


Last August, a report of Indian English daily 'India Today' had made a reference to official admission by an Indian investigating agency that Samjhota Express and the Jamia Masjid Delhi were on the hit list of Hindutva terrorists who were also involved in attacks on Ajmer Sharif, Malegaon and Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad. The Rajasthan Anti-Terrorism Squad's 806-page charge sheet on the Ajmer blasts says the module behind these three targets had sinister plans to target the Samjhota Express and Jamia Masjid as well. However, the report stated that it was not clear though whether this terror cell could execute its plan. Over 60 Pakistanis died in the Samjhota Express blast on February 19, 2007, while earlier 13 people were wounded in blasts inside Jamia Masjid on April 14, 2006 – months after this module (according to the Rajasthan ATS) chose them as targets at a meeting chaired by Rashtriya Savak Sangh (RSS) leader Swami Aseemanand in February 2006.


Anyhow, after 44 months of dilly-dallying, India officially admitted in April 2010 that the Hindutva brigade of the extremist group Abhinav Bharat, of which Indian Army's serving officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit was an active member, was responsible for the bombings on board the Pakistan-bound Samjhota Express. The report had confirmed the complicity of the Hindu extremist group Abhinav Bharat, Indian Army officers of the ilk of Lieutenant Colonel Purohit, who actually supplied the military-grade explosive RDX, and other Hindu radicals, who had plotted and executed the heinous crimes against humanity as part of their campaign of ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Purohit and retired army Major Samir Kulkarni had also helped train the alleged bombers. In November 2008, when the ATS of Mumbai arrested Lieutenant Colonel Purohit for his involvment in the bombings, the BJP had denounced the ATS as traitors.


Bal Thackeray, the supremo of the Shiv Sena, a longtime ally of the BJP, had forthrightly accused the ATS of framing the Malegaon bombing accused. "What Pakistan was not able to do in the last 20 years," declared Modi, "the Manmohan Singh government has achieved in just 20 days. They have succeeded in branding our soldiers as terrorists." It has to be mentioned that Haimant Karkare, the head of the Mumbai ATS was assassinated by Indian commandos in the garb of fighting terrorists during the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks. There have been voices in India demanding proper investigation to unearth the culprits behind Malegaon blasts and the linkage between the army officers and Hindu extremist organizations. Putting an end to all speculations, the anti-terror branch of Mumbai Police had said that Army RDX was used and not supplied from across the border, which vindicated Pakistan's position. There is now substantial evidence that Purohit procured 60 kg of RDX from Jammu and Kashmir in the year 2006, a part of which is suspected to have been used in Samjhota Express train explosion and Malegaon blasts, Maharashtra police told the court that Purohit gave a part of the RDX to one Bhagwan who was suspected to have used it in Samjhota Express blast. Whereas, America and the West are pressurizing Pakistan to cooperate with India and bring the masterminds behind Mumbai attacks to justice, they do not consider it worthwhile to tell India to bring those involved in Samjhota Express and other bombings to justice. India should stop accusing Pakistan of its linkage with Muslim organizations in India, where hundreds of innocent young boys are picked up and kept under illegal detentions. In addition to torture, arrests, harassment of their families, the families and victims are pressured into signing blank papers.


In 2007, Indian agencies had accused Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami activist alias Bilal of being involved in Samjhota blasts when two coaches were completely gutted. India often names Muslim organizations, which in fact do not exist. Anyhow, on the demand of Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organizations the Indian government acknowledged that Hindu extremist organizations were behind the terrorists' activities. On 24th August 2008 two Bajrang Dal workers died while making bombs. In this age of information technology and media explosion, India could not hide the link between the army and the Hindu extremist organizations. With the above disclosures, India should stop accusing Pakistan for its backing of terrorists, and should look inward to stem the tide of terrorism in northern states. India should also stop atrocities on the people of Kashmir and honour its commitments of holding plebiscite under the aegis of the UN.


—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

SUSTAINED CLANDESTINE OPERATIONS

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

When Indian military failed to browbeat Pakistan and turn it into a compliant state through its military standoffs in 2002 and in 2009 coupled with covert operations, and each time had to withdraw humiliatingly, it was decided by conspirators that heavier dosage of character assassination of Pakistan's institutions and its leadership was required to further weaken Pakistan from within. Seven years of sustained covert war and propaganda war based on lies and deceit unleashed collectively by intelligence agencies of USA, India, Israel, Britain and Afghanistan had made appreciable gains on the civilian front but had failed to crack the defiance and resilience of Pak armed forces. For the accomplishment of their sinister objectives the Army and the ISI that had become a pain in the neck had to be sufficiently weakened. Pak Army had to be embroiled in self defeating war on terror more deeply while the ISI had to be cut to size.


Accordingly, all guns were trained on these two premier institutions to malign their image and reputation. It was propagated that the ISI had become a rogue organization and must be reined in since it was out of control of civil government and was aiding the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Consistent pressure was exerted on NRO cleansed civil leaders to civilianize ISI and to bring it under the control of Rehman Malik led Interior Ministry. ISI was accused of patronizing Lashkar-e-Taiba allegedly involved in Mumbai attacks. The Army was also ridiculed that it was either linked with the militants or didn't have the heart to confront them.


While India mounted relentless pressure on Pakistan by blaming that it was involved in Mumbai attacks, the US-NATO from the western end adopted an aggressive posture by insisting that it intended to operate inside FATA. Pakistan specific Af-Pak policy was framed to convert Pak-Afghan border into a single battleground. Drone attacks against suspected targets in Waziristan were accelerated. Alarm bells of Pak nukes getting stolen by Taliban or by Taliban sympathizers working within nuclear installations were continuously ringed. The plot makers intensified propaganda war to build up a perception that Pakistan had become the most dangerous place on earth and its nukes were unsafe and posed a threat to world safety. Simultaneously, suicide attacks and group attacks by RAW sponsored terrorists were stepped up in all major cities of Pakistan. Intense pressure was mounted to force Pakistan Army to launch military operation against militant's strongest positions in Bajaur, Swat and in South Waziristan. It was assessed that the Army for sure will get irretrievably stuck in at least one of the well fortified strongholds. It was hoped that multiple actions would create conducive conditions for Indian military to launch the limited war by close of 2009.


While Indian political leaders and Indian media kept the temperature bubbling by indulging in saber rattling after Mumbai attacks and refusing to resume composite dialogue, India's former army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor living in the world of fantasy kept the military temperature high by threatening to launch a limited attack under nuclear overhang. Without being provoked, he got so worked up that he made the whole world chuckle when he boasted that his Army could bulldoze its way through the combined armies of China and Pakistan.

His composite battle groups deployed in isolation along the border got tired of idling and started doubting the wisdom of impractical and mythical Cold Start doctrine which didn't make any sense. They dread the call for a sudden plunge into the mouths of hungry sharks lying in waiting. One wonders, if Kapoor was feeling so powerful, what stopped him or his successor Gen VK Singh from bailing out US-NATO troops caught up in quagmire of Afghanistan and in great distress by making minced meat of dreaded Taliban. This is least expected of a strategic partner deriving huge economic and military benefits from its patron USA without firing a shot and shedding a drop of blood in war on terror.

When Indian Army kept flaunting its flawed doctrine but could not launch its battle groups, RAW feeling upset launched series of terrorist group attacks in Lahore and Rawalpindi starting March 2009 to give vent to its frustration. Ominous schemes worked out by Pakistan's adversaries got a severe blow as a consequence to Pak Army gaining a decisive edge over militants after achieving outstanding successes in Bajaur, Swat and South Waziristan in quick succession. This development coupled with the security situation in Afghanistan getting out of control of occupation forces at the dawn of 2010 changed the whole complexion and put the schemers on the back foot.


It compelled the US to start leaning on Pakistan rather than on India. However, the US instead of finding an amicable solution to Afghan imbroglio through dialogue wants Pakistan to become a party to its gory plan of dividing the Taliban and crushing them piecemeal. While all non-Pashtun elements in Afghanistan are anti-Pakistan, the US wants Pakistan to sever its links with each and every faction of Afghan Pashtuns as well thereby giving India lasting advantage in Afghan affairs in the future.


Pakistan Army instead of getting weakened has become more robust, professional and is well led and has maintained its defensive and offensive balance. Its mettle in war on terror and UN missions has been widely acclaimed by the world. Gen Kayani proved his mental calibre at the largely attended meeting of NATO at Brussels. It was for the first time that a non-NATO officer had this privilege to address the august gathering and he deeply impressed them. For full one year he has been resisting the pressure of USA to mount an operation in North Waziristan which is laudable. The operation will be launched sometime in 2011 when it suits Pakistan's interests and not US interests. The ISI is looked at with awe and envy. Single-handed it has successfully battled with world's six most advanced intelligence agencies and has frustrated their designs.


In the recently held Cambrian Patrol exercise organized by British Army in Wales from 8-13 October, which is considered to be the world's toughest exercise and in which teams from all over the world including USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia and India took part, the team of 35 FF stood first and won the gold medal. The exercise envisaged testing of leadership qualities, teamwork, physical fitness and endurance, map reading and completing the assigned tasks within the stipulated time. Three cheers to the winners who have made us all proud. I had the privilege of serving in this excellent unit as first Adjutant on its raising in 1971 under dynamic Lt Col Akram Raja Shaheed who earned Hilal-e-Jurat in 1971 Indo-Pak war in the battle of Bara Pind in Sialkot sector based on citation written by Indian officers.


With the induction of AWACs, JF-17 jet fighters, new batch of F-16 CD model jets, the PAF is feeling much more confident. With balanced ratio of hard hitting submarines and surface warships and improved early warning means and naval air arm, the navy too is in high spirits. Pakistan's nuclear deterrence is intact and its wide arrays of guided missiles including cruise missiles are much superior to Indian missiles. Gen Shameem Wynne whom I know personally since he was my student in 1982 Staff Course is an excellent choice to head Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. He surely will further refurbish inter-services coordination and cooperation as well as upgrade missile and nuclear set up under competent Lt Gen Kidwai. The Strategic Force has become a force to reckon with and is well poised to act as the chief deterrent.


—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst and author of several books.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

UK CORRUPTION: FORMER MP JAILED

RIZWAN GHANI

 

Former Labour MP David Chaytor was jailed for 18 months over false expenses claim. Chaytor admitted claiming false parliamentary expenses for rent and IT work and tried to cheat taxpayers with £22,000. Justice Saunders at Southwark crown court while handing over the sentence told Chatyor said a custodial sentence was one of the first steps in restoring public faith in the parliamentary system. Chaytor had breached "the high degree of trust" placed in MPs who hold an "important and powerful place in society". He said, "These offences have wider and more important consequences than is to be found in other breach of trust cases."The public understandably feel cheated by what has happened," Judge said.


It is a landmark development because Southwark crown court rejected Chaytor's plea that parliament not the court hears his case. The court also rejected his request that he will not get a fair trial in the courts because of damaging press coverage. The Supreme Court rejected Chaytor's plea of immunity from prosecution under MP privilege by saying that the case was not covered by privilege. The parliamentary commissioner for standards failed to hold Chaytor guilty. Chaytor had referred himself to the commissioner. The media had exposed the corruption by the lawmakers. The former college lecturer now faces a potential six-figure legal bill for his defense and part of the prosecution costs, including several hearings at the high court and Supreme Court. He has been expelled from the Labour party.


Chaytor is the first MP to be convicted and sentenced over the debacle. Reportedly, former Barnsley Central Labour MP Eric Illsley is due to go on trial at the same court next week accused of dishonestly claiming £20,000 in council tax and other bills on his second home. Others facing trial over their expenses are former Scunthorpe Labour MP Elliot Morley and former Labour MP for Livingston Jim Devine, as well as Lord Hanningfield and former Tory peer Lord Taylor. Chaytor had brushed away allegations in the Daily Telegraph's exposé of expenses, arguing that he was the victim of "selective reporting and outlandish claims". He had not, he claimed, received "to the best of my belief any payment in excess of that for which I was eligible". Expenses cheat MP has been taken to Wandsworth prison where he is beginning his sentence in 'cramped, cold and busy' conditions."He will be strip-searched, photographed, fingerprinted, showered, placed on a bodily orifice scanner to ensure he is not concealing contraband, before being issued with prison clothing and a prison number and left to consider his future in a reception cubicle holding around 20 others," said Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the prisoners' newspaper.


The wider question for UK politics is why Chaytor and few others. What about a long list of MPs that surfaced under the name of "Duck House Scandal" involving gross violations of rules of MP expenses. It is opined that it is one way of getting rid of old labour MPs to free "safe seats". Thatcher allowed mortgage to be part of MP expenses, which legitimized corruption. Since then the allowance was paid with no questions asked, which gave the MPs an impression that allowance was their pocket money. The courts judgments have shown that the pre-Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has failed in its job of monitoring, and punishing misuse of public's tax money by the politicians.


