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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

EDITORIAL 22.02.11

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  media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month february 22, edition 000761, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
















  3. 26/11: Seeking justice, not revenge - Sidharth Bhatia












  6. Now, Focus on Quality Growth - JAIDEEP MISHRA


  4. 26/11: Seeking justice, not revenge  - By Sidharth Bhatia









































The President's customary address to Parliament on the first day of the Budget session is meant to serve three purposes. First, it is supposed to be a statement of the Government's policies and programmes for the fiscal year that begins with the new Budget. To that extent, it is meant to generate interest in what the Government plans to do as well as confidence in its ability to fulfil its primary responsibilities. Second, the President's address is meant to be a report card on the Government's performance over the past year. This would enable both the Opposition as well as the people to measure the performance of the Government by comparing the tasks that have been achieved with the goals that were set in the previous year's address by the President. Third, the President is supposed to present a robust image of the Government. Sadly, Monday's speech by Ms Pratibha Patil has failed on all three counts. Although the President delivers the address, the text is drafted by the Government, primarily the PMO, and cleared by the Union Cabinet. It stands to reason that the Government would have worked over-time to pack the text with energy and enthusiasm, if only to project its image. Yet, the insipid text and the lacklustre delivery suggest that there was little effort by the Government to put its best foot forward. This, in turn, would suggest that what we have at present is a listless regime which is stripped of all energy and enthusiasm, a coalition that is in power but at a loss as to what it wants to do with that power. Nothing else explains why the President's address should have turned out to be such a non-event.

It could be argued that a Government which is under siege and is fighting with its back to the wall couldn't have done any better; in fact, it would be laughable for such a decrepit regime to pretend to be in robust health. Weighed down by scams and scandals that have left the nation stunned and shocked and faced with failure on all fronts, including industrial and agricultural growth, apart from battling food inflation and its attendant problems, the Prime Minister and his team couldn't have cobbled together a text that would revive confidence and shore up the image of UPA2. After all, there's a limit to the extent to which a positive spin can be put on bad news and failure be projected as grand success. It's a tired Prime Minister who is utterly clueless (if he is to be believed) who heads a Government that has stopped functioning quite some time back. The two ministries that have not fallen asleep — the Finance Ministry and the Home Ministry — cannot, on their own, carry the burden of the entire Government. In any event, credit for either Mr Pranab Mukherjee or Mr P Chidambaram must remain person specific for they have worked despite the singular lack of political leadership. To deny them that credit, or to share it with others, most notably the Prime Minister, would be unfair to both of them. That said, the Government has made the task of the Opposition that much easier. A Government which cannot even make an attempt to stand up and be counted does not deserve either compassion or concession. The Opposition should make full use of the Budget session to pillory this regime for its all-round failure, starting with the debate on the President's vapid address.







Marked by a death toll that has crossed 200 along with a continued crackdown on protesters as the popular uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi entered its sixth day on Monday, his son who holds no political office, went on state television, downplaying the entire episode and blaming everyone from Islamists to drug addicts and Western powers for the demonstrations and finally threatening the nation with civil war. Mr Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who likes to believe he is some sort of a reformist, rambled about a fresh start, mentioned some vague reforms and ultimately warned that the nation would get sucked into a long-drawn civil war that would devour its precious oil reserves, deny its citizens food and education, and may even lead to a takeover by former coloniser, Italy. But even as Mr Gaddafi spoke, protesters clashed with security forces in Tripoli's Green Square and reports emerged that they had taken over two state-run news channels, burned down a police station and a security forces base. In Benghazi, the cradle of the Libyan protest, a violent circle of clashes engulfed the city, as protesters burned down Government buildings and snatched heavy duty weapons from the security headquarters. The situation improved slightly on Monday but uncertainty still prevails. Some Army divisions have sided with the protesters while other officers were killed by their pro-Gaddafi fellows for refusing to attack the demonstrators. Clearly, Col Gaddafi will put up a tough fight — he controls a large security force and will possibly enlist the help of a mercenary army, as his son hinted on Monday, to crush the opposition, thus laying the ground for a long and violent war of attrition. It is also unlikely that he will give in to international pressure. This might happen in Bahrain, where protesters are demanding the removal of the ruling Al Khalifa family which values their F1 contracts and overall Western-styled image, but probably not in Libya — Col Gaddafi has long severed ties with the West and is essentially an international pariah.

But what makes the Libyan situation even more tenous is that even if the leader steps down, Mr Gaddafi's words could yet prove to be prophetic. As he mentioned, Libya is a patchwork of tribes: Most people owe their allegiance to a clan and there is little popular support for the idea of centralised Government. Col Gaddafi's own power stems from his role as a tribal mediator and all these years he has strategically played up tribal rivalries to protect his position. The military also works on similar lines — unlike the Egytian or Tunisian military, theLibyan Army units are loyal to their tribes and do not identify with the population as a whole. If Col Gaddafi leaves, the military will probably split and when you add a bunch of powerful but warring tribal leaders to the mix, it is heady concoction sure to feed a civil war.









Neither Manmohan Singh nor the Government he heads is interested in bringing back to India the money that has been looted from this country.

In November 2010, President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast in western Africa made a bid to legitimise his dictatorship through an election. The voters, however, rejected him and chose his rival, Mr Alassane Ouattara, instead. Mr Gbagbo refused to honour the people's verdict and hand over power to the winner despite pressure from the international community. In recent weeks, two other autocrats in the Arab world — President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt — have been forced to step down following mass uprising in their countries.

Apart from the growing anger against dictators in that part of the world, there is another thing that is common to all the three leaders — the freezing of their bank accounts and those of their associates by the Government of Switzerland. Following petitions from Ivory Coast and Tunisia, the Swiss Cabinet met last month and decided to freeze the assets of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ben Ali. A similar decision was taken in respect of Mr Mubarak's assets in Switzerland on the very day he stepped down from office.

Announcing these decisions, the President of Switzerland, Ms Micheline Calmy-Rey, declared that these bank accounts would be frozen initially for three years to enable the authorities in these three countries to initiate criminal proceedings against the leaders rejected by the people. The initiation of such criminal proceedings is a pre-condition for judicial assistance from Switzerland and for the return of the funds to the countries from which they were embezzled.

Switzerland is desperately trying to shed the image of a country that attracts dirty money from across the world and shields those who deposit such funds in its banks. The Swiss Government has, therefore, passed a new law which enables the Cabinet to block assets of dictators. Using the developments in the Arab World as an opportunity for an image make-over, Ms Calmy-Rey has said that Switzerland does not want its financial system to be used to park embezzled funds from poor countries.


Accordingly, Swiss banks have been directed to monitor these accounts and ensure that the account-holders do not withdraw funds from them. The European Union and the United States have also frozen the assets of Mr Gbagbo and Britain's Serious Fraud Office is investigating if Mr Mubarak has stashed any funds in the UK.

Surely this is an opportune moment for us to go after Indian fraudsters who have parked funds in Swiss banks. However, the swift action taken by Switzerland, the European Union, Britain and the US only confirms our worst fears about the attitude of the UPA regime vis-à-vis black money and bank accounts of Indians in Switzerland and other tax havens. Virtually acting suo motu, the Swiss authorities have frozen the accounts of three fallen autocrats but our Government would like us to believe that the Swiss Government was uncooperative when we sought its help to freeze $ 8 billion stashed away by a Pune-based stud farm owner called Hasan Ali.

In other words, just acting on a tip-off, the bank accounts of three rulers are frozen by the Swiss Government, but the same Government is unmoved by the entreaties of the Government that represents the second largest country and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Such is the pusillanimity of the Government headed by Mr Manmohan Singh that even a principality like Liechtenstein, which is smaller than Gurgaon, has been cocking a snook at us and refusing to cooperate. Clearly there is something wrong somewhere. Why is Mr Singh unwilling to act against those who have looted the country?

The Task Force appointed by the BJP to examine this issue says that global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund estimate the quantum of black money lodged in tax havens at $ 18 trillion. Of this, around $ 500 billion (`25 lakh crore) belongs to India. The US and several other countries have pressured the Swiss Government to disclose details of black money salted away by their citizens in Swiss banks. The US, for example, coaxed, cajoled and eventually threatened UBS Bank in Switzerland to part with details of accounts held by 4,450 Americans. It is estimated that the unaccounted wealth stashed away in these accounts was of the order of $ 18 billion.

France and Germany have followed suit. The latter turned its attention to Liechtenstein, which survives on the money lodged in its banks by fraudsters from across the world. It bribed an employee of LGT Bank in Liechtenstein and obtained details of black money parked in that bank. Germany later offered to share the data with all countries; many European nations grabbed the offer. But there were Governments, including ours, which trembled at the thought of securing this information. Mr Singh was probably petrified at the thought of obtaining the names of account-holders lest his mentors and benefactors figure in the list.

However, despite our reluctance, the Government of Germany thrust the list on us but the Government of India treats the information as 'confidential' because it feels duty-bound to safeguard the fundamental right of crooks to privacy. Strangely, though the issue at hand is money-laundering, the Government is desperately trying to dilute the offences committed by these account-holders by pretending, as in the case of Mr Hasan Ali Khan, that these are merely cases of tax evasion.

There can be little doubt now that the skeletons tumbling out of the Union Government's cupboards over the last six months have done incalculable harm to the credibility of the ruling coalition and substantially eroded the mandate given to it by voters in May 2009. But the recent development vis-à-vis the freezing of the accounts of those who are accused of embezzling funds from Egypt, Tunisia and Ivory Coast has completely unmasked Mr Singh and the Government he heads.

The explanations and excuses offered by Mr Singh for his inability to bring back the black money stashed away by Indian politicians and businessmen in Swiss banks and in the 70 tax havens across the world will no longer hold water. Unless the Supreme Court steps up the pressure and compels the Government to act, Bharat's swabhiman will be at stake.






Right from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, India shared a cordial relationship with Indonesia. It's time the two countries impart a new momentum to that relationship. Economic relations apart, the two nations should strengthen strategic cooperation and ensure regular consultations on their relations with their neighbours in the region, especially China

Experts would agree that Indonesia is yet to realise its full potential, quite like India. As large democracies committed to inclusive development, they are natural partners. Their closer engagement can enable them to play a role suitable to their size on the world stage. This basic realisation, combined with lasting links of history, culture and shared philosophy of 'unity in diversity,' drives the bilateral relationship. It is worth assessing if the recent visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to India will prove to be "a historic milestone", as claimed by the two sides.

During his previous visit in 2005, a Joint Declaration was signed, reflecting the decision by New Delhi and Jakarta to establish "a New Strategic Partnership". The visit in January 2011 has resulted in a Joint Statement which contains an agreement "to elevate" this partnership to "a higher level". How high can these relations go? The answer will depend on the depth of their foundations, the leaders' commitment to their vision and their capacity to translate lofty words into action.

In capturing the essence of India-Indonesia relationship, no one can match Rabindranath Tagore. He began his celebrated poem, 'To Java' in a gripping style:

In a dim, distant, unrecorded age We had met, thou and I, — When my speech became entangled in thine And my life in thy life.

The later stanzas spoke of journeys by 'our ancestors' and how the two lands became 'companion souls'. A subtle reference was made to the colonial period. On the basis of what he saw and discovered during his journey in 1927, Tagore called for renewing ties:

Remember me, even as I remember thy face, And recognise in me as thine own That old that has been lost, to be regained and made new.

In due course, President Sukarno and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru undertook a renewal of relations, infusing them with 'the Spirit of Bandung'. Mrs Indira Gandhi retained special affection for Indonesians. I witnessed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, on his visit to Indonesia in October 1986, striving to impart a new momentum. In his banquet speech he used Tagore's words to great effect. The then President Suharto's Indonesia reciprocated warmly, with the presidential orchestra playing Sare jahan se accha Hindostan hamara to utter delight of our Embassy team in Jakarta. The present leaders are now carrying forward the tradition, buttressed by a whole new set of political and economic imperatives. The focus today seems to be less on personal equations of leaders and more on common approaches of the two countries as well as on institutionalising bilateral relations to an unprecedented extent.

While the two Governments have a broader view of the multi-dimensional relationship with its three strong pillars, media pundits tend to see it in the economic context only. For example, The Jakarta Post focussed exclusively on economic gains of Mr Yudhoyono visit in its editorial entitled Dancing with giants. Highlighting the growing trade and investment ties with India, it concluded that "comprehensive cooperation" with China, India, Japan and South Korea had "placed Indonesia strategically with the global supply chain"

Economic dimension is indeed significant. Bilateral trade has shown healthy growth, increasing from $4 billion in 2005 to $12 billion in 2010. The new target set by the authorities is of $25 billion by 2015. Trade balance is unfavourable to India. Steady expansion in India's investment presence in Indonesia is encouraging. Building up on investment flows during 1970s, the new phase is marked by diversification of areas and entry of new actors. Energy remains an attractive sector, with new cooperation possibilities having been identified in coal mining, oil and natural gas. Decision to commence negotiations for a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is a timely step. The visit's success is reflected in the signing of 18 MOUs at business level.

However, the noteworthy point is that the other two pillars of relationship, namely strategic cooperation and cooperation in 'other areas', are of enormous importance too. The first one covers political dialogue, cooperation regarding security and defence and exchanges on long-term strategic matters. The two Foreign Offices need to ensure regular consultations not only about bilateral relations but also about each country's relations with its neighbours, especially China and other Great Powers. These should be in addition to current dialogue within the framework of ASEAN and related institutions. Each country can also brief the other about its other important relationships: For example, Indonesia would be as curious about India's relations with South Africa, Brazil and Mexico as South Block should be in a regular, first-hand appreciation of Indonesia's relations with Japan, Australia and the Pacific region. The two Governments have been engaged in crafting cooperation on defence matters, maritime security, intelligence exchanges and endeavours to combat terrorism. Both the documents referred above seem to accord priority to this package.

'Other cooperation' is wide ranging as it impacts on a diversity of fields — culture, education, capacity-building, science and technology, health, tourism, academic exchanges and people-to-people contacts. The decision to establish a Consulate in Bali is welcome. Our Jakarta Embassy has been active in promoting cultural cooperation. Its counterpart in New Delhi can contribute more by bringing Indonesian artistes and engaging widely with opinion makers and think tanks. An Eminent Persons' Group has been set up to develop the 'Vision Statement 2025'. Its recommendations will be awaited with interest by all those interested in India-Indonesia relations.

New institutional linkages will be established: A biennial Forum of Trade Ministers, a biennial dialogue between Defence Ministers, and regular exchanges involving several other key Ministers. Eleven new Agreements have been signed. Besides, existing mechanisms are being activated. The year 2011 will be celebrated as "the year of six decades of diplomatic relations". The two Governments will clearly be busy, implementing these decisions and monitoring their progress. Mr Yudhoyono's visit has generated a new hope, but sustained action in future by Ministers, officials, diplomats and others alone will justify this optimism.

 A former Ambassador to several countries, the author served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Jakarta.







The revolution of 1989 was the outcome of people's realisation that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene militarily to preserve the Communist regimes in eastern Europe. Now the Arabs know that the US will not intervene militarily to protect the regimes that rule them

Why now? Why revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt this year, rather than last year, or 10 years ago, or never? The protestors now taking to the street daily in Jordan, Yemen, Bahrein, Libya and Algeria are obviously inspired by the success of those revolutions, but what got the process started? What changed the Middle East?

Yes, of course the Arab world is largely ruled by the autocratic regimes that suppress all opposition and dissent, sometimes with great cruelty. Yes, of course many of those regimes are corrupt, and some of them are effectively in the service of foreigners. Of course, most Arabs are poor and getting poorer. But that has all been true for decades. It never led to revolutions before.

Maybe the frustration and resentment that have been building up for so long just needed a spark. Maybe the self-immolation of a single young man set Tunisia alight, and from there the flames spread quickly to half -a-dozen other Arab countries. But you cannot find anybody who really believes that this could just as easily have happened five years ago, or 10, or 20.

Yet, there is no reason to suppose that the level of popular anger has gone up substantially in the past two or five or 10 years. It's high all the time, but in normal times most people are very cautious about expressing it openly. You can get hurt that way.


Now they are expressing their anger very loudly indeed, and long-established Arab regimes are starting to panic. The fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, by far the largest Arab country, makes it possible that many other autocratic regimes in the Arab world could fall like dominoes. The rapid collapse of the Communist regimes in Europe in 1989 is a frightening precedent for them. But, once again, why is this happening now?

'Social media' is one widely touted explanation, and the Al Jazeera network's wall-to-wall coverage of the events in Tunisia and Egypt is another. Both are plausible parts of the explanation, for the availability of means of communication that are beyond the reach of state censorship clearly makes mass mobilisation much easier.

If people are ready to come out on the street and protest, these media make it easier for them to organise and easier for the example of the protestors to spread. But this really does not explain why they are ready to come out at last.

The one thing that is really different in the Middle East, just in the last year or two, is the self-evident fact that the US is starting to withdraw from the region. From Lebanon in 1958 to Iraq in 2003, the US was willing to intervene militarily to defend Arab regimes it liked and overthrow those that it did not like. That's over now.

This great change is partly driven by the thinly disguised American defeat in Iraq. The last US troops are leaving that country this year, and after that grim experience US public opinion will not countenance another major American military intervention in the region. The safety net for Arab regimes allied to the US is being removed, and their people know it.

There is also a major strategic reassessment going on in Washington, and it will almost certainly end by downgrading the importance of the Middle East in US policy. The Arab masses do not know that, but the regimes certainly do, and it undermines their confidence.

The traditional motives for American strategic involvement in the Middle East were oil and Israel. American oil supplies had to be protected, and the Cold War was a zero-sum game in which any regime that the US did not control was seen to be at risk of falling into the hands of the Soviet Union. And quite apart from sentimental considerations, Israel had to be protected because it was an important military asset.

But the Cold War is long over, and so is the zero-sum game in the Middle East. The Arab oil exporters choose their customers on a purely commercial basis, and they have to sell their oil to support their growing populations. You don't need to control them or threaten them to get oil from them; just send them a cheque.


Besides, less than a fifth of America's oil imports now come from the Arab world.

As for Israel, its military value to the US has gone into a steep decline since the end of the Cold War. Nor does it need American protection: It is a dwarf superpower that towers over its Arab neighbours militarily. So, remind me again: Why, exactly, should the US see 'stability' in the Middle East as a vital national interest?

The revolutions of 1989 became possible when people in the Eastern European countries realised that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene militarily to preserve the Communist regimes that ruled them. Is another 1989 possible in the Arab world? Well, the Arabs now know that the US will not intervene militarily to protect the regimes that rule them.

-- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.







The economy looks none-too-bright with manufacturing growth plummeting to less than two per cent. High inflation and unemployment add to the problem. A low tax regime and economic reforms may offer a possible solution

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's two different views on inflation within a span of 10 days has left the nation baffled. Commenting on the risk of rising prices on February 3, Mr Singh said that high inflation was posing a serious threat to India's growth plans. However, during his interaction with television editors, he gave a completely different opinion saying that he did not want to sacrifice the growth process to tackle inflation. It clearly reflects that our economist Prime Minsiter is groping in the dark to balance the two.

According to economic theory, inflation — which means a rise in the price level of general goods and services due to an increase in demand — is necessary to keep the system lubricated. The US and Europe puts it at no more than three per cent. However, a further increase should send the alarm bells ringing. India's inflation at present varies between 15 to 20 per cent. Thus, it erodes people's capacity to spend and in turn maintain the growth curve.

Now, the question is will it be possible to sustain the much-hyped growth rate of 8.6 per cent. Certainly, the UPA Government has mastered the art of showing it on paper and it might do so once again. However, the figures reflected by different indices tell a different story. For instance, the Index for Industrial Production indicates that production has fallen to a critical level of 1.6 per cent.

One, however, needs to agree with Mr Singh that food subsidy of Rs 55,000 crore is a loss. It is because the entire food subsidy is given to Food Corporation of India. It is supposed to pass on the benefit to farmers by purchasing their produce at a minimum support price. Though the FCI purchases food grain at a special price, it does not pass on the benefit to consumers. It has instead become the biggest hoarder of food grain and is indirectly aiding food inflation by not releasing any food grain in the open market to check prices. It only provides for the BPL card holders.

The FCI is supposed to maintain a buffer stock of 82 lakh tonne of wheat and 118 lakh tonne of rice while it maintains a stock of 230 lakh tonne of wheat and 242 lakh tonne of rice, which is more than double the requirement.

Interestingly, subsidies are not restricted to food grains only. The sugar undertakings were given a direct subsidy of Rs 501.83 crore during 2009-10. This is in addition to reimbursement of Rs 285 crore to sugar factories for internal transport and freight charges to export shipment of sugar. In 2010, Rs 200 crore was allocated on this count.

So, when Mr Singh compared the presumptive losses that occurred due to under pricing of 2G Spectrum with food subsidies, he was not entirely wrong. What he possibly meant is that if Rs 80,000 crore food subsidy could go to corporate houses indirectly, what is the harm in another Rs 1.76 lakh crore going through the 2G Spectrum route.

No wonder, Mr Singh has also been silent on the high profits corporates made due to sops offered by the Government over the last two years. First, the corporate houses pocketed sops, then they increased the price of the products to pocket more profit from consumers, resulting in an increase in price of all commodities.

Mr Singh seems to have overlooked the fact that more reforms would essentially mean more benefits to corporate houses. Denuded of all ethics, they do not mind exploiting the poor by even inflating the price of salt, which they purchase at less than 50 paise a kg but sell at a staggering Rs 12 through monopolisation of the market.

It seems Mr Singh is more concerned about the exploiter than the exploited. He seems to have lost sight of the fact that even the middle-class do not have enough 'disposable income' to buy anything beyond food items. The high interest regime ushered in by the RBI has resulted in further drop in overall demand for commodities. The middle-class, which is supposed to be the driver of economic growth, has become cash-strapped with hardly any money to splurge in order to keep the market moving.

The IIP figures are obvious reflections of the reality. Manufacturing growth is at a mere 1.6 per cent (19.6 per cent in 2009), capital goods at minus 13.7 per cent (42.9 per cent in 2009), consumer non-durables at minus 1.1 per cent (three per cent in 2009). There is only a minor increase in electricity generation, which is up to six per cent from 5.4 per cent in 2009.

These are tell-tale signs that all is not well with the country's economy. In a way it reflects poorly on our policy-making and governance. The growth story may go awry as the World Bank, a proponent of corporate growth, has of late started expressing concern over the high inflationary trend, while the International Monetary Fund is worried about job losses. Mr Singh and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission MS Ahluwalia would do well to take a cue from their concerns and usher in a different kind of economic reform than what was started in 1991. It calls for a low tax regime and reverting back to the concept of welfare state.









With the 2011 ICC World Cup kicking off in great festive spirit, the 10th edition of cricket's marquee tournament has a lot to celebrate. For Bangladesh, co-hosting the World Cup for the first time, the tournament symbolises how far the nation has come in its short history and its aspirations for the future. For Sri Lanka, it represents the return of peace. The last time the island nation co-hosted the tournament in 1996 Australia and West Indies refused to send their teams citing security concerns. With no such reservations this time, Sri Lankan cricket fans can be amply compensated. Indian cricket's position in the last 14 years has experienced a meteoric rise. Thanks to a billion-plus fan base and the birth of new commercial formats such as the IPL, India has become the centre of gravity of the cricketing world.

Cricket being a religion in the subcontinent, the 2011 World Cup brings the three host nations together in ways that nothing else can. It is unfortunate that security considerations prevented Pakistan from co-hosting the tournament. But the Pakistani cricket team and fans are very much part of this year's edition. Perhaps this will mark the beginning of a process of normalisation that will see international cricket return to Pakistan. With cricket cutting across boundaries and matches being held in three separate countries, World Cup 2011 is an affirmation of our common sociocultural history and the bonds that tie us. And given the craze for the sport in the region, there is no reason to fear a repeat of the commercial disappointment of 2007. Minus the glitches of 1996, this year's edition is for the subcontinent to shine and a true South Asian community to kick-start itself.







In Libya, protesters and government forces have clashed in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli. Over 200 demonstrators have been killed and hundreds more injured. Though strongman Muammar Gadaffi's son and heir Seif al-Islam Gadaffi vowed that the government would fight - its own people - to the last bullet and the last man, uncertainty reigns in Tripoli. In Bahrain, the royal family has loosed mercenaries on protesters, setting up bloody clashes and causing deaths. In Iran, the government has cracked down harshly onprotesters as it had in 2009. It has organised a 'hate rally' to counter the pro-democracy protests, while 200 parliamentarians have called for the leaders of the dissidents to be hanged. Algeria and Kuwait, Morocco, Yemen - the same scenes are being repeated across the Middle East and North Africa. The region is a cauldron of long-delayed discontent making itself felt.

Tunisia and Egypt were, after all, merely the first of the dominoes to fall as many commentators had surmised, first cautiously, and then more confidently. From the reports and first-hand street level accounts, this represents a paradigm shift. Popular demand for political change is everywhere in the Middle East. And new communication technologies are playing a role in spreading the word. They not only help protesters organise, but cause the protests to spill over international borders rapidly. Images of a successful revolt in one country sparks protests elsewhere. And that confronts many Mideast nations with a stark choice. Paternalistic governments will need to give way and open up to impulses of democratic reform, or they will need to spill blood and repress their people with great ferocity. In the latter event they will have to call on their security forces to fire on people, or execute dissidents as conservative Iranian parliamentarians are ominously calling for.

