Google Analytics

Monday, February 7, 2011

EDITORIAL 07.02.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at:



media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


Month febrauary 07, edition 000749, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
































1.      CLUBS A PART












2.      HAPPY 100, AIRMAIL


























































































2.      A FIRM STEP








































3.      JOBS -- OR DEBT -- 'CREATED'?






























8.      THE ARAB WORLD'S '1989'? - GWYNNE DYER




















































A recent ruling of the Supreme Court that mere membership of a banned outfit will not attract criminality, defies logic and should be challenged by the Central Government. Organisations are proscribed by Governments because the activities of their members cause public disorder and are a threat to national integrity and sovereignty. Thus, if the outfit is banned, its membership too is illegal. But according to a verdict delivered by an apex court bench comprising Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, it is all right for one to be a member of a banned organisation as long as he does not indulge in violence. If this be the case, what is the purpose in proscribing an outfit? It should be sufficient for law enforcement agencies to just track individuals who are involved in terrorist activities while allowing dubious organisations to legally survive. Also, it is difficult to comprehend why someone who believes in non-violent means should be a member of a militant group that seeks to disrupt the Indian state through armed conflict. Since the judgement is in direct conflict with the provisions of various Acts that have been applied to contain terrorist activities in the country, it is bound to hamper the efforts of agencies to check the menace. The verdict was delivered while acquitting an alleged member of the banned United Liberation Front of Assam, who was charged under the now lapsed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. Section 3(5) of the Act specifically provides punishment for being a member of a banned organisation. It may be argued that the provision irrelevant since the Act is no longer applicable but then again, even the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, which is still in force, does not give legal sanction for membership to banned outfits.

Curiously, the matter of "mere membership" was not even the issue before the Supreme Court. In fact, the alleged ULFA member claimed that he had no links with the outfit but was forced to confess before the Superintendent of Police. Such confessions are inadmissible in court under Section 25 of the Evidence Act all though they were allowed under Section 15 of the TADA, as the Judges rightly pointed, but then they went a step further and added that even if one were a member, that membership in it self would not be criminal. They distinguished between "active" and "passive" membership — something that the laws of the land do not differentiate. This is a dangerous exercise, because how does one define a passive member? If one goes by the apex court's ruling, a member who provides mere logistical support to his banned outfit that indulges in violence cannot be booked because he is "passive" since he has neither indulged in violence nor incited it. Similarly, the fund raiser of a banned outfit will also be considered innocent although the money that he collects eventually goes into fuelling discontent and rebellion against the state. If 'mere' members of a banned group are innocent, what should be said of all those who are not technically members of a banned group but nonetheless actively participate in its activities, thanks to the vast networks that of these organisations that entrenched in our civil society here and abroad? Since they do not walk around brandishing weapons or chanting anti-India slogans, they are obviously not guilty, although their activities do weaken state.







It has all the trappings of a multiparty democracy, but in reality Burma's recent political makeover is cosmetic, at its best and farcical, at its worst. Under its 2008 Constitution, which came into effect last week, the new Parliament on Friday, elected former Prime Minister and long time military bureaucrat, Mr Thein Sein, as the country's new President in a perfectly predictable move that marked the beginning of absolutely nothing new. In Burma, the military is still all powerful and all top decisions makers are from its ranks, only some have now been told to put aside their uniform. Mr Thein is one of them. The regime's fourth-in-command, Mr Thein was a soldier who joined the junta in 1997 and replaced General Soe Win as Prime Minister in 2007. He is also known for his strong allegiance to the junta supremo, Senior General Than Shwe and in Burma, that is usually all that matters. The fact that he has no political agenda (having never been a member of any faction), no personal ambition but is still an internationally known face with a clean image also serves as icing on the cake. Overall, there is no denying that Mr Thein was picked for the top job, if one may call it that, because he was best suited to General Than's own political interests. The ageing Army General, who is 78-years-old, has long feared a loss of power — already in recent years, large popular uprisings have threatened the regime's control twice and he has also made many enemies within the army and some of them are equally rich and very powerful, and the possibility of a military coup or even an assassination bid cannot be ruled out. Thus, it was important for him to populate the new Government with his most trusted aides and of course, Mr Thein fits the bill, perfectly. The new Parliament, too, is essentially a congregation of the old guard where the military backed, Mr Thein-led, Union Solidarity and Development Party has an overwhelming majority — 129 of the total of 168 seats. Apart from the post of the President, three of the top four positions — that of one of the Vice-Presidents and the Speakers of the lower and upper Houses of Parliament — in the so-called civilian Government are all high ranking military men who have, needless to say at General Than's bidding, recently shed their uniforms.

What remains to be seen at this point is the extent of the General's involvement in the new Government. There is no doubt that he will continue to pull the strings — but it is still unclear how much he will participate in day-to-day governance, and this is really the burning question in Burmese politics today. In the days ahead, the new President-elect will be expected to select his Cabinet but reports say that those decisions have already been made. Clearly, General Than will remain the most powerful person in Burma for a very long time.









Despite tall promises to crack down on black money at home and slush funds stashed in Swiss banks, nothing has been done.

When the Union Government says it has no idea about the amount of money secreted abroad, it is right to a certain extent as the legal banking channels are never used for sending and secreting funds in foreign bank accounts.

Significantly, India finds mention in the Swiss Banking Association report published in 2006, which provides details of bank deposits in the territory of Switzerland. In absolute terms, India has $1,456 billion parked in tax havens. Other countries mentioned in the list for huge black money deposits are:

·  Russia — $470 billion.

·  UK — $390 billion.

·  Ukraine — $100 billion

·  China — $96 billion

The interim recommendations of the BJP Task Force 2009 have estimated the amount of black money to be between $500 billion to $1,400 billion. However, a recent study by the Global Financial Integrity has estimated the present value of illicit money outflow to be close to $462 billion.

According to Union Minister for Finance Pranab Mukherjee, the legalities prevent the Government of India from disclosing details of black money held abroad by Indians. As he went on record saying, "All these estimates are based on various unverifiable assumptions and approximations. Government has been seized of the matter and has constituted a multidisciplinary committee to get studies conducted, to estimate the quantum of illicit fund generated by Indian citizens … Legalities come in the way of detecting and recovering black money."

However, such arguments do not hold ground. India is a sovereign republic and its Parliament is supreme. The legalities, which come in the way of getting black money back, have been framed by the Government. So it is up to the Government to excise such laws that hinder the objective of unearthing black money and getting it back. However, the most pertinent question is why a legal framework has been provided to crooks and thieves to get away with money laundering.

It is common knowledge that no deal in India is completed without a substantial component of black money. Being the current president of a cooperative housing society at Dwarka in New Delhi, I know that a four-bed room flat is often sold at ~2.20 crore — as any property dealer in Dwarka would tell you — while the registered sale deed reflects not even 25 per cent of the value.

According to my rough estimation, on the conservative side, at least ~10,000 crore of black money is generated daily across the country. The Revenue Department has the power to acquire such undervalued properties. But the procedure is so cumbersome and laborious that it has been rarely used.

This rotten state of affairs not only leads to generation of black money but also deprives the Government of the revenue. Probably, there is more black money in our country than in all tax havens put together.

The stark truth is that corruption prevailing in India generates black money. There are ample incidences, as per Government reports, where schemes meant for the poor have not been implemented but funds allocated have been siphoned off. Even the apex court has admitted that nothing moves without bribery in India. Though all political parties harp on bringing back the black money from tax havens, not a single party has demanded that steps be taken to prevent its further generation.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee has admitted that the Union Government has detected undisclosed income of around ~15,000 crore in the last 18 months. During the same period, Directorate of International Taxation has collected taxes of ~34,601 crore. "The Directorate of Transfer Pricing has detected mispricing of ~33,784 crore, which has prevented shifting of an equivalent amount of money outside India," he conceded.

What Mr Mukherjee is losing sight of is the fact that money stashed abroad is not always tax-evaded money. Drug lords, gun-runners, terrorist groups, gangsters international syndicates — all stash their money in safe havens, only to withdraw it at times of need for operational purposes. The Union Government has no mechanism to determine with cent per cent surety that the money parked abroad is only tax-evaded money and not crime-linked cash.

Significantly, more than 80,000 people travel to Switzerland every year and 25,000 of them very frequently. It would not be wrong to conclude that such frequent travelling has a lot more 'substantial' purpose than tourism.

The Supreme Court has said in unequivocal terms that more should be done to repatriate funds illegally parked overseas. The Revenue Department and other agencies of the Government like the RAW have their offices abroad. However, they do not have a common mandate for reporting any suspicious transactions by Indians, who are either visiting or staying abroad.

What irks is that we have a Government, which is creating alibis for people who have illegally salted away cash in tax havens. Mr Pranab Mukherjee has admitted that the Government has the names of account holders in Liechtenstein's LGT Bank as well as in German banks, only to argue that the information cannot be revealed "as it violates international law".


Incidentally, there are only 15 banks in Liechtenstein, seven of which are Swiss. The principality, with an area of about 160 sq km, is surrounded by Switzerland and Austria and has a total population of 67,000 people. A good sleuth, even on a tourist visa, can spot Indians roaming around and visiting the banks. The rest of the job of tracing the flight of black money from India can be done locally, provided the Government has the will. So far, the UPA Government has only been making excuses — some tenable and some untenable.

Unfortunately, no Government, irrespective of the party in power, has made even a pretence of stopping the generation and flight of black money from India, forget about getting the money back. Thanks to the prodding of the Supreme Court, the UPA Government has at least initiated actions in retrieving the money stashed abroad. However, it must remember that pretension almost always overdoes the original, and hence exposes itself.







It's absurd to suggest that there's nothing to worry if the Muslim Brotherhood were to seize power in Egypt. Those who are ignorant of Islamism and believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is a 'moderate' Islamist organisation are persuaded by such bunkum. For, the Ikhwan is incapable of moderation

I guess we need a new word. Suppose you have no problem with Islam but are afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Soon we will be hearing that you and I have Ikhwanophobia (Ikhwan being the Arabic word often used for that group.)

But (un)fortunately the Western media is deluged with a wave of unmerited Ikhwanophilia. Some of this is beyond belief. Such is a The New York Times article: As Islamist group rises, its intentions are unclear. Of course, everyone interviewed in the article thinks that it isn't so bad.

Who isn't quoted? Why the Brotherhood's own leaders and publications! How about quoting the speeches in which the group's leader calls for jihad against the US? The usual whitewash is done on the Brotherhood's history, its support for American-killing terrorists in Iraq is left out as is its collaboration with the Nazis, and so on.

Here, for example, is the call by Brotherhood representative Muhammad Ghaneim to prepare for war with Israel.

Some of this material in the Times article is really funny: "The Brotherhood hates Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda hates the Brotherhood," said Mr Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "So if we're talking about counterterrorism, engaging with the Brotherhood will advance our interests in the region."

I mean, what can you say? The Brotherhood hates Al Qaeda and loves Hamas. It loves the terrorist Iraqi insurgents who kill Americans. It loves terrorists in Egypt who murder domestic secularists. Incidentally, if this is the kind of person who directs the Brookings Institution research in the West Asia what do the 'non-moderates' think?

Naturally, Mr Hamid's statement is left unchallenged by the reporter. But this one, from the author himself, is the real prize: "As the Roman Catholic Church encompasses leftist liberation theology and conservative anti-abortion advocacy, so the Brotherhood includes both practical reformers and firebrand ideologues."

OK. I'm speechless.

And of course it wouldn't have been enough to publish only one article whitewashing the Brotherhood. Oh, no! So the Times also had an op-ed on what a bumbling, silly group they are. This one is full of laughs but the basic message is that the Brotherhood is not a menace because it hasn't already transformed Egypt into an Islamist state. Of course, someone writing a few years ago about Khomeini, Hamas, Hizbullah, or the Taliban could have made similar claims. Critiquing it could have been a lot of fun.

But then I was given an interesting challenge by a reader. What should he say to a liberal friend who says the Brotherhood is not going to be any problem because it will sell-out to get the US aid.

One might say that as a liberal he might disapprove of a group that wants to treat women like property, kill gays, tear up free speech, and a whole raft of what we used to call anti-liberal measures. How would he like to live in such a society?

Also, that is precisely what they said about Iran. And Ayatollah Khomeini replied, "This revolution isn't about the price of watermelons." Not everyone can be bought off. Some people really believe in their ideas.

Creatively, I suggested the following line of explanation:

Ask him how he would feel if the Tea Party gets 30-40 per cent of the vote and then is the main partner in the Government coalition. Now imagine they want to attack Canada, wipe it off the map, and kill all of its people, starting wars in which millions died. Then imagine that they have a long record of assassinations, suspend the Bill of Rights, indoctrinate all the children, and institute religious courts ruling along the lines of their strict interpretations.

No doubt he already thinks the Tea Party is horrible, so what should he think about the Muslim Brotherhood which might be even more horrible than he thinks Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are?

By the way, the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen wrote: "Unlike the jihadis, (the Muslim Brotherhood) does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East."

Funny, why then does the group's supreme leader — translation by MEMRI, which deserves your financial support — talk in these terms:

>Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim's real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the US. "They are disregarding Allah's commandment to wage jihad for His sake with (their) money and (their) lives, so that Allah's word will reign supreme" over all non-Muslims.

>All Muslims are required by their religion to fight: "They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the (Muslim) nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life." Notice that jihad here is not interpreted as so often happens by liars, apologists, and the merely ignorant in the West as spiritual striving. The clear meaning is one of armed struggle.

>The US is immoral, doomed to collapse, and "experiencing the beginning of its end and is heading towards its demise".

>Palestinians should back Hamas in overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and unite in waging war on Israel.

Later, Bowen's article was amended to remove the word "moderate". Maybe the BBC and The New York Times should be amended to remove all of the apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood.







The UPA shows little interest in revealing the names of people who have allegedly parked black money in tax havens. The Finance Minister's five-pronged strategy is meaningless as it fails to address real issues of corruption and tax rationalization

A political storm is brewing over the black money issue after media reports have revealed the names of Indians who have stashed away black money in LGT Bank in the tax haven of Liechtenstein. However, the UPA Government is acting coy and has refused to reveal the names. In such a scenario, the pertinent question is when there is an influx of money into the country whether a Reserve Bank monetary policy to suck in liquidity would control inflation. The Government understands its futility, but does not take any action against hoarders and manipulators, as long as those in power are benefitted.

It also raises questions about the income-tax policy. Can taking a bribe be considered as an extra-concealed income and treated as a mere tax issue as Minister for Finance Pranab Mukherjee has tried to do this week? Should the criminality be overlooked?

Unfortunately, the basis of Mr Mukherjee's argument was laid down by the income-tax appellate tribunal, which revived the Bofors kickback issue. The tribunal held, "Bofors should have reduced (not eliminated) the commission paid from the contract price. This made the Government pay about `41 crore in excess, in the `1,437 crore deal, which was passed to Win Chadha and Ottavio Quattrocchi against terms of contract".

Would paying tax on the sum, as the appellate has tried to argue, end the issue? The tribunal detected an attempt to obliterate the money trail by opening a series of bank accounts and thus, dismissed Win Chadha's appeal to waive tax claims of `52.85 crore.

Mr Mukherjee has enumerated some steps to combat the menace of illicit funds "generated both as a result of tax evasion and corruption". This virtually dilutes the issue of corruption.

A policy review and simplification of the process is required to curb the tendency of evading tax. Many evade tax due to steep tax rates. The Direct Tax Code has further complicated the issue by empowering tax officials. Even Mr Mukherjee has admitted that as Finance Minister he does not enjoy same powers that a tax official enjoys. This is a dangerous trend as it generates illicit fund for the people, who are supposed to check it. A number of officials have been held for such actions recently.

Tax evasion by some film actresses cannot be treated at par with money laundering by some criminals. For instance, the case of Win Chadha or Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali, who is involved in gun-running is far more serious. But this is what the UPA Government is seemingly doing.

At the end of every year since 1960s, the Income Tax Department comes out with a list of film actors, who have evaded tax. In most cases, the IT officials do not tell the country that the amount is in dispute and that they are carrying out the so-called raids more for a publicity blitz. Most of these cases get settled as artistes pay the tax.

Film actors do not earn money at an even rate throughout their career. For decades, there have been suggestions to give them some concessions as the Government does not take care of them when they are reduced to penury as has been the case with actors like Bhagwan, Shetty, Kesto Mukherjee, Leela Mishra or Nimmy.

The Government sets different standards for different people. As a result of this approach, it will possibly never be able to solve the issue of black money. Incidentally, the Government has no estimate as regards the amount of black money generated in the country. While the BJP task force estimates the amount to be ranging from $400 to 1,400 billion, the Global Financial Integrity keeps it at $462 billion.

In reality, it is much more. In all Government offices, even in courts, babus charge money for doing what is supposed to be their official duty. They take bribes openly. It is no secret that truckers pay policemen cash to avoid being penalised. Citizens cannot get their pensions passed, house plan approved, land registered, obtain no objection certificates unless they grease the palm of officials. From a poor vendor and rickshaw puller to a businessman — everybody has to feather the nest of the police and babus. Now even bank employees have joined the league.

Every day at least `5,000 to 10,000 crore of black money is generated this way. A conservative estimate will put it at `15 lakh crore a year. However, there is no concerted move by the Government to clean up the system and eradicate generation of illicit wealth.

The agenda of the multidisciplinary committee, appointed by the Finance Minister, is to get studies conducted to estimate the quantum of illicit money generated by Indian citizens needs to be widened. Just targeting funds abroad, while ignoring the sources within the country, would not be a viable solution.

India has signed the UN Convention Against Corruption treaty along with 144 countries in 2003. But while others have ratified it, India is still dilly-dallying on the issue. Some countries, including Switzerland, have told the Government that they could share the names of accounts holders in Swiss banks but little effort has been made to accede that. Mr Mukherjees's five-pronged strategy appears to be cosmetic.







Though in ratifying the new START treaty both the US and Russia have reserved certain safeguards, its enactment will eventually mark a significant step forward in US-Russia relations. A new arms race is the last thing the two nations need

The most recent US-Russia arms reduction agreement looks set to become a reality, after all. A Bill on the ratification of the new START treaty has already passed through Russia's lower House of Parliament, the State Duma, and was approved by the Upper House on Wednesday, January 26.

The path toward ratifying the treaty has not been a smooth one, and it is likely to face more difficulties even after it goes into effect. Signed in Prague on April 8, 2010, the new START is meant to replace the first such treaty, which expired in December 2009 15 years after its adoption, as well as the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Accord. The latter was a revised version of the second START, signed in 1993, but never ratified.

Under the new treaty, each party is allowed a maximum of 1,550 warheads and no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear arms. Another 100 are allowed if they are not operationally deployed.

The new START is seen as a fair treaty, one that lets the US continue developing its missile defence system while at the same time allowing Russia to build up its own nuclear forces without feeling threatened by the American missile defence system, at present and in the foreseeable future.

Mutual benefits


Here are some of the treaty's provisions from which Russia stands to benefit:

Unlike the original START, the new treaty sets no limitations on patrol zones for land-based mobile missile systems such as the Topol, the Topol-M and the Yars. Nor does it restrict their deployment zones, in terms of total area or in number.

Also, the accord imposes strict restrictions on the breakout potential and dramatically lowers the launcher ceiling, thereby narrowing the gap between Russia and the US in maintaining their nuclear arsenals. These restrictions apply, among other things, to ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads.

Under the new START, the sides are free to establish the structure of their nuclear triads and can deploy new types of missiles and other warhead carriers with prior notice.

One other point advantageous to Russia is that the treaty does not put any limits on the deployment of missiles with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRV). Which means the country will retain its arsenal of heavy launchers such as the RS-20 and the RS-18, and will also be able to develop new MIRVs.

The new START bans the deployment of strategic offensive weapons beyond the sides' respective borders. This provision will help prevent the recurrence of something like the Cuban Missile Crisis and will also allow the sides to have greater control over the strategic armaments of the other.

For the US, the advantages include the lack of limits on the deployment of missile defence systems and sea-launched cruise missiles, as well as the rules for counting warheads on heavy bombers. While each warhead on a ballistic missile is counted as one warhead, a heavy bomber is counted as carrying "one warhead," even though it may carry 12 to 24 of them. Thus, the actual number of warheads will be about 2,100 for Russia and 2,400 for the US, as the latter holds a larger number of heavy launchers in its arsenal. However, this gap will narrow over time, as more American B-1B bombers will be discharged and converted into non-nuclear weapons.

Concessions on both sides

Despite the obvious advantages for both sides, the treaty has faced harsh criticism both in Russia and in the US. The arguments put forward by each are remarkably similar — ultra-nationalist groups on both sides of the Atlantic have expressed the concern that the new START makes too many concessions to the other side.

Detractors of the treaty in the US are above all concerned about the US missile shield, which they think is threatened by the link made in the new START between defensive and offensive weapons. Whereas opponents in Russia are most unhappy about the treaty's lack of legally binding provisions to limit the development of such missile defence systems.

There has also been criticism of the lack of restrictions on the number of sea-launched cruise missiles and the rules for counting warheads on heavy bombers.

The sides have gone ahead with the ratification, but each has provided itself with certain safeguards. The US Senate has adopted a resolution to ensure that no limitations will be set on its missile defence shield. The Russian legislature, meanwhile, has reserved the right to withdraw from the treaty in case the nuclear missile parity between Russia and the US is upset.

Despite all these reservations, the treaty's original text has remained almost intact. Its enactment will mark a significant step forward in US-Russia relations over the last three years.

Hopefully, Russia and the US will not lose momentum on this even if President Barack Obama fails to win re-election in 2012. A new arms race is the last thing the two nations need.

-- The writer is a Moscow-based military analyst.








THE Congress plan to fracture Opposition unity on the issue of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G scam is ingenious indeed. The idea is to move a resolution on the JPC probe before the Lok Sabha, discuss the issue and put it to vote.


Party managers believe that given the substantial majority that the United Progressive Alliance enjoys, the resolution would be defeated and as a bonus, it may ensure that the Left detaches itself from the Bharatiya Janata Party.


This makes eminent sense; indeed, the party should have thought about it in the first place, instead of getting trapped in a sterile rejectionist position from the outset. However, fairness would demand that a similar resolution be also moved in the Rajya Sabha where the UPA does not enjoy a majority.


The alliance would have to take its chances and a victory here, too, cannot be ruled out in the event the Left can be persuaded to walk out of the House. We may have a situation where the UPA prevails in the lower house and loses in the upper, but by convention, the view of the Lok Sabha carries more weight.


No matter what the BJP may say, Parliament is the supreme authority of this country. A debate followed by a vote is the best and fairest way of determining the course of an issue, not the talking heads on television. But the Congress must beware that while it may be able to prevail in the narrowly defined legal term, the issue cannot be divorced from its political and moral context.


It is these that eventually make an impression on the mind of the average citizen who, of course, is the person who elects Parliament.



IT IS shameful that when as many as 12 farmers have committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh in less than two months, and thrice as many have attempted to do so, certain bureaucrats, police officials and politicians in the state have usurped the lion's share of the funds meant to provide relief to them.


There is little purpose in the MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan raising a hue and cry demanding a package from the Centre, if this is where the money ends up instead of providing relief to farmers who have faced acute crop failure due to unexpected spells of frost.


A key issue here is the purchase of agricultural land by government officials. The misdirected compensation — as well as details of the assets of Arvind and Tinoo Joshi, two IAS officers suspended for having disproportionate assets — is testimony to the fact that a significant number of officials in the state own large tracts of agricultural land. Some of these acquisitions may require a probe.


The grief and distress of the people appear to be of little concern to the officials who actually use emergency situations requiring urgent relief to side- step rules. There is a need to ensure that instead of a blanket application, relief is given to the genuinely needy.



AFTER sixteen rounds of voting, Nepal's parliament has finally elected Jhalanath Khanal as that country's new Prime Minister in succession to Madhav Kumar Nepal who resigned seven months ago. With the new Prime Minister, who belongs to the Unified Marxist Leninist party, Nepal can move ahead to meet the May deadline to write its new constitution.

More than statesmanship, he requires a generous amount of good luck to complete that task. The election has not really eased the deadlock between the various Nepali parties on the crucial issue of demobilising the 20,000- strong Maoist People's Liberation Army cadres.


Then, the election became possible only after Communist Party of Nepal ( Maoists) leader Prachanda withdrew his own nomination and threw his outfit's support behind Khanal. But this act has generated a dissent note from Prachanda's senior colleague Baburam Bhattarai and some 51 party MPs. This is the surface manifestation of the serious differences about the future course of action within the Maoist ranks.



            MAIL TODAY





IN 1969, the Congress President put his foot down. He served a show cause notice against the leader of the government, and finally expelled her and her key supporters from the country's oldest political party. She struck back, utilising to the hilt every advantage a head of government has.


By the time the dust had settled, two markers in the polity had been put down.


One, the Prime Minister would set the tone and tenor of politics and be the pivot of public life. Two, it was the PM, Indira Gandhi and not Congress President S. Nijalingappa, the veteran Congress- man from Mysore that he was, who was in tune with the masses.


The story of how Indira Gandhi took control of the Congress and the country has had its raconteurs. The racy, gripping narrative of Kuldeep Nayyar was the first rough cut of history. Others too have told the tale.




But what was at stake was the nature and character of the Congress. One does not have to be a sympathiser of left wing politics or policies to give full credit to the then young Prime Minister for her sense of timing. Described not so flatteringly as a ' gungi gudiya' ( dumb doll) by an erudite opponent, she finally combined words with actions.


The tilt to the left set her and her party against those who represented the status quo. As she later told Oriana Fallaci, socialism ' went down well with the people'. But that is an overly cynical view.


A fellow Congressman who was to recount these historic events in a thinly disguised novel put it well. The Congress' leaders were with the Syndicate, which over twenty years had crystallised into a power base.


But the people on the street the young ' Anand', MLA from the south, met on his visit were all agog with expectation.


When the young legislator told his chief minister the latter brushed it off. But it was the former ( Narasimha Rao) not the latter who was right.


This detour into history is more than a little relevant today. The Congress in 2011 is a unified party, with no such divide between those in and out of government.


But while much ink has been spilled in analysing the relationship between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, less thought has been given to why this unique arrangement is being put to the test in the times we live in.


This summer India will complete twenty years of full- fledged reform. It will also mark thirty years since the economy gathered force and pace, moving well up and above what the late Prof Raj Krishna called ' the Hindu rate of growth'.


The Congress can with some justification claim some credit for this shift from socialism to a pro business orientation.


Yet, in its first term, the UPA was able to combine this with a pronounced emphasis on ' safety net' policies. These were not redistributive in a classical sense, but they did entail strong public action to give the underprivileged a cushion against the harsh play of market forces.


Now in 2011, the party faces a piquant situation. Its chief such legislation is a proposed enactment on food security. By referring the proposal from the National Advisory Council to a reputed neo monetarist, C Rangarajan, the PM showed he had keenly grasped the parable cited by former US President George W. Bush. He may have been no intellectual giant but Bush quipped that ' personnel is policy'. It was no surprise then that the economist in the PM and the neo monetarist tore into the proposed scheme. Where would the extra grain come from? How would it reach the target? Would it add to the deficit? All valid questions, but had they cared to look, they would have got answers from states as diverse as Tamil Nadu ( a leader in such policy matters) or Chhattisgarh ( a latecomer but worth learning from).


This week saw Manmohan Singh open yet another front in the growth versus equity debate. Here the issue was equity with the future, with coming generations and their claim on our biotic wealth and the right to a clean environment. Fresh on the heels of the clearance of the POSCO steel plant on the Orissa coast, he warned against a new green equivalent of a licence permit quota raj.




In an India mesmerised by the story of reform as a just so story, this is par for the course. What he left out is equally important.


The complex web of laws that regulate the use and abuse of nature have the seal of parliamentary approval. The Forest Rights Act, which was in question in this case, had the unanimous support of all parties and the PM himself no less has more than once urged states to ensure these rights are not transgressed.


But to go further, Nehru's brilliant critic Rajaji coined the phrase licence permit quota raj. For the Congress head of government to cite it so approvingly does raise a question. Does the Nehruvian tradition mean ever so little that it can be brushed aside? A third piece of evidence, and this concerns not Jawaharlal Nehru but Rahul Gandhi. Speaking in public, the general secretary of the party said all those with foreign bank accounts had robbed the poor of the country. No effort should be spared to trace the accounts and punish the wrongdoers. Is this a leader of the opposition or the future anchor of the Congress speaking? All this adds up not to a crack in the walls of the firmament. But they do indicate there is a piquant situation where the head of a Congress government is set against social legislation, even as he considerably weighs in favour of the big players.




Sauce for POSCO does not come with food security for the poor. IN UPA- I, Rahul Gandhi's public intervention led to the extension of the rural jobs programme to all districts. In UPA- II he said he was a soldier with the Adivasis fighting for land and forest rights, but he has not been present in a similar case where other marginal groups are at risk. Time and tide will not wait.


Meanwhile the power of government— which implies ministers and economic interests aligned to their fiefs, backed by bureaucrats — is asserting itself. Power flows from government and government in post reform India even more than earlier tilts to the haves. But it is the havenots who have the power to make or mar the party.


Perhaps it is unfair to take issue with the Prime Minister. His erudition and spotless record in public life are beyond question. But he is the first ever Congress Prime Minister who has never fought and won a Lok Sabha election.


There was a Congress Prime Minister who was elected to office in an open contest in January 1969 who was from the Rajya Sabha. But she contested and became MP for Rae Bareli.


One wonders if it is a coincidence or a concomitant of not having a constituency, just one of 543 in the Lok Sabha.


An apolitical course of action may make the Congress and the country incur a cost not worth bearing. Reform unlimited is not what India voted for.


The writer teaches history in Delhi University








Kapil Sibal has emerged the UPA's main firefighter in the 2G spectrum imbroglio. Assuming charge of telecom, he courted controversy by taking on the CAG. Now, armed with the Shivraj Patil committee's findings, he seeks to trip the BJP, which demands a JPC probe. The panel says deviations from official policy and procedural lapses in allocation of mobile permits and airwaves occurred between 2001 and 2009, a period when NDA was also in power. This report is headed to the CBI, which is already conducting a Supreme Court-supervised probe into allocations since 2001.

The problem is, if Sibal fans the perception of using the report of a panel set up by his ministry as a stick against critics, they'll retaliate by questioning its impartiality. Surely tit-for-tat between government and main opposition party shouldn't make more news than desired headway in probes and policy making. If 2G irregularities do go back in time, by all means they require looking into. But so do lapses under UPA's watch. Charges of favouritism under A Raja's tenure, with even first-come, first-served rules getting bent, need thorough investigating to nail wrong-doing.

The telecom minister must be less of a UPA trouble-shooter than focussed on creating a new telecom order. Commendably, Sibal did hit the ground running. He wants transparency and accountability in a ministry long seen as functioning in ad hoc, discretionary ways. The national telecom policy 2011 on the cards seems set to undo the first-come, first-served principle. Delinking licences from spectrum, market-driven pricing and uniform licence fee are key features. Overall, the policy shift seems towards adopting an auction system. This is good in principle for resource sharing and raising revenue. Only, the good may not be the ideal in the case of spectrum allocation. Here's where the debate should be.

Sibal says high competition in the sector will suppress prices even when market determines pricing. But there are risks. Experience elsewhere shows firms acquiring 3G via bidding faced massive financial strain. That can happen here too, hitting the investment corpus, growth plans and innovation of telecom firms. Also, the burden of spectrum fees would shift eventually to consumers. After China, India's the fastest-growing mobile phone market courtesy the affordability factor. Mobile tariffs being hiked will hurt telecom's scorching pace of growth. As public property, spectrum is a vital resource to which network-builders and operators need easy access. Allocation models - whether given free, followed by revenue-sharing - must ensure it isn't priced out of the hands of service providers and end-users. In this context, unutilised spectrum needs freeing up and spectrum hoarding actively discouraged, as the Patil panel recommends.







The Pakistani government's decision not to pursue a Bill aimed at amending the country's controversial blasphemy law is a serious blow to hopes for a moderate Pakistan. Coming on the heels of Punjab governor Salman Taseer's assassination for advocating reform of the blasphemy law, the move is bound to embolden religious extremists. On numerous instances trumped up blasphemy charges have been levelled to settle personal scores. Minorities and women are frequent victims. The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced to die for blasphemy last year, illustrates this point. For any modern democracy to endure, it is imperative that laws protect the weak and courts uphold the due process of justice.

In India there is a possible parallel with the sedition law, which is prone to be misused when governments want to muzzle free speech. Although the Supreme Court has limited the applicability of the law, it was used recently to hand down a life sentence to Binayak Sen, a doctor and civil rights activist. But India does have a vibrant civil society and there are powerful voices speaking out against arbitrary laws. By contrast, it was disappointing when Pakistani lawyers, who ought to be among the foremost defenders of due process, kissed and showered rose petals on Taseer's killer when he was brought to court, and when a weak government knuckled under to extremist pressure to keep a cruel and inhuman law on the statute books. Not just in the name of decency but for the sake of its own stability, Pakistan needs to change course and turn back to Jinnah's original vision for the country.









Since Cairo took to the streets, there is one question that comes up repeatedly in India. How have we been saved from such anarchy, in spite of our faltering democracy? True, Egypt's growth, between 5% and 7%, has been less spectacular than ours. But its per capita income swelled from $587 in 1981 to $1461 in 2001. Even its deficit as a percentage of GDP has fallen from 10.2% in 2002 to 7.9% in 2010. Its poverty figures are much lower than ours, given that per capita monthly income in Egypt is approximately $130.

So, we return to the original question: why not here? First, we must thank democracy. It may be ineffective and non-performing, but it allows for oppositional voice. Our political elite is spread out in different parties and in different states and express diverse views.

This contrasts with a banana republic where the ruling coterie hangs together. Every group member knows that together they are like a bunch of bananas; if you break free, you get skinned. By contrast, India is probably a banana-peel republic: our rulers are all over the place, slipping and sliding, from post to post, promise to promise.

Let us look elsewhere for other differences, and they are not insignificant. True, growth in India may not have brought development and vertical mobility, what with between 40%-50% below the poverty line, but it has compensated for that with enormous horizontal mobility. This has taken a huge pressure off the cooker.

A far, far greater proportion of Indians than Egyptians are searching for jobs and setting up homes in places their parents would never have. That over five billion railway tickets are sold every year in India gives us a measure of a society on the move. With every horizontal step, either from village to town, or from farm to non-farm employment, new ambitions and expectations are released. In this process, frustrations get an outlet and the current state of deprivation does not look so bad.

In contrast, Egypt seems to be standing still. It is better off, it is healthier, but is not moving. When both vertical and horizontal movements are blocked off, life appears much darker. On an average, Egyptians are certainly less deprived than Indians, but it is always relative deprivation that loosens public anger. Egypt's rural population has been stagnant at about 56% for several decades, whereas in India it has fallen from approximately 80% in the 1960s to about 69% today. This has sent millions out of villages in search of jobs in all kinds of production sectors, wherever. The scope for employment in household industries has grown as a consequence, giving hope to many that their future outside agriculture might be brighter.

Though the organised sector employs only 27 million, it is the informal sector that soaks in the rural exodus in India. Egypt seems to have fallen short on this front. Paradoxically, the informal sector, the object of so much vilification in our country, has actually kept our streets from erupting, Cairo style.

In Egypt, the informal sector has not quite risen to the occasion. A staggering 31% of its labour force may be in the public sector, but its unemployment levels continue to grow. Unfortunately, at this crucial juncture, its informal sector has also weakened. It is no longer able to blot up the excess labour as it used to. Instead, its share of private non-agricultural employment has fallen from 74% in 1998 to 69% in 2006.

On the other hand, self-employment has soared in the poorest parts of India, like Rajasthan (70%), UP (69%) or Bihar (61%). Quite against the trend in Egypt, the proportion of non-agricultural units in India that employ less than 10 people has jumped dramatically by 110% between 1985 and 2005. So what if main workers are down in the last census by less than 1%, marginal workers are up by 11%. In India, the poor are moving from poverty to poverty, but with each horizontal move, a little hope bubbles up in their lives.

We are lucky in yet another way, and this again comes up from somewhat unexpected quarters. The feminisation of informal labour has also given hope to a lot of poor families. They have found jobs in garment industries and in other household units. Even in the organised sector, the recent increase of over a million workers is primarily on account of women joining the workforce. In Egypt, women's contribution in this regard is much less, and this again boxes in families. To keep them off the streets they must hope tomorrow might be different from today.

The informal sector, however, has limited potential for absorbing anger, or releasing hope. Our educated work force is growing and with it will come the demand for proper salaried jobs. Egypt is not yet our future, but we can get a glimpse of it if we look at it closely from afar. So many of the rioters in Cairo are educated, but without employment; 46% of Egypt is below 20 years of age, our figures are quite close to that already. Again, like Cairo and Alexandria, most of the urban growth in India is happening in metros like Delhi or Mumbai.

India is not Egypt, but how long can we keep our balance on banana skins?

The writer is former professor, JNU.




Q & A


From where you stand intellectually and professionally what challenges does India face?

You're at a critical juncture because problems India's for long set aside have come to the fore and climate instability makes them pressing. Groundwater depletion for instance. Water is used without any thought to renewing water tables. Securing such long-term issues actually helps everyone right now. The emphasis has to be on health, education and infrastructure because those are holding you back. If not managed now, they'll worsen and become catastrophic. But these developmental issues can't be dealt with as they have - by putting the environment on the back burner. That's got to change.

Wouldn't the cost be to defer the immediate need to help millions escape humiliating poverty?

My heart's with you and India's aim to eradicate poverty through growth. But intellectually, the numbers don't add up. Unfortunately the long-term issues are no longer long-term. They are immediate, requiring immediate responses. Now this is difficult for any nation, but easier for India. That's because India has a vibrant economy and is dynamic. That will help India make the choices which would be much more difficult for a country whose economy is slowing and therefore isn't as dynamic in its approach. A growing economy changes the baseline for finding solutions, and makes it much easier. The next five year plan is going to be crucial because some vital choices are going to have to be made. India has to generate growth, while simultaneously building in added resilience to protect the environment, into that growth. That's more costly, sure, and how does one do it? India faces these questions.

Perhaps India can do it with the help of the international community? Aid perhaps?

Right. But India's not going to get much aid. Highly populous countries get less per capita than smaller countries. I think there has to be some form of fund to preserve and restore the environment and that its generation should be directly linked to environmental degradation. Cancun saw agreement on a $100 billion fund. It's only a step, sure, but a step in the right direction, right? It's the only practical way out.

Will historic or current pollution levels determine national contributions to the fund?

The premise of historic responsibility, regardless of whether it's fair or not, is not going to happen. The fund's got to be public, and that means raising taxes but my country is a tax revolt country. The US is going to fight that tooth and nail. It'll take Africa and India because the fund is going to make China a contributor now that it's a major polluter along with the US.

How should the fund be deployed?

Well, other than the Europeans no major countries have taken climate change seriously. Our mindsets have to change from develop first and then later deal with the issues generated by development. It's an extremely complicated problem because we have to shift the underlying basis of economics and industry by integrating the technologies of emissions reductions into the industrial base. Achieving this calls for a system of open licensing and diffusion of technologies but then there's the quandary of incentives for R&D. There's got to be a reason to make companies want to innovate. Resolving the contradiction requires the rich paying into an incentive system. The fund could pay a royalty to R&D developers. The problem is no one's willing to speak honestly about any of this. Industry's told their governments don't give up anything. The public sector, especially in Asia and Africa, has to resolve this.







Last night, i dreamt that the selection committee choosing the Indian team for the 2011 cricket World Cup had sprung a surprise by including as its 15th player not Piyush Chawla but a petite, female leg spinner. And that she made a huge impact in a key match on February 27 at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium by bowling five English batsmen around their legs and winning the Man of the Match award. One of her wicket-taking deliveries even outdid Shane Warne's ball of the century by pitching well outside the leg-stump and turning sharply to clip the off-stump bail. If there is any truth in the saying that dreams anticipate the future, a woman winning the Man of the Match award need not be an impossible dream.

Unlike contact sports like football or rugby, cricket is more gender-friendly. With women perceived to be more subtle than men, the art of spin, especially leg-spin, should be right up their street. If we can have Mandira Bedi commenting on the World Cup and physiotherapist Kate Stalker maintaining the fitness of the Black Caps (New Zealand's national men's cricket squad), a team fielding both male and female cricketers should logically be the next step. It could even answer the age-old query articulated in the 1956 Broadway musical 'My Fair Lady' by Professor Higgins of "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

If a Mandira Bedi could push up viewership by anchoring the telecast of the 2003 World Cup in a noodle-strap, just imagine the kind of impact she would have if she was seen running in full flow to the stumps with a cricket ball in hand and turning her arm over. After all, if Sharmila Tagore's son can become an actor, why can't Tiger Pataudi's daughter play cricket at the highest level? Women playing along with men would relieve Wisden of the chore of maintaining separate records for male and female cricketers. The day women are accepted as equal to men on the cricket field, news reports of bachelor bowlers like Harbhajan getting married need no longer elicit cliched comments like, "Bhajji bowls maiden over." Women cricketers could also strengthen the fielding of India's World Cup squad which has slow movers like Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel.

The presence of women in the team could even improve the behaviour of the Australian cricketers, notorious for their habit of sledging which was defined as "mental disintegration of the opponent" by one of its leading practitioners, the former Aussie captain Steve Waugh. Instead of disrupting the concentration of India's most glamorous batsman by saying things like, "I saw your girlfriend partying last night with your team-mate", we could have the male Aussie wicket-keeper solicitously asking the female opponent, "Are you comfortable? Is there anything we can get for you during the drinks-break?" Even the British media would no longer have to moan about the members of the English team being distracted by WAGs - the acronym for Wives and Girlfriends. With women in the team, international cricket could even take the long overdue quantum jump of overtaking football in terms of gate-receipts and TV viewership the world over as housewives and children thronged every stadium.

Unisex cricket could also raise the level of cricketing awareness. No longer would schoolboys at Test matches have to squirm each time their mothers loudly asked questions like, "Who are the two men in the middle wearing black pants and white shirts?" Women bowling out men in a World Cup instead of merely refereeing games in the back garden could even put an end to the somewhat sexist songs sung by spectators at cricket matches to the refrain of, "And what do you think my wife she says/ The umpire's in the way"!







The Supreme Court has ruled that "mere membership" of a banned organisation does not make a person a criminal. What does, it added in a case pertaining to an alleged activist of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), is the accused member's involvement in resorting or inciting people to violence. While the ruling puts the business of current judicial methods under the scanner, it does beg the question: what is the purpose of banning organisations if their proven members are not 'banned'?

The operative word, of course, is 'proven'. In the case that came under the Supreme Court's ruling on Friday, the accused, Arup Bhuyan, was convicted under Section 3 (5) of the lapsed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada) for being an Ulfa member. The court stated that it has not been proved that Mr Bhuyan was an "active member and not a mere passive member". Citing the Constitution's Article 19 (9) pertaining to free speech and Article 21 regarding liberty, the court added that Section 3 (5) of Tada — that made membership of a banned organisation automatically a crime — could not be read "literally". As far as we can see, the issue is not so much about the legality or otherwise of being a member of the Ulfa, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) or any of the 32 organisations in the government's list of banned outfits linked to terrorism or violence, but about fixing the grey area that exists when it comes to proving that an accused is a member of a contraband organisation.

Making it legal for someone to be a member of an illegal outfit makes as much sense as allowing drivers of dangerously unsafe vehicles to ply the roads even though the vehicles are prohibited. One understands the procedural difficulties of proving that an accused is a member of, say, al-Qaeda. And the apex court underlining the fact that a confession gained by the police (or, indeed, the media) without the requisite evidence in tow will not stand up in a court of law is laudable. But to make even such an attempt to prove one's entrenched association — in the form of 'active' or 'passive' membership — of a banned outfit redundant is to, for all practical purposes, make the notion of banning organisations redundant. Instead of giving an automatic clean chit to an accused, it would be far better if the manner by which an accused is found guilty is firmed up leaving little space for cutting corners.






Break out the champagne, Pakistan is going to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) with an open mind. This openness includes no compromise on the Kashmir issue, and a friendly little jihad courtesy the Jamaat-ud-Dawa to liberate Kashmir. Let's hope the Indians recognise a good thing when they see it. In fact, it would be good idea to avoid all discussions of thorny issues at the Saarc meet. Why should anyone spoil the pristine environs of Thimphu with such snarky comments as what the hell is happening in Nepal which has got itself a prime minister after the 900th attempt. Or for that matter the rest and recreation being provided to the Sri Lankan Tamils in moveable tents.

We certainly don't want anyone asking our advice on how to become a millionaire overnight through judicious policy fixing. And let's not hurt the feelings of our Maldivian brothers by asking where they will relocate when their island sinks gently into the ocean. The Pakistanis may like to prolong the 'guess who is running our country?' game for a bit longer at least until their president's matrimonial inclinations are made clear.

So, some of you may ask, why have a Saarc meet at all? Thimphu is clearly the new Oslo; so it is incumbent upon fellow Saarc members to display how it is possible for people with differing views to get together and shoot the breeze. After all, the Norwegians have been providing problems to every solution for years and making a pretty good living out of it. So, the strategic objective of Saarc should be to showcase Thimphu as a destination where you can come after packing all your troubles in an old kit bag. If there are any other contenders for the post of problem provider to the world, please let us know before the next Saarc summit.









If you step out for an evening in fashionable Zamzama, Karachi's equivalent of Greater Kailash or Juhu, all is well in Pakistan. Here is Karachi society, decked out and dolled up, shopping furiously at expensive designer boutiques with names like Maria B and Deepak Perwani, before repairing to restaurants like Okra (Musharraf's favourite) or Café Aylanto to elegantly pick at its famous chicken in jalapeno sauce.

Of course, you've tanked up on drinks at home beforehand. Some of the most sought-after and spoilt men in Karachi are the city's bootleggers, their cell numbers inscribed across the gentry's hearts like Bloody Mary. Otherwise, our stylish hostess informed us, women's fashions change about every four months in Karachi. Last autumn, tight pencil pants worn high above the ankle were all the rage; now it's loose-cut ajar pyjamas, borrowed from traditional Memon women. It is de rigueur as uniforms, straight out of the Pinglish (Punjabi-English) patter in Moni Mohsin's bestselling Diary of a Social Butterfly columns and books.

This room is shrinking

Army uniforms may be less visible in public and on TV than at other times in Pakistan but political fashions are changing fast. Since Punjab governor Salman Taseer's assassination last month, people tend to be cautious about what they say, where and to whom.

The room for public discourse is discernably narrowing. There is an uncomfortable number of public figures, including in the media, who state that he had it coming for opposing the blasphemy law. More than 300 lawyers have offered their free service to defend his killer.

Sherry Rahman, former information minister and pillar of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who had tabled a bill in the national assembly seeking an amendment to the blasphemy law, had gone into self-imposed purdah in her palatial home in Clifton since Taseer's murder.

Two days ago, in an attempt to get a life, she stated that she supports the blasphemy law.

In other ways, too, free expression is becoming restrictive. Not long ago, Hammad Khan, a young filmmaker who made a movie called Slackistan, about the 'contented discontent' of young people in Islamabad, had his film banned by the censor board because of references to Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and for the use of the word 'lesbian'. But there is no recourse to appeal. "Since Taseer's killing, civil society has ceded space to the men in beards," a Karachi editor told me. "We are learning to speak out less and shut up a lot more."

Veni, vidi, visa

A Pakistani visa, at Rs15 a pop, must be the cheapest available in New Delhi. But it's not easy to get. Many Pakistani writers at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival had their visas held up till the last minute. Whether as a retaliatory measure, or because of home ministry hold-ups in Islamabad, Indian writers had a hard time getting to the second Karachi Literature Festival which I am here to cover.

Of the five Indians due on the Delhi-Karachi flight on Thursday, only three made it. I was one of the lucky trio. When I went to collect my visa at the Pakistan High Commission, the official assured me my clearance had been received. "Well-priced but much-prized," I quipped as he handed it to me the following day. He smiled weakly at my joke.

Sunil Sethi is the host of Just Books on NDTV. Over the next few days, he will be writing from Karachi and Lahore about the Pakistan we don't easily get to read, hear or see — the one in which 'People Like Us'  live their daily lives outside the high-decibel hysterics of 'Breaking News' Pakistan.






It's a strange paradox of life that sometimes when someone who agrees with you dies, you shrug in sadness, but when an opponent you have disagreed with passes away, you want to salute him. For someone raised in the alternative tradition of pluralism and peace, K Subrahmanyam was the opponent. He literally founded defence studies in India, differentiated it from international relations, gave it an identity and a different competence.

I never knew him but I loved hearing stories about him from colleagues, relatives and friends. One was from an Indian Civil Service officer in my college days. The gentleman, fondly called 'Annaji', had retired from service and was still known for his alertness and curiosity. One day, almost nostalgically, he said, "Wonder what happened to a young man I knew. He did chemistry I think. Subbu. He is the one to watch. He will go far." I think the comments were prescient because Subrahmanyam became one of the great policy intellectuals of our era.

When one mentions the word policy intellectual, one thinks of PC Mahalanobis, Sukhamoy Chakravarti, Pitamber Pant or MS Swaminathan. Subrahmanyam stands tall even in this tribe. He took the idea of defence and rescued it from illiteracy and panic after the 1962 China defeat.

At that time, I worked at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), which was vociferous in its critique of him. My senior colleagues tried to create a sociological picture of him. They argued he was like all displaced Tamil Brahmins: having no power in Chennai, the Tamil Brahmin was the source of a hawkish ideology. As a generalisation, it was true, even insightful. But Subrahmanyam, for all his nationalism, escaped such stereotypes. Like my senior colleagues at the CSDS such as Rajni Kothari, Ashis Nandy and Giri Deshingkar, KS understood power. And like them, he was never seduced by power. But the former critiqued policy, KS made it. Subrahmanyam stood at the centre of power as an immaculate maverick. He was never tempted by it. He never fetishised it. He could dissent with equal ease as he did during the Emergency.

He could stand up quietly for his ideas. In that sense, he was a presence without being a performance. He was a strategist in all senses, but tactical enough to realise when change was essential. He was a patriot who lived out the travails of the Indian Nation-State at its most vulnerable moments. He was neither overtly left or right. What made him maddening was that he was utterly matter of fact about it. He played caretaker and trustee of defence policy and created, at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), the nursery for independent and autonomous ideas about defence. He was the ideal policy intellectual as a role model, and yet unique enough to deny imitations.

My former colleague and a leading China hand, the late Giri Deshingkar, was constructed as an intellectual foil to

KS. Yet, two stories I heard from Giri best capture KS. Giri was a creature of habit. He worked hard the whole day needing his drink at six in the evening. One day I saw him hurrying out at five. "Where are you going?" I asked. "Subbu's son is getting married I have to be there," adding, "Subbu, he is one of us." It was a tribute to an adversary as a friend.

On August 24, 1984, the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Lahore and onward to Dubai. I walked into Giri's corner room soon after and found him reading Subrahmanyam's hijack diaries marking its key points. "What a man," said Giri. "He gets hijacked and produces a meticulous diary while everyone produces complaints. It's the Brahmin in him... Subbu was never an opportunist. But look at the opportunism of the man. He sees the hijack as a learning experience!"

Deshingkar saw 'KS the Brahmin' as a hero. This was a sense of the Brahminic not as a caste orientation or in the sense of ritual or status. It was the Brahmin as advisor to kings: learned, scholarly, true to the mandarin code, yet distant from the seduction of power, austere, productive almost as a form of everyday discipline, prolific beyond 60 where the word retirement was an epithet for lesser mortals.

I must confess that for a peacenik and an anti-nuclear activist like me, Subrahmanyam was anathema. I felt the KS who talked peace had no sense of peace movements. I could not understand his pro-nuclear stand and my ambivalence to the man stemmed from this. I felt he was separating the ethical and the tactical. I guess he probably felt there was a touch of romance about people like me. He was probably more aware of India's vulnerability in an age that produced the genocidal impulse of a Kissinger or the epidemic of terrorism. Yet KS was always the hawk who advised nuclear restraint; a discourse that sees the Nation-State as vulnerable allows little focus for civil society views of vulnerability.

I remember during the heyday of the United Nations University projects on militarisation and demilitarisation, Rajni Kothari asked me to take over the little magazine on militarisation and demilitarisation in Asia. He jokingly added that he was setting up one 'Tam-Brahm' to fight another. There was no prejudice in what Kothari said. It was a challenge to civil society views of peace to meet the standards of integrity that KS had set. Even in his absence, he was a presence. Even as an opponent, KS almost became the muse.

KS died fighting cancer. I am sure if he had time he might have produced a systematic book on that too. But I guess the nation kept him absorbed. He towered over other hawks because of his vision and his professionalism. Yet deep down he represented a style of Brahmin scholar-bureaucrats. One will always miss him for the austerity, the inventiveness and the integrity he brought to public life.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist. The views expressed by the author are personal.





The arrest of former telecom minister A Raja and former Union telecom secretary Siddharth Behura in the 2G spectrum scam may have made the government's position even more vulnerable. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducting the probe has concluded that the spectrum allocation had caused a loss to the national exchequer. Though the figure given by the CBI is different from the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) one, it contests the claim made by current telecom minister Kapil Sibal that there had been no loss to the government and that the CAG report was full of anomalies.

On Friday, Sibal tried to shift the blame on to the NDA government while stating that the findings of the Justice Shivraj Patil committee will also be handed over to the CBI. Several questions have arisen since the controversy broke out. The foremost being: if the NDA's policies and practices were wrong, why did the UPA follow them and not take corrective measures? Second, in the 90s when the cellular licences were given, there had been no auction and many people became rich overnight. Does it not call for the review of the entire telecom policy since its inception?