Cameron would want to present the court rulings as cleansing of politicians. However, the media is not done yet. There calls for going after Nick Clegg's party will keep getting louder and louder, which could ultimately derail the coalition. Those who oppose the coalition within Lib-Dem and Conservatives would go on calling for across the board accountability instead of cherry picking. On the contrary, it can be said that the sentencing of Chaytor and "feeding" the remaining tainted MPs to courts is part of a compromise on part of all political parties to close the chapter, but few think that it is going to go away just like that.

The MPs are unhappy about the jailing of a former MP and selective implementation of misuse of taxpayer's money. There are calls for crackdown on bank bonuses and salaries that are being drawn from public's money who is maintaining accounts in the banks. UK's PM is drawing £ 1, 42,000 annually, which includes his MP's salary also. The annual salary of a MP is £65,738. In contrast, the bankers, the Stock Exchange and heads of financial institutions of Wall Street are drawing millions in salaries and bonuses, and many of them are living off taxpayer largesse, too.


Unlike the politicians who want to bring an end to glut and greed on the Wall Street to win hearts back in their constituencies and Main Street, both Cameron and Nick Clegg are not ready to do just that. Similarly, Cameron is not ready to act against tax exiles- who maintain off shore accounts to avoid state taxes- but enjoy services in UK without paying taxes and at the cost of other taxpayers.


The court ruling against Chaytor is a good day for ordinary people in Pakistan also. Since, Pakistan's parliamentary and judicial system is similar to British systems therefore it will allow the corruption oversight institutions and courts to bring book the culprits running free in Pakistani politics. The role of British media is positive because by the end of the day one, tainted MP is behind the bars and others are set to face the courts so that their fate can also be decided. It will uphold the trust of public in the judiciary, politicians and the parliamentary form of government.


The failure of UK's parliamentary oversight setup (Ipsa) to control lawmakers corruption warrants third party oversight. Therefore, Pakistan needs to replace all in house/ departmental accountability setups including PAC, NAB etc with courts of law. Independent Election Commission of Pakistan (ECoP) has also failed to resolve reportedly 400 disputed degree cases of lawmakers while it has weakened democracy, caused loss to national exchequer and allowed tainted lawmakers to enjoy the benefits. The elections should be given to judiciary to uphold transparency, accountability and independence.


Similarly, laws should be executed to end off shore accounts, which are strewn with ill-gotten trillions of tax rupees. In this regard, West should end its double standards in which it supports democracy but allows siphoning off corruption money to reportedly six bank havens across the world. The international money laundering law should be put to use to end transferring of corruption wealth from the third world and its use in advanced world banking system to develop local economies, industry and create jobs. The Pakistani courts to end corruption nexus between politicians, bankers and the bureaucrats. Action on NRO, decide 48,000 cases registered by the banking courts in 1997 to recover Rs. 217 bn. Recover Rs. 80 bn lost by 25,000 families in Karachi Stock Exchange fraud in 2005.


Nationalize PTCL, KESE, sale of Labella land, and Multan Fertilizer etc. which were privatized at throwaway prices. The economic policyholders, planners and financial institutions should also be held accountable for undermining country's economy. The cases in point are failure of State Bank governors and economic teams for adopting western policies at the cost of national and public interest. Use of $43 bn tax money for America's war against the wishes of all Pakistani taxpayers and innocent deaths. The salaries of being drawn from tax money should be published every six months for transparency and accountability. In addition, the media should be empowered to strengthen democracy, protect public and national interest. Thus, UK has set a positive precedent and brought the corrupt lawmaker to book and it is about time Pakistan follows suit.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

A BLOB OF SHAME

ALI SUKHANVER

 

It's not Muslims, but Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists who planned and executed the bomb blasts at Malegaon in 2006, on the Samjhauta Express in 2007, in Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and Mecca Masjid in 2007," confessed Swami Aseemanand, the main accused of 2007 Samjhauta Express blast in front of a magistrate at a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. Aseemanand said it was his interaction with one of the 'innocent' Muslim youths in jail that has led to his confession. The weekly Tehelka magazine has recently published a 42-page signed statement of Swami Aseemanand, written in Hindi. The Swami admitted in the statement that it was his conscience which compelled him to make this confession.


The Malegaon bombings took place on 8 September 2006 in Malegaon which killed at least 37 people and injured over 125. The Samjhauta Express bombings took place on 18 February 2007 on the twice-weekly train service connecting Delhi and Lahore, it took the lives of 68 people most of them were Pakistanis. The blast in the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer in October 2007 had claimed three lives and injured several others. The Mecca Masjid blast in May 18, 2007 killed nine people. In this way the total goes to 117 casualties. How astonishing is the fact that from September 2006 to May 2007, in a short period of nine months, Hindu extremists took the lives of 117 people and the Indian investigation agencies had been trying to fix and frame Pakistan and the ISI and various Muslim organizations in all these cases. Pakistan must be thankful to Swami Aseemanand for this revelation. He has opened new avenues of possible exposures regarding the Mumbai Attacks. The confession of Swami Aseemanand must be a blob of shame and embarrassment on the face of Indian intelligence and investigation agencies. The government of India is spending lavishly on these agencies in the name of defence and security of the Indian people but these agencies are so dim-witted and brainless that they could never trace the perpetrators of all these heinous terrorist activities even after a long period of four years. During all this period they had been wasting all their efforts on dragging Pakistan and the ISI into a baseless blame game.


One could very easily smell the Hindutva Philosophy behind all these carefully planned and cleverly designed terrorist activities. Swami Aseemanand is simply one example; there would be countless people like Swami Aseemanand who are trying their utmost to create misunderstandings between the Hindus and the Muslims in India in the name of Hindutva Philosophy. Hindutva is a term coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet entitled, 'Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?' This philosophy urges the Hindus to get united for crushing the Non-Hindus and the Hindus mean those who are Hindu by belief not by land. It is the Hindutva philosophy which gave birth to the organizations such as the RSS, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bajrang Dal, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Thousands of Muslims have been brutally slaughtered under the veil of this philosophy.


Most of the affairs of the country in India are run by particular groups of extremist Hindus who are strictly following the Hindutva Philosophy. These extremist groups are all time supporting and financing the culprit organizations which support the Hindutva philosophy. They are always trying to shelter the Hindutva terrorists.

The horrible Samjhota Express incident provides a very strong proof in this regard. According to the reports, National Investigation Agency of India (NIA) has also confirmed the nexus between Hindu terrorists and Indian MI officers. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members, political bigwigs and retired and serving army officers, all seemed part of the conspiracy and had set up Abhinav Bharat to infiltrate and subvert every institution in the county. Abhinav Bharat is a Hindu nationalist organization based mainly in Maharashtra in India.

This Hindu nationalist organization gained prominence when its members were arrested for allegedly perpetrating the Malegaon bombing. National Investigation Agency of India has recovered some tapes from the RSS accused. According to these tapes, more than eight army officers are directly involved in the Samjhota Express blasts. At least four of them have intelligence background; two are serving Brigadiers, three Colonels and two Majors. Of all these army officers, only one colonel is under investigation and NIA is yet to initiate investigations against the rest. Although the NIA has done no doubt a great job with reference to the Samjhota Express blasts yet there are still so many things to betaken care of.


The democratic people of India are now looking towards the NIA for the resolution of the Mumbai Attacks Mystery. They are sure that the matter would be investigated thoroughly and the culprits would be penalized. The NIA would not have to waste much of its time in solving the Mumbai Attacks Mystery because the investigations regarding the Samjhota Express blasts have provided it with all required clues and links.


Hope is the only thing which keeps the wheel of life revolving .Pakistan must be hopeful as well as confident that some day in near future some other Swami would come to the surface and confess his involvement in the horrible Mumbai massacre. After that expected confession Pakistan would be very much true in demanding for the culprits involved in the Mumbai massacre to be handed over to Pakistan because these blasts have caused a great loss and damage to the repute of Pakistan. For the time being, it is the high time for the government of Pakistan to demand for the culprits involved in the Samjhota Express blasts to be handed over to Pakistan because these blasts had taken the lives of more than 68 innocent Pakistanis.

 

The writer is a defence and strategic affairs analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHY AMERICANS ARE SO ANGRY?

LINDA FELDMANN

 

Heather Gass always felt she had to suppress her conservative views, living as she did in the liberal San Francisco Bay area. A year ago that all changed. CNBC financial reporter Rick Santelli had just blasted the Obama administration's plan to help homeowners facing foreclosure, and called for a "tea party" protest in Chicago. The idea caught fire around the country, and soon Ms. Gass, a 40-something real estate agent, was organizing weekly street-corner demonstrations in her hometown of Orinda, Calif.


Her focus was fiscal discipline, aimed not just at the $75 billion mortgage bailout but also the administration's $787 billion stimulus package and President Obama's budget. She remembers her first signs well: "Stop printing money" and "China owns us." By Congress's summer recess, when opposition to Mr. Obama's healthcare plan burst forth, she had 100 people protesting on street corners, she says.


Gass says she's beyond anger over the direction of the country and is in "action mode." Whatever it's called, that intensity of feeling – the passion that led her to travel last month to the Tea Party Convention in Nashville and that drives her to tears when she worries out loud about the America her son's generation will inherit – is unmistakable. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 75 percent of Americans are "angry," but his question is framed solely around anger: "How angry are you at the current policies of the federal government?" Forty-five percent replied "very angry" and 30 percent said "somewhat angry." But when Americans are given a choice of "angry," "dissatisfied," "satisfied," or "enthusiastic" about the way the federal government works, "dissatisfied" is the most popular choice at 48 percent, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. An additional 19 percent chose "angry." This net negative of 67 percent doesn't come close to the same poll's finding in October 1992, during the last time of political turmoil over fiscal policy. Then, 25 percent of Americans were angry, and 56 percent were dissatisfied, per ABC. A month later, third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot won 19 percent of the vote and cost President George H.W. Bush a second term.


For now, the angriest bloc of voters is conservatives, at 32 percent, according to ABC. Ten percent of liberals and 12 percent of moderates are angry. Higher levels of anger and declines in job approval for Obama could point to greater-than-average losses in November, potentially even the loss of Democratic control on Capitol Hill. Nonpartisan political handicapper Charlie Cook already predicts the Democrats will lose the House. Obama supporters who speak in less-than-glowing terms about the status quo can be described more as disaffected than angry. "I think the biggest disappointment is that politicians on both sides are looking out for their best interests instead of where the country needs to be," says J.P. Arena, a social worker in Massachusetts, who describes himself as a left-leaning Independent. "Whether it's Obama, whether it's Republicans, people aren't putting the needs of the country first." Mr. Arena says Obama still has his support "for now, but it's a tentative support." Waves of public discontent are older than the republic. The original tea party, after all, kicked off the American Revolution. Typically, populism has been a left-wing phenomenon; it erupted in the 1880s as a movement led by farmers unhappy about grain prices and the gold standard. The People's Party formed in the 1890s, but was eventually absorbed into the two-party system – the common fate of third-party movements in America.


Bankers are also common villains, going back to President Jackson's clashes with the Second Bank of the United States in the 1830s. Today, it's the large bonuses paid to the executives of bailed-out financial institutions that elicit the most anger from Americans – 62 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. The bailouts themselves angered 48 percent of Americans, partisan gridlock angered 39 percent, and the budget deficit angered 37 percent.

Obama has tried to get in front of today's conservative populist sentiment by proposing a freeze on domestic nonentitlement spending. He has also tried to appease the populist left by announcing a $100 billion fee on large banks, a jobs program, and a plan to prevent financial institutions from engaging in risky trading. But until unemployment shows clear signs of abating, Obama is going to be burdened politically. The round-the-clock media environment of cable TV, talk radio, and the Web, enhanced by the latest social networking tools, has allowed the tea party movement to ramp up rapidly like none other before it. The biggest challenge for the movement may be solidifying a positive image in the public eye. The recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 35 percent of Americans view the tea party favorably, while 40 percent see it negatively. Nearly two-thirds say they don't have a strong sense of what the movement is about. So when news reports of tea party events focus on fringe concerns, such as immigration and Obama's heritage, the movement's appeal could narrow. As for public anger, there are signs that Americans see cause for hope. A January Pew poll finds that while the national mood remains "grim" – only 27 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going – there is "considerable optimism" that 2010 will be a better year than 2009. "Sixty-seven percent say the coming year will be better, compared with 52 percent who said that last January and 50 percent in December 2007," Pew reports.