The Libyan massacre already amounts to a smaller-scale version of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Seif al-Islam's rhetoric has been shrill but typical. It warned of civil war and western dominance - ironically so, since most of the Gulf ruling families were put into power by the British - if the current paternalistic regimes were to be discarded. But this rhetoric is out of date. The people of the Middle East are no longer worried about hostile colonial powers, they are more concerned about their political rights.

Given how the protests in Egypt and Tunisia succeeded despite widespread international scepticism, it would be foolish to bet against other protests doing likewise. That is something that the international community must keep in mind. In Washington, Delhi and elsewhere, this paradigm shift must be prepared for - and welcomed.








Dictators in Tunisia and Egypt have fallen. Internet technologies played their small part in this. India is not like Tunisia and Egypt. Its economy has belied expectations and grows at 8 to 9% year after year. As large sections do not benefit adequately from this growth, there has been considerable focus on government programmes to make it inclusive. At the same time, our press has demonstrated its independence. The RTI Act enables citizens to demand and get information. Our CAG stands tall, just as our Election Commission and courts do. Yet India is in a crisis. Its citizens are tired of governance deficit, corruption, black money and an inspector-raj.

Everyday we see scams (sometimes even when they are not there) being exposed in the media, demonstrations, Parliament jams and court orders. But there is little positive action. What is needed is action against black money, the driver of all corruption. Are we citizens ready to move beyond protests and take a small step that could hit at the heart of black money?

Black money thrives in the cash economy. If we introduce traceability in financial transactions, it will be difficult to hide. We can do this using some simple available technologies. It is possible to carry out all transactions in electronic form, where money is transferred from the payer's bank account to the payee's. The back-end core banking system of almost all banks allows that. ATM withdrawals, any-branch banking and internet banking thrive on it. The internet, however, is used by a small section. Credit card (and debit card) based payments and transaction could be another way, but have not caught on much (except for use of debit cards for cash withdrawals).

But India has over 750 million mobile phone connections, and growing at 15 million per month. Over 500 million invididuals are believed to have mobiles. In a few years, mobile telephony could touch most of India's adult population. It is now possible to link one's mobile phone to a bank account. So, it is possible to carry out most transactions including money transfer, bill payments, balance enquiry and checks on past transactions. A bank's computer uses the caller line identification (CLI) and a customer's PIN to authenticate her, following which any transaction can be carried out using an application loaded on her phone. End-to-end encryption makes transactions secure. Transactions are instantaneous: for example, any payment is notified by sending an SMS to the payer as well as payee.

The Mobile Payment Forum of India, RBI and National Payment Corporation of India worked with banks, telecom operators and technology providers to make money transfer possible between customers of any two banks, any two operators and any two technology providers. One does not even need the bank account number to make payments, as the payee's mobile number and a mobile money ID (MMID) uniquely map to her bank account.

Mobile payments would make cash redundant. One could pay a vegetable vendor who displays a mobile number and MMID at the shop. Similarly, auto fare or kirana shop payments can be made instantaneously. Money can be transferred whether the recipient is near or far. Doing so from
Mumbai to an Orissa village would now be a simple matter. A single day amount could be small, say Rs 50, or as much as Rs 50,000.

Safe, secure, simple, instantaneous, and with a complete list of payments and receipts in one's passbook, there is no reason why anyone would not use this method. Using mobile payments instead of cash could be our way to bring in traceability and say no to the black money economy.

Do all banks provide mobile-to-mobile payments? About 10 banks do and another 15 will by the end of next month. Will there be teething troubles? Sure, but nothing that can't be handled. Will transaction charges be too much? Banks and telecom operators can make transactions below Rs 1,000 free and charge one or two rupees for transactions up to Rs 10,000. Will SMS come in real time? Telcos can ensure that.

One may argue that many in rural India and some in urban India do not have bank accounts. With financial inclusion initiatives, no-frill accounts can be opened quickly. In fact, mobile payments would incentivise people to open such accounts. Further, telecom operators are tying up with banks to come up with phone-based pre-paid cards (mobile wallets) for making payments and transferring money as in mobile banking. Will illiteracy be a bottleneck? Several banks and technology providers use mobile voice banking: one just has to speak to carry out a transaction. So, there may be some hiccups, but there are technological answers.

Many of us will remember that computerisation of railway reservations in the 1980s dealt a blow to rampant corruption. As an example of technology being used to bring in transparency, mobile payments give us a much bigger opportunity. In due course, we would demand that government recalls 500 and 1,000 rupee notes and makes it mandatory for all shops and vendors to accept only electronic payments. But let us take the initiative. Let us get our MMID and start making mobile payments instead of using cash. Let shops start displaying their mobile numbers and MMID. That would be a big statement against black money.

The writer teaches electrical engineering at IIT Madras and is on the PM's Scientific Advisory Committee.








Following a recent poll and appointing a young person as the new chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification amounts to artificially limiting the field. That is because there is a plethora of qualified candidates out there, and the best qualified candidate may not be young. For instance, is it sensible for the search to exclude talent like outgoing chairman Sharmila Tagore who is now 64 years old? She brought a wealth of experience to the job and her age did not stop her from presiding over a sea change in the type of films, their content and dialogue. It is highly unlikely that films like No One Killed Jessica and Omkara would have made it past the censors in the form that they did before Tagore took charge.

Nor is youth necessarily an indicator of being either connected with the population or of knowing the pulse of today's filmmakers. Both qualities are a matter of keeping oneself informed and surely the old have more experience to count on. The fact that India has a largely young population has nothing to do with it. What an older candidate brings is age-old experience - something a young person most certainly lacks - to interpret what is going on and knowing how to respond to it. Having more experience allows the censors to locate and contextualise what is happening now.

A young candidate cannot be expected to be dynamic. Youngsters might very well be conservative. As filmmaker Rajkumar Gupta points out, the discussion shouldn't be about the candidate's age but about how they think. The point is reinforced by youngish directors putting out a steady stream of formulaic films which in no way are either revolutionary or even innovative in any manner. Instead, these directors aspire to blockbuster success. Far better to have an older candidate with an innovative track record.






My neighbour's eight-year-old son has a violent streak in him. This was my recent discovery when i chanced to observe him closely. An avid television viewer, he remains glued to the box almost the entire day. A boy fed only on cartoons, comedies, stories from scriptures et al isn't likely to develop this trait. Interestingly, cartoons no longer excite him. Once-favourite WWE wrestling has taken a backseat to a different show which amuses him no end.

While idly channel surfing, he stumbled upon a telecast of Parliament proceedings. And it was love at first sight. He instantly liked it because of its authenticity. In contrast, the wrestling was a charade, he came to realise. The former has all the ingredients of a violent Bollywood movie and more. In sum, his transition from innocuous cartoons to harmful telecasts has been instant. We are told that constant viewing of violence on television can have a detrimental effect on the tender minds of children. So this, i think, should explain the new-found aggressiveness in the boy.

Schoolchildren savour their visits to zoos and circuses. The frolicking monkeys in zoos and clumsy clowns in circuses give quite a thrill to them. They also occasionally get to visit the Parliament and state assemblies as part of 'educational tours'. When the persistent, unruly scenes and raucous recriminations in these august houses were kept from their eyes, students were unaware that there were more exciting places than zoos and circuses. Imagine the amusements of the zoo and circus available together at one place. Little wonder that students would find visits to Parliament and legislatures more entertaining than the ones to zoos and circuses.

Guided by their teachers, students line up outside the seats of these lawmaking bodies patiently, in perfect discipline, before gaining entry. However, as they exit, a sea change in their behaviour comes to the fore very distinctly. Discipline is the first casualty, as though they have instantly imbibed the qualities of the lawmakers whom they saw inside in the flesh. Even if the purpose of such visits is supposed to be educational, they hardly serve that end, what with the tussles and yelling that goes on inside. In fact, students gain the impression that parliamentary democracy is all about exchanging abuses and blows.

Since parents want their wards to be well quit of bad influences, they are ill at ease about the latter being taken on the so-called educational tours. A friend in Delhi refused to allow his son to be a part of such a tour, doubtless incurring his teacher's displeasure.

Now, scientists tell us that the primate family is a genetically intimate one. This is so especially in the case of lemurs, apes, monkeys and men. We can no longer shy away from accepting the fact that apes and monkeys are close kin to man and that man is indeed descended from them. But if you are a doubting Thomas, just make your way to a zoo and observe the behaviour of these animals. Looking at the way parliamentarians behave, not merely in our country, but elsewhere as well, one also recommends that you sit in the visitors' gallery of any Houses of Parliament or legislature and watch the antics of the peoples' representatives. While the zoo visit will assure you of the close affinity simians have with men, this sojourn in a seat of power will persuade you that the reverse is also true - men are kindred to simians.

But remember, in a democracy criticism of politicians is criticism of ourselves because we have the politicians we deserve.







The first round of the great Arab democratic revolt toppled the governments of Tunisia and Egypt. The revolt has now entered its second round, one that is proving far more violent in places like Libya and Bahrain. In neither Libya nor Bahrain is the success of the revolt pre-ordained. The regime of Muammar Gaddafi has already killed so many protestors that there is no path of political compromise in Libya. He will either stay on by iron force, or go kicking and screaming. Bahrain's rulers have, so far, retreated after an initial round of violence.

Why has the Arab uprising taken such a bloody turn? Egypt and Tunisia were more mature States, imbued with a deeper sense of nationhood. This meant that their militaries, once the protests were able to show widespread popular support, declined to clear the streets with gunfire. Libya and Bahrain, however, are more in the way of geographical entities with ruling structures akin to medieval kingdoms. Mr Gaddafi took power in a military coup but did little to forge a nation out of a stretch of desert pockmarked with urban Arab centres and Berber tribesmen. Libyan politics has been little more than tribal politics, with Mr Gaddafi making sure all the aces lay with his Qadhadfa clansmen. Bahrain's Sunni Khalifa ruling family overran the Shia-populated island two centuries ago — but have never stopped acting as foreign conquerors. Both Mr Gaddafi and the Khalifas deliberately discriminated against large chunks of their population on religious or ethnic grounds. These faultlines revealed themselves under the pressure of the images and passions of the 'Jasmine Revolution'.

The Arab democratic revolt has so far proven to be  unpredictable. Tunisia was the last place anyone would have expected it to start. Egypt was the last regime anyone expected to crumble without a fight. Bahrain was rated by political risk analysts as among the least likely Arab country to face unrest. Underlying all of this is a number of basic facts. One, 'Arab nationalism' has remained a fiction. Most of these countries remain tribes with flags, their leaders ruling with the help of small crony circles and tightly knit clans. Two, the external factors that fossilised Arab politics — superpower backing, oil revenues and simple repression — are crumbling. They are either weaker post-Cold War or are being defeated by new forces like food inflation and social networking sites. As the weakest Arab despots succumb, the next question is: how will the smarter and wealthier Arab States respond? They may survive this wave of protests, but it is hoped they realise political reform is their only guarantee of stability.





All those who have been following the rise and rise of steel mogul Lakshmi Mittal, the richest man in Europe and the fifth richest in the world, it's common knowledge that the tycoon has a fetish for acquiring luxurious residences across the world. He also loves mega-steel factories and mines that have neat piles of iron ore booty embedded in them. So it was hardly surprising to read that the Kolkata boy has now set his eyes on an English country house in Surrey, Britain. However, it's not the English house and the wonderful English garden that have caught his fancy — and our muted envy — but his craving to be seen as a 'green' person. So while he still zips around in his petrol- and diesel-guzzling cars and burns a decent-sized puff of jet fuel as he hops across continents to keep an eye on his business interests, the green crusader has confirmed that he is building 'Zero Towers'. Zero Towers will have zero carbon footprint. Get it?

Reports say that the Rs 220-crore Mittal estate will have its own garden to generate wood from continually replanted trees to feed eight giant biomass boilers. All this wood-burning will take care of the heating needs of the house. That's not all: there will be solar panels and a flat roof to store rainwater. The plan may get him a pat from the green brigade, but it's a wee bit silly as a PR exercise. A man whose main business product is based on natural resources and who invests heavily in mining to sustain his show, this zero-carbon house is a 'Look, I'm not a bad guy' statement made from the rooftops.

As for feeling good about doing his bit for the world, maybe a couple of 'plant-a-sapling' drives across the world could have done the trick. Why spend Rs 220 crore? But then, PR's about making big and bold statements and it's his money.






The budget session of the Parliament began with President Pratibha Patil's address. All indications point to a normal functioning of this session, unlike the wasted winter session.  This is because the UPA 2 government has agreed to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the 2G spectrum allocation scam. If the government were to have done this in the winter session itself, then precious time and resources would not have been wasted. The government needs to answer this question in the public interest.

The president, as usual, detailed the declaration of intent of "my government" and listed the issues that would be taken up in the coming year.  Needless to add, many of these are a repetition of what was said last year. Worse, many of these were listed by the president the year before in the agenda for the first 100 days.  This year's address, therefore, had very little to connect with the issues agitating the vast majority of our people and members of Parliament. In a sense, it reflected the general sense of drift that seems to have gripped this government.

Among the various issues listed, let us consider the most vital. The president declared: "A strong and prosperous nation needs healthy and educated citizens." However, the gravity of the situation is grossly understated. According to the National Family Health

Survey 3, 38.4% of children under three years are too short for their age and 46% are too thin for their age, while 79.2% are anaemic. Among pregnant women, anaemia has increased from 50% to 58%.

It is fashionable to argue that high growth rates will generate the required resources to improve the situation. High growth may be a necessary but not a  sufficient condition to achieve good health of our people. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has recently drawn attention to this fact by comparing India's per capita gross national product (GNP) of R3,250 with Bangladesh's Rs 1,550. According to his findings, life expectancy in Bangladesh is 66.9 years compared with India's 64.4. The proportion of underweight children in Bangladesh (41.3%) is a little lower than India's (43.5%), and its fertility rate (2.3) is also lower than India's (2.7). The mean years of schooling amount to 4.8 years in Bangladesh compared with India's 4.4 years. While India is ahead of Bangladesh in male literacy rate in the age-group of 15-24, the female rate in Bangladesh is higher than in India. India's under-5 mortality rate is 66, while it's 55 in Bangladesh. In infant mortality, Bangladesh has a similar advantage: for India it's 50 and in Bangladesh, it's 41. While in Bangladesh 94% of children are immunised with the DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine, in India, only 66% are.

What is required is a set of public policies that will ensure that our people are healthy to build a vibrant India. Higher growth tends to expand governmental revenues at an even higher level. Sen estimates that when the GNP increases by 7% to 9%, public revenue tends to expand at rates between 9% to 12%. The moot point is: how are these increased revenues utilised? The Kolkata Declaration issued last weekend at the 9th Kolkata Group Workshop chaired by Sen called for "universal entitlement to publicly provided primary health care for all". This requires India to earmark at least 3% of GDP (from the current 1.1% of the GDP) to healthcare.

The priority of the government, however, seems to be in providing greater concessions to the rich. In last year's budget papers, there is a Statement of Revenue Foregone. This informs us that Rs 414,099 crores was the tax revenue foregone in 2008-09. In 2009-10, this stood at Rs 502,299 crore. This whopping amount was foregone by the government because it had doled out tax concessions to the tune of 79.54% of the revenue that should have been collected. Conceding, for a moment, tax concessions in excise and customs duties would have served as a stimulus to fight the impact of recession, the concessions given to corporate and high-end personal income tax payers amounted to R104,471 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 120,483 crore in 2009-10. Nearly Rs 2.25 lakh crore of legitimate revenue was forsaken.

Instead, if these resources were used for public investments, they would have built our much needed infrastructure while generating substantial employment and improving people's livelihood. The consequent growth of domestic demand would have laid the foundations for better economic fundamentals for a sustainable growth trajectory.

Concessions to the rich are treated as 'incentives' necessary for growth and those for the poor are termed as 'subsidies' that are detrimental for growth. Unless this is reversed, Madam President, the laudable declaration of intent of building a healthy India cannot be achieved.

Instead, invoking the often paraded argument that governmental revenues alone are not sufficient, the president emphasises the government's singular pre-occupation with public-private-partnership. More often than not, PPP is not attracting private money for public sector projects but promoting private profit making with public money. In the health sector, this is precisely what is happening with private healthcare and private health insurance being highly subsidised by the State. Nearly every country in the world that has achieved anything like universal health coverage has done it through the public provision of primary healthcare. Unless this is done, India will remain far behind in creating a healthy nation.

(Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP.)

*The views expressed by the author are personal.





Inception has a scene-by-scene shooting script available in a book format that movie wankers might enjoy. You can't tire yourself reading, refuting, discussing the film though. Look up threads on the internet. Surely, some nerd in the Netherlands is still digging up holes in the picture's plot.

In the script, director Christopher Nolan sits in conversation with his brother Jonathan. At the end of the interview, it occurs to both, or at least to Christopher, that everything he'd been creating in Inception — the giant, complex architecture of dreams (or an unreal world), putting words and ideas into people's mouths, perceiving it at the same time, relates absolutely to the process of filmmaking itself. Any film.

In the movie, actor Leonardo DiCaprio plays a thief whose expertise lies in penetrating and stealing from an individual's sub-conscious mind. His last job is to plant an idea inside a corporate head. He puts together a talented group. This heist-movie aspect, where specialists temporarily team up for a common goal, Nolan realises, is how movies get made as well.

This moment of epiphany may sound belated. It doesn't help to know that in Inception, not only are you deliriously diving from one layer of dream to another, the movie — mythmaking exercises as they all are — is a dream to begin with. You can tell why the stunning concept works cinematically at every level.

Nolan first thought of the idea in college. He used to be up until four in the morning, but would always wake up in time to catch the free breakfast at nine. He'd then rush back again for a couple of hours' sleep. In that precious, discombobulated sleep, he discovered, he'd have active dreams. And when you realised you were dreaming, he says, you could control that dream. Fair.

What Nolan also evidently did after college is crack a new code for massively scaled event pictures. Special effects and sheer splendour would always be there in his movies. He made complexity a part of big-ticket entertainment.

Nolan makes millions feel clever for having got the film first (The Prestige, Memento). These people make others watch it again, just so we're all in on the game. Serious cult status and crazy commercial success aren't known to be friendly neighbours. That is how Batman was reborn (The Dark Knight).

Unfortunately, Oscars' old men prefer something more real. Inception's picked up eight Academy nominations — none for Nolan. He needn't lose sleep. Some things are just not worth the frikin' dream.




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






With a resolution now certain to be adopted for setting up a joint parliamentary committee to inquire into the allocation of 2G spectrum, Parliament can be expected to return to its normal schedule. Yet, the shadow of the winter session will stretch over the budget session, and a return to normal business will not be enough. India's demo-cracy draws sustenance from its legislature, and it would be entirely in order for the two Houses to at least debate the measures required to prevent Parliament's collective strength from being overcome by a partisan deadlock.

The legislature is not a static institution and to remain dynamic it needs to constantly update its rules and procedures. That spirit of renewal is breezing through many established democracies. A bill introduced in Britain's House of Commons seeks to fix the date of the general election to a particular day in May every five years, thereby taking away a prime minister's prerogative to call elections, and requiring a two-thirds vote to dissolve the House before its term ends. Another bill aims to redraw constituencies so that they are more equal in size, and also to put to referendum the option of an alternative vote (that is, to mark one's second preference). In the US, the Senate has recently discussed ways to limit the uses of filibuster.

Every system responds to its needs, and here in India suggestions are varied. Vice President (and Rajya Sabha Chairperson) Hamid Ansari has hinted at the stifling of debate by the Anti-Defection Act. Other recommendations suggested include changing Parliament's schedule to start with Zero Hour (thereby allowing MPs to vent their views), giving a relatively large minority in the House the right to register its point, and to have a registry of interests for full disclosure. Parliament has been weakened by the stand-off of the winter session, and MPs must show their collective interest in reversing this set-back by finding ways to vitalise the institution.






Our courts are extremely congested places, with the backlog of unresolved cases running into several millions at the subordinate judiciary and high-court levels. The law minister loses no opportunity to lecture the nation about the problems of judicial pendency, but his actions are underwhelming. In fact, things have only got worse in the last couple of years, with a greater shortfall of judges in the high and lower courts.

The crux of the problem is that India has much fewer judges per capita than most countries. Procedural laws make it easy to hold up cases, and delays are often tactically wielded, with tools like "interim applications", and adjournments. One can stall proceedings almost indefinitely, if one is a reluctant party to the case. What's more, litigation lawyers paid per appearance also have an incentive to stretch out the case. And so staggering delays are the norm, as are low settlement rates. There have been many attempts to get around the jam — some work has been shifted to regulators with quasi-judicial power, in order to bypass the backlog. However, our courts are still overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of their task.

But despite the clear signal that judicial workforce planning needs greater attention, and the appointments and promotions process needs to be speeded up, the government cannot seem to shake off the torpor. Several state governments sit on appointments for months, even after they have been cleared by the Supreme Court collegium. There has been no attempt to accelerate this process. This government floated the idea of a national litigation policy — given that government is the most frequent litigator in India, it aimed to cut the volume of such work by at least a third, by not filing unnecessary appeals, etc. That plan remains a glint in the law minister's eye. Another idea, of extending terms of high court judges till the age of 65, to incentivise them to come to the SC, also remains a paper promise. There has been little serious attempt to review and update laws. Unless the government plugs vacancies, and makes structural changes to its judicial selection processes, its fine words amount to nothing.






Budget 2011 must indicate a withdrawal of the fiscal stimulus. The rise in inflation, a high GDP growth rate, a big current account and a large fiscal deficit are unsustainable and have led to overheating of the economy. In last year's budget, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee did not withdraw the stimulus enough and the fiscal deficit remained large. While at that time there was uncertainty about short-term growth prospects and it was a risk to withdraw the stimulus, today the situation is different. Indeed, fiscal consolidation is important if India is to regain the confidence of private investors, both foreign and domestic. It is important to show that India is on the path of prudent fiscal policy.

The withdrawal of the stimulus has to be done on both sides of the fisc. Excise duty rates, which were cut in order to give an impetus to the economy, need to be brought back up. This is an opportunity for the finance minister to have a single rate for goods and services and combine them into a Central GST in a single administration and offer refunds of taxes paid. The second reform has to be on the expenditure side. India today looks like a country on a path of borrowing and spending its way to a fiscal mess. This impression has arisen as year after year populist programmes have been added by the Central government to the list of schemes it runs. However, proper implementation and assessment of the expenditure undertaken have been missing. Whether by moving to conditional cash transfers or by moving to food and kerosene coupons, the government needs to increase the efficiency of the money it spends.

It will not be that difficult, at least on paper, to control the fiscal deficit this year since the nominal GDP number, by which the deficit number is divided, has risen sharply by 20 per cent over the last year due to high inflation. This is expected to make the number look small at first blush. However, if the growth rate of expenditure on various populist schemes remains high, or any new scheme or increased coverage is announced, the discerning will soon detect it and it will be seen as an attempt to fudge the withdrawal of the stimulus. This would only undermine the credibility of the government, something it cannot afford in the current investment climate.







A Bahrain of gunfire at a roundabout in a commercial area in the heart of the capital is not the Bahrain we knew. Growing up Indian in the Gulf, you got odd looks, queries about why Indians smelt funny. Bahraini Indians, though, never suffered through such questions.

Not accidentally, Bahrain is the only Gulf state that operated a naturalisation policy. Sheikhs used to sit at their ports, from Sharjah to Dubai, from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain, with rubber stamps and al tajnees al siyasi — naturalisation permits. For countries with small nomadic populations, the absorption of others was considered a necessity; they needed a workforce to build their growth. But Bahrain was the only country that continued to grant its residents the right to actually be of the country. Now that very policy — naturalisation — is being called into question.

The majority of Bahrainis are Shia, but the king, who comes from a line 200 years old, is Sunni. For those on the streets both his rule and the naturalisation policy must be called into question. Indeed, many of those carrying guns for Bahrain are from South Asia, men who protect the emirate because of what they are offered in return. Ask any Indian in Bahrain if it is the hell we are seeing on its streets now.

Bahrain has yet another distinction. It is a tiny island, smaller even than Dubai. But economically, its vibrant banking economy is catching up with its savvy neighbour. Unlike the majority of the Gulf states it went unaffected by the global recession. The cranes never went crazy here, and unemployment has steadily fallen. Following educational reforms, it continues to enjoy higher literacy rates than anywhere else in the region. Indians and Bahrainis are nearly indistinguishable.

But anger between Sunni and Shia still rages. It rages despite the country offering its citizens free healthcare, and dole, should a person be unemployed — this is no Egypt, it is no Tunisia.

The opposition, Al Wefaq, continues to cry foul, and it has done so for the past 10 years. In response, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a moderate as compared to his father, has tried to re-initiate reforms. As he said on TV, these reforms have been too slow and have taken too long. The number of Shias in the ministries has increased over the past 15 years; but they are yet to integrate into the ministry of the interior and military. This is part of what the talks we have seen begin are about.

This, too, is a country where women have slowly been given increased opportunities. Look at the number of women at the protests and contrast that with Egypt and Tunisia.