The logic that key UPA ally and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi is now using is that Raja has been arrested simply for making telephony available to the masses. His oblique reference is to the time when outgoing and incoming calls were priced as high as R20 a minute. But in the last few years, the cellphone reached

800 million people at affordable rates. Karunanidhi is portraying Raja as a hero of the masses who had to suffer because he is a Dalit. This picture is in contrast with the one presented by the central government that's trying to send out a message that by arresting the former minister, the UPA is enforcing its agenda of zero tolerance for corruption.

Raja is likely to make the Cabinet's approval of his policy his main defence. If this happens, the central leaders will come off looking bad. If there was corruption and the government leaders in Delhi weren't aware of it, it's a poor reflection on their governance skills. If they were aware but decided to look the other way due to coalition compulsions, it is complicity.

This makes them liable to face the same charge as Raja. In any case, it speaks volumes about the overall inefficiency of the government whose credibility is at its lowest ebb.

Another dimension about the arrest episode is that it has handed over a great advantage to Raja who can, if he wants, put several top central leaders in the dock. On his release on bail or on the plea of attending Parliament after special permission from the court during the budget session, he can exercise his prerogative as a former minister who resigned to give his explanation on the floor of Parliament.

And during his explanation, if he  chooses to mention a few names of those who 'influenced' his decisions, the whole government may plunge into another crisis. As it is, there are not many people who believe that Raja was working alone. In such a scenario even a half-truth can hurt.

With so many scams being unearthed virtually on a daily basis, the government's view has few takers. Raja is the first ex-minister to be arrested by his own government. But it certainly seems that he's not going to be the last.

An old Urdu couplet by Akbar Allahabadi sums up the situation: "Barbaad gulistaan karne ko ek hi ullu kaafi hai, har shakh pe ullu baithe hai, anjaame gulistaan kya hoga." (One owl is enough to destroy a garden. Imagine the fate of the garden if there's an owl sitting on every branch of every tree in the garden.) The government must dispel this impression.

Between us.




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






When Fernando Torres, nimble striker, squeezed himself through the narrow transfer window at the last minute a week ago, he must have foreseen the storm of name-calling that would chase him around. Such is the premium put at the feet of "mega-pound" strikers; and the British record £50 million paid by Chelsea for successfully approaching (that is, poaching) Torres is not the issue. The fissure that runs down the middle of professional club football is the interest of the player and the sentiment of the fan, with the pocket and focus of the club framing the divide. That fan is now calling the Spaniard a Judas.

Part of the sustained global viewer interest in European club football is the curiosity raised by the periodic and, often, anticipated moves of players, especially the best in the world, from one homeground to another, even across national leagues. Yet, if

Torres finds himself called a traitor by the Reds now, it's because he had once famously promised he would never play for another English Club. Those who had then taken that promise at face value are unwilling now to entertain Torres' complaints about promises not kept by Liverpool. Inches within reach of Manchester United, Liverpool recently began letting go of stars and seem to be floundering at the moment — betraying a lack of the very vision that the Blues apparently have, who are making up for their lack of history with their current form. Yes, Liverpool have immensely more history; ironically, much that in recent years had been made by Torres, especially against his new teammates.

A parallel, although much more vicious, comes to mind. Remember Luis Figo's move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000? And the whiskey bottles and the pig's head thrown at him in 2002?

Perhaps, if Liverpool were not fated to face Chelsea a week after they lost Torres, El Niño would have had it a little easier.







Free and fair elections are the bedrock of a democracy. It's on the simple act of casting a vote that the most evolved form of governance known to us rests. In India, the process is made extraordinary by the sheer size of its electorate — 714 million in the 2009 general elections — making it the largest and most complex exercise of democratic franchise in the world. What cut through the unwieldiness of

Indian elections and its scourge of invalid votes has been the introduction of the electronic voting machine, replacing the cumbersome and prone-to-be-misused paper ballots. EVMs reduced the time in casting a vote as well as in declaring results. The EVM's ease, transparency and resistance to hackers, which the Election

Commission has time and again demonstrated and which has been validated by expert committees and court verdicts, however, has not satisfied everyone.

After the last general elections, the anti-EVM chorus grew louder, with the BJP, CPM and the Trinamool joining in and saying that EVMs could be, and were, manipulated. Some senior politicians even sought to turn the clock back and return to the paper ballot even. Now the EC has said that it's contemplating the introduction of a parallel paper trail to put an end to these misgivings. The suggestion by Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, on whose watch the EC has been unflinching in its position on the efficacy of EVMs, is welcome. It addresses whatever residual doubts there may be about the EVM and, thereby, the very electoral process. The technique being considered works like this: after a voter casts her vote, she will get a printout showing the candidate she voted for. She will not be allowed to take this printout back. Instead, these would be kept in a box to ensure the secrecy of her choice, and equally to reassure candidates who have doubts about e-democracy.

If it takes additional measures to quell doubts about the integrity of the electoral process, so be it. But this, in and of itself, must not be taken as confirmation about the vulnerability of EVMs to misuse.







The provision of public facilities is, primarily, done by state governments. It is not just the bread-and-butter of governance: policing, roads, land laws. Welfare-scheme and accountability innovations also emerge at the state level. And state implementation is essential to the success of even the schemes conceptualised and pushed through at the Centre, such as, for example, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the National Rural Health Mission.


Naturally, therefore, some states learn from each other. Madhya Pradesh learnt from Bihar's new anti-corruption law, just as Bihar learnt from MP's law guaranteeing timely access to public services. Gujarat learnt from Andhra Pradesh's experience on financial inclusion, while everyone wants to learn from Chhattisgarh, the only state that somehow seems to have made India's creaking public distribution system work. As conversation about policy spreads across our politics, this is a development that can only be welcomed. Yet, there exists absolutely no institutional mechanism by which these ideas can be monitored, shared and exchanged. It depends on political and bureaucratic initiative: a chance presentation at a conference in Delhi, a secretary in a state government surfing another state's website. That is hardly a sustainable or an efficient way to promote the spread of innovation.


So why should this burgeoning of state-led innovation be ignored by our institutions? The answer lies in the attitude of the Centre — and, perhaps, in the peculiar nature of the Congress party's discomfort with any form of state-level leadership. The Delhi focus of the UPA government has had several problematic effects on governance mechanisms of late. One is the simple fact that it is subverting its own national-level social-sector schemes by insisting that they be "branded" as Central, in the fear that, otherwise, state governments will take credit for them. Of course, this misses the actual remedy: making sure its own state governments are more efficient. In any case, we need a more structured dialogue among states and the Centre so that the exchange of ideas becomes less haphazard and partisan.


For that, the lead must come from the Centre, especially given the proposed expansion of entitlement schemes.







There is a proposal to amend the Copyright Act that will make it legal to import into India any book that has been validly published outside India, even if an Indian publisher has been granted the exclusive licence to publish it in India. The publishing industry is up in arms against this proposal claiming, rather melodramatically, that this will be the death of books. The truth is somewhat different.


Publishers divvy up the world by region and distribute books differently in each of these distinct territories. In most cases, this has meant local publishers have been able to increase book prices appropriately to generate greater profits locally than would have been possible had the import restrictions not existed. However, these exclusive arrangements can only work if the licence agreements on which they are based are strictly upheld. If books published outside the protected territory can be freely imported, the region-based exclusivity guaranteed under these licence agreements is useless.


Indian books have always retailed at prices lower than their international counterparts so it appears somewhat counter intuitive that the Indian publishing industry is opposing this proposal so vocally. Dig a little deeper and it appears that the real concern stems from a fear that surplus stock in other markets, the so-called "remaindered" books, will be "dumped" in the Indian market at prices that are even lower than the already rock-bottom, India-only prices.


As a matter of fact, the value of intellectual property diminishes dramatically over time. Those who own the work closest to the time of its creation derive the greatest value from it while those further away in point in time make (sometimes disproportionately) less. This is an intellectual property truism that mature markets are well-equipped to deal with, having built multi-layered distribution structures that have high street stores on one end of the spectrum with remaindered books at the other. Admittedly, as a newer market, India has fewer book stores and less time- and value-based differentiation. That is, however, where India needs to be if it wants to build a self-sustaining market-oriented publishing industry. While it might be easier for publishers to shelter behind parallel import restrictions, that approach will not build the deep distribution and retail structures that the industry requires.


If all books were released in India at the same time as they were released in the West, Indian publishers would have as much of an opportunity as their international counterparts to sell books to their readers. Each of the Harry Potter books were released in India at the same time as they were released elsewhere in the world, with considerable financial success. There is nothing to indicate that, had there been no restrictions on parallel imports, the Indian sales of Harry Potter books would have suffered on account of cheap remaindered books.


But publishers never intended for these arguments to apply to new releases. That market is profitable whichever way you cut it. What is more important is for Indian publishers to be able to continue to release books into the Indian market much after the date of their international release. This will allow them to dribble books into India at their own pace, well after their shelf life in foreign markets has expired, and to charge a higher price for them than they would otherwise be worth.


Seen in this light, the opposition to the proposed amendment is quite obviously protectionist, allowing publishers to artificially extend their monopoly over the works they have licensed at the cost of the readers they are supposed to serve. As a result, consumers are denied access to new and fresh intellectual property and the breadth of choice that the more mature markets have to offer. What's more, readers are denied the pricing choices that exist in developed markets which allow them to choose to either pay more for fresh content, or forgo the pleasure of buying the latest book as it comes out in exchange for an eventual reduction in price.


So will this really mean the death of books? Despite the self-important rhetoric from publishers around the country, books will only die when authors stop writing, and authors are only marginally, if at all, affected by this amendment. In fact, once the protection of parallel imports is lifted and the industry is forced to take a more market-oriented approach to distribution, the resultant depth of the market and dynamism of pricing structures will likely make authorship in India more profitable. Publishers will complain bitterly about the dreadful consequences of foreign competition, just like every other segment of our economy did before they were liberalised and as in every other case, when the dust finally settles, they will realise that they are the better for it.


If only they could see that now.


The writer is an IPR lawyer at a Delhi-based firm











There are few Debroys in the world. It is not a common Bengali surname. Ones that exist are all inter-related in not-too-distant history and originally hail from Sylhet, in what is now Bangladesh. Post-1947, it was natural to head eastwards and several of them turned up in greater Assam. After my father died, I discovered a diary he left. Among other things, this dragged our ancestry back to around 1500 ACE. Since he never talked about this, I have no idea how he gathered the information. My mother says, post-retirement, he spent several weeks in the ancestral village in Sylhet and dug up old records.

There is a fascinating story of human migration in the account. A family migrated from Kannauj and turned up in Karna Suvarna in Bengal. Karna Suvarna is near Baharampur in Murshidabad and was the capital of Gauda (Bengal) under King Shashanka. Several centuries later, around 1500 ACE, the earliest known ancestor was someone named Boron Deb, who lived in Karna Suvarna. The economy was in bad shape and opportunities were rare. To better their lives, Boron Deb's three sons headed off in three different directions — west, north and east. Nothing further (beyond names) is known of those who headed west and north. The second son (Radhakrishna Deb) headed east and settled down in a village known as Paila in Sylhet. This was the time of Sher Shah and, later, the Mughals. But in either case, there was a premium on knowledge of Persian, and Radhakrishna Deb invested in this skill. Consequently, he rose rapidly and was conferred the title of "Roy" by the local administration.

The rest of the genealogy is boring, till 1870. We only have names. However, what's interesting is that in early years, only names of sons were mentioned in lists of offspring. Daughters, or wives of sons, began to get mentioned by name during the 18th century. My grandfather, Rajanikanta Deb, was born in 1870. There was a premium now on knowledge of English. It is unlikely he knew of Radhakrishna Deb's success with Persian. However, several centuries later, Rajanikanta Deb invested in learning English and reaped dividends, though most of his wealth was wiped out in the Great Depression; 1947 eliminating the rest.

At some point, the Alex Haley bug hits all of us. I mean Roots, not The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

I have always wondered if one could drag this back beyond 1500 ACE.

As an offshoot of the Human Genome project, one can do this now. I have wanted to do it ever since I read about this in Nayan Chanda's Bound Together. He tracked his ancestry back to Africa from Gujarat. Three years ago, you could only do this in the West. It can be done in India now. The testing isn't done in India. You give the DNA swabs in India and pay in Indian rupees. But the swabs go abroad for testing and you wait three to four weeks for the report.

These are mouth swabs of saliva, not blood. Blood samples require greater temperature control for transportation. Saliva is easier. There are other DNA-based tests that can be done, not just ancestral roots. For instance, the most popular at this particular collection centre is paternity tests. A child can also be tested to identify what diseases it is genetically prone to. The ancestry test is based on mitochondrial DNA, mitochondria being the organelle (sub-unit of a cell) in which this DNA is located. The mtDNA is inherited through the mother and my test was based on this. There is apparently some kind of mtDNA transmission that goes down the father's line, but that test is not that reliable.

Everyone's gene has something called a short tandem repeat (STR). This is a DNA marker that is unique to an individual and, based on this, there is an STR profile. I inherited such a marker from my father and another from my mother. But, as I have said before, the one being used is the one through the mother's line.

There is also something called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), with 13 codes. Once you do your test, your STR profile will list the frequency with which each of these 13 occurs in your STR profile. The next step is to match this with the presence of similar patterns across anthropological regions.

The earliest we go back to is Mitochondrial Eve. She lived in Africa, 120,000 to 150,000 years ago. She had three daughters, so to speak, L1, L2 and L3. L1 stayed on in southern Africa. L2 moved to central and western Africa. The relevant line is L3. This moved to the Near East 70,000 years ago. From the Near East, one branch moved to southern Asia and Australasia 60,000 years ago and another moved to Europe and Central Asia 40,000 years ago.

I had expected my line to be the one that moved to southern Asia and Australasia. Therefore, it was a matter of some surprise that there were no markers along that expected line of migration. Instead, the matches were in Europe, not even in Central Asia. About 20,000 years ago, the markers track migration to North America and those migrants share the same codes that I do, as do markers of European migrants to Australia. But it doesn't seem plausible that North American or Australian ancestors would have left their footprints in Kannauj. One must appreciate all this is probabilistic and stochastic, not certain or deterministic. How did a European ancestor turn up in Kannauj in UP? The logical explanation doesn't fit the facts. As I have said, there are no matches along the expected land-route of migration towards southern Asia. That's what Nayan Chanda found and that's what doesn't exist for me.

Migration patterns emerge when there are large movements of population, not when there are one-off incidents. Perhaps the answer lies in sea-based, one-off migrations through Norse adventurers and Arab traders, probably the latter, around 1,500 years ago. There was an Arab slave trade that pre-dated Islam. And we know that slaves from Europe did turn up in greater India, through ports like Debal, Janjira and Surat. Roots may have been the right image.

MtDNA hasn't plugged the hole from 40,000 years ago to 1500 ACE. But perhaps DNA testing will evolve over time and become more specific.

For the moment, it hasn't answered questions. Instead, it has raised many more.

The writer is a Delhi-based economist







Members of the House routinely "pulled knives and guns on one another. There were shoving matches and canings... tables were flipped, inkwells and spittoons went flying."

No, that's not a description of India's Parliament. Rather, it's from an article by Joanne Freeman, an American professor of history at Yale University, describing typical behaviour in the United States Congress in the mid-nineteenth century. Yet today, while Americans may bemoan the lack of bipartisanship in their polity, their legislatures cannot be faulted on civility and rule-based functioning.

When we Indians decry the state of our Parliament, we mostly focus on the symptoms, not the underlying causes. The undesirability of disruptions and the repeated adjournments of Parliament are obvious and have been done to death. It is important to shift the discussion to the root causes and possible solutions if we are to see any improvements.

What changed in America? By the second half of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution kicked in and transformed the US. From a country where the vast majority of the population made its living from agriculture, it went on to become the most developed economy in the world. This process was not always smooth. Neither was it uniformly "inclusive", to use the buzzword of the decade here in India. The US had its share of labour exploitation and disproportionately wealthy robber barons. But the process did reach a point where the majority of the population described themselves as middle class.

Somewhere along that transition was an inflexion point, where the middle class values of the populace — including the expectation of civility from their elected representatives — could no longer be ignored. Subsequently, rules and traditions evolved to facilitate better etiquette in the US House and Senate. There are striking parallels in this for India.There is hope, but also lessons that need to be learned.

It is our burgeoning middle class that is most dismayed by the sub-optimal functioning of Parliament. While the growth of our middle class will gradually build pressure on legislators to adhere to better standards of public behaviour, there are specific steps that need to be taken in the meantime. To do that, it is important to understand the nature of parliamentary disruptions and deadlocks, most of which can be classified under two categories. First, many disruptions are caused by small groups of MPs who are usually grandstanding for audiences back home. The second category are deadlocks that involve large groups of MPs, sometimes even the entire opposition, as in the present dispute over whether to appoint a joint parliamentary committee on the 2G spectrum scandal.

The first category of disruptions, involving smaller groups of MPs, will require implementing decisions that have already been taken as well as introducing certain modifications to parliamentary procedures. Resolutions passed by successive presiding officers of both Houses of Parliament — that is, speakers and vice presidents— and leaders of parliamentary parties, provide the moral authority for presiding officers to have disrupters physically removed for a day or even more (the legal authority has always existed).

While the speaker and vice president could, and should, take such disciplinary measures to ensure that their Houses function, it is equally important to recognise the need to provide for a structured way for MPs to legitimately play to their galleries. Many MPs, hemmed in as they are by party whips and limited time available to make a mark, find it far easier to attract attention by creating a ruckus. And the media is happy to collude by highlighting those instances rather than when MPs participate in debates.

Instead of allowing such impulses to disrupt Parliament, the proceedings can be structured to provide an outlet for it, much like school days have playground breaks for students to work off their energy. There have been proposals to restructure the daily parliamentary schedule, to start the day with Zero Hour instead of Question Hour. Since many MPs come to Parliament first thing in the morning all charged up about something or the other, this would allow them a legitimate outlet to vent their steam, and in the process signal their constituencies that they aren't just idling in Delhi. It would also prevent the routine disruption of Question Hour, which should be shifted to the late afternoon. Since the majority of MPs are actually keen on questions, that would have the added benefit of boosting attendance in an otherwise slow part of the day. Resistance to change seems to be the major reason why such proposals haven't found acceptance, but many younger MPs are in favour of such change. Perhaps it will find some traction soon.

The second category of disruption, when large groups of MPs block parliamentary proceedings, requires deeper reform of parliament. Take the current JPC imbroglio. The opposition's stubbornness can be summed up in the argument, "If the largest ever allegation of malfeasance in the country's history does not justify a JPC, then what does?" The government's obduracy lies in the stand that "Parliamentary rules provide for JPCs to be set up by consensus. The opposition is trying to bulldoze the majority opinion. If they don't agree with our stand, let them move a vote of no confidence."

There lies the rub. Our Parliament's rule-based option only provides for an "all or nothing" nuclear option of a no-confidence vote, which essentially immunises the government from almost all other challenges to its moral authority. When Parliament's rules leave other procedural options to consensus, it essentially provides a veto to the side that has the most to lose. That is impractical and a relic of an earlier age, when parties could be shamed into doing the right thing on account of public opinion. Today many parties are willing to brazen it out, and so it is time to introduce more rule-based procedures for motions and debates — and indeed, JPCs — other than the nuclear option of a no-confidence vote.

Again a lesson can be taken from the US experience, where the Senate requires not a 51 per cent but a 60 per cent vote for the majority to override a filibuster, by which a member of the minority side can hold up legislation by speaking for an unlimited time. Our Parliament needs similar rule-based, not consensus, options where a significant minority — say 40 per cent as in the US Senate — should be able to press their point short of a no-confidence motion. This would take away the government of the day's ability to dodge certain motions, or the formations of special committees like a JPC, and the country would no longer be held hostage to consensus between government and opposition.

The writer is a Lok Sabha MP from Orissa







In the 1990s, at the height of the democratic revolutions, many people assumed that getting rid of the dictator was the hard part. If the people in a country could topple the old regime, then their country would make the transition towards democracy.

But in 2002, Thomas Carothers gathered the evidence and wrote a seminal essay called "The End of the Transition Paradigm", pointing out that moving away from dictatorship does not mean moving towards democracy. Many countries end up in a "grey zone," with semi-functioning governments and powerful oligarchies.

Since then, a mountain of research has established that countries with strong underlying institutions have better odds of making it to democracy.

So I've been reading reports from the United Nations, the World Bank and other groups to see what they say about the strength of Egypt's institutions. These reports give the impression that Egypt is a place where people are trying to lead normal, middle-class lives, but they are frustrated at every turn by overstaffed and lethargic bureaucracies.

For example, Egypt does a good job of getting kids to attend elementary school, high school and college. But the quality of the educational system is terrible, ranking 106th out of 131 nations in one measure. The UN Human Development Index, which is a broad measure of human capital and potential, ranks Egypt 101st out of 182 countries.

The quality of government agencies over all is a tad better. The World Bank Institute puts Egypt at around the 40th percentile when it comes to government effectiveness. Where it really lags is in measures of responsiveness and accountability. Egypt's government agencies are among the least responsive on earth.

The government's economic reform effort illustrates the strengths and weaknesses of the governing institutions. The World Bank gives Egypt high marks for its efforts to move from a centrally planned to a more market-oriented economy.

But corruption levels are around the global average, which is to say, corruption is rife. It takes 218 days to get a building permit to put up a warehouse, with all the attending bribes. The effort to privatise state-owned enterprises turned into an enrichment scheme for cronies of the regime. For example, only two families were allowed to bid for the state-run cinema company.

Over all, Egypt's competitiveness is mediocre but not terrible. The World Economic Forum ranks Egypt 81st out of the 139 nations it evaluates. When you look inside the economic rankings, you see that Egypt does fine on many of the short-term decisions, like having a flexible wage structure, but it does horribly on long-term things.

Socially, the country seems stymied. Up until the recent rallies, Egypt has been a place where people have tried to build informal groups like unions and professional organisations, only to see the government move in to stifle or co-opt their efforts. Journalists have tried to create a space for a free press, but with only moderate success. (With 20 per cent of Egyptians going online, Egypt has one of the highest rates of Internet penetration in Africa.)

The biggest gap, by far, is political. The government has successfully prevented political parties from forming, with limited exceptions like the Muslim Brotherhood. Party-building is the country's screaming need and should be the top priority for outside assistance.

Egypt is in much better shape than Iraq was under Saddam Hussein or Gaza was before Hamas took over. It's a 40 per cent nation, mediocre in the world rankings, but not a basket case. Surveys showed that until about a week ago, Egyptians had extraordinarily low expectations for the future, among the lowest in the world.

But now things seem to be changing. And while you wouldn't say that Egypt possesses the sort of human, social and institutional capital that will enable it to achieve miracles over the next few years, you'd have to say it has some decent underlying structures. And, if led wisely, it has a reasonable shot at joining the normal, demo-cratic world.

The New York Times







So many to blame. So little space.

Donald Rumsfeld has only 815 pages — including a scintillating List of Acronyms — to explain why he was not responsible when Stuff Happened. His memoir, Known and Unknown, is like a living, breathing version of the man himself: very thorough, highly analytical and totally absent any credible self-criticism.

The 78-year-old Rumstud, as W. dubbed him, was both the youngest defence secretary in American history and the oldest. He traces a political career that spans a time when Lucy and Ricky were considered an "interracial relationship", when Gerald Ford was "fresh blood" and when Richard Nixon still had a secret taping system.

Rummy met Dick Cheney when Cheney applied to be an intern in Rummy's Congressional office, and they had many fine adventures, from figuring out how to keep the sun from shining on President Ford's neck in the Oval Office to lowering American standards on torture.

The high school wrestling champ doesn't wrestle with self-doubt. Rummy begins ladling out rationalisations in the preface. "The idea of known and unknown unknowns recognises that the information those in positions of responsibility in government, as well as in other human endeavours, have at their disposal is almost always incomplete," he writes. He quotes Clausewitz on the challenge of faulty intelligence and Socrates saying, "I neither know nor think that I know."

When you think about it, it was really all the fault of his nemesis, George Herbert Walker Bush. Rummy writes how humiliating it was to run for president briefly in the 1988 Republican primary, with no money or name recognition, when front-runner Bush didn't bother to show up for their candidate forums. Rummy has never hidden his disdain for Poppy, whom he regards as a flighty preppy who didn't have the brass to march into Baghdad and take down Saddam Hussein.

No doubt Rummy feels that if he'd been a pedigreed scion instead of a working-class scholarship kid, he could have been president. And he wouldn't have made a hash of it, like some presidents he worked for. He wouldn't have had indistinct chains of authority or confused lines of responsibility or unrestricted flow charts or unresolved internal conflicts or a paucity of inter-agency meetings or most grievous of all, memos that were not read and acted upon.

There were those in the military who considered Rumsfeld the devil incarnate, and those in diplomacy who considered him more ruthless than any global despot. Rummy dismisses reports of his masterminding as inaccurate rumours.

W., however, loved Rummy's blunt muscularity and contempt for weakness. "I was still surprised by Governor Bush's request to see me," Rummy writes about the president-elect. "He had to be aware that I did not have a close relationship with his father."

Starting on 9/11, Rummy pushed and manoeuvred to blame Saddam for 9/11 despite the lack of evidence.

He excoriates others as scheming infighters. He writes that, despite her "affinity for" W., Condi was a bad NSC chief, forcing consensus rather than letting contentious issues get to the president.

He blames Colin Powell for posturing with the press and George Tenet for being so cocky about Saddam's phantom WMD.

He even delicately blames the president, for not making incisive decisions at times on pressing matters and for not scheduling "a high-level meeting on my proposals" sent in a memo.

He says it was Tommy Franks who didn't want a lot of ground forces in Tora Bora, when Osama got away from us. He blames the generals for not telling him he needed more troops to secure Iraq — as though he would have listened. He blames the Geneva Convention's drafters for not knowing detainees of modern "asymmetrical" wars would need rougher treatment. He blames the Supreme Court for its "novel reasoning" defending detainee rights.

He blames Katrina on...

Oh, never mind. You get the idea.

The New York Times







If corporate India were to poll today on India's toughest bosses, Wipro chairman Azim Hasham Premji would probably top that exalted list. Time and again, Premji has shown that he is made of exceptional pluck — running his organisation with a merciless hand, firing business heads for not showing results and speaking his mind on subjects other bosses soft-step around.

On a recent Monday — the same day Wipro announced some unspectacular quarterly results — Premji dispensed with the two co-CEOs of his software services business. The two gentlemen, Girish Paranjpe and Suresh Vaswani obviously had not an inkling of the move: just days prior, the duo was doing the fashionable corporate thing — guest editing a newspaper together.

It was the fourth guard-change at Wipro since it turned from a family-run vegetable oils company to a leading global outsourcing firm. At its Sarjapur Road headquarters, the announcement stunned Wipro-ites and reduced some of them to tears. After all, just three years prior, Premji had promoted the two executives, who have five decades at Wipro between them, to the much-vaunted dual leadership role.

Wipro is currently India's third-largest outsourcing firm, trailing after Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Technologies. But its peers are growing much faster than Wipro. In fact, at current growth rates, fourth-placed Cognizant Technologies is all set to overtake Wipro in the Indian outsourcing companies' rankings.

Apparently, there was reason enough to incense the no-nonsense Premji who owns three quarters of Wipro's stock. Following the quarterly results debacle, Premji's personal wealth (on account of his holdings in Wipro) had just dipped half-a-billion dollars or thereabouts.

For his blunt, fearless manner Premji has a fan following both within Wipro and outside. Two of his former CEOs refused comment for this column but his admirers think the government should be run with an iron hand like Premji runs Wipro: perform or face the music.

Some years ago, in his typically forthright speaking style, Premji took on the Karnataka government head on for its clumsy handling of Bangalore's basic infrastructure. For his daring, Premji incurred the wrath of the then chief minister. The result: the road leading to Wipro's Sarjapur Road headquarters remained crater-marked for years.

More recently, Premji blasted the UPA government for its governance deficit, calling it a "national calamity". This was just a day after he was conferred the Padma Vibushan award, the only Indian industrialist to be honoured with the country's highest civilian award.

At the World Economic Forum at Davos, Premji took on the United States and articulated what the Indian government has been unable to do so far: that developing economies are "more than fed up" with being lectured by Western countries like the United States on opening up the Indian economy while they showed no reciprocity to Indian companies.

Among all of India's entrepreneurs, Premji's management style is a stand out. The 65-year old billionaire is known to be extremely conservative in compensating even his top rung. In that tech industry, that is swimming against the stock-options tide adopted by his rivals. The insider joke at Wipro is that Premji is "all stick, no carrot".

Premji's dislike for ambitious, hero-like CEOs is well-known. At Wipro outperformers are rewarded with operational freedom — what executives jokingly call the Wipro Opium — rather than large pay packages or generous stock options.

Premji, who is known to describe himself as "unemotional", has been least apologetic about the high-profile exits from Wipro, whether Ashok Soota or Vivek Paul, or the recent Paranjpe and Vaswani.

Premji blamed the last two for not reading business's U-turn from global recession.

At Wipro, the leadership constant has been Premji himself who continues as chairman and managing director. In September last year, the company appointed Premji's son, Rishad, 33, as its chief strategy officer, setting off speculation whether it was grooming for an imminent leadership takeover of the father's approximately $17-billion empire.

The newly-appointed CEO

T.K. Kurien probably already knows about the two sure-fire strategies to ease up the unsmiling Premji — good quarterly results and good food. The daunting truth, however, is that even if his tough boss smiles momentarily, Kurien will remain a CEO-on-probation, like his predecessors, for all the years he is at the top job.









The Census Commissioner has done well to put a deadline of two years to process all Census data, and that's with the detailed tables tabulated on the basis of the full sample—while the detailed tables were based on a small sample before 2001, the decision to use the full sample caused a delay the last time around, and users had to wait till the second half of the decade to make use of the 2001 Census data. Given the plethora of social schemes, and now the possibility of looking at schemes aimed at particular caste or religious groups, it is vital to get the Census data at the earliest. The government has decided not to canvass caste data as part of the second phase of the Census that begins February 9 (the revision round will take place between March 1 and 5) in order to ensure the data is not contaminated (a caste group may be tempted to understate some data in order to get more benefits). As of now, there are no plans to give a caste-wise break-up of ownership of assets like mobile phones or amenities like toilets, but it will be possible to generate such data as well. Our view is that since data on caste is being collected, we may as well get as many details on various caste groups as possible. It is up to researchers to ensure the data is normalised before comparisons are made—so if the data shows the proportion of SC/STs in modern services is below their share in population, researchers would do well to see what the SC/ST share is among the country's graduates since, presumably, a graduate degree is the minimum requirement for such jobs.

As always, the Census will offer colour-coded maps to indicate the levels of various amenities across the country, the proportion of graduates, ownership of mobile phones and so on; indeed, the maps can be super-imposed on one another, making it possible for instance to see the impact of education on asset-ownership or sanitation or employment-type for that matter. Presumably the government will keep this in mind while designing various welfare and other schemes.

One big fear, given that Census officials will be canvassing information on each individual in the country, is that individual data could leak into the wrong hands. While there will be the usual stringent checks to prevent this from happening, the Census Commissioner says individual names will not be digitised—so while the data will be available for aggregates, no individual data will ever get generated. India's Census is the world's largest such exercise, and at probably the lowest cost as well—let's ensure we use the data to the fullest extent.





The world's first airmail flight took place between Allahabad and Naini 100 years ago, and India Post will be commemorating the occasion by re-enacting the flight on February 12. The Americans claim that their first official airmail flight pre-dates ours. But the difference runs into just a few hours and the likeness is much more substantial. The men who flew mail over the Ganges and California in 1911 were working "by the seat of their pants", without fancy instruments or navigational aids or radios. Their pioneering efforts didn't just revolutionise communication but also transportation, convincing the world that the airplane was practicable. Of course, the airmail had only been the latest chapter in the evolution of postal services. For example, Egyptians and the Persians were using homing pigeons 3,000 years ago, and the Orissa police continued to deploy them right into this century. Over in the US, founding father Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general. Modern times have seen both countries join others in recognising postal services as a fundamental government function. In France, the post is the country's second-largest employer! But the digital revolution and the rising costs of, say, servicing the Havasupai Indians at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for the same postage paid by those in Manhattan are throwing up big challenges.

India Post is taking on these challenges much more successfully than the US Postal Service. While the latter is looking at closing thousands of branches, much to the chagrin of affected local communities, the former (already the world's biggest network) is looking at expanding. While the former looks for the life jacket of moving counters into existing retail establishments such as supermarkets, the latter is looking at evolving financial supershops that provide insurance, banking, etc, alongside distributing mails. This technology upgrade and rebranding also has a global dimension, with MoUs having been signed with countries ranging from Australia and China to South Africa and UAE in order to provide highly customised business services, including airmail services. Cheers to coming full circle, with notable deviation.







Deeper and deeper. That's the depth of the hole the government is digging for itself in the CVC PJ Thomas case before the Supreme Court. If it wasn't bad enough that the Attorney General told the Court integrity couldn't be a criterion for the CVC's appointment, he followed this up by saying only the government had the right to look into the CVC's qualifications, later he said the selection panel that approved his appointment (comprising Prime Minister Singh, home minister Chidambaram and Opposition leader Swaraj) wasn't aware of the palmolein case against the CVC. The latest in this series of gaffes is the argument that the mere filing of a chargesheet against him by the Kerala government did not amount to a stigma on Thomas! (Never mind that charge-sheeted officials don't get promoted until they're proved innocent.)

In actual fact, the government got it right when it made light of the palmolein case, it's just that it never managed to convey this. Where the government got it wrong, of course, was that Thomas should never have been appointed, but for a very different reason.

Indeed, while BJP leader Sushma Swaraj opposed Thomas's appointment as the CVC, it does appear she did so for the wrong reasons. Swaraj opposed Thomas as she said there was a demand to prosecute him in a palmolein import decision he took when he was in Kerala in the late 1990s, a decision that is supposed to have caused a loss of Rs 2.3 crore to the Kerala government. Assuming the central government affidavit in the Thomas case is right on facts, it does appear Thomas got caught up in local Kerala politics on the case. On December 31, 1999, the state government asked that Thomas be prosecuted. The matter went back and forth for years (the time it took is another scandal), and by January 24, 2005, the state was saying it no longer wanted to prosecute Thomas. After a change in government, on July 25, 2006, the state once again decided it wanted to prosecute him but, and this is critical, the same government also appointed him the state's chief secretary on September 18, 2007!

Thomas shouldn't have been appointed CVC since the CVC's biggest case was always going to be the telecom one—though the CAG report hadn't come out when the interview was held in September last year, it was obvious where it was going, and the Swan and Unitech equity sales in 2008 made clear how badly the exchequer had been rooked. And Thomas had been telecom secretary under Raja. As telecom secretary, he had moved papers to tell the CAG it had no powers to examine the ministry's 'policy decisions'; as telecom secretary, Thomas failed to move to penalise companies and cancel their licences for failing to roll out their networks as part of the licence conditions. If that wasn't helping Raja, it's difficult to define what is.

What's shocking is that the government affidavit in the Thomas case explains this away as "processing of a file in a normal routine manner". That, by the way, is also the argument of arrested ex-telecom secretary S Behura—that he was merely processing a file based on a decision taken by the ministry before he joined it!

Undoubtedly the government has been economical with the truth when it told the Supreme Court that the Prime Minister and the home minister didn't know about the palmolein case since this was not put in the docket for the selection committee meeting—after Swaraj threatened to file an affidavit, home minister P Chidambaram clarified that the matter was discussed at the meeting (difficult to believe Attorney General GE Vahanvati didn't know this when he briefed the Court?). Swaraj says she was told at the meeting that Thomas had been exonerated in the matter—for the record, the government affidavit denies this was true, a point also reiterated by Chidambaram later.

Even more worrying, and this is the burden of this column, is the entire selection process, and not just of Thomas as the CVC since the cavalier manner applies to all senior postings. Vahanvati told the Court that only the CVs of all 3 candidates were given to the committee comprising the PM, Chidambaram and Swaraj. Only the CVs? That's right, look at the CVs and you'll see there's nothing in them about how well the candidates did in their jobs, or how badly they did, about whether they merely processed "file(s) in a normal routine manner" at the bidding of their bosses or whether they made even an iota of a difference in the charges they held. The CV just lists their educational qualifications, training stints and postings.

None of this can explain why Thomas was selected over the others on the panel—Bijoy Chatterjee and Subbaroyan Krishnan. Chatterjee and Thomas are both from the 1973 batch, both got a first division in graduation and post-graduation in physics; Thomas followed this with another Masters, in economics, while Chatterjee did an MSc; Chatterjee's first stint at the Centre was in 1978 while Thomas's first one was in 2009—to that extent, Chatterjee's CV is more impressive with stints in heavy industries, commerce, finance, petrochemicals and even the Cabinet secretariat while at the Centre; both trained abroad for a year; both have done various short-term courses from 1 week to 8 weeks (Thomas did one in "MS Office 97 and Internet Applications" for a week with the NIC while Chatterjee did one in "Science & Technology" for a week with CMC); neither has any award or publication.

What is one to make of this since there's nothing to tell us how any of the candidates distinguished themselves, unless you assume from the affidavit that processing a file "in a normal routine manner" is a virtue!

Since it was Thomas who got selected and not Chatterjee, presumably this means Chatterjee didn't do as much outstanding work as Thomas did—there's nothing, however, on the record to show this. So how did the committee come to a decision? And, as has just been pointed out, Thomas's acts of omission and commission as telecom secretary were clearly not put on the record.

It's not clear if this is standard procedure for other appointments, such as for jobs as secretary, but if so it is truly frightening since it suggests that decisions are taken before and the formal selection process is a mere formality. It would be interesting, in the context of Thomas, to know how the 3 candidates were shortlisted—was it tenure of service, was it academic qualifications, was it ability to do work "in a normal routine manner" or was it a more honest toss of a coin—assuming, by and large, that tossing of a coin can't be rigged!

Perhaps it's time to make public under the Right to Information all records of the selection process, and not just for Thomas but for all appointments from the rank of joint secretary and above.







From Kyoto to Copenhagen and then Cancun, the pace of the negotiations on a global compact on climate change has been faltering. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been quoted just last week as saying that he feels the effort at reaching agreement on another global compact may not be worth it.

This should not be surprising. The intensity of feeling on the eve of Copenhagen when people were telling us we only had a week to save the world was always misplaced. Given that the

'Development Round' at Doha is still inching its way after several years to an agreement, we should not be surprised that climate change negotiations have taken time.

But mere delay will not necessarily get us to an agreement which is in consonance with the expectations of those who want a binding global agreement. The difficulty lies not in the nature of international diplomacy, but at the very theoretical foundations of the project. Economic theory, albeit of a generation now forgotten, argued cogently that such projects cannot be realised in theory.

One of the reasons for this is that from the very beginning the problem was mistakenly defined as 'global warming' rather than 'climate change'. Global warming focuses on a single variable—mean temperature and the trend in it. But climate change has manifested itself much more as greater volatility in temperature than previously. If the negotiators are to command public support, they need to refocus on volatility and not on trend.

The idea that the world will come together to accomplish a common object, which it 'should' perceive is in its own interest, faces the difficulty that rich and poor, continental countries and island states, coastal regions and mountainous ones, have different preferences regarding what they are willing to give up for saving the world from climate change. This reminds one of what Lionel Robbins argued in the 1930s, that utility was not comparable across individuals. Utilities were not interpersonally comparable nor aggregable.

Daunted economists changed their tack. They began to define the aggregate not in terms of utility but in terms of income. The attraction of this technique is obvious, as the Stern Report showed, for the global warming problem. But what allows us to add up incomes together, not only of people living contemporaneously but also of future generations? The value judgement required is that we are all in this together, that our well-beings are intertwined and that if we do not do something soon, future generations will suffer. Sound as these values are, they can be and are contested politically and socially.

In 1937, Friedrich Hayek, in an article titled Economics and Knowledge, argued that knowledge was scattered across individuals and regions. The economic problem was to pool together this local knowledge most efficiently. It was difficult, if not impossible, for any single agency to know everything that was known locally. Even if one did aggregate all local knowledge, it would very soon become obsolete because at the local level knowledge keeps changing.

This is the classic co-ordination problem. One way of coordinating local knowledge was via the price mechanism, but that need not be the only way. There can be many cooperative strategies used to share knowledge locally. Decentralised knowledge defies any single method of aggregation.

The relevance of the Robbins-Hayek critiques to the global warming issue is that it is difficult to get people to agree to a single objective and arrive at an agreed set of policies to reduce the target level of temperature. People have markedly different preferences and are not easily persuaded to enter into redistributive policies at present or commit themselves to them over an uncertain future.

While carbon emissions are homogeneous across the world, the opportunity cost of reducing one unit of carbon emission differs widely across countries and regions and people. The developing countries value growth more than reduction of emissions and the developed countries—some of them at least—have a different calculus.

But even if we could get such an agreement and proceed to implement it, what Hayek tells us is that a plan devised as a top-down agreement will miss out on the constantly changing situation because of innovations and new ways of doing old things, which people constantly come across.

Given that the opportunity cost of carbon emission reduction differs widely, the action undertaken will also do so. Income transfer across regions that have a high opportunity costs to where they are low may reduce the gap and lead to faster action in the low opportunity costs areas. Yet we lack the knowledge to devise a perfect income transfer system. This is in the nature of the problem.

So, don't hold your breath for the Durban Conference. It, too, will pass.

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer






Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's observation that enforcement of environmental regulatory standards should not lead to a throwback to the days of the licence-permit raj strikes a jarring note in an era of enlightened, science-based conservation. By projecting regulation as a threat to economic development, he has brought needless pressure to bear on the nascent efforts of Minister Jairam Ramesh to bring accountability and transparency to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). In his address to the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, the Prime Minister lamented the weakening of the ancient symbiotic relationship between society and the environment on account of development and population growth; he prescribed the unexceptionable cure of sustainable development and called for inter-generational equity. But his advocacy is short on conviction because it comes laced with the scare scenario of bottleneck controls. It is certainly unhelpful to Mr. Ramesh, who has been working hard to strike the right balance between GDP growth and conservation, reduce carbon emissions without sacrificing growth — and vitally, to steer the MoEF away from the path of rubber-stamped environmental clearances. Such is the pressure on the Ministry, including from other Ministries, that it has had to show cause why it is implementing fundamental laws such as the Forest (Conservation) Act.

The MoEF now has the difficult task of introducing greater scientific rigour in environment impact assessment of projects. The Minister has gone about his job seeking expert counsel, holding public hearings, and publishing committee reports. This refreshing approach also serves a public education function and Mr. Ramesh must persist with it. His priority should be to make the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 effective; a weak EIA regime can do much harm. The Ministry's committee on the Posco project in Orissa, for instance, recorded "serious lapses and illegalities" in EIA and the majority of members recommended revocation of clearance granted in 2007 for a minor port and steel plant. That the Ministry had to subsequently ignore the report and conditionally clear the project is a measure of the pressure it faces. The present onslaught on environmental regulations, most of which are poorly enforced by State governments, is a far cry from the time of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who pioneered them in a different era. She memorably described unplanned development as violence against the landscape. In recent times, the Forest Rights Act has joined the list of progressive laws protecting the rights of people, and forests. Political India needs to learn the virtues of good environmental governance, which limits exploitation of natural resources to sustainable levels.





Even for stock markets used to a high degree of volatility, the sharp fall in the benchmark indices, the Sensex and the Nifty on February 4, was exceptional. The Sensex lost 441 points, or 2.39 per cent, to close at just above 18,000, a five-month low. The 50-share Nifty fell below the psychologically significant level of 5,400. Sharp falls in the share indices are not uncommon. During the current financial year, the Sensex registered a decline of 2.38 per cent or more on at least five days. What makes Friday's slump striking is that it reinforces a belief that Indian exchanges are not just correcting themselves to trade at sustainable levels over the near term but are undergoing a major directional change. According to this view, despite a 10 per cent drop since January, the markets have not yet found the floor. Further declines are possible. The reasons for such pessimism are not far to seek. The recent declines are attributed to concerns over the macroeconomy, especially the apparently intractable inflation. The RBI, which recently hiked interest rates and marked up its inflation target for March 31, 2011 might be forced to tighten money supply further. Both the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have cited inflation as the 'number one' concern. However, the GDP growth is likely to maintain its momentum.

Recent trends in the emerging markets are ominous, the Indian stock exchanges being among the worst performers. Going by the developments in all the major emerging markets over last week, it appears that the investors have lost much of their enthusiasm for these markets, especially those in Asia. Just in a week, investors have taken $7 billion out of global emerging market funds, with China, India, and Indonesia witnessing the biggest outflows. As for India, the foreign institutional investors have sold Rs.9,339 crore of stocks so far this year. There are important messages for policymakers and investors. The exodus of investors is a rude reminder to policymakers of the danger in depending too much on short-term inflows to bridge the current account deficit. For the investors, the next few weeks will determine whether the markets will consolidate around the current levels or plummet to the rock-bottom levels they touched in January 2008.. All of a sudden, just weeks before the Union budget, increasing uncertainty seems to have gripped the stock markets.








The recent campaign in support of Dr. Binayak Sen has received much publicity. The mainstream media has enunciated his cause and dissected the evidence, conviction and judgment. Amnesty International argued that the case violated international standards for a fair trial. While Dr. Sen's conviction has received much attention, there is a need to foreground the context and to enunciate the larger issues facing the nation.

History and precedent: The ancient history of the Indian subcontinent is well recognised. However, the concept of an Indian nation state is much more recent. Diversity of traditions, cultural dissimilarity, religious heterogeneity, regional disparity and geographical variations divided the sub-continent. However, antipathy to British colonisation bound its diverse peoples and its numerous provinces, regions and kingdoms. The freedom struggle actually defined the nation.

Independent India is just over 60 years old. Its conceptualisation as a nation state is contemporary. Its federal structure and democracy are actually in their infancy. While its Constitution attempted to put together a broad framework of principles for an egalitarian society, its new rulers retained and continued many colonial traditions. The independence movement, led by the upper castes, the rich and landed gentry, morphed into its ruling class. All power over common and forestland was transferred from the Crown to the Indian government. The Indian Penal Code and other laws used by the British to rule the land were prescribed as statutes for the new India. The 19th century concept of sedition, employed by colonisers to control dissension and rebellion among the natives, is now employed to stifle legitimate debate and valid dissent among its citizens.

Developmental discord: The year 1991 was a watershed in India's economic history. Liberalisation of its economy resulted in an increase in the country's wealth and Gross Domestic Product. Nevertheless, the realisation that India needed to exploit its enormous natural resources to achieve global superpower status is not lost on its rulers and their corporate partners. The urgent need to clear forestland for mines and factories and to dam rivers to increase electrical power and water resources is obvious. The commons had to be exploited for national progress. India's indigenous peoples, the Adivasis and their ancestral lands, which had no recognised, registered and individual titles, were easy targets for displacement and acquisition. Such people, who were already marginalised with rates of malnutrition suggestive of famine, have had to pay the price for the country's development. The need for compensation and rehabilitation of livelihoods were minor irritants, best ignored. The structural violence against the poor and rural folk was dismissed as inconsequential. The armed rebellion by the Maoists is only viewed as a law and order problem. The plight of innocent civilians caught in security operations is considered unimportant in the national agenda. Human rights violations seem to be a small price to pay for a patriotic cause.

Simplistic world-views: Human rights and socialism tend to be bad words in the capitalist-development schema, as is dissent in the nationalist discourse. Simplistic world-views equate alternative perspectives and legitimate dissent as anti-national. Nationalism with its "You are either for us or against us" philosophy dismisses the discrimination of those already marginalised. Gross violations of human rights are considered as necessary evils. Human rights workers are hounded for voicing genuine concerns. The perception that those who fight for human rights have sold out to militancy is a common emotional response. Ancient statutes are employed to reign in resistance to the nationalist and development agenda.

Requiring review: Many 19th century precedents, traditions and laws in current use need serious reconsideration. Perceived threats to national security are often used to limit many freedoms guaranteed in civilised societies. Freedom of speech is often a casualty and tends to get stifled in times of war. Gag orders and prosecutions have been launched for genuine concerns, even in times of peace. The charge of sedition continues to be used in India to stifle dissent and disagreement. The use of such baggage reflects insecurity in a resurgent nation.

Many hundreds of thousands of people are currently in jail in India for minor and bailable offences. Their lack of access to legal advice and the slow and cumbersome judicial systems keep them confined for long periods and deprive them of their human rights, when bail is a valid alternative.

Studies, which have examined Supreme Court judgments on the death penalty, suggest the abuse of law and procedures, and of arbitrariness and inconsistencies in the trial, investigation, sentencing and appeal in capital cases. Contrary to beliefs that it is only applied in the rarest of rare cases, the death penalty is used disproportionately against ethnic minorities, the poor, the marginalised and the disadvantaged, all of which are factors that argue for its abolition.

India has yet to ratify the U.N. Convention Against Torture, legislate against inhuman and degrading treatment, and enforce it. Laws, which grant de facto impunity to the security forces are often prone to human rights violations and result in a complete lack of accountability. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958), the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967), the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (2006) and sections of the Indian Penal Code need serious review. Deaths of "suspected terrorists" in staged encounters with the police are common in many parts of the country. National security is often employed to cover up major human rights violations. The security personnel involved in such extrajudicial killings are rewarded rather than punished.

The executive and the judiciary are often on the same side of the development argument and sing from the same sheet. The inconsistencies and flawed interpretations of judgments by the lower judiciary demand a serious review of the process of training and audit. Such standardisation is mandatory to achieve a semblance of fairness. Issues of political pressure and corruption are too serious to be wished away and demand urgent solutions.

The practice-theory gap: It is generally believed that theory drives practice. This is a simplistic interpretation of ground realities. In fact, practice defines theory. The distinction between justice and law is an example. Justice is an agreed concept and value, which is implemented through law. However, laws often fall short of delivering justice and need to be constantly interpreted and rewritten in order to provide justice. Practice constantly engages with theory and retools it. It cites theory in specific contexts, modulating, redirecting, and even remaking it. The demand for justice brings a case before the law; this demand puts the law at issue. The demand for justice can exceed the law, bring new issues before it and consequently require an extension or a reinterpretation of it. Justice, then, renews the law and extends its hold. The law can never escape from this demand for justice since it is a demand that can never be fully met.

The demands of the new era, the different context and the call of justice, mandate a creative citing of the law in relation to the questions that present before it. Judges may opt to close off the call of justice, and renew the rule of the law in relation to the new question that is presented. On the other hand, they may take up the challenge and rethink, remake and cite the law as best as they can in a way that measures up to the call of justice. When judicial and legal practice is simply understood as an application of theory, its ability to renew and remake theory — to render it more accountable to the present, is undermined. Legal and judicial practice needs to cite and remake theory, and to be aware of its responsibility to do so in situations where laws fall short of the call for justice.

The way forward: Dr. Sen's case is but the tip of the iceberg. Many innocents languish in jail. Others serve much time as under-trial prisoners awaiting judicial review. Our slow, cumbersome and expensive judicial system needs urgent reform. Does the different context of independent India need more enlightened laws? Does our current legal and judicial practice reflect our concepts and values of justice? Do our standards of justice reflect the new resurgent India? Or are we prisoners of our colonial and insecure past? Can our legal practice change the principles of our jurisprudence? Will our experience give us the clarity and confidence to break out of the straightjackets of our current theory and practice?

The judiciary needs to reconsider laws, which conflict with fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. The legislatures should fashion enlightened statutes for the 21st century. India needs to seriously reconsider its legal and judicial practice and jurisprudence.

( Professor K.S. Jacob is on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore. The views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of any institution or organisation.)






As Egypt struggles to reinvent itself, many experts in the region say that it might look to Turkey for some valuable lessons.

Arriving at a template that effectively integrates Islam, democracy and vibrant economics has been a near-impossible dream for Middle East reformers stretching back decades. To a large extent, Egypt's inability to accommodate these three themes lies at the root of its current plight.

But no country in the region has come closer to accomplishing this trick, warts and all, than Turkey. As a result, diplomats and analysts have begun to present the still-incomplete Turkish experiment as a possible road map for Egypt.

'Envy of the Arab world'

"Turkey is the envy of the Arab world," said Hugh Pope, project director for the Turkish office of the International Crisis Group. "It has moved to a robust democracy, has a genuinely elected leader who seems to speak for the popular mood, has products that are popular from Afghanistan to Morocco — including dozens of sitcoms dubbed into Arabic that are on TV sets everywhere — and an economy that is worth about half of the whole Arab world put together."

The idea is not new. President Obama's first trip as president to a Muslim country was to Turkey in April 2009, and he hailed its progress as a Middle East model. (His visit there preceded his better-remembered speech in Cairo by two months.)

Since then, the already wide distance separating these countries has grown. Turkey's economy and its internationally competitive companies are expanding at a relentless pace. Meanwhile, its mildly Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seems on a path to win his third election in a row, having effectively neutered a once-all-powerful military apparatus long seen as the guardian of secularism in the country.

It has not always been this way.

Indeed, when Hosni Mubarak came to power in Egypt in October 1981, after the assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat, Turkey was still being governed by its army, which one year earlier intervened to impose a sense of order on the country's fractious political scene.

But while Mr. Mubarak, a military man himself, banked upon authoritarian rule, paying only lip service to democratic institutions and running rigged elections, the general behind the Turkish coup, Kenan Evren, moved to withdraw from politics. The constitution he imposed left the military considerable scope to meddle in political affairs, but it allowed civilian institutions to bloom.

On the economic front Egypt maintained State control, with many restrictions on foreign trade and domestic competition. By contrast, Turkey, which hopes to join the European Union, has opened up its economy and unleashed a dynamic private sector.