The poll found partisan differences in optimism, with 83 percent of Democrats saying 2010 will be better than 2009, compared with 60 percent of Independents and 55 percent of Republicans. But those numbers represent an increase for all three groups. Maybe it's the can-do American spirit, or even that sense of American exceptionalism that runs through the national narrative. Or, quips a public- opinion analyst, "maybe people think it can't get any worse." — The Christian Science Monitor

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ONE IN, ALL IN IS A NATIONAL IDEAL

WHATEVER THE STRIFE, WE WILL ALWAYS HELP EACH OTHER OUT.

 

The heart of Australia was on show on Sunday night. Government, business and individuals rich and poor donated $10 million to a television appeal for the victims of floods in Queensland and Carnarvon in Western Australia, supported by newspapers published by News Limited, publisher of The Australian. During the First Fleet's hungry days at Sydney Cove, Governor Arthur Phillip ordered equal rations for all, regardless of rank, realising that solidarity was essential if the settlement was to survive. And the idea that crisis unites us is now encoded in our cultural DNA. When times are tough, we instinctively understand it is one in, all in.

 

Rightly so. Dorothea Mackellar did not create a cliche when she first wrote of "droughts and flooding rains"; rather, she described the rough routine of bush life. Last night, Toowoomba was awash, Dalby faced floods for the fifth time since Christmas and water levels were rising on the northern NSW coast. On the other side of the continent, while Perth is in drought, Carnarvon is cleaning up and parts of the Kimberley faced flash flooding. Inevitably it is people on the ground who best help those in trouble. But cash from distant communities reminds those in trouble they are not on their own. It does not change the weather, but it makes it easier to endure.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MANAGING THE FORCE OF WATER

AUSTRALIA MUST LOOK AT DAMS AS PART OF THE SOLUTION.

 

The tragic flash floods in Toowoomba yesterday once again bring home to Australians the devastating power of nature. The loss of life is a terrible event for Queensland -- and the nation -- already reeling from the impact of the extraordinary deluges of recent weeks. The hope is that Brisbane will be spared, with Lord Mayor Campbell Newman saying the Wivenhoe Dam is protecting the city from a repeat of the huge floods of 1974.

 

The natural disasters are, correctly, consuming the attention of our policymakers and politicians. But it is also the case that the rains have generated a national conversation, not just of sympathy for those affected but also from curiosity about how best Australia should manage its water.

 

There has been surprise at how far the country has moved from a love affair with dams to a dam phobia. Not so long ago, Australians took dams for granted as a mechanism for providing water for households and crops. For most of the 20th century, dams were regarded as important infrastructure for agriculture as well as electricity generation -- the triumph of technology over a treacherous continent. There is no question interfering with rivers can lead to ecological changes that pose real challenges for environmental management. No question either that dam-building often means the acquisition of land and homes from people who do not want to move. Even so, the bad press for dams is mystifying.

 

Tony Abbott was criticised last week when he announced the Coalition would look at how dams could be integrated into the nation's water management plans -- not just for water storage but for flood mitigation. The Opposition Leader was quickly reminded that big floods are generally followed by big droughts and that different sorts of dams are needed for storage and mitigation. And that was before Greens leader Bob Brown weighed in in favour of the fish that are often threatened by interventionist engineering. These are valid arguments, but there is a case for examining whether dams should play a larger role in water management.

 

The starting point should be separating authentic environmental issues from the special pleading of property owners affected by construction and armchair conservationists who reject any intervention. Too often, an alliance between farmers, home owners and greens has seen off projects that made sense. That was the case in 2009, when then environment minister Peter Garrett cancelled the Traveston dam north of Brisbane to help the lungfish, the turtle and the cod, a decision cheered by locals, who didn't want to lose their real estate, and the Nationals, who didn't want to lose any votes.

 

Thanks to the failure to invest in dams, it is hard to find suitable sites without having an impact on existing land usage. We need leadership to challenge the assumption that dams are an old-fashioned option. Mr Abbott is not the only one amazed that there seem to be no sites where the national interest is not superior to the environmental impact. The irony is that the 21st-century answer to dams -- desalination plants -- use a lot of energy and produce expensive water.

 

For now, the focus must be on those devastated by the floods. But in the future, governments must look more closely at water management. Dams will not solve all our problems, but they should be given another chance.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BLAMING POLITICAL DEBATE DISHONOURS THE DEAD

THE ARIZONA KILLINGS DO NOT JUSTIFY CENSORING POLITICAL SPEECH.

 

There are 20 reasons why the blame game over who or what inspired the murders in Tucson, Arizona, are utterly odious -- the six people who died and the 14 who are injured. The critical wounding of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is an appalling attack on American democracy. It is as disgraceful as the assassination of four presidents, attempts on the lives of several more and the killing of other elected officials and public figures throughout US history, including Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And the murder of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, born on the day the World Trade Centre was destroyed by other enemies of the American republic, stands out as especially poignant. This is a day the silent majority of Americans will deeply regret, mourning the dead, hoping the injured survive, a day when they will deplore the senseless stupidity of this evil act. And they will despise the way people on the fringe of politics sought to spin the killings to advantage their own ideas. Some claimed the gunman was inspired by the inflamed rhetoric of Tea Party conservatives in the media. Equally obnoxious, others rhetorically inquired what Ms Giffords thought of her support for President barack Obama's healthcare reforms now. Even here, opportunists used the violence to score political points. In Melbourne, The Age headlined its coverage of the killings: "A gunman on a collision course in 'mad America'."

 

But whatever evidence emerges as to the motivation of Jared Lee Loughner, the man charged with the killings, this attack was the work of an individual, not the result of a sick society. Certainly Americans are immoderate in their political language. Ever since the 1800 elections, when political power first passed from one party to another according to the voters' will, abuse all but unimaginable here has been the currency of politics. Republican Sarah Palin did not advance her image as a serious political leader by producing a map with the seats of Democrats marked with crosshairs and a message urging her allies to "reload" and fight on last year, but her rhetorical intent was clear -- no sane person could assume she was urging assassinations rather than campaigning. The only individual responsible for these deaths is the shooter.

 

Even so, the anguish of Tucson area sheriff Clarence Dupnik, like Ms Giffords an elected Democrat, who is now calling for less abuse in public life, is entirely understandable. This is a bipartisan problem, the result of a political culture where Republicans and Democrats both rely on sound-bite sniping to avoid confronting policy problems. It is especially sad Ms Giffords was shot in a shopping centre carpark, where she was engaging with any of her constituents who wanted to talk, the very personal contact that fosters grassroots debate. There is no case for US politicians to self-censor or for an exchange over the killer's incoherent intent. But if any good can come from this wretched slaughter, it will be a move from point-scoring to a focus on policy, including a nation-wide discussion of laws that allow the deranged to acquire military-grade guns. The First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees free speech, is not at issue. But surely there is a case for considering the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

GUNS AND RAGES IN AMERICA

 

WHEN six people were shot dead and 12 others wounded by a gunman at a shopping mall in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, it continued a grim American tradition. In December 2008, a man dressed as Santa Claus shot nine people dead at a Christmas party in Los Angeles before killing himself. That same month, a gunman opened fire at a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska, killing eight people and wounding five before killing himself. In April 2007, a South Korean student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute shot and killed 32 people before committing suicide. In March 2005, a high-school student in Minnesota shot dead his grandfather, a family friend, five students, a teacher and a security guard before killing himself.

 

These are just the more recent such incidents.

 

The sheer size of America's population - more than 300 million people - coupled with the overall liberality of its gun laws, creates a grim law of averages. The only question is how many massacres?

 

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What differentiates this latest rampage is its political dimension. The first and primary victim in the Tucson shootings was a member of Congress, Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat. The young man who has been charged over the shootings, Jared Lee Loughner, has a history of mental instability and some neo-Nazi associations.

 

This is a turbulent time in American politics, with high unemployment, widespread job insecurity, a moribund housing market, a stagnant economy, growing wealth disparities and popular dismay at the burgeoning size of America's federal debt. There has been toxic language in the media and bruising partisanship in Congress. In Arizona, politics has been more highly charged than most because of the visceral issue of border security.

 

As Gifford fights for her life, her shooting has led to a barrage of political opportunism, especially as the windows of her office were shot out in March last year after she voted for President Barack Obama's sweeping healthcare reforms. Giffords was one of 20 Democrats marked for scrutiny in the November midterm elections by Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee. On Palin's website, her 20 targets were placed in a gunsight's crosshairs. As a result, some long bows have been drawn by some of Palin's numerous opponents.

 

While it is fair to see these shootings as another reed in the wind of American political life, using the killings to score political points is itself intemperate. Mental illness plus weaponry represents no more than its own innate menace, a problem America has absorbed for many decades in the name of constitutional liberty.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ON YER BIKE, GRAMPS?

 

THE widening gap between the age and disability pensions and the unemployment benefit or NewStart allowance is disturbing. So, too, is anecdotal evidence of hardship among the older unemployed, such as the former medical receptionist Carmen Blake, who spends 70 per cent of her total, topped-up single person's allowance of $314 a week on her rent.

 

The gap widened from the mid-1990s after pensions were indexed to average weekly earnings and the unemployment benefit to the inflation index; a long boom with low inflation did the rest, kicked along by a Rudd government budget boost for pensioners in 2009. A single pensioner now gets $130 a week more than someone on the basic single NewStart rate of $234 - which is, relatively, the lowest unemployment benefit in the 30 advanced countries of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.

 

The Gillard government continues to resist calls by welfare agencies and some economists for the rates to be brought more into line. While not quite telling the unemployed to ''get on yer bike'', as famously did a minister in the British government of Margaret Thatcher, Labor ministers have suggested that a raise in NewStart would discourage recipients from seeking work.

 

But is that likely? The OECD recently reported the rate was so low as to ''raise issues about its effectiveness'' in encouraging people towards work or retraining. Instead, there was an incentive for the unemployed to make the most of any health problems and get redefined as disabled. About a third of NewStart recipients move to the disability pension, on which they stay until they die or qualify for the age pension.

 

The situation is particularly anguishing for older people like Blake who have worked continuously their adult life, then find employers knocking them back as they get near 60. They face a bleak few years until support gets significantly better at the pension age - but even this goalpost is being moved further away. There are more than 44,000 others aged between 60 and 64 on this supposed ''NewStart''.

 

The federal Employment Minister, Chris Evans, suggests mature-age Australians look at the

 

$43.3 million ''Productive Ageing'' scheme of training and support for older people who want to stay working. We would like to hear how successful it has actually been, putting older people back in jobs. And if age discrimination is the problem, why not more investigation and exposure of the discriminators? We are, after all, constantly being told that older workers are a resource we must deploy in an ageing population that has eschewed a ''Big Australia''.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

TIME TO HOLSTER US GUN LAWS

 

ON NOVEMBER 30 last year, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner walked into a Sportsman's Warehouse store in Tucson, Arizona, and bought a Glock 19 semi-automatic handgun, serial number PWL699. He passed the instant background check required by US federal law. Under the lax state gun laws, he was then allowed to conceal and carry his pistol without a permit. On Sunday, Loughner was charged with using the gun in a rampage in a parking lot outside a Tucson supermarket that left 20 people shot, six of them fatally. Among the dead, a federal judge, John Roll; among the wounded, a Democratic congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at point-blank range while addressing a public meeting.

 

It is easy to view this terrible crime as the work of a single, apparently deluded person rather than as the embodiment of a culture of violence in a nation whose powerful gun lobby prides itself in the constitutional right to bear arms. As a Republican senator said of Saturday's shooting spree, "But the weapons don't kill people. It's the individual that killed these people." Yes, but if it's easier for the individual to acquire a weapon, it's easier for that person to kill, whatever his state of mind.

 

In Arizona, as of last year, when the gun laws were further relaxed, it is ridiculously easy to obtain weapons of deadly power: any law-abiding resident aged over 18 can buy or possess a firearm, although one has to be at least 21 to buy a handgun; guns are permitted almost everywhere - including in the state Capitol and public buildings - except a business or doctor's office; and concealed weapons are allowed in places that serve alcohol, as long as the owner isn't imbibing.