Growing up in Dubai, certain areas were taboo — going to a nightclub was never a possibility. Few local girls, if any, went to study abroad — but Bahrain was always a role model. With its freedom of movement and its vibrant coffeeshop culture, it mimicked a Lebanon a mental stone's throw away. In more ways than one, too, in that both are playgrounds for other, bigger countries. Bahrain was first a backyard for the Saudis and later for the US. The Saudis have always treated Bahrain as a place to escape their draconian laws, a place of alcohol consumption and wild women. This, compounded with their interference in Bahrain's politics and its army has continuously angered the Shias.

Shias have become dissociated, therefore, with the country's politics. Travelling through Shia and Sunni neighbourhoods extensively, I've never seen a Bahraini flag on a Shia house — nor have I seen posters of Shia politicians. Where, then, do these protesters see their country headed?

Naturally one worries about the rising threat of Iran and subsequently America's position in the Gulf. Bahrain is the home port of the US Fifth Fleet. American defensive missiles might be being put in place, too, perhaps with Iran in mind.

But Bahrain is as important culturally as it is strategically. I remember my first night in a London nightclub and the menacing, disapproving stares I got from Emirati boys — I, after all, had grown up in Dubai. Yet alongside me, young Bahraini girls, their hair wild and skirts short, danced the nights away, unfettered. Those were heady days. Bahrain was reforming. But it stopped. It's time for more — because if people aren't satisfied with the low 3 per cent-plus unemployment rate and some of the highest growth rates in the Gulf, then there is a grave problem.








Bangladesh lost the World Cup's opening game with India on Saturday, but has reason to be proud of the gumption with which its team chased a massive target of 370 runs and played through the 50 overs.

Placed in a tougher group in the league phase, the Bangla Tigers might need much luck to make it to the quarter-finals. But the team's can-do spirit underlines a defining moment in the political evolution of our very special eastern neighbour.

All societies have occasional moments of surging nationalism. When the founder of the famed Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, a sense of nationalist pride swept Bangladesh.

The subcontinent, however, has never been short of brilliant individuals who make a mark on the international stage. That individual achievement, however, often tends to highlight the many collective failings of the South Asian states.

The cricket fever that has gripped Bangladesh this season can also be dismissed as a passing inconsequential passion that often grips countries, not unlike the football nationalism in many parts of the world — developed and developing.

Dhaka's enthusiastic co-hosting of the cricket World Cup, however, marks the maturing of Bangladesh into a self-confident nation, four decades after it was born in a bloody conflict with Pakistan and India's military intervention.

It will be utterly far-fetched to compare the World Cup opening ceremony to the hosting of Olympics by other Asian nations — Japan, South Korea and China — that marked their arrival on the world stage.

But it will be unwise to ignore the abundant self-confidence and unbounded optimism in Bangladesh today about its future. For Dhaka, co-hosting the World Cup is about moving away from its traditional image as the "basket case" perennially dependent on international aid to show-casing the new reality of a dynamic economy that offers many attractive opportunities amidst the global recession.

To be sure, the new Bangla self-assurance has not emerged overnight. Over the last decade, Bangladesh has made much progress on the economic front. Its average annual growth rates of around 6 per cent have steadily lifted Bangladesh's standing in the global economy. With the per capita income now standing at $1,700 and gross domestic product at $250 billion (both in purchasing power parity terms), Bangladesh is now in the world's top 50 economies.

The pace of improvement in Bangladesh's social indicators — for example, reducing population growth rate and expanding female literacy — has been more impressive than in some its South Asian neighbours, including many Indian states.

On the political front, too, democracy in Bangladesh has proved to be a hardier plant than similar saplings in Pakistan and Nepal. Enduring occasional military interventions and surviving the self-destructive bouts between the two leading political formations, Bangladesh is on its way to becoming one of the world's largest democracies.

A couple of more peaceful electoral transitions, and Bangladesh, with a population of 160 million, could soon rival Indonesia as the model for sustainable political pluralism in the Muslim world.

Put simply, one of the most backward regions of the subcontinent at the dawn of decolonisation, Bangladesh has slowly but certainly transformed itself. Goldman Sachs which coined the term BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India and China — to denote the emerging economies in the last decade has now listed Bangladesh as one of "next eleven" nations poised to make an impact on the global economy.

This positive story does not mean Bangladesh has solved all its major problems. Not by any stretch. The nation's deep political divide was revealed when the main opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia stayed away from the World Cup's opening ceremony. Right-wing extremist elements continue to challenge the political identity of Bangladesh and undermine its stability.

What it does mean is that much like India in the 1980s — when the nation reinvented itself imperceptibly but inexorably — Bangladesh is now ready for a take-off on the regional and global stage.

As the larger of its two neighbours — Burma is the other — India has the valuable opportunity to support and benefit immensely from the emergence of Bangladesh. A solid partnership between New Delhi and Dhaka will accelerate the rise of Bangladesh and reorder India's security environment.

In both countries, however, there are strong elements who think good relationship with the other is not critical for their own future.

Sections of the Bangladeshi elite continue to define their national identity in opposition to India, feel imprisoned by an India that surrounds them territorially, and insist on building their future in collaboration with distant partners.

Many in Delhi nurture the illusion that India can leap across its neighbourhood onto the world stage, believe that they can simply ignore the role of Bangladesh as a bridge to our remote northeastern provinces and to Southeast Asia.

For her part, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has shown the political courage to defy the conventional wisdom in Dhaka and reach out to India — by offering unprecedented cooperation in countering terrorism and rebuilding road and rail connectivity with the Indian mainland and the Northeast.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in turn, has offered to quickly resolve all political and economic issues with Bangladesh. These include the resolution of many complex issues relating to the long boundary between the two countries and increased market access to Bangladeshi goods.

Much hard work remains to be done in both capitals before the full potential of bilateral ties is realised. Meanwhile, expectations are rising for a very productive visit by Dr Singh to Dhaka in the coming months.

A self-confident Dhaka and an imaginative Delhi can indeed bury the many bitter legacies of the Partition in the eastern half of the subcontinent. It is now up to Dr Singh and Hasina to demonstrate that Bangladesh and India can build a genuine partnership on the basis of mutual respect, political equality and shared prosperity.









Hours after the CBI conducted raids at the Kalaignar TV premises, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi went about sealing his party's alliance with the PMK. The PMK chief, S. Ramadoss, is a happy man, with 31 seats to contest as part of the DMK-led alliance including the Congress party.

Ramadoss is unperturbed by the fact that former Union minister A.Raja, behind whom the DMK stands like a rock, was sent to Tihar jail just the evening before he struck the deal with the DMK. The Congress top brass too, despite the CBI's ongoing investigations about Raja's record in Sanchar Bhawan, appears to think that the DMK alliance is inevitable. It was earlier understood that the Congress would contest in 48 constituencies, though seat-sharing talks have just begun.

The political discourse in Tamil Nadu has come a long way since 1996. Back then, the AIADMK was considered bad company to keep. P.V. Narasimha Rao, then the Congress party's high command, was in a minority of one to insist that the Congress stick with Jayalalithaa. The party's Tamil Nadu leaders, led by G.K. Moopanar and assisted by P. Chidambaram, walked out to form the Tamil Maanila Congress and tied up with M. Karunanidhi's DMK. The Congress party, or whatever was left of it in Tamil Nadu after it lost power in 1967, became the TMC. The issue that led to the split and the realignment of forces then was the popular perception that Jayalalithaa was corrupt.

In May 1996, it did appear as though the people of Tamil Nadu voted against the corrupt, or the allegedly corrupt Jayalalithaa. But then, if the votes are an indicator, it must be held that the people of Tamil Nadu had voted against the DMK in 1977 when M. Karunanidhi was seen as corrupt. That was the context in which MGR emerged. A commission of inquiry, headed by Justice R.S. Sarkaria, had gone into Karunanidhi's past to formulate the phrase "scientific corruption" to explain the means adopted to amass illegal wealth and make it appear as if things were fine. The report of the Sarkaria Commission, however, was buried. Indira Gandhi appointed the commission (before she lost power to the Janata) and also buried the report (after she returned as prime minister in 1980). The DMK and the Congress became allies in 1980, thanks to Justice Sarkaria. So, if past experience is anything to go by, corruption has not determined the course of elections. Some believed to be corrupt have won elections and others known to be squeaky clean have lost. (K. Kamaraj had lost elections in Tamil Nadu.)

For Karunanidhi, a win this time is crucial. Anointing his son, M.K. Stalin, as heir depends on the party emerging as the leader of a winning coalition. An adverse outcome is bound to complicate things. To let Stalin and M.K. Alagiri fight the succession war when Jayalalithaa sits as chief minister is not a happy proposition. Control over state machinery is critical to settle such battles, as Karunanidhi knows only well.

The question then, is whether the DMK-Congress-PMK, with some small and local players in the fold, is strong enough to overwhelm the AIADMK-led alliance which now consists of the two Left parties, the MDMK and some smaller outfits. An answer to this depends on the outcome of the negotiations between Jayalalithaa and Vijayakant as much as on the extent to which the 2G spectrum allocation scam affects the DMK's prospects.

Vijayakant's DMDK has emerged as a strong platform with 10 per cent voteshare and support from a cross-section of social groups. If the party's performance in the various regions of Tamil Nadu is an indicator, it has eaten into the PMK's support base in a big way. Vridachalam, from where Vijayakant had won his assembly seat in 2006, was formerly considered a PMK bastion. This explains the importance of Vijayakant in Jayalalithaa's plans, and the inevitability of Ramadoss going over to Karunanidhi even if it meant humiliation. The DMDK's arrival with a bang (in 2006) can be read as an expression of fatigue among a section of the voters, of the limited choice between the DMK and the AIADMK. It remains to be seen as to whether the DMDK can hold its ground as an AIADMK ally this time.

Jayalalithaa seems to have attended to another weakness; the southern parts of Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK's citadel since 1977, had turned against her party in 2009. That was M.K. Alagiri's achievement. Her alliance with K. Krishnasamy (whose hold over the dominant Dalit community there is established) can turn the tide only if the Puthiya Tamizhagam chief ensures the transfer of the Dalit votes to the AIADMK across the region.

Several strong food schemes, relatively steady industrial growth, and a cadre (even if it is sustained by the distribution of largesse and means to corruption) continue to be the DMK's strength. These had sustained the DMK in May 2006 and helped the DMK-Congress-PMK-Left alliance manage a majority in the assembly then. And there is no sign of a wave against the regime now, as there was in May 1996 against Jayalalithaa.

Jayalalithaa cannot boast of a similar organisation, not because her regime desisted from dispensing favours but because she was, and remains, suspicious of her partymen. With the Left parties now in the fold, she is assured of a cadre, and the DMDK can also claim organisational support, aside from votes.

The battle, indeed, is between two strong combines. If the 2G spectrum scam becomes a factor, it is bad news for the ruling combine in this election as well as to the DMK in the long term. Corruption plays a dominant role in democracies, but only in mature democracies. These coming elections will be a test of how much the issue resonates in Tamil Nadu today.

The writer is a lawyer in the Madras high court








Locked in a climate-controlled vault at the Newberry Library in Chicago, a volume titled The Pen and the Book can be studied only under the watch of security cameras. The book, about making a profit in publishing, scarcely qualifies as a literary masterpiece. It is highly valuable, instead, because a reader has scribbled in the margins of its pages. The scribbler was Mark Twain, who had pencilled, among other observations, a one-way argument with the author, Walter Besant, that "nothing could be stupider" than using advertising to sell books as if they were "essential goods" like "salt" or "tobacco." On another page, Twain made some snide remarks about the big sums being paid to another author of his era. Like many readers, Twain was engaging in marginalia, writing comments alongside passages and sometimes giving an author a piece of his mind. It is a rich literary pastime, sometimes regarded as a tool of literary archaeology, but it has an uncertain fate in a digitalised world.

"People will always find a way to annotate electronically," said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. "But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries." These are the sorts of matters pondered by the Caxton Club, a literary group founded in 1895 by 15 Chicago bibliophiles.

Marginalia was more common in the 1800s. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin. In the 20th century it mostly came to be regarded like graffiti: something polite and respectful people did not do. But marginalia never vanished. When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa in 1977, a copy of Shakespeare was circulated among the inmates. Mandela wrote his name next to the passage from Julius Caesar that reads, "Cowards die many times before their deaths." Studs Terkel, the oral historian, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings. He told them that reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.

Books with markings are increasingly seen these days as more valuable, not just for a celebrity connection but also for what they reveal about the community of people associated with a work, according to Heather Jackson, a professor of English at the University of Toronto. Examining marginalia reveals a pattern of emotional reactions among everyday readers that might otherwise be missed, even by literary professionals. "It might be a shepherd writing in the margins about what a book means to him as he's out tending his flock," Professor Jackson said. "It might be a schoolgirl telling us how she feels. Or maybe it's lovers who are exchanging their thoughts about what a book means to them." Just about anyone who has paged through a used college textbook has seen marginalia, and often added comments of their own.

David Spadafora, president of the Newberry, said marginalia enriched a book, as readers infer other meanings, and lends it historical context. The collection at the Newberry includes a bound copy of The Federalist once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Besides pencilling his initials in the book, Jefferson wrote those of the founding fathers alongside their essays, which had originally been published anonymously. "It's pretty interesting to hold a book that Jefferson held," Spadafora said. "Besides that, if we know what books were in his library in the years leading to the writing of the Declaration of Independence, it tells us something about what might have inspired his intellect."

Some lovers of literature even conjure dreamy notions about those who have left marginalia for them to find. In his poem 'Marginalia', Billy Collins, the former American poet laureate, wrote about how a previous reader had stirred the passions of a boy just beginning high school and reading The Catcher in the Rye. As the poem describes it, he noticed "a few greasy smears in the margin" and a message that was written "in soft pencil — by a beautiful girl, I could tell." It read, "Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."

The New York Times







In 1938, George Antonius, a Lebanese-Egyptian writer and diplomat, wrote a seminal book titled The Arab Awakening, tracing the spread of Western ideas in the Arab world and the origins of a new pan-Arab consciousness to institutions such as the American University of Beirut and Robert College in Istanbul. In the postwar years, this hopeful vision was replaced by the ideology of Arab nationalism, an ill-digested mix of Marxism and Arab triumphalism summed up in the Baathist slogan "One Arab nation, with an immortal mission."

The resounding defeat by Israel of Arab aggression in 1967 exposed Arab nationalist ideology as a fraud, and for the next generation it became the god that failed. The resulting ideological vacuum was filled by more or less virulent versions of Islamic politics, encouraged for a time in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere as an antidote to the threat of leftist infiltration of the state and the army. The assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 by an Islamic extremist led to a crackdown and the banning of Islamic political parties across the Arab world. Iraq, the second most important Arab state after Egypt, remained a savage police state.

Arab politics stagnated under the dead hand of corrupt regimes, from (as the Arabs say) the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf, and both Arabs and outsiders concluded that this was the natural order of things — the former with despair and self-loathing, the latter with an element of smug racism.

Arabs watched with impotent fury as the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein but failed to secure the peace; launched a war on terrorism which seemed to treat Arabs mainly as threats; and allowed the peace process to stagnate as Israeli settlement activity compromised the last chance of a two-state solution in Palestine. It is now clear that this stability of the grave was an illusion, and that the Arab world was not dead but asleep.

Over the last decade, the threadbare credibility and legitimacy of Arab regimes was undermined by the information revolution. The growth of satellite television and the Internet ended their monopoly over what their citizens could see and hear. In Tunisia and now in Egypt, we have seen the result — the rarest of events, peaceful revolutions.

The Arab regimes that survive will have to learn to ride the demographic tiger of a young, angry, and newly empowered population. If — and it is a big if — the Egyptian and Tunisian armies follow the Turkish model, returning eventually to their barracks and leaving politics to civilian institutions, the implications for American Middle East policy will be profound. The United States will face the task of establishing a relationship of equals with these emerging democracies, ending the client-patron politics of the past. Israel will view this shift with understandable disquiet, but over time a new relationship with a more democratic Egypt may work to Israel's advantage. Groundless euphoria? We'll see. But I would argue that there is cause for sober optimism in both the Arab present and in the Arab past.

In the 14th century, the great Arab political theorist Ibn Khaldun, based on his study of what are now the modern states of Egypt and Tunisia, wrote of what he called "asabiyya," or social cohesion, which he viewed as the essential component of a successful society. This quality of social cohesion was evident both in Tunisia's "jasmine revolution" and in the joining of hands in Tahrir Square between army and people to remove a hated dictator.

There are hard times ahead, of course. Rebuilding Arab societies along more democratic lines will be the task of a generation. But after this second Arab awakening, it is clear that the Arab world will never be the same again. That in itself is grounds for rejoicing.

The New York Times







There is no question that the rise of Asia, with China as the most prominent example, is the major geopolitical fact of our times. What Asia has achieved in the last three decades in terms of the rapid accretion of wealth to begin with, and now power, has never been done so fast in history by any other region. Nor has any other power in history grown as rapidly as China in this period... But, stupendous as the Asian achievement is, we must remember that it has several unique characteristics.

Asia has seen several powers rising simultaneously, and has yet to find a new internal equilibrium of its own. Unlike what occurred when Japan rose in the thirties, China is not the only rising Asian power today. Within Asia itself, on China's immediate periphery, other powers like South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and India are also developing rapidly. We already see in Asia classical responses to the rapid rise of new powers in terms of internal and external balancing. We see increasing defence budgets throughout the region over the last two decades.

These growing Asian powers increasingly owe more and more of their economic growth to the links and interdependence among themselves. Several of them still have overwhelming domestic preoccupations and will therefore concentrate on those rather than on external entanglements. It would be natural to expect that these powers would concentrate on creating external environments conducive to their continued economic growth and social transformation rather than focussing purely on security aspects of their external environment. For quite some time to come Asia will see the development of powerful states whose citizenry as individuals will enjoy lower standards of living than those in the developed world. These states will therefore not replicate the behaviour of previous powers. The new equilibrium in Asia is likely to be as much a result of production chains and regional and global market integration as of purely security driven alliances or structures.

Asia's geopolitics are complicated by the presence of several global and extra-regional powers who are now integral to Asian security in this age of globalisation of economics, security and technology. Powers such as the USA, Russia and Japan are present and have long established interests of their own in Asia. An Asian order which ignores their interests is unlikely to be stable.

And lastly, Asia as a whole is and will remain dependent upon the rest of the world for its own continued growth and security, whether in terms of energy security, food security or, in the more conventional calculation of the sources and providers of security capabilities and technologies. In several respects that matter, (concepts, technology, security, energy etc), Asia is still and will remain a net global consumer for some time to come. With younger populations, and the task of maintaining the growth necessary to generate jobs for new entrants to the labour force, this will remain true of the major Asian developing economies for the foreseeable future.

In other words, we are speaking of an Asia that will be largely developing, increasingly integrated within itself, and simultaneously dependent upon the broader global community and environment, —- a powerful but poor Asia.

None of this is to say that the relative rise of Asia will not continue. I would expect it to over the medium term, though straight line extrapolations have seldom worked in history. This is just to say that the issues that we face in dealing with the changes in Asia are different from those that we see in historical analogies of rising powers in the past. (This is not 19th century Europe, amenable to balance of power solutions such as a "Concert of Asia".) For the present, Asia and the world have yet to work out a security architecture that accommodates the changes in Asia and the legitimate interests of all the countries concerned without reducing them to a zero sum game. Our preference is that the new architecture be open, inclusive, and flexible. But this still is a work in progress.

What are the new challenges that this situation in Asia throws up for us? To my mind three challenges stand out:

1. Connectivity domains like maritime security, cyber space and outer space;

2. The increasing security divide within Asia; and,

3. The institutionalisation of security cooperation in Asia.

You might well ask why I also mentioned the security divide and a lack of institutions. Why not choose traditional security issues like border disputes or terrorism or inter-state conflict or nuclear proliferation? Because these problems, though very real and worrying, which exist in virulent forms in Asia, have not prevented the stupendous transformation that has resulted in the accumulation of power and wealth in large parts of Asia that we spoke of. In other words, so far Asia has successfully managed individual issues of nuclear balance and several conventional security threats, and even the proliferation of WMD and missile technologies. These will require continued and considerable effort, but increasingly these problems will occur in new forms...

To take (an) instance, there is an increasing danger of terrorism spreading from those parts of Asia, like Pakistan and Afghanistan, which have not been part of the Asian economic miracle. The security of nuclear materials and weapons in those same parts of Asia is another example of the sort of problems that we face. These are the problems I mean when I speak of the increasing security divide within Asia. There are parts of Asia which are falling behind, not just in economic terms but in terms of the normal security attributes of sovereignty that we take for granted. And the consequences for Asian security should concern all of us in Asia.

So what sort of new Asian order will meet the needs of these new challenges?

It should be inclusive. Given the diversity in Asia this is essential if the order is to work. And it must include all relevant powers, including those geographically external but intrinsic to Asia's security in practice and presence.

It should be extensive, from Suez to the Pacific and including the entire Eurasian landmass. If not it will not be able to address the security consequences of the growing security divide within Asia.

It should be plural. No one-size solution or simplistic prescription will work. We should learn from the failure of Cold War alliance systems in the area, and of earlier Asian Collective Security proposals.

Its institutions should be consultative, respecting the Asian cultural bias towards consensual solutions. Centring the institutions on ASEAN would be logical and practical, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers' plus Eight Meeting offers a potentially very useful way forward.

Excerpted from a talk by National
Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, at the 13th Asian Security Conference on February 18 at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses







The $7.2-bn deal BP has just signed with Reliance Industries for a 30% stake in 23 oil and gas fields controlled by the latter is clearly good news for RIL shareholders, and will help find the company's huge capex needs in the oil sector, but it's even better news for the country. As far as size goes, it is much smaller than the $11.2 billion Vodafone paid for Hutch's stake in February 2007, though the company press statement says the ultimate investment could be upwards of $20 bn. Given the problems RIL is reportedly facing in the KG-D6 fields, BP's experience will come in handy; the joint venture will also work on importing, transporting and marketing natural gas in India, given how this will be the fastest growing fossil fuel in the country in the near future. The move is also significant, given RIL's legendary reluctance to offer equity partnerships to outsiders in the past, especially in existing ventures (BP owns a 50% stake in one of RIL's blocks, as do companies like Niko, but all of these are greenfield ventures)—given the size and the complementary strengths required for big projects, RIL has taken the right step.

The fall in foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country has been the subject of concern over the past few months—as compared to $34.8 bn in 2007-09, $37.8 bn each in 2008-09 and 2009-10, FDI in April-November 2010-11 was a mere $19 bn. The RIL-BP deal won't ensure FDI in 2010-11 overtakes that in the previous years, but it does reduce the difference considerably. More important is what it says about India as an FDI destination in the petroleum sector. At the height of the Mukesh-Anil Ambani fight, the government took the view, endorsed by the Supreme Court finally, that the oil and gas belonged to the government, that companies like RIL were just contractors, and that the price of gas and who it should be sold to would be decided by the government. If this wasn't bad enough, the petroleum ministry followed this up with blocking the Cairn-Vedanta deal on the grounds that this would hit ONGC's interests even though there was no change in the ownership of the operating company—also, since ONGC's contract said it would pay the royalty, the government stance put off investors. If despite this, BP is still prepared to invest in India, it suggests India's potential makes the risk worth taking. It also signals BP believes the government is likely to be less intransigent in the future. Investors getting more positive about government policy can only be a good thing.






Now that the government has agreed to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G scam, it's a good idea to focus on a few dos and don'ts for the committee. More so since the temptation will be to play to the gallery, using each minute of the free air-time a JPC guarantees to go to the press to announce a new 'finding', a new 'indictment' of a powerful minister, maybe even the Prime Minister. Frankly that's a waste of time, and will get us back to the competitive politics we've been trying to get over—instead of focusing on cleaning up the Raja mess, Kapil Sibal seemed more intent on blaming the BJP for the mess; the last thing we need is for the BJP to now return the compliment. Everyone knows that A Raja changed the rules to benefit a few firms; it is well-known that he kept the Prime Minister informed of his moves, including the controversial decision to advance the cut-off date from October 1, 2007, to September 25; it is equally well-known that the law ministry and the attorney general helped Raja in terms of the necessary legal cover … what's the point of the JPC rediscovering what is already well-documented in the CAG and the Justice Shivraj Patil report?

Instead, the JPC would do well to focus on the areas even the CBI is only partially focused on. Several newspapers are publishing some parts of the money trail from those who Raja helped to the DMK's Kalaignar TV; others are following investments into the Marans' Sun TV. Given the resources the JPC will have at its command, including the CBI, it would be a good idea to complete the money trail. A host of companies who Raja helped have given loans to others, either directly or through convoluted legal fiction, and all are claiming their innocence on the basis of this legal fiction—if the JPC pierces the corporate veil, it will have done a good job. Even better would be the solutions/directions the JPC gives to ensure such scams are not repeated, and not just in telecom. A host of subsidiary companies have been used to disguise money trails, for instance. If the JPC is to recommend that such layering be disallowed (that means a change in the Companies Bill the government is contemplating), or that only auctions be used to distribute natural resources, that would be a step forward. Perhaps it could look at the possibility of removing licensing functions from the line ministry and putting this in the hands of a regulator that reports to Parliament … the list of what the JPC should do is a long one. Unless, of course, the name of the game was always meant to be Just Political Charades.