Today, with similarly sized populations of about 80 million, Turkey has an economy that is nearly four times the size of Egypt's.

Its recent growth spurt has been driven by Mr. Erdogan, who came to power in 2003 and focussed first on reducing deficits and bringing down inflation.

Only after he demonstrated success in raising living standards did he feel confident enough to overcome opposition from the determinedly secular army and the cosmopolitan elite in Istanbul by introducing elements of Islam into Turkish public life.

He has been rewarded with broad popular support at home — demonstrated in September when Mr. Erdogan easily won a referendum that further diluted the military's powers — and growing influence abroad.

Obama, Turkey and the crisis

In responding to the Egypt crisis, President Obama telephoned Prime Minister Erdogan twice in six days to discuss the unfolding events, and administration officials say they have been keeping in close contact with their Turkish counterparts at all levels.

"There's no question that Turkey can play a role," one administration official said. The official, speaking on grounds of anonymity, noted that Mr. Erdogan and Turkish leaders had publicly called for Mr. Mubarak to listen to what the protesters on the streets of Cairo had been saying — words that might have heartened democracy advocates in the Muslim world.

Turkey's ability to thrive as a predominantly Muslim country that maintains diplomatic relations — though chilly — with Israel is one that American officials would like to see other Muslim nations develop.

But it is also true that actions taken by the Erdogan government against the Turkish news media have been a cause for some concern, a point made recently by the new American ambassador to Turkey, Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., who was ambassador to Egypt from 2005 to 2008.

With the Egyptian military likely to play the role of political guarantor in any transition from Mr. Mubarak's rule, analysts suggest that Turkey might serve as a model for introducing new political parties, writing a constitution from scratch and ultimately stepping aside and letting the democratic process play out (as uncomfortable as that might be) — all of which the Turkish military has done since the 1980 coup.

"The military did not overplay its hand in Turkey," said Soner Cagaptay, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Mr. Cagaptay also said that even though Mr. Erdogan had made gains in pushing his Islamist agenda, the military served as an effective restraint.

"The relative moderation of Islamic parties in Turkey is due to the military," he said.

There are still substantial differences between the countries. For the Turkish military, its organising philosophy has always been preserving the secularist traditions that Turkey's post-World War I founder, Kemal Ataturk, set in place. In Egypt, while the Muslim Brotherhood has been officially banned, the army has been seen more as the defender of the authoritarian status quo rather than secularism itself.

How the military in Egypt deals with the Muslim Brotherhood — by far the most powerful civic force in the country — will be crucial in determining the country's political future.

Can it, as was the case in Turkey, encourage the formation of competing political parties? And can it encourage the moderate elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to come to the fore rather than its more militant factions?

Turkey may have a more direct role to play on that front. Mr. Erdogan's party has already established ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — a result of Mr. Erdogan's long and successful campaign to present himself as a dominant and increasingly anti-Israeli voice in the Middle East.

According to research by Dore Gold at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, three members of the Muslim Brotherhood — two of whom serve in the Egyptian Parliament — were on the Turkish-sponsored ship that was attacked by Israeli forces on its way to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip in May.

"There is a great deal of ideological compatibility between the A.K.P. and the Muslim Brotherhood," said Mr. Gold, a former top adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, referring to Mr. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party. "This is something to watch carefully."

Perhaps, but in the end that could be a plus rather than a minus.

For all his Islamist sympathies, Mr. Erdogan is at root a pragmatist. As a young firebrand he was jailed for his antisecular rhetoric but now, after working within Turkey's democratic framework rather than outside it, he is recognized as perhaps the Middle East's most influential figure. ( Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.) — © New York Times News Service








The Egyptian uprising has continued to flare despite the regular cycles of heavy violence that have targeted its supporters who are seeking an immediate exit of an archaic regime led by Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's President for 30 years.

Since the outbreak on January 25, the pro-democracy supporters have faced beatings, teargas barrages, water cannons, and more sinister of them all, attacks by State sponsored criminal gangs. Yet, despite repeated assaults, they continue to hang on, sensing that victory may not be far away.

The spirited revolt, which has continued to surge defiantly, has been ignited by Egypt's youth, which has included within its ranks, some of the country's brightest minds. Creative artistes, intellectuals, filmmakers, as well as a new generation of politicians and human rights activists have pitched in, imparting solidity and sophistication to the uprising. Quite remarkably, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group, not expecting the rapid turn of events, has been late in joining the pro-democracy movement. The emergence of a new leadership core of the uprising — youthful and mostly liberal — minus the Muslim Brotherhood has been bad news for the Mubarak dictatorship.

For nearly three decades, Mr. Mubarak has tried to convince his own people and his Western allies that his authoritarian rule should not be opposed as it was a bulwark against the rising tide of Islamic extremism, represented by organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood. But with the Muslim Brotherhood not occupying centre stage in a popular uprising, the lie of the looming threat of an Islamist seizure of power in Egypt has been nailed. On the contrary, the opposition, liberated from the moderate versus extremist narrative, was pushing for a political agenda of its own. As the uprising grew stronger, the debate was no longer over a choice between the threat of Islamic terror and stability, but instead over outdated authoritarianism versus democracy. For the first time during the Mubarak-era, the opposition, managed to bring into focus the regime's grave ills. It turned the spotlight on real issues such as the denial of civil liberties, police brutality, heavy corruption, spiralling joblessness, nepotism and crony capitalism, which have made millionaires out of the select group of people who are part of the regime's oligarchic inner circle.

Question of goals

Critics of the movement argue that apart from seeking Mr. Mubarak's exit, the pro-democracy activists are largely in the dark about their own political goals. However, the opposition argues that this is misleading. The broad principles of the movement are well defined and cover legal and political issues, including the call for the lifting of the state of emergency laws, which in the opposition's view have denied the people free elections, the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, respect for human rights, besides imposing severe restrictions on the media.

The pro-democracy movement has also demanded urgent action against corruption, which in Egypt, according to Transparency International, is among the highest in the world. Besides, the protesters want a more people-friendly economic policy which can tackle the country's high unemployment rate. Nearly 40 per cent of the country's 80-million population currently earns an income of as low as $2 a day. Mr. Mubarak's claim that his regime has provided his people adequate physical security has also been dismissed by the opposition, especially after 23 Coptic Christians were killed during the New Year's day bombing outside a church in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.

Social media tools

Egypt's on-going revolt is the result of careful planning on Facebook and other social media tools by a young group of bright people, who have managed to draw all major societal groups — the working class, government employees, professionals including lawyers and journalists, students and women — into a new age movement for fundamental change.

The build-up to the uprising has been the result of a collective exercise in which the April 6 Youth Movement appears to have played a leading role. This movement is essentially represented by a Facebook group started in early 2008 by Ahmed Maher and Ahmad Salah. It took root when in April that year, it supported an industrial strike in the Nile delta town of El-Mahalla El-Kubra. The organisers established a network of bloggers and citizen journalists and with their support publicised the strike by posting pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. They also sent out alerts about police movements and mobilised legal aid for the strikers.

Turning point

The 26-year-old Asma Mahfouz, one of the late entrants to the April 6 group, has now established herself as one of the dynamic leaders of the revolt, playing a key role in organising a march of a million people on February 1. The mobilisation of nearly two million people at Tahrir Square for this march has emerged a turning point of the revolt. As the night thickened on that day, President Mubarak announced on State television that he would quit office in September, but till then would be in charge of steering Egypt's political transition. However, there was a sting in the tail as this speech was followed the next day by an assault on pro-democracy activists assembled at Tahrir Square.

Other organisers of the uprising include "We Are All Khaled Said Movement," named after Khaled Said, a young activist, killed in Alexandria in police custody. The Kefaya (Enough) movement, which had earlier played a pioneering role in breaking old taboos by openly and publicly launching a scathing attack on Mr. Mubarak's rule, is also a core member of the opposition. Kefaya has been a staunch advocate of constitutional reform, and has played a major role in highlighting the changes required in Egyptian law that would allow multiple candidates to run for the Presidency.

With President Mubarak announcing his decision to back off in September, and the appointment of Omar Suleiman as the Vice-President, the focus has suddenly shifted to the opposition and its preparations to throw up a credible leadership that is capable of holding talks with the authorities for a viable political transition. The opposition has been focusing on the National Association for Change (NAC) as one of the key organisations that should steer talks that could lead to the emergence of a post-Mubarak dispensation.

The NAC is a coalition, which also includes within its fold, the banned Muslim Brotherhood. It also has in its fold Ayman Nour, a well known Egyptian opposition leader of the ElGhad Party as well as a number of celebrities from the world of cinema, art, academia and business. But the NAC has faced the challenge of reaching out to Egypt's cyber-active young brigade, which has played such a seminal role in organising the revolt.

However, on January 30, a breakthrough appeared to have been achieved when the April 6 Youth Movement, "We are all Khaled Said group," the January 25 Movement and the Kefaya backed NAC head Mohamed ElBaradei (the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief and now a pro-democracy reformer), as their representative to negotiate the difficult political transition ahead. Yet, despite the progress, the leadership issue within the opposition camp is still being fine-tuned. On February 6, the Muslim Brotherhood separately announced that it was ready to explore talks with Mr. Suleiman.

Pro-democracy activists camped in Tahrir Square have also elected 10 representatives who want to make their voices heard and shape the final position on specific issues that the opposition might adopt. The grim tussle for political ascendancy in Egypt, manifested in the uprising is a reflection of the generational shift in Egypt, where the country's young want to enter the political centre stage, so far occupied by an authoritarian old guard that has emerged from the ranks of the military. Ultimately, Egypt's young are seeking the political space that the military has occupied since the time of Gemal Abdel Nasser, modern Egypt's founding father. The late Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, both military men, have on the plain of domestic politics essentially extended the Nasserite legacy.

Challenge to authoritarianism

But by calling for democracy, which has been alien to modern Egypt, the anti-Mubarak camp has seriously challenged the well established authoritarian norms that have been ultimately guaranteed by the President and his coterie surrounding the military high command. It is therefore not surprising that the army declined to rein in the pro-Mubarak supporters when on February 2 they went on a rampage to evict the pro-democracy camp assembled at Tahrir Square. The negotiations for Egypt's political transition to a democracy, as and when they begin, are therefore likely to be messy and problematic.

Bound by its traditions, the Egyptian military is unlikely to step aside and surrender the entire political space to a civilian leadership. Besides guarding its own turf, there will be powerful external pressures that would exhort the military not to yield too much ground. The Egyptian armed forces were the underwriters of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Both Israel and its chief ally, the United States, can therefore be expected to push for an arrangement, where ironically, the Egyptian military, protective of Israel's core security interests, continues to retain substantial influence in the post-Mubarak dispensation.

On their part, Egypt's young and idealistic, after the loss of over 350 lives, are unlikely to accept political cohabitation with figures bound by traditional ties of loyalty to the military after Mr. Mubarak departs. A compromise would be all the more difficult as many of the activists at Tahrir Square have strong antipathy towards Israel, and had been active in opposing in cyberspace, Israel's assault on Gaza in 2009. Even when the street protests abate, the negotiating table can be expected to become the new battleground where a fading regime in its twilight, will confront Egypt's youthful aspirations that are defining a new political order, but which is yet to fully emerge.







The unrest engulfing Arab streets and threatening authoritarian governments is complicating U.S. counterterrorism efforts, scrambling the volatile battleground against Al-Qaeda in Yemen and raising concerns about the durability of Egypt's stance against militants.

U.S. counterterrorism officials need to move quickly to firm up relationships with veteran Mideast intelligence and security services in the aftermath of momentous changes, experts say. Lingering confusion over who will take the reins of power could hamper instant decision-making in the short term.

Over the longer term, will the U.S. be able to work as closely against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups if important allies such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh cede power to Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood?

"Right now the situation is so fluid it's just about impossible to make any determinations about long-term repercussions," said Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism deputy in the Clinton and second Bush administrations. "The counterterrorism community has to be cautious about even jumping six months ahead."

Uncertainty about whether the U.S. can depend on Arab allies to join against militants comes amid growing American concerns following a string of failed attacks plotted in Yemen and Al-Qaeda's home base inside Pakistan. Less reliance on Mideast partners could force the U.S. to strike back on its own there, if a future terrorist attack were to succeed.

"The next time American interests are attacked and there's a return address in Yemen, the U.S. may have to act unilaterally," said Christopher Boucek, an expert with the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In Yemen

U.S. counterterrorism officials worry that continuing demonstrations in the Yemeni capital in Sana'a could lead the country's security forces to focus more on protecting the government, giving breathing room to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, suspected in plots against the U.S. in recent months.

Some street protests have come from pro-democracy elements, Boucek said. Others have been stirred by Islamic fundamentalist and secessionist groups already arrayed against Saleh's government.

In a sign of the mounting alarm about Yemen's role as a terrorist staging area, President Barack Obama told Saleh on the phone this past week about the need for "forceful action" against the Al Qaeda affiliate. Obama did praise "the significant reform measures" that Saleh ordered to defuse the protests.

Some U.S. leaders worry that the fundamentalist Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, long ago locked out of power in Egypt, will wield power in a freer, decentralised government that might lead to a weakened stance against Al Qaeda and other terror groups.

"My concern is their ties to terror groups and their adherence to (Islamic) Shariah law," Republican Sen. John McCain said last week. "Am I worried about the result that the Muslim Brotherhood might gain power? Yeah, I'm scared to death. But the option of holding off on democracy is not an option."

Counterterrorism experts say the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda are hardly joined at the hip. The groups have been foes for years, quarrelling over ideological and tactical differences, often over the Brotherhood's willingness to work within political systems instead of toppling them violently. "They just don't like each other," Cressey said. "Al Qaeda sees itself as more militant, and they believe the Brotherhood isn't willing to take on the Egyptian security services."

Egypt's toughest counterterrorism challenge ahead may come as U.S. officials are forced to work with a new government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, seeking common ground against terrorist enemies even if the Islamic faction tries to distance Egypt from its neighbour, Israel. American political leaders have long fused counter terror aims with support for Israel, and contending with an altered Arab world landscape with rising Islamic factions could force hard choices.

"We'll have to struggle with this politically, especially as we go into an election year," said Phillip Mudd, a former CIA and FBI official who was deputy director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and now is a senior adviser with Oxford Analytica, a consulting firm. "The tension is between the need to work with these groups to continue the fight against (Al Qaeda) and other extreme elements and the possibility that they may go against our wishes when it comes to Israel.""Al Qaeda see themselves as revolutionaries," Mudd said. "But the rise of the pro-democracy protests on the Arab street might take the air out of the balloon in terms of their recruiting. It siphons off their youth recruits." — AP






There is a libertarian ring about a recent Supreme Court ruling which says that membership of a banned organisation itself cannot be construed to be a crime. Going by its own logic, the bench should have gone further — into the merits of banning an organisation and to consider if proscribing a party, including one which does not abjure

violence, is in order. Many have felt over the years that, politically speaking, bans themselves serve no purpose at all. They merely drive an outfit underground and make it difficult to detect and monitor, but are unable to rid a society of certain ideas. Even the Communists have said this about the RSS in India, although the two can be deemed to be each other's antipodes in an ideological framework. Nevertheless, when administrations impose a ban on a political organisation they find troublesome — and bans have been used across the world, including the United States, the "land of the free" — they merely seek to gain breathing time, without looking at whether in the long run this serves the purpose of deleting a thought process or ideological or political strain from people's minds. On the contrary, banning a party might give it a fresh lease of life in the eyes of some people.
Perhaps the Supreme Court did not appreciate this aspect, though it should have while considering a complex question that impinges on political philosophy via the notion of liberty. By not considering the question of banning an outfit but only the fate of individuals owing allegiance to one, the court, in an implied way, permitted governments to impose bans on political and ideological bodies. Thus a Ku Klux Klan, or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, were it to be established in this country, could face a ban if the government so desired. But under this ruling the government would not be at liberty to place under arrest any of its members, including its seniormost office-bearers or ardent advocates, unless they have engaged in acts of violence or instigated others to do so. This begs a question: if citizens are to be judged only by whether or not they themselves promote or instigate violence, or take part in violent activity, then the issue of their associating with a political body — of whatever description — becomes irrelevant. In that case, why did the highest court bother making a specific reference to members of a banned outfit since the nature of an outfit an individual may profess loyalty to is immaterial, and an individual will be judged by his or her own acts alone?

In reality, most outfits are breathing organisations, not unlike individuals, and profess value systems. If they espouse hatred, then violence can potentially erupt due to their very existence because of what they profess. If, apprehending this, they are banned, then it is illogical not to place fetters on their members even if they haven't committed violence or encouraged it? If society wishes to judge an individual only by his/her actions, then it might be best not to have a category of banned organisations at all. Then we'll be able to allow anybody to preach anything at all so long as they don't get down to the business of violence.







The Egyptian passion play has cornered global attention for two weeks following the Tunisian drama. Authoritarian regimes are on notice; even the Chinese are unnerved.

On the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, the second President of Egypt, in 1970, his successor Muhammad Anwar El Sadat swung Egypt away from the

nonaligned pro-Soviet orientation towards engagement with US and peace with Israel in 1977-1979, abandoning Arab solidarity. Current President Hosni Mubarak further mutated the secular, leftist and reformist agenda of Nasser to a crony-capitalist, secular and even more than Sadat pro-US construct. The result has been a gradual diminution of Egypt's influence in its neighbourhood and the Arab world. I recall in 1977, watching from my flat in Zamalak, a Manhattan-like island on the Nile, across the river a mob advancing towards an Army tank. The Riots broke out over Sadat's withdrawal of bread and gas subsidies under International Monetary Fund pressure. For two days the situation was precarious but quick subsidy restitution and force restored order. While in recent times the economy fared better, boosted by oil and gas finds, increased income from Suez Canal and tourism, basically nepotism, unemployment and corruption have increased the alienation of the common man. Egypt population is also younger and better networked through the Internet, more aware of the world and with rising expectations.

The George Bush administration realised that its war on terror following 9/11 had to be accompanied by political reform in Islamic countries to counter radical Islam's narrative. In January 2005, Bush's second inaugural speech endorsed this. Then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice spoke about it at the American University, Cairo, in June 2005, prior to Mr Mubarak's re-election. However, the turmoil in Iraq and Hamas' victory in Gaza changed US priorities. Mr Mubarak ham-handedly rigged the elections, restricting the participation, harassing Ayman Nour, his main opponent, even re-imprisoning him post-election. The US ambassador hailed the victory, the US state department spokesman guardedly welcomed it. Reality had overtaken principle.

Then came constitutional changes enhancing presidential powers, abridging citizens' rights ignoring protests by groups like Kifaya or ElBaradei's Association for Change etc. US President Barack Obama's Cairo message to the Islamic world was forgotten as he was distracted by the financial crisis, the Afghanistan war review and his domestic agenda besides the Democratic Party's electoral disaster. The issue is back in his face and so far he has addressed it deftly. He has cut the ground from beneath his ally by asking for immediate transition. US' stakes are high as its entire West Asia policy, since 1977, rests on peace between Israel and Egypt. There can be no war without Egypt non-comprehensive peace without them. Successive US Presidents have tried to finesse a settlement of the Palestinian issue, Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan heights but neither found another Arab Sadat or an Israeli Yitzhak Rabin, both assassinated by their own people. Rabin, in his 1979 memoir presciently concluded that Israel-Egypt peace was precarious unless the remaining issues were settled. He wrote, "If our efforts fail and our trial with peace does not work, Israel will find herself facing the most difficult period of her existence since the War of Independence". He concluded that also critical was the economic success of Egypt.
The dilemma for US policymakers has been between their core values as the most powerful democracy and their strategic interests. Democracies are unpredictable to work with; dictators make excellent clients, until their masses rebel. The irony is that by the time that happens the initiative passes to those the US fears the most, i.e. radicals on the right or the left. Power is, wrote Joseph Nye recently, shifting globally but also getting diffused in each country due to communication revolution. Twitter and Google collaborated to set up alternative arteries he minute the Mukhabarat (Egyptian intelligence agency) disrupted the existing ones.

The focus is now on the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan). Founded by Hassan al-Bana, in 1928 to resist British colonisation, it had its ideology magnified by Sayyid Qutb's writings and their puritanical vision of Islam, rejecting rationalism and Western values. Nasser and his Free Officers group first worked with Ikhwan and then fought them after their attempt to assassinate Nasser. Before Qutb's hanging in 1966, Nasser offered compromise, which was rejected. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, is Qutb's follower. The Ikhwan have at best polled about 20 per cent vote in parliamentary elections. In the present street protests they have remained omniscient, though their leadership has gradually surfaced. The newly-appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman wants dialogue with the Opposition, including the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan would be a factor in any free election. It is unclear what would be their foreign policy orientation. Would they breach Israeli and US red lines: rejection of the 1979 Peace Agreement, open alliance with the Hamas and excessive Islamisation of Egypt? That conditions US caution in ejecting Mr Mubarak and wanting orderly transition.

On February 4, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, in a rare sermon, delved into Egyptian developments. Ignoring the smothering of similar Iranian protests last year after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory, Mr Khamenei termed them as "sacred anger". The churning in the largest Arab nation, which historically has been the font of thought and culture in the Arab world, may be the Islamic renaissance that the Cold War froze with both superpowers preferring dictators as pawns in their geo-political chess. Soviet pawns were overpowered by their people when USSR collapsed, creating myriad democracies. Is it the turn of US pawns now? Let Mr Khamenei not exult, his street awaits him too.

K.C. Singh is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry






West Asia is in turmoil. It is a tragedy beyond words as we witness events on the streets of Cairo. There are signs of increased violence and bloodshed as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fights for his survival after ruling for 30 years.

Mr Mubarak is no amateur in the battle for survival and has dealt with five US Presidents. I don't think he is worried about the speeches given by US President Barack Obama and his administration. The bottomline is that the US needs his muscle for its long-term interests in Israel. One can witness the anarchy in Egypt as 80 million people are subject to violence and death to preserve President Mubarak and his dynasty. The situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq is chaotic as there are regular suicide attacks but are we going to see a similar situation in Egypt?

Times have changed as the Internet, with various social networking sites, has the ability to reach out to millions within a few seconds. We have seen this in Tunisia and Egypt. As people become conscious of their rights and demand greater accountability in governance, hopefully we will see the effect of this in Yemen, Jordan and Saudi Arabia too. We can only hope and pray that there is a peaceful transition of power. The US has to match its rhetoric with ground support for the aspirations of the people. Cairo is already raging and protests in Jordan and Yemen are intensifying. All of these countries are strong US allies and get massive aid.

Besides the issue of freedom, there is discontent on dynastic succession, corruption and food inflation and this crisis is getting bigger by the hour. Can Mr Obama and the Western world be silent spectators to these developments? Can the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations maintain silence and wait and watch for the situation to deteriorate? We have had a late start in the media on events in Egypt and this is not unexpected as the relations between our countries cooled off when President Anwar Sadat took over the reins of Egypt.
Little has changed after his assassination when Mr Mubarak took charge. One can only look back at the events that took place in 1950s. One can't ignore the bond between President Nasser and Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru and their "special" friendship which developed after their common struggle for freedom from colonial rule. The Suez Canal was of great strategic value and Nasser had to fight a pitched battle from many Western powers who controlled the country directly or through puppet regimes. Pandit Nehru gave more than moral support to Nasser and later when India had recovered Goa from Portugal — which threatened the use of force —Nasser proved to be more than a friend as access to the Suez Canal was denied.

One needs to go back and trace events over the last 100 years to study the turmoil Egypt has gone through. A study of the decline and the breakdown of the mighty Ottomon Empire and the formation of several states within the area will help in understanding the current crisis. It will prove that the current crisis will not remain confined to Egypt alone. It will intensify in Yemen where Mr Mubarak, his son and family are in retreat, and in Jordan where the king is clearly under siege. The circumstances surrounding the Ottoman Empire's fall closely paralleled those surrounding the decline of the Roman Empire. In the case of the Ottomans, the introduction of increased cultural rights, civil liberties and a parliamentary system during the Tanzimat (reorganisation) proved too late to reverse the nationalistic and secessionist trends that had already been set in motion since the early 19th century.

Events in Egypt have spurred many a discussion on whether India is likely to go the same way. The answer is clearly in negative for the simple reason that India is a vibrant democracy and the electorate rules the ballot box. We are not a "banana republic" but our pace of reforms is slow. We can indulge in blame-games but I am optimistic. For example, the United Progressive Alliance has enforced the Right to Information Act and armed NGOs and ordinary citizens. Sadly lack of reforms in all three sectors of governance are resulting in the government itself being evasive on crucial issues.

This is inevitable as we do not have a perfect system of governance and we must give time and avoid confrontation. We have new emerging leaders in every field — business, medicine, education, science media, arts etc. Can the political system in all three wings of governance lag in this process?
We need meritocracy to emerge and in this direction I find little wrong in the thought process initiated by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. The thinking is no different in the leaders of the BJP or other regional parties. Many are in the minority at the moment but I do not think that the process of change can be delayed any longer.

We can take a cue from the events in West Asia where durable regimes and absolute rulers are being brought down with the help of technology. Change in a democracy should not come in a drastic manner but can anyone predict the pace of change in a world which has few secrets? Change is the only constant thing in life.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister







Gratitude is not a word, it is not even a thought, it is an attitude. It is to know that behind every success is the presence of Divine Grace.


It is to be thankful not only for what we think is good, but also for all things, always. Christopher Leach remarked, incredulously, "Do you realise what this means? The fact of being alive... I still find it staggering that I am here at all."


Yet, how often we forget! And believe that we alone steer our future and create our destiny. A gardener toiled over a patch overgrown with weeds for weeks, until it became beauteous, with blossoms of every kind. A priest who passed by, would stop every day and comment, "Thank God, for sending these flowers to you. What wonders he works!" The gardener heard him with increasing exasperation, until, he finally retorted, "You should have seen it when it was his!"


A simple but profound prayer goes, "For all that has been, thanks. For all that is to come, yes." A king had a minister, who would maintain, "Thank God for all things." One day, the king injured himself. The minister looked at his bleeding finger and said, "It is good, thank God." This annoyed the king so much that he put him in prison. Inside, the minister intoned, "This is good, thank God." The next day, the king was out hunting and lost his way. Captured by cannibals, he would have been eaten, but for one fact — his injured finger. The cannibals only ate those with unblemished bodies. The significance of his minister's words suddenly dawned on the king. He released him, yet still puzzled, asked, "What possible benefit could there be in your imprisonment?" The minister replied, "Your majesty, I would never have left you alone, and accompanying you would surely have been killed."


The Buddha summed it up, "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful."








The first instinct with something old in Mumbai is either to tag it as heritage and therefore immobilise it for posterity or to break it down and build something shiny and new in its place. Actually, the first happens usually when the old thing is a structure from the colonial times and the second happens to everything else.


Which is why the use of Mehboob Studios in Bandra for a variety of purposes — other than film-making — is significant and maybe even salutary. Cities get their identity — even their soul if you want to get fanciful — by growing with the times and using spaces to suit different times and needs. It is not always necessary to tear everything down and start again (especially if all you can think of is one more shopping mall or office complex).


Let's go back to Mehboob Studios. As film shooting has shifted to Goregaon's Film City, most old and historic studios in Mumbai have closed down and just vanished. It's as if they never existed at all and this means that we have lost our connection to something which is intrinsically Mumbai. We parade Bollywood to the world as a major factor in the 'India Story" but ignore what's happening to its history in our backyard.


The last few months have seen Mehboob Studios being used as venue for renowned artist Anish Kapoor's works and this weekend for a music festival. It is a charming place and the use of the existing infrastructure for varied uses is innovative and exemplary. Using the space for art and performances allows it to remain alive and also keeps us grounded in our history at the same time. How about if the history of the studio is also displayed along with whatever is going on. As it happens, the Dev Anand 1961 starrer Hum Dono's new "rangeen" version which is currently showing in the city was shot at Mehboob Studios, so the connections are all around us.


And in these times when we are all so exercised about our entitlement to our sense of identity, it is refreshing to just focus instead on our sense of connection.


However, if Mehboob Studios is to develop further as a cultural meeting point, it needs to upgrade with a cafeteria, a souvenir shop and more spaces for public use. Accessibility is also a factor and here I mean social not geographical. An observation on the blues festival which finished this weekend might help. The tickets were not cheap — Rs2,000 a night for two and a half acts and Rs3,000 for both night. At the venue, the bar sold only expensive alcohol, averaging at Rs300 for a small shot. No wine or beer. So already, you have eliminated a section of the population which might have wanted to appreciate, savour or even learn about a form of music — originally sung by poor African-Americans incidentally — and impoverished the rest.


Oddly, the only food available was from a coffee shop chain, which didn't quite blend with single malt. Not so oddly, the rich and famous of Mumbai who will not leave their houses unless they are "invited" to "events" got free food and booze.


If Mumbai is to think of growing and becoming "world class" (what a sad mantra), we need more such venues but we need to think more inclusively and publicly.








UPA-2 in the run-up to the budget session of Parliament is plagued by two nightmares: corruption and inflation. And it is acutely aware of them. Prime minister Manmohan Singh, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia expressed their concern over inflation on Friday.


Addressing a conference of state chief secretaries in New Delhi on Friday, Manmohan Singh said inflation endangers economic growth, and that corruption will dent India's image in the international arena. Mukherjee on the same day said the government has no magic wand to bring down inflation and that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken measures to contain it. Ahluwalia at Kolkata expressed the view that inflation should come down to 7% in March from the 8% figure of December 2010. His view was based on the hope that inflation in the prices of onions, tomatoes and other vegetables will be brought down by the arrival of a fresh crop. He also expressed concern over the current account deficit of 3.6%.


The prime minister has suggested to the state governments that they should remove local levies such as mandi tax and octroi and amend the agriculture produce market laws which restrict the movement of agricultural produce across state boundaries. Of course, he did not offer it as a perfect prescription. He said state governments should takedecisions based on the local situation. Ahluwalia, too, finds that agro-marketing channels have to be freed up, and that the related laws need to be reformed. What they are both saying is that inflation, especially in agricultural commodities, is really in the sphere of the states and there is not much the central government can do about it.


Singh and Ahluwalia also referred to reforming retail — what they have in mind is FDI in retail — in order to ensure a steady supply of agricultural commodities. The focus of debates on agriculture is, thus, mainly on improving efficiency in supply chains.


The prime minister, however, put his finger on the problem when he said increase in agricultural productivity is the only way to combat food inflation. It is interesting that the GDP growth this fiscal would be around 8.5% thanks to better growth in agriculture. According to government estimates, agriculture is to expand by 6-6.5%, and agricultural per capita income is to grow by 6.5-7%. So, in a year of alarming food inflation, it is agriculture that will power the growth rate. Singh, Mukherjee and Ahluwalia may want to look at this economists' teaser.


The government, it is clear, is aware of the problems, but it is offering no ready solutions. It could be said that Singh, Mukherjee and Ahluwalia are being realistic and that they are not making unrealistic promises to conjure away the problems. It is also true that they are not trying to sweep them under the carpet. This is mostly because of the public uproar on both corruption and inflation.


Singh has suggested ways of finding systemic solutions to prevent corruption and he has mentioned the anti-corruption bills pending in Parliament — the bill to protect whistle-blowers and the one on judicial accountability. Mukherjee thinks the issue of black money stashed in foreign banks has to be dealt with within the parameters of existing treaties.


Union communications minister Kapil Sibal has traced back the violations of policy in 2G spectrum allocation to the last year — 2003 — of the BJP-led NDA government. And he has announced that retired justice Shivraj Patil's report on the working of the telecom ministry has been sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation for action. This is to show that the government is taking action against corruption where it can.


The opposition is, of course, fiercely attacking the government on these two issues. The BJP as well as the communist parties are nailing the government for its inability to control inflation and for not moving with greater zeal in tackling corruption. The two formations representing the two ends of the political spectrum are leading protests in different parts of the country against inflation and corruption. Whether they have clear-cut policy alternatives to deal with these two monsters, however, is an open question.


The government is hiding behind alibis on inflation and behind legal and administrative constraints on corruption. The UPA government has its back to the wall, though it is putting on a brave face. But this may not be enough to beat back the rising tide of discontent and anger in the country.









Yet once again Pakistan has raked up its water woes, this time about J&K's project of constructing an artificial lake from the waters of Tawi somewhere close to its bed. It has expressed its intention of sending a team in the third week of February to assess the construction of the artificial lake. Actually, the lake project had been floated way back in 1970s as part of a larger programme of improving the ecology of Jammu and providing its citizens healthy means of recreation. It was designed to be a recreation cum utility project. Pakistan's objection is that under the Indus Water Treaty, she has been given monitoring rights over the management of the waters of three western rivers, Sind, Jhelum and Chenab. All major projects which Pakistan has been objecting to are mainly located in Jammu and Kashmir, Tulbul on Jhelum, Baglihar on Chenab and other projects on the western river for the benefits of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Admittedly, water is going to be the most precious commodity for mankind and depletion of water resources is a big threat to its survival. For India and Pakistan, waters flowing down the Himalayan heights are a life line and nobody can think of choking it. Whenever Pakistan raises the bogey of India threatening to choke her water resources, New Delhi responds with assurance that she is determined to abide by the clauses of the Indus Water Treaty. The World Bank brokered resolution of water dispute between India and Pakistan in 1960. The fact is that Pakistan is embroiled in her domestic problems of serious nature including inter-provincial dispute on water sharing. Punjab is utilizing maximum quantity of water flowing in three rivers and leaves very little for Sind and Baluchistan Provinces. Recently Lashkar-e -Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed accused India of waging water wars on Pakistan. In fact Saeed has decided to launch a nationwide movement against India on the issue. He alleged India of constructing illegal dams and diverting water from Pakistani rivers. Similar statements are occasionally expressed by Islamabad. Water issue had also come up at Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary level talks last February. When asked about any violation of Indus Water Treaty being created by India with the creation of this lake/ pondage over river Tawi which is a tributary of river Chenab, State PHE Minister Taj Mohi-ud-Din said the work on this project was initiated after thorough study of Indus Water Treaty. It allows us to go for the water storage up to the limit of 0.50 MAF (Million Acre Feet) of water. For this Tawi pondage, State will be using merely 0.10 MAF of water.
According to the Indus Water Treaty, India does have a right on three western rivers the Chenab, the Jhelum and the Indus for domestic use including for drinking water, navigation, limited agricultural use and for generation of hydro electric power by construction of run of the river power projects. But keeping Pakistani sensitivities in mind India has so far not exploited its legitimate right entitled by the Indus Water Treaty. The treaty clearly says that India is allowed a maximum of 3.6 MAF storage on western rivers. But contrary to Pakistani propaganda that India is guzzling all the water, so far India has not done a single unit of storage. IWT also entitles India to irrigate crops from waters of the western rivers which means she can utilize 1.34347 MAF. But till 2008-2009, India has irrigated only 0.7924 MAF, which accounts for less than two third of the entitled capacity. According to Pak's own admission a great deal of wastage also takes place. However Indus River, which carries 65 percent of the total water, is an exception and data shows that since 2000 flow of the river Indus is increasing. There is also Permanent Indus Commission in place, commissioners from both sides have been meeting regularly and so far there have been 111 tours and 103 meetings of the commission and despite the rhetoric the commissioners are expected to meet again in May. Obviously Pakistan is exhausting the rhetoric of India trying to deplete her water resources. This issue can no more help her deflect the attention of her people from serious internal crisis. Her water woes are her creation.







Joint Parliamentary Commission row spoilt the previous session of the Parliament and is now poised to repeat the process when the house reassembles. Several bids made by the ruling party to resolve the deadlock failed because the sides had taken no compromise stance. Knowing that the opposition is determined to rake up the issue again, it appears that depending on majority vote in the parliament, the Congress-led UPA Government might think of bringing in a resolution in the forthcoming session of the parliament aiming at disallowing the constitution of JPC. Congress is emboldened by the negative effect which the recent revelations about the "right wing terror" are likely to cause on the Left, SP and even the BSP. Left leader Yechuri has already hinted that his party has reservations in making common cause with the BJP in the forthcoming parliamentary session. The Congress will try to gain mileage from this game plan. These opposition parties had supported NDA in its demand of JPC not for any love of NDA but to see the UPA pilloried over the scams issue. Evidently, lot of interaction seems to be going on behind the curtain. To neutralize UPA's move, NDA could spoil the scheme by disallowing the Parliament to meet and conduct its business smoothly. It is strange that mainstream political parties of the country on whose shoulders great responsibility devolves should be engaged in cut throat competition of pulling each other down at a time when serious questions like rising food prices and inflation have become too oppressive for the common man. Besides, in his recently concluded chief ministers' meeting, the prime minister and the home minister both presented a gloomy picture of terrorists and separatist activities colluding to disrupt internal peace in the country and threaten her territorial integrity. These issues cannot be put on the back burner something which the mainstream parties will be doing wittingly or unwittingly by deciding to stonewall the forthcoming session of the Parliament and make it a hostage to JPC issue.








Dynastic rule is quite common in many states of India and in the Centre also. With the exception of BJP and leftist parties many state level parties and the Indian National Congress at the centre have not been able to give up family politics of passing down the baton.

In India people often wonder why dynasties are so important in the Indian political scene. In some states like West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh dynasties do not matter, whereas in some states like Tamilnadu, Jammu & Kashmir and in the government of India dynasty is of paramount importance. In India dynastic rules are not undemocratic----rather they are fully democratic. The princes and princesses and all the heirs of a dynasty are elected by the people of India and only then they can enter the parliament or state assemblies.Let us examine how and why the dynasties come into politics.

Politics in India , I regret to say, is primarily based on hatred. If you have to float a political party and win elections---- you have to first of all identify which group of people you will target as enemies. If the enemies are identified it is easy for the politician to impress on the voters the need for coming out to vote in large numbers so that the supporters of the imagined enemy could be outnumbered and subdued. It is indeed very difficult for any politician to win votes in the name of all good things like development, peace and brotherhood. Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik would appear to be exceptions to the rule --however, even they are not exceptions. Nitish Kumar, for sweeping the elections in Bihar, had to create in the minds of the voters, an imagined enemy who is all against development, peace and fairplay, hinting at the prolonged misrule of RJD.....besides ensuring for his party all the committed uppercaste Hindu votes through an alliance with BJP. The Biharis in large numbers voted for JDU out of a sheer fear that if JDU is defeated, Bihar may again be thrown into the dark corridors of underdevelopment and lawlessness. Naveen Patnaik's victory was also due to his father's glory ,to some extent, and fear of being swamped by national parties like Congress and BJP. His good work was also recognised.

The entire political space in India today is divided into well demarcated areas by all the parties and each political party has its own well defined area of influence. The BJP has targetted the entire Hindu and Sikh community---especially the upper castes. This is quite a big area and almost 84% of Indians are under their scope of influence. Even if they can capture half of this huge field they will get more than 40% votes and this, in a multi-party democracy is enough to capture power. Since BJP has only 23% committed votes in India it has to somehow manage 15/16% more votes to come to power. This they try to achieve with the help of votes polled by their allies. The Bahujan Samaj Party has a well defined target area in the scheduled caste community...which covers around 15% of the electoral space. At the all India level, therefore, it is difficult for them to come to power unless they tag along with other communities. For BSP the upper caste Hindus are the biggest enemies. The BSP voters go to vote for defeating the upper caste Hindu forces. For the BJP voters the Muslims and Christians are the enemies and they come out to vote to defeat all those who wish the Muslims and Christians well.

Unfortunately for the Congress, they do not have a clear cut and well defined enemy at the moment. Earlier the voters were reminded of the struggle of Congress against the British but now that the British have left a long time ago it is difficult to persuade the voters to come and vote. Therefore it is very necessary for the Congress to connect itself directly to pre-1947 period. Gandhi and Nehru. This connection can be somehow maintained only if they stick to the Nehru dynasty as if they have to connect clectric transmission lines from Nehru to Indira, Indira to Rajiv and Sonia, and Rahul and Priyanka thereafter. They cannot afford to forget the sacrifices of Nehru against the British enemy and therefore the dynasty has to continue. They don't have a visible enemy at the moment to fight against and to win elections . So they have to create an enemy in anti Congress forces like BJP. They have to give a clarion call to the voters to defeat the BJP. This appeal will be music to the ears of Muslims and Christians who together form 16% of the population. The Congress can bank on this as their committed space and seek 24% more votes from Hindus and Sikhs taking them back to the Nehru era. By raising slogans of good governance and development this gap cannot be bridged. The party has, therefore, to remain wedded permanently to the Nehru family.

A similar situation prevails in Tamilnadu and J&k. The fight againt the Aryan/North Indian parties makes the Dravidian voters stick to DMK leaders like Karunaniddhi, Stalin,Dayanidhi, Murasoli Maran, Kanimozhi. Sheikh Abdullah is another Nehru like figure in J&K who fought against the Dogra Maharaja enemy and spearheaded a movement for plebisite in J&K through Mahaz-e-raishumari. He also founded a dynasty and Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah are the links to the pre 1947 era when the Kashmiris fought against the Hindu Dogras and also the Indians for preserving their Kashmiri identity.

Under these circumstances in many areas of India dynastic rule has become a necessity. The BJP and the left parties do not need this because they have clear cut enemies and a well defined jurisdiction in the electoral space. We therefore cannot blame parties like Congress, National Conference, DMK for dynastic politics.
Parties like BSP and BJD will also need dynasties later but they have a problem since Mayavati and Naveen Patnaik are unmarried.

(The author is former Financial Commissioner J&K)








Refugees don't leave their country because they want to……but because they have to! The biggest tragedy of partition of Indian sub continent in 1947 is the unresolved problem of Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees for the last 63 years as these hapless Hindu and Sikh minorities have still the tag of Displaced Persons (DPs). They are living in 39 refugee camps in sub human conditions under abject poverty. The partition saw the displacement of 7 million Muslims from India to Pakistan and about 8 million Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan to India after thousands of people lost their lives in frenzied religious violence. Unlike the DPs of India and Pakistan who were settled permanently by the two countries under a bilateral agreement, the PoK refugees were not settled and rehabilitated permanently in Jammu and Kashmir because India always considers PoK area as an integral part of India and these DPs are to be repatriated back to their homes when ever India regains that area. This very perception of Indian policy made Jammu as the biggest place in South Asia as the home to the refugees and DPs from Pak occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Refugees and DPs problem world over is tackled by set International Laws and Rehabilitation Policy under UN Convention of 1951 and its protocol of 1967 for Refugee Status. Article 14 of UN Declaration of HR states that every one has the right to seek and enjoy in other country asylum to escape persecution. But none of the SAARC country is a signatory to UN Refugee Status or has any internal policy for refugees. India which has become the largest democracy of the World, third largest economy of the World and is a strong contender for permanent member of UNSC, is a major contributor to the UN peace keeping forces, has been honourably providing relief and rehabilitation to Tibetan, Sri Lankan, Chakma, Afghan refugees but has failed rehabilitate PoK refugees who are still the inhabitants of camps in Jammu. Both the Indian and Jammu and Kashmir governments have remained indifferent to the Human Rights violations of PoK Refugees due to their minority status. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has discriminated with this community to the extent that the refugees of Kashmir Province were pushed into the Jammu region for demographic change with political intentions, 24 assembly seats to the PoK areas are kept frozen and except meager ex gratia assistance way back in 1947 no other National or International relief was provided to them. On the contrary laws were enacted in the state legislature to further rob their rights as in the case of Land to the Tiller law – a major portion of the agricultural land of PoK refugees was given to other people. In the case of Bill No 9 other wise called the Resettlement Act, now a law, all those persons who voluntary migrated to Pakistan or PoK are allowed to take possession of their left over agricultural land or immoveable property on their return to J&K at any time. The PoK refugees are given temporary ownership right and govt has established a Custodian department for the protection of properties to the people now living in Pakistan. The Government has shown generosity to the people who have gone to PoK terror training camps to get arms training since the onset of the present armed turmoil since 1989 to come back from all the routes including LoC, International Border and Indira Gandhi International air port at New Delhi and get relief, financial assistance, jobs and general amnesty.

There is no such policy for the PoK Refugees on the pattern of the benefits extended to other refugees of India and Pakistan under the 1954 Rehabilitation Board of India order and permanent payment of moveable and immoveable properties and other relief and rehabilitation benefits.

The Government of India has initiated various initiatives to find a solution to the vexed issue of Jammu and Kashmir imbroglio by constituting of five working groups but no representative of the PoK refugees was invited. The recent turmoil involving the stone throwing agitation in the Kashmir valley saw the Indian Government calling an all party meeting at New Delhi or sending the an all party delegation and three member interlocutors to the valley to assess the situation but the problems of PoK refugees were not on the agenda of these delegations.

The realistic approach to solving Kashmir issue is to find a solution within India and that with Pakistan. The valley centric approach of India is out dated and has failed completely. The three distinct regions of Jammu and Kashmir---- Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir have different ethnic identities and aspirations in finding a solution to the issue. The PoK refugees are the first and for most of the stakeholders the problem . Their case of genocide has to be forwarded to UN so that the perpetrators of the crime against humanity are punished. All their humanitarian and other demands have to be given priority. Meanwhile, the much needed immediate attention is to constitute Refugee Development Board, relief and rehabilitation measures uniform to all the DPs, defreezing of eight assembly seats in their favour, reservation in education institutes, allotment of land and plots to end camped life, special schemers for education al and employment and Government jobs. South Asia has special needs for refugee's laws and regional conventions for refugees and DPs. All the member countries must sign the UN Refugees Status and other international treaties for refugees so that the Refugees and DPs get immediate international humanitarian aid and protection of their HRs.

(The author is Chairman SOS International – An Organisation for PoK refugee)








A survey of small and medium industries undertaken by the Confederation of Indian Industries has indicated that obsolete labour laws are the second most important factor after infrastructure which is obstructing their growth. The Prime Minister has also said that absence of labour reforms is leading to low rate of employment generation. Many industries like sugar and tourism are seasonal in nature. They have to pay compensation for the lean months to the workers due to labour laws. Wages of workers are fixed at high levels. It is difficult to dismiss an inefficient worker. These provisions lead to higher cost of employing labour. The industrialist's response is to use more machines and less labour. This is the reason that number of workers employed in the organized sectors has declined from 282 lacs in 1997 to 264 lacs in 2005. This is despite the economy showing high rate of growth.

This mutual contradiction between economic growth and employment is actually rooted in the very process of development. Economic growth means more availability of capital which, in turn, means lower cost of capital. The interest rates are low in developed countries for this reason. The price of loan declines with increased availability of capital just as price of potato in the market declines with increased number of trucks coming in. The wages of workers, on the other hand, increase along with economic growth. The daily wage of an unskilled worker in the U.S. today is about Rs 4,000 per day against Rs 200 in India. The logical consequence of low price of capital and high price of labour is that industrialists prefer to use more machines and less labour. This leads to loss of employment. Mostly, the unskilled workers lose the jobs. Installation of automatic machines leads to increased demand for skilled workers in running and maintaining them while number of unskilled workers required is less. Thus we see IIT graduates getting high pay packets while the poor people take up arms in the leadership of the Naxalites.

The worker is doubly hit. First he loses his jobs to the machines. Next, he is hapless against the big factory. Previously, for example, there used to be large number of small factories making jaggery in the villages. A worker could move from one jaggery factory to another. Now there is one sugar factory in an area covering 50 kilometers. It is not so easy to switch jobs. This helplessness of the workers is used by industrialists to exploit them by paying meager wages and insisting on long work hours. Therefore, the Government has made Trade Union and other laws. Workers are able to organize themselves and face the industrialists with their collective power backed by Government's protection. Workers have thus got facilities like Provident Fund, DA, uniforms, canteens, etc. At the same time, however, industrialists have started using more machines and many unemployed are being deprived of jobs that could be generated.

We can see two contradictory effects of labour laws. These are a boon for the three crore workers in the organized sectors. They are getting many benefits. But they are harmful for the large number of unemployed people. Softening of labour laws, therefore, will deprive the organized workers of the facilities enjoyed by them presently while this will be beneficial for the unemployed since they will get some jobs. On the other hand, leaving the labour laws unchanged will be beneficial for the organized workers and harmful for the unorganized workers. We are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. We have to find our way between them.
The Prime Minister wants to allow businesses to hire and fire at will, remove their fear of employing large numbers and, he feels, they will generate more employment then. But this is not necessary. Nobel Laureate Professor Edmund Phelps says: "The limitation of this approach, however, is that a free market for labor will neither eradicate unemployment nor transform marginal, low-end workers into high-productivity, high-wage employees... Market forces alone are unlikely to solve the unprecedented levels of labor-market exclusion." Very small number of jobs may be created because businesses may find even such low wages to be prohibitively high compared to the capital that is available even cheaper.

The problem of unemployment is not solved by programs such as the Employment Guarantee Scheme either. On such schemes Prof Phelps says: "Although such programs have been substantial in Europe and the US, the working poor remain as marginalized as ever. Indeed, social spending has worsened the problem, because it reduces work incentives and thus creates a culture of dependency and alienation from the commercial economy, undermining labour force participation, employability, and employee loyalty. What is needed is higher employment and pay through higher demand for the least productive workers." The Employment Guarantee Scheme creates a sense of helplessness and dependence among the workers. It reduces their ability in seeking employment or self-employment. Thus these schemes push the unemployed deeper into the pit of helplessness and defeat. It may appear that the Government is providing relief to the unemployed but actually it is debilitating them from seeking productive employment and locking them into long-term poverty.

The alternative, according to Prof Phelps, is like this: "The best remedy is a subsidy for low-wage employment, paid to employers for every full-time low-wage worker they hire... With such wage subsidies, competitive forces would cause employers to hire more workers, and the resulting fall in unemployment would cause most of the subsidy to be paid out as direct or indirect labor compensation. People could benefit from the subsidy only by engaging in productive work." That is precisely what Gandhi had said in Young India of October 13, 1921: "I must refuse to insult the naked by giving them clothes they do not need, instead of giving them work which they sorely need." Dr Man Mohan Singh should listen to Prof Phelps and Mahatma Gandhi. They should devise schemes that create demand for workers.

The Prime Minister is right is asserting that absence of labour reforms is leading to low rate of employment generation. But he is not telling the whole story. Labour reforms will also cause the organized workers to lose their present facilities. Yet labour reforms are needed for employment generation. The way forward is to first institute an employment subsidy programme as suggested by Prof Phelps. For example, the Employees' contribution to Provident Fund of low-wage workers can be provided wholly by the Government. Alternatively, a subsidy of Rs 500 per month can be paid for every worker employed. These measures will help generate employment. Labour reforms may be made after these subsidies are in place. The organized workers who are presently getting many benefits will lose some of the facilities but this will be more than made up by the large generation of employment.







Going a step forward on tight money policy to somehow make a try to curb inflation, Reserve bank of India (RBI), announced its quarterly monetary policy and declared hiking of its key lending rates by 0.25 percent. But RBI itself is not confident of containing inflation by these measures. In fact these measures look more customary in nature.

For the last three years prices have been constantly rising. In December 2010 the inflation rate stood at 8.43 percent. But the common man has been facing much higher rate of inflation than what the government has been reporting. The reason is that the government makes use of Wholesale Price Index to measure the inflation, whereas the common man faces the heat of rising consumer prices. A cursory look at the data for the last five years from 2004-05 to 2009-10 shows that there has been a fairly big difference between the rate of price rise shown by wholesale Price Index and that shown by Consumer Price Indices, as the average rate of inflation shown by the government in the past five years has been 5.4 percent annually, average inflation rate based on Consumer Price Index for Industrial Workers stood at 7.8 percent annually. Further, it has been observed that within this consumer price index, price rise has been more in case of food products. During December 2010, whereas the measured inflation rate was 8.43, inflation in food products was recorded at 17 percent. That is, twice more than declared rate of inflation. In recent times the food inflation even reached 30 percent. In fact the very poor class which constitutes about 78 percent of the population, with daily income less than Rs. 20 a day, is affected neither by wholesale price index, nor even by consumer price index but by the inflation in food prices. Price rise in wheat flour, pulses, rice, edible oil, sugar, etc. have a greater influence on them, because that reduces food in their plate.

Factors Causing Inflation

Major factor causing food inflation in country is the constantly declining per capita availability of agricultural products. In the past 10 years our population has increased nearly 20 percent while in these 10 years the production of food products like food grains, edible oils, sugar cane, pulses, etc. have either stagnated or have increased very slowly. Shrinking per capita production of food items on the one hand and rising incomes in the non agricultural sector on the other, cause increased demand for agricultural products. As a result whereas average rate of inflation has been around 4 percent in industrial products, food inflation stood at average 8.2 percent per annum.

We find that prices of cars, LCD TVs, air conditioners, and other luxury goods have come down or have increased very little. These products though included in the calculation of price index, do not matter much for poorer strata of our population. In the past couple of months government seems to be worried about politically sensitive price of onions, but it is trying to tackle the same in the most orthodox way by way of raids on traders. It seems the government is trying to comfort the minds of the people reeling under inflation.

There is a classical but appropriate theory in economics, according to which there is a direct relationship between increase in money supply and the price level in the economy. When production does not increase and money supply keeps increasing, inflation is inevitable. When too much money is chasing too little things, commodity prices are bound to go up. In the last about 3 years, government has tore its own resolution in the form of FRBM Act, into pieces and its Fiscal Deficit reached 7 percent of GDP last year. FRBM Act had put a ceiling of 2.5 percent on Fiscal Deficit of the central government. To somehow fill this huge fiscal deficit, RBI is asked to monetise this deficit and extra currency is printed in the process. It is astonishing to note that currency held with public has increased from 336528 crore to 713415 crore between 2004-05 and 2009-10.As a result of this, money supply has been increasing at the rate of 17.1 percent during this period. The rate of growth in production of industrial goods has stood at average 8.3 percent per year. The rate of growth in agriculture sector has been less than 2 percent. As a result of fast growth in industrial products and also the service sector, inflation was less in industrial goods and services. But in case of agricultural products, especially foods products, the countrymen are facing the brunt of unprecedented high prices.