 

Although the shootings are the latest in an appallingly regular series of rampages in various parts of the US, there is still remarkable reticence in tackling the country's diverse and confusing gun laws. Political timidity is part of it - the National Rifle Association and its ilk have demonstrated their considerable persuasive force at the polls - but so too is a national mindset that confuses the right of protection with the right to kill. But laws and attitudes can change: witness, in Australia, the Howard government's gun amnesty after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Maybe the attempted assassination of a member of the US Congress and the attempted killing of other officials, not to mention those who died or were wounded in this senseless spree, might at last bring about commonsense reform of gun laws.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … CONDUCTORS

 

It's easy to claim that orchestras would be better off with no one in charge on the podium. But just try it

 

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the master of the Queen's music, is giving up conducting to spend more time composing. But he has quit the podium by blowing a musical raspberry at "lazy and limited" orchestral conductors, exempting only Pierre Boulez and Simon Rattle as "real masters". Too many others, he says, do too many concerts, churn out production-line performances, and prefer to keep things safe rather than engage with new music. Sir Peter is not the first to beat up on conductors. Nigel Kennedy once branded them greedy egoists who merely "wave the stick". Many orchestral musicians, no respecters of flashy stick-wavers, would agree. The celebrated 19th-century horn player Franz Strauss said he could tell from the way a new conductor walked to the podium whether they had anything to offer. His composer-conductor son Richard later wrote 10 golden rules of conducting, which began with the warning to remember that a conductor makes music "not to amuse yourself but to delight your audience". Like every profession, conducting has its plodders and jobsworths, and doubtless the argument will continue as long as orchestral music exists. But at a time when British musical life boasts conducting talents such as Mark Elder, Edward Gardner and John Eliot Gardiner, Sir Peter's complaints ring a bit hollow. It's easy to claim that orchestras would be better off with no one in charge on the podium. But just try it some time, and you will soon discover why a good conductor matters.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

BANKERS' BONUSES: BLIND EYE TO BLIND RAGE

THE PEOPLE WILL LACK THE FULL FACTS, BUT WILL NONETHELESS KNOW ENOUGH TO FEEL FURY

 

Doesn't it make you angry that the banks have been allowed to ride roughshod over our economy, and are still handing out bonuses by the bucket-load? The question is not ours, it is Nick Clegg's – posed in his preface to last year's Liberal Democrat manifesto. Eight months on, as the season of self-enrichment gets going in earnest, he now strikes a more timid tone – yesterday emphasising the structure rather than the scale of the loot, and pleading with those bailed-out financiers who are in the direct employ of the taxpayer "to be sensitive".

The deputy prime minister's loss of nerve is nothing compared to the body swerve being performed by his boss. Having called two years ago for a £2,000 bonus cap to be imposed for as long as the taxpayer retained a banking stake, David Cameron said at the weekend to say it would be wrong to "scapegoat", "micromanage" or "bash" the banks, thereby creating the impression that he will do nothing at all.

 

Maybe, just maybe, it is all a cunning plan to under-promise and over-deliver. This is, after all, the single issue on which the gulf between public opinion and government (in)action is widest, and the fury may reach a new pitch today when Bob Diamond of Barclays, who could reportedly be in line for as much as £8m, appears before MPs. If the bitter expectation of business as usual becomes entrenched, Mr Cameron could seize a morsel of credit by restraining the nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland when its own bonuses are finalised in a few weeks. There are still decisions to make, and weekend reports that RBS chief Stephen Hester will pick up a £2.5m performance-related top-up could prove to be out of line.

 

Don't bet on it though. The sinking of Vince Cable's star has emboldened the City's belief that it can do as it pleases, and strengthened the hands of those ministers who are inclined to agree. There are quibbles about whether Ed Miliband's call for a fresh bonus tax would work as well as a wider levy on the compensation pool, but at least his proposal yesterday responded to the great sense in the country that something must be done. The government, by contrast, has ditched even the modest and ready-made legislation that it inherited to require banks to be open about whom they pay bonuses to.

 

Transparency is not onerous, and is in line with the tide of global regulation. Yet it has proved too much for the coalition. The people will lack the full facts, but will nonetheless know enough to feel fury. Politicians must keep sight of other objectives, such as encouraging lending and the value of nationalised assets, so fixing the problem is not a simple thing to do. But done it must be. If a blind eye is turned to the blind rage, the politicians will pay a price.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

POLICING PROTEST: WHEN THE LINE IS CROSSED

 

It must be ensured that the boundaries – between intelligence and evidence of crime, and between evidence collection and entrapment – are rigorously upheld

 

In a society under the rule of law, few things matter more than upholding the proper line between legitimate and illegitimate action. Two high-profile public order cases this week exemplify the sensitivity of this truth in powerfully contrasting ways, from opposite sides of the barricades.

 

In the first, due in Southwark crown court today, an A-level student is charged with throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of Conservative party headquarters during the tuition fee protests. Here, the dividing line is between the citizen's right to demonstrate and the crime of violent disorder, for which Edward Woollard, who has pleaded guilty, now faces a long prison sentence. In the second case, which collapsed in Nottingham crown court yesterday, six green activists went free when revelations about the undercover role of PC Mark Kennedy destroyed the reliability of a conspiracy case against them. This time the dividing line was between the proper police role of preventing crime – an alleged attempt to shut the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station – and the improper one of potential entrapment of peaceful protesters, a possibility which raises many serious questions about public order policing today.

 

The green campaigners' solicitor yesterday highlighted some of these: the questionable legitimacy of mass pre-emptive arrests of more than 100 people; the imposition of controversial pre-charge bail conditions on them; the allegedly arbitrary winnowing of the initial numbers arrested down to those who were finally charged, and the restrictive disclosure rules under which the defendants were not permitted to learn about PC Kennedy's role or his evidence, which might have contributed to an acquittal. These are all serious questions about policing methods, which require official responses and further inquiry, perhaps by the home affairs select committee. Yet they are overshadowed by the wider implications of the dramatic revelations about the role of PC Kennedy, who is said to have been an undercover agent since 2000, and who since 2003 has infiltrated a variety of environmental, anti-racism and anarchist groups – and who is now reported to have thought better of this long-term role and to have become a sympathiser with the protesters.

 

Crime prevention – an aspect of being tough on the causes of crime – is every bit as important a police responsibility as crime solving. It follows that undercover operations to prevent crime can have a legitimate place in police work, just as they do in protecting national security. Yet to infiltrate an undercover officer into any undertaking is an expensive and risky business. The officer has to live under a new identity, in a specially obtained home, with a credible back story, for a prolonged period of time. Such an operation has to be justifiable in terms of the police's role of protecting the public, proportionate to the harm it is designed to prevent, and must be properly supervised to ensure that the boundaries – between intelligence and evidence of crime, and between evidence collection and entrapment – are rigorously upheld.

 

These boundaries have been properly upheld in the past in the policing of football hooligans. But they are not always easy to maintain, as the collapse of a major customs and excise fraud case in 2004 underlined, and as FBI over-exuberance has also illustrated. The infiltration of direct action protest groups – whether green, student or anti-cuts groups – is one of the most sensitive examples imaginable. Civil libertarian instinct revolts against it. The risk to public confidence from badly run operations is great. That is not a reason for proscribing undercover policing altogether. Yet every effort should always be made to use open negotiation and good public order policing to prevent potentially violent protest from crossing the line into the criminal law. Few would say we have got that balance quite right at the moment.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE YEAR OF THE ELECTRIC CAR

This year can be the year in which electric cars make headway in attracting a large number of customers who want to buy a vehicle that has no gas emmissions over a vehicle that runs on fossil fuels. But many problems must be overcome before electric cars become a transportation mainstay.

Nissan kicked off fierce competition in electric car sales with the December launch of the Leaf, a five-door hatchback, in Japan and the United States. The Leaf has already found 6,000 customers in Japan — its sales target for the first three months of 2011. In the U.S., 20,000 customers have signed up to buy a Leaf, enabling Nissan to fulfill its initial sales goal.

Mitsubishi Motor, which started selling the i MiEV to corporate customers in July 2009, started selling the electric car to individual customers in April 2010. Toyoto and Honda plan to introduce electric versions of the iQ microcar and the Fit five-door subcompact, respectively, in Japan and the U.S. in 2012.

Stronger CO2 emission controls imposed in various countries are forcing carmakers to develop electric cars. Failure to develop electric cars in time could deal a critical financial blow to carmakers. The carmakers must have high technological capabilities to develop the batteries, motors and accessories needed for electric cars. They also must develop the infrastructure to charge vehicles. Traditional carmakers also have to prepare for newcomers' entry into electric vehicle manufacturing.

While electric cars are eco-friendly, they carry high price tags due to the cost of the high-performance batteries. Even with government subsidies, an electric vehicle costs about ¥3 million. With one full charge, an electric car can cover a distance of only about 200 km — about one-third the distance covered by a car running on a full tank of gasoline.

Nissan has installed quick chargers at some 200 stores and Mitsubishi plans to do so at 70 stores by the end of March for drivers of both firms' electric cars. Both the corporate and government sectors must cooperate to attain the omnipresence of chargers — a vital step for the wide use of electric cars — and to help encourage the proliferation of plug-in hybrid cars rechargeable at home.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

BOOSTING JAPAN, U.S. COOPERATION

In their Washington meeting last Thursday, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to establish new common strategic goals for the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world.

The agreement represents the two nations' determination to deepen their relations because the ties have faced difficulties over the issue of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Island and because the security situation in the region is deteriorating due to China's military buildup and North Korea's provocative actions.

Mr. Maehara and Ms. Clinton agreed that the six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization and bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang can resume only if the North stops its provocative actions and takes concrete steps to abandon its nuclear program. The North should take this call seriously and act accordingly. The two also agreed that China should play a constructive role as a responsible member of the international community. Given China's military buildup, increased naval activities in the region and failure to use its political and economic leverage against Pyongyang to resolve the nuclear standoff, it is logical that Japan and the U.S. should strengthen their political and security cooperation.

But because the tension in the region is high, it is all the more important for both Japan and the U.S. to have close, multi-level communications with China to prevent crises. They should pursue a wise and coolheaded approach to China so that the type of confrontation as prevailed during the Cold War era will not re-emerge. Ms. Clinton said that the cooperation between the U.S. and Japan should cover the "full range of global and strategic issues, from nuclear proliferation to maritime security, and from global economic recovery and growth to energy security and climate change." Japan should carefully weigh what it can do to enhance both its national interests and the global well-being in accordance with its pacifist constitutional principles.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S TIGER-RABBIT HEART

BY BRAHMA CHELLANEY

NEW DELHI — By roaring at its neighbors and picking territorial fights with them, China lived up to the year of the tiger that 2010 represented in its astrology. An increasingly assertive China also strained its relations with the United States and Europe, while its resource extraction-centered outreach to Africa brought about fresh tensions over what many locals see as a neocolonial strategy.

Now in 2011, the year of the rabbit, will China emulate that burrowing animal? Will it mean more tunnels being burrowed in the Himalayas for river diversion and other strategic projects? And "carrots" (rabbit's favorite) being demanded from neighbors and the rest of the world for eschewing irascible behavior?

If the Chinese leadership were forward-looking, it would use the year of the rabbit — which begins Feb. 3 — to make up for the diplomatic imprudence of 2010 that left an isolated China counting only the problem states of North Korea, Pakistan and Burma as its allies. The onus now is clearly on a rising China to show that it wants to be a responsible power that seeks rules-based cooperation and acts with restraint and caution.

But the military's growing political clout and the sharpening power struggle in the runup to the major leadership changes scheduled to take place from next year raise concerns that the world will likely see more of what made 2010 a particularly tigerlike year when China frontally discarded Deng Xiaoping's dictum "tao guang yang hui" (conceal ambitions and hide claws).

A tiger's claws are retractable, but China has taken pride more in baring them than in drawing them in. On a host of issues — from diplomacy and territorial claims to trade and currency — China spent 2010 staking out a more muscular role that only helped heighten international concerns about its rapidly accumulating power and unbridled ambition.

Nothing fanned international unease and alarm more than Beijing's disproportionate response to the Japanese detention of a fishing trawler captain last September. While Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's standing at home took a beating for his meek capitulation to Chinese coercive pressure, the real loser was China, in spite of having speedily secured the captain's release.

Japan's passivity in the face of belligerence helped magnify Beijing's hysterical and menacing reaction. In the process, China not only undercut its international interests by presenting itself as a bully, but it also precipitately exposed the cards it is likely to bring into play when faced with a diplomatic or military crisis next — from employing its trade muscle to inflicting commercial pain to exploiting its monopoly on the global production of a vital resource, rare earth minerals. Its resort to economic warfare, even in the face of an insignificant provocation, has given other major states advance notice to find ways to offset its leverage, including by avoiding any commercial dependency and reducing their reliance on imports of Chinese rare earths. A more tangible fallout has been that China is already coming under greater international pressure to play by the rules on a host of issues where it has secured unfair advantage — from keeping its currency substantially undervalued to maintaining state subsidies to help its firms win major overseas contracts.

No less revealing has been the gap between China's words and the reality. For example, China persisted with its unannounced rare earth embargo against Japan for weeks while continuing to blithely claim the opposite in public — that no export restriction had been imposed. Like its denials last year on two other subjects — the deployment of Chinese troops in Pakistani-held Kashmir to build strategic projects and its use of Chinese convicts as laborers on projects in some countries too poor and weak to protest — China has demonstrated a troubling propensity to obscure the truth.