The Indian Railways (IR) is normally spoken of as the economic lifeline of the country and one of the largest systems in the world. For some time it became the toast of the railway world for its financial performance with encomiums being showered from even the advanced countries. Is IR the same system today?

Perhaps an objective assessment of IR will provide a better understanding of where it stands globally. On the passenger front, while the number of passengers transported is amongst the highest in the world, IR is still to cross 160 kph speed barrier when countries are running trains at speeds over 250-300 kph regularly, with trial runs at over 500 kph. The passenger amenities are still to come up to international standards in real terms, despite repeated assurances of world-class stations. In freight, trains over 10,000 tonnes are normal for many heavy freight systems and some even have trains over 30,000 tonnes on a regular basis, while IR trains are 5,000-6,000 tonnes. IR also has a skewed fare structure to enable cheap passenger travel while goods are transported at costs that do not permit global competitiveness. Can such a situation benefit the country?

While much is stated about low passenger fares and poor financial performance where Railway funds are drying up and operating ratio is reaching near breakeven level, the worrying aspect is the long-term scenario staring us in the face. Poor performance for a year or two can be rectified but what has happened to the major plans of capacity buildup and lowering transportation costs. The dedicated freight corridor project, which would add substantially to capacity, appears to have become a non-starter. The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor planned along the railway corridor will also suffer due to this delay. As transport demand grows with burgeoning GDP, the Railways' share is steadily reducing, as a result of capacity constraint, which is bad news for the country as well as for the environment, since road sector is benefiting with a larger environmental impact.

High speed corridors were identified many years ago and a ritualistic announcement of pre-feasibility study is made each year again with no further progress. It is essential to realise that high-speed trains are not elitist but catalyse economic growth in the area they serve. They also arrest the flight of population to metros since employment becomes available in a 500 km area along the high-speed line route. Somehow, it is fashionable to criticise the IR for not generating adequate funds for its development. The truth of the matter is that the funds needed go much beyond IR's capacity and have to be provided by the government. One can easily see the railway growth in China as an example of the government investing in growth.

It is equally interesting to assess the Indian experience.

In the period 2002-03 the government sanctioned Rs 32,000 crore—Rs 17,000 crore as Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) and Rs 15,000 crore to the National Rail Vikas Yojana (NRVY). SRSF was provided to replace all over-age assets like track, wagons, coaches, locomotives and signalling equipment as well strengthening of identified bridges. This was executed in a time-bound programme and provided the infrastructure base for the increased loading in wagons introduced in 2005, which yielded great financial returns! The NRVY enabled setting up of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) for executing financially viable projects and raising funds from the market. The company has executed some important port connectivity projects under PPP, the latest being the rail connection to the recently inaugurated Vallarpadam International Container Terminal! The Pipavav and Kandla ports connectivity projects enabled running of double stack container trains.

The success of the IR will depend on the push given by the government to the dedicated freight corridor project. Similar to the Delhi Metro, this corridor project will have a demonstration effect to pave the way for more such corridors. The project is too important to just leave it to IR to arrange funding and execution, including problems of land acquisition holding up the scheme. There comes a time in the history of railway systems when a quantum jump in infrastructure becomes a necessity and requires a corresponding quantum increase in funding. The IR had about 50,000 route km in 1950 and has since added only a little more than 12,000 km but, due to the initial base, has been able to transport both passengers and goods many times over than in 1950. The time for a jump in investment and infrastructure is long overdue and needs immediate attention.

In the recent budgetary statements much has been spoken of the garnering of funds through the PPP route from private investors with almost no progress worth the name. There are two essential measures needed for such an effort to succeed. First, the IR will need to open up its inward vision and allow stakeholders greater managerial control in PPP projects. The second measure perhaps is setting up a Rail Regulatory Authority. This will not only ensure greater investor confidence in PPP projects with an assurance of a level playing field but could also serve to regulate tariff, both for freight and passenger. It could provide a cost-based passenger fare, which could be modified by the government to allow low cost travel for masses with an explicit matching subsidy to IR without the opaque system of cross subsidy existing today.

The current financial position of the IR is worrying many experts but such problems can be corrected in the short term. However, the real problem of severe capacity constraint will inevitably hit the growth of the economy with no short-term solutions. The increase in infrastructure is already overdue and government will need to take immediate steps to increase funding for increased capacity on IR and not leave the matter for IR to manage alone. The budget this year will either show the serious intent of the government, or else the country will suffer in the areas of both economic growth and environmental impact.

The author is director (international relations), Asian Institute of Transport Development, New Delhi






Last week, the IMF warned that Japan's outstanding debt and fiscal deficit "are not sustainable", adding that Tokyo must tackle the issues if it wants to avoid future trouble. A fortnight back, rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Japan's credit rating from AA to AA-minus, a first downgrade in the last nine years. The events don't bode well for Japan's fiscal health. No less a figure than Kaoru Yosano, Japan's new minister for economic and fiscal affairs, seems disturbed by the turn of events and was quoted as saying, "We face a dreadful dream."

On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be much to cheer about in Japan from a political and financial viewpoint. The political system appears gridlocked, with a succession of uninspiring leaders coming and going with such rapidity that would make seem Pakistan's cricket captain's tenor long enough. Japan has the highest debt-to-GDP ratio among all developed countries. According to IMF data, Japan's debt was 225% of GDP in 2010, and it is showing no sign of declining in 2011.

Naysayers for long have professed that Greece and Ireland were just the 'starters'. The 'main course' of Japan is yet to come. Japan has over a quarter of all sovereign debt outstanding worldwide. A Japan default would be more massive than that of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain combined together. And the aftershock of a default by the world's third-largest economy would make Lehman default seem like a small blip on the default Richter scale. The prospect is as stomach-churning as a raw fish sushi to a vegetarian.

Yet a big difference between Japan and other countries with high debt levels is that Japan's debt is primarily held domestically. Foreigners hold less than 5% of Japan's government debt. So even if foreign investors became worried about a potential default, their impact on the bond market, and the currency, would be minimal. In a way, Japan's debt is self-financed. The state is in deficit all right, but the cash-rich private sector saves enough to cover domestic needs and in addition, exports capital equivalent to around 3% of GDP every year. The result is a substantial savings in overseas assets. They run a large trade surplus, too. This is in stark contrast to a country like Greece or Ireland, whose debt has been externally financed, i.e., it is held by other countries.

In this respect, Japan resembles not Greece or Ireland, but another European economy—Belgium. Belgium has sported with a government debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 100% for the best part of two decades. At the same time, it has been in current account surplus year after year. Citizens of deficit countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal—or even the US and the UK—are in the reverse position. They must pay dividends and interest to foreigners, including Japanese and Belgians, who own their liabilities.

But surely such dizzying levels of government debt are unsustainable, or so the naysayers think. If so, nobody seems to have conveyed this to the investors of Japanese Government Bonds (JGB). The yield that investors seek for holding JGBs is much lower than any other developed country debt. For instance, the ten-year government bond yield for the US is 3.41%. The same for Germany is 3.19%. The UK's bond yield is 3.69%. The bond yields for Greece are over 10%, a clear indication of its debt problems. In comparison, the yield on a ten-year JGB is a tiny 1.22%. It is the lowest for any major economy. The market very clearly believes that the risk of Japan defaulting is no more than that of the US, the UK or Germany. Perhaps it is even lower. So, while rating agencies may downgrade Japanese debt, JGB holders are hardly running for the exits.

But what about the constant churn of uninspiring leaders—won't it have a bearing on the economy in the long run? Again, Belgium has "been there, done that, got the T-shirt, had a hole in it and now uses it as a duster". In 1978 and again in 2007, the country's post-election stalemate meant no government could be formed for six months. There was no obvious damage—life went on, and the government's financial health looked as good as ever. Perhaps Belgium's acceptance that the country will remain on high fiscal deficit path is a more self-assuring attitude than that of Japanese leaders who seem to give too much credence to a rating agency's verdict and press the panic button.

The reality is that in ageing countries like Japan and Belgium, the state spending is going to remain high. However, because these countries have a high savings rate, domestic private sector assets are able to fund public sector liabilities. They do not have to borrow from the external world. In fact, they are net lenders to the external world.

The Japanese leaders needn't get too alarmed by the views of the rating agencies, which in any case haven't had a terribly good track record recently. The risk with misguided fears of default is that they lead to policies, which, far from solving the government's economic problems, make them a whole lot worse. Freaking out could start a self-fulfilling prophecy and in no way will help thwart Yosano's "dreadful dream".

The author, formerly with JPMorgan Chase, is CEO, Quantum Phinance







With the central government at long last conceding the demand for a probe by a joint parliamentary committee into the irregularities in 2G spectrum allocation, no further time should be lost in getting to the bottom of the biggest scam in the history of independent India. The task now is to explore what went wrong at the policy level as well as in implementation, to fix responsibility wherever it belongs, and to present to Parliament and the people the whole truth about how government policy relating to a highly lucrative new sector was hijacked by a nexus among corrupt politicians, conniving or pliable officials, and big business. The JPC will start with an informational advantage: in addition to the breakthrough report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, it can make use of the abundant factual details gathered by the Shivaraj Patil committee, which uncovered serious lapses in the procedures followed by the Department of Telecommunications in issuance of licences and allocation of spectrum during 2001-2009. The report identified by name many of the public officials who, prima facie, appeared responsible for various irregularities in the implementation of laid-down procedures. It also pointed to the lack of fairness and transparency in the affairs of DoT under the watch, or at the instance, of successive Telecom Ministers. If therefore the government wants the terms of reference to include the whole 2001-2009 period, the opposition should have no credible objection. For the Bharatiya Janata Party to ask for the terms of reference to include multiple corruption scandals is pointless. Instead of a comprehensive probe into rising India's most damaging corruption scandal, the nation would then get a focus-less, all-over-the-place exercise.

Those like former Telecom Minister Arun Shourie, who handed over material evidence to the Central Bureau of Investigation, could be of real assistance to the JPC. While the CBI will be watched to see if it pushes hard enough in the criminal investigation and prosecution of the 2G scam, the JPC must empower itself to discover broader and deeper aspects of the truth. All political parties must cooperate to ensure the quick constitution of the high-powered body and the early completion of its probe. Much time has already been lost in the criminal investigation, raising the risk of the trails going cold. Once it is set up, the JPC must set itself clear tasks and goals, work in a time-bound way, and show results. It also needs to be transparent. This is an unusual opportunity for political India to demonstrate to the people that it is serious about rooting out corruption in policymaking and implementation in sensitive areas where temptations and traps abound.





Reliance Communication's affidavit in the Supreme Court contained the revelation that authorities had asked the company to tap more than 150,000 phones between 2006 and 2010. That a single service provider was ordered to tap an average of 550 phones a week is shocking. It raises serious questions about how pervasive the phenomenon of phone tapping is and whether it is conducted and monitored in accordance with the law. Phone tapping is legal under the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008. But it is subject to a slew of procedures. Many of them are laid down in a 1997 Supreme Court order, which said that conversations may be intercepted only on certain grounds such as national sovereignty and public order. The court issued directions that tapping conducted on behalf of security agencies must be authorised by the Home Secretary of either the central or State government. It also said that all orders to intercept phones must be reviewed by an oversight committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary to examine if there is a contravention of the law.

Given the intermittent controversies over illegal phone taps, it is doubtful whether these judicial instructions are followed, in letter and spirit. By the Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai's admission, at any given time, there are 6,000 to 8,000 phones that are legally tapped at the central level and an estimated 10,000 at the State level. This raises two questions. First, is it necessary to tap so many phones? Secondly, given the numbers, is it humanly possible for Home Secretaries or the oversight committee to examine each case with the attention it deserves? The Amar Singh case, in which the former Samajwadi Party leader's phone was tapped on the basis of a forged authorisation, is not a laughing matter. Today, private cellular service providers set up special cells with dedicated servers to intercept phones on behalf of the security agencies. Leaving tapping to private players has resulted in leaked transcripts of calls. The Cabinet Committee on Security has now proposed that the onus of monitoring conversations should be shifted from service providers to the government and that a centralised hub be set up for phone taps. But the problem goes well beyond unauthorised taps by service providers. The government must restore public trust by ensuring that phones are not tapped unless it is absolutely necessary. As the Supreme Court observed, the security of one's privacy against arbitrary intrusion is basic to a free society.









A few years ago, during his visit to Cornell University, U. R. Ananthamurthy asked a group of professors and doctoral students why vernacular Indian literary texts so rarely receive the kind of careful attention critics give to major texts in European and American literature. Emphasising the need for extended textual readings as well as cross-regional analysis of the literary traditions in India, he called for textual comparisons that highlight similarities and differences in the way common themes and similar social situations are treated. He argued that several strands of cultural and social influence run through Indian literary texts, strands that are impossible to see clearly if our focus remains confined to the works of any one linguistic or regional tradition.

The new volume Colonialism, Modernity, and Literature: A View from India is a response to Ananthamurthy's call. It provides close readings of a uniquely representative work of modern Indian literature and develops its analyses in a resolutely comparative framework. That work is Fakir Mohan Senapati's late-19th century Oriya novel, Chha Mana Atha Guntha, the most recent translation of which, Six Acres and a Third, appeared in 2005 (Indian edition by Penguin in 2006). Focussing on literary and cultural analyses, this collection of essays presents one distinct and complex view from the Indian context, but it is a view with wider implications.

The first theme this volume addresses is the relationship between colonialism and socio-cultural modernity in the colonised world. The recent scholarship on 'alternative modernities' strongly suggests that fine-grained historical, cultural, and philosophical analyses will show how distinctly modern values such as individuality and radical egalitarianism were articulated in contexts other than the capitalist West. Since the so-called pre-modern societies have been looked at through speculative and ideologically distorted lenses, it is likely that a more rigorous, empirically based analysis can drastically revise our understanding of them. Literary and cultural texts — both high canonical and popular or 'folk'— can play a major role in this revisionary analysis.

The second major theme of the volume concerns the forms in which social critique is articulated in literature, and in particular how they define a literary view from below — the perspective of the lower orders of society, the subalterns — as expressed in literary styles and modes. Comparative analyses reveal, for instance, that the narrative forms Senapati develops, extending some indigenous oral and written traditions, are similar to the forms used by the Latin American writer Gabriel García Márquez, who was challenging — some sixty years after Senapati — the dominance of neo-colonial power in his own society in Colombia.

Finally, the volume's comparative method itself points to a significant theme: the strategic political value of comparison in the study of Indian literature. These essays may suggest to readers non-ethnocentric — and, in the modern Indian cultural context, non-chauvinist — ways of studying Indian literature. They de-emphasise regional literary histories, especially the construction of hoary pasts and glorious traditions, to focus instead on cross-regional clusters of historical and cultural meaning. They attempt in-depth interpretations instead of merely celebrating authors and their works.

Comparative perspectives

The essays by Jennifer Harford Vargas and Paul Sawyer suggest what a critical comparatism would look like and how we may go on to develop a method to talk about 'world literature,' a method that is attentive to national contexts without being limited by chauvinist or cultural-nationalist agendas. Whether it be in the form of a 'South-South' dialogue of the kind Vargas suggests, or in the form of a contrast between two differing perspectives on a common moral and imaginative project, which Sawyer develops, this kind of comparative reading takes us beyond the ethnocentric use of comparison that was common in the West during the imperial period.

Two other essays provide comparisons of Senapati's novel with an Assamese and a Telugu text respectively, both from the 19th century, and show how all three works draw on an indigenous modern sensibility. This indigenous Indian sensibility is often wary of the colonial modernity of westernised babus while being receptive to many of the positive values for which European culture was also known. Tilottoma Misra compares Senapati's novel with a satirical prose-sketch, "Fair Without, Foul Within," written in 1866 by the Assamese writer and scholar Hemchandra Barua. Even though Misra does not suggest this possibility, readers of Six Acres will easily recognise Barua's text as one that must have influenced Senapati: both employ a similar kind of ironic and satirical tone.

According to Misra, Barua draws on a popular performing tradition native to Assam, oja-pali, through which, at least since the 15th century, rural audiences had been exposed to a dialogic and critical narrative voice. Oja-pali is similar to the Oriya thia-pala; in both, a group of five or six performers dance, enact scenes, dramatise themes, and recite poetry, while the lead singer goes on to provide both serious and parodic commentary on the recited texts and contemporaneous subjects, both high and low. It is reasonable to speculate that for Senapati as well as Barua, popular rural performance forms such as oja-pali and pala provided inspiration for their satirical voices and their anti-hegemonic values; through the rich critical strands of satirical writing these forms embodied, they provided Barua and Senapati a link to a tradition of humour and social critique that predates colonialism by several centuries.

Velcheru Narayana Rao compares Senapati with his contemporary from northern Andhra, Gurajada Apparao. Narayana Rao has been arguing for years that a careful study of pre-colonial Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada literature reveals a robust tradition of modernity in pre-colonial Indian culture, one that has been eclipsed by the assumption that British rule brought modernity to India. Focussing on Apparao's famous 1890s play Kanyasulkam ( Girls for Sale) and Senapati's novel, he shows how both writers provide a counter to the "cultural amnesia" of the babus and the upper castes who, under the influence of the new education, "rejected their immediate past in favour of colonial modernity." Narayana Rao goes on to distinguish from this tendency the more complex critical approach of Senapati and Apparao, which he defines as an indigenous and non-colonialist strand of modernity.

Ananthamurthy's challenge

Ananthamurthy's call — or rather, his challenge — to scholars and critics of Indian literature led to the collaborative work of this volume. The authors' hope is that the close readings and theoretical explorations will inspire more such engagements with important literary works and their multiple contexts. As critical analyses, all these essays depart from the 'colonial discourse' approach that dominated and defined the field of postcolonial studies in the 1980s and 1990s after the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978). The essays' emphasis on the subaltern's voice and agency suggests a framework that may be called 'radical humanist,' a framework that departs in particular from aspects of the Foucauldian theory on which Orientalism had drawn.

If the arguments about indigenous or alternative modernity are convincing in this one instance, with a focus on one related group of texts, they will also indicate why the sharp conceptual opposition between tradition and modernity is misleading and needs to be rejected. Empirical accounts of the rational basis and social function of indigenous, especially rural institutions, as well of the rich body of ideas contained in folklore and popular forms of dialogic and interactive performance (of which pala and oja-pali are examples), can reveal robust expressions of the socially progressive values that can be found in rural Indian life. They can also suggest similar possibilities elsewhere in the world.

The readings and analyses in this book are invitations to a critical dialogue, since they are meant to provoke as well as illuminate. They encourage alternative textual interpretations of Indian literature, seek to reinvigorate debates, and open new avenues of cross-disciplinary research in which literary criticism is part of a collaborative project to define the features of the world we — all of us — have inherited from the Age of Empire. This particular 'view from India' may indicate how the study of literature is essential to our varied inquiries into the tangled relationship between colonialism and modernity, as well as into a genuinely democratic postcolonial future.

(Satya P. Mohanty is Professor of English at Cornell University. He has edited, and written the introduction to, Colonialism, Modernity, and Literature: A View from India , which will be published in early March by Palgrave Macmillan, New York. An Indian edition of the book will be published by Orient BlackSwan.)







Thousands of men blocked the road, surrounding the S.U.V. of the chief justice of Pakistan, a national hero for standing up to military rule. As a correspondent for

The Chicago Tribune, I knew I couldn't just watch from behind a car window. I had to get out there.

So, wearing a black headscarf and a loose, long-sleeved red tunic over jeans, I waded through the crowd and started taking notes: on the men throwing rose petals, on the men shouting that they would die for the chief justice, on the men sacrificing a goat.

And then, almost predictably, someone grabbed my buttocks. I spun around and shouted, but then it happened again, and again, until finally I caught one offender's hand and punched him in the face. The men kept grabbing. I kept punching. At a certain point — maybe because I was creating a scene — I was invited into the chief justice's vehicle.

At the time, in June 2007, I saw this as just one of the realities of covering the news in Pakistan. I didn't complain to my bosses. To do so would only make me seem weak. Instead, I made a joke out of it and turned the experience into a positive one: See, being a woman helped me gain access to the chief justice.

And really, I was lucky. A few gropes, a misplaced hand, an unwanted advance — those are easily dismissed. I knew other female correspondents who weren't so lucky, those who were molested in their hotel rooms, or partly stripped by mobs. But I can't ever remember sitting down with my female peers and talking about what had happened, except to make dark jokes, because such stories would make us seem different from the male correspondents, more vulnerable. I would never tell my bosses for fear that they might keep me at home the next time something major happened.

I was hardly alone in keeping quiet. The Committee to Protect Journalists may be able to say that 44 journalists from around the world were killed last year because of their work, but the group doesn't keep data on sexual assault and rape. Most journalists just don't report it.

The CBS correspondent Lara Logan has broken that code of silence. She has covered some of the most dangerous stories in the world, and done a lot of brave things in her career. But her decision to go public earlier this week with her attack by a mob in Tahrir Square in Cairo was by far the bravest. Hospitalized for days, she is still recuperating from the attack, described by CBS as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.

Several commentators have suggested that Ms. Logan was somehow at fault: because she's pretty; because she decided to go into the crowd; because she's a war junkie. This wasn't her fault. It was the mob's fault. This attack also had nothing to do with Islam. Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. Female reporters sometimes are just convenient.

In the coming weeks, I fear that the conclusions drawn from Ms. Logan's experience will be less reactionary but somehow darker, that there will be suggestions that female correspondents should not be sent into dangerous situations. It's possible that bosses will make unconscious decisions to send men instead, just in case. Sure, men can be victims, too — on Wednesday a mob beat up a male ABC reporter in Bahrain, and a few male journalists have told of being sodomized by captors — but the publicity around Ms. Logan's attack could make editors think, "Why take the risk?" That would be the wrong lesson. Women can cover the fighting just as well as men, depending on their courage.

More important, they also do a pretty good job of covering what it's like to live in a war, not just die in one. Without female correspondents in war zones, the experiences of women there may be only a rumor.

Look at the articles about women who set themselves on fire in Afghanistan to protest their arranged marriages, or about girls being maimed by fundamentalists, about child marriage in India, about rape in Congo and Haiti. Female journalists often tell those stories in the most compelling ways, because abused women are sometimes more comfortable talking to them. And those stories are at least as important as accounts of battles. There is an added benefit. Ms. Logan is a minor celebrity, one of the highest-profile women to acknowledge being sexually assaulted. Although she has reported from the front lines, the lesson she is now giving young women is probably her most profound: It's not your fault. And there's no shame in telling it like it is.

( ProPublica is "an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest" and can be accessed at Kim Barker can be followed on Twitter at @kim_barker.)







A dominant view in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today is that China is a potential superpower. This view is also tempered by its parallel assessment that the United States remains powerful in the wider East Asian theatre. It is in this climate of opinion that India is now wooed by the U.S. and its long-time ally Japan in East Asia.

In fact, some of the latest moves by the U.S. and Japan towards India reflect a new reality. It is evident that Washington is seeking to mentor New Delhi in East Asia. The overarching context is the likely entry of both the U.S. and Russia into the region's premier strategic forum, the East Asia Summit (EAS), later this year.

Formally, the 10-member ASEAN is the driving force which created the EAS over five years ago and hopes to pilot it into the future. The ASEAN has, almost unilaterally, invited the U.S. and Russia into the EAS. In doing so, ASEAN held no substantial consultations with China or Japan or India, all founding members of East Asia's premier forum, say sources in the EAS.

The point for debate here is not whether ASEAN consulted its long-time dialogue partners like Japan, China, and India to their satisfaction on this issue. What transpired is ASEAN's proactive decision to induct the U.S. into the EAS by keeping an eye on China's phenomenal growth trajectory. Irrelevant to this ASEAN decision is the debate about China's ability to stay its current economic course without getting buffeted by a new West Asian-style political storm at home.

In East Asia, far less known than China's calibrated competition with the U.S. is Washington's effort, which began some time ago, to size up India as a potential friend or ally. However, it is precisely this aspect of the changing U.S.-India equation that has now, even if belatedly, caught the attention of some East Asian leaders and opinion-makers. The turning point came during U.S. President Barack Obama's exhortations to India during his visit there towards the end of last year, where he asked it to "engage East Asia" instead of just having a "Look East" policy.

Forum in Singapore

Speaking at a policy forum in Singapore on February 10, the U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Geoffrey Pyatt, suggested that New Delhi "adopt a 'Be East' policy." The objective was to encourage India "expand [its] market and security integration across the Asian region." He was equally candid about the U.S. wanting to revolutionise its military relationship with India.

Acquiring unexplored meaning in such an evolving ambience is Mr. Pyatt's view that "one of the areas in which we see great potential for the U.S.-India international partnership is indeed in East Asia." Such a potential partnership in East Asia can be viewed as part of "the U.S. support for India's expanding global reach."

What is discernible is a simple, but profound, game-plan. The U.S. policy-planners are likely to explore the possibility of co-opting India on their side in the emerging new East Asia. Washington has already indicated its intention of playing a proactive security role in East Asia under the new canopy of a soon-to-be-expanded EAS.

Some old-timers among East Asian leaders and opinion-makers expect, or at least hope, that India will want to regain its once-famous penchant for "independence" in foreign policy. Such a view is more pronounced among those who do not want to see East Asia turn into a hotbed of China-U.S. confrontation.