Money Supply and the role of RBI

The efforts made by Reserve Bank of India in the recent past to stop inflation, are both inadequate and inappropriate. We understand that increase in money supply is an important factor leading to inflation and curbing the same offers a solution to the problem. But we should also understand that remedy provided by RBI is capable of complicating the problem.

Firstly the efforts made by RBI are inadequate as it has only a limited power to curb money supply because major chunk of increase in money supply namely, currency with the public is increasing at a very fast rate, at the behest of the central government on which it does not have any control.

Secondly, the Reserve Bank's endeavour to reduce the supply of credit, by curbing liquidity with the banking system on the one hand and increase the cost of credit by raising interest rates on the other, is inappropriate too, as this my derail our growth process. In any case this measure is unlikely to bring any reduction in demand for agri products and ive any reprieve to the poor.

Government's role in the current situation looks suspicious. Government of the day continually talks of accelerating growth. According to recent statements from the government, country's economic growth rate this year is estimated to be 9 percent. Obsessed with the idea of increasing growth at any cost is costing the countrymen, especially poor very high. In fact the entire focus of government has been on sectors with high growth potentials, such as industry and -agricultural sectors. As a result capital formation and thus growth in agricultural sector have suffered a setback.

Now even the actual production of agricultural products, particularly food grains, pulses and oilseeds has started declining. Nation self sufficient in food grains a few years back is forced to import food grains. Adding fuel to the fire, most fertile agricultural land is being diverted to non-agricultural usage in the name of industrialisation, Special Economic Zones and others. Pictures taken from the space clearly show that green land is declining continuously and is being converted into concrete jungle. But our policy makers do not appear ready to deal with the emergent situation.

The Government must realize that hoarding or black marketing occurring in grains, onions or sugar is due to their low production. Orthodox tactics of the government such as raids on traders look immature. If at all the government is serious about finding a permanent solution for inflation, it should end neglect of agriculture and curb its expenditure to ultimately curb fiscal deficit

(The author is a Associate Professor, PGDAV College, University of Delhi)




******************************************************************************************THE TRIBUNE





It may well be a facile assessment to attribute Friday's stock sell-off in India to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remark that inflation posed a threat to India's growth. Comments from the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the RBI having a bearing on the economy and corporates are regularly monitored by experts but what Dr Manmohan Singh said on Friday was nothing unusual or unexpected. The BSE Sensex, in fact, has been going down in the past few weeks and on Friday it lost 441 points more to close at 18,008, the lowest since August, 2010.


Equity experts have already factored in high inflation, rising interest rates and costlier crude as risks to the economy and corporate profitability. Similar threats to growth prevail in some of the other emerging economies as well. The political turmoil in Egypt and its fallout on the oil prices have also hit the trading sentiment globally. But stock prices in most countries have not declined as much. If the Sensex has become the world's worst performer after Egypt there are some local factors as well. Corruption is one. The 2G scam leading to the arrest of former Telecom Minister A. Raja has vitiated the investment climate. On Friday there was a rumour that the DMK was considering withdrawal of support to the UPA government. The BJP-UPA confrontation over a JPC probe has contributed to political uncertainty.


Besides, there are fears that the coming Union Budget may start the process of withdrawing the 2008 stimulus to industry. On the other hand, optimism about the US recovery is growing and the US remains a favourite destination for global capital. That is why foreign institutional investors (FIIs) are dumping Indian stocks and heading for safer destinations. Global capital managers have a wide range of choice and they think and act much ahead of time. India might be still flaunting its 8.5 per cent growth prospects, but uncertainties have cropped up. Growth alone is not enough. There must be peace. The rule of law must prevail.









As the Arab world is getting engulfed in turmoil with most regimes feeling the heat of the unending protests in Egypt, one country outside that region that is particularly unnerved is the US. Most Arab rulers have been surviving because of American financial and military support they get in return for protecting US interests in the area. Paradoxically, the people in the region are mostly anti-US, but those controlling the levers of power are either American stooges or supporters of the US scheme of things for the Middle East. They are the least bothered about the sentiments and aspirations of the public. So far they had no threat to their crown because the sole surviving super power was on their side. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt would not have been in saddle for three long decades, despite his government's failures on all fronts, to experience the outbursts of his people today had there been no US backing for him.


But Mr Mubarak must be realising now that no administration in Washington DC can afford to protect pro-US regimes beyond a limit, when its own interests are threatened. The Obama administration has virtually dumped him and is working hard to find a suitable replacement for Mr Mubarak. It is doing all it can to ensure that the anti-American sentiment in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world does not get stronger. The US is also worried about the interests of Israel, its closest ally in the region. The new government that may come up in Egypt will have elements who may try to add to the difficulties of Israel.


It will be interesting to watch how the regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE behave in the wake of the happenings in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria. They should learn from the protests in their neighbourhood, where people have strongly expressed their desire for a democratically elected government. In the larger interest of their respective countries, the Arab rulers should begin to think about launching a political reform process to avoid the kind of turmoil being seen in Egypt.
















As though the young didn't have enough laws to entangle their private lives with, here comes one more! A Draft Bill on Sexual Offences Against Children fixes 16 years as the age for consent. The bill is aimed at bringing under the legal purview a growing variety of sexual offences against children, like child pornography, trafficking, abuse by paedophiles, sexual exploitation by persons in authority, and checking communicable virus like AIDS being transferred through sex without consent. The intension seems to be good in principle.


However, the bill apparently makes confusion more confounded. The age of consent is the minimum age at which a person is considered legally competent for consenting to sexual acts. Though often it does not appear in statutes, it varies in societies, cultures and time. In many countries of West Asia it does not apply because any sexual activity outside marriage is banned under the law. The father of our nation got married at 13. It had social sanction for conjugal relationship then. In modern India, all cases of sexual abuse against children have been tried under Sections 375 and 377 of the IPC. While Section 375 has also fixed 16 years as the minimum age of consent, there is no specific mention of offences against children. Section 377 fixes a separate age of consent for other kinds of sex — homosexuality, etc. Then there is conflict for the age of consent in foreign territories; even within the country, Manipur has fixed the age of consent at 14. In this confusing, contrasting and confounding scenario, it only adds to the puzzle!


The bill, which is expected to be tabled during the upcoming budget session, needs to answer a few queries. India is among those societies where the age of marriage is higher (18) than the age of consent (16). According to UNICEF's "State of the World's Children-2009" report, 40 per cent of the world's child marriages (outlawed in India in 1860) occur in India. Most of these marriages take place in rural areas and the age of the married couple is less than 16. Like Brunei, where a married couple's consent is an accepted matter, irrespective of age, the same is applied to a large population of India. In the case of a marital dispute in such cases, which age will define violation of rights? And, will the young mature at different age for different kinds of sex? It just leaves one more bewildered!









The central message of the people's non-violent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen is that the Arab world, from the Mahreb to the Arabian Peninsula, is embarking on a new course of democracy and liberal political values sweeping aside authoritarian rulers. The protests are not likely to remain confined to the four countries mentioned above: tremors of the convulsion in Egypt will be felt in all parts of the Arab world and beyond.


It is not surprising that Tunisia led the people's revolt against homegrown dictators. In my dual appointment as

India's Ambassador to Morocco and (concurrently) Tunisia in 1967-1969 I had the opportunity to observe two different Arab societies of North Africa.


Though Egypt and Tunisia shared the same religion – Islam – the textures, aspirations and orientation of their two societies differed widely.


The Tunisians, inheritors of the values and civilization of ancient Carthage, Rome's challenger, were modern

and liberal in outlook and republican in spirit. There was already a small but growing and vibrant middle class with rising aspirations which, I thought, would make for stability and keep the country on its chosen path of democratic governance. Tunisia's leader, President Habib Bourguiba, was a man with a philosophic bent of mind, moderate and conciliatory in his views with a penchant for peaceful approaches to political issues of the time. In my first meeting with him to present my credentials, he received me in his large but simply appointed office without the usual protocol and fanfare and with endearing grace and simplicity. During our half-hour meeting he spoke warmly of his profound respect and admiration for Gandhiji and Nehru. His own main concerns, he said, were for the strengthening of democracy and the well- being of his people.


Tunisians generally were a happy and talented lot. It was sheer delight to talk with young Tunisians: their eagerness of spirit, enthusiasm, ambitions and hopes for their small country were infectious. Bourguiba, with his liberator's halo, was not entirely free from the vanity and foibles of the great, but he had a pleasing personality and was a benign and popular leader. But, unlike Nehru, he did not create stable institutions of democracy, and his successor, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, turned out to be a tyrant wanting to reduce a republic into a hereditary dictatorship. Under his long rule, a dynamic country and its economy became stagnant, opposition leaders went into exile, and a frustrated middle class was driven to revolt. It should be said to his credit though that, when the crunch came he fled the country, facilitating, unlike Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a quick and peaceful transition.


Morocco, in contrast, was an absolute monarchy with the young and personable Mohammad V as the ruling monarch. The country, a tourist's paradise, is rich in resources and there were no signs of oppressive deprivation. Moroccans are a traditional society, generally respectful of authority in a distant sort of way. Though the institution of monarchy seemed well accepted in the country, Mohammad V, nevertheless, faced a revolt led by General Oufkir, his home minister. There were other attempts to highjack or assassinate the King which he miraculously escaped. His successor has gradually softened the Palace's grip on power. Therefore, the wave of protests sweeping the region may well pass Morocco by.


On the whole, though, the Kings, Sheikhs (and other autocrats) of the Arab world are a creation, mostly, of retreating British imperialism. They have flourished because of the insulation provided by oil and great power protection. Rather sooner than later they will have to face the rising tide of people's power. Arabs no longer consider themselves doomed to autocracy.


Trouble had been simmering in the ancient land of Egypt for at least a decade because of a combination of factors —- a rapidly growing population and a rising youth bulge, increasing unemployment and deepening poverty; an explosive mix which under a corrupt and oppressive autocratic regime, with no safety valve of freedom or reform to accommodate people's aspirations in a globalised world, became a deadly cocktail of catalytic eruption.


A wiser Mubarak would have seen the writing on the wall and chosen either to reform the system or hand over the task to some one else and quit. He chose instead to unleash his brutal police, in plain clothes, mounted on camels, to assault the un-armed protesters in Cairo's Liberation Square. His army has gently threatened the protesters to vacate the square and the streets. All this is not like to douse the fire of a popular revolt: it can only delay and make more difficult and, possibly, bloody the inevitable transition to democracy. Egypt and Time have moved beyond Mubarak and his Generals.


A new, interim government, whenever it comes, is bound to be a blend of opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. There is no reason to fear the Brotherhood; it knows that extremism of any kind will not serve Egypt's national interest and has been wary of Al-Quaida. It disavowed violence a decade ago. The tasks of organising a free and fair election, establishing the supremacy of Parliament and overseeing the framing of a new constitution will require an internationally recognizable figure to head the interim government. Nobel Laureate El-Baradei seems to be emerging a generally acceptable transition manager.


A well-known Egyptian statesman, Amre Mousa, the Arab League's Secretary-General and a highly distinguished former Foreign Minister, who joined the protests on February 3, would be another effective leader in these troubled times:  Mousa was a popular Egyptian Ambassador to India in the 1980s.


There are bound to be changes in the region's international relations, but Egypt is unlikely to take to an extremist path. It will remain wary, as hitherto, of Al-Quaida and Shia Iran, despite the latter's vociferous support for the protests in Egypt. Iran's rising influence in Iraq has already deepened the Shia-Sunni fissures in the Arab world. Not surprisingly, Beijing's rather odd response to the events in Egypt was typical of an autocracy: it admonished the protesters and urged the restoration of law and order! In contrast, the US has forthrightly supported the protester's demand for Mubarak's ouster. Washington will have to look at the Middle-East picture and new Egypt's role in the region afresh and suitably reshape its policies.


India is a natural supporter of democracy and Egyptians know this. It is neither necessary nor good policy for India to try to appear as a crusader for democracy in the Arab world. Nevertheless, our government's anodyne statement falls way short of the prevailing public sentiment in support of the protests. The main political formations of the country, especially the Congress, should redress this shortcoming in public declarations in the coming days.


The upheaval in Egypt is bound to have far-reaching repercussions in the Arab region. A strong impact on Israel and its relations with Palestine and Jordan is un-avoidable. Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan will come under stress, especially if it takes recourse to fresh aggression in Gaza or Lebanon. Washington's role in the region will remain important because of the unavoidable dependence on America of both Egypt and Israel.


Prolonged turmoil in the region could result in rising oil prices and interruption in India's trade with the region valued at $120 billion a year. Remittances from some three million Indian workers in the region could also fall and affect our economy. The Government of India should have contingency plans in place to deal with unforeseeable consequences of a spreading conflagration.


The writer, a former Foreign Secretary, is President, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.








THE lady of the house watched her lawyer husband pacing up and down the room wringing his hands, a dismal picture of a perplexed man submerged in problems bereft of any visible solutions.


"To be or not to be," he muttered.


"I don't understand what is that you should be and what is that you should not be," quizzed the wife


"You see, I am being considered for elevation as a Judge and …."


His wife exploded with joy, and jumped, before he could complete his words.


"Yes, it is good, I know that, but you see if it comes through, I don't become a judge, I become an 'uncle judge', with transfer ensuing", he replied.


"Uncle judge? But you don't have any relations practising here?" asked the wife.


"You forget", he said.


"You mean your brother? But he has not spoken to you for the last 30 years, ever since you had a row with him over the ancestral watch, and your nephew also swore by his blood to get it back and your sister, she burnt all her boats when she got married and I remember her saying to you at the time her 'doli' departed, that she was cursed having an inconsiderate brother like you ; and you do not have a son who is a lawyer and if these are the relations you have as lawyers, why should you be branded as an "uncle judge".


"You may be right, but you see the perception is that blood is thicker than water," he answered.


"Oh yes! And that is why it is called a bloody mess," she said and added rather wistfully: "In any case in today's times, water is more precious than blood, and if mixed with the right 'liquefied' ingredients it can lay the foundations of a much cozier and enduring relationship than a relative.


]"But this requires serious thought," replied the lawyer and there has to be a solution to this issue.


"Eureka," cried the wife, "I have an idea".

"What is it?" asked the lawyer, resisting his urge to go down on his knees, to implore her to let go of the divine revelation.


"You see, they have a problem with children who practise in the very court where the father is a judge. So why not make judges from lawyers who are fresh out of the law college; and retire them at forty? Most of them would be unmarried, hence no children and the ones born subsequently would be just in late teens and yet studying, when the judge retires and the question of the son being a lawyer during his tenure would not arise. Hey presto! The problem of 'uncle judges' is solved."


The lawyer looked at his wife endearingly. His admiration for her increased manifold and even as a smile caressed his troubled brow, the frown returned.


"Yes, but your solution is futuristic and we are concerned with the present, I mean my elevation".


"Oh!" said the wife despondently and whispered to herself slowly: "To be or not to be". It is a dilemma which tormented the wise bard of the yore, as it torments us today and she joined her husband in his ponderous thoughts.








The two- dimensional frames and their rules of viewership are being dismantled. Matters of human inspiration are rebelling against the confines of canvas. Technological interventions in life are now spilling over to art, stretching scale and scope of art to an extent that demands rewriting the rules of the game. Do we have adequate infrastructure to address this fast changing scenario in the art world?


On February 1, 2011, using its Street View technology, Google launched a virtual tool for art appreciation from a new perspective by capturing paintings in super-high resolution of 7 billion to 14 billion pixels. The internet giant lets users on its new Google Art Project website to see and experience the texture and intensity of a single brush stroke. With estimated viewership of 16 million it allows users to view art from museums around the world, including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Tate Britain in London, among others. This one web- stroke has created a stir within the art industry. While a young Indian engineer, Amit Sood, led this incredible project in the United States, the passion, adequate training, cohesive policy and infrastructure for art and aesthetics is woefully behind times in this country that lives and breathes art, at many levels.


Artistic expression is the collective soul of civil societies that has the capacity to transform our perceptions, shape our identities and affect our lifestyles. Even as museums and art galleries are seeking new definitions, new approaches, new meanings and new opportunities to enhance learning, they have the capacity to offer visual education beyond the blackboard to bring about sustainable change.


The world over art industry is increasingly being influenced by forces unleashed by the internet and social networks serving as hubs of exchanges that know no conventional boundaries...a far cry from what was traditionally within the domain of curatorial academe now on the cusp of a generational shift. Incredible India! that is an unparalleled treasure trove of classical, folk and contemporary art, needs to awaken, recognize and harness this soft-power for transformative growth, by taking some concrete steps in the coming years.


There is an obvious problem of inadequate resource allocation to build infrastructure to support, sustain, aid, encourage patrons and expose practitioners to the multi-billion dollar business spawned by artists, dealers, collectors, brokers, auctioneers, conservators, suppliers, insurers, galleries, publishers, museums, libraries, retailers, students, the academic world and the cross-over nexus with the allied world of fashion, media, crafts and design. But more than the financial woes, the problem is with the lack of proper training of art administrators and professionals stemming from a systemic vacuum in informed leadership and creative vision.


India needs a comprehensive Art Policy and an implementation strategy aimed at a rural and urban cultural renaissance of sorts, for expressing, appreciating, celebrating, promoting and sustaining the arts industry that could in-turn be an economic driver for regional and national growth. The policy has to be tied to tourism, culture, commerce and education policies for it to be really effective. It will need active planning and resource projections, moveable and immoveable assets, accessions, collections management, cultural repatriation, export, tax mechanisms, regulatory framework, human resource development, gallery infrastructure training and assessment programmes, public-private partnerships, and other areas that need strengthening between Central and State agencies.


Such an initiative, coupled with a rapid implementation strategy, accountability and enforceable performance metrics of a 2020 Master Plan, could significantly change the dynamics of pursuit for Art Education and Art Administration. It will also change perception of art and its place in our understanding of our identity as an ancient united diverse nation which is envisioning its future beyond the material.


Given the embedded inertia in our systems, it may however, only be prudent to initiate short-term programmes to train bureaucrats and administrators who are already in charge of infrastructure and regulatory bodies to bring them up to speed on the best practices internationally, in conjunction with a more rigorous and long-term training for a new generation of cultural resource professionals and autonomous organizations to drive the resurgence and revival of our cultural institutions.


Creative inspiration and artistic expression often gravitates to a socio-cultural milieu that spawns talent, as can be seen in cities like Montreal, Vienna, Florence, Paris, New York, Santa Fe, London and Bilbao, to name a few. Perhaps its time for our urban planners, including from here in Chandigarh to across the country to think seriously about creating cultural ambiences that attracts the arts community beyond the craft-based kalagrams, with a time bound sense of urgency and an eye for aesthetic detail. Vital to this process is to embed and endorse a method enabling minimal bureaucratic red-tape that plagues creative initiatives and its rapid realization.


India has what it takes and the time has come to unleash its un-tapped potential.


India born George Jacob, museologist, has been the founding director of three institutions including the NASA funded astronomy and cultural center in United States. His work spans 11 countries.








The two- dimensional frames and their rules of viewership are being dismantled. Matters of human inspiration are rebelling against the confines of canvas. Technological interventions in life are now spilling over to art, stretching scale and scope of art to an extent that demands rewriting the rules of the game. Do we have adequate infrastructure to address this fast changing scenario in the art world?


On February 1, 2011, using its Street View technology, Google launched a virtual tool for art appreciation from a new perspective by capturing paintings in super-high resolution of 7 billion to 14 billion pixels. The internet giant lets users on its new Google Art Project website to see and experience the texture and intensity of a single brush stroke. With estimated viewership of 16 million it allows users to view art from museums around the world, including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Tate Britain in London, among others. This one web- stroke has created a stir within the art industry. While a young Indian engineer, Amit Sood, led this incredible project in the United States, the passion, adequate training, cohesive policy and infrastructure for art and aesthetics is woefully behind times in this country that lives and breathes art, at many levels.


Artistic expression is the collective soul of civil societies that has the capacity to transform our perceptions, shape our identities and affect our lifestyles. Even as museums and art galleries are seeking new definitions, new approaches, new meanings and new opportunities to enhance learning, they have the capacity to offer visual education beyond the blackboard to bring about sustainable change.


The world over art industry is increasingly being influenced by forces unleashed by the internet and social networks serving as hubs of exchanges that know no conventional boundaries...a far cry from what was traditionally within the domain of curatorial academe now on the cusp of a generational shift. Incredible India! that is an unparalleled treasure trove of classical, folk and contemporary art, needs to awaken, recognize and harness this soft-power for transformative growth, by taking some concrete steps in the coming years.


There is an obvious problem of inadequate resource allocation to build infrastructure to support, sustain, aid, encourage patrons and expose practitioners to the multi-billion dollar business spawned by artists, dealers, collectors, brokers, auctioneers, conservators, suppliers, insurers, galleries, publishers, museums, libraries, retailers, students, the academic world and the cross-over nexus with the allied world of fashion, media, crafts and design. But more than the financial woes, the problem is with the lack of proper training of art administrators and professionals stemming from a systemic vacuum in informed leadership and creative vision.


India needs a comprehensive Art Policy and an implementation strategy aimed at a rural and urban cultural renaissance of sorts, for expressing, appreciating, celebrating, promoting and sustaining the arts industry that could in-turn be an economic driver for regional and national growth. The policy has to be tied to tourism, culture, commerce and education policies for it to be really effective. It will need active planning and resource projections, moveable and immoveable assets, accessions, collections management, cultural repatriation, export, tax mechanisms, regulatory framework, human resource development, gallery infrastructure training and assessment programmes, public-private partnerships, and other areas that need strengthening between Central and State agencies.


Such an initiative, coupled with a rapid implementation strategy, accountability and enforceable performance metrics of a 2020 Master Plan, could significantly change the dynamics of pursuit for Art Education and Art Administration. It will also change perception of art and its place in our understanding of our identity as an ancient united diverse nation which is envisioning its future beyond the material.


Given the embedded inertia in our systems, it may however, only be prudent to initiate short-term programmes to train bureaucrats and administrators who are already in charge of infrastructure and regulatory bodies to bring them up to speed on the best practices internationally, in conjunction with a more rigorous and long-term training for a new generation of cultural resource professionals and autonomous organizations to drive the resurgence and revival of our cultural institutions.


Creative inspiration and artistic expression often gravitates to a socio-cultural milieu that spawns talent, as can be seen in cities like Montreal, Vienna, Florence, Paris, New York, Santa Fe, London and Bilbao, to name a few. Perhaps its time for our urban planners, including from here in Chandigarh to across the country to think seriously about creating cultural ambiences that attracts the arts community beyond the craft-based kalagrams, with a time bound sense of urgency and an eye for aesthetic detail. Vital to this process is to embed and endorse a method enabling minimal bureaucratic red-tape that plagues creative initiatives and its rapid realization.


India has what it takes and the time has come to unleash its un-tapped potential.


India born George Jacob, museologist, has been the founding director of three institutions including the NASA funded astronomy and cultural center in United States. His work spans 11 countries.







Repeal of draconian laws and vacation of civilian space by armed forces paramount
The brutal killing of a youth in north Kashmir area of Handawra by the army on Saturday, preceded by the abduction and murder of two young sisters in Sopore on January 30, marks the return to civilian killings at the hands of the trigger-happy security forces armed with blanket powers and a culture of immunity. As usual the forces came out with a cock and bull story by first claiming that the youth, identified as Manzoor Ahmed Magray was shot dead by the soldiers of 4 Para who had laid an ambush in Chowgal area. Later when the killing, which the family members of the deceased described as cold-blooded murder, sparked massive protests the forces described it as a case of " mistaken identity". The victim happened to be the son of a ruling National Conference activist and the family members claimed that he was taken out of the house by the soldiers and severely tortured resulting in his death. Unlike in several other cases of killing of innocent civilians, chief minister Omar Abdullah rushed to Chogal to personally convey his condolence to the family and assure them that a fair probe would be conducted. Omar said that the incident could have been averted if the suggestions made by him at a meeting of the Unified headquarters had been implemented. He had " given categorical directions to the Army, security forces and the police in the Unified Headquarters meetings to apply highest degree of caution and restraint and stick to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to avoid any killing of civilians under all circumstances". It is a clear admission of the fact that the chief minister's writ does not run as for as the functioning of the security forces is concerned and his directives are flouted with impunity. Obviously, the killing of innocents, torture and harassment of the citizens and other grave human rights abuses are inherent in a situation where the armed forces enjoy blanket powers to kill any one, set any building on fire merely on suspicion and have been provided immunity for their acts under the draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

It is clear beyond any shadow of doubt that the grave human rights abuses taking place in the troubled state cannot be brought to an end as long as the armed forces are occupying the civilian space and they are armed with blanket powers under the draconian laws and treated as holy cows. The directions given to the security forces by the rulers for using maximum restraint or follow the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) can only be sermons which are never followed by those for whom these are meant. During the initial years of militancy the army had claimed that the 15 commandments for the forces are the guarantee for the respect of human rights during operations in the insurgency-affected areas. But such grave HR abuses continued unabated despite such commandments and repeated assurances by those at the helm that there would be no violation of the human rights. Not only such abuses have continued unabated but even not in a single case any independent probe has been held and guilty punished. With the presence of armed forces in a large number in the civilian areas, who are not under the control of the civil administration, and the enforcement of the lawless laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act it is naivety to think of any improvement in the situation on the human rights front. The heavy deployment of forces, more weaponry, equipment, surveillance and presence of bunkers and occupation of civilian space by the security forces have turned the state into a huge military camp making an ominous presence. The conditions in the troubled state cannot be normal and human rights of the people cannot be guaranteed if extra-ordinary powers remain conferred on the security forces. The Indian security forces are empowered with a regime of draconian laws and they are not accountable for their acts of omission and commission. The National Human Rights Commission has no jurisdiction over them and the State's own Human Rights Commission is not only toothless but also cannot deal with the cases of HR abuses by the armed forces. For putting an end to the human rights abuses the pulling out of armed forces from the civilian areas, removal of bunkers, vacation of civilian space by the forces and abrogation of draconian laws which virtually provide a license to the forces to resort to grave human rights abuses is paramount. Both New Delhi and the State government are, unfortunately, dithering on the question of revocation of draconian laws. The chief minister, who had initially advocated repeal of AFSPA later backed out, presumably under the central pressure.






So far as the tapping the new and renewable energy sources is concerned, Jammu and Kashmir appears to be a forbidden territory for such projects due to inertia within the government and its agencies. As such the discussions and debates on harnessing alternate energy sources are restricted to corridors of power. The initiative on the part of government and agencies does not appear to be translating things into reality on the ground. May be there are certain vested interests, which do not want to explore this brave new world for meeting the energy requirements of the people at this juncture. Nor are there any plans on the government's part for tapping this huge potential in the larger interest of the people. The dictum that large and big projects are goldmines for the politicians to drain the scarce resources of the state exchequer to fill up their coffers appears to be holding good for the politicos of this state also. That is the main reason why the J&K government is keenly concentrating on big hydel power projects only instead of exploring the low cost mini and micro projects which cost less besides the alternate sources which can be environment friendly and easy to build. Time delay and cost over-runs have been the hallmark of these projects and still a large potential has not been exploited. Scandalous deals and contracts continue to over-shadow these projects in the past and many of them have not been finalized till date despite the fact that they were conceived and planned decades ago in J&K. It was only in the recent past that a solar project of 50 KW is being implemented for the cricket stadium in Srinagar after years of dilly dallying by the state government. The solar powered lanterns and street-lights have been mired in controversy during the past two decades. In real sense of terms no sincere effort appears to have been made in this direction for providing succour to the people. Wind energy continues to be a far fetched dream for the people as no such project has been conceived till date despite the efforts of some amateur engineers who designed the first project way back in mid-eighties. Unless some sincere and dedicated effort is made, J&K despite its huge potential will continue to be a energy deficit state in the country even for the years and decades to come.










Fragrance from the Jasmine Revolution, which overthrew Tunisia's hated President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, is spreading, especially to Egypt, Yemen and Jordan, and triggering profound political changes in the West Asia-North Africa region. By the time these lines appear, it's possible that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's oppressive 30-year-long reign would have ended and far-reaching changes would be under way in the neighbourhood.

Egypt (pop. 84 million) is the region's largest country, and changes there always impact or prefigure what happens in the entire Arab world. Tunisia (pop. 11 million) is tiny. But that doesn't diminish the Jasmine Revolution's significance. The successful 29-day uprising was the Arab world's first real revolution. Unlike putsches, palace coups and colonels' takeovers, misnamed "revolutions" in the past, this was a mass uprising.
The seismic waves from Tunisia, transmitted through the TV channel Al-Jazeera, have evoked the most resonance in Egypt. But they have shaken many other Arab autocrats too, who must watch the unfolding events fearing that their own people would take inspiration and rise. Nobody expressed their fears better than Libya's Muammar Gaddafi—the world's longest-ruling dictator—who arrogantly told Tunisians that bloodshed and anarchy had broken out in their country because they sacked Mr Ben Ali far too hastily.

Arab citizens have watched Egypt's protests with great hope. It's ordinary flesh-and-blood people like them, and not Islamists or foreign troops, who are frontally challenging a dictator. A majority of people in the 22 countries that form the Arab League share the Tunisians' and Egyptians' disgust with corrupt dictatorial regimes, which don't provide basic public services or relieve food shortages and high prices.
The Arab states haven't done well by their people. Even the oil-rich ones haven't educated their people and created social opportunity or welfare for them. Many governments have embraced "austerity" programmes under pressure from the World Bank or Western donors. Recently hit badly by the global slowdown, they have further cut food and fuel subsidies, thus increasing popular suffering. This has robbed them even of their residual authority.

Most young Arabs are moderately educated, exposed to the wider world, and aspire to jobs in a modern economy. Such jobs are a rarity. The youth have no future. Their frustration is aggravated by denial of civil and political liberties.
So Egypt's upsurge could well be replicated in other Arab countries. People's bottled-up anger and frustration are the same everywhere, as is lack of freedom. A fine scholar, the late Fred Halliday, analysed the Arab people's travails in his excellent Arabic Without the Sheikhs. As has Dilip Hiro in numerous recent books.
The democratic deficit in the Arab world is huge. Elections, if and when they take place, are typically rigged—as in Egypt recently, when the ruling party increased its parliamentary majority from 75 percent to 95 percent.
Only three Arab countries can lay some claim to being democracies, albeit flawed: Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Iraq. Lebanon is a plural society with Shias, Sunnis, Christians and Druze Muslims, which holds free elections. But there too, democracy has a denominational character, with the top offices being divided up between religious communities and powerful families.

The Palestinian Territories had free and fair elections in 2006. But, Hamas, the victor, was excluded from the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah. Its state power is confined to the Gaza Strip, itself an open-air prison under Israel's occupation, without sovereign borders. In Iraq, the democratic process runs within a constitution and broad-sweep policy framework dictated by the United States after the 2003 invasion.
The rest of the Arab states are in a state of paralysis, where elected legislatures exist in some form—as in Kuwait—but wield very little power, which is subject to the ruling families' will. Often, elections are held only as a safety-valve to vent popular frustration.

There are a few middling Arab performers in the democracy index, like Mauritania, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain and Algeria. But some of the richest states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, are at the bottom, like Libya, Yemen or Sudan. Saudi Arabia, an artificial creation of the British Empire, based on the most backward of tribes, and ruled by a despotic royal family, is at the very bottom of the abyss.
The democracy deficit is often blamed on Islam, especially salafi "desert Islam", reinforced by ultra-conservative obscurantism. But other factors are more important: the devastation visited upon West Asia-North Africa by European imperialists, who created artificial states; the influence of tribalism and paternalism; oil money, which obviates the need to negotiate popular participation; the state's failure to tax the rich and break their stranglehold, and not least, foreign aid dependence.

The Western powers, led by the US, sustain Arab autocracies for parochial reasons, originally related to the Cold War, and since maintained as part of the US's strategic alliance system, in which Israel plays a pivotal role, closely followed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The US has bankrolled Egypt with about $3.5 billion annually since Anwar El-Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979, helping break its isolation in the Arab world.
Faced with a popular upsurge, President Mubarak first dissolved his cabinet and appointed former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as the vice-president, thinking this would pacify the protesters. It only produced more protest, led by youth who chanted: "We don't a new cabinet, we want you out" and "Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, both of you are American agents".

Mr Suleiman is indeed a trusted US ally and a long-standing CIA collaborator who helped implement the notorious policy of "rendition" of terrorism suspects to third countries to extract confessions from them under torture. Under Mr Suleiman, long the main conduit between Mr Mubarak and Washington, torture has long been practised in Egypt.

The Egyptian people's anger is rooted in opposition to the Mubarak dynasty, police brutality, widespread poverty, lack of housing, high food prices and unemployment. People under 30 make up almost two-thirds of Egypt's population. About 90 percent of Egypt's jobless are under 30.

Discontent has now infected the army, a nearly half-million strong, powerful institution in Egypt which enjoys various privileges including private supermarkets. Soldiers have refused to open fire on protesting crowds or stop people from painting anti-Mubarak slogans on battle-tanks.

In desperation, Mr Mubarak's government on February 1 unleashed thugs upon peaceful protestors gathered in Tahrir Square. But they had to retreat and the new Prime Minister had to apologise.

Mr Mubarak has succeeded in uniting different social strata by inspiring hatred, including trade unions, the Facebook-networked 6 April Youth Movement created in solidarity with industrial workers, and sections of the middle class.

Numerous parties, including the National Association for Change led by former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood, and secular parties, have joined the protesters, but none leads them, certainly not the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt's millionaires are fleeing. And people are telling Mr Mubarak: "The plane is ready."

Mr Mubarak's offer to continue till September and not contest the next election has proved unacceptable. A collapse of his regime will demolish the myth that the Arab people are incapable of staging a revolution. It will almost certainly ignite protests in other Arab states. This could prove a transformative moment in West Asia-North Africa which radically reshapes society and politics and inaugurates a new democratic epoch.


What does this mean for the Western powers and Israel? The West was at first reluctant to distance itself from Mr Mubarak, its loyal ally and Israel's closest friend in the region Ditching him might provoke a groundswell of protest in other Arab states, creating further instability in an already volatile but oil-rich region. But the protests grew. The West is now asking Mr Mubarak to step down, out of fear that backing him would earn it intense popular hostility, just as happened in Iran in 1979 when it supported the detested Shah.

Even Washington has stopped vacillating between expressing faith in the stability of the Egyptian government, and calling for "an orderly transition" to a broad-based government. President Barack Obama has told Mr Mubarak to act immediately to make this happen.

Israel too is watching Egypt with nervousness about losing a close, indeed indispensable ally, whose cooperation is crucial not only in keeping Gaza in its present state, but in maintaining confusion and divisions in the Arab world. It fears that a democratic radicalisation of the Arab Street would bring the Palestine issue to the fore and stoke mass hostility towards Israel.

If Egypt's next government decides to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza, it will break Israel's siege of the Strip. This could reverse Israel's hitherto-remarkably-successful gains in pushing the Palestinian Authority's leadership into surrendering its primary claims to sovereign statehood and to land, and to accept a series of Palestinian Bantustans, leave illegal Israeli settlements untouched, and give up the right of return of 5 million Palestinian refugees.

Egypt is pregnant with big possibilities.

email: bidwai@





In life people like to get your jugular, which generally is your weak spot, and that weak spot is what you always considered your strong spot!

I go through this often as a writer; in the middle of all the mail I get from my readers, sits one which tells me in no uncertain words that I am a lousy writer.

"Lousy writer?" I ask myself. And suddenly my self-esteem which has taken a plunge shouts from a thousand feet below, "Yes a lousy writer!"

A few days ago, this came in the form of my voice: I was made to feel I had the worst voice in the world. I came home forgetting I had been the voice for many performances, including some prestigious ones, and had also lent it for a famous lady tabla player's recording of her CD and so many, many other occasions:
Like a deaf mute I drove back home.

It was toward evening that day, a friend met me with this story of a five hundred rupee note:
A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a 500 rupee note. Looking at the room of two hundred people, he asked,

"Who would like this 500 rupee note?"

Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this note to one of you but first let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the note up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air.
"Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth Rupee 500/-."

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

"So Bob how do you feel?" asked my friend after telling me the story and noticing that my spirits had lifted.
"Just a minute," I said as I burst into full-throated song, a verse from the Sound of Music:

I have confidence in sunshine

I have confidence in rain

I have confidence that spring will come again

Besides what you see I have confidence in me!.

"Bob!" said my friend wearily as he looked at me, "Maybe I shouldn't have told you this story, the world was a better place without your singing..!"












With Hosni Mubarak still trying desperately to somehow hang on to the last dregs of power, the quote of the week comes from the Egyptian novelist Dr Alaa Al Asany. "The Egyptian people are very close to a camel," he said in an interview to a foreign journalist. "The camel can really accept a lot of insults. But when the camel gets angry, it is really very serious – and it's almost impossible to get him under control."


Asany's book The Yacoubian Building became a rage around the Middle East, the best-selling Arabic novel in 2002 and 2003, because it's scathing portrayal of the hopelessness of life in modern Egypt resonated with millions. In a society without any free press, it struck a powerful chord, ultimately being turned into a mega-budget film as well as a very popular TV series.


With the world's cameras focussed on Cairo's Tahrir Square it was easy to sometimes forget that the camels are also rising in Jordan, where the King appointed a new Prime Minister and offered assurances to curb corruption; Algeria, where plans were announced to lift a twodecade old emergency; and Yemen and Sudan; which also saw protests. The jasmine of the Tunisian revolution that ignited all this has been intoxicating.

What do all these countries have in common? Looking beyond the immediate, cast your eye across the Middle East and what stands out is the youth bulge. The median age in Egypt is 23.9 years, in Jordan 22.8, in Morocco and Algeria 26.2, in Tunisia 29.1, in Syria 22.5 and in Yemen it is as low as 17.8. These are astonishing statistics. By way of comparison, the median age in most of Europe, for instance, is well over 40, and over 36 in the United States.


All of these countries with rising younger populations in the Middle East also have fairly high unemployment rates hovering around the 10% mark –with the exception of Libya where the unemployment rate is 30%. Combine a burgeoning youth bulge with autocratic regimes, no jobs and little education and what you have is a classical recipe for social unrest: Increasingly younger and aspirational societies with increasingly fewer opportunities for growth, social mobility and self-expression.

These underlying realities are the real drivers of change. FaceBook, Twitter and satellite TV have all been catalysts but these are simply tools. Just as the invention of the Gutenberg press in 1452 was an epochal moment but did not by itself create revolutionary political change in Europe – that had to wait another threefour centuries till social conditions were ripe for the rise of nationalism – the potential and the limits of social media too in any society are circumscribed by what else is happening in that society. They are purveyors of messages, not the message itself.


Are there any lessons here for us? The Indian median age too is low, about 25.9 years, and our unemployment rates are around the 10% mark as well. But we have had the one safety valve that Egyptians did not have: a free press and a vibrant democracy. Cast your eye at the maps of Asia and Northern Africa and from Morocco to our borders, there are only two stable democracies in between: Turkey and Israel (not counting the blood-infested democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bonsai democracy of Pakistan, which is forever hostage to its Army).
But this is not a good time to secretly gloat about the joys of the world's largest democracy. As we watch and cheer the breathtaking outpouring of the crowds in Tahrir Square, this is also a good moment to take a searching look ourselves in the mirror at a time when Parliament remains log-jammed, all-pervasive corruption continues to clog almost every institution and there remains a general sense of stasis in governance.

 We can speak as much as anyone else in the world, if not more, there are enough institutions that work in India and our Mubaraks regularly meet their Tahrir Squares in the ballot box but the spirit of Tahrir Square is as much about cleansing the system as it is about selfexpression. We could certainly do with some of that.



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




The late Rajiv Gandhi famously, or infamously, once claimed that only 15 per cent of the funds allocated to welfare programmes ever reached the intended beneficiaries. The rest leaked enroute, entering the pockets of an assortment of intermediaries. This is a thought that the Union finance minister must always remember, especially when he sits down to allocate funds for an assortment of subsidies and some of the high-profile spending programme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Indeed, given the size of public spending under the UPA, and the steep rise in it in the past five years, there could be more potential for scams in welfare programmes than in crony capitalist deals. In its five years of implementation, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has spent over Rs 1.08 lakh crore on the programme, but without carrying out any financial audit in all these years. This is not only scandalous but also violates the spirit of the NREG Act, which specifically provides for regular audit of accounts at all levels. This is particularly shocking, not just because of the Rajiv Gandhi dictum, but because there have been frequent reports of glaring malpractices and embezzlement of funds in the implementation of the scheme. A limited performance audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on its own in 68 of the 625 districts covered under it had unveiled some of these irregularities. Misappropriation of over Rs 88 crore has been detected. Besides, nearly 4,600 officials at different levels have been proceeded against. Yet, for reasons known only to it, the government did not feel the need for a full-fledged accounts audit in all the districts which could have brought forth a much bigger fraud. In fact, and on the contrary, there have been some conscious attempts to prevent lapses in implementation of the scheme from being exposed. One such attempt, made through amendment of the NREG Act in 2009, involved sidelining of civil society groups from carrying out social audit of the programme.

The pivotal role for social audit was entrusted to Gram Sabhas, taking the sting out of the exercise, as these Sabhas are usually under the strong hold of Sarpanches (Panchayat heads), who are closely involved in the implementation of NREGS. Many of Sarpanches are also party to corruption. A report on the implementation of this scheme in a few selected states, prepared by a former Union rural development secretary, K B Saxena, had minced no words in pointing out that many Sarpanches treated NREGS funds as their own pocket money. Some of them purposely denied employment to Dalits and backward classes to ensure availability of cheaper labour for farm operations. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's advise to state chief secretaries last week to battle corruption is particularly relevant to the case, and his suggestion that a biometric database of all workers be created to rid the scheme of corruption in areas like maintenance of muster rolls and disbursement of wages, would probably be more effective than the Union rural development ministry's well-intentioned exercise to frame rules under NREG Act for social and financial audit in consultation with CAG. While these interventions are useful, more immediate action to check corruption should be taken under existing anti-corruption laws. Stricter guidelines can be issued to ensure that the works undertaken with NREGS employment are well-conceived and are not left half done, since there is no dearth of funds for this programme.






The European Commission's decision to exclude two key ozone-depleting gases from the purview of carbon trading from 2013 would have negative implications for global warming. The two industrial emissions marked for this purpose are Hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC-23), essentially trifluoromethane, and nitrous oxide. These are highly potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) that together account for the bulk of the trade under the EU's emission trading system, which is, by far, the world's largest certified emission reduction (CER) trading market under clean development mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. It is noteworthy that HFC-23, produced as an unwanted byproduct in making HCFC-22 (essentially chloro-difluoromethane used for refrigeration) is nearly 12,000 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. In 2009, nearly 60 per cent of the carbon credits traded in the EU are reckoned to have come from the destruction of HFC-23 alone. Nitrous oxide gas, another highly potent GHG responsible for global warming, is produced in hydro-chemical and fertiliser industries during the production of adipic acid, an industrial chemical used in nylon production. The sale of carbon credits earned by offsetting these environment-injurious gases is a significant source of revenue for these industries in China, India and several other developing countries. Though HCFC-22 is also not an absolutely safe refrigerant, developing countries are allowed to produce and use them till 2030 under the Montreal Protocol. Many developed countries have already stopped making HCFC-22, though they are obliged to phase them out only by 2020.

That said, the EU has good reasons for barring from carbon trading the offsets from these two GHGs. Installation of HFC-23 destruction facility does not cost much, though the profits it generates are substantial. The returns on investment, therefore, seem disproportionately exorbitant and can, arguably, act as a perverse incentive to continue to produce or even increase the production of these gases. Such arguments tend to justify debarring these gases from being traded in the present carbon market. But, at the same time, the consequences of doing so seem too worrisome to toe this line. There would be no incentive for the chemical industries to trap and destroy these gases to prevent them from entering the atmosphere. Given their woefully high potential to damage the ozone layer, any unchecked release into the atmosphere will undo much of the gain from global efforts to mitigate global warming. The tradable amounts of credits from these gases have been capped at the 2004-05 level. The issue of unduly large returns can also be addressed through a system of differential pricing for various GHGs, linking price cuts or premiums to the investments required in trapping and destroying them. The Montreal protocol provides for financing and pricing of the destruction of HFC-23 on the basis of its actual cost per tonne, which would work out far lower than the market prices of carbon credits. Working out such solutions will be better than blanket bans.





His voice was faint, almost conspiratorial. "Have you heard Obama's 'Sputnik moment' speech?" he asked. "This is what I have been saying. But America needs India to make the next technological leap. This is an opportunity for us to work together."

I asked him if he would write a column. "I cannot," he whispered, "I am not supposed to even talk. Don't tell anyone I called. I am banned from talking or writing. You know my views. You write." That was a guru's instruction. I told him I was travelling and would come and see him on my return. He passed away before I could.

Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam (1929-2011) – alias Subbu, K Subs, Bomb Mama – India's foremost grand strategist, author of the Indian nuclear doctrine, architect of a yet to be built Indian National Defence University, advisor to prime ministers, mentor to several generations of students of defence and security studies, spook, columnist, debator extraordinaire, etc. etc. had a thinking man's brain that was active till the end. He died on February 2, 2011 after battling cancer for a decade.

In his "State of the Union" speech of January 25, 2011, US President Barack Obama recalled how the US was rudely awakened by Soviet Union's technological leap forward with the launch of the Sputnik and this enthused the US to invest in research and education, helping it not just to "surpass the Soviets" but to "unleash a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs".

"This is our generation's Sputnik moment," President Obama said, drawing attention to the competition from China in the field of science and technology, and added, "in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us … invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet and create countless new jobs for our people."

The column Mr Subrahmanyam had in mind was in fact a variation of the one he wrote for Business Standard (November 18, 2009) on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's state visit to the United States in November 2009. He had written then: "Economic recovery after the financial crisis will be marked by the emergence of new, innovative technologies. Indo-US collaboration and cooperation in these areas may lead to cost reductions and creation of new markets. In other words, India is in a position to help sustain US pre-eminence in technological and economic spheres. Unlike in 2005, this time India is in a position to offer the US a partnership of mutual benefit, which will serve both Indian and US national interests and also serve the cause of democracy. Just as the Sino-US economic partnership of the past three decades benefited both countries, till the recent economic crisis set in, and aided China's growth, an Indo-US economic and social partnership can also be of mutual benefit to both democracies."

Mr Subrahmanyam saw the India-US civil nuclear energy agreement as a step towards eliminating the high-tech barriers that the US had erected against India so that the two democracies could work together in the knowledge economy. As a strategic visionary, Mr Subrahmanyam came to recognise early that economic competitiveness and technological competence lie at the heart of national power in the modern world.

In his foreword to my book (Strategic Consequences of India's Economic Performance, 2006), he wrote, "A globalised economy, with this degree of interdependence among nations, and in a balance of power strategic system, has not existed before; at least not in the industrial age. The world did not have nuclear weapons and missiles that deterred outbreak of war among major powers. Nor have we a precedent to a world where knowledge will be the currency of power. The opposition to India's enhancement of its relationship with the US comes largely from people who are risk averse."

I must acknowledge here a critical role that Mr Subrahmanyam played in saving the India-US civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement in March 2008. After months of trying to get the Left Front on board, the Congress party had virtually given up on the deal. On February 20, 2008 the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joseph Biden (a leader of the Democratic Party and now US vice-president), met the PM and advised him to "conclude the nuclear deal by July-end to ensure that the US Congress approves it before the presidential election".

Mr Biden was sure that a Democrat would be the next US president and was also sure that it was "highly unlikely that the next president would be able to present the deal in the present format".

I found the PM most distraught because it appeared he had little political support from his party and government to go forward. Even his closest aides started advising him to put the initiative on the back burner and not risk a political crisis.

I then took the initiative, without the PM's authorisation, to reach out to Mr Subrahmanyam to get him to build a constituency of support for the deal through the media. His voice would be heard with respect even within the government and the Congress party. He wrote a column ("Will the nuclear deal finally go ahead?" March 16, 2008. Available at: in which he warned the Congress against the perfidy of the Left when it comes to foreign policy.

I believe Mr Subrahmanyam's solid backing for the nuclear agreement at a critical moment played a vital role in reviving the issue and encouraging the PM to take a tough stand. He had played a similar role, using the media, holding the Gujral government back from voting in favour of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.

Mr Subrahmanyam was a true Bharat Ratna. He shaped policy from the outside, seeking to enhance India's power without seeking any for himself. His views will continue to shape India's grand strategy as India's economy and knowledge power grow.






Should Indians care about America's strategic choices with China? You bet, especially since so many perceived a tilt unfavourable to India during US President Obama's first two years in office.

What a difference two years makes. The US and China are deeply interdependent, with trade in goods reaching a whopping $366 billion in 2009. Yet, a growing number of stakeholders on both sides find that reality deeply disquieting.


 Structural changes are afoot that are sure to make the next several years more difficult. Even when the two sides share interests, divergent threat assessments and countervailing interests too often obstruct efforts to fashion complementary policies.

It is instructive, in that light, to take a hard look at President Hu Jintao's just-concluded visit to Washington. The visit cleared the air in some areas while yielding symbolic initiatives in others. Hu received 21 cannon shots on the White House south lawn. And his visit yielded $45 billion in new commercial deals — a striking contrast, perhaps, with the important (but rather less hefty) $10 billion touted during Obama's November visit to India.

Yet the central challenges in US-China relations are increasingly structural. For one, many, both in and out of China's government, want to test what Beijing's growing weight might yield. They are confident of China's growing strength and relish the opportunity to, at minimum, make Washington work harder for China's support of ostensibly shared objectives. Some wish to see whether and how Washington will accommodate a wider array of Chinese interests.

For their part, many in Washington have been chastened by China's choices of the past year. Beijing has proved less accommodating than many in the Obama administration had hoped of US preferences on issues from climate, to the pace of renminbi appreciation, to coordinated action in response to North Korean provocations. There were successes — for example, mutual support for Iran-related sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. But China's deliberate, self-interested approach did not mesh in many areas with American exhortations and expectations.

Most important, supportive domestic constituencies, who have provided ballast to US-China relations in tough times, continue to fracture. In China, for example, the central bank has, in various ways, made the case for currency appreciation. But export lobbies continue to resist, arguing that companies will go under and China will suffer massive job losses. This more pluralistic political dynamics is playing out on the US side too: a once-solid business lobby has become more conflicted.

Few, if any, US firms are pulling out of China. But a 2010 survey from the American Chamber of Commerce in China put the percentage of US companies that feel unwelcome in the Chinese market at 38 per cent, up 15 points from 23 per cent just two years earlier in 2008. This sentiment extends beyond technology companies, like Google, into the manufacturing sector. Companies complain about a host of issues, from intellectual property theft to non-tariff barriers to various aspects of China's regulatory regime.

Are such challenges manageable? Probably. The US and China share an array of interests, certainly in broad strokes. Who in China would not wish to support and sustain global growth? Who in China "wants" a nuclear North Korea? Or who in China truly thinks there is "benefit" from instability in Central Asia and Afghanistan?

The problem is twofold: First, Beijing rarely shares American threat assessments. Chinese leaders are more relaxed than are Americans about the scope and nature of global threats. Second, even when threat assessments converge, countervailing interests obstruct cooperation. China may well seek a non-nuclear North Korea. But its emphasis on stability above all other objectives puts it at odds with Washington about how to prioritise this goal relative to others.

Meanwhile, China and the US have become centerpieces in debates on each side that transcend bilateral relations per se. Ultimately, these will play out in domestic politics.

In the US, such debates include the future of American manufacturing, competitiveness and innovation; the future of US primacy in Asia; and what kind of global arrangements best serve US interests.

In China, they include the pace and scope of economic rebalancing; whether (and when) to knuckle under to international pressure on currency and industrial policies; and how to bolster Chinese military projection.

These structural changes comprised the backdrop to Hu's recent visit. Just take Chinese industrial policy. Tensions in this area strike at the core of each country's economic competitiveness. Indeed, China's ability to compete with US firms has improved faster in some areas than many had anticipated.

From high-speed rail to nuclear power plants, China's capacity to digest foreign technology, re-engineer it to Chinese specifications, and then produce (but as a lower-cost competitor) have unnerved a host of foreign companies, that now question the wisdom of transferring technology to China. The underlying fear is that if China can quickly produce substitutable (but cheaper) products, then foreign firms will be marginalised.

But Hu's trip, in some sense, showcased just how difficult it will be to coordinate US actions and responses. Boeing scored the sale of 200 new airplanes, valued at $19 billion. Meanwhile, General Electric is supplying the avionics for the C919, China's indigenous competitor to the Boeing 737.

The bottom line? Notwithstanding interdependence, the next several years are sure to be more fraught.

The author is head, Asia practice group, at Eurasia Group, and is also adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC








The country is becoming the lender of first and last resort for the world

China's rapid growth and the economic power it has generated are being increasingly felt in global financial and commodities markets. The sheer size of its reserves (very close to $3 trillion) makes it by far the single largest holder and buyer of US treasuries (after the Fed), and its reserve deployment policies will influence both the shape of the US dollar yield curve and the currency's exchange rate. A sharp fall of the dollar in global markets would inflict huge translation losses for China's reserves; contrarily, if China stops buying US treasuries at a time when its borrowing needs are expected to go up to $1.5 trillion in the current year, this would steepen the yield curve sharply, inflicting fair value losses on China's reserves; and negate the effects of the US Federal Reserve's open market operations. In effect, the US has become a "too large too fail" borrower for China. Reserves apart, China's sovereign wealth fund (China Investment Corporation) has a corpus of $300 billion and is an increasingly active investor in the equity markets.