Despite the battering to China's international image — which has sunk to its lowest point since after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of prodemocracy protesters — there is little prospect of 2011 becoming a course-correction year for it.

The high turnover of leaders scheduled to occur at different levels during 2012-2013 has set in motion within the Chinese Communist Party an intense jockeying for promotion, with senior functionaries engaged in competitive pandering to nationalistic sentiment.

Paradoxically, the more overtly China has embraced capitalism, the more indigenous it has become ideologically. By progressively turning their back on Marxist dogma — imported from the West — the country's ruling elites have put Chinese nationalism at the center of their political legitimacy. The new crop of leaders, including President Hu Jintao's putative successor, Xi Jinping, will bear a distinct nationalistic imprint.

That suggests that China's increasingly fractious relations with its neighbors, the U.S. and Europe will likely face new challenges in 2011. As the Chinese leadership prepares for the 18th Party Congress next year, it may find it difficult to resist flaunting the country's newfound power.

China could go for the home run in 2012, the year of the dragon — the monster that has been universal since before biblical times. As the 50th year of China's military attack on India, 2012 will be especially important in Asia, because the declared intent of that war — "to teach a lesson" — was repeated in the 1979 Chinese aggression against Vietnam and appeared to guide Beijing's top-heavy response in the more recent boat incident with Japan.

Brahma Chellaney is the author, most recently, of "Asian Juggernaut."

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

WALL BETWEEN RUST AND CREATIVITY IN CHILE

BY SEBASTIAN PINERA

SANTIAGO — Chile celebrated 200 years of independence in 2010. Only 20 of the 198 countries on Earth have reached that age. Therefore, it has been, for Chileans, a time of assessment and of asking ourselves a very simple, yet profound, question: Have we done things right or wrong?

If we compare ourselves to the rest of Latin America, the truth is that we have done things very well, especially in the last 25 years, during which we went from being one of the poorest countries on the continent to having the highest per capita income in the region.

Yet if we compare ourselves to the more exclusive group of developed countries, the truth is that we still have much to learn from them.

The great goal, the grand mission, the overarching challenge of our generation, the Bicentennial Generation, is just one: for Chile to be the first country in Latin America to be able to say, before the end of this decade, with pride and humility, that it has overcome poverty and become a developed country with real opportunities for material and spiritual advancement for all its children.

Of course, this is a dream that has been extraordinarily elusive in our first 200 years of independence. So why should now be different?

First of all, unlike any time in the past, this goal has become fully attainable, and is, as a result, a moral imperative. Chile currently has a per capita GDP of $15,000, after adjusting for purchasing power. We have set the goal of growing at an average of 6 percent annually, in order to attain, by 2018, the per capita GDP now enjoyed by European countries such as Portugal and the Czech Republic.

We are also working on doubling the job-creation rate of recent years, with the aim of adding one million jobs in the period 2010-2014. All indicators demonstrate that we are on the right path. Despite the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunami of last February, Chile's economy is already growing at close to 6 percent, and we have created nearly 300,000 new jobs in the first nine months of my administration — the highest in our country's history.

Second, these goals are attainable because the world has changed. The Iron Curtain, which for decades irreconcilably divided the East from the West, is gone. And globalization and new technologies have torn down the wall that for centuries separated the rich and prosperous countries of the North from the poor and underdeveloped countries of the South.

Yet a third wall remains, less visible than the others but just as harmful, if not more so. This wall has been with us always, separating rusting spirits who live in nostalgia, fear the future and believe that only the past was better, from youthful, creative and entrepreneurial spirits who fearlessly embrace the future and believe that the best is always yet to come.

This wall kept Chile and Latin America from joining the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, which is why we remain underdeveloped to this day.

We need this wall to tumble if we do not want to miss today's revolution, which is delivering societies based on knowledge, technology and information. This revolution will be tremendously generous to those countries that embrace it — and utterly indifferent, even cruel, to those that ignore it or let it pass by.

How will Chile breach this wall?

First, by strengthening the three basic pillars without which development cannot germinate or opportunities flourish: a stable, vital, and participatory political democracy; a social market economy that is free, competitive, and open to the world; and a strong state that is effective in the fight against poverty and in promoting greater equality of opportunities.

Yet not even this will suffice if we are to build on rock and not on sand. In the 21st century, emerging countries like Chile must invest in the pillars of modern society. I mean developing our human capital, which is our greatest resource; encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, which are the only truly eternal resources we have on hand; investing in science and technology, which will open up unsuspected opportunities in the future; and promoting more dynamic and flexible markets and societies that will put us ahead, and at the helm, of change, rather than always lagging behind and trying to comprehend and adapt to change.

Those are the pillars that our administration is emphasizing. As Chile deepens its integration with the world, we are also moving forward with structural reforms through which we will be able to improve substantially the quality of education received by millions of our children and youths; retrain three-quarters of Chilean workers over the next four years; grant universal access to broadband Internet service; double our investment in science and technology; promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the public and private sectors; and reduce the time needed to start up a company to one day — and the cost to zero.

These are some of the many measures that form the goals — and foundation — of my administration. They are grand, noble, and ambitious goals, but fully attainable for today's Chile, the Bicentennial Chile, a Chile now viewing the 21st century with more optimism and enthusiasm than ever before.

Sebastian Pinera is president of the Republic of Chile. © 2011 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDONESIAN PENITENTIARY A SCHOOL FOR CRIME

BY DONNY SYOFYAN

 

Special to The Japan Times

PADANG, West Sumatra — Scandals continue to plague Indonesia's penal system. In 2010, people were shocked to learn that Artalyta Suryani, a socialite and lobbyist who was serving a five-year sentence for bribing a senior prosecutor, had a spacious 64-square-meter room all to herself complete with amenities one might usually find in a five-star hotel — air conditioning, leather couch, work desk and a computer — in the Pondok Bambu Women's Penitentiary in East Jakarta.

Also in 2010, graft suspect Gayus Halomoan Tambunan, despite his high-profile case, bribed the prison warden and guards in exchange for a weekend break privilege to attended a tennis tournament in Bali.

And now in 2011, prosecutors, an attorney and a prison employee have been implicated in a convict's scheme to have someone else serve her sentence at Bojonegoro prison in East Java. The inmate-swap case emerged after a Bojonegoro inmate thought to be Kasiem, a graft convict, was discovered to be a person named Karni, who was allegedly paid 10 million rupiah ($1,100) to serve Kasiem's 3 1/2-month sentence.

This case reflects a total breakdown in Indonesia's judicial and legal system. In no other modern democracy would this incident have been allowed. It calls for a total revamp of a system that is clearly broken.

The police should also get to the bottom of the affair and find all those involved in this scheme, starting with the two women, the convict's lawyer, the prosecutors and prison officials who were supposed to detain her. It is good that Attorney General Basrief Arief fired the Bojonegoro Prosecutor's Office head Wahyudi, the office's special crimes division head, Hendro Sasmito, prosecutor Tri Murwani, and Bojonegoro Penitentiary guard Widodo Priyono for their involvement in the case.

The case also reflects the paucity of the country's value system. The woman who was willing to serve jail time for someone else's crime did so to help clear her debts. The prison authorities allowed it to happen, most probably because they were paid off as well. And the woman who was convicted and sentenced to seven months in prison was able to get off scot-free, making a mockery of the country's judicial system.

The three prison scandals involving Artalyta Suryani, Gayus Tambunan and Kasiem suggest that prison no longer serves as a deterrence that encourages inmates to return to the right path. Instead, prison has become a school of crime for criminals.

The scandals confirmed the public suspicion of the special treatment unfairly and illegally given to certain suspects and convicts, which may have been rampant inside the Mobile Brigade detention center and perhaps in other penitentiaries.

For the National Police, its responsibility must not be limited to punishing those responsible for facilitating the inmates, but also allowing an oversight mechanism to make sure all detainees and prisoners stay put until they complete their terms. Without such transparency, the detention center will be regarded as nothing more than a safe haven for high-profile criminals.

Many Indonesians are angry that prisoners convicted of corruption and drug offenses are being treated with kid gloves when other prisoners have to share a cell with 20 other inmates.

Amnesty International said in a 2008 report that Indonesian detention facilities and prisons often do not meet the United Nations minimum rules on the treatment of prisoners. It said that torture and other forms of ill treatment also occurs in detention centers.

The cases indicate that many inmates are still in control of allegedly ill-gotten assets that are used to pay bribes. Gayus reportedly disbursed 368 million rupiah to the prison warden and guards. It makes sense to assume that a graft suspect such as Gayus, who has spent $2 million to pay police detectives, prosecutors and a judge for his acquittal early in 2010, proved to keep much more money in store.

The case of Artalyta Suryani is similar to that of Gayus. Despite serving her five-year sentence, she apparently continues with her corrupt practices, paying off the prison guards to ensure that she has the amenities she was used to on the outside. She is even allowed to run her business from inside prison, with her clients and employees visiting and reporting to her on a daily basis. The Justice and Human Rights Ministry defended its decision to let her manage her business because she employs 85,000 people. Whatever happened to the principle of equality before the law?

These prison scandals indicate the state of the nation's corruption eradication efforts of the last dozen years. The fact that the scandals implicate people who are entrusted to enforce the law only underlines the ugly fact that the country's drive against graft has been facing resistance from individuals, if not institutions, mandated to uphold justice. The cases are a testament to the need to find a broom to sweep away the corruption mess.

Donny Syofyan is a Jakarta Post columnist and a lecturer at Andalas University, Indonesia

(kokom_97@yahoo.com).

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

GAYUS RIDICULES THE NATION

Former low-ranking taxman Gayus H. Tambunan continues to mock this country's much-vaunted rule of law with the latest findings revealing Guangzhou, China, among the destinations in his overseas sojourns while in custody at the Mobil Brigade (Brimob) detention center in Depok, West Java.

It is difficult to understand why until now President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono treated the Gayus case like another ordinary corruption case. We want to remind the President that the people are frustrated by his inability to punish those guilty of such blatant and enormous acts of corruption. Unless the President soon changes his passive position and becomes more assertive in upholding the law, people will begin deserting him, whom they confidently voted into a second term in 2009.

National Police anticorruption squad chief Brig. Gen. Ike Edwin confirmed on Monday the tax mafia suspect visited the southern Chinese city on Sept. 24 to 26, and only after the media raised the question.

Such involuntary revelation looks to be the police standard — at least in the Gayus case — as happened when the suspect was spotted attending an international tennis tournament in Bali last November.

Later, Gayus was known to have visited Macau, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore accompanied by his wife, Milana Anggreini, in September, using an official passport under the name of Sony Laksono. This revelation only came after a woman wrote a letter to a national daily publication that she saw a man resembling Gayus on her flight to Singapore.

The way police have handled the Gayus case has been under criticism since the onset. Demand looms for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to take over the probe, including the related tax evasion cases revealed by Gayus on a number of occasions in court testimonies.

Corruption watchdogs have suspected the police are trying to build the Gayus saga as a stand-alone case to protect invisible but powerful hands that might be implicated in the tax mafia practice. The police have not launched formal investigations into several prominent figures and companies Gayus has named, including two police generals and coal miners linked with businessman and Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie. They say confession does not constitute evidence.

Even when the public is aware of the blatant power-play shrouding the Gayus case, as evident in the exclusive facility for the suspect despite his detention, the police are adamant that the former tax official was the main actor in the tax mafia scandal.

Since Gayus' Bali trip was revealed, Brimob detention center warden Comr. Iwan Siswanto has been the highest ranking officer punished for facilitating Gayus' sojourns. A number of lower ranking immigration officers have also been grounded following findings of Gayus' overseas journeys using fraudulently obtained passport.

The police have so far failed to provide a bigger picture of the high-profile tax mafia case centering on Gayus, let alone take necessary actions to investigate those involved. New National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo consoled the public in November, vowing to unveil the people behind Gayus' Bali trip within 10 days. Today, his promise is still unfulfilled.

Perhaps a statement from Timur's predecessor, chief Gen. (ret.) Bambang Hendarso Danuri, gives a clue as to why the police investigation of the Gayus case fails to live up to public expectations. Bambang was quoted by Democratic Party senior politician Benny Harman as saying that investigation into the case would lead the country to disunity.

Bambang, according to Benny, said the investigation would spark political and economic instability as it was connected with big corporations, which are strong not only economically but also politically.

Bambang's message, if true, clearly indicates that the police alone are unable to face the invisible hands behind Gayus. The question is why he kept it a secret for so long and, more importantly, whether he has reported the difficulties to his direct supervisor, President Yudhoyono.