Significantly, a Pentagon spokesman recently amplified Mr. Obama's latest intention of enlarging the U.S.' military footprint in East Asia. Mr. Obama had dropped hints of that after his talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the Korean issue in Washington in mid-January. The spokesman's version: "Over the long-term lay-down of our [U.S.] forces in the Pacific, we are looking at ways to even bolster that, not necessarily in [South] Korea and Japan [where America has its troops already] but along the Pacific Rim, particularly in Southeast Asia." Surely, therefore, India will need to watch its steps as it seeks to "expand [its] market and security integration across the Asian region." Such a goal, not really an imposition by Washington, is implicit in New Delhi's own willingness to stay as a member of the EAS as it expands later this year.

'About opportunities'

There is also a new move by U.S. Ambassador to Singapore David I. Adelman to mentor a business delegation that will visit India in mid-March under the auspices of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. U.S. businessmen from Hong Kong are also expected to join the team, which, in any case, may include American firms with an interest in India's civil nuclear energy field among other economic sectors.

To a suggestion that the zooming focus on political corruption and economic inequities in today's India might have already placed it in poor light, Mr. Adelman said: "You can take a snapshot at any point in time at any country and you can choose to focus on the challenges or the opportunities. And, this [planned business mission to India] is about the opportunities. … The long-term goal [of the mission] is [America's] relationship-building [with India]."

Relationship-building is indeed what Japan is also looking for in its latest moves towards India. In a reverse chronological order, they are: ( 1) the signing of the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement on February 16; ( 2) the specific identification of India, among a few other countries, for "enhanced security cooperation" under Japan's new "defence programme guidelines" which were unveiled on December 17 last year; ( 3) the agreement between the Prime Ministers of India and Japan, in October last year, to enhance relations across the board and to "collaborate" in the sensitive sector of rare earth minerals; ( 4) Tokyo's strategic action, in June last year, of starting talks with New Delhi for striking a bilateral civil nuclear deal; and ( 5) Japan's earlier decisions to participate in U.S.-India naval exercises.

India's "market and security integration" with some countries in East Asia, including the U.S. as a long-time "resident power" of the region, has really begun. Yet, the appeal of India as a benign power may be enhanced by unconventional activities like its prospective launch of Singapore's experimental space satellite.





After warning Aung San Suu Kyi and her party of meeting with 'tragic ends,' it now wants an apology from them.

The military rulers of Myanmar appear to be taking a harder line toward the pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party three months after her release from house arrest, focussing on the opposition's support for continued punitive sanctions against the government.

After warning earlier that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party could meet "tragic ends" if they continued to support economic and political sanctions, the government demanded over the weekend, through the State-controlled news media, that the party apologise for acting against what it said were the interests of the nation.

Soon after her release in November, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said she would consider supporting the relaxation of sanctions, which have become the focus of debate overseas since the end of her latest seven-year term of house arrest and the election of a nominally civilian government a week earlier.

The new government, which consists overwhelmingly of current or former members of the armed forces, is widely seen as a means to maintain nearly half a century of military control of Myanmar, the former Burma.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), issued a statement reconfirming its opposition to the lifting of sanctions and rebutting a widespread view that they harm the people of Myanmar more than the ruling generals.

"Recently there have been calls for the removal of sanctions," the statement said. "It can be asserted that these measures do not hurt the public at large."

It blamed "misguided government policies" for the country's hardships and said: "Targeted sanctions serve as a warning that acts contrary to basic norms of justice and human rights cannot be committed with impunity."

American sanctions ban most trade and investment in Myanmar by American companies. Canada, Australia and the European Union have imposed similar prohibitions.

Critics of sanctions also argue that their effectiveness is compromised by continued investment from China, India, Thailand, Singapore and other Asian nations.

Stongest statement

In its strongest statement about the democratic opposition since Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's release, the government said last week, "If Daw Suu Kyi and NLD keep going to the wrong way, ignoring the fact that today's Myanmar is marching to a new era, new system and new political platforms paving the way for democracy, they will meet their tragic ends."

The statement, in The New Light of Myanmar, a government newspaper, did not elaborate on the nature of the "tragic ends."

Last week, the United States called on Myanmar to ensure that no harm comes to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

"We remain concerned about Aung San Suu Kyi's safety," said a State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley.

Articles in the State-controlled news media demanded that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party "mend their ways, begging public pardon for the acts they have breached in their interests, at the expense of the nation and the people."

It insisted that Myanmar's democratic opposition, which often sets the tone for Western policies, was responsible for any hardships the sanctions cause.— © New York Times News Service







The abduction by Naxalites last week of Orissa's Malkangiri collector R. Vineel Kumar, along with junior engineer Pabitra Majhi, underlines the complexity of dealing effectively with the Maoist problem. There are some crucial lessons here too. Since the Naxalite issue affects about 60 districts across seven states, what we are witnessing in Orissa has wider implications.

The initial focus was on whether or not to engage in talks with the Maoists who demanded the release of arrested colleagues in return for the captured officials. It is just as well that the Orissa government chose to agree to such a swap. It has been a ready prescription for some years that there should be no negotiations with terrorists. It is thought that such a course of action is pusillanimous, that it emboldens terrorists, and that it is a relatively painless way of getting freed desperadoes captured with some difficulty. In India we have almost always chosen the path of dialogue, but the no-negotiations stance is especially strong among Western nations. The Rubaiya Sayeed case in Kashmir and the Kandahar hijack case highlight the unspoken Indian approach. Possibly what explains the Western view is that usually these countries deal with terrorists who are not their own citizens, and those abducted are usually ordinary individuals (not large groups) — often in non-Western locations (such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) — and not senior officials or their families. Should the worst happen and a hostage is killed by the kidnappers, the domestic political fallout is expected to be relatively small. A genuine test of the no-negotiations-with-terrorists approach is yet to come. Only if a senior official or a large group of their own nationals is taken captive home soil will we get a real idea of how firmly committed Western democracies are to the principle they espouse. Most hostage situations which have played out on Indian soil involve our own citizens — those captured as well as the outlaws — or, as in the Kandahar case, a very large group of our citizens are affected. This brings an altogether different perspective into play. It should also be kept in mind that if an official as senior as a district collector is allowed to be tortured or killed by outlawed bodies, the faith of the populace in the administration is likely to be badly shaken, not to mention that government officials would hesitate to serve in such areas. There is another consideration as well. Vile as the operating techniques of the Naxalites are, should they be deemed to be terrorists in the ordinary sense of the term? The answer is not easy or uncomplicated, for the stated aim of Naxal violence is succour for the poorest sections and this brings in a degree of sympathy for them among the intelligentsia. Another issue in the debate, of course, is that Naxalites are not external elements but our own citizens. The rules of engagement may have been different if their gangs included foreigners.
There are two key lessons in the Malkangiri affair. The collector seems to have been an extremely popular figure in the district on account of his concern for the poor and the steps he took to improve their condition. Even so, he was foolhardy to move about without security. Quite simply, that is inviting trouble in the Naxal belt. It is to be hoped that all state governments which face the Maoist problem have strict instructions for officials not to move about in the field without adequate precautions. Two, conspicuously pro-poor district officials leave a mark. This is why — before the negotiations began — poor villagers tried on their own to confront the Maoists to release Mr Kumar unharmed. The extension of this is that genuinely welfare-minded officials can help challenge the Maoist phenomenon through their actions.






The gloves are off in Europe. Lord Alexander Carlile, QC, was appointed by the British government to review the country's anti-terrorist legislation. The publication of his final report strongly states that Britain's long-standing efforts at "multiculturalism" in respect to immigrant communities does not seem to be working. In fact, it is turning Britain into a safe haven for terrorists, especially from immigrant communities, primarily because of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that made it difficult to deport people considered terrorist risks, and other decisions that curbed the application of British anti-terrorist laws.

Since 1960s, Britain has practised a policy of "enlightened liberalism". But Prime Minister David Cameron felt sufficiently alarmed by the growth of religiously radicalised militancy within the country to bite the bullet and move away from political correctness. He publicly expressed serious concerns about "segregated communities where Islamic extremism can thrive".

Speaking at a security conference in Germany on February 4, Mr Cameron referred to the "hands-off tolerance" in Britain and other European nations that had encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups "to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream". He said that the policy had allowed Islamic militants leeway to radicalise young Muslims, some of whom went on to "the next level" by becoming terrorists.
He went on to say that the multiculturalism policy — based on the principle of the right of all groups in Britain to live by their traditional values — had failed to promote a sense of common identity centered on values of human rights, democracy, social integration and equality before the law.

He urged European governments to practice "a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism", reverberating and amplifying what French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said elsewhere about the situation in their own countries.
Immigrant groups in Britain are dominated by Muslims, whose numbers have been estimated in some recent surveys at 2.5 million in Britain's population of 60 million. Britain's domestic intelligence service, MI5, has said that as many as 2,000 Muslims in Britain are involved in terrorist cells, and that it tracks dozens of potential terrorist plots at any one time, all with a very substantial Pakistan connection.

In Britain, organisations like al-Muhajiroun founded by the cleric Sheikh Muhammad Umar Bhakri openly proselytise and recruit second- or third-generation British Pakistanis. They motivate them to attend jihadi training camps in Pakistan and join the holy war in Afghanistan where some have fought against British troops.
Britain plans to tackle extremism by barring "preachers of hate" like Sheikh Bhakri or Abu Hamza al-Masri from visiting the country and not allowing them to speak in mosques and community centres. Often, neo-jihadi groups masquerade as social organisations and receive government funds. They divert the funds to develop platforms that are hostile to British perceptions of gender equality and other Western social values.
India needs to carefully assess the impact of Mr Cameron's speech. This can have inevitable side effects on the way the Hindu and Sikh diaspora in Britain is perceived by the British. Hindus and Sikhs are also from South Asia but are separate from their Pakistani counterparts. They are now trying to move out from the blanket of South Asian coverall by demanding specific classification as "British Hindus" or "British Sikhs".
Eastern Europe — with a turbulent history of indigenous Euro-Muslim populations in the Balkans and the North Caucasus undistinguishable from their non-Muslim compatriots — is experiencing its own ethnic turbulence. In the Balkans, the disintegration of Yugoslavia ignited religious conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo along historical Serb-Muslim faultlines that had been kept in check by the former Communist government.
In North Caucasus, two no-holds-barred wars in Chechnya against the Russian government have given rise to the Imarat Kavkaz or the Caucasus Emirate. It was proclaimed by rebel Chechen leader Doka Umarov in the troubled Stavropol region of Russia bordering the Caspian Sea in the southernmost republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia.

These five Russian republics are home to fundamentalist separatist insurgencies that carry out regular attacks against Russian security forces and government officials not only their "near presence" in the Caucasus, but also the "far enemy" in Moscow itself.

Europe has experienced a series of major terrorist attacks over the past decade. Attacks like the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the London Tube cum bus bombings of 2005, the Beslan School hostage crisis of 2004, have portrayed Russian security agencies in extremely poor light. The perpetrator of the January 2011 suicide attack at Moscow's Domededovo airport was a militant of the North Caucasus Nogai tribal Jamaat. He was allegedly trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In India, the country's earliest encounter with European militancy began with the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in December 1999. Sadly, the Indian authorities mishandled the situation and released Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and two other Pakistani terrorists. Sheikh was a British passport holder. That sequence was re-enacted in October 2009 when David Coleman Headley (aka Daud Gilani) was caught by the Chicago police as he was boarding a flight from the US to Pakistan. Headley — an American citizen of Pakistani-American parentage — was allegedly involved in the planning and management of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. It is alleged that he carried out five reconnaissance visits to Mumbai between 2006-2008, posing as an American businessman.

Back home, India on its part needs to congratulate itself, and count its blessings at the success of its own social integration post-1947 which has been hugely inclusive. We must thank the wisdom of the founding fathers who insisted on strong secular roots in an enormously multicultural society.

As a result, in spite of massive external provocations and sponsorship from Pakistan, global jihad has not been able to establish indigenous foundations in India. Neither Akshardham nor Malegaon can be tolerated in India. The watchword is eternal vigilance.

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




26/11: Seeking justice, not revenge

Sidharth Bhatia

During a television discussion soon after the announcement of the Ajmal Kasab verdict by the Bombay high court on Monday, my co-panelist, a survivor of those terrible hours on November 26, 2008, was asked: "Are you disappointed at the pace of the judgment?" The lady replied, in a firm voice: "No. We are a democracy and the due process of law must be followed".

This is a welcome change from all those who complain that the legal process in 26/11 terror attacks case has taken far too much time. Of course, the issue of time is debatable considering that two courts have pronounced judgments in just two-and-a-half years on what is still a very emotionally-charged issue. The son of the policeman who arrested Kasab but lost his own life has said that nothing short of hanging the terrorist in a public place will serve the cause of justice. But that would be vengeance, not justice. Killing Kasab summarily will not bring the dead back, only satisfy our desire for bloody revenge.

The fact of the matter is that slow or not, the courts have examined all the evidence put before them and given their considered view. Indeed, the two Indians, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, have once again been found not guilty as co-conspirators. The proof collected by the Mumbai police — mainly hand-drawn maps — has been found inadequate to nail them. So while the police and the prosecutor are congratulating themselves about having prepared a fool-proof case against Kasab, they need to relook at the evidence they have about the other two. The Maharashtra state government wants to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, but if no new evidence is unearthed, it promises to be a futile exercise once again.

Coming back to Kasab, two courts have firmly said that his crime was the "rarest of rare" and hence death sentence is justified. But the high court has gone a step further and accused him of seven murders specifically, including those of the three senior police officers — chief of the Anti-Terrorism Squad Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar. The high court judge pointed out that Kasab had been a willful participant in the training given by his masters in Pakistan and no doubt, as it being continually repeated on our TV screens, the terrorist's lack of remorse or regret must have weighed against him. As a highly trained operative, this lack of emotion can only be expected.
One more important milestone in the legal process has been achieved and Kasab can now appeal to the Supreme Court and then put up a mercy petition to the President. So it is quite likely that it will be a while before the death sentence, if it is upheld, is carried out.

But for the moment, in light of the high court's crucial judgment, an important question needs to be asked: Is this some sort of closure? Closure for the victims, for the survivors, for Indians as a whole? Can we just feel satisfied at the fact that our legal system delivers justice and let it go at that? The answer is, no.
In the aftermath of those terrible 60 hours when the attention of the world was on Mumbai, the people of the city rose as one and demanded answers. They took out processions to express their outrage and anger. Tall promises were made by the establishment. At least three top politicians — Shivraj Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh and R.R. Patil — lost their jobs. Assurances were given that not only would security systems be enhanced and toughened, but those responsible at all levels would be made accountable. An enquiry report was commissioned.
Two-and-a-half years on, what do we see? All three are back in office; Mr Deshmukh has gone from strength to strength while Mr R.R. Patil is sitting in Mantralaya. The report, which was not made public for a long time, turned out to be a dud, putting all the blame on the then police commissioner Hasan Ghafoor. Diplomatically we are still struggling with Pakistan to proceed against the masterminds of terror attacks. Why, even our best friend the United States was very reluctant to give us access to David Coleman Headley, who had done the original recce in Mumbai to prepare the dastardly plan. Had information on him been shared in advance, perhaps 26/11 could have been prevented. More details on this are available at
But why blame others when our own leaders have been lax? A bigger let down has been the lack of any comprehensive public enquiry into the whole episode. In the US, sustained pressure from families of the survivors of 9/11 attacks and citizens forced the government to establish a commission which called everyone before it, including sitting President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton. Over 1,000 witnesses were examined. Though the commission's report was criticised for being too soft on the Bush administration, at least there was a document that was presented to the public. At the very least, holding such a commission contributes to some kind of social catharsis at a time when the people are hurting.

The Kasab case will now move forward and take its own legal course. Other terrorist incidents in the state (Mumbai train bombings of 2006, German Bakery case in Pune) are still being investigated and the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Even the real brains behind 26/11 are out there somewhere. The citizen is within his rights to feel frustrated. Yet, the Kasab case shows that the system does work and that should give the citizen some hope, too.

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai






India Inc.has made significant progress in biotechnology in the last decade. This sector has the potential to have long-term impact in addressing many of the developmental challenges of the nation, be it in healthcare through innovative and affordable medicines, or in food, environment and energy security. In short, this sector can be a strategic lever that can help heal, feed, clean and fuel the nation.

The Indian biotechnology industry has shown steady growth over the last decade with average revenue growth figures greater than 20 per cent. Despite the global downturn in 2009 and slow recovery in 2010, revenues touched Rs. 15,000 crores as revealed by the industry survey conducted by the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE). The industry has set itself a target of Rs. 45,000 crores turnover by 2015 which would require it to grow at about 30 per cent year on year. This is an achievable target but will require perfect execution and a helping hand from both, the state and the Central government.

Biotechnology is a research-intensive sector. So, a number of items on this sector as well as pharma's wish list (as identified by PricewaterhouseCoopers) for Budget 2011-2012 have to do with tax incentives for research, starting with a request — to extend the sunset clause for claiming tax holidays for exports (Section 10B) by one year, to March 31, 2012. The other suggestions are:

l The provisions relating to weighted deduction of 200 per cent is available to companies engaged in business of manufacture or production. The same is not available to companies only engaged in undertaking contract research activities. In order to promote India as a research and development hub, extension of above incentives to contract R&D companies would be welcome. Further, benefits in the form of research tax credits, which can be used to offset future tax liability, similar to those given in developed economies, could also be considered. Also, considering the long gestation period to break even and R&D incentives offered globally, the rate of weighted deduction should be increased to 300 per cent.

l Exemption of 100 per cent profits of companies engaged in scientific research and development for a period of 10 consecutive assessment years should be extended to companies obtaining approval till March 2012. Currently, this benefit is available only to companies approved by prescribed authority before April 1, 2007.
l The current rate of Minimal Alternate Tax (i.e. 18 per cent MAT) is very high. It should be reduced, and all approved clinical research companies should be exempt from MAT to facilitate sustaining their cost advantage and, in turn, gaining higher share in the global research business.

l Clinical trials and all services directly or indirectly related to it should be exempt from service tax.

l Given the inherent regulatory gestation in this sector, the 100 per cent tax-free status for Biotech Special Economic Zones (SEZs) should be increased from five to 10 years.

l There is an urgent need for genuine "industry-ready" workforce in biotech. The biotech industry strongly recommends that the government invests in seeding "finishing schools in biotechnology" to impart industry-specific programmes, vocational training in quality control, using current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) technology in a pilot operating plant, and provide scholarships to encourage students to enroll in these programmes. The ongoing pilot experiment in Karnataka with finishing schools suggests that a fund of Rs. 100 crores may be required to have a national impact.

l The country faces a serious challenge of food security and the situation is not helped by the fact that growth in agricultural productivity is not high. Biotechnology interventions offer immense opportunities to meet this important challenge. In order to improve the quality and to meet current competitive demands, reform in agricultural education is necessary. We would request allocation of around Rs. 100 crores for educational reforms as well as general dissemination of the strengths and weaknesses of modern agri-biotechnology.
This year, as we celebrate the birth centenary of Homi J. Bhabha, his words at a Science Council in 1966 still ring true: "The problem of developing the underdeveloped countries is therefore the problem of... transforming their economy to one based on modern science and technology".

Vijay Chandru is the chairman-CEO, Strand Life Sciences and president of the Association of Biotech-Led Enterprises









From Watergate to Adarshgate — journalists the world over have been a thorn in the side of politicians. It's been so ever since newspapers started reporting scandals. In the media's relentless pursuit for truth, a politician's pejorative is only obvious. When Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ajit Pawar slammed the media, we in the media were quite pleased.


After all, it is an endorsement of our commitment to bring to our readers not what we think was correct or erroneous, but what they ought to know in order to come to a conclusion about their chosen representatives. In doing so, if barbs from the deputy chief minister or the Union minister for heavy industries come our way, we have no qualms taking them in our stride.


To be forthright, the media's power is frail, as former Philippines president, Corazon Aquino said. It strength comes from being backed by the people and from its independence. Otherwise, how many of the current scams plaguing the country would have come to the fore? The media does not pander to the politicians' will nor does it serve up news that all is hunky dory and god is seated happily in his heavenly abode. That is not what the people have entrusted the media to do. Its purpose is to let the people know what is going on in the country.


In that vein, the question for Ajit Pawar is simple: instead of advocating a ban on or caning of journalists, why don't you give us a state that is bereft of gross aberrations? Ajit Pawar is better off without his impertinent hauteur. Incidentally, Ajit's uncle, Sharad Pawar, also didn't give the media an easy time as agriculture minister. He had complained about the media's role, thereby missing the point. If the media is highlighting the plight of farmers, Pawar would have been better off alleviating their plight and thus depriving the media of an opportunity to report on their conditions.


If Sharad Pawar believes that the farmers' situation is a "trivial" issue, then clearly he needs to rethink his portfolio. Sharad Pawar has said it pays to be a "toughie" in politics, but one wishes he that he used his toughness to give people their due.


Deshmukh has complained that media persons merely fill their glasses in the evening. But, if I may say so, sir, we do so with our own money. We have neither a stake in Adarsh, nor have we anything to do with moneylenders in Vidarbha and farmers' suicides. And we are not so insensitive as to take a filmmaker on a tour of the Taj Mahal hotel when the city was still to recover from the 26/11 attacks.


The heart of the matter is that the media does not produce stories: it simply reports them. They may be facts, or stories from which facts may be deduced. Prime minister Manmohan Singh asked the media not to portray India as a scam-ridden country. We in the media would have many positive stories to report if our politicians didn't keep giving us scams or if they at least worked to stop them.







Kuch chahiye, Madam? The words woke me up. I immediately looked outside the window of the moving train to check which part of the world had I reached and found a little girl who was waiting anxiously for my answer.


She was holding on to two boxes of bindis.What passed my mind, I have no idea, but I bought two of them, maybe I wanted to thank the girl, who was not more than 6 years old, for waking me up.


The bindi girl hopped out at the next station to make business in some other train like the thousands of women who make a living out of selling wares in the Mumbai local trains everyday.


I am five-months-old in the city and to the surprise of all my friends and family, for whom crowded locals are the first thing they associate with Mumbai, I have pretty well managed to travel by them. (Luckily, I can afford to travel by first-class, which saves me from getting sandwiched between two strange women, who are nonetheless smiling at me.)


Steering back to my thoughts on the chalti-firti dukans (moving shops) whom I meet everyday, I have to tell you that in their trade they are as good as businesswomen in suits. The style and poise in which they manage their stuff in lids of cardboard boxes, stashed one on top of the other, is really impressive.


They have it all displayed for you — from safety pins to hairbands. They add colour to the otherwise drab compartments. There is something about the way in which they sell their stuff. It tempts you to take a look and you end up buying something. Why? Because you don't really get time to shop for these.


"You get all kinds of accessories with them," said one of my co-passengers, who was checking out a heap of plastic hair clips. I smiled in agreement.


For most of these women, this is their only source of income. Many are young mothers but they can't sit at home nursing their babies, so they tag their little ones along.


Jaya, with whom I had got a little friendly, does business everyday with her one-and-half-year-old girl tied by a cloth to her belly. "I make decent profit," she told me.


I continued feeding my curiosity bug. I gathered that they get their stuff from wholesale markets. "Dadar," Jaya told me.


But all's not happy and lucky in their story. There are people she needs to appease to go about with her business. "You have to give hafta to cops or else they will make life difficult for you."


Each day a new face comes to try their luck in this world of market. So, do they make profit despite hundreds of hands selling wares here, I asked Jaya.


"There is room for everyone, Madam," she said, smiling before getting down at Vile Parle. She lived there, she had told me.







The politician-bureaucrat-builder nexus in Maharashtra has achieved super-specialisation in the art of grabbing public lands. This thievery has advanced so much that it has become next to routine in Maharashtra. The gullible public realises only when a scam erupts in the news media. Since public memory is short, things are soon forgotten till the next scam erupts.


The latest show on the front pages is that of former Maharashtra chief minister Narayan Rane's restaurant and lounge bar at Andheri, ironically named 'The Jail'. On Thursday, the Bombay high court issued a notice to Rane (currently industries minister), and his wife Nilima on a petition alleging that the theme restaurant has been built on land meant for educational purposes. According to a public interest litigation (PIL), 1,500 square metres of land was handed over to the Sindhudurg Shikshan Prasarak Mandal trust headed by Nilima, at a nominal price, to construct a community centre.


Rane is also at the heart of another land scam in Pune relating to the transfer of a prime plot meant for the rehabilitation of mentally-ill patients.


As urbanisation intensifies, nothing - not even the 1.5 tonnes of gold embezzled by former Tunisian president Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali's family — becomes more precious than prime plots of land. By that standard, Maharashtra's top politicians are more cunning than Ben Ali. They don't steal your gold, instead, they trick you by stealing prime public lands meant for schools, playgrounds, hospitals and other civic amenities.


The most common modus operandi is to de-reserve a plot in the city's development plan meant for, say, a civic school and open it for residential or commercial construction. It was such a ploy that cost Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi 'sir' his chief ministership in the famous Sun Dew Apartments case in Pune.