 It is playing the role of the "lender of last resort" to troubled European countries like Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, and is also becoming "the lender of first resort" to the poorer developing countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America. As for the European countries, it makes strategic sense for China to buy the troubled countries' bonds, if only because the European Union is its largest single export market. Inclusive of the loans by the China Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank, China has lent more to the developing countries in the last two years than the World Bank. The amount was as large as $110 billion according to Financial Times.

The loans are not just for financing China's exports (recently, an Indian power utility received a huge loan from the Chinese lenders to finance import of power plants) but, increasingly, to develop infrastructure and raw material resources in resource-rich countries in Africa and Latin America, with the objective of securing supplies to feed China's gigantic and fast-growing appetite for oil, base metals and foodgrain. "Loans for oil" deals have also been signed with Russia, Kazakhstan and Venezuela — in these countries, China is also a very large direct investor. China also is helping develop Myanmar's gas and other resources for import into China. It is also a very large investor in developing Sudan's resources. (It may be recalled that western oil companies keep away from the last two countries because Washington does not like these governments.) The big test will be Iran, given the sanctions against that country. In short, the financial power is being increasingly used to further China's trading interests, given that it is not only the world's largest exporter but also imported goods worth $1.4 trillion last year. In particular, most east Asian economies are getting increasingly dependent on trade with China. For example, it is the largest trading partner for countries like South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, more than a fifth of whose foreign trade is with China.

Its influence is also being felt in the global commodity markets. It is the world's largest consumer of commodities like steel (44 per cent), cotton (42 per cent) and copper (a little less than 40 per cent). These days, commodity market participants watch developments in China as closely as they used to watch the US and Russia.

China's influence is also being felt in high-technology areas. Huawei and ZTE are global leaders in communication technology and operate in more than a hundred countries — so does Lenovo, the computer hardware giant. China is the global leader in high-speed rail network, which is being rapidly expanded into the Association of South East Asian Nations countries. Another area in which the Chinese are global leaders is renewable energy. Only a few years ago, Q-Cells of Germany was the global leader in solar energy panels. It has been rapidly overtaken by China's Suntech. China is also extremely competitive in wind energy. Its knowledge power is also manifest in the fact that it is the world's second-largest publisher of science and engineering research papers and is expected to overtake the US in the number of patent applications in the current year (Time, January 31). The largest number of foreign students in US universities are now from China.

Overall, the gap between India and China in the economic and technology area seems to be as high as in the tally of Olympic Gold Medals (51 for China, one for India in the 2008 Beijing Olympics). We are obviously better in terms of the democratic freedom of our people. But what about social justice? To quote Pallavi Aiyar in Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China, "It was authoritarian China that seemed to offer greater social justice for its people, freedom for its women, and protection for its poor… The legitimacy of democracy in many ways absolved Indian governments from the necessity of performing."






Capital expenditure became one of the key drivers of India's economic development after liberalisation in 1991. India Inc added over Rs 13 lakh crore in fixed assets in the last 10 years (2000 to 2010), around 80 per cent of it over the past five years. Though the broader economic slowdown has hit capital formation in the last year, Indian companies are seeking greater comfort by setting up greenfield projects abroad. Going forward, however, we may see a significant moderation in investment.

A look at the trends in fixed-capital formation in the Indian economy post-liberalisation reveals two years when fixed capital formation stagnated or declined in real terms. The 5 per cent decline in 1992 was probably the result of the balance of payments crisis of 1991. In 2001 fixed-capital formation was flat once the tech bubble burst. Between 2006 and 2008, however, the capital market boom fuelled the first post-liberalisation corporate capex boom and significant overseas acquisitions saw capital formation hit an all-time high in 2009.


 Reliance Industries tops the capital formation ranks with an investment of over Rs 2 lakh crore in ten years, increasing its oil refining capacity at Jamnagar and making substantial investments in the D6 gas field in the Krishna-Godavari basin. Sectors such as power, steel and telecom grew the most. Bharti Airtel made the most of the liberalisation in the telecom sector, growing capital formation at a compounded annual rate of 26 per cent in the last five years.

India Inc's asset growth was more sustainable in the past decade because it was funded through internal resources and the capital market. The liberal distribution of profit took a hit, however, as corporate payout as a percentage of net profit declined with companies investing in expansion. In absolute terms, dividend distribution increased. No wonder the debt/equity (D/E) ratio, though still below one, declined from high of 0.84 in 2001-2002 to an average of 0.63 over the past five years.

Modernisation increased the productivity of manufacturing companies and reduce the reliance on manual labour. So, the profitability of the corporate sector increased at the cost of manual labour









IT IS not often that official reports succeed in creating an alternate reality in which fair is foul, beauty is ugly and lies are the truth. Such a Kafkaesque feat has been achieved by recent reports on telecom, the latest being the one by former Justice Shivraj Patil. It says that all telecom decisions since 2001, particularly those in 2003 and in 2008, were wrong, because they flouted Cabinet decisions. If they did, the flouted Cabinet decisions were bad and the telecom decisions, sound. India's telecom revolution began in right earnest after the 2003 decision regularised the back-door entry of Reliance and Tata into full mobility. This did damage to incumbent operators but did a massive service to the cause of telecom spread, removing a meaningless restriction on technology implicit in the flouted policy and intensifying competition, leading to a massive drop in the cost of owning and operating a mobile phone. The Cabinet should have retrospectively revised its own erroneous decision. The 2008 decision, too, had the effect of intensifying competition further and dropping call rates to their present levels, the lowest in the world. The injured parties are incumbent or would-be telecom operators who failed to get a licence or spectrum. Consumers gained immensely. But so did some favoured telecom operators for whom the first-come, first-served policy was rigged. Such arbitrariness in the selection of operators was grossly irregular and those responsible must be brought to book.

What about the loss to the exchequer? Many advocate spectrum auctions because they allocate spectrum to claimants in a non-arbitrary fashion and also raise huge sums for the government. But this overlooks the implicit costs: operators hand over huge amounts to the government and, cash-strapped, skimp on roll-out, if they are not in a position to hike tariffs because of competition. Further, the auctions funnel bank credit to the government, denying business investible resources. These costs far outweigh the benefit of upfront spectrum revenues. The government is more than compensated by the boost telecom spread gives to GDP growth and tax collections, apart from by the revenue share telcos cough up both as licence fees and as spectrum fees. Let us not debunk the telecom reform that has worked well for the economy. Kafka served to highlight the irrationality in the real world, not to urge a generalised descent into disorder.







THE acquisition of US-based carbon black specialist Columbian Chemicals by the Aditya Birla Group for $875 million (. 4,016 crore) creates strategic value, pitchforking the Indian major, with a combined capacity of 2 million tonnes, as the world's largest producer by volume of carbon black, a crude oil derivative used in the rubber industry for tyres and as pigment for paints and inks. The deal, which would reportedly be completed by mid-2011, is in line with the stated vision of the conglomerate to be among the top three players in a given business. Group company Hindalco is already the world's largest rolled-aluminium producer, after its purchase of can maker Novelis in 2007. And UltraTech is India's largest cement producer. The group includes the world's largest player in the viscose staple fiber industry, along with interests in acrylic fiber, viscose filament yarn, spinning mills et al and has a large presence in the branded garments segment in India. Its telecom arm, Idea Cellular, is yet to make it to the top three in the industry, however.


The figures suggest that, globally, over two-thirds of carbon black output is used in the manufacture of tyres. And the buyout of Atlanta-based Columbian Chemicals should boost market presence and carbon black supplies to the trio of leading tyre makers: Bridgestone, Goodyear and Michelin. Now, Columbian operates 11 plants in nine countries, while Birla Carbon's operations span India, Thailand, China and Egypt. Given the penchant of the group for focus and scaling-up, a holding company for all carbon black operations could be a good idea, for listing and unlocking of value. While the Aditya Birla Group is now a global player across industries, it remains woefully dependent on commodities as raw materials. And with the commodities cycle turning, dearer prices may well jack up costs and squeeze margins. It underlines the need for the group to rev up its presence in sectors like information technology, insurance and retail. Indian corporates do need to explore both the opportunities of scale and scope offered by globalised growth.







THE grapevine has it that the Logans and the Forresters (the impossibly intertwined dynasties of The Bold and The Beautiful,one of the longest running American TV sagas) aren't the only ones who find it difficult to figure out who is related to whom and how. All the vine had to do was look closer home. By any reckoning, oenologists have been almost Nazi-like in their singleminded pursuit of racial purity, not allowing their grapes to look further afield than their assigned terroir. Worse still, they have engineered liaisons between related plants with all the enthusiasm of a Mengele, to propagate super breeds. The occasional Logan or Forrester has strayed beyond the extended family in the interest of TRP ratings, but the grapes hanging on the vines have had no such chance. It is not surprising therefore that a geneticist with an interest in wines has discovered that not only has the cultivated vitis vinifera grape not really evolved that far genetically from its wild relatives, but deliberate inbreeding and cloning for millennia has weakened the entire genus.

Much as the idea of a fair Chardonnay being related to a ruddy Merlot would crush winelovers, the alternatives may be even more abhorrent to those who swear by their cru classe exclusivity — cross breeding in the interests of posterity or genetic modification. The phylloxera epidemic that wiped out much of the best grapevines in the world in the late 19th century should have been a warning; instead oenologists simply resorted to sturdier rootstocks on which they grafted the delicate descendents of those same susceptible varietals, with no real intermingling. This is surely one instance where abstinence has not led to any substantial spiritual benefit.





EXACTLY three Mondays from now, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will unveil the Union Budget for 2011-12. On the face of it, he will be in a far happier position than a year ago, at least as far as Budget numbers go. Thanks primarily to telecom auctions, the government's finances are in much better shape. As a result, the revenue deficit or the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts (in the period up to November 2010, i.e. for two-thirds of the year) is just 50.7% of the Budget estimate compared to 91.2% a year ago. Fiscal deficit or the excess of total expenditure over revenue receipts is 48.9% compared to 76.4% in November 2010 while the primary deficit which is the fiscal deficit minus interest payments or the deficit discounted for past sins is just 39.2% as against a whopping 106.4% at the same time last year.


Agreed, a disaggregated picture shows there is much less to cheer on the expenditure front. But even so, unless government expenditure shoots up in the remaining four months of the year, an unlikely prospect, the FM will have something to be proud of. Remember, but for an all-too-brief period between 2003 and 2008, Budget estimates have been notoriously off the mark year after year and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would lament the government's 'poor fiscal marksmanship'.


Yet, despite the apparent improvement in the government's finances, the RBI's latest Review of Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments released late last month flags poor fiscal management as a serious issue that handicaps the central bank in its fight against inflation. What explains the central bank's angst? Could it be put down to the usual sparring between monetary and fiscal authorities? Or is there more to it?


'Fiscal consolidation based on one-off receipts is not sustainable,' the RBI warns. 'Rising oil prices,' it adds, 'will impact prices of both petroleum products and fertilisers. If the government chooses to restrict the pass-through to consumers and farmers, it will have to make adequate budgetary provisions, which will constrain its ability to reduce the fiscal deficit. If it does not, either fiscal credibility will be undermined or inflationary expectations will be reinforced by the likelihood of higher prices of these key inputs, both of which will further complicate inflation management.'


Critics might argue the bank is trying to pass the buck for its own unsuccessful attempts in tackling inflation. Except that it is not alone in raising the red flag on the fiscal deficit. Economists like J P Morgan's Jahangir Aziz and the IMF has also been warning India for a while now. In its December 2010 Article IV consultation with the government as well as its January 2011 Fiscal Monitor, the Fund pointed to underlying weaknesses in the health of our fisc as cause for concern. What are the underlying weaknesses?


Payments under the government's Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme have now been indexed to inflation. While this is, no doubt, a socially desirable initiative at a time when rising prices have seriously impaired the quality of life for the poor, it means an additional (and rising) draft on government expenditure as payments will keep rising in line with inflation.


The prospect of a rising subsidy bill, especially food subsidy, once the Food Security Bill becomes a reality. The expert committee headed by Dr Rangarajan, Chairman of the PM's Economic Advisory Council estimates the burden on account of food subsidy to rise to . 92,060 crore. Large food grain procurement would also require higher minimum support prices and imports, which would increase the fiscal burden further.

LIKEWISE, oil subsidy, presently estimated at about . 75,000 crore is bound to increase as the full impact of the US Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (read: printing dollars) is felt on commodity markets. Add to that the fear-induced spike in prices that seems inevitable as turmoil in West Asia spreads and the subsidy burden will cast a huge shadow over government expenditure in the coming fiscal year.


On the revenue side, there is as much reason for concern. The bonanza from 3G auctions is a thing of the past. Disinvestment could give us some more oneoff receipts, even if not on the scale of the 3G auctions that raised . 1.06 lakh crore. But with the investment climate turning uncertain, the government is unlikely to pursue an aggressive disinvestment programme for fear of being accused of selling the family silver cheap.


Tax buoyancy has been a major factor that has contributed to higher revenue receipts in the current fiscal. We could have expected this to continue except that growth is likely to slow down in 2011-12. The change in the composition of growth, with agriculture growing faster and industry growing slower than in the current year, is also likely to impact tax collections adversely since income from agriculture is not taxed. The impact of this could have been offset with the introduction of a goods and services tax (GST) and the direct taxes Code (DTC), both of which could help raise more tax revenue. But neither reform is expected to see the light of day till April 2013.


The outlook for the next fiscal, therefore, is more expenditure and less revenue both of which can only mean a higher fiscal deficit, a higher revenue deficit and broken promises! In his Budget last year, the FM reaffirmed his commitment to fiscal prudence saying, 'Government will address the fiscal deficit in right earnest to come back to the path of fiscal consolidation at the earliest.' And to show he meant business, he fixed the targets for fiscal deficit for 2011-12 and 2012-13 at 4.8% and 4.1% in the Medium Term Fiscal Policy Statement.

That's not all. His Status Paper on public debt targets a debt-GDP ratio of 65% (as against 79% in 2009-10) by 2014-15. But with expenses set to grow and revenues set to disappoint, neither seems likely at the moment. Unless the FM sticks to his last year's commitment (read rolls back the remaining fiscal stimulus and cuts subsidies). But with elections due in his home state, West Bengal, later this year and arch rival Mamata Banerjee only looking for an opportunity to press home her advantage, my guess is he'll opt for status quo. When have a couple of broken promises deterred a politician?








JUSTICE P Venkatarama Reddy was delivering advance rulings on tax dues of multinational companies when the government chose him for the top job at the Law Commission last year. Reddy and his team have taken up several studies, including one on improving the justice delivery system in the country. He argues that courts cannot give a go-by to procedures in a hurry to clear cases, but says the judiciary should be expanded as also the anti-corruption network machinery.


"There are several reasons for the delay in justice delivery. Some are within the purview of the judiciary and some are not. Better administration and management can cut delays, but use of technology or computerisation is not the answer. The process of decision-making, the appreciation of evidence and so on cannot be done in haste. Investigation in criminal cases is hampered, especially in rural areas, due to lack infrastructure like forensic laboratories. We are governed by the rule of law. Courts need evidence and cannot convict a person based on public opinion or media trial," says the former judge of the Supreme Court, who had upheld the death sentence of Afzal Guru convicted of conspiracy in the attack on Parliament in 2001.


India trails in the number of trial courts compared to other countries. The high court is in charge of recruitment of junior civil judges, but recruitments are often delayed. Besides, there are financial implications as states need to approve the spending on the lower judiciary. The Centre's plan to create an all-India judicial service to recruit at least one-fourth of the district judges through a national-level exam has not passed muster with states just yet.


Should'nt the country have more fasttrack courts to dispose the huge backlog of cases? Fast-track courts need to dispose of old criminal cases involving serious charges, though high courts have also entrusted them civil cases, says Reddy. He argues that fast-tracking criminal cases against politicians is not a good idea as courts would be branded as being discriminatory.


Bunching of cases can reduce the backlog. This is done in the Supreme Court where cases are segregated on the basis of legal principles. A group of cases of a similar nature can be clubbed and judgement can be delivered in a batch. However, the scope for bunching is limited in trial courts as every case has its own character, reckons Reddy.


He says people violate law because many of them are confident that the rule of law cannot reach them. "There is no specialisation in state anti-corruption bureaus and agencies like the CBI are grossly understaffed. We need to strengthen the network of anti-corruption machinery."


The Law Commission, set up in 1955, has given over 230 reports to the government on various subjects including the overhaul of economic laws. The amendments to the Insurance Act, proposed by the 17th Law Commission, are now awaiting passage in Parliament.


Is there a need to have a financial sector legislative reforms commission to rewrite financial sector laws? Reddy's reply is guarded. "The law commission can do the job. We have an expert from the financial sector and can induct more experts as members. However, it is upto the government to take a decision," he says.

The former chairman of the authority for advance rulings is clear that retrospective legislation should be avoided as far as possible. The government has made several amendments in the Income Tax Act with retrospective effect. A crucial one was in 1997, after the government saw a goldmine in cross-border M&A deals involving Indian assets. Law was amended retrospectively to ensure that the onus of paying capital gains tax on an acquisition in India rests with the buyer. Is there a case, for instance, to impose a capital gains tax on telcos that sold their shares to foreign partners at a much higher valuation? "We need to look at retrospective legislation in a larger context of what I mentioned earlier," says Reddy.


The quintessential lawyer signs off with sage advice. "There are so many actors in the judiciary. A disciplined and well-equipped bar is an asset to the judiciary. The quality of disposal of cases is as essential as the speed of disposal. We need more judges. they should be competent. Reforms should begin with improving the quality of legal education. After all, the character of law schools determine the quality of our judiciary."







IT IS time for us to take a hard look at our agricultural system. We are not yet reliving the food crisis of 2007-08, but food prices are surging, with global prices for wheat and maize rising by 75% and 60%, respectively, from June to December 2010. Meanwhile, nearly 1 billion people worldwide are going hungry.

The obvious solution to many of our food-related ills is to accelerate agricultural growth. But if we focus simply on boosting agricultural production, we may be setting our sights too low. New findings suggest that agriculture has the potential to do much more to improve people's health and nutrition than we have generally recognised.

To begin with, we need smarter agricultural growth. Different patterns of agricultural growth have different consequences for human health and nutrition. We need to look at how current agricultural subsidies and investments affect farmers' decisions about what to grow — and ultimately consumers' health and nutrition.

Does growth in cereal crops have a bigger nutritional impact than increased production of fruits, vegetables, or eggs and dairy products? If people already consume diets heavy in rice or wheat, then a more diverse diet would do more to improve their nutrition status. Does growth in export crops help improve poor people's incomes, health, and nutrition? Not if poor people don't grow those crops — which they often don't, given the expense and technical complexities of producing for the global market. The agricultural growth that does most for poor people's health and nutrition is the growth that takes place on poor people's farms, and policies can do much more to encourage growth there.


We can also work to build an agricultural system that produces greater volumes of healthier foods. Some local and underutilised crops, like millet and moringa, offer great promise in this regard. Agricultural scientists have traditionally focused on making crops and livestock more productive and on reducing susceptibility to disease, but by incorporating nutrition as a goal, researchers and breeders could, over time, provide farmers with a wide range of healthier products. Work has already begun on adding nutrients like iron, vitamin A and zinc to staple crops through biofortification. These efforts will allow consumers to consume more nutrients even if their diet patterns remain the same.


There are significant opportunities for improving health and nutrition during transport, storage, and processing. In India, inadequate and nonexistent storage facilities lead to the contamination and loss of around 10% of the food produced — a tragic level, given the energy and resources farmers have devoted to producing this food and the suffering of those who go hungry. Building the infrastructure to safely transport and store food may sound mundane, but it is essential to the operation of the whole food system.

Food processing is one point where the nutritional quality of food can be enhanced through, for example, fortification. This represents an opportunity for the private sector to add value and increase profits while contributing to consumers' nutrition — but only if consumers are willing to pay for more nutritious products. Here is where the public sector can make a big difference by educating consumers about nutrition and promoting changes in behaviour that lead to better nutrition and health.


It is also time to look more carefully at other ways of using the food system to promote health. People with diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis often suffer from undernutrition; so providing them with food as well as drugs is essential. Moreover, foods exist to treat any nutrient deficiency — the challenge is to ensure that the people who need such foods get access to them. Of course, nutrition and health interventions will still be necessary, but many such interventions would benefit from incorporating solutions linked to food and agriculture — the sector that is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the world's poor.


Those of us who work in the fields of agriculture, nutrition, and health must begin by communicating with each other — something that has rarely occurred in the past. We need to consider concrete ways of working together to achieve our shared goals, examining the synergies and trade-offs between different development strategies. And in the face of rising food prices and stubbornly high rates of hunger and malnutrition, we need to design a new paradigm for agricultural development, one in which agricultural growth is used not only to increase food production and reduce poverty, but also to enhance nutrition and health. After all, an agricultural system that does not do all it can to provide enough healthy food for all is at risk of missing the point.


(Fan is director general, International Food Policy Research Institute, and Swaminathan is
    Unesco Chair in Ecotechnology)








OBSERVATION of persons would often prompt this question: "Why is it that while some manage to get much work done even in limited time, some do precious little even after spending much time on their work?"

The key lies in ascertaining the extent of presence of the 'enemies within'. Clutter, confusion, delay, drag, deferment — the list could be long, including also the 'ten obstacles to yoga' enumerated by Patanjali (Sutra: I, 30). All have their roots in that major affliction — presence of inner contradictions and conflicts (dwanda). Essentially, this is lack of harmonious coexistence among the different aspects of one's conscious, subconscious and unconscious states of mind. While consciously one may have 'decided' to be organised and effective, the subconscious and unconscious, which have evolved over the years, may have 'decided' otherwise. It is also possible that the promptings and enthusiasm of the conscious are not powerful enough.


The way out of the impasse, therefore, lies in weakening the influence and impact of the unhealthy aspects within, while at the same time, empowering those of the healthy and life-supporting ones, which too, happily are inherent. Energy and effort, thus far spent in managing and suppressing the unhealthy forces within can now be channelled to constructive work.

The approach to resolving the problem lies in identifying and later reshaping, modifying and where necessary, weakening those conflicting forces, such that the "uneasy companionship" (to use the phrase of Somerset Maugham) of all aspects within give way to their peaceful coexistence and compatibility. This is the process of what Bhagawad Gita terms (VI, 6) as atmanyeva atmanah jitah. In this 'victory over oneself', lies the capacity of the aspirant to act as his own ally, as conceived of by this epic (VI, 5). The promptings and impact of the contradicting, sabotaging and retarding forces within, now weakened, would no more prevail. The abiding 'wishpower' (iccha sakti) of the integrated self, cleansed of such forces leads to right knowledge and finally real accomplishment (jnana sakti and krya sakti).

One thus also discovers that his own powers are substantial, though thus far, suppressed by undesirable forces, happily now laid powerless. This also is the art of truly 'organising' oneself and effective time management!







India can certainly move up the value chain, as it will have to in the changing technology landscape of the next decade. But only if Government does not get in the way.

If Mohammad won't go to the mountain, the mountain will come to him. This saying effectively captures the state of play in the IT-BPO industry. Wage costs are high in the developed world and one way of bringing them down would be to allow the inflow of workers. But since immigration is a ticklish issue, that is not about to happen. Yet, if companies there want to maintain their profits, they do have to reduce wage costs. So they are sending work out to other countries. One of the main beneficiaries of this is India. That is why, despite the odds, the IT-BPO industry is doing better than expected. Nasscom's scorecard, which tabulates the industry's annual performance, shows that exports will grow an estimated 18.7 per cent in fiscal 2011, beating the original target of 13-15 per cent growth. The fiscal 2012 projection of 16-18 per cent growth for IT-BPO exports — though seen as 'conservative' by some since it is down a bit from the growth estimates for current year — points to a healthy demand for outsourcing. This is in spite of the slow pace of economic recovery in the US, Western protectionist tendencies, and the Euro zone crisis. Further, global tech purchases of hardware and software products and services combined are expected to increase by 7.1 per cent to $1.7 trillion in 2011. Acceleration in software purchases will, in all likelihood, be driving demand for IT consulting and systems integration services. The local Indian market is also growing well and is estimated to clock about 15-17 per cent next year. That said, economic and political uncertainties continue to be a worry. Egypt on edge, developed markets staring at sluggish recovery, high unemployment and the risk of sovereign default all point to a large number of potential wobbles. Infosys Technologies, last month, had flagged some of these issues as being the key risks for the industry. Moreover, with tax breaks slated to end and the roadmap for goods and services tax and the DTC still shrouded in a haze, the industry will have to deal with challenges that go beyond wage inflation, attrition and employability issues.

Over the next 20-25 years, the macroeconomic, social, demographic and business trends will reshape the technology landscape, both on the demand and supply side. Global clients will seek value propositions that go beyond cost arbitrage and into areas such as innovation, revenue enhancement and risk management. Therefore, much would depend on how quickly Indian IT services companies move up the value chain, drive non-linear revenue and break new ground with regard to business models, solutions, domains and process-reengineering.

That India can do it is not the point. Of course it can. But whether the Government will allow it to do so is not as certain, not because it would not want it, but because of its habit of inadvertently getting in the way. Bad governance is, therefore, the biggest risk.







In 1954, William Arthur Lewis, arguably the father of development economics, proposed a theory of the 'dual economy' in developing countries that constituted a 'modern' sector of manufacturing, mining and commercial agriculture, driven by profit, and a traditional agrarian sector blessed with "unlimited labour supply" that he concluded could be used to drive the modern sector.

When Gunnar Myrdal adopted the concept in his seminal work Asian Drama to describe India, he provided the context for a development plan based on the laudable objective of bringing the 'great unwashed' into the mainstream and eventually creating a unified economy of equitable prosperity.


India's twentieth-century modernism, based on a typically confused social democratic platform, began at the point when the state assumed the awesome responsibility of growth premised on distributive justice. Successive governments were judged by their capacity to carry out this self-assigned task; when ordinary citizens perceived the failure of the modern state's welfarist contract, they took to the streets; in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the social compact, quixotically termed "democratic socialism", came under threat.

Angered by food inflation and devaluation, workers' went on strike across metros and in the North-East part of West Bengal, while the Naxalite movement, not to mention a series of railway strikes, also broke out during this period.

The following decades tilted the modern state even more decisively away from its welfare-inspired origins. The Emergency and the carnage following the assassination of Indira Gandhi exposed the modern state's claims to an impartial mediation in civil society's fractious and competing interests. India's modern state, the "soft state" of Gunnar Myrdal, was fast becoming a failed project even as the old duality lingered, often along freshly mutated communal lines.


Then two things happened to give the tattered image of the Indian state a new life. Internet-based services and the phenomenal rise of the Indian IT enterprise meshed to fruition in unprecedented GDP growth, fortuitously coinciding with the UPA's first term in office.

By 2005-06, the second year of that term, rubbing its eyes in disbelief as it were, Dr Singh's team quickly claimed authorship of the Cinderella-type fairy tale of GDP numbers. In the process, it also created for itself a new discourse of policymaking based on the increasingly firm conviction that an aggressive (usually discriminatory) encouragement of the IT sector and services would expand incomes more universally than any welfare scheme the government could rustle up: The old duality would vanish under the inexorable march of market-led prosperity.

As the first term wore on it became difficult to separate the state from its discourse of wealth creation, and both from the narrow band of urban-based beneficiaries; each spoke the same language, and still speak to one another in the narrow confines of air-conditioned halls, global talk-fests, the meaningless rhetoric of a magical world of growing numbers alien to more than 700 million on the leeward side of the glittering lights.

Poverty alleviation does not need proper governance and grassroots democracy so much as the right computer software, internet connectivity and the former chief executive of an IT firm to advise the Prime Minister on skill development. Who else but the ones already blessed with this wondrous technology and its spin-offs could respond with gusto?


But the post-modernist state has failed as much as the old one in resolving Lewis' duality. Attempting to create the illusion that it is meaningless, the New Age discourse let the duality mutate into two separate 'countries'. One, a narrow strip of privilege consisting of no more than a third of the population with its own cultural benchmarks (life as Spectacle, Bollywood as life), value systems (the superfluous as necessity and vice-versa) a universe constantly honed by television; and the 'Other' a vast hinterland behind the broken lights of GDP numbers and home-grown billionaires, the 'invisible republic' of the dispossessed and symbol of the failed social democratic project.

For the new age UPA-II, entwined in the discourse of wealth accumulation, that large area of darkness will have to wait for the market to reach its shores. Problem is, the Maoists have already landed.








At a recent seminar on energy conservation, a bureaucrat cited the instance of conqueror Genghis Khan being touted as the "greenest eco-warrior". By destroying human settlements in the course of his conquests, the Mongolian chieftain inadvertently did his bit for the environment. His plunders and killings, which led to the creation of the world's largest contiguous empire between the 13th and 14th centuries, resulted in huge cultivated land becoming forests again. This, according to research by Carnegie Institution, resulted in an estimated 700 million tonnes of carbon being absorbed from the atmosphere. Way to go, green warrior!

Media meet gone off track

It was confusion galore at a recent press briefing to showcase the swanky Reliance Infra's Airport Express Link in Delhi. Close to 50 presspersons were left behind due to security check delays as Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit waved on the train to the Indira Gandhi International airport. After half an hour of heated arguments between journos and the corporate communications team, another train was arranged to ferry the remaining journalists to the airport. All seemed to be back on track, literally. But to everyone's surprise the second train landed at Dwarka, the next station, as Ms Dikshit had decided to take a joyride till the last station. The only consolation for the hacks was an extended tour of the newly built stations on the way back.

Old habits die hard?

Times may have changed, but not the mentality. Ministers , especially Congress old timers, still believe in playing lord and master before deciding on key appointments, even for statutory bodies. Prospective applicants are expected to pay obeisance in the traditional way, with folded hands et al, to ensure that their names are in the fray. Quite clearly, the Mantris are in no hurry to fill the vacancies, thereby ensuring a steady stream of supplicants-contenders.

Is it Madras or Chennai?

At a recent event, a speaker referred to the IIT-Madras as IIT-Chennai while addressing the participants. When it was his turn to speak, an IIT alumnus started his address with the correction - It is IIT-Madras and not IIT-Chennai. "But IIT-Madras in Chennai is acceptable," he conceded.

Enact, but implement too!

India can enter the Guinness Book of Records for the number of laws it has enacted. It can also do so for not effectively implementing them, according to eminent lawyer and former Attorney-General of India, Soli Sorabjee. Addressing the media ahead of the Commonwealth Law Conference in Hyderabad, he said "each passing year we discuss ways to expedite delivery of justice. This is something we have been doing so for decades, but we are still some way away from managing to achieve this objective."

Ailing Maharaja turns healthy

If mere statements of how well a company is doing financially are enough to attract customers, then Air India should well and truly be on the road to recovery. Despite losing market share for two successive months, the airline management has been sending out statements pointing out how the financial health of the airline has been improving. Now one is not sure if this is a way of attracting more passengers or hoodwinking the Government, which has said it will pump in more money into the state-owned airline, into believing things are improving.

City plan sans 'planners'

On Friday, Mangalore City Corporation hosted a workshop on city development plan for 2034. It started almost 50 minutes later than scheduled with thin representation from councillors. However, key persons such as chairpersons of standing committees on Town Planning and Improvement and on Accounts were absent for the workshop. The Mayor, who came for the inauguration, left the venue in a hurry. The lackadaisical attitude of the elected representatives towards the important issue of planning for city development was palpably visible to those present, which included NGOs, civil engineer association members and architects.

Commuters bear the brunt

The efficiency shown by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation in setting up the MRTS project in the Capital is being offset to some extent by the operational mishaps cropping up every second day.

Signal failures, delays on account of issues with overhead pantograph on the trains, add to the woes of commuters, who've been facing the brunt of overcrowding across peak hours. While the DMRC chief has been promising remedial action, problems continue on a regular basis. A serious intervention is warranted to salvage the operational situation.

Where's the inflation

SMS joke doing the rounds: The only place in India where food is inflation-proof? Sample this: Tea -Re 1, Soup - Rs 5.50, Dal - Rs 1.50, Meals - Rs 2, Chapatti - Re 1, Chicken - Rs 24.50, Dosa - Rs 4, Veg biriyani - Rs 8, and Fish - Rs 13. Answer: Parliament canteen.







The lesson from Davos 2011 is, with apologies to Charles Darwin, adapt quickly to change or perish.

Is there a 'make-believe' world that India is trying to portray that is totally out of line with the general perceptions of the outside world? I was at the India Adda in Davos when a lady official charged with promoting "Brand India" came on the trot and aggressively accosted me.

She said that while she was doing her best to promote "Brand India", she was constantly being pushed to a spot by her board members who checkmated her with negative media reports on India. Further, she wanted to have a chat with me about my column of May 31, 2010 titled "Is the nation in coma?".

"Oh", she said... "corruption is endemic not only in this country. You need to write on the more positive aspects of India".

I retorted to this lady 'brand ambassador' that the whole world know about all our thieving politicians. And that my article hardly reflected my personal views but was a sincere feedback and reflection for Indians of what the rest of the world thinks of us. Our conversation was interrupted when a Minister walked into the 'Indian Adda' and our brand ambassador ran away, meekly and brusquely to heed to him.

I truly pity this brand ambassador. She has the thankless duty of trying to brand the Indian state. But our thieving, hopeless political leadership is the one that needs rebranding. Europeans and the rest of the West are very much aware of India's potential.

The world knows that India is a talented country, but they would continue to be wary of the country unless the current crop of politicians shows remorse and starts rebranding itself.

Re-orient the nation

What kind of branding are we doing in situations where majority of young people are without skill, jobless and impoverished, live in illegal, unauthorised shanty towns and squatter settlements?

What brand are we promoting when we cannot provide drinking water to majority of the people? When we still have no electricity and even in our metro cities and towns, children do not go to school and those who do, read textbooks and prepare for examinations in glow of oil lamps?

What India brand are we talking about where abandoned street children are searching for their first meal of the day in heaps of foul-smelling garbage?

Why are we branding instead of making India work so that word of mouth of Indians can rebrand India! Our recent actions have only helped in "debranding" India.

Instead of the throes of branding the nation, it is much better to re-orient the nation and its political leadership!

Now contrast this with what happened in an India session. All of us know a double negative occurs when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence to rescind one another and produce an assenting, affirmative sense. And this is precisely what happened at the India session on the penultimate day of Davos.

The Indian dignitaries sitting on the panel, pre-empted and collectively concluded that "greed, graft and corruption" had increased in India and such aberrations were unavoidable when a country was growing at such a "high-speed".

To add salt to injury, participants in the session, largely Indians, were highly critical of India's weak governance and the fact that reforms were yet to trickle down to the population.

Double negative

And, guess the result — a back-handed compliment was paid by a Harvard Professor who said that "it was good to see Indian leaders admit their "misdemeanours and shortcomings, proactively".

There was a standing ovation by an audience — mostly Indians. But not many understood the compliment remains "back-handed" because the speaker was intentionally snubbing and slighting. In Western cultures, back-handed compliments are considered to belittle, a gracious way of expressing contempt.

That is the position the country has strategically placed itself in — a position of ridicule.

It is hugely shameful to know that one's beloved country has attained such height of low that we need to hang our head in shame.

The saving grace, as always, was the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) which made a major splash at Davos with its all-encompassing 'India Inclusive' theme, making sure the country dominated this year's Summit.

Adapt or Perish

Davos is often criticised as a great gabfest without tangible results. It has its critics, who tend to focus on the event's bloat, self-importance, and potential for losing its uniqueness by becoming too watered down.

I have attended the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos for over a dozen years and, to keep the record straight, I must reverentially mention a few points.

Did this year's Davos — committed by its logo to "improve the state of the world" — really make a difference? Short of waving a magic wand, getting on the spot results at such a rambling event would be unattainable. As Admiral Lord Nelson said "...the battle of Trafalgar was won in the playgrounds of Eaton".

Davos has its intangible benefits. Davos attendees have the power to move mountains, and to find tangible ways to make this happen. The lessons learned from Davos 2011, no doubt applicable to various sectors of industry and government and with apologies to Charles Darwin, adapt quickly to a changing environment or, perish.

The lesson from Davos 2011 is, with apologies to Charles Darwin, adapt quickly to change or perish.

(The author is former Europe Director, CII and lives in Cologne, Germany.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



Anyone who's long followed West Asia knows that the six most dangerous words after any cataclysmic event in this region are: "Things will never be the same". After all, this region absorbed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Google without a ripple.

But travelling through Israel, the West Bank and Jordan to measure the shock waves from Egypt, I'm convinced that the forces that were upholding the status quo here for so long — oil, autocracy, the distraction of Israel, and a fear of the chaos that could come with change — have finally met an engine of change that is even more powerful: China, Twitter and 20-year-olds.

Of course, China per se is not fuelling the revolt here — but China and the whole Asian-led developing world's rising consumption of meat, corn, sugar, wheat and oil certainly is. The rise in food and gasoline prices that slammed into this region in the last six months clearly sharpened discontent with the illegitimate regimes — particularly among the young, poor and unemployed.

This is why every government out here is now rushing to increase subsidies and boost wages — even without knowing how to pay for it, or worse, taking it from capital budgets to build schools and infrastructure. King Abdullah II of Jordan just gave every soldier and civil servant a $30-a-month pay raise, along with new food and gasoline subsidies.

But China is a challenge for Egypt and Jordan in other ways. Several years ago, I wrote about Egyptian entrepreneurs who were importing traditional lanterns for Ramzan — with microchips in them that played Egyptian folk songs — from China. When China can make Egyptian Ramzan toys more cheaply and appealingly than low-wage Egyptians, you know there is problem of competitiveness.

Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — "the educated unemployables". They have college degrees on paper but really don't have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders. That has not been Hosni Mubarak's obsession.

I look at the young protesters who gathered in downtown Amman on February 6, and the thousands who gathered in Egypt and Tunis, and my heart aches for them. So much human potential, but they have no idea how far behind they are — or maybe they do and that's why they're revolting. Egypt's government has wasted the last 30 years — plying them with the soft bigotry of low expectations: "Be patient. Egypt moves at its own pace, like the Nile". Well, great. Singapore also moves at its own pace, like the Internet.

The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.

I have not been to Jordan for a while, but my ears are ringing today with complaints about corruption, frustration with the king and queen, and disgust at the enormous gaps between rich and poor. King Abdullah, who sacked his Cabinet last week and promised real reform and real political parties, has his work cut out for him. And given some of the blogs that my friends here have shared with me from the biggest local website,, the people are not going to settle for the same-old, same-old.

Egypt was definitely a wake-up call for Jordan's monarchy. The king's challenge going forward is to convince his people that "their voices are going to be louder in the voting booth than in the street", said Salah Eddin al-Bashir, a member of Jordan's Senate.

As for Cairo, I think the real story in Egypt today is the 1952 revolution, led from the top by the military, versus the 2011 revolution, led from below by the people. The Egyptian Army has become a huge patronage system, with business interests and vast perks for its leaders. For Egypt to have a happy ending, the Army has to give up some of its power and set up a fair political transition process that gives the Egyptian centre the space to build precisely what Mubarak refused to permit — legitimate, independent, modernising, secular parties — that can compete in free elections against the Muslim Brotherhood, now the only authentic party.

Now, if Egypt and Jordan can build a new politics, the Muslim Brotherhood will, for the first time, have real competition from the moderate centre in both countries — and they know it.

"If leaders don't think in new ways, there are vacancies for them in museums", said Zaki Bani Rsheid, political director of Jordan's Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm. When I asked Rsheid if his own party was up for this competition, he stopped speaking in Arabic and said to me in English, with a little twinkle in his eye: "Yes we can".

I hope so, and I also hope that events in Egypt and Jordan finally create a chance for legitimate modern Arab democratic parties to test him.







The Egyptian passion play has cornered global attention for two weeks following the Tunisian drama. Authoritarian regimes are on notice; even the Chinese are unnerved.

On the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, the second President of Egypt, in 1970, his successor Muhammad Anwar El Sadat swung Egypt away from the nonaligned pro-Soviet orientation towards engagement with US and peace with Israel in 1977-1979, abandoning Arab solidarity. Current President Hosni Mubarak further mutated the secular, leftist and reformist agenda of Nasser to a crony-capitalist, secular and even more than Sadat pro-US construct. The result has been a gradual diminution of Egypt's influence in its neighbourhood and the Arab world. I recall in 1977, watching from my flat in Zamalak, a Manhattan-like island on the Nile, across the river a mob advancing towards an Army tank. The Riots broke out over Sadat's withdrawal of bread and gas subsidies under International Monetary Fund pressure. For two days the situation was precarious but quick subsidy restitution and force restored order. While in recent times the economy fared better, boosted by oil and gas finds, increased income from Suez Canal and tourism, basically nepotism, unemployment and corruption have increased the alienation of the common man. Egypt population is also younger and better networked through the Internet, more aware of the world and with rising expectations.

The George Bush administration realised that its war on terror following 9/11 had to be accompanied by political reform in Islamic countries to counter radical Islam's narrative. In January 2005, Bush's second inaugural speech endorsed this. Then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice spoke about it at the American University, Cairo, in June 2005, prior to Mr Mubarak's re-election. However, the turmoil in Iraq and Hamas' victory in Gaza changed US priorities. Mr Mubarak ham-handedly rigged the elections, restricting the participation, harassing Ayman Nour, his main opponent, even re-imprisoning him post-election. The US ambassador hailed the victory, the US state department spokesman guardedly welcomed it. Reality had overtaken principle.

Then came constitutional changes enhancing presidential powers, abridging citizens' rights ignoring protests by groups like Kifaya or ElBaradei's Association for Change etc. US President Barack Obama's Cairo message to the Islamic world was forgotten as he was distracted by the financial crisis, the Afghanistan war review and his domestic agenda besides the Democratic Party's electoral disaster. The issue is back in his face and so far he has addressed it deftly. He has cut the ground from beneath his ally by asking for immediate transition. US' stakes are high as its entire West Asia policy, since 1977, rests on peace between Israel and Egypt. There can be no war without Egypt non-comprehensive peace without them. Successive US Presidents have tried to finesse a settlement of the Palestinian issue, Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan heights but neither found another Arab Sadat or an Israeli Yitzhak Rabin, both assassinated by their own people. Rabin, in his 1979 memoir presciently concluded that Israel-Egypt peace was precarious unless the remaining issues were settled. He wrote, "If our efforts fail and our trial with peace does not work, Israel will find herself facing the most difficult period of her existence since the War of Independence". He concluded that also critical was the economic success of Egypt.

The dilemma for US policymakers has been between their core values as the most powerful democracy and their strategic interests. Democracies are unpredictable to work with; dictators make excellent clients, until their masses rebel. The irony is that by the time that happens the initiative passes to those the US fears the most, i.e. radicals on the right or the left. Power is, wrote Joseph Nye recently, shifting globally but also getting diffused in each country due to communication revolution. Twitter and Google collaborated to set up alternative arteries the minute the Mukhabarat (Egyptian intelligence agency) disrupted the existing ones.

The focus is now on the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan). Founded by Hassan al-Bana, in 1928 to resist British colonisation, it had its ideology magnified by Sayyid Qutb's writings and their puritanical vision of Islam, rejecting rationalism and Western values. Nasser and his Free Officers group first worked with Ikhwan and then fought them after their attempt to assassinate Nasser. Before Qutb's hanging in 1966, Nasser offered compromise, which was rejected. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's second-in-command, is Qutb's follower. The Ikhwan have at best polled about 20 per cent vote in parliamentary elections. In the present street protests they have remained omniscient, though their leadership has gradually surfaced. The newly-appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman wants dialogue with the Opposition, including the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan would be a factor in any free election. It is unclear what would be their foreign policy orientation. Would they breach Israeli and US red lines: rejection of the 1979 Peace Agreement, open alliance with the Hamas and excessive Islamisation of Egypt? That conditions US caution in ejecting Mr Mubarak and wanting orderly transition.

On February 4, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, in a rare sermon, delved into Egyptian developments. Ignoring the smothering of similar Iranian protests last year after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election victory, Mr Khamenei termed them as "sacred anger". The churning in the largest Arab nation, which historically has been the font of thought and culture in the Arab world, may be the Islamic renaissance that the Cold War froze with both superpowers preferring dictators as pawns in their geo-political chess. Soviet pawns were overpowered by their people when USSR collapsed, creating myriad democracies. Is it the turn of US pawns now? Let Mr Khamenei not exult, his street awaits him too.
- K.C. Singh is a former

secretary in the external affairs ministry





There is a libertarian ring about a recent Supreme Court ruling which says that membership of a banned organisation itself cannot be construed to be a crime. Going by its own logic, the bench should have gone further — into the merits of banning an organisation and to consider if proscribing a party, including one which does not abjure violence, is in order. Many have felt over the years that, politically speaking, bans themselves serve no purpose at all. They merely drive an outfit underground and make it difficult to detect and monitor, but are unable to rid a society of certain ideas. Even the Communists have said this about the RSS in India, although the two can be deemed to be each other's antipodes in an ideological framework. Nevertheless, when administrations impose a ban on a political organisation they find troublesome they merely seek to gain breathing time, without looking at whether in the long run this serves the purpose of deleting a thought process or ideological or political strain from people's minds.

Perhaps the Supreme Court did not appreciate this aspect, though it should have while considering a complex question that impinges on political philosophy via the notion of liberty. By not considering the question of banning an outfit but only the fate of individuals owing allegiance to one, the court, in an implied way, permitted governments to impose bans on political and ideological bodies. Thus a Ku Klux Klan, or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, were it to be established in this country, could face a ban if the government so desired. But under this ruling the government would not be at liberty to arrest any of its members, unless they have engaged in acts of violence or instigated others to do so. This begs a question: if citizens are to be judged only by whether or not they themselves promote or instigate violence, or take part in violent activity, then the issue of their associating with a political body becomes irrelevant. In that case, why did the highest court bother making a specific reference to members of a banned outfit since the nature of an outfit an individual may profess loyalty to is immaterial, and an individual will be judged by his or her own acts alone?

In reality, most outfits are breathing organisations, not unlike individuals, and profess value systems. If they espouse hatred, then violence can potentially erupt due to their very existence because of what they profess. If, apprehending this, they are banned, then it is illogical not to place fetters on their members even if they haven't committed violence or encouraged it? If society wishes to judge an individual only by his/her actions, then it might be best not to have a category of banned organisations at all. Then we'll be able to allow anybody to preach anything at all so long as they don't get down to the business of violence.






What a plan

The Planning Commission appears to be behaving like the French queen who said during the pre-revolution era, "If people don't have bread, let them have cakes."

The commission, which is supposed to plan the economic well-being of millions (60 per cent of India's population live in villages) who either have no or very little access to basic amenities of life, has registered itself on the social networking website Facebook to ensure people's participation in finalising the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).

This urbane and elitist move of the plan panel has been questioned by many, who would want to know how this will allow the country's aam aadmi to get involved in the process of determining their own destiny. Does the commission expect a daily wage labourer to log into Facebook?

Modi's makeover

When the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, flew a kite with a national flag this Makar Sankranti, the buzz began that he is eyeing a national role. Adding further grist to the mill, he also made a speech in Delhi touching upon national and international issues ranging from money in Swiss banks to defence deals and criticised the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, for his statement on Maoists. Mr Modi also asked the Centre to blacklist Germany and Austria as the two countries had refused to supply weapons. Funnily, though he spoke about everything else, Mr Modi did not say a word about Gujarat. Whether it is the deadly Congo virus that has appeared in his state or the spate of illegal constructions and urban migration, he simply does not want to speak on Gujarat. Perhaps he wants to reinvent his image by speaking only on national and international issues. Surely, Mr Modi is dreaming big and Gujarat is now too small a stage for his ambitions.

Guru's political yoga

Yoga keeps one cool. But yoga guru Baba Ramdev puzzled his disciples when he got irritated after performing "certain postures" during his recent visit to Bilashpur, nearly 130 km from Chhattisgarh's capital Raipur.

The bearded guru was in Chhattisgarh as part of his nationwide campaign against corruption and stashing of ill-gotten money in foreign banks by unscrupulous people. The campaign in each place began with his usual yoga classes to his thousands of disciples and ended with a short but fiery speech highlighting how corruption is robbing the country of lakhs of crore of rupees and depriving poor of basic needs. At Bilashpur, however, he was confronted by a few enterprising scribes, who queried him why he is mixing yoga with politics.

Baba Ramdev suddenly got furious and replied mimicking yoga postures, "Do you expect me to tell the corrupt politicians — close your eyes, breath slowly and loot, loot, loot…?"

A curious disciple, who was watching his interaction with the press from a distance, wanted to know from one of the mediamen what Ramdev was doing. "Political yoga", the young scribe replied.

Slipping on Simi

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Madhya Pradesh led by the Chief Minister, Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has egg on its face. As part of the amnesty on Republic Day, it released five activists of the banned Students' Islamic Movement of India (Simi) from Khachrod sub-jail in Ujjain district within days of being convicted.

While the main Opposition Congress is breathing fire and has sought a probe into the release of Simi activists, the saffron activists belonging to the VHP and Bajrang Dal have also come out on the streets lodging a strong protest.

Stunned by all this, the state government woke up and in an attempt to douse the fire removed the director general of prisons, obviously holding him responsible for the "Simi" slip.

Mundra machinations

Gujarat-based industrialist Gautam Adani's much-hyped Mundra port is in trouble. The ministry of environment and forests has served a showcause notice to Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone Ltd for alleged violation of coastal zone regulations.This is the latest in a slew of actions taken by the Union minister for environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh, for suspected breach of environmental rules. However, Mr Adani is the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi's blue-eyed boy. Both Mr Modi and Mr Adani have been spreading tales of how they are being targeted because Gujarat is in a non-Congress state. However, there is hope now with Mr Ramesh relenting on Posco. With Mr Adani's excellent contacts in the Prime Minister's Office which he flaunts every time, he is hoping that Mundra too will get Mr Jairam's green signal before long.

Sibal the speechless

THE Union HRD and telecom minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, has an opinion on almost everything and every issue that faces the nation.

And he has often been criticised by his partymen and Opposition alike for his comments. However, on the day his predecessor, Mr A. Raja, was arrested, Mr Sibal was found wanting for words. The minister, who is generally easily accessible to the media, almost went incommunicado on the day of the arrest. However, a few scribes finally cornered Mr Sibal when he was boarding an elevator to leave the office. The minister flatly refused to comment on the developments when dozens of microphones were shoved into the elevator.

The personal security officer of the minister had to literally push everyone out to get the elevator unstuck and help Mr Sibal escape.

No surprise in surprise

the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati's much-publicised "surprise" visits to various districts in the state to assess development and law and order lack the crucial element — surprise.

She embarked on her mission from February 1 but even before she had landed in Gorakhpur, newspapers in the state capital were filled with full page advertisements welcoming the chief minister to the district.

Since everyone in the district had prior information about Ms Mayawati's "surprise" visit, concerned officials had adequately spruced up schools, hospitals and other places that were on her itinerary.

Children in schools and patients in hospitals spoke well-rehearsed lines about how well they were being taken care of. All this left Ms Mayawati happy.

Sources say that it was the officers in the CMO who had leaked information about her surprise visit to Gorakhpur since they were keen to save their blue-eyed boys in the district form Maya's wrath. That is no surprise either.








SICKENING rather than ironic it was that on the very day the police's crowd-control capability was under the focus of the top political leadership, rioting should have followed an Indo-Tibet Border Police recruitment rally in UP. Maybe the 15 deaths were a little "different" this time around in that there was no stampede, but occurred when aspirants returning home on the roof of a train hit a bridge. But mismanagement was at the root of the trouble. If a mere 416 posts were on offer why were candidates from as many as 11 states asked to report at the recruitment centre? The excuse that a turnout of over 100,000 was unforeseen simply does not wash: even in Jammu and Kashmir where the military and police are generally decried, the turnout at such rallies is massive. An ugly reflection of the unemployment situation.

What also does not wash is the customary trading of charges between the organisation conducting the rally and the local police. Sadly the home minister has entered the fray: even if he is not guilty of using the trouble to take yet another pot-shot at Mayawati's government he invites the charge of mistakenly thinking that the Central forces (like himself?) are incapable of error. Did the ITBP fix the dates in consultation with the local police; merely informing them is not enough to ensure adequate force levels for managing large numbers. Chidambaram must be aware of difficulties in providing forces ~ did he not banish the IPL to South Africa because its dates clashed with elections?

Clearly it is time to rewrite the ground rules for recruitment rallies ~ there is no need to appoint an expert group for the purpose ~ and learn from unfortunate experiences. Limiting the areas where the rally is advertised in relation to the number of posts on offer would help; why cannot the agency conducting the recruitment (army, paramilitary etc) itself provide the manpower needed to manage the numbers? Would it not be preferable to revert to the practice of recruiting parties going out to the "catchment areas" rather than the other way around? Obviously the men on the ground would have other recommendations. The short point being the need to accept that the number of riots, stampedes etc at recruitment drives is totally unacceptable ~ even if the life of a would-be cop or soldier comes cheap.