With or without Bambang's complaints, the President needs to change his rhetoric about anticorruption drives into action.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

BUILDING SYNERGY BETWEEN G20 AND APEC

MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA

Although there are stark differences between the G20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) — the G20 is a global institution that provides global public goods while APEC is a regional institution that operates in an Asian-Pacific context — both act based on the same cooperative, non-binding and consensus-based tradition.

Both of these institutions are not — and should not be — negotiating forums. Most importantly, they need to pool resources. APEC should work under the bigger umbrella of the G20 framework. The G20 might learn from APEC's experiences, such as successfully getting member countries to commit to strategies on a voluntary basis.

The G20 represents two-thirds of the global population, 85 percent of global GDP and 80 percent of global trade. It has received belated recognition in the wake of shifting global economic power from the over-the-hill West to the emerging East.

APEC is comprised of 21 Pacific Rim countries and accounts for 40 percent of global population, 54 percent of global GDP and about 44 percent of global trade. It has been successful in promoting free trade and investment in Asia-Pacific countries.

The G20's long-term goal is to ensure strong, balanced and sustainable growth globally. APEC's main objective is to enhance trade and investment liberalization in the Asia-Pacific region by reducing barriers to trade and investment and by promoting the free flow of goods, services and capital, as stated in the 1994 Bogor Declaration.  

Coordinated action between the G20 and APEC is vital; their objectives must be in accord. A very significant outcome of the 2010 APEC summit in Yokohama was the APEC Leaders' Growth Strategy, which said: "Support for efforts to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the world economy as called for by the G20 Framework."

Both forums can reinforce each other on urgent issues, in particular at the conclusion of the WTO's Doha round this year. The year 2011 has been called a critical window of opportunity.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said that "the G20 and APEC should maintain focus on a renewed effort on completing Doha. It will need a strong political and policy coalition to get there — but it can be done." She said that "trade issues extend well beyond traditional border barriers to trade" and that a clear reform agenda beyond Doha was needed to secure success.

This reform (which may be called structural reform), is what both the G20 and APEC must also work together. At least, the G20 can learn from the APEC Leaders' Agenda on the keys to success for structural reform. These include, in order of importance, leadership, effective communication and consultation with stakeholders, institutional framework and the use of independent experts and analysis.

The importance of private sector-led growth and job creation has also been increasingly recognized by both institutions. For the first time since its inception, the G20 Business Summit was held a day before the Leaders' Summit in Seoul.

Instead of a one-off event, the G20 Business Summit will be held simultaneously during upcoming summits.

In November, APEC's Business Advisory Council (ABAC) expressed its support of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' Initiatives, which included structural reform.

Another issue that the G20 and APEC must work together on is climate change. Both forums have committed to a green growth agenda. This should be part of the "sustainable" growth strategy.  

Lessons may be learned from some of the G20 and APEC countries, such as South Korea, which has successfully incorporated green growth strategies in its national agenda. Moreover, environmentally friendly goods, services, and investments should be relieved from heavy trade barriers and taxes.  

Looking at these issues, there is certainly enough common ground for the G20 and APEC to work together. There are nine countries that sit on both the G20 and APEC: Australia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, and the United States. Moreover, the same nations (minus Canada and Mexico) also participate in the East Asia Summit (EAS) — a new rising strategic regional institution.

They are global and regional strategic players that should be taken into consideration and push for the alignment of APEC's and the G20's objectives, although the G20 will provide a broader framework than APEC. Otherwise, domestic economic policies may soon suffer.

As the host of the APEC Summit in 2013, Indonesia has an important role in building such synergy, especially if it also hosts the G20 Summit that year.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, and a lecturer at the University of Indonesia.           

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

IKE, JFK LEGACY: 50 YEARS ON

JUWONO SUDARSONO

Fifty years ago in January 1961, two landmark speeches in America's political history were delivered within three days of each other. The first was by outgoing president Dwight D. Eisenhower on Jan. 17. The second was by president John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address on Jan. 20.

In his "farewell address" before leaving office, Eisenhower (Ike) warned the American people about the danger of a rising "military-industrial complex" whose " total influence political, economic, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government... we must guard against the unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex."

 In his original draft, Eisenhower wanted to include the word "congressional" to depict the powerful links between government, industry and the congressional committees and lobbies that make up "the military-industrial-congressional complex". Out of deference to legislative leaders, he scrapped "congressional" from the speech ultimately delivered from the Oval Office.

Historians have debated why Eisenhower, a retired five-star general, made reference to the rise of the military-industrial complex that he was part of in the latter years of his active duty in the army. Some speculated that his experience during the preparation of America's entry into World War II (1939-1945) exposed him to the grim realities of how excessively powerful were the industries that build America's military machine.

The subtle links between research and development, weapons testing and production were so intricate that Eisenhower himself felt that these forces were beyond the control of the US Congress, much less the American people. That these links between Congress and their constituencies remain both influential and powerful was indicated by the mumbles of protest by many congressmen in reaction to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' announcement on Jan. 6, 2011, about the Pentagon's impending plan to cut more than US$115 billion in the current fiscal year. In the event, the term "military industrial complex" became a popular sobriquet of all government links with industry, parliament and powerful vested interests in other countries.

John F. Kennedy's most famous call to "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1961, equally defined the times. As Eisenhower was born in 1890 and Kennedy in 1919, "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans."

Across America and much of the West, Kennedy (Jack or JFK) symbolized youth, vigor and energy. Both his election and his inaugural speech captured the imagination of many leaders in Asia, Africa and Latin America, leading to many aspiring heads of government and their speechwriters to emulate Kennedy's eloquent rhetoric, optimistic tone and measured cadences.

Several American historians named Kennedy's inaugural as one of four shortest presidential inaugural speeches and the second best after Abraham Lincoln's.

 In the 14 minutes of the speech, Kennedy made several references to national security. There was the pledge "to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty". Understandable, given the Cold War context of East-West rivalry at the time. There the commitment to maintain America as a strong deterrent power "For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed."

But to many in the developing world, probably the most important point he made was America's pledge, now being implemented throughout America's myriad bilateral and multilateral aid agencies: "To those people in the huts and villages of half of the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves." And in an enduring warning to all privileged people across Latin America, Africa and Asia he claimed: "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

The legacies of Eisenhower's and Kennedy's speeches 50 years ago live on with added relevance in America today. The powerful military-industrial complex remains one of America's Big Four in Congress: Big Defense, Big Banks, Big Oil and Big Social Security. In government, industry and Congress, President Barack Obama faces the hard task of making sure that America's free society will and can really help the middle class and the poor while sustaining the privileges of the rich. Rebalancing America's defense budget, defending healthcare reform and regulating powerful banks are just three major issues in his effort to "remake America to be a more decent and fairer society".

  
The writer is a former Indonesian defense, education and environment minister.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

SEEKING A MADE IN INDONESIA'S SUGAR POLICY

AGUS PAKPAHAN

Why should we care about Indonesian sugar when we can purchase cheaper imported sugar? We may say the statement is correct, if it were stated five years ago.

However, now most analysts and businessmen are worried about the future price of sugar, especially if everybody shifts their energy source to ethanol. What can we say about the fact that sugar prices have doubled within 18 months?

Let us look around the world. What lessons can we learn? There are almost no countries that do not implement policy interventions on sugar. In fact, the richer the country, the stronger the state's intervention tends to be.

The European Union, the third largest sugar producer and second largest exporter, is an example. Even Brazil and Thailand, the first and fourth largest exporting countries respectively, have applied heavy state intervention on sugar to protect their sugar production systems.

Indonesia ranks 12th in worldwide sugar production. However, the country is still dependent on imports, mostly in the form of raw sugar. Indonesia was once historically a global sugar champion in the early 1930s. Indonesia adopted a strong sugar policy under president Soeharto in 1975 through Presidential Instruction No. 9/1975 on Farmers' Sugarcane Intensification.

Current world sugar champions, such as Brazil, Australia and Thailand, opted for similar strategic choices in the 1970s. For them, sugar is not only money, but also a source of pride — just like palm oil is for Indonesia now.

Unfortunately, after 25 years of sugarcane development under the presidential instruction, Indonesia, unlike successful countries, experienced the worst outcome.


"The sugar industry in Java must be revitalized, while outside Java new sugar industries should be expanded. "

The outcome was not only worse in terms of sugar production achievement, which stood only at 1.5 million tons in 2000, but Indonesia was also forced by the IMF to close sugar mills in Java. Our sugar policy enacted in 1975 was deemed a failure and we were forced to enter free market competition.

 The results were obvious. Sugar flooded Indonesian markets, including raw sugar, which was directly marketed to local traditional markets. Sugar production and distribution systems were chaotic. By 2000, no one could predict what the situation would turn out to be.

The end results were fortunate. The movement of domestic sugar communities, especially that spearheaded by sugarcane farmers, had resulted in a new opposing direction from that suggested by liberalization policy. It was formulated in Industry and Trade Ministry Decree SK No. 643/2002.

There are several distinct properties of SK No. 643.

First, the import of white sugar was integrated with domestic white sugar production.

Second, sugar import licenses were given to sugar corporations that process at least 75 percent of sugarcane produced by domestic farmers, and import permits would therein be based upon Sugar Cane Growers Association concerns.

Third, refined sugar was limited to supply for fulfilling the needs of the food and beverage industry.

Fourth, agreed minimum sugar prices received by farmers would be based on the results of independent academic studies conducted by teams from IPB, UGM and UB, the results of which would be made public by the Government.

Fifth, sugar cane farmers' associations would be free to choose their private partners for ensuring income.  

We understand that the above policy process and its outcomes not only follow a bottom-up, democratic and transparent process, but is also unique for Indonesia — it was made in Indonesia.

The major result was that sugar communities evolved with the above policy. The outcome of the policy was, among others, stabilization of the domestic sugar market.  White sugar production in Indonesia increased from approximately 1.5 million tons in 2000 to around 2.8 million tons in 2008. Sugar self-sufficiency for direct household consumption was achieved. Farmers' incomes were increased, along with increasing employment opportunities, especially in rural areas.  

For domestic sugarcane farmers and processors, freeing refined sugar was just like freeing the pike — meaning death for the minnow.  So, what is the wise and right thing to do?

We have to give priority, meaning we cannot trade between death now and an uncertain future. By making us dependent on imports given the uncertain future situation of sugar, we risk dying twice. The chosen solution is to continue our sugar industry revitalization. The sugar industry in Java must be revitalized, while outside Java new sugar industries should be expanded.

The competition in refined sugar and white sugar can be relaxed by exporting refined sugar to international markets, following the classic philosophy — as from import to export.

We must adapt Indonesia's sugar policy to ensure our sugar production's sustainability.

The writer is a researcher and chairman of the Union of the Association of Indonesian Farmers  (Gapperindo).

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

STRATEGIC TRUST NEEDED

The ongoing visit of US defense Secretary Robert Gates to Beijing is widely perceived as a clear signal of improving China-US military ties, which as a barometer of bilateral relations, will contribute to the current warm climate between the two countries.

Gates held talks with China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on Monday and this is the second meeting between the two defense chiefs in about two months. It is expected that in-depth discussions and consultations between officials on both sides will deepen mutual understanding and help dispel distrust and even suspicion between the two militaries.

Gates' visit, which started on Sunday, has come days before Chinese President Hu Jintao's trip to the United States. High-level exchanges before Hu's US trip will pave the way for a successful visit.

Military exchanges between Beijing and Washington hit a low ebb last year after the latter approved a multi-billion arms package to Taiwan, an inalienable part of China, in January 2010. In protest at such a reckless move by the United States, Beijing temporarily suspended exchange programs between the two militaries.

Compared to thriving trade ties and generally stable political ties, China-US military ties tend to be a lame duck. As two important players in both world and regional affairs, China and the US should put their military exchanges back on track as soon as possible.

Even though the US defense chief's presence in Beijing marks a positive development in normalizing bilateral military ties, it would be too optimistic to conclude that military exchanges between Beijing and Washington will be plain sailing after a single visit.

Obstacles, some major, still stand in the way of normal military relations between the two countries. The US arms sales to Taiwan, which have been ongoing for more than 30 years, are the biggest impediment, but intensive reconnaissance and surveillance of the Chinese mainland from the South China Sea and East China Sea and Washington's growing penchant for projecting its military power in the Asia Pacific have also sowed the seeds of distrust between the two militaries.

If the Pentagon really cares about building stronger ties between the two militaries, it should show sincerity in removing these obstacles. Regrettably, the US finds faults in China's so-called military buildup from time to time, turning a deaf ear to China's repeated explanation that its military modernization is purely defensive.