Gifting prime lands on long leases to public trusts controlled by politicians or their relatives, entering into questionable public-private partnerships (PPPs) and getting a builder to "re-develop" a government property in return for a large portion of that property, are some of the other devices designed by our politicians and bureaucrats to make tonnes of money out of public lands. In this context, DB Realty's PPPs relating to public lands in Mumbai and Pune need to be probed.


As exposed by DNA, corrupt elements in trusts controlling large tracts of church lands have parted with prime properties in Mumbai, Pune and Sangli-Miraj for a pittance. The Christian community has been cheated of its wealth by builders, politicians, corrupt trustees and bureaucrats.


At least five former chief ministers of Maharashtra have the ugly blot of land controversies on their reputation. Besides Rane, Joshi, Vilasrao Deshmukh and 'Adarsh' Ashok Chavan, even Sharad Pawar has been at pains to explain his noble intentions behind his involvement in Lavasa — India's biggest lake city project. One of the PILs questions the Maharashtra government's act of giving a stretch of the Mose river to Lavasa. Water is a more precious resource than land and what could be better than owning a portion of a river itself?


Land grab by politicians is endemic in Maharashtra. Nothing less than a crusade is needed to expose the scam after scam. The thinking public must join journalists, Right to Information activists, NGOs and others engaged in exposing and preventing such frauds on the nation.








How far could Maulana Fazlur-Rahman, the chief of Pakistani Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e Islam bridge the differences that have dogged Deoband ulema on the episode of Vice Chancellor Vastanavi's controversial remarks about Narendra Modi and his government is an open question for the time being? Vastanavi was quoted lauding Modi and Gujarat's progress and asserting that Muslims faced no discrimination in Gujarat. Vastanavi also exhorted Muslims to move forward from the 2002 post-Godhra riots. A staunch Deobandi, Maulana Fazlur-Rahman had apparently come to the country to resolve the deadlock that has gripped Deoband clerics over this controversial statement. Hardliners among Deoband clerics were angry. Such political elements outside the fold of Islam as had jumped to draw political mileage from the statement, hastened to fuel the controversy and further exacerbate anti-Modi campaign. They subjected Vastanavi to censure. Having old association with Deoband, and being a staunch Deobandi ideologue, Maulana Fazlur-Rahman took upon himself the task of bringing rapprochement among the warring clerics at Deoband. What exactly transpired between him and his counterparts at Deoband and elsewhere in the country may never be disclosed. But in a short press statement after a feast hosted in his honour by Mahmud Madni, Rajya Sabha MP, Fazlur Rahman made a couple of short but significant remarks. Contrary to the usual anti-India tantrum of Pakistani religious extremists and politicians, the Maulana favoured better relations between the two neighbours, India and Pakistan. He did not talk of obsessions like jihad against the infidel or raising Islamic flag atop the Red Fort of Delhi etc. as is the wont of Maulanas like Hafiz Saeed and et al. Is it because he has inherited certain traits from his late father Mufti Mahmud who had opposed the creation of Pakistan? Or is it his wider vision of positive and creative interaction between the people of the sub-continent? Another remark of the Maulana, whom the Americans call more a politician than a Maulana, was that India and Pakistan should keep USA out of Kashmir dialogue. The Maulana may be a religious leader of consequence but he is very much in the political mainstream of Pakistan. As such, his statement about Kashmir dispute stands diametrically opposite to the thinking of some ruling circles in Pakistan and definitely all separatist and secessionist chapters in Kashmir. Therefore his statement might have become the source of disappointment for Kashmir separatist leadership who have been looking to the Americans as their Messiah. Again the Maulana denounced terrorist attacks on innocent civilians wherever these happened. This also shows his independent thinking about the scenario of terror and destruction now taking as much toll of human life and property in Pakistan as in some other countries where they are active. Strangely, Kashmir separatists and secessionists, including their sympathizers among political parties and groups, never summon courage to ask the militants to bid farewell to arms and return to their fold as responsible members of civil society. All that their political sympathizers tell the militants is that they are there to apply ointment on their wounds. The Maulana made one more significant remark. He said that there could be no normalcy in Pakistan and Afghanistan unless the American left the country. But he made no mention of how terrorist groups and leaders who had vowed to attack the US now hiding in Af-Pak region could be uprooted? Obviously, he cannot say something that would not go well with TTP or the Afghan Taliban. If his word is to be taken seriously then it indicates a big gap between the civil society of Pakistan and the ruling apparatus of the country. The Americans are there in Pakistan because Pakistan decided to be on the side of the US in her war on terror. It was Pakistan's own choosing when Musharraf was the military President of that country. Deep differences between the Pakistan army and the civilian government are known to all and sundry. While both Zardari and Kiyani are vying with each other to win favour with the American's, it is the TTP and its affiliates that are confronting both as well as the Americans. It is a war not of ideals and ideologies but of supremacy and up-man-ship. In this triangular contest, Maulana Fazlur Rahman is, at the best, only partially moderate. India does take his moderation into account and allows him visa and freedom of movement in India. His meeting with the Prime Minister along with his entourage of Maulanas and VIPs from Pakistan shows that India has an image of him. If he has come to put an end to the deadlock at Deoband, it helps India in stabilizing her domestic policy of peace and amity.







Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry is back in Washington after his hurried visit to Pakistan. He had made the visit on the behest of President Obama to find a solution to the issue of Reymond Davis, an American national who had shot at and killed two bike-riding Pakistani nationals. Relations between the two countries took a sudden downslide with the US demanding Davis' release from Pakistani jail and Pakistan insisting that Davis was not a member of American diplomatic corps and could not be helped with immunity under Vienna Convention. As days went by, revelations one after another come to light in this case, which make it very complex and bizarre. Pakistani authorities are confident that Davis had some important mission assigned to him and his movements on the day of incident were not normal. In the beginning Washington threatened to stop aid to Pakistan and then hardened its stance indicating that it would review even military assistance too. Under pressure, President Zardari announced reshuffling of his Cabinet and made a significant change of dropping the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud because he had been opposing the release of Davis. But when the skeletons began to fall out of the cupboard, Washington toned down its temper and now Kerry was on his visit to Pakistan. Much did he try to tell his audience that the release of Davis was not the only matter that had brought him to Pakistan? He claimed America had many bigger things to talk to Pakistan than the small matter of Davis. But Pak watchers did not miss the fact that instead going to Islamabad, Kerry landed in Lahore where the Davis incident had happened and where the tempers were running high. Grapevine has that the assailant and the victims all were working for some secret mission but had fallen out for reasons not known. Reymond Davis held a tourist visa but the car in which he traveled carried sophisticated arms and a telescope. This is one of those bizarre stories with which the adventures of romantic espionage of ISI-CIA combine was replete during the anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan.








Almost a year after the enforcement of the Act, the State Governments and school managements of both the Government and private schools are still groping for ways to implement the provisions of the Act.
Education Departments are encountering hurdles and facing protests from various corners even as most States are yet to notify rules for the RTE on the lines of model rules circulated by the Centre. The resultant confusion has percolated down to schools for want of clear directions and guidelines from State Governments.
Then there is the issue of funding. Many states are demanding 90 per cent funding under the Act which the Centre has obviously declined. Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) which is the nodal agency for implementing the Act, the Centre-State allocation is in the ratio of 55:45.


In many States, teachers' unions are protesting against the move to increase school hours for teachers by one hour for the primary classes and one-and-a-half hours for upper primary classes as mandated by the Act. Most government schools are yet to set up school management committees required by the Act. The shortfall of teachers in Government schools has so far failed to establish the ideal teacher-pupil ratio (1:30) in primary schools though the Act required government to ensure it within six months of the date of its enforcement.
The Ministry of Human Resources Development has been besieged with a plethora of communications from the states and private school managements seeking clarifications on various provisions of the Act.
The loudest protests, predictably, have come from the managements of private schools who are resentful of the provision requiring reservation of 25 per cent seats for economically weaker section (EWS) children in their schools. They are also uncomfortable with the admission norm of not subjecting children and parents to testing and interview.


Apprehending a dilution of the 'elitist' tag that many of the private schools proudly exhibit, their managements are also exercised over the fact they would henceforth be legally barred from taking hefty capitation fees. They are also demanding clarity on the compensation mechanism for admitting 25 per cent EWS quota students in their schools.

Even as the Centre issued fresh guidelines in November last year reiterating that the stipulated reservation and admission norms are mandatory under the Act, many private schools went ahead and completed admission process for the current session. The HRD ministry says it cannot force these schools now to increase seats or compel them for reservation if admissions have already been completed.


Clearly on the back foot after years of virtual autonomy in charging hefty fees and making huge profits, the private school managements are seeking to turn the argument against government-run schools to deflect the arc lights focused on them.

Their over-arching argument is why they are being targeted to fall in line with the Act when a majority Government schools across the country lack basic infrastructure and face heavy shortfall of teaching staff. They contend the Government should concentrate first on improving the lot of its own schools before asking the private institutions to do so.

Another argument advanced by the private school managements is for the government to follow the recognition criteria under the Act for its own schools too which obviously fall short of the norms and standards laid down by the Act. Some of these have to do with the infrastructure, teacher-pupil ratio and qualification of teachers.
It is true that the government needs to address several issues before the RTE Act becomes fully operational at the grassroots level. The fact remains that more than six decades after Independence and despite several well-meaning legislations and education policies, the country's public education system has remained deficient in imparting universal and quality education.
The renewed focus under the RTE on the primary and upper primary education is in a way validation of this fact. The Act provides for free and compulsory education to children aged 6-14 years and mainstreaming all out-of-school kids into the school system - the latter being the biggest focus of the new legislation.
The SSA last year estimated about 28 lakh children in this age group who are still out of school. However, the experts feel the actual numbers could be much higher than that.
Of the nearly 13 crore students who enroll in classes I to V, only about 5.3 crore remain on rolls at the upper primary level (classes VI to VIII) - an indicator of huge drop-out rate- says a study by the District Information System for Education that tracks and compiles data on Government schools.
In its latest report (2008-09) the DISE data points out that nearly 33 per cent of the over 10 lakh Government schools in the country are only two-teacher schools with another 11.55 per cent being one-teacher schools. Only 27.97 per cent have access to electricity, 47 per cent have playgrounds and only 8.86 per cent of the schools have computers.

About 65 per cent have toilets and only 48 per cent have separate toilets for girl students.
Another survey points to the fact that 50 per cent government schools are without head masters and 20 per cent function without teachers due to absenteeism and two per cent had no teachers at all.
It is obvious the government schools have to catch up fast to come to the lofty standards desired by the RTE Act. (INAV)








Floriculture has become one of the important high value agricultural industries, in many countries of the world. Due to globalization and its effect on income enhancement in different regions of the world, a growing per capita consumption of floricultural products is witnessed in most of the countries.
Floriculture is increasingly regarded as a viable diversification from traditional field crops due to increased per unit returns and increasing habit of "saying it with flowers" during all occasions. All over the world, the floricultural sector is experiencing rapid changes. Opening up to the world market in the WTO regime paving way to free movement of floricultural products world wide, globalization and its effect on income generation have all contributed to increase in per capita consumption of flowers in most countries. A noticeable feature of global floriculture is the development and expansion of floriculture in non traditional areas. Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Japan had strong tradition for growing and consumption of flowers. The concept of commercial floriculture was perpetuated across the world from those regions. Now production centers are developing in Latin America, Africa and also in Asia to meet the demand of consuming countries and also to expand domestic market, commensuration with improved economic conditions. These countries provide highly place in markets of Western Europe, America and Japan. Emergence of new production centers has made floriculture more competitive and this in turn is benefiting the ultimate consumers.
The flower industry comprises the cultivation of and trade in cut flower, cut foliage, potted plants and bedding plants. The main representatives of cut flowers are Gladiolus, rose, chrysanthemum carination and lily. Potted plants and cut flowers have an almost 80% share of world trade in ornamental plant products. World cut flower markets are growing at an approximate rate 6-9% per year. In international terms, the consumption of cut flowers is concentrated in three regions Western Europe, North America and Japan. The highest growth is expected in Japan and USA. Consumption is rising not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries with rise in expendable income and a flower minded culture. At present, USA with about one third of consumption has the largest share of total world consumption, followed by Germany (about 20%), Italy and France.
Recent trends
Consumers are becoming more aware of what they want to buy. They are becoming professional buyers. They tend to ask for higher choices in product quality level depending on product of purchase, as well as for higher level of service and a wider and deeper assortment. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASFGC) established in 1988 is a body that addresses production and marketing needs of speciality cut flower growers. Importance of protected cultivation is also increasing. The trend has shifted from seasonal to year round production. The aim is to make available flowers from seasonal to year production. The aim is to make available flowers when they are most wanted. (Like Valentines Day, Mother's Day).
Demand for floricultural products is expected to touch 160-240 billion from the present 60 billion US$. Due to stringent environmental regulations, increased energy costs, ever increasing wages, shrinking agricultural lands, worsening climates during winter, the floriculturally developed nations would not be in a position to expand their production and hence the demand has to be met from developing nations. India holds a fair chance in such a scenario. Due to rich diversity in agro climatic conditions, we have the distinction of producing an array of floricultural crops tropical and temperate.
Area and production of floricultural crops have increased from 31,000 ha with 1.48 tonnes of loose flowers and 6806 lakh number of cut flower / spikes during nineties. Karnataka ranks first in area (22%) followed by Tamil Nadu (20%) Andhra Pradesh (20%), West Bengal (15%) and Maharashtra (7.0%). These five states together account for about 87% of the area under flowers and can be called the "flower growing belt" of the country. And Jammu and Kashmir floriculture industry can also play a significant role. Export of Horticulture products has increased from a mere Rs. 150 million in 1991-92 to Rs. 1650 million in 2002-03. Domestic flower trade was about Rs. 5000 million which is indicative of the relative significance of traditional flowers for the Indian economy, despite the growing market for modern flowers.
The demand for flowers can be categorized based on taste and preferences of consumers namely
a)Those used for adornment, garlands and bouquets. The flowers used are Jasmine, tuberose, chrysanthemum, crossandra and rose.
b)Those used for the house decorations, ceremonies, local get-togethers and parties. The long stalked flowers like dahlia, roses, orchids, asters and gladiolus are used.
c)Those needed by the perfumery industry to process the flowers to extract essential oils. These include flowers like jasmine, champaka and roses; India is the largest exporter of jasmine oil, used in perfumeries.
The major traditional flowers traded in the market are rose, crossandra, marigold, jasmine, chrysanthemum, aster and tube rose.
Marketing channels and price spread in traditional flowers
The main marketing channels by which the traditional flowers move from point pf production to the ultimate consumers are as under
A producer ' whole saler cum- commission agent ' retailer ' consumers and B Prevested contractors ' whole saler ' retailer ' consumers
Flowers being perishable and number of intermediaries involved being more with limited scope for direct marketing, the producers receive relatively less share in consumer rupee. Traditional flower market is faced with a number of setbacks like dominance of commission of agents (forced sales) and unchecked activities of pre harvest contractors, risk in terms of price fluctuations associated with high commission of agents, high transportation costs, lack of organized market ensuring, competitive trading practices, absence of processing facilities to convert to other forms, and lack of Government support as given to export oriented cut flower industry. Further demand for traditional flowers is limited to domestic consumers with virtually no scope for report. The export rejects of commercially cultivated hi-tech flowers often domestic demand for traditional flowers is quite strong since they are part of our culture. There is need to streamline the trading practices by stabling specialized flower markets managed by professionals.





370 is not beyond amending…

By dr. R.l. Bhat

A view point


Constitution of India is not a petrified letter of law but a dynamic document. It is not sovereign. Sovereignty, in the Democratic Republic of India, rests with the people of India. The Constitution is an expression of the sovereign will of the people. Its legitimacy is its being a true reflection of the peoples' will, which itself cannot but be dynamic because it is a living people out there. The needs, demands and aspirations, as well as the ideations of people keep changing. And so should - and does - the Constitution. Unlike the British Constitution, Constitution of India is not grant of a sovereign ruler. Unlike the constitution of American federation it is not a negotiated document whose amendment is so difficult that it is virtually never attempted. Constitution of India is a flexible document, all of which can be amended. Accordingly, procedures for amendment of the constitution of India have been elaborated, in the Constitution itself.

As it is, the Constitution does not label any part, article or proviso contained in it as a permanent or unalterable feature. Here Parliament, being the continuation of Constituent Assembly has all the powers. Amendment-wise the provisos of Constitution can be classed into three categories, as article 368 details. Some articles are/can be amended by a simple majority, others by a two-thirds majority and the third category by a two thirds majority of the parliament supported by concurrence of the half of the state Assemblies. Whole of the Constitution, all its 394 article, can thus be amended in accordance with the procedure laid down for the purpose. Of course, amendment includes repeal. Supreme Court has set apart certain parts of Constitution as the basic frame work. The prevailing judicial opinion is that Parliament cannot change the basic framework of the Constitution of India. it must, however, be noted that the concept of basic framework is only a matter of judicial interpretation and not a feature of the Constitution of India.

While there is little indication of this judicial view changing in the present circumstance, this view and the interpretation itself may be reversed any day, any time. In any case, Article 370 is not a part of this basic framework. It, as is well known, is only a Temporary and Transient proviso, which shall exist on the statute book only so long as desired and can be amended whenever needed. It is naïve to hold that the article is beyond amending. As it is, the article itself says: 'the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify'. However, the article carries a stipulation that the President may not effect any such change without the state agreeing to it. This stipulation is not found in the other provisos under this part XIX and gives the article 370 a guarantee of continuance so long as the people want it to be there. Thus while the Article 370 is well within the amending power of the parliament, the general opinion is that the article shall not normally be amended without the concurrence of the state.


But that is no way is the end of the story. Actually the stipulation carried in the article can be seen as a procedure for amending the article. It is something of a mini-368 within the article. It does not rule out amendment of article 370 but lays down the procedure for its amendment. This is a reflection of the dynamism, which characterizes the Constitution of India. The provisos of the Constitution continue because the people want them to be there. When people want any, many or certain provisos to be amended/repealed they shall be modified accordingly as per article 368. As per the same spirit and scheme Article 370 shall continue so long as the people want it to be there and shall be, can be, has to be amended when the people so desire. That way the call for an amendment of Article 370 is in no way unconstitutional. Nor, can it be called frivolous by any yardstick. It is perfectly legitimate to call for amendment of the article just as it is quite legitimate to call for its continuance. Since, both cancellation and continuance of the Article 370 in the Constitution of India rest with the sovereigns i.e. the people, the procedure for both is a public call, a public demand, a public opinion which as per the norms of democracy shall be the stand of the legislature too.

As it is the Article 370 is already upon the statute book. It is in implementation for the past 60 years. The people may desire it to remain there. Alternatively, the people can ask for an assessment of its operation, whether it has helped; whether it has promoted public good or thwarted it. Indian democracy, unlike many other polities around, is not for the benefit of the ruling clans but the general public. Everything here has to be seen from the perspective of the people in general and not select bands. Debate and discussion, public awareness and mobilization of the opinion are not a sinister activity. It is not inimical to the constitutional creed but reflection of its spirit and scheme. It is an indication of the health of the democratic spirit. Suppose, tomorrow the people of J&K want the President of Union to alter the Article 370. How would that be done save by a public debate and discussion. On the obverse, the hush-hush attitude, the shroud of sacredity sought to be thrown over the Article 370 is a negation of the democratic operation. That would be a sure sign that a dynamic Constitution is being petrified, against which every voice of freedom cannot but rise to speak.










It is heartening that the deadlock between the UPA and much of the Opposition on the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam is on the verge of getting resolved with the government expected to make a statement in Parliament tomorrow to announce its formation. The government as well as the Opposition must share the blame for the avoidable imbroglio that led to an entire session of Parliament being lost. Had both sides shown the spirit of accommodation that they have now displayed, crucial legislation would not have had to wait for months and the prestige of Parliament would not have suffered the erosion that it did.


While the Congress was persistent in refusing to set up the JPC, claiming that the Public Accounts Committee that is currently examining the issue would be adequate to get to the root of the scam, the BJP was steadfast in its demand that the JPC must cover not only 2G but also the Commonwealth Games scam and the Adarsh Housing Society irregularities in upscale Mumbai. Apparently now, while the government has agreed to the setting up of the JPC on 2G, the BJP-led Opposition is reconciled to the other two scams being left out of the JPC's purview. The embattled Suresh Kalmadi, who was recently sacked as chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, has made a forceful plea for a JPC into the CWG scam but that is unlikely to make headway.


It is to be hoped that the issue of chairmanship of the proposed JPC would be resolved amicably as would the contentious question of which parties and in what strength are represented in the JPC. Intense jockeying is already on to secure berths in the coveted body and it would be sad if this becomes another divisive bone of contention. The onus will be on the members of the JPC to push the proceedings at a fair pace so that responsibility for the infamous 2G scam can be fixed speedily and effectively. The budget session of Parliament has important business to transact and it would be in the fitness of things if the session is allowed to run smoothly.









The Bombay High Court's confirmation of the trial court judgement awarding death sentence to 24-year-old Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab — the only Pakistani terrorist caught alive during the audacious 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that claimed 166 lives — was not entirely unexpected. Given the nature and extent of the horrendous crime, nothing short of death penalty would meet the ends of justice. A Bench consisting of Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice R.V. More has ruled that Kasab was directly responsible for seven deaths during 26/11, among whom were three senior policemen who died in the line of duty — Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar. It said Kasab has a "scheming mind" and wanted to "destabilise India". Having rejected his lawyer's argument that the death sentence should not apply because of his age, the judges said, "the diabolical and brutal nature of the crime overrides the age factor". They also said that there was no scope for reform or rehabilitation of Kasab.


It goes to the credit of the Indian judiciary that though the trial court and the High Court have disposed of the Kasab case in record time, there is no forward movement of the case in Pakistan. However, Kasab has a long way to go. After he appeals against the ruling in the Supreme Court, it will once again look at all the aspects of previous judgements, evidence, developments and arguments, and then give its final verdict. If the apex court concurs with the High Court, he can file a mercy petition before the President. Unless the Union Government decides to handle his case on priority, a decision on his mercy petition may get delayed because as many as 29 such cases are now pending before the President. Incidentally, the convict in the Parliament attack case, Mohammed Afzal Guru, is number 22 in the list of those on death row. Moreover, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said that each petition for clemency will be decided on the basis of the number in the list of such petitioner.


Significantly, the High Court's dismissal of the petition against the trial court's acquittal of two Indians — Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed — accused of aiding the commission of crime is a setback for the Maharashtra government. Both were charged with drawing maps of targets and giving them to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba. The High Court said that there was no corroboration of evidence to prove their involvement in the 26/11 terror attacks.









Hundreds of people gathering to hold demonstrations in Beijing and Shanghai on Sunday, demanding reforms for democracy in China, was not a surprising development. This was expected anytime after the successful Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia led to the ouster of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and jeopardised the survival of many other dictatorships in West Asia. The protests in China were held after a message was circulated by a US-based website that the time had come to launch an Egypt-style drive to force the communist rulers to introduce democracy in that country. In this Internet age every dictator in the world must be feeling uneasy with the pro-democracy agitations in West Asia becoming stronger with everyday passing.


This is for the first time after the Tiananmen Square happenings over two decades ago that people could muster courage to express their resentment against one-party rule in China. They obviously must have expected harsh treatment at the hands of the communist rulers. Yet they decided to express their urge for democracy conveys a lot. The people's yearning for democracy perhaps got stronger after the jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobao was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace despite Beijing's protest against the Nobel Prize Committee. Liu, it seems, has emerged as the main source of inspiration for the seekers of democracy in China.


Economic gains and democratic freedoms are two different things. Whatever economic advantages people have cannot suppress their desire for democracy. This has been proved at least in China. There has been a tremendous change in the lifestyle of the Chinese during the past few years with China's admirable economic advancement. But this does not mean that communist dictatorship will go unchallenged forever. In fact, once people become economically better off, they are bound to aspire for democratic freedoms more strongly. If more autocratic regimes fall in West Asia, a more powerful ripple effect can be felt in China. The protests in China may not bring about the desired result so easily, but those who came out into the streets in Beijing and Shanghai have sent out a clear message: the communist regime is getting weakened from within.

















A sign of the times. The golden jubilee retreat of the 1960 batch of the Indian Administrative Service in Mussourie last September chose to reflect on this question. An understandable angst, tinged with anguish, permeates the scene with increasing numbers of higher civil servants, including the high-visibility members of the IAS, having been indicted or are being investigated for corruption. Errors in decisions taken in good faith are excusable. After all, officers on the spot have to decide quickly, especially in dealing with law and order situations, when intelligence might be patchy.


But such decisions can be differentiated from discretionary powers being exercised to favour individuals, settle contracts arbitrarily, and skim off kickbacks from dubious deals. All such decisions must be adjudged on the touchstone whether they resulted in private gain, which could take several forms. It can also be like posting to a "good" (read lucrative) job. But a third category of corruption is not being adequately recognised, which is permitting favoured persons in the hierarchy to enrich themselves, which includes politicians, colleagues and even influential subordinates.


A common excuse heard in the civil services is that they are poorly paid. Invidious comparisons are made with the emoluments and perquisites available in the private sector, which might far exceed what even the seniormost civil servants can get. But the salary and privileges of the higher civil services were always known to these malcontents. Why, then, did they take the stiff competitive examinations to enter the civil service?