THE arrest of  two alleged Maoist activists from a Trinamul camp in West Midnapore has come as political ammunition to the CPI-M when it was on the backfoot post-Netai. Equally, have the arrests caught the ascendant party on the wrong foot. As much is perceptible from Mamata Banerjee's dash to the affected area almost immediately after the arrests. And there is no denial yet that those clapped up were Left extremists. The Chief Minister has been remarkably prompt and swift in sending off a letter to the Union home minister to buttress his claim that Trinamul Congress operates in cahoots with the Maoists. From iterating all too often the CPI-M's standing complaint, he has now come up with evidence that in his estimation links the arrests to the site ~ a Trinamul shelter camp. The seizure of an AK-47 embossed with the letters 'EFR' has aroused suspicions that it is part of the Maoist loot from the Silda camp last year. The Maoists may well have been hiding in the Trinamul camp, and Miss Banerjee's response that the CPI-M is trying to denigrate her party is neither here nor there. Her query as to the origin of Maoism is far too broad a topic. The phenomenon isn't uniquely Bengal; no fewer than seven states along the Red Corridor are no less affected.
Both parties now seem eager to deem the arrests as a topic for a panel discussion on Left extremism. A specially convened meeting of the CPI-M's state secretariat has resolved to peg its campaign against Mamata on the arrest of Maoists from a Trinamul hideout. Granted that the allegation of a nexus between Trinamul and the Maoists, has now gathered steam; equally the government has little or nothing to show in terms of addressing the issues raised by the Left radicals. Trinamul is merely trying to exploit the disaffection as a political gambit; any ambitious opposition group would have done the same. Well may Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee imagine that he has proved a point. As Chief Minister, he must also accept that no such alacrity has marked his response to charges that party-sponsored armed camps exist and not merely in the Maoist belt. They really do, as Netai exemplifies. The government's acceptance of reality has been grudging and only after an order from the High Court. And if Mr Bhattacharjee reflects, he will discover that it is his cadres who use the power of the gun as much as the Maoists.



STABILISING and protecting the tiger population had not been accomplished when a fanfare was sounded about reintroducing the cheetah to the Indian jungle. Now there are plans to establish a breeding centre for Siberian cranes in the Keoladeo park in Bharatpur, which those rare birds seem to have abandoned as a winter resort. Ambition is something with which Jairam Ramesh appears abundantly blessed ~ but does the minister for environment and forest have the "sterner stuff" required to convert dreams into reality? It may be unfair to suspect that he was seeking yet another headline when he announced the Siberian crane plan on World Wetlands Day, yet it would be fair to ask if he was jumping the gun. For by his own admission, on that very same occasion, still in the realm of "hope" was Keoladeo receiving the regular supply of water required to revive it and avert its being deprived of the "World Heritage" status. An accolade conferred when it was truly a wetland, teeming with rich resident bird life and inviting an unequalled number of migratory birds seeking to escape the harsh winters further north in this hemisphere. Merely because the Centre has allocated Rs 52 crore for the Goverdhan Drain project to supply the park with 400 million cubic metres of water from the Chambal River is no guarantor of success. More than one government in Rajasthan has dragged its feet on the issue, once the water starts flowing it is possible that local farming communities will revive their demand for a major share of it.

   Would it not have been preferable for the minister to await the park reviving itself before seeking to remedy what went wrong over the past decade or so? Also realising that the drying up of Bhartapur was not the sole cause of the birds' flight plans being disrupted ~ war conditions in Afghanistan had an impact. Even if the breeding proves successful, how will the cranes acquire the "inherited knowledge" to follow the north-south flyway in the absence of pathfinding peers? A "green" image certainly facilitates acquiring an international image in these conservation-priority times, sustaining it is a wee bit more difficult.







Violence has broken out in Cairo and army tanks are burning in Tahrir Square. All the national television channels are beaming the images of one million people marching on the roads of Cairo, on the banks of the river Nile. One million people are carrying placards saying, "Go Mubarak, go!" They want to get rid of President Hosni Mubarak who has ruled Egypt like a dictator for 30 years. With food and water, the demonstrators are squatting on the roads at night.

Our TV channels are very sympathetic towards the cause of Egyptians and so perhaps is the whole world. Even President Obama, the big boss of today's world, has sympathised with the Egyptian cause. All major countries with the exception of Israel have advised Mubarak to listen to the people's voice and step down. Only Israel has some reservations because she is scared that if Mubarak goes, the Muslim Brotherhood, the chief opposition party, may take over.

The images of one million people marching bring back to my mind similar scenes which I had witnessed in Srinagar in February/March  1990. Almost one million people had marched in Srinagar demanding azaadi from India, and the march had continued for nearly three to four days with unabated frenzy. Since I happened to live in a second floor apartment in Lal Chowk  those days, I had the privilege of witnessing those historic scenes from the windows of my residence. Those incredible emotional scenes left an indelible impression on my mind. Those days we did not have private TV channels and our only source of visual information was Doordarshan. The official television channel beamed the huge processions in Romania and Yugoslavia and it was not interested in showing the realities of Kashmir. Indians were uncomfortable with news emanating from Kashmir.
If I had not lived in Lal Chowk at that time, perhaps I too, like other Indians, would not have seen and understood the impatience and aspirations of Kashmiris.

Twenty years have passed since Romania  got rid of its dictator; Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union broke into a number of independent republics ~ but Kashmir remained as it was. The struggle of the Kashmiris did not succeed at all. They did not achieve even a bit of autonomy or self-rule not to speak of independence which remained a far cry. They also didn't achieve any semi-independent status for the six or seven districts of Kashmir Valley within the map of India ~ a concept which I have been advocating through the media.
There are many reasons for this failure.  Since the beginning, several mistakes were made by Kashmiris. They took up arms and many Kashmiri young men went to Pak-occupied Kashmir for arms training. The Kashmiri Hindus were frightened and thrown out and Islamic slogans like, Nara-e-taqbeer-Allah-ho-Akbar reverberated in the air.

The whole world thought that the Kashmir freedom struggle was nothing but  a terrorist and communal Islamic movement. India also branded the struggle as nothing but a communal uprising due to the unwillingness of Kashmiri Muslims to live peacefully in the country's secular environment. Although the Kashmiris have always been known for their tolerance of all religions and although the Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir lived like brothers for centuries, the terrorism indulged in by the Kashmiri youth in the 1990s made them look like a misguided communal group of people. The Kashmiris' yearning for nationhood fell by the roadside. India also ensured that Kashmir remained tagged with the Hindu-majority Jammu province and Buddhist-majority Ladakh. In the net, the Kashmiris could not even achieve the status of tiny Chechnya in Russia, not to speak of achieving a status like that of a Islamic country like Egypt.

At this stage, therefore, it is futile to compare the Kashmiri Muslims with Egyptian Muslims or Bosnian Muslims. It is true that Egyptians and Bosnians resemble the Kashmiris in physical appearance although Egyptians are slightly darker in complexion and both are Muslims by religion. But the comparison doesn't go beyond that. The situation near the Nile is quite different from the situation near the Jhelum.






The periodic talks between India and Pakistan have given a new, albeit bitterly ironic, twist to the well-worn phrase, "continued engagement". Usually a favourite with diplomats, it signifies very little in real terms, and is almost always thrown in for good measure as a feel-good factor to liven up proceedings that do not appear very promising. On the eve of the current round of Indo-Pak talks in Thimphu, the foreign secretary of Pakistan, Salman Bashir, invoked this very phrase to set the stage for what looked like yet another exercise in futility. But he need not have tried so hard. Even before the "dialogue" had begun, belligerent messages were being relayed from across the border. With a Pakistani official accusing India of being soft on Hindu terror — in the context of India's reaction to the Samjhauta Express blast probe — the "cautious optimism" and "open mind" with which India had been approaching the dialogue was already soured. Although India refused to retaliate in like manner, chances of an equitable exchange with its neighbour on bilateral issues were disturbed by the pugnacious rhetoric. There will indeed be "continued engagement" for years to come if Pakistan decides to carry on in this fashion.

While it is true that no one with a modicum of realism expected the Thimphu round to yield historic results, there was no reason to dismiss the talks as a foregone conclusion either. If not on security, India and Pakistan could have well had more useful discussions on other, less contentious subjects, such as trading relations. But the Pakistani overture managed to upset India's initial plan of moving on to the more complex issues in an incremental manner. There was nothing original about the Pakistani strategy anyway as Pakistan has always enjoyed throwing a spanner in the works at the slightest excuse. In fact, it is primarily due to Pakistan's continued defiance that both the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the South Asian Free Trade Area agreement have become virtually ineffectual in spite of the promise they hold for the region. Yet, Pakistan is hardly in any position to question India's attitude to the Samjhauta investigations, which are far from over in any case. On this matter at least, India has, so far, struggled to maintain some degree of objectivity, something that cannot be said of Pakistan's response to the 26/11 trials.






Teachers in West Bengal have a unique role. That role was first most frankly defined by the state's chief minister last December, then clarified some more by the Left Front chairman and state Communist Party of India (Marxist) secretary, Biman Bose, last weekend. Celebrating the victory of the Left-backed primary teachers' association in the district primary school council elections, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had exhorted the teachers attending his traffic-stopping public meeting to spread the "ideologies and principles" of the CPI(M) among the guardians of their students. This was their "duty". Of course, they could teach too. Mr Bose has been even more frank. Addressing a gathering under the aegis of the CPI(M)-supported All Bengal Teachers Association, he spelled out the wide difference between the pay teachers of different grades used to get earlier and the present, far higher, scales of salary. For this, Mr Bose claimed credit in the first person plural. A party cannot make the actual changes, only a government can. But the government has always been a useless veneer for Mr Bose; even the chief minister keeps forgetting that a state does exist outside his party. Not only are the teachers to vote for the party in the assembly elections in 'return' for benefits, they are also to bring into the party's fold those teachers outside it. So now teachers in West Bengal have a full schedule: teaching guardians the party line, getting recalcitrant colleagues to see the great benefits of being loyal to the CPI(M), and, of course, voting for the party with family, friends and neighbours, exactly as though a religious leader had ordered them to do so. There is no time to teach.

The unsatisfactory state of education and the still low levels of literacy are causes for worry countrywide. A larger allocation in the national budget is being thought of, as well as plans that will bring success to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, such as recruitment and training of larger numbers of teachers, assessments of outcome, and so on. The SSA must work properly to make the right to education a reality. Only in West Bengal is no one bothered about education. The future of schoolchildren, and of the thousands who do not go to school, is not the government's concern. For the CPI(M), which has no time for governmental niceties, sees teachers just as a useful army for the party. Education is for the rest of India.






As far back as in the 1980s and early 1990s, surveys from the National Council of Applied Economic Research using large samples had established the large-scale theft of subsidized kerosene for adulterating with diesel and its sale to truck owners. The estimates were that there was as much as 40 per cent of cheap kerosene that was being so diverted for adulteration. This theft was possible because of the nexus between thieving merchants, employees of oil companies and ration shops. Since the subsidy element in relation to market prices is around 60 per cent, there is substantial profit to be made. Poor households are willing to give up all or part of their subsidized kerosene entitlements for cash. The whole mechanism is well-oiled and since kerosene does not apparently diminish the quality of diesel, it is established practice. Such theft and adulteration are possible because governments insist on distributing the cheap kerosene physically rather than give entitlements as cash or as coupons to the deserving. The new minister of petroleum and chemicals is now suggesting, as was suggested years ago, that subsidized kerosene be coloured so that the adulteration could be detected. Scientists could find no colour that would not dissolve. The idea was given up then as it will be now. Adulteration will continue so long as cheap kerosene is physically distributed to the poor.

The brutal murder by fire of the additional collector, Yashwant Sonawane, who tried to break the thieving ring in Manmad in Maharashtra, is a warning. By holding on to the gang leader, Sonawane ensured that the gang was identified and arrested. It will be recalled that a young officer of a State-owned oil company was killed some years ago when he tried to bring oil thieves to justice.

Such tragedies are inevitable. There is too much illegal money being made by stealing subsidized kerosene and selling it to truck owners. This story is as applicable to other commodities in public distribution. But no state or Central government in India has, despite full knowledge, been willing to change a public distribution system that physically procures, stores, handles, transports and distributes subsidized commodities. Inevitably, criminals come in to take advantage. It will lead to more murders of honest officers like Sonawane.

Another NCAER survey had established that almost half the pharmaceuticals made and sold in India were fake or substandard. The drug controllers who are supposed to police and prevent this, have few inspection staff, among whom many are suspected to be on the payrolls of the fake drug manufacturers. The proliferation because of the policy stimulus to small-scale industry has resulted in the rise of many thousands of small-scale manufacturers with little expertise, hygiene or technology. The circumstances were tailor-made for fakery. It continues even today since so many have found an easy way to make large profits.

The situation is no different with foodgrains. The Food Corporation of India is believed to be one of the most corrupt of public sector companies, with substandard grains being paid for at rates meant for higher quality, thefts during handling, transportation and storage, inadequate storage facilities leading to grains being damaged, and ration shops keeping many bogus ration cards which enables a lot of the cheap grains to be diverted to the market. This had happened also when the government had a cheap cloth scheme for the poor. Much of this cheap cloth ended up with small readymade garment makers who made substantial profits.

The case of prohibition of liquor sale and consumption in some states is another example of government policy being formulated and implemented despite full knowledge of what would happen. India and the Congress, which introduced the prohibition, did not learn from the 1930s' experience of prohibition in the United States of America. Criminal gangs flourished as did well-known businessmen (Joseph Kennedy is said to have made his fortune first because of prohibition). Despite the abolition of prohibition, the gangs remain and have diversified into other criminal activities. It is well-known that prohibition in Gujarat even under Narendra Modi does not stop any brand of liquor from being available. There is a risk premium. Many of the successful criminal gangs in Mumbai and elsewhere, like that of Dawood Ibrahim, began their activities with liquor during prohibition. All these gangs have diversified from bootlegging and smuggling liquor into other criminal activities including terrorism.

Thus, government policy creates a well-oiled ring of government servants, police, criminals, traders and others who ensure that criminal activity, fakery, theft, diverting to the market commodities meant for the poor make certain that illegal 'businesses' flourish, black money is accumulated and often sent abroad through an active hawala route into Swiss and other overseas bank accounts.

The deliberate insistence by governments on persisting with policies in ways that maximize the prospects for theft and criminal activity is the cause. Government policymakers persist, knowing that the intended benefits of such policies will reach only a few, but will result in the flourishing of criminal gangs, corruption among government servants, and would consequently be of little benefit to the poor or to the society for which the policies were formulated.

Some of the new social welfare programmes introduced in the last decade are well-meaning and desirable. But introducing them without reforming the administrative system and procedures will only ensure that what is stolen by low-level functionaries today will soon become part of a criminal ring of bureaucrats and intermediaries that will siphon money away from laudable schemes. As an example, the rural employment guarantee scheme is already experiencing considerable siphoning off of vast sums of money.

There are also other policies than those meant for the good of the poor that benefit gangsters, corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. Policies have been formulated that benefit white-collar criminals and their associates. Periodically, the media erupts about the black economy in India, the vast sums smuggled abroad and held in safe havens by politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and others engaged in criminal activities. It is well-known that two policies of the government encourage Indians to smuggle money abroad, bring it back through approved channels to be laundered in India and then sent back once again to safe havens abroad. One has been in existence for decades. It exempts overseas investments from the 20 per cent short-term capital gains tax. Originally, this was restricted to investments from Mauritius, but is now applicable to some other safe havens. The other is the scheme for "participatory notes" that allow overseas investors to send money anonymously through overseas bank branches and take it back in the same manner. Clearly these clever government policies enable Indians to send and bring back money at will, to invest and make untaxed profits in the stock markets, and remit the money back for safekeeping abroad.

These policies are largely Congress government policies, though other political parties in government also did nothing to correct them. Has governance in India been corrupted to such an extent that policies are formulated, implemented and persisted with ostensibly for the benefit of the poor or for that of society at large, but in fact to enable considerable siphoning off of national funds?

The debate about corruption in India must deal with such policies. If India is not to become a "banana republic" for the benefit of a few individuals, we must transform our administrative system and procedures, discipline politicians so that they cannot get away with corrupt and criminal activities, and introduce total transparency into all decision-making. Despite the growth that the economy is showing, there is a sense that the present government is in terminal decline. No real alternative is in sight. Poor governance will lead to India's fall.

The author is former director general, National Council for Applied Economic Research







It was the Egyptian army's statement that brought it all back: "To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people ... have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people." In other words, go ahead and overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. It's all right with us.

It reminded me of the day of the first big anti-communist demonstration in Moscow in mid-1989. There had already been non-violent demos in other communist-ruled countries like Poland and Hungary, but this was Russia. The enormous crowd filling the broad Garden Ring Road was visibly nervous, and I was staying near the edge of the crowd so I could dodge into a doorway if the shooting started.

Then I noticed that there were Soviet army officers, in full uniform, among the protesters. It was going to be all right: the military wanted change just as much as everybody else. Tahrir Square in Cairo today is the same: the army is with the people.

The army statement in Cairo rang the death knell for Mubarak's regime, even if he still insists that he will stay in the presidential palace until the election scheduled for September. That won't happen. A transitional government led by other people will organize the election. But the echoes of an earlier revolution set me wondering: is this the Arab world's 1989?

In 1989, the collapse of the old order started in the "satellite" countries, not in the Russian heart of the empire, just as the current revolt against the Arab status quo began in Tunisia, a relatively small and marginal Arab country. The Eastern European landslide only started to sweep everything before it in November 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. So is Hosni Mubarak the Berlin Wall of the Arab world?

He certainly could be, for Egypt is the most populous Arab country, and the tactics and goals of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples closely resemble those of the peaceful revolutionaries of Eastern Europe in 1989. The Arabs, too, are successfully using non-violent tactics to bring irresistible moral pressure on tyrannical and corrupt regimes, and they are demanding just the same things: democracy, justice and prosperity.

Great liberation

The non-violent formula worked in two to three weeks in Tunisia, and it looks like it will take about the same time in Egypt. At first, the president is defiant and sends police thugs out into the streets to attack the protesters, but he cannot use massive violence because he knows that the army would not obey a shoot-to-kill order. Much like in Eastern Europe in 1989. Then begins the retreat. First the president promises reforms. Then, when that doesn't work, he fires the entire government and creates a new cabinet (but it's still full of hated regime cronies). Then he promises to leave power at the next election, but argues that he must stay for the transition period to guarantee "stability." And finally, he gets on the plane and leaves.

Tunisia has travelled that entire route since mid-December, and Egypt is passing through the next-to-last stage. Other Arab countries may be on the same road. But the problem is that the period after 1989 in Eastern Europe was not entirely happy. The immediate result, in most countries, was a fall in living standards. There were various small wars along the ethnically fractured southern borders of the former Soviet Union, and Russia ended up back under a gentler sort of authoritarian rule.

The risks for the Arab world are comparable: short-term economic decline, civil war, and the rise of new authoritarian regimes, probably fuelled by Islamist ideas. Nothing's perfect. But what we are now witnessing in Tunisia and Egypt, and may also see elsewhere, is a great liberation not just from dictatorship, but from decades of corruption and despair. That's worth a lot.


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




Non-Resident Indians' longstanding demand for electoral participation in the country's politics has become a reality with the notification of rules and regulations for the purpose. Parliament passed the necessary legislation last year after the proposal for granting voting rights to NRIs initially faced much opposition and later received grudging acceptance. Even after the passage of the bill it took a long time to decide the necessary rules, regulations and procedure. The prime minister had assured the recent Bhartiya Parvasi Divas that there would not be any further delay, and hopefully the idea will be tested in the next election, perhaps even in a by-election before the assembly elections due this year in some states.

There is still lack of clarity about whether an NRI can contest elections, because the legislation does not specifically mention this. But it is assumed that the right to candidature is implied in the right to vote. Till now those who stayed away from the country for more than six months lost their right to vote as their names were to be removed from the voters' list. But the new law allows the citizen to register himself or herself as a voter in the constituency which covers his place of residence mentioned in the passport. To most non-resident Indians it would mean only an acceptance in principle of a right because they can exercise it only if they are present in the constituency at the time of the election. Since very few would travel to the country only to vote, only those who happen to be in their constituencies at the time of elections would actually vote. But more and more people will benefit as the number of NRIs will only increase in the near future.

Many democratic countries not only give the right of voting to their non-resident citizens but also provide the facilities for them to vote from wherever they are. India should also move towards this. Though there are several procedural and logistical problems to be overcome for this, they are not insurmountable if technology is made good use of for the purpose. Democracy becomes stronger and more inclusive when it involves the largest numbers of people. The opportunity for political participation also helps the Indian diaspora to take greater interest in the affairs of the country. Their voting right will also make governments and political parties more sensitive to issues that concern them.







The exemplary and stringent sanctions handed out by the International Cricket Council tribunal to Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer for their culpability in the spot-fixing scandal is a welcome development, if only because it will be a deterrent to potential mischief-makers. For long dismissed as a body incapable of taking strong action against errant players, the ICC has decisively regained lost ground by reaffirming its commitment to zero tolerance to corruption in the sport. In the first instance of players being banned for spot-fixing, the Pakistani trio finds itself in the dock for taking money to facilitate pre-arranged no-balls in a Test match against England at Lord's, with question marks now over their international future.

As then captain of the Test team, Butt justifiably received the harshest penalty, a 10-year ban with five years suspended. Experienced paceman Asif has been slapped with a seven-year ban, two years suspended, while the teenaged Aamer has been banned for five years, leaving him with enough time to make a comeback to international cricket if he can summon the fortitude and courage so desperately required to emerge unscathed from this stigma. All three will appeal the sentences in the Court of Arbitration for Sport later this month, but it is unlikely, given the overwhelming evidence on the basis of which they were found guilty, that there will be any reprieve.

While this latest scandal doesn't possess the same potential for disaster as the match-fixing episode at the turn of the millennium, the ICC had — and had to be seen — to act swiftly and decisively. There is no place on the field for underhand methods, and for acts that bring the game into disrepute. In an era where players are educated about the pitfalls of giving in to the demands of bookmakers for a few bucks and where they have explicitly been ordered to report advances from bookies to authorities concerned, there simply is nowhere to hide. Butt and his two premier fast bowlers ignored the warnings in a display of bravado or naivete, depending on how you look at it, and therefore had to pay a price. An example had to be set, a point made, to ensure that the lure of greenbacks does not lead players astray in the future. If that objective is achieved, some good will then have come out of this sordid mess.








This is true for ordinary mortals like you and me. Despots intoxicated by the hallucination of indispensability are either puzzled or terrified by the notion that power is finite. Their cronies have always told them otherwise. Their palaces have insulated them from the street. The international order did business without the whisper of a question. Why bother?

Dictatorships are arrangements between elites. They begin, as in Hosni Mubarak's case, as a lottery windfall. He would have retired into obscurity as a nondescript general with a few silly gongs on his breast if Anwar Sadat had not been assassinated by a soldier at a parade. (Since then, parading units do not carry live ammunition; which saved Rajiv Gandhi's life during his visit to Colombo when all the man in uniform at the airport could do was attack India's prime minister with a rifle butt.) Mubarak began his rule with a lie, promising democracy while he rearranged the instruments and institutions that would keep him in power for three decades. He is trying to hold on with yet another lie, the promise to go quietly in September.

The army has provided the operative muscle to Mubarak, but from some distance, since it is a conscription force and does not want to lose its connect with the citizen. The bureaucracy pushed the files and picked up benefits. Media read from the Mubarak script and fawned over intermediaries of the palace. Foreigners swam in the Sharm-el-Sheikh and gasped at the treasures of King Tut.

It was a different story for the people. Fear was the toxic smog over Mubarak's Egypt. It was not the menacing black that darkened Saddam Hussein's Iraq from horizon to horizon. Mubarak was too Egyptian to be that crass. But an unmistakable haze of threat overshadowed you the moment you stepped outside proscribed limits. The proscribed lines were not cultural. You cannot have tourism as your principal wage-earner and ban bikinis or bars. Limits applied to the engagement between citizen and authority.

Deviants, particularly anyone asking for human or political rights, were punished by prison. Democracy was dismissed as an invitation to chaos. The first alibi of Mubarak remains the last alibi of Mubarak. He is still trotting out this nonsense to the pitiful few who will listen. Perhaps he has actually begun to believe this rubbish. It is axiomatic that a despot must have contempt for his own people since he cannot trust them with collective common sense. Dissidents who became insistent, or those who dared to organise secular opposition, were picked by the dreaded Mukhabarat, the intelligence service, uninhibited by a compromised judicial service. The purpose was not merely to annihilate the victim but also send a chilling message to anyone foolish enough to believe in change. In the last decade, it was not only Mubarak who loomed over the nation, but his son Gamaal, whose sole qualification lay in his genes.

The only opposition

It suited Mubarak to tolerate the Muslim Brotherhood (within parameters of course) as the only opposition. He could point to them as the alternative and ask the West to choose. America and Europe convinced themselves that the emasculation of the Egyptian people was a price worth paying for Israels security. Once Egypt's ruling class had been neutralised Palestine's dream of an independent state remained just that, a dream. The US-sponsored Cairo-Tel Aviv deal maintained the status quo between existing nation states, and their dynastic regimes, but eroded Palestinian space tree by tree, orchard by orchard, yard by yard, settlement by settlement, year after year. It was the perfect trap.

That trap has been sprung open. Mubarak could not do two things, the first of which was arguably less dangerous for him than the second. He could not ban the Muslim congregational prayer every Friday. This became the public meeting of thousands of communities, united in reverence to god, but increasingly sceptical of the man who had imposed his authoritarian regime in Cairo. It is not an accident that the namaaz has become a recurring symbol of protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Nor could Mubarak censor Egyptian humour. The joke became a potent weapon of resistance. The Mukhabarat was helpless. A joke has no author. How do you send Mr Anonymous to jail? Laughter ripped apart Mubarak's credibility during the long fallow years, until one sudden day it evolved into mass anger.

A state has many advantages in a confrontation with the people. It can twist the law under the pretext of maintaining order, even when it is the principal cause of disorder. A despot has even more advantages, because he is not in the least bothered by legitimacy: after all, a coup is an illegitimate birth. He can provoke violence and then cite violence as the predicted symptom of chaos. This is the final throw of Mubarak's loaded dice.

A dictator has many routes back to square one. The people have only one road towards their horizon of democracy. They need heroes for the struggle is uneven. Egypt is trembling. If the people fail, the nation will fall into a dangerous abyss.






US President Barack Obama has delivered on at least one promise that he made while visiting India in November 2010. The US administration has removed the names of nine organisations, mostly ISRO and DRDO subsidiaries, from the entities list and opened the doors for the export of high technology to India. The notification has moved India from a country group that required strict monitoring under the US Export Administration Regulations to the group comprising members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), even though India is not a signatory to the MTCR.

While India values its strategic autonomy and recognises that each bilateral relationship is important in its own way, there can be no doubt that the India-US strategic partnership — more than any other — will shape the geo-political contours of the 21st century in a manner that enhances peace and stability the world over. The visit was eminently successful in taking the India-US strategic partnership to a much higher trajectory.

Perhaps the most important though understated aspect of the visit was the forward movement on almost all facets of defence cooperation. It also includes working together to maintain regional and international peace and stability under a cooperative security framework.

Hope for DAE

Hi-tech weapons and equipment will now be provided or offered to India by the US. Advanced dual-use technologies will give an edge to India over China, both in security-related and civilian sectors. The recent decision to transform the existing bilateral export control framework for high-tech exports has put an end to the discriminatory technology denial regimes which India was subjected to. The proposal to lift sanctions on ISRO, DRDO and Bharat Dynamics Limited is a welcome step forward and perhaps the department of atomic energy will also be taken off the Entities List soon.

Joint patrolling of the sea lanes (SLOCs) in the Indian Ocean is already being undertaken under the garb of joint naval exercises. Other military exercises have led to a broad understanding of each other's military capabilities and many interoperability challenges have been ironed out. In future, joint military operations are possible if India's national interests are at stake. Of course, there will be many caveats to such cooperation as it is not in India's long-term interest to form an alliance with the US.

The proposal to undertake joint development of future weapons systems is also a welcome development as it will raise India's technological threshold. However, no transfer of technology has occurred yet. Inevitably, doubts about the availability of future technological upgrades and reliability in supplies of spares will continue to linger in the Indian mind. The case for spares, which is pending with the labyrinthine US bureaucracy for long in respect of the AN-TPQ37 weapon locating radars, has left a bad taste. The notion that the US cannot be trusted to be a reliable supplier was not dispelled convincingly during Obama's visit.

India's reluctance to sign the CISMOA and BECA agreements will lead to denial of many items of on-board technology even while platforms are still offered and sold. The major criterion for the decision to sign or not to sign these agreements should be whether or not the operational capabilities of India's armed forces will be adversely affected if major avionics and communications equipment is not supplied by the US. If India continues to shun certain equipment simply because the country does not wish to sign the CISMOA and BECA agreements, it might amount to a self goal in the long run.

Massive US conventional military aid to Pakistan militates against India's strategic interests. While US compulsions and constraints in dealing with the failing Pakistani state are understandable, the supply of military equipment that cannot be used for counter-insurgency operations by any stretch of the imagination, will inevitably invite a strong Indian backlash.

Several issues listed for future cooperation in the joint statement point towards recognition of the adverse implications of China's increasing assertiveness and the need to work in unison with the international community to uphold the unfettered use of the global commons like the sea lanes for trade, space and cyberspace. The US and India also view their strategic partnership as a hedging strategy against two major eventualities: should China behave irresponsibly in Asia and should China implode.

In either case, both countries will need reliable partners to restore order and harmony. The India-US strategic partnership can only gain additional momentum in the decades ahead though the road will undoubtedly be uphill and will be dotted with potholes.

(The writer is director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)







Perhaps, the primates try to promote their biological cubs to climb greater heights.
Scholarly research may vary from studying the sex lives of garden snails to the timbre variation in  the erotic trumpet call  of male elephants. So a study may be in order to divine the purpose of such bizarre subjects and their extended benefits  to mankind.


However, the research done by Scotland University professors for five years on the behavioural pattern of gorillas while playing with their younger ones points out that the primates unwittingly ape men.

That the gorillas were indulgent by purposely slowing down in their games to prevent the young ones from losing heart when found not up to the parents' gaming skill is a fine example of kinship devoid of gamesmanship. The senior apes did not play to win with a killer instinct nor celebrate success by thumping their chests, never mind the outsmarted juniors hopping mad in high dudgeon.

The gorillas may perhaps be aware of the English proverb "the higher the monkey climbs, the more he shows his tail" meaning an unsuitable person given a nepotistic kick upstairs sooner or later makes a complete ass of himself. Perhaps the primates, like human beings, try to promote their biological cubs to climb greater heights, never mind the ugly visibility of their posterior.

Gorilla parents may be considerate in such experimental circumstances to inculcate competitive spirit in their cubs, but it may not be so in certain games human beings play with their young ones. The hide-and-seek game many parents play with fury is to know where their off springs are, especially past ten in the night. Is he or she really studying with the classmates? If so, studying what? Or evincing interest in ornithology or apiology by trying in depth to know about the birds and the bees.

The mouse-happy teenagers, who play for hours computer games taking a good luck at smutty websites on the sly, do not display even a byte of patience when their computer-illiterate parents, incapable of even booting one, sit by their side to learn the ropes, which is a pity. The grasping gap is so gapingly wide, the youngsters begin to worry about the quality of genes their progenitors might have contributed.

The Scottish researchers felt that the fair play of the gorillas would help trace the evolutionary origins of how humans understand each other. Does it? This may call for yet another remunerative five-year research on men's ap(e)titude!







Rising food prices and flagging growth may make 2011 a much more difficult year than 2010. Not that last year was a particularly easy one for the 'aam admi'. Food inflation was an average 15 per cent or higher. But in the first three quarters of this financial year (1 April to 31 December), food inflation in India has reached 17 per cent.

It is difficult for westerners, western-trained economists and even upper-middle class and rich Indian to appreciate exactly how badly high food prices affect the average Indian and Goan. For the former, an increase in the price of food is an inconvenience at most. For the latter, though, it can be a matter of life and death. There is a very simple reason for this. Higher income people spend a much lower proportion of their incomes on food. It varies from as little as around 8 per cent in the US to about 15 per cent in high-income individuals in India. But for lower middle class and poor people, it can vary from 47 per cent to as much as 60 per cent.

Exactly how (in)sensitive this government is to the impact of costly food on ordinary people is seen in the recent decision of the central government to stop selling subsidised onions in Delhi, because the price of onions had "come down", to Rs30. Thirty-rupee onions are "cheap"? What kind of world do the 'crorepatis' in our parliament and cabinet live in?

Someone needs to remind them that once upon a time, Delhi was ruled by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); it considered India's capital city to be its pocket borough. Then, one year, onion prices went up in New Delhi and stayed up for weeks, and the government, obviously, did not do enough to bring them down. For the BJP lost the very next election to the Delhi legislative assembly (the party top brass itself blamed the defeat on onion prices), and has lost every election since.

But it's not just food.

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies have shown extraordinary growth, despite the financial crisis of 2008. Let us assume the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 100 in 2005. At the end of 2010, it would have been 105 in the US, 104 in continental Europe, and 102 in Japan and the UK. But in Brazil it would have been 125, in India 147, and in China an amazing 169!

But now that dream is running out of steam. Global investors seem to be losing their appetite for the fast-developing world. Investors have pulled out more than $7 billion (Rs33,500 crore) from emerging market equity funds in the past week. These same markets had attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows of a record $95 billion (Rs455,000 crore) last year.

It is true that equity markets often do not reflect real trends in the wider markets. But in India there have been a range of red flags – declining manufacture, rising interest rates, indifferent indices and, as we noted earlier, inflation that seems to be spinning out of control.

The government has to find more effective ways to tackle inflation than just raising interest rates and making credit more and more difficult to obtain for businesses. Every economist has heard of the 'Law of Diminishing Returns'. It cannot fail to apply to interest rates and monetary measures as well. In a country like India, which has a parallel economy nearly as large as the official one, these measures tend to be much less effective than they are in advanced countries like the United States.

So gird up your sleeves and grit your teeth, fellow Goans. There may be even more difficult times to come.







Looking back at the last few centuries, one finds that man has made remarkable progress in many fields viz.; science and technology, space travel and exploration, communications, medicine, and even warfare.


Consequently, all these changes have affected the pace of life. Issues that were unimaginable a few decades ago, have now engaged the mind of man. Questions of euthanasia, cloning, morality and ethics are demanding immediate answers. These changes also affect political, social and economic equations.

Paradoxically, we also observe so much progress in various fields on one hand, and so much of destruction and violence on the other. The old value system is degenerating; Families are breaking down giving rise to a lot of mental distress. People are becoming more unruly and violent. Nations are itching for conflict, at the first opportunity. At this rate, what is the future of mankind?

t's a fact that the world is changing rapidly. Change is the changeless law of the world. However, fundamental principles of living remain unchanged. So, will religion continue to have any relevance in the future way of life, and if so, what will be its role?

The relevance of any thing is determined by the need and purpose it serves. For instance, man will always have hunger and thirst, and so, to produce food, we will require farming. Though the methods of farming will undergo change, the science of agriculture, since it is fulfilling a need, will remain relevant.

So also, different branches of medicine may appear and go, but the science of medicine will be relevant as long as the body remains. Likewise, there will be need for governance, politics.

Man has also thoughts, emotions, and sense of aesthetics. Therefore, science, philosophy, art, music and culture are needed. But, the question is what is religion? What are its needs and its role in one's life?

Religion has its aspect of philosophy which is the vision of truth – a vision of the entire life. This is the need of all seekers of truth. Man is not merely interested in food, clothing and shelter and sensual pleasures. Religion seeks to enlighten people about their own nature and the nature of the absolute truth. As long as man seeks truth, true religion will always remain relevant.

The second integral aspect of religion is moral and ethical values which contribute to the integrity and harmony of society. Moreover, the health of society depends on the quality of the education they receive. And, all knowledge that one gathers should be used to enrich and serve society.

Religion also directs that in one's business, one should not make profit without concern for customer's interest. Societies have to abide by the principle of 'live and let live'. As one pursues his own happiness, he has to think of the other person's happiness too. When one deceives some one else, one deceives one's own self. Without these values gained through religion, there cannot be peace, harmony and integrity in society.

Another important aspect of religion is that there are rituals, customs and traditions, which are all a demonstration of the philosophical vision of the respective religion. As people cannot comprehend the vision theoretically, there is a need for demonstration.

When people follow them, they become aware and thus slowly turn their mind towards the highest truth. However, since these rituals differ from religion to religion, there is perception that one religion is completely different from another.

This gives rise to a sense of superiority and inferiority, and leads to competition. The wars fought in the name of religion are because of the tendency to believe that one's religion is superior and insistence that others toe the line. Here man fails in his religion.

From times immemorial, no historical period has seen a totally non-religious society and no universal idea has not been influenced by religion. God did not abandon man to himself without a guide, in regard to our search for meaning, which comes from creation.

Regardless of which historical period is looked at, at every time and in every place, man has felt the need to take refuge in a powerful and sublime being, and to trust and seek help from it. In this respect, all idols on earth point to the real creator. Meeting this need for refuge and trust should be realised without harming a person's personality and spiritual world.

We today find vast differences and changes in the history of religions, within each of them, since their inception. This is obvious since people and their outlook is changing. Technological advances have changed society.

Religion too needs to adapt to this transformation. But, the vision of truth and the values based on it cannot change. So, also the religion which understands the ever changing nature of this world, and modifies itself, and retains the essence intact, will remain relevant, while those that do not adapt to change will not last.
Atheists may argue that after all, religion is man-made and therefore, is fallible. We need not rely too much on religion to guide us on anything and everything. Science has made fast strides and offers answers to every problem. So, it is only reasonable that we discard meaningless rituals and superstitious practices mostly propped up by religious beliefs.

In spite of the spectacular strides that science has made in material and biological fields, it is still only a poor second to religion in properly organising an individual's life so that the society can thrive on strong fundamentals.

Such a society naturally promotes religious principles among its members. That's how religions have come to play such intimate roles in individuals' lives. That some of these religious practices border on superstitions and harmful rituals only point to the necessity of understanding religion in its true perspective.

Exceptions do not invalidate the main argument. It cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be a valid argument to jettison religion altogether on this count. It would be unwise to discard a whole ship just because there is just a hole or two in it. No sensible person would buy that argument. It must also be recognised that what science discovers is only what God has kept covered!

Life is full of problems and challenges. If one cannot find suitable solutions to problems, it leads to a totally miserable existence. This is where religion has been of immense help and assistance. It does not offer solutions to all problems.

Nevertheless, it offers a promise for man's proper evolution, despite his problems. To pull out such a valuable plank of stability from under a man's feet is to do a great disservice to him. Sensible people have stubbornly resisted such temptations, while weaklings without acquaintance on nuances of religious values have fallen prey to such distortions.

We can, therefore, confidently assert that religion today is relevant, as it was in the past, because it has delivered invaluable service to mankind now and also in the future.

So, religion is not obsolete today; nor can it become so in the future too. I mean true religious principles.







Unless we begin by admitting that there are problems, and that these problems are huge, we shall continue to delude ourselves into believing that because GDP is growing at more than eight per cent annually, all is well... In the end it is for government to deliver its side of the contract.

It is always a shock to return home from Davos and see the contrast between what our politicians and business leaders speak of India in that snowy enclave and India in real life, but last week the shock for me was deeper than usual. This was because I returned not to Delhi or Mumbai but to the uglier realities of a northern Indian village. I drove straight from the airport to this village (no point in names, they all look the same) on a cold and foggy morning and recoiled at the sight of its filthy drains and rotting garbage. It is a village of prosperous people. The houses are large and storied, the cars of the villagers fancy and foreign, and in every other street there are advertisements for English medium 'international' schools, but somehow the residents seem not to notice the slimy, stagnant water that has solidified in the open drains or the mangy dogs that scrabble about in the mounds of uncollected garbage that line the village streets.

Rural India's filthy public spaces are always a shock but much more so if you have just returned from Switzerland with its spotless streets and its impeccably planned towns and cities. I was so shocked by the village to which I returned after a week in Davos that I called up a local political leader and asked why he did not do more to make his village look better. He was from the Bharatiya Janata Party and tried at first to lay all the blame on Delhi's Congress government, but at the end of my relentless badgering, conceded that everyone was to blame including the village's ordinary citizens who saw nothing wrong in dumping their garbage on the outskirts of the village instead of finding a better way to dispose of it. He admitted that poverty was not the reason for the village's appalling living conditions. Every resident of the village lives in a 'pucca' house, nearly everyone owns a cell phone and a colour television, and many people drive their own cars. So it is the eternal Indian problem of people not having enough civic sense to feel responsible for conditions outside their own homes. And yet if you had listened to the speeches made by our politicians and businessmen in Davos you would have thought that all was well with India.

It was a special Davos this year from an Indian viewpoint because the flavour of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting was Indian. The Indian government in collaboration with CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) had designed a campaign that it called ''India Inclusive''. Some of the biggest Indian companies paid to promote the campaign. So a Davos café was converted temporarily into the Indian Adda, buses were decorated with Indian themes and large, colourful hoardings advertising ''India Inclusive'' decorated the promenade.

Each year in Davos there is an India evening and this year it was larger and more successful than it has ever been in the 15 years that I have attended the forum's annual meeting. Among the ministers who wandered among the guests were Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma and P Chidambaram. The party happened to be on the evening of the day that the Reserve Bank of India's quarterly magazine reported a drop of more than 36 per cent in foreign direct investment for the quarter just ended, but the ministers were optimistic and reassuring. They said the India story was far from over and that if there were a few blips on the economic landscape they could be attributed to the ups and downs that are inevitable in democracies. In private conversations they admitted that India had a long way to go before our infrastructure could compete with that of our old rival China but publicly they refused to concede that there were any problems. But unless we begin by admitting that there are problems, and that these problems are huge, we shall continue to delude ourselves into believing that because GDP is growing at more than eight per cent annually, all is well.

It is not and it has more to do with a serious governance deficit than it has to do with ''inclusive'' growth. This deficit affects India's poorer citizens more than it does rich Indians or the middle classes. The kind of Indians who go to Davos are not bothered by the absence of  such fundamental necessities as clean water and electricity because they can afford to generate their own electricity and purify their drinking water. It is hard to find a middle class home in Delhi or Mumbai that does not have its own water purifying devices. It is hard to find a middle class home that relies on government schools or healthcare. It is only those Indians who are forced to use public services that suffer. It is their children who leave school without being able to read a story book or being able to do simple mathematics, and it is their children who, for this reason, end up unemployable in a country that has a desperate shortage of employable workers.

       In Davos, our ministers attended sessions on India in which they admitted that we are desperately short of carpenters, masons and electricians. Without these skilled workers it will be almost impossible to build the infrastructure we need or cities for the millions expected to move from villages to urban centres in the next two decades. Without decent schools it will be impossible to educate our vast population of young people and yet there is no indication that the Government of India has understood the urgent need for a new approach to governance. Education and healthcare may be mostly the responsibility of State governments, but if the Prime Minister sets a new course, the States will follow.

On my first day back in the old homeland last week, the newspapers were filled with pictures of parents waiting outside nursery schools to see if their children had been able to gain admission or not. It happens every year at this time and yet we go from year to year without government realizing the need for an education policy that will make it easier to build private schools. Most of India's economic progress in recent years has been led by the private sector, but there is only so much the private sector can do. In the end it is for government to deliver its side of the contract. Only when it does will Indian political leaders have the right to boast in Davos of ''inclusive'' growth.

Tavleen Singh





The Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council (SACPM) has prepared an ambitious blueprint that aims at doubling the number of science graduates to 15 lakh a year and raising the number of PhDs by five times by 2025. SACPM chief CNR Rao, an internationally acclaimed chemist, says that expansion in science needs to be pursued with the same gusto as was witnessed during the initiation of economic reforms two decades ago. The SACPM has recommended a massive increase in science and technology education, both in quality and quantity, to match the science and technology growth of ambitious countries like China and South Korea. According to the SACPM blueprint, India should be able to produce 15 lakh graduates, 3 lakh postgraduates and 30,000 PhDs every year by 2025. The SACPM vision document submitted to the Prime Minister says, ''In 2005-06, India produced about 1,000 PhDs in engineering and technology, whereas the US and China were already producing about eight times as many in 2004-05. We should plan for a huge increase by 2030; even 10 times would barely match China's current output. This shows the enormous magnitude of the problem. In areas like computer science, the situation is serious with only 25 or so PhDs being produced per year.'' Another important SACPM proposal is private partnership in scientific research. Pointing to the South Korean example where 70 per cent of the research and development budget comes from the industry, the SACPM says that private partnership in science ought to gather momentum. ''Except in sectors like pharmaceuticals and drugs, our industry does not appear to be making major investments in or demands on Indian science,'' the SACPM report states.

The target is to make India a science superpower in the next 15 years. There is urgency in this because the neighbour with which we are contesting, China, has made a huge investment in science and technology knowledge generation. Some of its universities are among the best in the world. India, therefore, cannot be content with the existing order. Hence the emphasis on PhDs. However, can quality be guaranteed if the thrust is tilted towards quantity? It is true that lack of research is a major deterrence to the country's march towards being a science power, but will a mere increase in the PhD output suffice? And given the kind of PhDs being produced in our universities, barring of course in a select ingenious few, one would not be surprised if most of the PhDs targeted by 2025 were to be mere duplication. Which, thus, makes it imperative that a science and technology research regime based on originality, with emphasis on quality rather than on quantity, be given a chance. Quantity can be taken care of once most of our universities begin to embark on a course of science and technology creativity or innovation. As of now, that class is pathetically small. Let the SACPM tread the path it has chosen by being informed by the realities of the day.






A survey of small and medium industries undertaken by the Confederation of Indian Industries has indicated that obsolete labour laws are the second most important factor after infrastructure which is obstructing their growth. The Prime Minister has also said that absence of labour reforms is leading to low rate of employment generation. Many industries like sugar and tourism are seasonal in nature. They have to pay compensation for the lean months to the workers due to labour laws. Wages of workers are fixed at high levels. It is difficult to dismiss an inefficient worker. These provisions lead to higher cost of employing labour. The industrialist's response is to use more machines and less labour. This is the reason that number of workers employed in the organized sectors has declined from 282 lakh in 1997 to 264 lakh in 2005. This is despite the economy showing high rate of growth.

This mutual contradiction between economic growth and employment is actually rooted in the very process of development. Economic growth means more availability of capital which, in turn, means lower cost of capital. The interest rates are low in developed countries for this reason. The price of loan declines with increased availability of capital just as price of potato in the market declines with increased number of trucks coming in. The wages of workers, on the other hand, increase along with economic growth. The daily wage of an unskilled worker in the US today is about Rs 4,000 per day against Rs 200 in India. The logical consequence of low price of capital and high price of labour is that industrialists prefer to use more machines and less labour. This leads to loss of employment. Mostly, the unskilled workers lose the jobs. Installation of automatic machines leads to increased demand for skilled workers in running and maintaining them while number of unskilled workers required is less. Thus we see IIT graduates getting high pay packets while the poor people take up arms in the leadership of the Naxalites.

The worker is doubly hit. First he loses his jobs to the machines. Next, he is helpless against the big factory. Previously, for example, there used to be large number of small factories making jaggery in villages. A worker could move from one jaggery factory to another. Now there is one sugar factory in an area covering 50 km. It is not so easy to switch jobs. This helplessness of workers is used by industrialists to exploit them by paying meagre wages and insisting on long work hours.

      The Prime Minister is right is asserting that absence of labour reforms is leading to low rate of employment generation. But he is not telling the whole story. Labour reforms will also cause the organized workers to lose their present facilities. Yet labour reforms are needed for employment generation. The way forward is to first institute an employment subsidy programme.







The protracted behind-the-scenes infighting and power struggles in our military establishment's upper echelon seem finally to be reaching an end. If all proceeds as expected, Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz will be the IDF's next chief of General Staff.

He crossed the first hurdle Sunday after receiving the cabinet's approval. If the Turkel Committee now okays the appointment and the cabinet issues a final approval, Gantz will take over for Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi on February 14.

One potential hitch does remain: Though an petition by Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant to the High Court of Justice to freeze Gantz's appointment was rejected, the court did agree to consider the legality of Galant's appointment cancellation, which was triggered by revelations of apparent misconduct connected with the building of his home in Moshav Amikam.

But assuming the court will not attempt to overturn a cabinet decision, the battle to succeed Ashkenazi is all but over, and the sooner the better. The ongoing tensions and intrigues involving Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Ashkenazi, Galant and others are having a devastating impact on IDF morale.

FROM THE very start, the Ashkenazi replacement process was hardly auspicious. Over the summer, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in a highly publicized manner, made it clear to Ashkenazi that his four-year term would not be extended by an additional year. The announcement was surprising not only because Ashkenazi had made no such request, but also because he appeared eminently deserving of an additional year of service. Ashkenazi had successfully implemented far-reaching structural changes in the IDF in response to the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War debacle, and his work was far from done.

Even more suspicious was Barak's stubborn refusal last week, after the appointment of Galant was doomed by the attorney-general, to extend Ashkenazi's term for a few months until a replacement was found. Before the Gantz appointment materialized, the defense minister seriously considered the temporary appointment of Yair Naveh for a month or two, a move widely perceived to be motivated more by narrow interest than common sense.

Then there is the "Galant affair." In an attempt to discredit Galant, a forged document was leaked to Channel 2 as evidence of a nasty PR campaign launched against Galant's competitors for the chief of staff position.

The document revealed a highly unflattering picture of the inner workings of the General Staff and the Defense Ministry. It is still unclear exactly what connections Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz had to Ashkenazi; he is rumored to have wielded influence in the military establishment. The attorney-general is investigating the matter.

Years before any of the controversies surrounding Ashkenazi's replacement erupted, there were signs of disturbing behind-the-scenes intrigues involving politics and personal interests in the IDF's uppermost echelon. Just nine months after Ashkenazi's appointment, Gen. (res.) Avigdor "Yanush" Ben-Gal had quoted the new chief of staff as having said, "I have no one to work with. They are all politicians."

Former chief of General Staff (2002-2005) Moshe Ya'alon, in his book The Long Short Way, complains about the unhealthily close ties formed between certain IDF commanders and former prime minister Ariel Sharon's Negev "ranch forum" of intimates and their shared PR men.

But rarely has the politicization of the IDF been so blatant as in recent months, with egos and personal rivalries preoccupying our most senior military men.

WORD HAS it that all of this cynical jockeying for power, and the transformation of the IDF into an arena for the egoistic drives and ambitions, has had an unsurprisingly negative impact within the IDF hierarchy, particularly among the talented and idealistic low- and middle-ranking combat officers, some of whom are deliberating whether or not to commit their working lives to the IDF.

What they see is not encouraging.

If the IDF's most senior leaders are motivated by their own self-interests, not by the desire to selflessly serve the nation, how can these commanders expect anything more of their soldiers? More to the point, can a lower-ranking officer be confident that the thinking behind military orders coming from higher up is pure? Under such circumstances why would an ambitious young man choose a dangerous calling that also demands major sacrifices from his wife and children? Gantz, a child of Holocaust survivors and a lifelong soldier, would seem to epitomize the qualities of selflessness and love of country. His first order of business, once confirmed, will be to restore the idealism and pure motivation to serve undermined by the recent controversies. There are too many challenges facing our small nation to permit the frivolity of behind-the-scenes intrigues.






The Egypt-Israel treaty remains the best template for any future accord with Syria or the Palestinians.

Observing Egypt's current upheaval, a writer for Makor Rishon has ventured the thought that no matter who takes power, "the lesson for Israel is clear: Arab regimes cannot be trusted."

Above all, it is futile to pursue a modus vivendi with the Arabs based on the old formula of "land for peace."

Is he right? Was the peace treaty with Egypt, involving a withdrawal from the Sinai in exchange for recognition, a mistake? At the time, only two members of Menachem Begin's Likud-led cabinet – Ariel Sharon and Haim Landau – thought so. In a subsequent Knesset vote, Yitzhak Shamir, another Likud stalwart, abstained. The worry of these hard-liners was that trading land for peace, rather than "peace for peace," would set a dangerous precedent when it came to negotiating over the Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria.

Such objections seemed beside the point as the border with Egypt was opened, direct air-links were established between Tel Aviv and Cairo and Begin toured the pyramids. Nor did they gain further traction when dissident members of the Likud, including Geula Cohen and Moshe Shamir, bolstered by writer Shmuel Katz, an old Begin comrade-in-arms and briefly a member of his cabinet, broke away to establish the Tehiya or Renaissance party. Tehiya won three seats in the July 1981 elections, in 1982 vociferously opposed turning over the northern Sinai settlement of Yamit to Egyptian sovereignty, and went on to win five seats in 1984 before being supplanted in 1992 by a like-minded Tzomet.

With Egypt now tottering between autocracy and an unknown future, and Israelis contemplating the possibility of an Iran-like takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, are the arguments of Tehiya about to gain new resonance? In truth, Israeli officials had few illusions about the nature of peace with Egypt, especially after the 1981 assassination of the principal peacemaker, Anwar Sadat, and the ascendancy of Hosni Mubarak. The latter in effect gave an ultimatum: Make peace with the PLO on the PLO's terms or be resigned to a cold "peace" with Egypt.

Though wary of Mubarak's profligate military buildup (fueled partly by US aid) and irritated by Egypt's debilitating intrigues against Israel at the UN, its duplicitous campaigning against Israel's nuclear capacity and its unwillingness to stop the smuggling of arms into Hamas-ruled Gaza – not to mention the rank anti-Semitism of its state-controlled media – policymakers nevertheless chose the cold peace.


No wonder. Providentially, Begin's treaty was anchored in the demilitarization of the Sinai, not in the durability of Egypt's good intentions. It was designed, in short, for the possibility that "a new king would arise in Egypt who knew not Begin."

As a result, for the past 30 years, Egypt has been neutralized as a confrontation state. In those years, Israel defended itself against two violent Palestinian uprisings, two Lebanon wars, Hamas's aggression from Gaza and Iran's drive for the atomic bomb without having to divert resources to the southern front. And there were diplomatic and economic advantages to the relationship as well, including the fact that 40 percent of our natural gas used is imported from Egypt.