It is obvious that strategic mutual trust between the two defense forces remains low. Both Washington and Beijing should make efforts to build strategic mutual trust. This is in the interests of both countries and conducive to world peace and stability too. Both sides should understand that lack of mutual strategic trust could lead to dangerous consequences.

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

A BALANCED LOCOMOTIVE

 

China's fast-expanding trade volume and shrinking trade surplus in 2010 make a good cause for optimism. Domestically, more balanced trade growth will enable this country to shift rapidly away from its dependence on exports for growth. Worldwide, the continuous rise of China as a leading trade power also contributes significantly to a rebalanced global recovery.

 

Latest statistics show China's foreign trade jumped 34.7 percent from a year earlier to $2.97 trillion in 2010, while its trade surplus decreased 6.4 percent to $183.1 billion, the second year in a row surpluses fell.

 

Given that China had already overtaken Germany as the world's largest exporter in 2009, it is fairly likely that a 31.3-percent jump in its exports last year will be enough to secure China the leading role in propelling global trade growth, a precondition for the world economic recovery.

 

However, what is more striking is the surge in China's imports by 38.7 percent to $1.39 trillion last year. As the country emerged as the world's second largest economy in 2010, its growing appetite for imports definitely offers a key source of demand for the rest of the world.

 

For years, if not decades, foreign companies have been attracted by the huge potential of Chinese consumers. And it seems now that their dream of a consumption binge by 1.3 billion people is finally coming true.

 

Chinese consumers have bought more new cars than their counterparts in any other country for the second year running in 2010. Though major Chinese cities are taking various measures to ease traffic jams, few car manufacturers around the world will curb their ambitions for the Chinese market.

 

The country's shrinking trade surplus is clear evidence that China can rely more on domestic demand to seek balanced economic growth. Domestic fears that a decrease in net exports will seriously undermine China's economic growth have now proved largely overstated.

 

Meanwhile, foreign criticism that China has intentionally devalued its currency to maintain competitiveness in global trade also cannot stand the test of reality.

 

A more-than-24-percent gain in the value of the yuan against the US dollar since a fixed exchange rate was scrapped in July 2005 has not stopped Chinese exporters from gaining more global market share. But the rise of Chinese consumers in recent years has proved more effective than any revaluation in drastically cutting the country's trade surplus as a share of gross domestic product.

 

The world can pin more hopes on Chinese consumers who will shape the Chinese economy into a more balanced locomotive for global trade and economic growth. But it calls for patience and painstaking efforts to put Chinese consumers in the driver's seat.

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

SEEKING COMMON DEVELOPMENT

BY LI KEQIANG

 

Whole world will benefit from China pursuing its goal of building a xiaokang, or relatively well-off society, by 2020

 

There is a long history to China's path of peaceful development. The Book of Songs, a collection of Chinese poems and songs compiled more than 2,000 years ago, says: "Give relief to people who have toiled much, so they may enjoy a life of xiaokang. Promote xiaokang throughout the Central Kingdom and peace will be secured for all the four quarters." What it means is, when people work too hard, they should be given relief so that they may lead a comfortable life. Doing so benefits the people of China and people of the world.

 

The term xiaokang is used today to refer to a society where people can receive education, get paid through work, have access to medical services and old-age support, have a shelter, more than enough food and clothing and lead a well-off life. To build a xiaokang society in all respects is China's development goal by 2020. The Chinese people long for a happy and peaceful life and hope to enjoy harmonious relations with our neighbors. China's development calls for international cooperation over the market and resources, and more importantly requires a peaceful external environment. World peace is an important condition for China to achieve xiaokang, or moderate prosperity, and China's development in turn is conducive to world peace.

 

China's development benefits other countries. For the past few years, China has contributed 10-20 percent to world economic growth. Its contribution in 2009 was 50 percent. Estimates show that in 2010 China's economy grew by around 10 percent, and retail sales rose by 18.5 percent. Domestic demand contributed over 90 percent to China's growth. At the same time, expanding domestic demand has increased China's imports. It is estimated that in 2010 China's imports from other parts of the world could well top $1.39 trillion, ranking it second in the world. China needs to stabilize and expand external demand. At the same time, and more importantly, it will boost domestic demand. With its population making up one fifth of the world's total, China offers a market with enormous potential. We welcome the entry into our market of competitive goods and services from around the world, and will provide a fair and more transparent environment for foreign investors.

 

China is committed to working with other countries for a solution to the global challenge of energy and resources. In the past five years, China has worked hard to save energy and resources. China's energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product has dropped by about 20 percent. In the coming five years, China will vigorously develop the green economy and low-carbon technologies to continue to significantly bring down energy consumption and CO2 emission per unit of GDP. China relies on domestic supply for over 90 percent of its energy consumption, and will continue to rely on domestic supply to appropriately address the issue of energy and resources. By enhancing domestic exploitation and development, China will build new strategic reservoirs of energy and resources.

 

China is a constructive player in the reform of the global economic governance structure. China is a beneficiary of economic globalization. It calls for adjustment and reform of the international political and economic order in the course of development. China worked closely with the international community to address the financial crisis and promote global recovery and growth. The world will come to see that the constructive role China has played in global governance has been helpful in getting the world economy back on track toward full recovery and prosperity.

 

China, as a major country, does not run away from its responsibilities. In recent years, it has arranged nearly $4 billion of debt relief for 50 developing countries and it has contributed over 15,000 peacekeepers. China has actively mediated over sources of regional tension, such as the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Darfur. It has acceded to nearly 100 multilateral international conventions, such as on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. It has made solid contributions to the UN Millennium Development Goals, the IMF bailout program, the reconstruction of Afghanistan and disaster relief. It sticks to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and has taken concrete actions in tackling global climate change. China will remain conscientious in fulfilling international responsibilities consistent with its status as a major developing country.

 

Reform and opening-up are the driving forces behind our development. China will be steadfast in promoting reform. It will stick to the market orientation of reform and give greater play to the fundamental role of the market in resource allocation. At the same time, it remains devoted to greater opening-up, follows a strategy of mutual benefit with other countries and will open the country ever wider to the world.

 

The progress China has made in development is tremendous, but it is still a developing country, facing grave challenges and has a long way to go before it can build a moderately prosperous society and achieve modernization. China's development will not be possible without the world - and world development needs China. We are committed to working even more closely with other countries to create a bright future for all.

 

The author is China's vice-premier.

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

SINO-US COOPERATION ESSENTIAL

BY DENNIS V. HICKEY (CHINA DAILY)

 

Beijing and Washington both are gearing up for President Hu Jintao's meeting with United States President Barack Obama later this month. The high-profile meeting will mark President Hu's first state visit to the US since April 2006 - and the first since the Obama administration took office.

 

Chinese officials have described the upcoming meeting as "very important" and said the discussions would "enhance dialogue, strengthen mutual confidence and expand and develop cooperation". US officials have voiced hopes for "tangible results" from the negotiations.

 

But most analysts agree that ties between the two governments are strained. One does not have to look far to find evidence in support of their argument. A prominent US foreign policy analyst once said: "Where you stand depends on where you sit." This observation applies to the troubles that now plague Sino-American relations.

 

The US complains about China's "predatory trade policies", "neo-mercantilism" and "undervalued currency". From Washington's perspective, Beijing's "unfair" economic policies hurt the American economy and contribute to its high unemployment.

 

But others see things differently. Chinese decision-makers say that many of America's economic woes can be traced to Washington's irresponsible fiscal policies. Not surprisingly, they look at American "advice" with skepticism. For example, officials warn that a dramatic revaluation of the Chinese currency will destabilize China and be "a disaster for the world" without helping the US economy in any way.

 

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are certain to be at the top of the security agenda when Hu meets with Obama. Washington is outraged by recent actions of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), including the shelling of Yeonpyeong island on Nov 23, renewed efforts to pursue a uranium enrichment program and the suspected sinking of a Republic of Korea's warship in March.

 

The Obama administration has demanded that China "do more to pressure" the DPRK. But Beijing has voiced a preference for the resumption of multilateral negotiations and dialogue, rather than harsh rhetoric, threats and high-profile military exercises.

 

Some analysts speculate that China's policies are based on concerns that a strong response to the DPRK's behavior could provoke Pyongyang and holds the potential to destabilize the entire region. Perhaps if the US had a country like the DPRK as a neighbor, it might see things differently.

 

Recent developments in the waters surrounding China are yet another source of friction. For hundreds of years, successive Chinese governments have claimed the South China Sea as part of the nation's territory. For example, in the 1930s and 1940s, Chiang Kai-shek's government published maps with a U-shaped dotted line showing that most of the area belonged to China.

 

But other countries also claim parts of the territory. Washington had embraced a neutral policy toward the issue until US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Hanoi, Vietnam, on July 23 that the US has a "national interest" in the South China Sea and offered various multilateral remedies to settle competing claims. The abrupt turnaround in US policy irritated China, particularly as it came after one high-ranking Chinese official was reported to have described the area as one of "core national interests".

 

The spat over the Diaoyu Islands could also find its way into conversations between Hu and Obama. These islands were grabbed by Japan during the First Sino-Japanese War (1895). Taipei and Beijing both say the islands belong to China. In fact, Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan leader, is the author of a definitive study on the islands' international status. But the US is not calling for an investigation of claims or a "multilateral remedy" to the dispute. Rather, Clinton warned recently that the islands fall within the scope of the US-Japan security treaty. Washington seems to think that its position shows that it is standing with an old friend and key ally. Beijing, however, sees more than a tad of hypocrisy in Washington's policy toward the dispute.

 

To be sure, the Taiwan question represents a "good news story" in Sino-American relations. Relations between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan are at their best since 1949. Nevertheless, the US continues to sell advanced arms to Taiwan and argues that such sales promote stability and are required by US law. But from China's perspective, the sales violate the terms of the 1982 Sino-US Joint Communiqu and embolden "Taiwan separatists", while doing nothing to promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties.

 

In sum, relations between Washington and Beijing have chilled because of different perceptions and policies toward a variety of economic, political and security concerns. A more complete discussion would also include squabbles over climate change, human rights, defense expenditures, military deployments and a host of other issues. As US Attorney General Eric Holder observed, "given the nature of the Chinese-American relationship and the importance of that relationship, there are going to be areas upon which we will simply not agree". Holder was quick to add, however, that this "does not mean that the relationship should not go forward, should not be seen as a priority for both our nations".

 

After all, cooperation between the two governments is essential if the international community hopes to cope with a wide range of pressing global problems, including terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, environmental degradation, health issues, dwindling energy supplies and the continuing global economic crisis, to name just a few.

 

Given the stakes involved, it is likely that President Hu and President Obama will work hard during their meetings to manage disagreements and keep them from escalating. As a first step, however, both leaders could follow the advice of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, who advised that "if there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own".

 

The author is the director of the Graduate Program in Global Studies at Missouri State University and the author of numerous articles and books on Sino-American relations.

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

CHINA, UK MUST DEEPEN RELATIONS

 

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is paying an official visit to the United Kingdom from Jan 9 to 12. China's Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming talks to China Daily's Zhang Chunyan about the importance of Li's visit and the development of China-UK relations. Excerpts from the interview follow:

 

Q: What is the purpose and schedule of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the UK?

 

A: China-UK relations are flourishing now, which is in the fundamental interests of the people of the two nations and conducive to world peace and development.

 

At the invitation of the British government, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang is paying a four-day visit to Britain from Jan 9. This is the first visit by a Chinese leader to the UK after the coalition government came to power. It marks the beginning of high-level exchanges between China and the UK in 2011 and takes China-UK relations forward on the path of sustainable and sound growth.

 

We hope that Li's visit will reaffirm China-UK political partnership of equality and mutual respect, economic partnership of mutual benefit and common development, cultural partnership of dialogue and mutual learning and partnership of regular dialogue and close collaboration in international affairs.

 

Vice-Premier Li started his visit in Edinburgh on Sunday. He met with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, First Minister Alex Salmond and visited the Pelamis wave project.

 

On Monday, he met with UK Prime Minster David Cameron, held talks with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and had separate meetings with Foreign Secretary William Hague, Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Li will meet with Prince Andrew, who is the UK's special representative for international trade and investment, and talk about different aspects of China-UK relations.

 

He is scheduled to meet with a wide range of people from different communities of the UK during his stay. He will also have a roundtable discussion with business and financial leaders, deliver a keynote speech, meet with some young people, scholars and students, and visit the BRE Innovation Park and low-carbon and new energy projects.

 

Q: How do you view the current China-UK relations?

 

A:I think Sino-British relations maintained a good momentum of development last year.

 

The UK's coalition government, which assumed office in May 2010, is committed to taking forward the positive China policy of the previous government. China-UK relations have made a smooth transition and continued to make progress since the coalition came to power.