In truth, the various Pay Commissions have been generous, and the salary package of the higher civil services, inclusive allowances and perquisites, is quite comparable to what obtains elsewhere in the Indian economy. Naturally, there is no end to greed. Cases of civil servants amassing huge wealth have come to light — the IAS couple in Bhopal currently being investigated has been found to be in possession of over Rs 300 crore. It is hard to even imagine such amounts and wonder how it could be spent in one life-time.


Civil servants are wont to pass on the blame to the political executive when cases of corruption come to light by taking refuge in the age-old alibi that they were only obeying orders. Ministers seek to avoid censure by saying that they took decisions on the file expecting that their civil servants had properly examined the issues involved. The grey area here is that the civil servant might have been persuaded or suborned or coerced to submit the file after suppressing or distorting facts to enable the minister to sign on to a particular decision. However, improper orders are rarely, if ever, given in writing, but issued orally. Whether oral orders should be acted upon without getting them confirmed in writing is one issue. Whether oral orders were given at all can become another issue, since the situation resolves itself into pitting the word of the minister against that of the civil servant. The limited point being made here is that the civil services and the political executive are equally to be indicted for the widespread corruption coming to light.


The civil service tradition, inherited from the British, envisages that policy decisions are the privilege of the minister while execution lies in the domain of the civil services. It is worth recalling that Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned as Railway Minister when a major accident occurred, owning moral responsibility for the loss of lives. That would sound like a fairy tale in these cynical times. But another incident involving Babu Jagjivan Ram is relevant here. He was asked at a luncheon meeting why civil servants were ruling the roost and the political executive seemed unable to control them. Picking up the knife next to his plate, Babuji held it up and said, "This knife can be used as a weapon, but also used to cut vegetables. The power and responsibility lies in the hands of the person wielding the knife."


His message was clear. The political executive can mould the civil services as it wishes. They can be used to good purpose like undertaking development work, providing good governance, maintaining law and order and so on. But they can also be turned into agents to collect funds for political parties as well as to line private pockets. Suggestions to remedy this egregious situation are galore. It is believed that the recruitment method is flawed and that the training programme after induction need restructuring. This perception is plausible since many of those investigated for corruption recently are young, with less than a decade in service.


There is nothing wrong with the method of recruitment, which still gets the best available talent; although it is felt that the proportion of marks for the interview in comparison to the marks for the written papers needs review. Arguably, too much weight is being given to academics, but too little to personality traits and co-curricular activities. A more serious criticism is that the average age of the recruit to the civil services has now become 28 years. Many have done one or more jobs before joining the civil services. Several are married, and have children; they are unable, therefore, to undergo the gruelling training schedules in the training academy and the field, to equip them for the challenges of the civil services. Some even have lifestyle-related health issues.


The more serious issue is: how and why do tainted officers rise meteorically in the civil services to adorn highest levels? It might be recollected that officers identified as the most corrupt in Uttar Pradesh were selected to become Chief Secretaries. Did their annual confidential reports not reflect their dubious integrity, which has to be compulsorily commented upon? Has the lack of integrity, indeed, become a qualification?


The canker of corruption in the higher civil services is known. Its dimensions and contours are known. Then what is the bottleneck in resolving this problem? Is it that the neck of the bottle is always at the top!








As we T-ed off on the frost-bitten, weed-infected fairways of the Panchkula golf course on the frosty and windy morning, my golf-mate unburdened himself of a load on his conscience. He had attended the tehsildar's court for getting the sale deed of his flat registered. All the formalities had been completed during the day, but it was only towards closing time that the tehsildar showed up and put his signatures on the deed, but not before my friend had put 1 per cent of sale money on the table in thanksgiving. That's right, nothing hush-hush about it. He did it openly, in broad daylight! The only consolation was that there were 20 people more in the queue ready to lighten their purse. No wonder, 'Mera Bharat Mahan' ranks very high on the corruption index of the world.


Opening the newspaper, I saw the banner headline, 'Lt-General gets 3-yr RI in ration scam'. Lt-General SK Sahni had scored a first in the history of the Indian Army to be 'cashiered' (read dismissed) from service for the illegal cash he had stashed away as Director-General of Supplies and Transport and given a three-year rigorous imprisonment.


Some time back there was the news that Neera Yadav, a former Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, had been sentenced to four years' imprisonment. I saw her photograph in The Tribune, gaudily flaunting a purple suit, reminiscent of royalty, being escorted to jail. She had also scored a first; she is the first Chief Secretary of a state in India, who has been jailed. What a shame! What a fall, my countrymen! The IAS had considered itself the top service of the country and in them we, the Chief Secretaries, were the cat's whiskers – crème de la crème – like the descendants of the Vedic Rishis among Brahmins or the Suryavanshi among Indian rulers. All that glory has been shattered, alas!


Indeed, it was her ambition to join the select coterie of Chief Secretaries that proved to be Neera's undoing. Her misdeeds finally caught up with her and will now haunt her in the silence of dark prison cells. Maybe if she had not come in the limelight her past sins would have been forgotten. Much like the beleaguered Chief Vigilance Commissioner Thomas, who, if he was less ambitious, should have taken a quiet retirement and then latched on to one of the post-retirement jobs that abound in New Delhi. How ironical that she belongs to Lord Krishna's hallowed tribe! How contrary is her conduct to His sermon on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to develop a robust disregard for the fruits of action! She, on the other hand, went allout plucking the luscious fruits on the fecund fields of NOIDA!


It makes me reflect on how different the Chief Secretaries of yesteryears were. One of them, in joint Punjab days, on demitting office wrote to his successor Chief Secretary that he might have willy-nilly used government machinery for personal ends, like the car, the telephone, the peons or the stationary and deposited a certain sum in the treasury in lieu thereof. I had personal experience of working under the late Saroop Krishen, who was the first Chief Secretary of Haryana. I was posted as Director, Public Relations, then. He held the charge of Secretary, Public Relations Department, and I was directly reporting to him. I had to go to Delhi on official tour quite frequently. On one such occasion, he asked me to give a lift in my official car to a lady who was his relation. When I returned, he handed me a certain sum, equivalent to first class train fare to Delhi, and asked me to deposit it in the treasury.


What times! What mores! What Chief Secretaries we had!









Through the unceremonious route of the Mirchpur incident of violence against Dalits and its aftermath, Haryana has again displayed its internal dilemma about the disruptive working of khaps and caste panchayats. At present, the challenge of identifying and practicing an all-Haryana model of development as well as traditions and values that can sustain its internal social cohesion has become imperative.


The protest of a section of society against arrests in Mirchpur violence, claiming to be led by the Sarvjatiya Sarvkhap Mahapanchayat, aiming at and indulging in mobilisation of caste-jat only, has bluntly exposed the internal fluidity of Haryana society. However, to the state government's relief, a laboured faith in the judicial process and law of the land has been earned. But it would be imprudent to ignore the larger repercussions of the aggressive and collective defense of alleged culprits of Mirchpur happening by khap panchayats.


The self-righteous posture of khap panchayats is no less alarming than the Mirchpur incident itself that stirred Haryana and Indian politics in April last year. This situation carries an urgency to locate the problematic evolution of the collective mind of Haryana. Along with the dynamics of progress in terms of economy, a proper decoding of the growing characterisation of the ruling elite within the identity of caste-jat is also needed. Another issue to be addressed is how the hitherto projected generous and inclusive social behaviour of the peasantry has degenerated into a rigidly Jat-specific identity and assertion.


Haryana has to tread with caution in its politico-administrative approach at the grassroot level. The ideological formations that operate through the dominant political parties and influential as politicians across party lines have an inbuilt short-sightedness and opportunism. Both the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal find it quite impractical to commit to the question of social democracy beyond an electorally suitable limit. These parties along with other factions collectively build a ruling elite grossly dependent upon caste and regional politics as the only source of organisational strength and priority of developmental agenda.


This political elite's inability to resist incidents like Mirchpur reveals about their overall ideological evolution or no evolution as in terms of ideas and values the young generation of Haryana politicians are a meek and compromised lot. Some of them are direct beneficiaries of the world economy and education. But this new generation politicians have chosen to build the foundation of the much-talked about national level demographic advantage with cosy relationship with caste-based organisations of all castes and formations like khap panchayats.


To them, demographic advantage is a literal upsurge of young population. They are unable to foresee the fact that without youthful ideas and a culture that accommodates young aspirations, Haryana has a bleak future. Since its formation in 1966, Haryana has experienced phases of commendable progress in overall economy, agriculture and education. But the ruling elite must understand that a vibrant and sustainable economy cannot go forward with a vision of limited humanism which in hours of social tension shrinks even further.


The apparent disconnect between the khap panchayats and the political elite is quite deceptive. The former emerging as a sort of social and cultural vandalism incapable of visualising human dignity and civil rights of weaker sections are not automatons. Behind them operate socially influential and political powerful individuals and groups with a definite and competitive political agenda.


The Mirchpur episode and its aftermath have an unmistakable corollary with the Dulina killings (2002). In Dulina when five dalits were lynched to death due to the mistaken identity of Muslims, such panchayats had demanded the withdrawal of cases against those booked. Sadly, the violation of human rights in the context of Dalits and weaker sections is given a political colour to pressurise the victims.


Like other caste-ridden societies, in Haryana too, any simple event of a Dalit entering a temple or putting a bold face to a customary situation of humiliation provokes an unexpected ire in the dominant caste people. Mirchpur has confirmed this in an extended form. A section of Haryana society had refused to sympathise with the Dalits of Gohana incident (2005) simply because they appeared well off, with some of them having enviable pucca houses. This insensitivity and duplicity towards human rights of weaker sections is destined to block Haryana's progress.


However, the social tension surrounding incidents like Mirchpur, Gohana, Harsola and Dulina should lead to a proper understanding of the crisis of peasantry in Haryana. The peasantry here is a multi-layered section and only a small section of rural Haryana got benefited from the Green Revolution which has finally stopped yielding to the peasantry. The trend of perceiving castes as homogeneous communities or classes needs to be examined as it is the very tool upon which divisive politics rely.


Chotu Ram, as an intellectual leader of the peasantry, had tried to initiate a political discourse on the socio-economic plight of peasants. His emphasis was on Jats as peasants and their socio-economic experience. He did not visualise or reinforce caste identity in segregated and sectarian terms as witnessed recently. His ideological legacy graduates for more than a ceremonial respect and its logical destination is a democratic Haryana awakened to its collective secular needs.


The horizons of the hitherto unattended debate on social reform in Haryana touch upon the whole of socio-economic life of the region with a focus on how its educated middle class has virtually discarded the ideological churning manifested in the dynamics of its popular culture. A rational decoding of the popular culture as well as the intellectual history of Haryana is a project yet to be owned and initiated.


Despite the recurrence of happenings like Mirchpur, it would be erratic to conclude that the common Haryanvi, irrespective of caste or region, has lost the wisdom and genuine urge of having a peaceful community living and vibrant socio-economic interaction within the given social structure. The message that the alarming continuum of Dulina, Harsola, Gohana and Mirchpur carries is an intense urge from within not to celebrate violence and anarchy but to imbibe fraternity larger than caste, compensations bigger than government jobs, politics saner than divisive intelligence, and notions of social interest broader and deeper than sectarian politics of castes and khaps.


Such happenings demand not merely an advocacy of a more humanised rationality and liberal-imaginative morality in the public life of Haryana but a consistent perseverance in this very direction of values.


The writer is Associate Professor, RKSD College, Kaithal, Haryana








THE attack on the Dalits at Mirchpur (Hisar) and its repercussions require a deeper probe because these are a part of a larger socio-economic phenomenon.


These have to be first ascribed to the paradox of economic development and social regression that has emerged in Haryana during the past six decades due to continued emphasis on economic development and neglect of social development by successive political dispensations with the singular exception of the present government that had come to power in 2005. This has resulted in creating a cultural lag which, in turn, led to a social degeneration as reflected in the sporadic instances of conflict between the Jats and the Dalits at Mirchpur.


Secondly, they are the logical outcome of the impact of modernisation on the rural society of Haryana as a result of improved infrastructure, increased means of communication, growth of educational and technical institutions and the quantum jump in the number of telephones, mobiles, radios, transistors, TVs, VCDs and DVDs on the one hand and fabulous increase in the number of transport vehicles like scootys, scooters, motorcycles, jeeps and cars on the other. Consequently, while the educated Dalit youths have begun to question the authority of the traditional leadership from this peasant caste, the Jat youths have started to reassert their authority.


Thirdly, these should be seen as a result of the frustration among the jobless educated Jat youth. They do not perceive their unemployment as the cumulative effect of the diminishing number of government jobs due to liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.


They also do not realise that it is the natural result of their non-employability on account of their lack of command in English, Information Technology and professional qualifications. They wrongly attribute it to reservation for the Scheduled Castes in government jobs. Their frustration finds expression in the clashes with vulnerable sections.


Fourthly, these trends may also be ascribed to the pauperisation of the peasantry in which the Jats constitute the largest group. This is attributed to the crises in agriculture due to large-scale creation of small and marginal landholdings due to rising population and breakdown of the joint family system. The problem has been aggravated owing to adverse terms of trade, untimely rains and drought.


As a result, farming has ceased to be a viable vocation. It has led to fears that sooner or later they will join the ranks of the landless agricultural and non-agricultural labourers from the Dalit community and shall lose their identity as zamindars or the land owners. This crisis of identity at times makes them to resort to aggression.


Finally, one should consider the neo-feudal and conservative culture of Haryana's rural society. This has made a section of the Jats and other peasant castes difficult to tolerate the Dalits' attempts to have a share in the power structure of the state by taking advantage of the one-fifth quota given to them in the membership and chairpersonship of the Panchayati Raj institutions.


This leads us to the question: What can be done to check this menace? First, the liberal elements among the Haryanvi intellectuals, the media and progressive forces among the political parties should unitedly try to bring about a change in the mindset of the peasants and the Dalits.


Secondly, the government should sensitise the police force, democratise and decentralise the district administration to ensure an effective delivery of services for the development of the Scheduled Castes.


Thirdly, the focus of the Panchayati Raj institutions should be on preparing and implementing the plans of economic development and social justice as mandated under the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act (1992).


In fine, the Haryana government should take concrete steps to resolve the agrarian crises and create self-employment opportunities for the unemployed educated youth from the peasant castes. Let us hope that the government's recent steps in this direction will make a difference. These measures will have to be implemented effectively. Otherwise, the frustration and the identity crises among them will continue to reflect itself in the form of conflicts with Dalits and the agitations like the one at Jind.


The writer is Consultant, Haryana Institute of Rural Development, Nilokheri (Karnal)










It would be considered bad manners if you invited someone to your dinner party, asked them to stay for coffee, and then ranted about how they had refused to leave. But the ICC, usually known for observing social graces to a point where it bends lower than necessary, managed to brush aside the demands of common decency rather effortlessly this week.


In a session with the world media a day before the start of the World Cup, the governing body's CEO Haroon Lorgat complained about how smaller teams were killing the tournament. He said they were not suited for the 50-over format and that's why they were being kept out of the next edition in 2015.


The sides he was referring to – Ireland, Kenya, Canada and Netherlands – were at that time in practice sessions preparing for their first matches.


Minnow bashing, or Test-status snobbery, has been a regular feature of World Cups for the last 15 years, when the doors were first opened to non-regular teams. The decision made fans unhappy, led to meaningless matches, worthless records, and brought names to a cricket pitch that sounded incongruous in a game whose every cell is drenched by the spirit of colonialism.


All through, the ICC was their defender, stressing on the need for globalisation to keep the sport alive in a post-Empire world, pointing out how former minnows Sri Lanka had won in 1996, alluding to Bangladesh's rise as a Test team that was starting to spring a few surprises.


But this year, at the first sign of another option – the popularity of T20 cricket which requires fewer skill-sets – the ICC has changed sides, choosing to bad-mouth the weaker teams, and speak openly against a concept it once promoted.
    The poor timing of its comment notwithstanding, the governing body, by putting the onus on the teams for not rising to the demands of international one-day cricket, is attempting to blame someone else for its own failure to make an impression on regions it had promised to convert into cricketing hotbeds when the globalisation mantra was first chanted.


The ICC sends out weekly e-mails about how local leagues were being played in lands untouched by the game; about the associate nations' cup; the rise of Afghanistan; the enthusiasm for the game in Bermuda. But what we've got over the last two decades in each of those countries is a small pool of players, made up largely of expats, rather than a genuine sports movement that involves the masses and inspires them to embrace something new.


There is a sprinkling of Indians, Pakistanis, Australians and West Indians in all the smaller teams. The game remains restricted to these communities, and while the initiative has given a chance to individual players to fulfil their dreams, it hasn't managed to increase cricket's global base.

The countries can't be blamed for not reacting to an alien concept. It's the ICC which, instead of trying to wash its hands of the programme, must admit to its ineffectiveness.


The double standards are clear when you look at how the 2011 World Cup has been structured. The smaller teams have been given more matches, and a longer stay than before to ensure that India don't go out early, taking with them advertising revenue for television channels.


Four qualifying out of a seven-team group would be laughable in any international tournament – even where the disparity between the top eight and the rest wasn't as apparent as it is in cricket. The quarter-finals, semis, and final – after the long-drawn group stage in which the minnows have been used as buffers – ensures that a team needs to win only three matches to lift the Cup, as opposed to embarking on a campaign in which making it to the finalfour is in itself a victory. Instead of making a format and inviting telecast bids, the ICC has gone by what TV networks would like.


Given the scenario, is it acceptable for Lorgat to call some teams unsuitable on the eve of a tournament which ensures they remain active for more than 90% of its duration? Shouldn't he be saying 'thank you' instead?



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The government has taken the first concrete step to start disbursing subsidies for things like kerosene, cooking gas and fertilisers to individuals, families and farmers by direct cash transfer. A task force under the leadership of Nandan Nilekani, who heads the Unique Identification Authority of India, has been given the target of getting a pilot going by the end of the year. The transfer system will piggyback on the solution and infrastructure being set up to give every resident in India a unique identity (UID) and the group's main job will be to devise a way – the technological roadmap, so to speak – in which this can be done. As an operation like this can easily get derailed owing to lack of coordination among various stakeholders in the government system, the secretaries of various departments ranging from expenditure to financial services, food and public distribution, and chemicals and fertilisers have been included in the task force. This is the right way to go about the job and the fact that UID numbers have already begun to be issued raises the hope that the task force will meet its deadline.

Direct cash transfers to those for whom a subsidy is intended is the Holy Grail for public expenditure reformers. With such targeting, not only do you cut the free riders out but also eliminate a lot of waste that a state-run distribution and delivery system inevitably results in. And it is a matter of rejoicing that both the technology and the leaders who can see through its roll-out are in place. But it is also necessary to be clear about what cash transfers can and cannot do. The UID system will eliminate the leakage resulting from impersonation. Beneficiary A will have her cash deposited in a bank account opened with the help of the UID number already issued. So, A's cash cannot go to B and organised leakage, via practices like securing random thumb impressions on muster rolls or the existence of large numbers of fictitious ration cards, should be a thing of the past. But what cash transfers cannot address is unintended beneficiaries getting the subsidy by using a perfectly legitimate UID number.


 The issue comes into focus when we seek to identify who falls below or above the poverty line, a key aspect of targeting. To do so meaningfully with the help of the new technology, it will be necessary to have a parallel system of recording the income status of individuals and families. A rich farmer, whose family members between themselves hold 100 acres of irrigated land, should not get cash in lieu of subsidised fertiliser. But once the exercise to exclude starts, there will be an inevitable fallout. The introduction of a food security legislation has been delayed owing to controversy over what percentage of the population will qualify for the subsidised food. The dilemma is highlighted by the fact that there are states that have issued far more below-poverty-line ration cards than there can be families with such meagre levels of income. To point this out is not to say that the exercise should not be undertaken but to start the journey with a healthy dose of scepticism which recognises that most silver bullets eventually turn out to be made of dubious metal.







India seems to have a problem managing both commodity shortages and surpluses. Government policy lurches from curbing exports when there is domestic shortage to subsidising them when there is a glut! The government's purely reactive strategy in dealing with food price inflation shows once again the absence of either a medium-term strategy or adequate crisis management systems. In the process, both the consumer and the producer end up suffering, with traders making a quick buck whenever they can. Many of the bans and curbs imposed in recent past on agricultural commodities as a panic reaction to the spike in prices seem to have lost their relevance with the arrival of fresh crops. Questions are now being raised, and quite justifiably so, about the need for retaining curbs on the export of wheat, rice, sugar, onion, potato and several other items when the domestic granaries are brimming over, the rabi harvest is round the corner and seasonal vegetables and fruit have begun flooding local markets. Besides, the international prices of most commodities are ruling higher than domestic prices. Exports, in such a situation, can ensure better returns to producers without hurting consumer interests. The government is, however, going about it only reluctantly and in a piecemeal manner. This is apparent from the way exports have been opened up for commodities like rice and onions. Export curbs were first lifted for basmati rice, but by simultaneously fixing a rather high minimum export price, and subsequently for some types of non-basmati but specialty rice consumed by the Indian diaspora in West Asia and some other regions. But the ban on other non-basmati rice continues despite the availability of sizeable surplus. Even in the case of onions, a politically sensitive crop, export bans were lifted after prices crashed below production cost levels and farmers began protesting.

In the case of sugar, too, the government seems to be in two minds — between desiring to build domestic stocks and allowing exports. Uncertainty is hurting the sugar industry and cane growers. The global sugar scenario is currently favourable for exports but it may not remain so for long as the next cane crop in Brazil, the largest sugar producer and exporter, is anticipated to be good. While Mr Sharad Pawar, who was the minister in charge of sugar till recently, has his own reasons for demanding a revocation of the export ban, an early decision either way would be better than procrastination. What needs to be realised is that the present moment is a good time for India to be exporting some of these commodities, both because international prices are ruling high and India has a trade deficit to manage and reduce sooner rather than later. It would be unfortunate if, as so often in the past, India misses this opportunity and enters the global bazaar at a time when prices have softened. Government policy should aim to benefit both producers and consumers, and not just traders and speculators.








This newspaper published two compilations recently. One was the annual list of richest Indians (the dollar billionaires) and the second was the list of highest paid corporate chief executives (the rupee crorepatis). The former is a wealth ranking and the latter ranks annual incomes. There are 657 billionaires in the Business Standard list and their combined wealth is 22 per cent of this year's nominal GDP. Similarly, there are 893 chief executives from last year whose incomes exceeded Rs 1 crore (not counting stock options), and their combined income is about Rs 3,000 crore. The numbers for these two lists have swollen by 16 and 11 per cent, respectively, since the previous year of compilation. In the aggregate, the wealth of the super rich and the income of the highest brackets have risen faster than GDP growth over several years. India's rupee GDP has quadrupled since the early nineties, and per capita income has also gone up more than three times. But the income and wealth of the highest strata have soared much faster. One consequence of this is that since the start of the noughties income tax collections have risen twice as fast as national income. Of course, some of this is due to better tax administration. But, it does point to the question of rising inequality and differential spoils of economic growth. Official estimates of income inequality, based on a proxy of consumption inequality, continue to be moderate. This is surely an underestimate. The measured Gini coefficient for India is around 0.35, much below Brazil, Russia and China. So, the official line is that inequality may be widening, but not alarmingly so, and India fares better than peers.

This raises three questions: (a) is the actual inequality much higher?; (b) as long as all social strata are doing better, perhaps at differential rates, how does it matter? Does inequality hurt growth?; (c ) if yes, what is the most appropriate way to redistribute the unequal spoils of growth?


 The third question's answer is operationalised partly through the Union Budget process. A Budget can be measured on many parameters, and its redistribution orientation is one of them. Of course, merely announcing transfer payments to the poor does not make them happen. But the intent articulated in the annual Budget is the first step. The Finance Commission, too, is a constitutional process that addresses imbalances.

So, to return to the first question, is actual inequality much higher than what is captured by the Gini coefficient? If you considered the value of human capital (acquired through education) a component of the overall wealth of individuals, wealth inequality is much worse. After all, less than 10 per cent of teenagers get into a college, and are condemned to lower lifetime incomes. If you add to that the inequality of access to public services like health, drinking water, electricity and finance, the picture is worse. The best litmus test is access to jobs. Most people stuck in low-paying and low-productivity agriculture pine for a stable job. Most politicians in the West brag about their record of creating jobs. Similar is the case with China. In India, however, jobs growth in the organised sector has been near-zero for almost two decades. The tragic spectacle of 250,000 youngsters stampeding for 416 low-level government jobs at a recent recruitment camp in Bareilly is rather routine. It is paradoxical that we have a severe drought of secure and stable jobs even as industry is unable to find able-bodied skilled and semi-skilled workers. Inequality in Indian society is worse when you add dimensions like access to education, health and livelihood. 

The second question is whether inequality is bad for growth. Worsening inequality does not negate the fact that "all" classes in India have had their incomes increased, even adjusting for inflation. It is just that in relative terms the rich got a disproportionate share of the ever-growing pie. If this were America, it wouldn't be a big problem; the society there is characterised by a social and economic churn. If someone is doing much better, it acts as an incentive for others . Billionaires' success becomes an aspiration motivator. But, because Indian society is rigid, socio-economic barriers remain entrenched across generations. The in-your-face stark inequality is ultimately a potential trigger for social instability, rather than an incentive for new entrepreneurs. Besides, how can an increase in the number of private security guards and gated communities be a sign of improving living standards? Inequality is a "public good" that affects all of us uniformly, and can hurt growth rather badly. After all, expenditure on fighting the Maoists can hardly be called productive. 