AS HAS been amply reported, Israelis are more anxious than most about Mubarak's fate. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has reportedly instructed the country's emissaries to say only that while democratic change is desirable, violent revolutionary mayhem will undermine the security of the entire region. Even President Shimon Peres, who in a previous incarnation giddily foresaw a Scandinavia-like Middle East emerging by spontaneous generation from the Oslo Accords, has now asserted forthrightly that there may be worse things than the current lack of democracy in Cairo, and a fanatic Islamist regime is one of them.

Is the lesson, then, that leaders should abandon the possibility of reaching an accommodation with the Palestinians or Syrians? Not at all. Rather, the cornerstones of any deal must take account of the possibility that the successors of the peacemakers might reject peace. For any future accord, the Egypt-Israel treaty, designed for a worst-case scenario and providing demilitarization, strategic depth and early-warning-plus-verification procedures, remains the best template.

This lesson has hardly been lost on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose Bar-Ilan University peace proposal emphasized precisely the security parameters essential for peace. That proposal, however, has been blatantly and irresponsibly disregarded by his critics. As a result, too little serious thinking has been devoted to the complex security arrangements Israel will need in the West Bank and on the Golan should genuine Arab peace partners emerge, Sadatlike, in the future.

The writer is a former Jerusalem Post editorial page editor, and is now contributing editor to Jewish Ideas Daily (, where this article was first published and is reprinted with permission.







The Muslim Brotherhood will not take power and Egypt will not become an Islamist state overnight.

Talkbacks (1)

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa went to Cairo's Tahrir Square to support the protests several days ago. The crowd cheered him. This is a symbol that the current government is sinking, but also a sign of what the next regime may become.

Moussa represents the worst demagogic forces of radical Arab nationalism.

Syria, Moussa and other forces in the Arab world represent that radical wing, while Mubarak followed policies that might be deemed more moderate and Egypt-centered. And as brutally repressive as Mubarak's regime was, Syria and Iraq – both radical regimes – were worse.

Let's be clear: Young Facebook users are not the entire population of Egypt. Let's speculate about the political blocs that might emerge post- Mubarak.

• "Establishment" Reformers: Mohamed ElBaradei has been practically coronated by foreign observers, yet his appeal is untested and his organization is almost nonexistent.

One of the most important "secrets" of Egypt today is his degree of dependence on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Of all the possible opposition candidates, he is about the closest to the Brotherhood. That's no coincidence; it's precisely why he has flourished.

And the Brotherhood will run on a joint ticket with him. If he has no strong opponent, he will win the presidency, and his party will be the largest in parliament.

• "Good Government" Reformers: A small party (or parties) of honest true advocates for genuine democracy.

These are the young people out demonstrating who have carried the weight of the revolution so far.

But how many votes would they get? Very few. That's the difference between a demonstration, even of tens of thousands of people, and voting by tens of millions of people.

• The Regime Supporters: This is a big question mark. The ruling NDP, even if it changes its name or appears in a totally new guise, could get anywhere from 0 to 25 percent. It seems unlikely now that it could be a factor, but even old communist parties have made comebacks in the ex-Soviet bloc.

• The Left: Quasi-Marxists and extreme nationalists who may fragment or produce a joint ticket. They might get 5% to 10%.

BUT SUPPOSE Egyptians don't want the Brotherhood and they band together to support a secular candidate who might win the presidential election? That brings us back to Moussa. He's far more popular than ElBaradei, knows how to be a demagogue, is familiar, seems to be more of a known quantity, and is anti- Israel and anti-American enough to galvanize the masses.

The problem is that both outcomes are bad: With ElBaradei you get the possibility of growing Islamism; with Moussa there is an updated form of radical Arab nationalism.


In either case, the Muslim Brotherhood will not take power and Egypt will not become an Islamist state overnight.

The Brotherhood is not stupid.

While wealthy, secularized, urban Egyptians may look at it as a peasant rabble, this group has maneuvered very skillfully in the past. Does it have different factions and tendencies? Certainly it does. Yet it's going to be more united than any other political factor.

My concern, at least for the next three years, is not an Islamist Egypt but a radical Egypt. The idea of a "Turkish model" has been raised – that is, an Islamist party in power that advances very slowly but steadily toward the goal. Such a government would show its militancy most clearly in foreign policy, which is what other countries are most concerned with, of course.

Yet if Moussa wins, there will also be a radical Egypt, closer to what existed in the decades before Mubarak, and before him Anwar Sadat, came to power.

Either way, a post-Mubarak Egypt is likely to move closer to Syria and Hamas, not Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

It will not be a good friend to Iran, but not very interested in combatting its influence. Terrorists, as long as they have other targets in mind, would pass freely through Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood's protection or the regime's indifference.

Will the Egypt-Gaza Strip border be opened up? As with all potential dangers, we are told there is nothing to worry about. The new regime would not want to make Israel angry, lose US aid or defy the Egyptian army. But would the Obama administration really cut off aid if Egypt opened the border for everything, including weapons? ElBaradei has said he would end the blockade; Moussa would certainly do so.

AND IS the army going to be the bulwark of democracy in a new Egypt, Turkish style? Well, if the new republic is going to go to a coup, we may be back in 1952, which is how the regime got started in the first place.

But in discussing the army's role, observers are missing a key point.

It is conceivable that if the Muslim Brotherhood was going to take over the government and make Egypt an Islamist republic, the army would take action. But that does not apply to a radical Egypt, with which many officers would sympathize, or even an ElBaradei government in which he maintained the army's budget and left it alone.

It would accept a turn away from America (in which Egypt, like Turkey, could avoid any actual bilateral trouble with Washington), a high degree of hostility toward Israel, support for Hamas as long as it stays off Egyptian territory, and alignment with radical forces elsewhere, at least if they are Sunni.

Along with the Turkish model, there's a pattern attractive to Egyptian Islamists: the Lebanese model.
Hizbullah, for all practical purposes, is running Lebanon today. But it is doing so behind a screen of non- Islamist politicians and many political alliances.

Of course, Hizbullah has the advantage of help from Iran and Syria.

Yet in Lebanon the Shi'ites who form its base are only 30% of the population. In Egypt, Sunnis are 85% to 90%. Of course, many of them – probably a majority – would never support the Brotherhood, yet its political base is about the same size as Hizbullah's direct support.

And even that is an underestimate because, the Brotherhood will be cautious and try to rule through others, notably ElBaradei.

Once again, the problem is not an Islamist Egypt in a year or two, but a radical Egypt that will wreak havoc on regional politics. At home, the new government would face dreadful economic problems with no way to deliver higher living standards.

That's a formula for instability, demagoguery and foreign adventure.

One can also expect the development of small Islamist terrorist groups, coming out of the Brotherhood's impatient hard-liners, as happened in the 1990s, to assassinate secular or moderate figures and to attack Christians and possibly tourists.

I hope I am completely wrong and Egypt becomes a stable moderate republic, at peace with its neighbors and making its people happy and prosperous. But as the Oslo process and Iranian revolution have taught us, letting one's hopes guide one's judgment is the road to disaster.

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








Turkey's experience can provide lessons for the country after Mubarak.

Egypt's transition toward a post- Hosni Mubarak era, as incremental and painful as it might be, has sparked interest in the "Turkish model" of democracy-craft, i.e. with the military playing a stabilizing role during the transition process while Islamist parties moderate through political participation.

Can Turkey's experience be repeated in Egypt? Turkey and Egypt have different histories, and it would be unwise to draw precise parallels between them. However, Turkey's experience can provide lessons for Egypt after Mubarak.

The first is the military's role during the transition to multiparty democracy.

Following the 1960 and the 1980 coups, Turkey established a political system in which the military and the civilians worked together during the transition to democracy. In both cases, the chief of the military became president. Concurrently, a cabinet composed of respected, mostly nonpartisan figures was appointed to share power with the president. In both cases, an assembly was elected with a mandate to draft a new constitution.

After the new constitution was approved in a referendum, free and fair elections were held in 1961 and 1983, thereby transitioning to democracy.

Should Egypt's transition to democracy follow Turkey's model, the military would take over the presidency, and a civilian national unity government that shares power with the military would form. Mirroring Turkey's constitutional reform process, Egypt would draft a new constitution and prepare the groundwork for free and fair elections.

But, first, a caveat: Turkey had many well-established mass political parties prior to 1960 and 1980, whereas Egypt does not. During Turkey's transitional phase, these parties simply reconstituted themselves. Egypt has no well-established mass parties aside from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has used the sanctity of the mosque – a luxury denied to other parties – for grassroots organization.

Due to regime suppression in Egypt over the past six decades, major political parties would need to be re-formed, or in some cases, formed from scratch. Any Egyptian elections held in the near future might be free and fair, but the political field between the Brotherhood and other parties would not necessarily be level unless the liberal opposition were to receive political and financial support from the West on par with what the Brotherhood has been receiving and will receive from its international network.

THE TURKISH model provides another lesson – caveat emptor. Following a military- shepherded transition to democracy, the military's candidates lose in the polls in Turkey.

Still, while the military's weight in politics officially ended with the transition to democracy in Turkey, it retained some influence. Even after free and fair elections were held to appoint a prime minister as the chief executive, the former head of the military (who had become president) retained this now symbolic position until the end of his term. The transition to multiparty democracy was gradual, not black or white, but gray. In fact, the military's influence on politics dissipated, but did not entirely wither away until the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2002.

This brings us to the second aspect of the Turkish model: Will the Brotherhood moderate, á la AKP, embracing secular liberal democracy and adopting a friendly attitude toward the United States and the West? Turkey's experience with the AKP proves this is plausible. However, it also shows that such moderation takes place not because the Islamists volunteer for it, but because strong checks and balances impose it on the movement. For example, Turkish Islamists decided to moderate, jettisoning their anti-American, anti-European rhetoric and recognized secular democracy, only after the country's constitutional court shut down the Islamist Welfare Party in 1998 and its successor, the Virtue Party, in 2001.

In this endeavor the courts were supported by the popular military, the powerful liberal business lobbies, secular parties and a vibrant pro-Western media. This process of moderation produced the AKP, which put forth a moderate political platform in the 2002 polls that looked more like the manifesto of a conservative democratic party than that of the AKP's illiberal predecessors. The AKP won the 2002 elections.


AFTER ALMOST a decade in power, though, the AKP's moderation has reversed. The party has turned authoritarian toward the opposition: Anti-government protesters are beaten up by security forces, opposition figures are wiretapped, and independent papers get slapped with punitive tax/fines lest their coverage of the AKP adopts a critical tone. Private businesses not supportive of the government are terrorized by selective tax audits.

And the once-popular military is losing its appeal since the AKP came forth with the Ergenekon case, alleging that the military was involved in a nefarious coup plot. The AKP has effectively neutered the military. Not just highranking officers, but also the government's critics among academics have come under assault, ending up in prison without an indictment or solid evidence proving their involvement in a coup plot.

The AKP's successful assault on the checks and balances – as a final step, the party is reshaping the judiciary in its own political image by single-handedly appointing judges to the high courts – that forced its predecessor to moderate explains how the party's un-moderation is possible. Whereas Turkish Islamists moderated because strong checks and balances forced them to do so, this moderation ended once these checks and balances were marginalized.

In other words, Islamists moderate not necessarily because this political tendency is built into the movement's genetic code, but more frequently because moderation is imposed upon them. The lesson here for post-Mubarak Egypt is that the Brotherhood, if it were included in the democratic process, could moderate and recognize liberal democracy, but only if strong checks and balances were to enforce such moderation.

Turkey provides post-Mubarak Egypt with a useful list of dos and don'ts; Egyptians will have to decide how much to borrow from the "Turkish model" of democracy-craft.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and co-author (with Scott Carpenter) of Nuanced Gestures: Regenerating the US-Turkey Partnership (2010).







The Galant affair has revived feeling among many Israelis that legal authorities here are too light on the trigger in regard to their treatment of public figures. I disagree.

The Galant affair has revived the sense that Israel suffers from an over-abundance of legal interference.

I do not share this critique.

Like many others, I am convinced that Maj-Gen. Yoav Galant is fit to lead the army. His rich experience, his courage, his skills as a commander and a leader are well known to me personally from the various security positions I held on both ministerial and parliamentary levels. I feel for him. And yet, the state institutions responsible for the rule of law must be safeguarded.

THIS PAST decade has seen a sorry saga of legal proceedings against public figures.

In 2000, Israel's president resigned following an investigation over funds he received from a personal friend, a Jewish businessman. The attorney general decided not to indict him, but the president stepped down, five years before the end of his presidential term.

That same year, the interior minister went to jail, sentenced to a three-year term after being found guilty of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.

In 2001, a former defense minister was found guilty of indecent acts under aggravated circumstances, and resigned from the Knesset.

In 2004, an investigation was opened against the public security minister on suspicion of making political appointments during his previous tenure as environmental protection minister. The investigation led to a serious indictment and to the end of his service as a government minister for many years. (In the interests of full disclosure, it should be noted that the said minister is the writer of these lines.) That same year, after a lengthy investigation, the attorney general decided to close the file against the then prime minister in the "Greek Island" affair. The prime minister's son, himself an MK, was indicted a year later and found guilty of falsifying corporate documents and perjury, and after accepting plea bargain, was imprisoned for seven months.

In 2006, the attorney general decided to investigate claims of rape and sexual harassment against the then president. The president resigned from office in June 2007, a month before the end of his term, and was prosecuted in 2009. In 2010, he was found guilty of two counts of rape, indecent acts by force, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice. His sentence has not yet been handed down.

Between 2004 and 2006, six additional MKs were convicted of criminal offenses: A minister without portfolio was convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in connection with his relationship with a worker at the Ministry of the Interior, and was sentenced to six months community service. A deputy minister was convicted of charges of election fraud, suborning witnesses, and obstruction of justice in the "City Tower" affair, and received an eight-month jail term – a sentence which was later commuted by the president to community service.
An MK who was charged with falsifying an academic paper was found guilty of fraud in a plea bargain and was fined and placed on probation. Two MKs who were convicted of breach of trust in the "Double Voting" affair were sentenced to community service – one for four months and the other for two months. Another MK who was convicted for, among other things, fraud under aggravated circumstances and falsifying corporate documents, was sentenced to three years in jail.

In 2007, the justice minister was investigated in the affair known as the "kiss in the Prime Minister's Office." The minister stepped down immediately, and was found guilty later that year of committing indecent acts without consent. The sentence was 120 hours of community service.

In 2008, the labor and social welfare minister was convicted of, among other things, accepting bribes and breach of trust. The Supreme Court sentenced him to four years imprisonment.

In 2009, the finance minister was convicted of, among other things, theft, fraud under aggravated circumstances and money laundering. He was sentenced to five years and five months imprisonment. A decision on his appeal over the sentence has yet to be reached.

Between 2007 and 2010, the then prime minister was the subject of six criminal investigations. In two of the affairs, the attorney general found that there was no basis for indictment; in three, the prime minister was indicted; a conclusion has yet to be reached on the sixth affair.

In 2007, a state commission of inquiry, headed by a former judge, determined that the police commissioner's term should not be extended. A few hours later the commissioner announced his resignation. The public security minister announced that the former head of the prison services would be appointed in his stead.

That candidate was forced to forgo the position after a petition was filed with the Supreme Court, in which it was claimed he should not be appointed in light of statements regarding him set out by the dissenting judge in a criminal trial in which he had been exonerated 15 years earlier.

Over the past several months, there were three more incidents in which candidates vying for important public positions have had to withdraw their candidacy.

Last November, the attorney general opened an investigation against a high-ranking police officer, who was the leading contender for police commissioner, on suspicion of sexual harassment. In January, the prime minister's candidate for the post of Civil Service Commissioner withdrew his candidacy after the attorney general announced that he would ask the prime minister to reevaluate his decision. Last week, the prime minister and the defense minister announced that, in light of a finding by the attorney general, they would ask the government to cancel its previous decision to appoint the OC of the Southern Command as the next IDF chief of general staff. And we haven't yet mentioned the investigation against the foreign minister, which began years ago, and in which a decision by the attorney general is expected to be handed down this month.

THIS STAGGERING array of legal incidents has no parallel in any other country.

In every healthy democracy, incidents of public corruption are uncovered occasionally, and the appropriate way to deal with them is through the legal system.

But such a unique accumulation of investigations and indictments, of presidents, prime ministers, ministers and parliament members, in the last decade alone, is unheard of in any other Western society. And that is why so many people feel that the legal authorities in Israel are too light on the trigger in regard to the treatment of public figures.

But again, I do not share that feeling. I had the privilege to serve as a minister in charge of the lawenforcement authorities for many years, as both the justice minister and the public security minister. I met with leaders, commanders and members of units in all police districts, district attorneys, the department of police investigations, the attorney general's departments, and the various courts. I witnessed up close the seriousness, professionalism and dedication that characterized their work. As with all organizational frameworks, there is room for improvement, and one can always legitimately criticize a decision made by a police investigator, senior prosecutor or judge. However, on the whole, these systems operate with a sense of mission and fulfill a vital, irreplaceable role in protecting Israeli society against dire threats – whether in the struggle against terrorist organizations and sophisticated organized crime rings, or to preserve the integrity of the governmental system.

True, at times, a sense of mission may lead to an obsessive crusade, which can harm the sense of justice.

And that is where the independence of the judicial system is put to the test. It has already proven time and again that when the police or prosecution displays excessive zeal in its quest to incriminate innocent defendants, the judges do not hesitate to acquit them.

It is inappropriate here to address investigations or trials which are pending. But when objectively examining legal proceedings in which final decisions have been reached, the well-argued, balanced and thoughtout nature of the verdicts handed down by the judges is impressive.

WHEN IT comes to my own case – in which there was an intensive police investigation, a trial that lasted four years, a verdict that acquitted me of most of the charges, and a single conviction for which I had to resign from the Knesset – I did not feel, even for a moment, that I was caught up in a hopeless, Kafkaesque system. I knew that I was in the dock not because someone was out to get me, but because of mistakes I had made in good faith. I believed that the court was open to hearing my version, which stated that there was no criminal flaw in my actions, even if there were mistakes, that in retrospect, I should have refrained from.

Even after the judges read out their verdict, and even though not all of my claims were fully accepted, I remained convinced that the court was committed solely to ensuring justice.

AT THE end of the day, the insistent meticulousness in enforcing the law equally on every citizen, be he a member of the public, an elected official, or a civil servant, improves all of our lives. It eradicates unacceptable phenomena from which we ought to be weaning ourselves. It forces leaders to be doubly cautious when dealing with public assets. It constitutes a warning sign which no one can ignore or deny.

If, in the next decade, we are spared more of the alltoo- familiar headlines about investigations and convictions of leaders, we will know that this past decade, full of legal proceedings, has had a positive effect on the quality of government. And if so, public confidence in the political system will be strengthened, while the worrisome erosion of public confidence in our law-enforcement institutions will end.

The writer is a former Kadima minister.








Who doesn't love a democratic revolution? Who is not moved by the renunciation of fear and the reclamation of dignity in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria? The worldwide euphoria that has greeted the Egyptian uprising is understandable. All revolutions are blissful in the first days. The romance could be forgiven if this were Paris 1789.

But it is not. In the intervening 222 years, we have learned how these things can end. The Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and, of course, merits our support.

But only a child can believe a democratic outcome is inevitable. And only a blinkered optimist can believe it is even the most likely outcome.

Yes, the Egyptian revolution is broad-based. But so were the French, Russian and Iranian revolutions. Indeed, in Iran the revolution only succeeded – the shah was long opposed by the mullahs – when the merchants, housewives, students and secularists joined to bring him down.

And who ended up in control? The most disciplined, ideologically committed and ruthless – the radical Islamists.

This is why our paramount moral and strategic interest in Egypt is real democracy, in which power does not devolve to those who believe in one man, one vote, one time. That would be Egypt's fate should the Muslim Brotherhood prevail.

That was the fate of Gaza, now under the brutal thumb of Hamas, a Palestinian wing (see Article Two of Hamas' founding covenant) of the Muslim Brotherhood.

We are told by Western analysts not to worry about the Brotherhood because it probably commands only about 30 percent of the vote. This is reassurance? In a country where the secular democratic opposition is weak and fractured after decades of persecution, any Islamist party commanding a third of the vote rules the country.

Elections will be held. The primary US objective is a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.

THE HOUSE of Mubarak is no more. He is 82, reviled and not running for reelection. The only question is who will fill the vacuum. There are two principal possibilities: a provisional government of opposition forces, possibly led by
Mohamed ElBaradei, or an interim government led by the military.

ElBaradei would be a disaster. As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he did more than anyone to make an Iranian nuclear bomb possible, covering for the mullahs for years. (As soon as he left, the IAEA issued a strikingly tough, unvarnished report about the program.) Worse, ElBaradei has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. Such an alliance is grossly unequal. The Brotherhood has organization, discipline and widespread support. In 2005, it won approximately 20% of parliamentary seats.

ElBaradei has no constituency of his own, no political base, no political history in Egypt at all. He has lived abroad for decades. He has less of a residency claim to Egypt than Rahm Emanuel has to Chicago. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a figurehead, a useful idiot that the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to need a cosmopolitan front man.


The Egyptian military, on the other hand, is the most stable and important institution in the country. It is Western-oriented, and rightly suspicious of the Brotherhood. And it is widely respected, carrying the prestige of the 1952 "Free Officers Movement" that overthrew the monarchy, and the 1973 October War that restored Egyptian pride along with the Sinai.


The military is the best vehicle for guiding the country to free elections over the coming months. Whether it does so with Mubarak at the top or with Vice President Omar Suleiman, or perhaps with some technocrat who arouses no ire among the demonstrators, matters not to us. If the army calculates that sacrificing Mubarak (through exile) will satisfy the opposition and end the unrest, so be it.


The overriding objective is a period of stability during which secularists and other democratic elements of civil society can organize themselves for the coming elections.

ElBaradei is a menace. Mubarak will be gone one way or the other. The key is the military. The US should say very little in public and do everything it can behind the scenes to help the military midwife – and then guarantee


 what is still something of a long shot: Egyptian democracy.







The Benjamin Netanyahu government became the first administration to appoint the next IDF chief of staff twice yesterday. Pending authorization by the senior appointment vetting committee headed by retired Judge Jacob Turkel, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz will in another few days become the Israel Defense Force's newest top commander. The Turkel Committee should this time work more carefully than it did in consideration of the last IDF chief of staff nominee, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, though Gantz is not expected to face any irresoluble obstacles.

When Gantz becomes the 20th person to take the army's reins, the government will pay farewell to the outgoing chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, who took significant steps to enhance the IDF's strength since February 2007, first under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and then under Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu.

The major operational events of his four year term were the reported attack on the nuclear reactor in Syria (September 2007 ), and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, alongside many other actions, some secret and others public knowledge.

Training schedules of ground forces were intensified and improved, owing partly to the relative quiet on Israel's borders.

Ashkenazi's accomplishments were blemished during the last year by ugly in-fighting among the army's top brass. Principal responsibility for this rests with Barak and Netanyahu, who did not monitor what was happening closely enough; but Ashkenazi is not exempt from blame.

The final accounting can only be done when the State Comptroller's Office finishes its examination of affairs connected to Boaz Harpaz. Yet, with this qualification, Ashkenazi deserves to be remembered as a successful IDF chief who was respected by soldiers, partly because he did not make haste to endanger them needlessly.

His former deputy, Gantz, can redeem the slogan that has been a cliche ever since Yitzhak Rabin replaced Golda Meir as Prime Minister: continuity and change. In many senses, Gantz, who helped Ashkenazi draft the IDF's long-term action plan, will ensure continuity, and prevent more shocks during a time of crisis. In other ways, he must adapt the army so that it can face new regional, global, social, technological, budgetary and military circumstances. The ultimate test of a chief of staff is how he commands the IDF at a time of war. Should the government act wisely, Gantz will be spared this test.






Any interpretation of events in Egypt needs to be done with care, particularly since peace is a strategic asset for both that country and Israel, and commentary offered carelessly by an Israeli public figure or army general is liable to harm their peace agreement. It must be recalled that 82 million persons reside in Egypt, most of them under difficult economic circumstances, and peace with that country is founded upon four sources of revenue: tourism, free passage through the Suez Canal, oil production facilities located close to the canal, and American economic assistance and jobs in security-related industries established thanks to that assistance.

The Egyptian people have a character unlike that of other Arab peoples in the region. The Egyptians are unlike the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank or Jordan; nor are they like the Shiites in Lebanon. This is a proud, modest people which has never been in the thrall of religious fanaticism, despite the Islamic revolutions that have swept the region. Thus, the prospect that Egypt will join the so-called axis of evil whose base is Iran is slight. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood rises to power under the cover of democratic elections - it is not an organization that can be likened to Hamas. Religious enthusiasm does not spawn political developments in Egypt which can be comparable to those prompted elsewhere in the Arab world.

Egyptian security forces are strong and numerous; the power of mass demonstrations is actually a drop in the ocean compared to that represented by these elements. So long as the security forces heed the authority of the ruling regime in Egypt, chances of a revolution are small.

However, this wave of protest has created a situation in which that regime will have to listen to the people, and significantly alter its socioeconomic agenda. The situation in which the upper stratum lives a life of leisure, and wealth while at least half of the population dwells in indigence and hunger, and the fact that many citizens actually live in cemeteries or in ramshackle domiciles - all of that will have to change.

The change must be gradual. For this reason, I believe the decision of Egypt's president not to quit immediately was correct. Hosni Mubarak should lead the transition to the September elections, so as to allow the dissenting masses to organize for the vote and prevent the "democratic" rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Chaos in Egypt is liable to spill over our own border with that country, particularly with regard to the flow of refugees from Africa; still more worrisome is Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip. Things I said in the past regarding the Israel Defense Force's lack of control along that stretch of the border are more germane than ever today.

Some view the possibility of an "open border" between Gaza and Egypt as the start of a process by which Gaza will become in essence attached to that country. While this might be a good solution for Israel, I doubt that it is a realistic possibility, since it is actually against the interest of both sides - of the Egyptians and Gaza's population.

The State of Israel in general, and the IDF in particular, need to be attentive to circumstances in Egypt, without taking steps to intervene. Our efforts to stave off infiltrators must be stepped up, and we should be ready to take control of the Philadelphi strip along the Egypt-Gaza border, but without causing harm to Egypt's security forces.

Also, the State of Israel should allow several Egyptian army battalions to enter Sinai (in a way that deviates from the peace agreement with Egypt, but in accord with American guarantees that Egyptian forces will withdraw when they complete their mission, or when Israel demands a pullback ). Such deployment would strengthen Egypt's control of Sinai, and would preempt actions taken by Hamas people and Bedouin, who currently do whatever they want there.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Dr. Yom-Tov Samia served as head of the IDF Southern Command.






While the newspaper headlines the world over excitedly told of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, most of them young, demonstrating day and night at Tahrir Square in favor of democratic reforms, a small report appeared in Israeli newspapers. It recounted that in a new survey held among Israeli Jews, 52 percent of those asked agreed to the need to restrict freedom of expression where a report threatens the image of the state. The survey, carried out by the Geocartography firm for the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, shows that 64 percent of those surveyed are willing to see the state limit the freedom of expression in conditions of a security threat. Similar results were shown on limiting academic freedom.

The Israeli Democracy Index for 2010, published recently by the Israel Democracy Institute, shows that nearly 40 percent of Israelis believe there is too much freedom of expression in Israel. 59 percent of Jews who identify with the right, 49 percent of those who say they are center, and 39 percent of those who believe they are left, think that human and civil rights groups such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and B'Tselem cause damage to the country. Avigdor Lieberman knew what he was doing when he declared war on them.

President Hosni Mubarak must be jealous of his Jewish neighbor who heads the "only democracy in the Middle East." The subjects of Benjamin Netanyahu applaud as they watch television (unless they are absorbed by the show Big Brother ). The Democracy Index has shown for some years now that 80 percent of Israelis do not believe they can influence government policy. In the eyes of a large portion of citizens, civil order precedes the right to protest and demonstrate; moreover, six out of 10 Jews believe that the police must disperse demonstrations, even if they do not threaten human lives or property and only disrupt traffic.

Indeed, there is no room to compare the Egyptian worker, who lives on humus and pita and has the price of his flour raised, to the Israeli clerk who is required to pay a few more shekels for a tank of gasoline. True, in Israel they do not arrest bloggers for insulting the president's honor. On the other hand, Egypt does not hold for more than 43 years millions of people under military occupation, at an enormous cost to its security, political standing and economy. Even the prime minister of the right, Benjamin Netanyahu, said at Bar-Ilan University that this cannot go on, and announced his support for a two-state solution.

So he said. Did anyone hear about any protest against the fact that Israeli governments have ignored the Arab Peace Initiative of March 2002, which offers Israel normalization with all the Arab states in return for withdrawing to the 1967 borders (the Arab League is supporting an exchange of territory ) and an agreed solution to the refugee problem? "Israeli society prefers conformity, self-censorship and willing obedience," notes political psychologist Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal of Tel Aviv University. "This attitude is a recipe for arrested thought, blindness and deafness."

Bar-Tal, who researched the obstructions to peace, says that the authorities and the army have, for years, flooded the public, with the help of conscripted media, with information that fits the narrative they want to pass on ("there is no partner," "unified Jerusalem," "the fate of Ariel is that of Tel Aviv" ). He says that from this point of view our situation is much worse than that in "closed societies" like the eastern bloc of the 1970s. In those countries the citizens knew that the regime was giving them false information, sought other sources of information and worked for reforms that would bring change.

The Israeli public believes the authorities and worships "security sources." It shuts its ears to different voices and prefers to shut the mouths of those few who dampen the joy and warn of isolation and bloodshed.

According to the Democracy Index, 60 percent of Israelis (Jews and Arabs ) support the view that "a number of powerful leaders will be more useful to the country than all the discussions and the laws." It is not surprising that many Israelis, perhaps most of them, including senior analysts, share the sorrow of President Mubarak and are disappointed with President Barack Obama, who abandoned him.

Netanyahu should offer his Egyptian friend political asylum. Mubarak will feel here like his better days at home.






Immediately after the general election four months ago, Jordan's King Abdullah II reappointed Samir Rifai as prime minister. Last week he replaced him with Marouf al-Bakhit. The move was not intended as a judgment of Rifai's performance, but rather as a way to insure and heighten the defenses of the Hashemite regime.

Bakhit's claim to fame is not his ambassadorial stint in Tel Aviv, but his reputation as an experienced general. The Hashemite dynasty is the longest surviving dynasty in the Middle East. It has faced immense challenges since the Hashemite Kingdom became an independent entity, and withstood them with great resolve and admirable political maneuvering. A general is needed much more in the face of a gathering storm than is the scion of a family that has produced more prime ministers than any other in the Arab world.

The toughest challenge to Jordan's stability is its demography. Israel's 1948 War of Independence resulted in 725,000 Palestinian refugees and made the Hashemite Bedouin population a minority. After the 1967 Six-Day War, nearly 300,000 additional refugees crossed from the western to the eastern bank of the Jordan River. But with the exception of 1970, when Jordan resorted to military force to eliminate the PLO state-within-a-state, King Hussein and his son Abdullah have maintained a mostly stable and peaceful state. Sporadic demonstrations and tensions have been more a result of economic pressures than expressions of political unrest.

The political turmoil in the region that began in Iran in June 2009 and spread to Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen is obviously continuing to spread; there have already been demonstrations in the streets of Amman.

But Jordan is different from Egypt. While there is no denying the far-reaching domestic and regional ramifications of the change, whether the current political elite or the Muslim Brotherhood rules the country in coalition with the army, Egypt will remain Egypt. A successful attempt to remove the current regime in Jordan is of a totally different magnitude. Two thirds of the population is of Palestinian origin, with Jordanian citizenship and the right to vote for and to be elected to both chambers of Parliament. But Palestinians account for fewer than 20% of members of Parliament, due to a less than fully democratic electoral system that has nonetheless helped to maintain a sense of democracy. Through constitutional means there is a tacit understanding between the government and various opposition groups regarding the limits of the freedom of speech and of political expression that preserves the equilibrium.

The winds of change sweeping the region threaten to shatter the modus vivendi among Bedouin, religious and Palestinian components of Jordanian society. But it should be stressed that the regime in Amman has a much lower threshold of tolerance than its Cairo counterpart. Its 100,000-strong army is all-Hashemite - that is, Bedouin - and is absolutely loyal to the king. King Abdullah himself also has military experience. The regime would not hesitate, in the event, to call its 1,250 tanks and 2,300 armored personnel carriers into action to nip any uprising in the bud, regardless of the international repercussions. Every opposition party or force in the country is well aware of that resolve.

When Bedouin in cities in the south, such as Ma'an, Dhiban or Karak, suffering from unemployment and poverty, have rioted over the past several years, the government has used harsh military force against them. It will not hesitate to use the same measures against citizens of Palestinian origin. Bakhit's appointment as prime minister was intended to send this clear message to any potential demonstrator.

Washington can amuse itself with demands for full democracy in Egypt. The stakes of embracing a similar position for Jordan, if the situation arises, are much higher. A regime change in Jordan could bring about a state change, with a threat of neighbors being sucked in. With the situation compounded by the unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a wobbling Iraq and the neighboring Syrian-Iranian coalition, the United States should refrain from sending messages of encouragement to the Jordanian opposition, peaceful as it may be. Some of Jordan's neighbors might be interested in increasing instability there, igniting a chain reaction that could throw the whole region into an armed conflict. Iran, emboldened by its recent success in Lebanon and the collapse of the regime of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak - an outspoken critic of Iran - is an obvious candidate, in cooperation with Syria, to meddle in Jordan. And certain Palestinian factions, such as Hamas, might join in, hoping to use the regional turbulence to increase their power in Jordan.

Certain political groups in Israel may revive the "Jordan is Palestine" dream. This is a dangerous proposition. Israel has a clear interest in the territorial integrity of Jordan and the maintenance of its current political system. Any alternative is counterproductive to Israel's long-term interests.

Oded Eran is director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a former ambassador to Jordan.






British Prime Minister David Cameron said the other day that multiculturalism in his country has failed. It did not succeed in promoting a uniform identity, based on the principles of democracy. Cameron - exactly like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the same thing in October - doesn't really mean multiculturalism in the sense of many and varied cultures, but is rather talking about the "existence of the ideology of extremist Islam." This despite the findings of a poll by the Open Society Institute that found that an overwhelming majority of 86 percent of Muslims living in Britain (who constitute only 3 million out of 62 million residents ), define themselves as British, and only after that as Muslims.

Thus, without any relation to the facts, what Cameron is basically saying is that "this swarthy Islam doesn't fit in so well in our nice white country." It seems that the white Westerner's primeval fear of the Arab mob is uncontrollable, and is sparked even if the mob is in Egypt and demanding freedom. Many Israelis who travel to London and return astounded by the fact that "the streets are full of Arabs," can probably relate. Indeed, this white, Western fear exists here to the same extent, and here too it is reinforced by the masses demonstrating in Egypt. So there's a good chance that we'll soon hear the prime minister or one of his ministers taking a page from Cameron in justifying more measures against the Arab community in Israel.

Yet, there is a difference between Cameron - who, like Nicolas Sarkozy, is addressing anyone who is Western, Christian and white, and excluding everything that is black and Muslim - and Merkel, who in her remarks recognized Islam as part of Germany, and took responsibility for her country's failure to integrate immigrants. Actually, she spoke a truth that is not uttered here: "We lied to ourselves, we thought they wouldn't stay long, that they would disappear one day. But that's not the reality."

Merkel insists that her immigrants and Muslim citizens speak the local language, obey the law and find jobs. In Germany, Britain and Israel, the Muslim and Arab minority speaks the local language and obeys the law, but when it comes to finding employment, the true meaning of multiculturalism emerges.

The demand for multiculturalism arises only when a minority is excluded and discriminated against. When a private individual of any religion or origin achieves equality, when the job market is open to him, when he leads a dignified life, when his personal and civil rights, including freedom of religion and culture, are maintained - there is no need for multiculturalism. The demand by a particular group or nationality for multiculturalism arises when a minority suffers from rejection in a society or state that does not want to include that religious, ethnic or national minority.

The problem is not multiculturalism, but discrimination, racism and deprivation. When members of such a minority suffer from inequality, poverty, unemployment and violence, they segregate in their group, with its religious and cultural values, because society at large does not allow them to integrate and adopt its values.

For a long time Arab society in Israel had no demands regarding nationality or identity. But after many years of discrimination and deprivation directed at Arab society as a whole, and racism and exclusion aimed at Arabs as individuals, in addition to the protracted occupation of the Palestinian people - Israeli Arab society has gradually developed into a national minority with demands. Nevertheless, its overwhelming majority is eager to integrate. Israel knows in principle that economically this integration is in its best interest. The question is, can it overcome the primitive fear of Arabs as human beings.




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



The Obama administration is proposing tougher mine safety regulation in the wake of the West Virginia explosion that killed 29 miners last April. The disaster highlighted hundreds of violations by the mine owner, Massey Energy, and the endemic failure of federal regulators to shut down the industry's worst offenders.

Congress vowed to change things after the Upper Big Branch explosion, and then gave in, again, to Big Coal. The executive proposals would make it much harder for mine owners to game the violations process with extended appeals that let them keep operating and risking miners' lives. A 34-year-old law providing for mine shutdowns has never been applied in the category of the worst offenders — a blight on industry and political appointees who shirked their oversight responsibilities.

Under the new regulations, the Mine Safety and Health Administration would be empowered to shut down a mine with a record of chronic safety violations — instead of waiting years for litigation to play out. Massey's record was horrendous, and it was allowed to keep working dangerous mines like Upper Big Branch.

The Justice Department has criminal and civil investigations of the explosion. A preliminary finding by the mine safety agency has concluded that it was preventable but for manifold safety violations. The agency cited management's failure to control risky coal dust, maintain ventilation safety and have adequate water sprays against machinery sparks that can ignite explosions.

Massey officials denied culpability, claiming that a sudden seepage of natural gas "overwhelmed" an adequately maintained ventilation system. "Reasonable minds can disagree," Shane Harvey, Massey's vice president, blithely asserted after federal inspectors concluded that there was no evidence to back the contention.

Such high-handedness from a serial offender makes it critical that the recently announced sale of Massey to an industry competitor in no way allows Massey to shed its culpability in the Upper Big Branch disaster.

The regulations would be effective in two months barring major changes, which we urge the administration to resist, whatever the political heat from Big Coal.

They are a stopgap step, according to Joseph Main, the mine agency director who says the broken safety system needs additional fixes from Congress. Legislation for tougher fines, whistleblower protection and public scrutiny of safety failures died last year. It is deemed a nonstarter in the new Republican controlled House, leaving the Obama administration as the main hope for miners.





As states groan and stumble through the recession, some politicians are trying to exploit their financial crises for ideological purposes. Many Republicans want to use hard times to fundamentally reduce the role of states and public employee unions, in the same way federal tax cuts forced a debate on how to cut the deficit.

Some want to cut back severely on federal aid to the states, no matter how much new joblessness that may cause, while others want to ensure that Washington will never bail out a state close to defaulting on its bonds.

The latest pernicious idea, pushed by Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush and several members of Congress, would allow the states to declare bankruptcy, for the principal purpose of tearing up union contracts and negating pension obligations.

It is true that many public employee unions have done well during a time of hardship for most Americans. The problem, though, isn't the existence of those unions; it is the generous contracts willingly given to them by lawmakers because of their lobbying power and bloc-voting ability. In New York, unionized state employees have had a 14 percent raise over four years, and now make an average of nearly $67,000. Iowa's state workers last year won a 6 percent raise over two years.

Dozens of states give pension and health benefits far more generous than in the private sector. Their costs have resulted in significant cutbacks to basic state services for the poor and middle class.

But bankruptcy would fight fire with gasoline, spreading instability to the bond markets, scaring off investors who might think they would never get repaid, and making it much harder and more expensive for states to raise desperately needed capital. Some bond experts say even talk of allowing states to declare bankruptcy has rattled markets.

Magic-bullet ideas like this one are no substitute for the hard work of governing responsibly. Union contracts and benefits need to be changed at the bargaining table, and budget-cutting governors have all kinds of leverage. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York got the attention of state unions last week by threatening to lay off 9,800 workers if the unions don't give up at least $450 million in payroll cuts and other givebacks. Other governors are talking about changing collective bargaining laws.

Governors also have a huge megaphone at their disposal, and should not hesitate to remind both the public and union members that financial emergencies require sacrifice. Government employees accept a special civic responsibility when they go to work for the taxpayers that is not always shared by their private counterparts — they are working to serve their state's needs, not just themselves. (That point would be easier to sell if the sacrifice were universal. Giving tax cuts to billionaires and asking middle-class employees for givebacks makes little financial or moral sense.)

Though the bankruptcy proposal has not caught fire in Washington, it demonstrates that some conservatives are serious about experimenting with volatile new ideas. To contain the damage, lawmakers and unions need to get equally serious about dealing with costs that are beginning to infuriate the people who pay the bills.






For 45 years, the Freedom of Information of Act has invigorated American democracy by obliging the executive branch to make public a splendid range of documents. It serves the people's right to know, while leaving out data whose disclosure could be harmful.

The law's "exemption 7," about facts gathered for law enforcement, omits records whose release could be "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Until now courts have unanimously agreed its purpose is to protect individuals. Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments about a case in which the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, decided "personal privacy" includes the privacy of corporations.

Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T addresses whether AT&T can prevent the F.C.C. from releasing documents about the company's overbilling of the government. If the justices supported that interpretation, they would wreak havoc on the Freedom of Information Act. Fortunately, there's little risk of that.

The appeals court's ruling rests on faulty analysis. It found that the exemption's text settled the matter by using the phrase "personal privacy." "After all," the court said, " 'personal' is the adjectival form of 'person,' and F.O.I.A. defines 'person' to include a corporation."

In fact, while "person" is in F.O.I.A., the term is not in the pertinent part of exemption 7. If Congress had wanted it there, that section would likely have specified "the privacy of any person," with "person" defined to include corporation.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. dismissed the idea that an adjective with the same root as a noun always absorbs the noun's meaning: "You have craft and crafty. Totally different. Crafty doesn't have much to do with craft. Squirrel, squirrelly. Right? I mean, pastor — you have pastor and pastoral. Same root, totally different."

Still, the appeals court's mistaken view has to be taken seriously. As the acting solicitor general warned, its logic, if upheld, would lead to "personal privacy" for local, state and foreign governments, with "no meaningful benchmarks to guide the federal agencies and the courts in defining the limits" of those interests.

The creation of corporate privacy would transform F.O.I.A. into a battleground, between individuals and others seeking to hold the government accountable, including journalists, and corporations trying to block the release of records because of this new-found claim.

AT&T's lawyer said he was puzzled that the issue hadn't come up before. Justice Stephen Breyer said it might be because other exemptions amply protect corporations. Justice Antonin Scalia was blunter and even more convincing: "Another reason might be that nobody ever thought that personal privacy would cover this."







Not that long ago, the possibility of finding planets outside our solar system was merely theoretical. In 1995, astronomers began to be able to detect Jupiter-sized "exoplanets" by their gravitational effect on the stars they orbit. And with the launch of the Kepler satellite in March 2009 and the release last week of the data it has so far gathered, astronomy has crossed a major threshold. The Kepler has discovered 1,235 potential planets.

What makes this so striking is the satellite's instruments always point at the same tiny arc of the Milky Way near the constellation called the Northern Cross — only one four-hundredth of the sky. The Kepler team leader, William Borucki, at the Ames Research Center in Northern California, says that if Kepler could see the whole sky, it would have found some 400,000 planets.

The satellite detects possible planets by measuring the light of 156,000 stars in its field of view and looking for slight dips in brightness when a planet crosses in front of a star. All of these planets will have to be validated using telescopes. That will take years, given the limited number of astronomers and powerful telescopes on this planet.

Are any of the Kepler's planets another Earth? Fifty-four of them look as if they might be the right size and the right distance from their stars to be in a habitable zone, where liquid water can exist.

As exciting as the Kepler results are, they are also a reminder of how fictional science fiction — with its multiplicity of worlds and easy interstellar travel — really is.

If we launched ourselves today toward the nearest planetary system discovered so far — at speeds we can already conceivably travel in space — we would have 300,000 years of asking "when will we get there?" before we got there.







On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama played to two very different foreign policy constituencies. Often he presented himself as the tribune of the anti-war left — the only candidate who had opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning, the man who could be trusted to civilize the global war on terror, and the perfect figure to smooth the transition to a post-American world order. To more bipartisan audiences, though, he cast himself as a cold-eyed realist — the rightful heir to George H. W. Bush, if not Henry Kissinger, who would pursue America's interests without pretending (as the younger President Bush often did) that they matched up perfectly with America's democratic ideals.

This two-step worked during the election season because realists and left-wingers were united in their weariness with the Bush administration, and their distrust of John McCain. But to govern is to choose, and after two years in office we can say with some certainty where Barack Obama's instincts really lie. From the war on terror to the current unrest in Egypt, his foreign policy has owed far more to conservative realpolitik than to any left-wing vision of international affairs.

Many Republicans have been loath to admit this. In the first year of the Obama presidency, conservatives rushed to portray the president as a weak-kneed liberal who would rather appease terrorists than fight. They accused him of abandoning the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies, taking the pressure off Iran, and playing at being president of the world while giving his own country's interests short shrift. They insisted that his distrust of American power and doubts about American exceptionalism were making the country steadily less safe.

But this narrative never really fit the facts. On nearly every anti-terror front, from detainee policy to drone strikes, the Obama administration has been what The Washington Times's Eli Lake calls a "9/14 presidency," maintaining or even expanding the powers that George W. Bush claimed in the aftermath of 9/11. (Dick Cheney himself admitted as much last month, effectively retracting his 2009 claim that Obama's terrorism policies were undermining national security.) Time and again, this president has proved himself a careful custodian of both American and presidential prerogatives — and the most perceptive critics of his policies, tellingly, have been civil libertarians rather than Republican partisans.

On Israel-Palestine and Iran, the Obama administration did briefly flirt with new strategies, putting more pressure on the Israeli government and attempting outreach to Tehran. But the White House soon reverted to the policy status quo of Bush's second term. Indeed, from the twilight struggle over Iran's nuclear program — featuring sanctions, sabotage, and the threat of military force — to the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, this White House's entire approach to international affairs looks like a continuation of the Condoleezza Rice-Robert Gates phase of the Bush administration.

Obama's response to the Egyptian crisis has crystallized his entire foreign policy vision. Switch on Rush Limbaugh or Fox News, and you would assume that there's a terrible left-wing naïveté — or worse, a sneaking anticolonial sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood — at work in the White House's attempts to usher Hosni Mubarak out the door. But look closer, and it's clear that the administration's real goal has been to dispense with Mubarak while keeping the dictator's military subordinates very much in charge. If the Obama White House has its way, any opening to democracy will be carefully stage-managed by an insider like Omar Suleiman, the former general and Egyptian intelligence chief who's best known in Washington for his cooperation with the C.I.A.'s rendition program. This isn't softheaded peacenik dithering. It's cold-blooded realpolitik.

Cold-blooded, and probably correct. Obama might have done moreto champion human rights and democracy in Egypt before the current crisis broke out, by leavening his Kissinger impression with a touch of Reaganite idealism. But there isn't much more the administration can do now, because there isn't any evidence that the Egyptian protesters are ready to actually take power.

There are moments when American presidents can afford to stand uncompromisingly with democratic revolutionaries. But they need someone to stand for. In the Soviet bloc of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan had Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Pope John Paul II — and ultimately Mikhail Gorbachev. In Egypt, Obama has Mohammed ElBaradei, the Muslim Brotherhood and the crowds: the first dubious as a grass-roots leader, the second dangerous, and the third perilously disorganized.

This is a situation that calls for great caution, rather than grand idealistic gestures. And it calls for a certain measure of relief, from the American public, that this liberal president's foreign policy instincts have turned out to be so temperamentally conservative.






We're in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they're having a brutal impact on the world's poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs.

The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all, the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes in the Middle East isn't so much why they're happening as why they're happening now. And there's little question that sky-high food prices have been an important trigger for popular rage.

So what's behind the price spike? American right-wingers (and the Chinese) blame easy-money policies at the Federal Reserve, with at least one commentator declaring that there is "blood on Bernanke's hands." Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France blames speculators, accusing them of "extortion and pillaging."

But the evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we'd expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.

Now, to some extent soaring food prices are part of a general commodity boom: the prices of many raw materials, running the gamut from aluminum to zinc, have been rising rapidly since early 2009, mainly thanks to rapid industrial growth in emerging markets.

But the link between industrial growth and demand is a lot clearer for, say, copper than it is for food. Except in very poor countries, rising incomes don't have much effect on how much people eat.

It's true that growth in emerging nations like China leads to rising meat consumption, and hence rising demand for animal feed. It's also true that agricultural raw materials, especially cotton, compete for land and other resources with food crops — as does the subsidized production of ethanol, which consumes a lot of corn. So both economic growth and bad energy policy have played some role in the food price surge.

Still, food prices lagged behind the prices of other commodities until last summer. Then the weather struck.

Consider the case of wheat, whose price has almost doubled since the summer. The immediate cause of the wheat price spike is obvious: world production is down sharply. The bulk of that production decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, reflects a sharp plunge in the former Soviet Union. And we know what that's about: a record heat wave and drought, which pushed Moscow temperatures above 100 degrees for the first time ever.

The Russian heat wave was only one of many recent extreme weather events, from dry weather in Brazil to biblical-proportion flooding in Australia, that have damaged world food production.

The question then becomes, what's behind all this extreme weather?

To some extent we're seeing the results of a natural phenomenon, La Niña — a periodic event in which water in the equatorial Pacific becomes cooler than normal. And La Niña events have historically been associated with global food crises, including the crisis of 2007-8.

But that's not the whole story. Don't let the snow fool you: globally, 2010 was tied with 2005 for warmest year on record, even though we were at a solar minimum and La Niña was a cooling factor in the second half of the year. Temperature records were set not just in Russia but in no fewer than 19 countries, covering a fifth of the world's land area. And both droughts and floods are natural consequences of a warming world: droughts because it's hotter, floods because warm oceans release more water vapor.

As always, you can't attribute any one weather event to greenhouse gases. But the pattern we're seeing, with extreme highs and extreme weather in general becoming much more common, is just what you'd expect from climate change.

The usual suspects will, of course, go wild over suggestions that global warming has something to do with the food crisis; those who insist that Ben Bernanke has blood on his hands tend to be more or less the same people who insist that the scientific consensus on climate reflects a vast leftist conspiracy.

But the evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we're getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we'll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.






Tel Aviv

IN the Western study of medieval Islamic history, the institution of iqta — land grants from the sovereign to his soldiers — once loomed large, because scholars searched for reasons behind the Muslim failure to develop feudalism, and with it the contractual relationships that eventually led to constitutional government. But looking for parallels between the West and Islam — especially the classical Islamic heartland from North Africa to Iran — has always been politically a sad endeavor, since the region seemed so resistant to the ideas and institutions that made representative government possible.

President George W. Bush's decision to build democracy in Iraq seemed so lame to many people because it appeared, at best, to be another example of American idealism run amok — the forceful implantation of a complex Western idea into infertile authoritarian soil. But Mr. Bush, whose faith in self-government mirrors that of a frontiersman in Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," saw truths that more worldly men missed: the idea of democracy had become a potent force among Muslims, and authoritarianism had become the midwife to Islamic extremism.

One of the great under-reported stories of the end of the 20th century was the enormous penetration of the West's better political ideas — democracy and individual liberty — into the Muslim consciousness. For those of us who speak and read Persian, the startling evolution was easier to see. Theocracy-versus-democracy has been a defining theme of the Islamic Republic of Iran since the revolution, which harnessed both Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's religious charisma and the secular intelligentsia's democratic aspirations. Over the last three decades, clerical Iran has nurtured an intense intellectual discourse about the duties that man owes to God.

When the legitimacy of theocracy started to unravel amid the regime's corruption and brutality in the late 1980s, democratic ideas, including powerful democratic interpretations of the Islamic faith, roared forth. The explosion on the streets after the fraudulent presidential elections of June 2009 was just the most visible eruption of the enormous democratic pressures that had built up underneath the republic's autocracy. More regime-threatening moments are surely coming.

Today's Arab societies — less intellectually vibrant than Iran, in great part because their regimes have been more effective in shutting down internal debate — have become increasingly schizophrenic. Long before the tumult in Tunisia and Egypt, Arab liberal secular intellectuals had divided. Except for the fearless, who went to prison, liberals who didn't flee their homelands usually became "court liberals," whose views never seriously challenged the rulers.

Aware of the dismal fates of their kind in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini, they faithfully echoed the anti-Islamist, après-moi-le-déluge fears that the region's autocrats used in Washington whenever American officials objected to tyranny. Democracy remained for them a cherished ideal, attainable at some future date when the Islamists had lost their appeal and the despots their power.

The secular intellectuals in exile, however, more forcefully embraced the democratic cause — their newspapers, books, magazines, Web sites and, increasingly, appearances on Al Jazeera — delivered their views back home. Intellectuals of such diverse viewpoints as Kanan Makiya, Edward Said, Saad Eddin Ibrahim and Burhan Ghalioun opened up an ever-increasing liberal, democratic space in foreign and Arabic publications. Yes, some mixed their message of liberty with other "Arab" priorities: anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism. But their support of democracy was clear, and became more acute after the 9/11 attacks.

Understandably, the Western foreign ministries and press paid a lot more attention to the court liberals. A revulsion against the Iraq war and a distaste for President Bush helped to blind people to the spread of democratic sentiments in the region. It blinded them to the fact that among Middle Easterners, democracy, not dictatorship, was now seen as a better vehicle for economic growth and social justice.