 

Prime Minister Cameron led the largest ever delegation to China in November and reached extensive agreement with Chinese leaders on ways to increase political mutual trust and step up practical cooperation. The leaders also set a new target of $100 billion in bilateral trade in the next five years.

 

Exchange mechanisms such as the Economic and Financial Dialogue, Strategic Dialogue, Joint Economic and Trade Commission and the Education Ministers' Summit are working well and strengthening our cooperation in relevant fields. Bilateral trade in the first 10 months of 2010 hit a record high of $40.2 billion.

 

Mutual investment is also growing fast. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, China was the sixth biggest foreign investment source for the UK, while the number of Chinese companies investing in the country was the second highest.

 

What's more, people-to-people and cultural exchanges are booming. The Shanghai 2010 World Expo highlighted bilateral cooperation, with the British Pavilion attracting more than 8 million Chinese visitors. In fact, the British Pavilion was awarded the gold prize.

 

The UK remains the largest destination for Chinese students and we have seen "Mandarin fever" rising among British students. All this has further enriched our comprehensive strategic partnership.

 

Q: In what areas should China and the UK promote and deepen development?

 

A:China-UK relations are at a new starting point. Both sides should seize the good opportunity to deepen cooperation and exchanges in various fields from a global and strategic perspective.

 

To further develop bilateral ties, first, China and the UK should continue to promote high-level exchanges and maintain close communication and coordination between their leaders. That's why the vice-premier is paying an official visit to the UK at the beginning of the year.

 

China and the UK should also deepen their economic and financial dialogue, as well as strategic dialogue mechanisms to promote understanding and mutual trust and reach consensus.

 

Second, the two nations enjoy strong economic complementarity and have great potential and broad prospects in bilateral economic and trade cooperation. They should further expand the scale of their cooperation, extend the areas of their cooperation, and cultivate new growth.

 

Third, both sides should strengthen communication and coordination on macroeconomic policies, and share their experiences in managing state affairs, and economic and social problems.

 

In addition, China and the UK should enhance cultural cooperation and exchanges among young people, promote communication and coordination in international affairs to maintain the common interests of both countries and promote world peace and development.

 

In other words, the two countries should strengthen mutually beneficial, comprehensive and strategic partnership.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

LOCAL GOVERNMENT POLLS, TESTING THE UNITY CLAIMS

The local government elections are to be here again. Unnoticed by most and unacknowledged by the polity, it is testing time for their inherent claims to unity as parties and groups, performance and past records.

There is contemporary history to contend with. Shoring up a parliamentary majority in the interregnum notwithstanding, President Mahinda Rajapaksa won the local government polls in March 2006, but without the JVP ally of the time in the Government. This time after winning comfortable victories in the presidential and parliamentary polls, after a series of victories or Provincial Councils, he will now have to do a repeat-act, and nothing less. With war and victories slowly but surely giving place to issues of everyday living, it could be a lot more difficult.

It is one thing for the ruling combine to manage poll campaigns at the national or provincial-levels. In the local government elections, personalities matter, only as in the case of the presidential polls, but at the lowest level. There are a few hassles. Cross-voting has caused budget-defeat in at least six pradeshiya sabha controlled by the ruling SLFP-UPFA combine. Former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake has publicly criticized his as a non-performing government, the provocation being caused by his current job as a sinecure Senior Minister, one in 10 to boot.

Much however will depend on how the rival UNP is able to revive itself after a long series of crushing electoral defeats, about which even the pollster has lost count. The nascent unity in the party under test and all sections of the leadership will have to prove it to themselves and to their own factions, down the line. It is a make or break situation, for mending which the party may not have enough time, however sincere the efforts. It is this evasive unity that may now dictate the future of the party – and by extension that of the rival SLFP.

The situation is no different in the case of the minorities, either. Divided as they are in denominational terms, internal fragmentation in each of them could continue to have its sway over the local government elections, in the North, the East and the Upcountry. Each denomination of the Tamil-speaking population is driven with political fragmentation. In turn, it has reflected on their sway over the constituencies that they claimed to represent. To 'em all, egos matter more than electoral issues or even ethnic concerns.

It could continue to damage the electoral claims of Upcountry Tamil parties but there is too little interest, concern or time now for them to bury their personal ambitions and take a common stand on issues. It is no different in the divided polity of the Tamil-speaking Muslim community. The possibility for the future, particularly in the East, seems to be driving the wedge deeper. The irony could be striking when the local government elections will see all Muslim parties on the same side, and with the Government, and still be divided among themselves.

Not only the SLMC from within the Muslim polity, but even the EPDP in the North will be called upon to prove their current loyalty to the common UPFA symbol, seemingly submerging their minority identities in that of the majority. This would be independent of the fact that the SLFP majority too has submerged its electoral identity in the UPFA, in terms of symbol, for long. Both the SLMC and the EPDP, incidentally, set precedents, and intra-combine arguments could revolve around that, rather than their current aspirations.

The TNA majority in the North can come under greater pressure than at the time of the presidential and parliamentary polls. Not having a grassroots-level cadre and the inability of individual constituents to submerge their identities and personalities in the larger TNA identity, which had gained instant acceptance but not their commitment, is a cause for concern. With Provincial Council polls in the North, in the not too distant future, holding a promise, many of them are already in the race with seeming alacrity, which they will have to display in the local government polls, instead.

It is thus that the local government polls are more important than credited with. Whether it is in the emergence of third and fourth line leaders in different parties, or re-vitalise their existing cadres, this is not only an occasion. It is a compulsion. For others, it is also creating a new-generation at the grassroots-level, to serve future leaderships of the party at the national-level, whether or not that party itself is national or regional in character. And that is what it is all about, in political terms, if not in developmental terms.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

OVERCOMING RECESSION

Mixed signs of recovery and stagnation trends have kept respective world governments on their toes. The most uncertain signals emanate from Europe and the United States where the economy is not growing fast enough to reduce unemployment.

Yet, the much-contested stimulus package seems to have worked in the US where the jobless rate has dropped to 9.4 per cent in December from 9.8 per cent in November, the biggest one-month drop since 1998. This whiff of fresh air has come as a morale booster for bourses across the Atlantic, as well, where share prices have risen on an upbeat note. But the economy is still not out of the woods, as Washington's single largest trading partner, the continent of Europe, is mired in a recessionary circle of its own. The gloomy picture on the continent is that GDP in the 16 countries using the euro has been revised down owing to slowdown in Germany. This ongoing session of self-sustaining recovery, but without addressing the fundamentals of macroeconomics, has become a point of contention for policy-makers and the economists, alike, and is in need of being choreographed for tangible growth and productivity.

Apart from the lacklustre evident in the supply and demand nexus, it is also noticeable that governments, one way or the other, have scuttled opportunities of growth by resorting to austerity drives. Though cut in non-developmental spending is highly recommended for a deficit-free budgeting process, it should not come as a crunch for the economy. Consumer and business spending acts as the lifeline for the economy, and is an opportunity to break the circle of recession. This is why injecting liquidity is recommended for furthering the prospects of investment and restructuring. World leaders can do well by taking stock of the situation and resorting to a plan of action wherein collective measures to boost the labour market and streamlining prospective investment opportunities can be set in motion. Persistent unemployment could threaten the strength and sustainability of the recovery, and is a phenomenon that is not restricted to US and Europe. Many of the developing economies of Asia, especially those of Southeast Asia, India and China, despite having registered a confident growth rate are in a jittery mood when it comes to competition and long-term sustainability. Bolstering trade and renegotiating a new interdependence equation can tilt the prospects towards collective growth and development.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

I COULD HAVE BECOME A DICTATOR TO BRING IN THE CONSTITUTION: CBK

By Kelum Bandara and R. Sethuraman

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, after a long period of silence, expressed herself   in an exclusive interview with Daily Mirror at her residence in Horagolla. She discussed about her currents activities and future plans in retirement, and also lashed out at the government. Here are excerpts of her interview.

Q: What are your present activities in retirement?

After I retired, I decided that I would never be involved in politics directly because I did not like the manner in which the governance is done. There is lack of democracy and future vision. I did politics for 33 years though I was the executive president only for two terms. I retired at 60. when I was in the active politics, I could not spend enough time with my children. In fact, when I contested the election in 1994, they were quite against it. There is a reason for that. Bandaranaikes   have lost what they had due to politics. My father was killed, and again my husband.  Later, I was nearly killed. I determined not re-enter politics though I was physically and mentally fit for it. We have not earned even a single cent out of politics.

Anyway, after that, I was harassed. They made various allegations against me in the media. Later, I sent corrections. Yet, poor journalists were harassed and influenced not to put them. However, I thought I could give enough and more things for the country at large using my experience and knowledge. With that intention in mind, I formed the organization called 'Foundation for Democratic Studies'. It is a non-profit charity registered in the UK and Sri Lanka. The institution is run on the contributions of the foreign donors.

Q: What is the focus of this organization? 

It mainly focuses on the South Asia. It is the region with the largest number of poor people and unresolved political conflicts.  We work on areas such as economic development, poverty alleviation and  empowering women. Having come out of their lot into the political arena I cannot forget the challenges I had to face as a woman.   This organization also give priority to issues such as Climate change, regional co-operation, peace building, conflict resolution, and post conflict peace building in Sri Lanka.  

Here, we have projects. We gave water facilities for 31 poor households for domestic purposes in Embilipitiya. That is through the collection of rainwater and filtering it. In Jaffna, we  constructed 30 houses for the Internally Displaced Persons with solar power electricity. In Jaffna, we want to construct around 100 houses. Yet, the government has not given us the names of the IDPs who are in need of houses. They insisted that they should identify the deserving people.  We want to give the benefit solely for the displaced persons. 

Besides, we have put up the institute called Sirimavo Bandaranaike Academy for Leadership Training.  We started it with the 50th anniversary of my mother becoming the world's first woman prime minister. Education is my passion. We cannot develop a country without a sound education system. Today, adults in our country behave badly. They are different. There is extreme thinking. I never allowed it under my government.  They do not respect democracy and equal rights. We need a total attitudinal change. Today, scientific education which I introduced has deteriorated.  

After I went home, I see education has gone down again. Officials were crying and complaining to me that all those good programmes implemented by me had now been stopped. There is nothing I can do anymore.

The country today needs good leaders. There are only  a few good leaders  in the country. Not only political leaders, I mean there are only a few in the public service. Of course, the private sector has some good leaders. But, they can do with a few more. We want to build some good leaders who do not lie, rob and sell Kassippu and drugs. Today, politicians are doing that also. 

Q: Who are the South Asian leaders involved in your programme?

 We have a team called international advisory council. We have I.K. Gujral, another person called Mr. Megnad, a UK based Indian, who is the head of the London School of Economics.  Ours is a  research institute that does a lot of policy studies and recommends policies for the South Asian countries. We cover various aspects such as good governance, and the role of South Asia in the global perspective. The South Asia is the only region which does not   have any regional think tanks. There are country based ones, but not a regional one. Even poor Africa has one under various names. We have a larger number of highly educated people. This may be the first properly functioning regional think tank. We have taken research fellows from all over the world, who will do research under ten selected themes, and do publications. We have another academic council that will review the research work. It comprises academics from different parts India, Bangladesh, Pakistan , the Maldives, Harvard University, Europe and France. Other activity is to hold seminars.  We encourage government and private sectors to implement what we recommend. We will also have an annual conference in South Asian countries. There will be one in Sri Lanka. I cannot reveal it because I fear sabotage from the government. They are so jealous and vicious against me personally.   This is a very independent and intellectual exercise. Anyway, when the time comes, I will talk to them.  So far, reaction from some of this government is very petty-minded. 

Q: What is the kind of role you expect to play in Sri Lanka under the theme 'Post Conflict Peace Building?

Post conflict peace building is absolutely important. I do not know whether you saw the message of congratulation I sent to President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the war was over. I did not say he won the war. I said the government won the war. I carefully drafted it with my wordings.

I mentioned, "Your government undoubtedly won the war. Yet, you face the daunting and much more difficult task of winning peace. In that exercise, I wish you luck, magnanimity and wisdom." That is what I said.  It is absolutely important. You can win a war.  When one part of our nation which is about ten percent of the population, is angry and hurt, you cannot build a stable society. There was a marvellous opportunity after the LTTE was destroyed to bring about harmony. The LTTE never allowed it. Also, the opposition blocked my efforts to bring peace. Had they given me eight more votes in Parliament, there would have been almost a federal state. Then, the Tamil civilians would not have supported the LTTE. Tamil people insisted me to give what I had. Even the Diaspora insisted me.  I needed only eight votes. All the Tamil and Muslim parties voted for