Most important, Mr. Bush's distastefulness helped to blind Westerners to the momentous marriage of Islamism and democratic ideas. Men and women of devout faith, who cherish (if not always rigorously follow) Shariah law increasingly embraced the convulsive idea that only elected political leadership was legitimate. Islam puts extraordinary emphasis upon the idea of justice — the earthbound quid pro quo that a man can expect in a righteous life.

This sense of justice, which Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani expressed so forcefully in 2004 against an American occupation fearful of letting Iraqis vote, has been irreversibly welded to the ballot box. Democracy for the faithful has become a means for society to affirm its most cherished Islamic values.

The Egyptian revolt against President Hosni Mubarak and his regime has caused many in the West to foresee a calamitous, unstoppable rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship of Sunni fundamentalism. The Brotherhood is frightening. Prominent members have sanctified suicide-bombing against Israeli women and children, espoused the vilest anti-Semitism and affirmed the holiness of killing those who would slight the Prophet Muhammad.

But the Brotherhood, like everyone else, is evolving. It would be a serious error to believe that it has not sincerely wrestled with the seductive challenge of democracy, with the fact that the Egyptian faithful like the idea of voting for their leaders.

In 2007, members of the Brotherhood released, withdrew and unofficially re-released a political platform — the first ever for the organization — in which an outsider can see the Brothers' philosophical struggle with the idea of parliamentary supremacy and the certainty that faithful Muslims may legislatively transgress Holy Law. The Brothers themselves didn't know how much free rein to give to their compatriots — they, like everyone else, are moving in uncharted waters.

The Brotherhood is trying to come to terms with the idea of hurriya, "freedom." In the past, for the Muslim devout, hurriya had denoted the freedom of a believer to worship God; for the Arab nationalist, the word was the battle cry against European imperialism. Today, in Egypt and elsewhere, hurriya cannot be understood without reference to free men and women voting. The Brothers are trying to figure out how to integrate two civilizations and thereby revive their own. This evolution isn't pretty. But it is real.

For the Egyptian people, the Brothers are not an enigma — they have been around since 1928. Unlike the revolutionary mullahs of Iran, who wrote books that almost no one outside the clergy read, the Brotherhood has spread its word to the Egyptian public for decades.

It's also important that Egyptian Muslims are Sunnis. Unlike Iran's Shiites, whose history revolves around charismatic men, Egyptians have no Ayatollah Khomeini. The Brotherhood is an organization of laymen. It has always had a tense relationship with Al Azhar, the great Sunni seminary of Cairo.

Although Hosni Mubarak has done his best to suck the life out of Egyptian society, the shadows of once great parties, like the Wafds of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and nearly forgotten forces like the Liberal Constitutionalist Party will try to resurrect themselves in fairly short order. Ayman Nour and his liberal Ghad Party are already established.

Once President Mubarak is gone, and if his minions don't try to maintain the military dictatorship, a quick transition to democracy is likely to produce a plethora of parties, with a few in position to form a coalition.

The Brotherhood will undoubtedly be one of the big players, but it will have to compete for votes. And, as the Brotherhood's aborted platform clearly reveals, the organization is going to have to do better than chanting, "Islam has all the answers," the easy retort of men who know they don't have to compete for power.

What we are likely to see in Egypt is not a repeat of Iran, where fundamentalists took undisputed power, but a repeat of Iraq, where Sunni religious parties did well initially but started to fade, divide and evolve as the powerful Sunni preference for laymen of no particular religious distinction comes to the foreground. Sunni Islam has no clerical hierarchy of the holy — it's tailor-made for nasty arguments among men who dispute one another's authority to know the righteous path. If the Brotherhood can be corralled by a democratic system, the global effect may not be insignificant.

We have a chance in Egypt to be lucky. Democratization there, like democratization of Iran, could thwart the ideologies and fear that move poor countries to spend fortunes on nuclear weapons. The United States is not without influence. We can push hard for a quick transition to democratic rule. The Egyptian Army, historically no friend of democracy or civil liberties, is now dependent on American money and advanced weaponry. If it continues to stand behind Mr. Mubarak, if Egyptians start to die in large numbers, Washington shouldn't hesitate to play hardball.

Elections should not be at the end of some long, undefined democratic transition, which Mr. Mubarak or his minions would surely use to abort democracy. Egypt needs elections sooner, not later. More convincingly than any president before him, Barack Obama can say, "We are not scared of Muslims voting." He can put an end to the West's deleterious habit of treating the Middle East's potentates respectfully and the Muslim citizenry like children.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Middle Eastern specialist in the C.I.A.'s clandestine service, is the author of the forthcoming book "The Wave: Man, God and the Ballot Box in the Middle East."








When it is operating properly, government's role in our free-enterprise system is mainly to act as a check on those who would defraud, coerce or otherwise harm others.


But beyond those basic functions, government should mostly keep out of the way of the economy. Government does not produce jobs and economic growth. With the right policies, however, it can foster the conditions -- such as the rule of law and respect for private property -- that allow the free market to generate prosperity through the voluntary production, sale and purchase of goods and services.


So it is troubling that President Barack Obama recently suggested that government -- not the free market -- is the source of American advancement.


In his State of the Union speech, he went on the attack against Republicans who want to make serious cuts in spending to begin bringing down our crippling $14 trillion debt. Opposing major cuts in government spending, he offered this analogy:


"Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine."


Now think about that for a moment.


The president of the United States, which became the richest nation in history on the strength of free-enterprise values, believes that government spending is the "engine" of innovation and education.


Where is the evidence of that?


Look, for instance, at the tens of billions of tax dollars that have been funneled through the federal government into alternative energy such as wind and solar power. Have those subsidies made wind and solar energy affordable and practical? Certainly not. Many alternative energy projects would simply dry up for lack of market demand if the subsidies were shut off.


As for education, we see no evidence that vast amounts of federal money have significantly improved academic achievement among America's students. Consider the federally funded Head Start program for children from low-income families. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that whatever academic or social benefits pupils supposedly gained from Head Start almost completely disappeared by the end of the first grade. In other words, the well-intended program is a failure. Yet our country continues to pour billions of dollars into Head Start annually.


Rather than boost accomplishment, what federal spending on education has done is give Washington enormous control over local school districts, even though state and local governments still provide the bulk of school funding.


You'll notice that the president refers to the spending of your tax dollars and of trillions more borrowed dollars as "investments." That is a serious misuse of that word.


"Investing" is what private individuals and businesses voluntarily do with their own money in hopes of getting a return by meeting market demand for a good or service. That is the kind of economic activity that built America. Investing is not what government does with taxpayers' money to promote certain favored industries or companies with government funds. If $14 trillion in cumulative federal deficit spending is an "investment," then where are the "returns"?


The president has it backward if he truly believes that government spending is the source of America's success.







President Barack Obama bristles at suggestions that ObamaCare's costs and regulations will destroy jobs. He recently told supporters of the law that concerns about job losses have been proved untrue.


That is an odd claim to make, since many of its biggest provisions have not been enacted yet.


But even in its early stages, Obama-Care's job-killing potential is already being realized.


Abbott Laboratories, which makes drugs and medical devices, recently said it plans to eliminate nearly 2,000 manufacturing and marketing jobs.


In the words of The Associated Press, "Abbott blamed the cuts on new fees and pricing pressures associated with the health reform law and a 'challenging regulatory environment' at the Food and Drug Administration."


Specifically, ObamaCare forced Abbott to shell out $200 million last year in higher Medicaid rebates.


"That will continue in 2011 and the company expects to pay an additional $200 million for the drugmaker-tax and discounts the law requires for patients on Medicare," Bloomberg News noted.


In other words, the company may only be beginning its ObamaCare-related job cuts.


Abbott isn't alone, either. Medtronic, a maker of medical devices, predicted it will cut 1,000 jobs to cover a new ObamaCare tax on medical devices. And soon after ObamaCare was signed into law, major companies such as AT&T, John Deere and Caterpillar noted the hundreds of millions of dollars in new costs the law would impose on them. Who can doubt that those costs will force the companies to lay off employees, or that at a minimum they will be unable to hire new workers?


It is highly questionable whether ObamaCare will improve medical care for most Americans. But sadly, it has already been demonstrated that it will kill jobs. That is the last thing the United States needs in a time of high unemployment.







Remember how the $862 billion federal "stimulus" was first supposed to "create" lots of private-sector jobs? Its Democrat backers later said it would "create or save" jobs. Today we know that it mainly propped up government jobs, added to our debt and "created" little economic growth.


Well, members of Congress now are pushing an $8 billion aviation bill that they say will "support" lots of jobs. (They're carefully avoiding the word "create," The Associated Press reported.)


We suspect this bill will "support" more debt but "create" few jobs.







Does it seem to you that no matter what the weather does these days, somebody declares it proof of manmade "global warming" -- and insists that only heavy government control of industry can "rescue the planet"?


If the winter is mild and dry, that -- we are assured -- is proof of global warming.


If the winter is cold and snowy, that is also supposed to be evidence of global warming.


If there are droughts or floods or hurricanes or changing migratory habits among birds, the all-purpose

explanation is -- you guessed it -- global warming.


Recently we spotted this headline: "Heavy snow fits global warming." It was atop an article that purported to "sweep away" doubts that some people -- who are tired of the cold weather -- may have about climate change.


We believe climate change is more complex than many environmentalists will admit -- and that heavy regulations proposed to "fix" global warming would do massive harm. We're also troubled by serious errors or outright distortions of climate data by supposedly objective sources.


Then again, with this winter having brought heavy snow and intense cold to much of the nation, we suspect some Americans wouldn't mind a little "global warming" about now.







At the weekend Munich Security Conference, held under the shadow of turmoil in Egypt, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to describe the sweep of events with the metaphor of a George Clooney movie, "The Perfect Storm." High diplomacy conducted with low rhetorical resort to a Hollywood analogy is discouraging in itself. But since she started it, we'll continue.

The conference itself, an annual affair to discuss global security, should go down as the scene in that movie when a giant wave snaps the radio antenna on poor fisherman George's boat, shutting down the only tool that might have got him back safely to Gloucester.

Let's rewind the tape: Clinton gave a speech written seemingly for an audience in Muncie, Indiana, not Munich. Then Frank Wisner, Barack Obama's personal envoy to Egypt's embattled Hosni Mubarek took the stage by video link. He issued an appeal that Mubarek stay in office for a yet-to-be-defined transition period, a statement quickly followed by American explanations that he was only speaking in an "individual capacity."

Then British Prime Minister David Cameron takes his turn to reprise the "Rivers of Blood Speech" made by a British MP in 1968. OK, Cameron's attack on "multiculturalism" may not have been as deeply offensive as the still-debated anti-immigrant screed of Enoch Powell that became the manifesto of British racists.

"As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding," Powell said of the trickle of immigrants then entering Britain. "Like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood.'" To be fair, Cameron's first major speech on immigration and Islamist extremist was more of an anodyne than Powell's poison 43 years ago: "Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," Cameron said.

We actually think the United Kingdom's record on diversity is pretty good. Turn on the BBC, take a look at any High Street bank or check out the names of the members of youth cricket teams year-on-year. Other European records of inclusiveness pale in comparison. Still Cameron's clear inference that immigrants, specifically Muslim immigrants, are his country's main problem is not just nonsense, but badly timed nonsense. (Muslim population of Britain is 2.7 percent.)

Our Ahmet Davutoğlu made an effort at collegiality, a statement that on the subject of Egypt, U.S. and Turkish "views are identical." Which views, we must wonder?

The Munich conference should have been a moment of global leadership and clarity in the face of a perilous and growing crisis across the Middle East. Instead, it was a moment of confusion, disarray and barely concealed internal quarrels. Nothing perfect about this storm.






When Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the USSR was going through a difficult period of time. Immediate action was required to address the pressing economic and social problems of the day, but the establishment had become very conservative and resented any change.

In the face of awareness that exorbitant military expenditure was weighing extremely heavily on the economy, the notorious military-industrial complex, supported by hardliners within the Communist Party, exhibited fierce resistance to any attempt at reform. In the meantime, the old bonds that had kept Soviet society in line were virtually disappearing. By 1985, a diversity of views had begun to evolve, and Soviet institutions, including the Communist Party, no longer had full control over the lives of its citizens.

Gorbachev started to implement radical reforms which he saw as part of a strategy of his called "socialism with a human face." At first, his apparent determination with regard to the restructuring of the rigid political and economic system helped him gain huge popularity among the masses. It was not long, however, until initial doubts appeared. Gorbachev was offending Jesus but couldn't please Mohammed.

The younger and dynamic segment of the Soviet nomenklatura soon grew disappointed with his unwillingness, indecisiveness and lack of vision, whereas many senior party officials started to accuse him of being too revisionist. Alienating both, he became more cautious and hesitant. Especially after the electoral reform that signified the end of the guaranteed monopoly of the party, he became afraid of losing control of events. Eventually, he came to be seen as a lonely man and an incompetent leader. The people and young reformers would gradually gravitate to the late Boris Yeltsin, who, by accusing Gorbachev of keeping "mastodons and dinosaurs" from the past in power, was playing to the hope that change was still possible.

This story came to mind when I read comments regarding the future of the popular uprising against the regime of Hosni Mubarak because both cases, although acknowledging that Egypt's dynamics are different from those of the Soviet Union, offer a couple of important similarities in a political culture of dictatorial or semi-democratic means of governance.

There are three important question marks which will eventually determine the fate of the people's revolt in Egypt: First of all, what is the level of Egyptian establishment's support for Mubarak and his regime? Secondly, does Egypt have its own Boris Yeltsin, or put in other words, can Mohamed ElBaradei be Egypt's Yeltsin? Finally, what is the level of determination of the people, the real driving force for change, particular on the periphery?

It is for certain that Mubarak will go sooner or later because the hope for change is now irreversible and cosmetic changes will only galvanize the already existing risks. What I am rather interested in is thus the paradox regarding what kind of a regime will be established instead.

Actually, this problem is not only acute in Egypt. Presently, the bells are ringing for many regional leaders and their people's outcry can only be met by brave decisions. Otherwise, we will see more Yeltsins and it will be the policies of the international community that determine whether there will eventually appear regional prototypes of the current Vladimir Putins.

In Egypt's case is it is surely only the Muslim Brotherhood that could represent Putin.








Below is the introduction to the novel I am working on, titled Memoirs of a Central Bank Governor:

"I am glad it is finally over," thought ex-Governor Tenaz as he walked past the large doors of the Central Bank on Plaza de la Nación.

His term had not started on exactly amicable terms when he was assigned to the post five years ago amidst a mild, at least by the standards of the country, economic and political crisis. His qualifications for this important post were brusquely deemed inadequate by the markets, which assumed he would simply be the government's pawn.

But time had certainly been on Tenaz's side: Bringing inflation under control and steering monetary policy deftly during the global crisis that had swept through the world little more than a year after his assignment, he had the hard-earned respect of markets and fellow central bankers alike. He was ready to retire when he was trapped into literally pulling a rabbit out of his hat a few months ago.

"I should have told Virtud that the concept of dual interest rates to achieve internal and external equilibrium was bound to confuse markets", he thought, as he lighted a cigarette. Virtud, his deputy governor and successor, had a habit of creating new economics concepts out of old ones, in this case the familiar Swan diagram.

Virtud was the one who had come up with the unconventional policy mix of cutting the policy rate and increasing required reserves in response to the ballooning current account deficit. Fueled by rapid credit growth and an overvalued peso stemming from capital inflows, it had begun to threaten financial stability.

The rate cut was supposed to deter short-term foreign money, whereas the reserve hikes would discourage lending. Never mind that this policy would amount to the impossible task of determining both the quantity and price of liquidity at the same time, and as long as deposits were short-term, banks would not mind borrowing from the Central Bank to extend credit.

It was true that as Virtud argued, they did not have much choice: The government and the banking regulator had not enacted any of the traditional remedies such as institutional and structural reforms geared towards increasing the savings rate, higher capital adequacy ratios, or capital controls, as other countries faced with the same dilemma were doing.

But what still made him blush with anger was that he had stood aside and watched as the government marketed a fairly loose fiscal policy as tight. Embedded columnists had hailed last year's budget figures as a success thanks to results better than the government's original projections. "Misleading benchmarks lead to false conclusions," thought Tenaz. Juan el Bebé, as the economy minister was known due to his juvenile appearance, was one shrewd fellow.

Some economists had protested that the improvement in the budget mainly stemmed from interest expenditures. Others had noted that last year's fiscal stimulus, once adjusted for the 8 percent growth rate, was almost as large as the previous year's, when the economy had contracted by 5 percent. "We are lucky they were muffled, but I wish I had not stayed so complacent," he sighed.

The good thing was that the Bank looked successful, although through some sort of constructive ambiguity: Confused by the direction of monetary policy, hot money had evaporated. It was even too successful: At his last rate-setting meeting, they had worried about the possibility of a sudden stop in capital flows, which would crash-land the economy. And inflation was creeping up due to the weak peso.

But they were all Virtud's problems now. Governor Tenaz, or rather ex-Governor Tenaz, was going fishing with his grandson that afternoon.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at






It is Sunday morning. I am reading a post on Facebook by a photojournalist who was filing dramatic live reports for Al Jazeera during the past week:

"Another night spent in Tahrir. Slicked by rain and with fewer 'residents' than ever before, tanks have moved in closer and demonstrators laid down to defend the square with their bodies. Central Cairo is expected to open for business tomorrow for the first time since Jan. 25."

As this dramatic play is coming slowly to its final act of dissolution, which can be either a final confrontation or a compromise, one cannot resist the temptation to make some hypotheses on the basis of the new elements that have recently come into play.

I am old enough to remember that the worst moments of my country's recent history were associated closely with the presence of military tanks in central Athens and I have been in this country long enough to remember the string of tanks that moved through the streets of Sincan in Ankara that tense day of Feb. 4, 1997, after "Jerusalem night." So the sudden arrival of a long string of tan-colored tanks on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria to take position as "buffers" between opposing social groups was an indication that many of our old certainties do not apply any longer.

Another certainty was that revolutions come from social groups who are materially deprived and struggle for a society of justice. The uprisings both in Tunisia and Egypt were the cause for me to modify my ideas. This leaderless mass of mobile-phone holders and users of social media whom we have been witnessing staging their own revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt during the last few weeks did not belong to an impoverished underclass. Most of those rebelling are young, educated, middle class, professional, liberal or religious, and they all seem to belong to the new social class of computer literati who could organize and mobilize virtual communities in a matter of seconds.

Under the umbrella of a pro-democracy, freedom-seeking discourse, this assorted large mass of people displays remarkable resilience and courage of the sort that in earlier times we would associate with a much more militant struggle. The remarkable defiance in the face of danger and a surprising bravery against physical brutality are more novel features of this new type of Internet-bred urban guerilla, who lying exhausted on the cobblestones of Tahrir Square, reveals a large crack on his forehead to a foreign journalist but insists he will not leave the square "until Mubarak leaves power."

I do not know how true it is that the Americans – and the Europeans – were caught by surprise by the avalanche of protests sweeping one after Arab Middle Eastern country after another.

These were countries within their own sphere of influence whose secularist autocratic regimes secured U.S. policies in the region for the past few decades. But it is certainly true that the deterioration of parliamentary democratic systems into autocratic, corrupt regimes that suppressed opposing voices gave life to Islamist political groupings who are now poised to play a central role in the post-Mubarak or post-Ben Ali states of affairs.

In the case of Egypt, a crucial period is starting today. A period which is to determine who will be the players of Egypt's political future. Egypt is a crucial barometer for the balance of world affairs. It played a crucial role during the Cold War era, and it held the balance in precarious Middle East politics. Any new change is bound to affect world balances again.

There are many questions to be answered. Will the U.S. (and the EU who is a major economic player in the Middle East) approve of an interregnum with the army facilitating a more representative parliamentary environment under a new leader but with the legalization of the Muslim Brotherhood, who remains the largest opposition group in the country? Does the West see political Islam as an unavoidable ingredient in the politics of countries of Muslim faith? Certainly the call of president Obama to the Turkish prime minister and the dramatic call by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Mubarak to "step down gracefully" seem to indicate such a direction of thinking.

For the moment, the large majority of these angry protesters on the square are only seeking democracy. But democracy is a term that has been often misunderstood, misused and often reduced to a concept of majority rule or the tyranny of the majority. Experience has shown that it often bypasses other important ingredients such as the respect for minority views and free expression. I do not know what the final ingredients of the democracy in Egypt (as well as Tunisia and any other rebelling country of the region) will be. But I do not see how it is possible to exclude a political expression of Islam in a new democratic model. This, of course, may not guarantee a peaceful future for Egyptian society as the forces of secularism and political Islam have many reasons to collide.

But for the moment they unite in the square against the common enemy, an aging autocrat and his plutocratic class: Muslims, Christians, atheists, youngsters, are together asking for less corruption, higher salaries and equal opportunities. Some 1.5 billion dollars goes to Egypt every year as aid from the U.S.: Will the new political model for Egypt that will emerge from the negotiations between the army and the Islamists guarantee the protection of U.S. interests in the region? It is certainly not going to be as easy as before. 






As developments unfold in the Arab world, first and foremost in Egypt and Tunisia, there is one profound conclusion missing in most of the news reports and expert opinions analyzing the political, social and/or historical reasons for and consequences of the events; the popular revolts demonstrate to the world the bankruptcy of al-Qaeda's strategy and tactics. They show that al-Qaeda and related groups have failed to come up with effective strategies to channel popular frustrations and grievances and become part of the solution instead of the existing problems.

What happens at present is a popular and almost spontaneous – though not unexpected – revolt against the oppressive regimes in a number of the Middle Eastern countries; regimes that have been criticized for their repressive nature for a long time and by many. First and foremost by violent Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda and regional affiliates like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; they consider these corrupt oppressive regimes as the "near enemy," declaring them, based on a distorted fundamentalist interpretation of religious teaching, justified targets of Islamic militancy. Jihad is the only solution.

But despite the destructive words and actions by al-Qaeda and likeminded organizations aimed at this near-enemy, they have not had the strength nor the inspirational doctrine to mobilize the masses or to bring about a substantial public revolt that truly threatens the position of these suppressive regimes. What these violent Islamist organizations have failed to accomplish in all these years, the citizens protesting in the streets of Cairo and other cities in the country and region have achieved in a matter of days. Not in the name of God or an all-encompassing ideology, but out of a real desire for basic needs and freedoms, less corruption and better opportunities. It is a citizen's revolt, driven by a mix of socio-economic and political demands, unique in the recent history of the Middle East, as the majority of (attempted) revolutions have always been ideologically motivated, be it Arab nationalism, Islamism or leftism.

Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old unemployed Tunisian university graduate who set himself on fire in December and sparked the "Jasmine revolt" has become a martyr. He did not die in the name of Jihad pursuant to the goals of al-Qaeda and likeminded organizations; he died as an ordinary citizen demanding a better life. His deed based on genuine and authentic outrage has resonated profoundly with the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt and throughout the Middle East who took the same risks, defying the power of the state and thus putting their own lives on the line in pursuit of political change and the end of oppression.

Dozens of demonstrators have died in both countries as a result of clashes with security forces, but none in the name of Jihad or Islamic militancy. The banners displayed by the protesters call for more and better jobs, political reform and, above all, the resignation of the country's leaders; not for "Death to Israel and the U.S.," "Free Palestine" or "Islam is the solution."

On Tahrir Square and other public places in Egypt, the largest bloc of protesters is made up of the youth of the nation, unaffiliated to political parties, leftist movements or the Muslim Brotherhood. Even though 90 percent of Egyptians are Muslim, the revolt is not religious. Religion is part of one's identity but should never been perceived as an individual's single identity. Muslims can also seek reform as citizens who care about their nation-state.

As the Tunisians and Egyptians have so boldly demonstrated, the average citizen in the Middle East longs for social justice, better employment opportunities, less corruption and more political freedom, just like citizens all over the world. These demands – and not Jihad – are the real drivers of effective change in the region.

* Anno Bunnik is an intern at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, an independent knowledge center that focuses on the preventative and international legal aspects of counter-terrorism. Peter Knoope is the director of the center.







Besides being one of the forefathers of the Turkish nationalist movement, though he was ethnically a Kurd, Ömer Seyfettin was an outstanding story writer of the late Ottoman, new republican period. One of his stories was titled "Diyet" (Pay off).

That story is about an ironsmith who was accused of theft. Kadi decides that one arm of the ironsmith should be severed as punishment. A butcher comes forward and pays ransom for the arm of the ironsmith on condition he works his lifetime at his butcher's shop. The butcher, an arrogant man, keeps on reminding the ironsmith what great good he did for him, he should be respectful for what he did for him and must know that had he not paid the ransom for his hand, he would be a disabled man thus should work very hard. Fed up with this constant abasement one day the ironsmith cuts his arm and throws to the butcher, saying, "I am paying off your ransom."

Turkish Cypriot people, constantly abased by their "saviors" are quickly approaching the pay-off stage as well. Since 1974, quite frequently, they were encountering shoppers from Anatolia demanding freak discounts in prices of souvenirs but up until very recently the Turkish state has always been like an embracing mother trying to defend its small baby from all probable ills. Now, apparently, the Turkish government has started the "abase the Turkish Cypriot" campaign.

One reason, might be, the fact that the Justice and development Party, or AKP, government in Ankara has realized that as they are under such an inhumane international isolation and since Greek Cypriots are unwilling to agree to any settlement other than what they want to impose on Turkish Cypriots there will never ever be a Cyprus resolution, time must have come to bring to line those "spoiled" Turkish Cypriots who not only complain about the growing number of mainland Turks in northern Cyprus but also believe they deserve a better democracy and a better living standard than their mainland Turkish brethren.

As if since the 1974 intervention in the northern third of the island it was not the systematic policy of the consecutive Ankara governments not to let Turkish Cypriot people become economically independent and thus Ankara maintain the stick – financial contribution – in its hands all the time, as early as the mid-1980s, anyhow, Turkish governments have started "explaining" to Turkish Cypriot governments that "whoever pays for the fife, blows the whistle."

The Turkish assistance, or "budgetary contributions" as it was often worded, has always been instrumental, for example, in domesticating the troublemaker Rauf Denktaş. Yet, neither past Turkish governments publicly ridiculed top Turkish Cypriot executives and politicians, nor Turkish Cypriot politicians came up with public statements complaining about Turkey's "wrong approaches." Yet, Denktaş was touring, for example, Anatolian towns, gathering support and Turkish governments were feeling compelled to bow to "requests" from the "Cypriot headache." Yet, all through the past decades, never has a Turkish premier publicly declared that Turkey is in Cyprus because of its strategic interests, not for the defense of Turkish Cypriots. That was the saddest sentence in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's latest insult to Turkish Cypriots.

Despite the strong "persuasive" capacity of Ankara, Denktaş could not be convinced, for example, to support the so-called Annan plan and the AKP government in Ankara found a "supporter," Mehmet Ali Talat, and continued that process with him. Yet, despite almost triple the Turkish assistance, in five years Talat and his socialist government landed in a total administrative mess, had to call early elections and transferred first the government and later the presidency back to the center-right National Unity Party, or UBP, which was founded by Denktaş. There has been no disparity on almost any issue between the Ankara and northern Cypriot governments ever since the change of government and the presidency there. In the Cyprus talks process, President Derviş Eroğlu is not undertaking any surprise moves that might hurt the process. On the contrary, despite Greek Cypriot unwillingness to continue the process, it was because of his dedication we still have the talks up and running.

Yet, Erdoğan wants to build a gigantic mosque in the heart of Nicosia, shape Turkish Cypriot political landmarks according to his wishes and privatize the Turkish Cypriot state and nourish a "silent Islamic democracy" in northern Cyprus. But in democracies, people can stage rallies and become fed up with constant "You owe your presence to us" talk; they can declare that "we do not want you" even though they know without you they will suffer a lot. This is like saying, "If you paid for the arm, take the arm and leave me alone."






The magic of poetry is invariably lost in translation. Yet I must share these extraordinary lines by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, South Asia's revolutionary poet, with the readers, written for extraordinary times like ours. It's as though he had those marching on Egypt's streets today in mind:

We shall see

Certainly we, too, will see

We shall see

The day that has been promised us

Which is written on the tablet of fate

We shall see

When the mountains of cruelty and torture

Will fly like pieces of cotton

Under the feet of the governed

This earth will shiver, shake and beat

And over the head of the tyrant

When lightening will thunder

We shall see

When from this God's earth 

All the idols will be removed

Only God's name will remain

We shall see certainly we, too, will see

We shall see

We shall see 

Indeed we shall see. What started as a spontaneous burst of anger in Tunisia has turned into a full-blown revolution in Egypt, the birthplace of the most advanced civilization in history and the eternal battleground of forces of the good and evil. And God only knows where this groundswell of people's fury and long-repressed yearning for change in the most populous and vibrant Arab nation is going to turn next. Floodgates of change have been thrown open and nothing the forces of the status quo and their masters do will stop it now.

After long years of suffering and tyranny, it seems the Middle East's hour of reckoning has finally arrived. "Que sera sera." What shall happen will happen. Indeed, the shockwaves of what is unfolding in Egypt could go far beyond the region, changing the Muslim world from Palestine to Pakistan and beyond, forever: just like the collapse of the Soviet Union set off the tsunami of revolutions sinking regime after corrupt regime across Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. 

While a mesmerized world watches history being made in Egypt and the Middle East, what has endlessly fascinated me is the reaction of the self-styled champion of democracy, and its other equally democratic and freedom loving allies. For days after the unprecedented protests that have shaken not just the Middle East but the world at large, one breathlessly waited in vain to hear the White House say the "D" word.

As demands for change reverberate across this vast land of great contradictions, home to three great faiths, the hypocrisy separating the West's words and actions is breathtaking – almost obscene. 

Tony Blair, who had the vision and courage to join Dubya's cowboy alliance to end "tyranny and promote democracy and freedom" in the Muslim world, now says the "stability" of the Middle East is more important. On the second day of Egypt protests, Secretary Hillary Clinton reassures, "we assess the situation as stable."

What planet is she living on?

President Barack Obama, who over a year ago pontificated to the Muslim world about democracy, among other things, has largely danced around the real issue at the heart of this confrontation. "I've always said to him that moving forward on reform is absolutely critical," emphasized the president. After nine days of protests, a poker faced Obama agreed that Mubarak must begin an "orderly transition now." Touché!

"Smooth transition of power" is Washington's mantra in response to the angry, earth-shaking chants demanding real change in Egypt. One placard waved by a young Egyptian captured the irony of America's predicament and Western double standards: "Yes, We Can, Too!" 

Obama's ally across the Atlantic, David Cameron, has philosophized, lecturing the protesting Egyptians that, "democracy is not just holding elections; it's block-building." Oh yeah? We heard something else from London and Washington after Iran's presidential election last year…

Western and Israeli pundits warn of doomsday itself if the fanatics of the Muslim Brotherhood, suppressed and banned for nearly half a century by successive Egyptian regimes, are allowed to replace Mubarak. 

And amid this heart-warming support for democracy and the cause of Egyptian people by the West, the recurring concern that you come across on BBC and CNN and in Western newspapers is about the future of Egypt-Israel ties and their peace treaty. What happens to the Middle East's (read Israel's) stability if Mubarak goes, they ask. "Would his successors be able to protect Israel and its interests?"

Commentator after commentator obsesses over the fate of the Palestine-Israel peace process. What peace process? Where is the peace? Does it begin and end with the policing of the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt, the only way out of Gaza?

An agitated Israel has been imploring its allies that it's in the West's interest to stand by the Egyptian regime to "preserve stability in the region."

President Shimon Peres bats for Mubarak saying, "Israel is grateful to Mubarak; he kept the peace in the Middle East." Newspapers are crying of Obama's great betrayal of Mubarak.

Writing in the Maariv in a piece titled, "A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam," Aviad Pohoryles demands to know who's advising the Americans "to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president, an almost lone voice of sanity in the region?" So much for Israel's claim to be the "only democracy in the Middle East!" 

Clearly, as far as Israelis are concerned "stability in the region" means a few million Jews living in "safety" and luxury on Palestinian land, at the expense of Arabs and world peace.

But no matter what anyone thinks or does now, Egypt's – and the Middle East's – moment of reckoning has arrived. And Israel and its friends and puppets can do little to delay it. The regime's desperate tactics to hold on to power by unleashing secret police and hired goons on anti-government protesters may buy it more time. It cannot delay or prevent it forever though. Change is imminent. And the longer the regime tries to foil it, the greater the price Egypt will pay. 

Change has come to the Middle East and it's in the interest of the long ossified Arab and Muslim elites to be part of it. For far too long, they have blamed the region's woes and problems on the West. Now is the time to take charge of their destiny. 

Egypt has long been the intellectual and cultural leader of the Arab world. And what happens in the land of Nile in the next few days could not just change the face and map of the Middle East, it could impact the whole world. These developments offer a chance like no other to the Arabs as well as world powers to be on the right side of history. The world is watching the Arabs. They will miss this momentous opportunity at their own peril. As Faiz would say, we shall see. Certainly we too shall see. "Lazim haike hum bhi dekhenge."

*Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Dubai-based writer who has written extensively on the Middle East and South Asia. He can be reached at







The world of cricket will be pondering the implications of the bans imposed on three of our cricketers last Saturday. These are the first bans to be imposed by the International Cricket Council, and they will not be the last. They were imposed as the result of a classic tabloid newspaper 'sting', with the News of the World, a popular British Sunday paper, filming the agent who set up the 'fix' in the process of doing so. Once the cat was out of the bag matters developed their own momentum. Our entire team was tainted and under suspicion and last Friday saw the announcement that the British Crown Prosecution Service had concluded that there was sufficient evidence to, on the balance of probabilities, make a conviction of the same three men likely if the case was tested in court. The men have denied the charges before the ICC and, if they ever get to trial, will presumably plead not guilty in a British court. A hearing in magistrate's court has been fixed at 17th March, and the next phase of this saga of disgrace will begin.

Whether the ICC verdict will affect the culture of illegal betting that has infected cricket, is doubtful. What it will have done is put down a marker for others who may be tempted to follow the example of Messrs Butt, Asif and Amir. A marker that clearly indicates that cheating is not acceptable, and the price of cheating is going to be, perhaps, the loss of an entire career. Butt may be able to pick up the pieces later; Amir may survive to fulfil his obvious promise but at 28 Asif may well be finished as a top-level player. Difficult as it may be, it is hard not to see the case against the men was backed up by hard evidence. This was not something born of sly innuendo or rumour, it was grounded in forensic reality, and the men's denial in the face of the evidence said little for their characters. It would have been better for them and for the sport of cricket if they had come clean with the ICC, even at risk of exposing others. The other uncomfortable reality is that not just cricket, but many other sports across the world are deeply mired in corruption. Horse racing is notorious for its fixing or 'nobbling' – doping horses to make them run faster or slower. Football has had its scandals, and the world of Formula 1 motor racing is driving close to the edge of illegality with 'team orders' determining the outcome of races. Sport, including cricket, is today big business. Globally, sport is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry and we should not be surprised that it attracts the attention of criminals wishing to subvert the higher principles that most sportsmen and women have at the outset of their careers. Let us hope that for our cricketers a lesson is learned, and for those who manage our cricket at a national level to be considerably more diligent in their duties.






Cryptographers, soothsayers and astrologers may be struggling to decode our president's latest excursion into the spoken word. He was addressing a meeting of the PPP Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Saturday last week and was on his very finest linguistic form. He spoke of a 'permanent establishment' working parallel to government that seeks to destabilise every government of the day, his own included. He did not elaborate on what is clearly a conspiracy as old as the state itself, perhaps older, or who might be behind it. What was also in his mind, apart from his concern that the human race may be controlled by shape-changing alien reptiles that walked around in human form, were events across the Arab world. It is presumably in this context that he presented the meeting with this jewel of clarity – "I can invite the revolution to destabilise everything but I did not do it as when there is a revolution, then it is led by others." To anybody not privy to the workings of the presidential mind, this is beyond understanding.

The nodding sycophants who were present all marvelled at the presidential sagacity and competence, and reportedly all agreed on the planned dissolution of the cabinet, there being no dissenting voice on the matter and all convinced that 'everything was going in the right direction.' This will be heartening news to the four million flood affectees still homeless and the 90,000 children in Sindh currently suffering from malnutrition. One brave soul, a CEC member from Balochistan, tried to raise a dissenting note by speaking against some ministers, but he was quickly clapped in irons and hung upside down in a filing cabinet until the meeting was over. The meeting proceeded through a barrage of plaudits for the president and broke up with the heartening thought that any future members of the cabinet should…"promote the culture of simple life". Presumably we will be seeing the next iteration of the federal cabinet bicycling to meetings which will in future be held under a neem tree. Bring your own refreshments and please park your bicycles tidily.







The kind of acts we hear of from time to time in our country lead us to believe we are living in medieval times. Modern concepts of humanity and the equality of citizens simply do not exist. Certainly, in tracts outside urban centres – even within them – this same mentality prevails. This mind-set is reinforced by feudalism that is still a key feature of our society. Many suffer as a result and are forced to live in sub-human conditions. The haris of Sindh, the bonded labourers at brick kilns in Punjab, and others who are forced into serfdom come to mind. The latest incident reported in the media is an especially harrowing one. A landlord in the Muzaffargarh district of southern Punjab reportedly set his dog on a seven-year-old child passing through his field. He had previously ordered her not to use the short cut. The little girl apparently escaped serious physical injury but the extent of her trauma is easy to imagine.

Too many of our people continue to be treated no better than animals. These attitudes need to change. If they do not, we cannot claim to be a civilised state. We must hope the matter is taken note of and punishment is duly meted out for assault on a child. Allowing the 'influential' to get away with such crimes can only encourage further atrocities.








This year's session of the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD), which began in Geneva on January 25, promises to be a hot one for Pakistan. The heat is expected to be generated by an all out US push for the commencement of negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium needed to manufacture nuclear weapons). The main purpose of the proposed treaty is to cap Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme and to prevent acquisition of weapons-grade nuclear material by non-nuclear states such as Iran that are suspected of harbouring nuclear ambitions. Pakistan is opposed to negotiations on the treaty and has so far been able to resist efforts for it because consensus is required in the CD for taking such a decision.

Pakistan has long demanded that any treaty that bans the production of fissile material must address future production and existing disparities in stocks, in which it lags behind India. Pakistan's concern regarding these disparities was heightened further when in September 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), under US pressure, lifted the ban on the supply of nuclear material and technology to India, enabling the country to further enhance its capacity to produce nuclear weapons. In response to this development, Pakistan has since June 2009 blocked the commencement of negotiations on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) in the CD.

Since the NSG waiver in favour of India, US has taken further steps that will boost India's fissile material production and enhance its capacity to produce more sophisticated nuclear weapons, missiles and advanced conventional weapons:

• In August last year, the two countries signed an agreement that gives India the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel of US origin. This agreement does not contain adequate safeguards against the diversion of plutonium that could potentially be extracted for India's weapons' programme.

• During his visit to India last November, Obama announced that the US would sponsor India's full membership in the NSG, along with three other multilateral export control regimes aimed at controlling the transfer of technology for the production of missiles, chemical and biological weapons, and conventional arms, respectively. This would, in effect, practically exempt India from international restrictions on the transfer of advanced technology that the country needs to further develop its nuclear weapons, missiles, and conventional arsenal. Membership in NSG is particularly important for India because it will give India a veto over any possible future waiver in favour of Pakistan from the Group's guidelines.

• The US Commerce Department last month removed India's space and defense agencies (ISRO and DRDO) from the Entity List of foreign companies and organisations to which the export of items that could be of use in the production of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction is restricted.

All these steps taken by the Obama administration will give a big boost to India's nuclear weapons programme. Yet, by coincidence or by design, US media (including stories in the Washington Post and New York Times last month) have been reporting that it is Pakistan that has steadily expanded its nuclear arsenal since Obama came to office, while maintaining complete silence on India's nuclear weapons programme which is older, bigger, more ambitious and more advanced. India is also developing a missile defense capability and hopes to become the fourth country – after US, Russia and China – to have a fully-operational nuclear weapons triad when the country's first indigenous nuclear submarine capable of firing nuclear-tipped missiles is commissioned by early 2012.

On the opening day of the CD session, the Pakistani Representative, Zamir Akram, told the conference that the irresponsible US decision to sponsor India's admission into NSG and other export control regimes had further strengthened Pakistan's opposition to the commencement of negotiations on the FMCT. He proposed that the Conference should focus instead on other core issues on its agenda.

Two days later, to no one's surprise, the US Representative, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, made a strong call for launching negotiations on the FMCT in the CD. These negotiations, she said, were being blocked by "a single country," implying Pakistan. She vowed that the US would do everything to ensure that negotiations begin this year and warned that US patience would not last forever.

Gottemoeller, like other US officials earlier, also said that although their "absolute first priority" was to launch the FMCT negotiations in the CD, they would pursue "other options" if Pakistan continued to block negotiations. The suggestion to bypass the CD and hold negotiations in some other forum has also been made by other countries. But it cannot be taken as a serious proposal. Even the US would not like to transfer multilateral arms control negotiations to a body that does not work by consensus and where it could be outvoted. The purpose of making this suggestion is simply to pressure Pakistan.

Gottemoeller's salvo is the opening shot in a campaign that had been promised by Gary Samore, Obama's top nuclear adviser, who said in a newspaper interview last December that the US would launch an initiative in 2011 to reinstate negotiations on the FMCT in the CD. In fact, the US campaign to overcome Pakistani opposition to the FMCT is already a year old. Last September, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, with America's blessing, if not at its urging, called a high level meeting in New York, ostensibly to revitalise the work of the CD. At this conference, a US commentator wrote, the Secretary General "took Pakistan to the diplomatic equivalent of the woodshed", as foreign ministers and other dignitaries "excoriated Islamabad for blocking international negotiations aimed at banning the production of nuclear weapons fuel." (The allusion is to the now obsolete practice of sending a person to the woodshed to receive corporal punishment.)

Ban Ki-moon tried again in a speech in the CD a day after the Pakistani Ambassador spoke. The Secretary General said, "Just one or two countries must not be able to block the process indefinitely," and suggested that the CD start negotiations on the FMCT based on consensus reached in May 2009, which remained the most common denominator.

As Gottemoeller said, the US has been working with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council to get the FMCT negotiations started in the CD. Attention has focussed in particular on enlisting China's support in getting Pakistan on board. The issue was discussed in September 2009 between US Under Secretary Tauscher and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei. According to WikiLeaks, he said he understood Pakistan's "hesitancy," as well as its "logic" and "illogic". He also told Tauscher that China would engage the Pakistanis. More recently, the US-China joint statement issued after President Hu Jintao's visit to the US last month said that both sides had agreed to work together for the early commencement of the FMCT negotiations in the CD.

Whether China joins the US in urging Pakistan to give up its opposition to the FMCT negotiations remains to be seen. What is certain is there will be massive pressure from America on Pakistan and its allies. The government's response to this pressure will not only affect the security of 180 million Pakistanis, but also that of future generations. It will be a major test of our resolve to defend vital national security interests.

We may be largely isolated in the CD on the FMCT issue but that should be the least of our worries. We must remain firm and demand, as a condition for our agreement to the commencement of the FMCT negotiations, an NSG waiver similar to the one given to India, even if it takes half a century to come through. We should also make a declaration that without such a waiver we will not be party to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.









 "My lord, one of your cubs has killed three of our folks. That's why we have detained him," the Sheep Chief submitted to the Lion King.

"Do you intend to try him?" the Lion King asked.

"I'm afraid, my lord, yes. The prince has taken the law into his hand and he needs to be brought to book," the Sheep Chief replied.

"May I remind you," the Lion King roared, "that the Jungle Covenant gives the royal family complete immunity from legal proceedings for all their acts of omission and commission? Therefore, I command you to set the prince free or face the consequences for violating such sacrosanct a document as the Jungle Covenant."

"We have read the Jungle Covenant thoroughly and the wise among us are of the view that not a single provision authorises the royal family to deprive any animal, even a sheep, of his or her life," the Sheep Chief explained.

"You mean to say you have better understanding of the laws of the jungle, which our forefathers had drafted, than we have?"

"Your lordship, I must go mad before staking such a claim. I was just putting across our humble view that in the comity of animals no one is above the law and that every one is equal before the law."

"Yes, we do regard the rule of law, as well as equality before law, as the constitutional principles of the animal society. But these noble principles apply only to relations among the subjects. They don't hold water when it comes to relations between the royal family and the rest of the animal kingdom," the Lion King said in a sharp tone. "The law being the will of the sovereign, it can't be binding on him. The sovereign is the source of all laws and is entitled to exact obedience or compliance from others. The ultimate test of the validity of a law, decree or order is its conformity with the will or the word of the sovereign. Need I mention that sovereignty is vested in the lion family? It follows that in the jungle kingdom the lions can do no wrong and therefore can't be prosecuted."

"My lord, I implore you to follow the due process of law and present you arguments, impregnable as they seem, before the jury and have the prince acquitted," the Chief Sheep submitted.

"Tut, tut! You are again barking up the wrong tree. Yes, the due process of law is one of our watchwords, but it is binding on us only when the dispute is within our own clan. It hardly governs our relations with the rest of the kingdom. If we start subjecting over members to the due process of law and similar principles, soon we'll cease to rule the jungle," the Lion King replied, reiterating his position. "On top of that, we don't want to raise our cubs in such a manner as to make them into sheep. If they are to become kings and queens tomorrow, they must learn when to obey the law and when to repudiate it. Don't you remember Machiavelli's characterisation of the Prince-he should be as cunning as a fox and as fierce as a lion?"

"Your lordship has hit the nail upon the head. But my problem is that there's already a lot of resentment against the royal family in my clan. If I allow the prince to go scot-free, my folks will make mincemeat out of me. No harm will come to the prince; you have my word, my lord. I only need to be given some time to find a way out," the Sheep Chief made another request.

"How your people will treat you is of little account to us. But if you don't hand over the cub to me, I'll tear you apart. At any rate, I can't let you have two bites at the cherry. If you can't see about such simple a matter, then you aren't entitled to head your clan. I'll be forced to think of replacing you with someone else who will not dillydally over carrying out my orders," the Lion King said, sounding a note of warning. "Already I have received a lot of complaints about your ineffectiveness. The ruling council is meeting late in the evening to take stock of the situation. Now shove off and come back to me before the sun sets."

The Sheep Chief was on the horns of a dilemma at the lion king's plain talk. "If I set the prince free," he thought, "my clan will not forgive me for knuckling under the pressure of the royal family yet again. And if the prince is tried and convicted, the king will simply give me the push." After oscillating between the alternatives, he made up his mind and went to the Lion King.

"My lord, I'm prepared to set the prince free in exercise of my special powers. My only submission is that the royal family will help me tide over the storm that I may face in the wake of my decision," the Sheep Chief told the Lion King."

"Don't worry. You have the lion's word."

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad.








Behind a good institution, and good governance, there is always an individual and his genius. But if his successors are unable to run the institution with the same zeal and commitment, they tend to destroy it. I have personally witnessed many such cases. In one instance a world-class research institute was built and developed over a period of 25 years. The staff put their life and soul into it, delivered the seemingly impossible and turned it into the country's most respected institution. Once the founding father left, the institution, as forecast by him, quickly turned into a typically mediocre, PWD-type organisation within a few months.

Another institution to which my colleagues and I gave our sweat and blood is the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute (GIKI) at Topi in what is now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In 1985 I suggested to Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan that, since the main objective of providing the country with a nuclear weapons capability had been achieved, I would like to concentrate on promotion of education. He replied that he had Rs50 million donated by Mr Agha Hasan Abedi for educational purposes in the province and that we could start off with that money. I was of the opinion that such an amount would only suffice to buy a bungalow, put in a few computers and train a few students, not much more. We needed more money. He said that Mr Abedi was coming after a few days and that I should explain the situation and requirements to him. I had a meeting with Mr Abedi and explained the idea of a world-class institution. After listening carefully, he said that he would raise the funds to Rs250 million. Everyone was pleased and I agreed to prepare a proper feasibility report.

We met once again, this time at the Presidency, since Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan had become president after Gen Zia's death. I presented the feasibility report, which contained all the requisite details – faculties, courses, buildings, campus, cost estimates, etc. This had been prepared with invaluable input from my colleague Dr Nazir Ahmad and my architect friends Mr Qamar Alavi and Mr Khizar Hayat. We needed a minimum of Rs500 million for the initial phase.

Agha Sahib again listened very attentively, and when I finished, the great man and patriot that he was, he announced a donation of Rs500 million. Within a few weeks we had received the money and Mr H U Beg invested it intelligently and it had grown it into Rs750 million by the time the work was in full swing. I managed to collect a lot of money from expatriate Pakistanis. The Pakistani business community also gave handsome sums in donation. The Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) each gave $10-million loans on very easy terms. The French government donated computers and electronic equipment worth Rs80 million.

I was appointed project director, and within three years the institute was fully functional. The land at Topi was provided by then-NWFP governor Brig Amir Gulistan Janjua. We hired the best faculty we could find, which included 15 foreign professors and my former teacher, Dr M J Brabers, was appointed its first rector. Within two years of its establishment, GIKI was ranked among the best ten educational institutes in Asia. The campus was so impressive it was a treat to visit.

Due to Gen Musharraf's mischief, my association with that fine Institute was broken off and from there on things went downhill. Now it is nowhere to be found on any list because, from highly qualified educationists previously running it, the Institute has fallen into the hands of former bureaucrats.

Another fine international institution with which I was closely associated for many years, as a member of its board of governors, is the International Islamic University (IIU). The IIU was the brainchild of religious scholar Dr Mahmood Ghazi. He was hardly 30 years old when he conceived the idea of a world-class university for Islamic education. He discussed the idea with Mr A K Brohi, the law minister at that time, who immediately grasped the importance of the idea. He took Dr Ghazi to Gen Zia and received the president's approval. The Saudi government made a generous donation of Rs450 million and the result was the world-famous Faisal Mosque with a portion dedicated to the university. Students from Islamic countries and Muslim students from all over the world came to study here.

In the beginning, Dr Hussain Hamid was president, followed by Dr Hassan Shafai, both renowned Egyptian religious scholars. Later, Dr Ghazi was himself appointed its president. Many people of stature were on the board, including Justice Sardar Iqbal and Dr Waqar Masood Khan, an able civil servant who the present finance secretary. Then came Gen Musharraf's dictatorial period in which many fine institutions were destroyed. Mediocre people were appointed and this university was also destroyed. The new government, a stooge of the US, went even further by cancelling the visas of hundreds of foreign students and destroying its international character. Now this once fine institution is an orphan without even a president.

We have further examples of deterioration, in Pakistan Steel, PIA and Pakistan Railways. At one time they were all run by efficient, honest and able people and were the pride of the nation but have now become liabilities. PASMIC was once a prize state enterprise under Gen Abdul Qayyum. Gen Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz wanted to make quick bucks by selling it. When Gen Qayyum informed the Supreme Court of this, he was swiftly removed and the organisation went to the dogs. PIA, which was once one of the best airlines in the world, until it was given into the hands of incompetent sycophants. All those institutions are now costing the nation hundreds of billions of rupees annually.

It is time that we as a nation realise that institutions can only flourish through the capabilities and wisdom of the individuals running them. The moment you put a wrong man at the helm of affairs, the whole setup is destroyed. If you transfer or promote a person from a position where he was performing well to another place, he will usually be unfit for his new position and will destroy it. Therefore, no one should be transferred or promoted to a position for which he is unfit. Find other ways and means to reward him financially and continue letting him to do the job at which he performed well. Unfortunately, the current sad situation of many institutions in our country is due to this basic flaw.









The magic of poetry is invariably lost in translation. Yet I must share with the readers this translation of an extraordinary poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, South Asia's revolutionary poet. He wrote the poem for extraordinary times like ours. It's as though he had those marching on Egypt's streets today in mind:

We shall see/Certainly we, too, will see/the day that has been promised us/Which is written on the tablet of Fate/We shall see/When the mountains of cruelty and torture/Will fly like pieces of cotton/Under the feet of the governed/This earth will shiver, shake and beat/And over the head of the tyrant/When lightening will thunder/We shall see/When from this God's earth /All the idols will be removed/Only God's name will remain/We shall see, certainly we too will see/We shall see

Indeed we shall see. What started as a spontaneous burst of anger in Tunisia has also turned into a full-blown revolution in Egypt, the birthplace of the most advanced civilisation in history and the eternal battleground of forces of the good and evil. And God only knows where this groundswell of people's fury and long-repressed yearning for change in the most populous and vibrant Arab nation is going to turn next. Floodgates of change have been thrown open and nothing the forces of status quo and their masters do will stop it now.

After long years of suffering and tyranny, it seems the Middle East's hour of reckoning has finally arrived. Que sera sera. What will happen shall happen. Indeed, the shockwaves of what is unfolding in Egypt could go far beyond the region, changing forever the Muslim world from Palestine to Pakistan and beyond. Just like the collapse of the Soviet Union set off the tsunami of revolutions, sinking regime after corrupt regime across Eastern Europe in the early 1990s.

While a mesmerised world watches history being made in Egypt and the Middle East, what has endlessly fascinated me is the reaction of the self-styled champion of democracy, and its other equally democratic and freedom-loving allies. For days after the unprecedented protests that have shaken not just the Middle East but the world at large, one breathlessly waited in vain to hear the White House say the "D" word.

As demands for change reverberate across this vast land of great contradictions, home to three great faiths, the hypocrisy separating the West's words and actions is breathtaking – almost obscene.

Tony Blair, who had the vision and courage to join George W's cowboy alliance to end "tyranny and promote d