The warning about widening social and economic inequality was given in a prophetic speech by B R Ambedkar in 1949. He said, "How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this (Constituent) Assembly has so laboriously built up." Spoken decades before the scourge of the Maoists, Ambedkar was prescient in use of the phrase "blow up".

Which leads us to the third question: what is the appropriate form and strategy of redistribution? Balanced growth has always been an implicit objective of economic planners and even the Finance Commission uses it in its formula. The current government has used "inclusive growth" as a theme that permeates all policies. The annual Budget exercise, too, is influenced by the same mantra. But genuine redistribution calls for either direct cash transfers (not happening yet), accurately targeted provision of goods and services to the poor (plagued by leakages), or the creation of pure public goods.  Leaving aside the important issue of outlays vs outcomes, the Budget spending pattern is not really geared to any of the three categories mentioned above. More than one fourth of all spending is on interest alone, which is actually regressive and not redistributive at all. This is also the case with defence. Subsidies that are meant for the poor get leaked to the non-poor. Since capital expenditure is residual, it mostly gets squeezed out. Since Budgets don't have enough funds for public goods creation, the government has also resorted to the creation of rights, such as the NREGA or the right to food. But these are inadequate substitutes for genuinely redistributive policies, which are also not anti-growth. For that, we need policies that expand opportunities (labour reforms, exit policy for firms and bankruptcy code), reduce artificial hurdles (the Agricultural Produce Market Committee in agriculture) and the formation of a common economic market (the Goods and Services Tax). Let's see if the FM can get the "gini" out of the bottle on the Budget day!

The author is chief economist, Aditya Birla Group. The views expressed are personal








The recently concluded Aero India 2011 air show in Bangalore highlighted the growing success of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, or LCA. Stuck for years in a quagmire of funding shortages, international sanctions and the painful accumulation of technologies and infrastructure needed for building a modern fighter, the success of the Tejas provides a positive occasion to reflect on what needs to be done to take India forward towards self-sufficiency in building its combat aircraft.

This is especially so, given the mind-boggling cost of next-generation fighters and India's growing requirement for more. Adding together the impending purchases of 200-odd medium fighters (the initial tender is for 126 aircraft) for some $18 billion; another 250 fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) that will be co-developed with Russia and built in India for $30-35 billion; the fabrication by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) of 200 or so Tejas for $8-10 billion; and the indigenous design and fabrication of another 200 Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) for a roughly estimated $12-15 billion, India will buy an unaffordable $75-80 billion (Rs 3,60,000 crore) worth of fighters over the next couple of decades.


 Going forward from there, things will only get more expensive as unmanned combat aircraft – stealthy, pilotless drones that carry tonnes of smart weapons – become the norm. While bayonets and boots will continue to determine success on the ground, technology is rapidly becoming the key differentiator between victory and defeat in the air battle. Some of those technologies will simply not be purchasable; others will be unaffordable. India's need for credible conventional deterrence leaves it with little choice but to develop expertise in designing and producing sophisticated, yet affordable, combat aircraft, which can shape the future battlefield to our advantage.

This involves one simple process and several extremely complex ones. During the development of the Tejas fighter, the complex challenges have, to a significant degree, been overcome. Project management skills and expertise in systems integration have been acquired by the Aeronautical Development Agency, which has also gathered a stable of aeronautical designers. A network of DRDO laboratories has gained crucial expertise in writing the complex algorithms of fly-by-wire systems; in developing mission computers; in radar technologies; and in avionics software. A world-class flight-testing agency, the National Flight Test Centre, has been set up. Production agencies, in both the public and private sectors, have learned the precision machining that is needed for aerospace components (like spacecraft and submarine parts, aerospace components have to be certified as suitable for use in aircraft); the art of fabricating components from composite materials; and the forging of technology partnerships with foreign companies to quickly import and absorb useful technologies. Creating this complex mosaic of building blocks was the difficult challenge in creating an aerospace industry.

But the easy part remains to be done. This involves creating an overarching structure that can integrate these building blocks into a result-oriented ecosystem. The only organisation that is currently placed to do so – the ministry of defence (MoD) – suffers from a lack of expertise. With decision-making confined to the ministerial and bureaucratic level, crucial technological and scientific inputs tend to be given short shrift or misevaluated. The MoD's other great drawback is that it has no authority over organisations under other ministries, which could play crucial roles in the realm of aerospace design and production. One example is the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a highly regarded laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). NAL has made a significant contribution to the Tejas programme with its expertise in composite technologies and is, even now, engaged in developing the Saras light transport aircraft. But, with no formal integration into India's military aerospace programmes, Dr Satish Dhawan often described NAL as "a beautiful bride, all dressed up and nowhere to go".

In order to widen the net for expertise, it is time to set up a separate Department of Aerospace, bringing together research organisations on the one side; and production organisations on the other. Heading the department should be a scientist, given the rank of a secretary to the GoI, regardless of the objections that might be anticipated from the IAS community. Whether the Department of Aerospace is placed under the MoD, or under another ministry, it is essential that it be empowered to harness research potential countrywide.

This vertically integrated structure for the Department of Aerospace is not a novel idea. Already, the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Space are vertically integrated, a structure that has served them well. Vertical integration will provide aerospace with the same synergies and prevent the dissipation of resources, especially within the private sector where companies simply cannot afford to put effort into R&D unless it is government-funded or directed so precisely that it will almost certainly yield commercial orders.

In consolidating its aerospace resources under a single structure, India will only be following the global lead. Russia, where individual design houses like Mikoyan and Sukhoi once played wastefully with designs that went nowhere, has now consolidated its resources tightly. The Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation provides oversight, while the United Aircraft Corporation brings together design bureaus and production agencies. It is time for India to bring together its scarce aerospace resources.









Soil fatigue has emerged as one of the key constraints in raising crop yields. Most of the arable land in India has been cropped for decades and some even for centuries. In the process, nutrient consumption has far exceeded the amount that could be replenished through organic or inorganic fertilisers. Apart from this, a substantial chunk of land is rapidly being degraded by wind and water erosion and other natural and induced factors. This is a major cause for worry.

Going by the estimates put out by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in its latest document "Vision 2030", about 120.72 million hectares of the country's arable land of around 140 million hectares is degraded by erosion. Besides, some 8.4 million hectares suffers from soil salinity and water-logging. Worse, the country is losing annually nearly 0.8 million tonnes of nitrogen (N), 1.8 million tonnes of phosphorus (P) and a whopping 26.3 million tonnes of potassium (K) as a result of all this. The problems are exacerbated by the imbalanced application of nutrients, especially N, P and K, and excessive mining of micronutrients, leading to deficiency of macro and micro nutrients in most soils. Besides, the use of compost, farmyard manure and other types of manures and organic fertilisers is woefully inadequate.

The net result is steady deterioration in soil health in all its dimensions — physical, chemical and microbial.

Farmers, fortunately, are well aware of this menace, though they are handicapped, economically and otherwise, to take corrective measures. This has been borne out by a recent "social audit" of soil health conducted by environment campaigner Greenpeace in five states — Assam, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab.

"Indian farmers are worried about the state of soil and are keen to take up ecological fertilisation to tide over the degradation of soils. However, they are unable to do so due to lack of adequate government support system", the Greenpeace survey has concluded.

Significantly, as many as 98 per cent of the 1,000 farmers surveyed were ready to use organic fertilisers if these are subsidised and made easily accessible. An important indicator of soil health is the presence of living beings, such as micro-organisms, earthworms and the like. They help the soil breathe and maintain its physical structure, water-holding capacity and fertility. Unfortunately, the indiscriminate use of chemicals over the years has destroyed much of this vital soil fauna.

Farmers confirm that soils have been depleted of living organisms. All the respondents in the survey were categorical that they could not find living organisms in the soil anymore, though they did find them before 1980. However, over 80 per cent of these farmers say they had seen living beings in soils till as late as 2000, a clear indication that most soils have been deprived of their livestock in the past decade or so.

Producing enough organic manure to meet the entire need of farmers may not be possible in the shorter run. One of the possible options could be to promote biofertilisers and biofertiliser-enriched compost and manure.

Studies by ICAR have indicated that the use of biofertiliser mixtures leads to higher crop production apart from improving soil health. The biofertiliser-mix used in these experiments comprised rice straw compost enriched with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria Azospirillum and a mixture of rock phosphate and another bacterium that makes this phosphate water-soluble so that it can absorbed by plants. Its application enhanced rice yield 23 per cent in fields under the rice-toria (oilseed) cropping sequence and by some 10 per cent in soil under rice-wheat crop rotation.

In the past, many farmers used to grow green manuring crops, usually fast-growing legumes like cowpea, sun-hemp or Dhaincha, just to incorporate in the soil; once they rotted they became a nutrient-rich compost. But this practice has largely been given up in most states, barring Madhya Pradesh and Assam to some extent. This useful system needs to be revived wherever possible.

This apart, modern vermiculture (rearing selected species of earthworms) is another highly effective tool for re-introducing living beings into the soils. The addition of earthworm-rich vermicompost rejuvenates the soils and raises plant yields. Given the scale of the problem, these technologies need to be promoted vigorously.







In Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes, there is a wonderful section on the fascination Japonisme held at a certain time in Europe, when Japanese bibelots, netsuke, robes and paintings found their way into Parisian salons: "Anyone would sell you anything. Japan existed as a sort of parallel country of licensed gratification, artistic, commercial and sexual."

Often, what the collectors of that time picked up from Japan was unremarkable — the dross of everyday life, mass-produced objets d'art mingling with the rare and the exquisite. As de Waal recounts so beautifully, this early hunger was replaced by first a refined connoisseurship, and inevitably, a waning of the interest in Japonisme, a return to the less exotic and the more local.


 In the last few weeks, as new books on India by Patrick French and Anand Girdharadass were released, a familiar debate came back to us, reheated and freshly garnished. Pankaj Mishra's argument with French was over the content of the book—Mishra seemed unable to recognise or reconcile his vision of India, one of cruel economic inequalities and a dominant, often bullying, state, with French's more upbeat India story.

Reading between the lines, the real anxiety was over French's portrait, not the quality of his reportage: was this the authentic India, or had he missed the big story? Elsewhere, in a joyously savage piece of provocation, Mihir Sharma flayed India Calling, by Anand Girdharadass, for shallow journalism, and slammed the stereotypes of India that find their way into the "foreign correspondent" book.

But the real debate is one that tore Indian writing in English apart about a decade ago; it's the question of what makes a book about India the genuine article, and who has the right to "represent" the country. The "authenticity argument" was rapidly buried, with a few stray knives in its back, in the world of Indian fiction — few readers, writers or critics wanted to police books to see how their Indianness rated a scale of one to ten.

Fewer still are comfortable acknowledging what might be called marketplace realities. In the years when Indian writing was doing well, like a hardworking honour student, in the West, we were happy to measure our importance and success not by the literary impact of a Kiran Desai or a Salman Rushdie but by the sales figures and the prize shortlists. What we are all uncomfortable acknowledging is that the West —shorthand for the complex markets and divergent reading tastes of the UK, the US and a large swathe of Europe — has a sharply truncated view of Indian writing.

Much of the unease expressed by Mishra, and in a different form by Sharma, comes from questioning the need for the Big India book — at some level, we understand that these books are very rarely written by Indian journalists, and that the stories they tell, whether simplified or not, are influential even so. Some of the unease comes from a sense of disenfranchisement; it is telling, for instance, that there seems to be little need for the Big India book in Hindi, or Urdu, or Marathi. Outside of English, we lack either the curiosity or the need to explain India to ourselves.

What the West sees of Indian writing would be ridiculous, if that view wasn't so influential; as with the age de Waal describes, where all of Japanese culture and history could be interpreted through the shlock, detritus and masterpieces of the art world. Over the last 30 years, some realities have been inescapable; Indian writing in the Western world is defined largely as Indian writing in English, with very few translations making their way abroad.

Writing from the margins —Dalit writing, the resurgence in Indian poetry in English, writing from the north east — is rarely visible, and when it is visible, it's exoticised, here and abroad. And by its nature, Indian writing in English has been largely privileged writing — if not quite limited to the sons of St Stephens', most contemporary writers in this language come from the relatively enfranchised middle class, and their work reflects the limitations of their backgrounds.

In the same week as the French-Mishra rallies, complete with aces and double faults, were playing out at the net, a small piece of data passed almost unremarked. The Census 2001 figures, recently released, revealed that English had effectively become India's second language, behind Hindi. Many of the new English speakers come from the small towns, or belong to areas of the metros that lie outside the charmed circles of privilege. English belongs to them now as much as it once did, about two-three decades ago, to the old class of writer-Brahmins.

And as this generation begins to tell and write their stories, they may not need to beguile the souks of the West with their Indiennisme. 125 million English speakers, out of whom a much higher percentage has made it their first language in the decade since the Census data was collected, is enough to make its own marketplace. I'm guessing here, but I don't think this new generation of writers will find much use either for the Big India books or for the debates that drew us in over the last few decades.  







The President's address lays down the government's agenda, and it sounds good. But the nation needs more than mellifluous words. The point is to take resolute action to implement the agenda. Inflation and corruption figure as lead priorities, and rightly. The promise of marketing reform for agricultural produce and the intention to incentivise states to permit such reform are both sound. The current laws on farm produce marketing come in the way of shortening the long, inefficient and costly supply chain between the farmer and the consumer. Even if the originating state, say, Bihar, removes the legal constraint on marketing its farm produce, the problem will remain if the consuming state, say, Delhi, does not complement the move. The basic issue here is the political will to upset a small set of intermediaries entrenched in the current inefficient system. Apart from promising to incentivise state cooperation in this regard, the Centre needs to make it clear that modernising storage, transport and value addition of farm produce will brook no delay and that producer companies, cooperatives and organised retail would be actively promoted to enter these lines of activity.


It is imperative that the debate on cleaning up political funding does not get stymied in the pros and cons of state funding. Nor should reform on this front be confined to electoral reform. We need a full-fledged law to regulate political parties during elections and afterwards. We need to devise systems to hold them to account for every paisa they spend. At present, we make do with some vague and feeble provisions in the Representation of the People Act in this regard. This must change. Political party claims on expenditure and income must be open to scrutiny and challenge by rival parties, the public, the media and voluntary groups, with the Election Commission acting as ombudsman. As the government moves to create an institutional structure for political funding, industry bodies must resolve to reform how business funds politicians and political parties. In globalising India, the race must be to become the most efficient entrepreneur, not the biggest crony.







The profile of top multinationals that operate in India has changed over the last decade or so, highlighting three big trends. On top is Maruti, India's largest carmaker, now mostly owned by Japan's Suzuki. That's followed by Finnish handset-maker Nokia, mobile services company Vodafone and South Korean carmaker Hyundai. Two carmakers and two mobile phone companies hog the top four positions in a list of 10, showing how consumer preferences have changed dramatically over time. The typical Indian still uses detergents and shampoos made by Hindustan Unilever (HUL), now No. 6 on the list, but she can now buy or aspire for cars, talk boldly on India's super-cheap mobile networks on a new handset. For consumer preferences to change, away from relatively cheap, daily-use stuff, towards cars and handsets needs money, and Indians now do have more to splurge. What else explains the presence of Samsung and Hyundai, two South Korean electronics giants, in the top-10 multinationals list? When we're not driving in our new compacts while chatting on new handsets, we're sitting in front of new TVs, watching movies and cricket. Finally, the list makes apparent India's slow, but gradual, openness to foreign investment. Apart from HUL, which has been in India from pre-Independence days, each of the multinationals in the list is a relatively new entrant, or the offspring of an international takeover. Maruti Suzuki exemplifies this best, starting out as a joint venture where the government held almost all equity, now majority-owned by its Japanese partner. Multinationals have thrived in manufacturing or IT products and services, which are lightly regulated, so it's no surprise to see 100%-owned arms of Nokia, Hyundai, HP, Samsung, LG and IBM flourishing. Two of India's largest cement-makers, ACC and Ambuja, are controlled by Swiss cement-maker Holcim, which acquired these companies from their Indian owners. These are welcome trends: changing consumption patterns, incomes that are rising and policy that's giving more room for global companies to bring new jobs and technologies to India.






Michelle Obama's not-so-subtle comments about her willingness to go for the April 29th wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in case she is invited, reveals the US First Lady's bemusement and frustration at her exclusion. She should not be unduly exercised over the perceived slight; instead, her attention should be drawn to the other personage of similar rank who has also not been invited: French First Lady Carla Bruni. No political colour need be given to this omission, for the reason is clear. The wedding can have only one centre of attention for the millions of potential customers watching the event across the country and the world. And, arguably, for the beleaguered British retail industry, it does not get bigger than this. A really big-ticket royal wedding happens once in 30 years or so, as lesser royal siblings and even footballers and popstars do not compare in terms of sheer breadth of coverage. Remember, Princess Diana's dress launched a thousand knock-off businesses, and this bride-to-be's hand-me-down engagement ring has proved that the principle still holds.
The worst thing that could happen is not Ms Middleton flubbing her vows (as the late Diana did) or Prince William having a bad hair day, but if one of those other two style icons steal her thunder. The charity queens and welfare workers among the 1,900 guests invited for the wedding — along with other royals of varied appeal, visual and otherwise — are hardly likely to deflect attention from the chic bride and the designer-d u-j o u r. The two excluded first ladies have demonstrated their ability to move markets in favour of their countries' couturiers. British businesses just cannot afford to have their best bet for a quick buck be upstaged. And for the royals, duty to Britain comes first.






At 8%-plus real GDP growth, India is leading the global recovery. This is good news, but are there potential stumbling blocks down the road? Inflation has been picking up, and has been elevated for some time. There are structural factors behind it, such as the changing dietary habits of Indian consumers, but does this mean that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should be more tolerant of higher inflation? The Indian government is making efforts to make economic growth more inclusive through various social programmes. Undoubtedly, a laudable cause, but how can the Budget afford it?

These are some of the salient issues discussed by the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) India team and the GoI and RBI during the team's recent visit for the comprehensive annual check-up of the country's macroeconomic health (called the Article IV Consultation). The document that summarises the outcome of this discussion has recently been published on the IMF website (http://www.

Many analyses and commentaries are being published everyday on the Indian economy and economic policies, but ours is somewhat different in two respects. First, it is based on our extensive 'dialogue' with the Indian authorities, through which our views evolve before making their way to the final report. This is reflected in its structure, which has sections on the 'authorities' views' so that the reader can see where the authorities and staff agreed or disagreed. Second, reflecting its global membership, the IMF can offer global or regional perspectives when analysing India. An example from the most recent report is how other countries have financed their infrastructure projects, and what lessons India can usefully learn from their experience. How did the dialogue between the IMF and the Indian authorities go in the most recent consultation? Did we see eye to eye on various policy questions? Mostly yes, but there were several notable issues we debated.

First, high inflation raised the question of how much more monetary policy tightening was needed. Although year-on-year inflation was expected to gradually decline as the effect of the poor 2009 monsoon on food prices dropped out of the sample period, we have been arguing for stronger monetary tightening because underlying inflation pressures were picking up and growth was back on track. Even though an important contributor to inflation was a structural demand shift, a sustained period of high inflation could raise inflationary expectations that, in turn, could perpetuate high inflation. An Annex in our report contains our analysis of India's inflation dynamics, which shows that, as in many other countries, India's inflation has a high degree of inertia and, hence, stopping inflation early is less costly than doing so once it has become entrenched.

Second, while fiscal consolidation was underway, there was a question of whether the government should do more to reduce budget deficits faster when the economy is growing buoyantly. During the current fiscal year, the government received a substantial amount of windfall revenue from wireless auctions. This enabled the government to spend more than initially budgeted, including on some one-time items that were unanticipated, without exceeding this year's budget deficit target.

But we argued that there were a number of strong reasons to accelerate the pace of consolidation, such as to reconstitute the fiscal space used during the global crisis and to curb domestic demand pressures to help contain inflation. In addition to the overall debt and deficit control, we noted large potential benefits from rationalising, or increasing the efficiency of, expenditures; chiefly among these are intensifying the ongoing subsidy reform and a better targeting of social programmes.

Third, how best to achieve India's medium-term growth and development? We fully supported the government's strategy to focus on infrastructure as a basis for the country's continued development and poverty reduction. For this, India has to overcome bottlenecks, such as availability of long-term financing and land acquisition. We have emphasised the importance of domestic financial sector development, which would help channel domestic savings into areas where they are most needed. Public-private partnerships (PPP) are appropriately utilised to supplement the limited budget resources. Still, public investment will continue to play an important role, which brings us back to the question of how to create fiscal space.

While India's growth remains robust and its medium-term prospects are favourable, the list of challenging policy issues is long and the stakes are high. In addition to those mentioned above, our report covers many other issues that could significantly affect the future course of the Indian economy, such as the exchange rate and the balance of payments, financial sector regulation, and private savings as a source of sustained growth.
Working on India, one thing I don't have to worry about is the need to go in search of relevant topics for our team to look into.







Choose Your Game

Can the sultans of cricket score over the sound-byte warriors of scam politics? As the cricket World Cup clashes with the JPC-tipped Parliament session, political rivals are closely watching which of the two games will conquer the TRP ratings and people's attention. Like once what the Aussies used to say — "if Lillee can't get you, then Thommo will" — the ruling UPA is hoping that if the populist content of the Union Budget doesn't help it divert focus from scams, then the cricket extravaganza does. But the Opposition is hoping more scams will continue to tumble out to make the cricket action look like child's play. One betting game attracts a lot of participation: where will be the mind, soul and body of politico-cricket tsars like Sharad Pawar, Arun Jaitley, Farooq Abdullah, Rajeev Shukla, Jyotiraditya Scindia, etc, in this politics-vs-cricket season? Will they bunk Parliament to join the VIP stands in cricket stadia, or vice versa? The aam aadmi too is watching this tricky loyalty test.

Cat-&-Mouse Play

The DMK-Congress combine going all out to pull PMK out of Jayalalithaa's net has already made some waves in the pre-poll Tamil Nadu coalition waters. But yet another last-minute attempt is being launched to stop 'Captain' Vijayakanth's DMDK from formally inking a pact with Jaya amma. A fortnight ago, the Congress seemed to have given up the anti-DMK Captain to the AIADMK camp. But there appears to be a rethinking now. Last week, Congress managers Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Vayalar Ravi held a hush-hush meeting in Delhi with a close relative of Vijayakanth who had come down as his emissary. It is no secret that Captain's choreographed solo run in the Lok Sabha poll had helped the DMK-Congress combine to divide the anti-incumbency factor. The buzz is that Congress leaders, aware of Captain's difficulty in openly joining hands with Karunanidhi, are still trying to persuade him to keep a parallel pact with the GoP too — prepoll or post-poll. Some games never end.

Writers Toofan

Come Railway Budget, one can be sure of two things: the Railway mantri trying to do the Santa Claus on his/her home-state and the Left MPs from West Bengal and Kerala screaming about 'stepmotherly treatment'. The beneficiary of the Railway ministers' budget largesse varies from state to state depending on the home roots of the minister of the day. But given that a majority of comrades never believe in joining/running the central government — barring CPI's 'revisionist' attitude in the UF regime — they have been remarkably consistent in crying foul on budget day. But this time, it is not the spectre of 'negligence' but the fear of 'abundance' that is haunting the Bengal comrades as Mamata Banerjee is sure to unleash her biggest pre-poll Bengal express in full fury with an aim to help her run through the few remaining red barricades as well. No wonder, Mamata's Friday budget has already been nicknamed as Writers Building Toofan Express. Hope some berths will be reserved for carrying home the injured too.

Poetic Journey

Didn't Third Eye tell you that L K Advani's ageless, moraleboosting and RSS' script-defying never-say-die drive, at times, has tricky fallouts. So, never mind the peals of notso-suppressed laughter from even within the BJP when Advani's campaign against black money took a wrong turn with his posting an apology to Sonia Gandhi for trying to take the gallery with a political pistol that failed to produce even a dud at 10, Janpath's cross-examination. But given Advani's track-record of not giving up in the face of nerve-wracking setbacks, one should expect the voracious reader to seek inspiration from some wartime books for another shot at the enemy. But some are wondering what would have crossed Atal Bihari Vajpayee's mind while seeing Advani's yet another one-step-forward-twosteps-back march. If 'the poetic mind' of Vajpayee is still active, perhaps he can enjoy that memorable Dushyant Kumar couplet: kuch log zindagi ke aise safar mein hain / din-raat chal rahe hain / magar khar ke khar mein hain

(some people are on such a journey in life / on the move all day and night / but they remain stuck at home!).






Now, Focus on Quality Growth


The Union Budget next week should aim to shore up fiscal prudence, chalk out tax reform for the medium term and beyond, and aim to revamp market design in key segments like corporate bonds. The overall objective of policy ought to be geared to stem inflation, step up investment and skill levels, and augment the development delivery mechanism with heightened growth and revenue generation. What is required is proactive policy for quality growth.

The inflationary spiral in the economy does call for tighter fiscal policy. What is vital is to budget a lower fiscal deficit, the difference between government expenditure and revenues — both tax and non-tax — plus recovery of loans to the states and other receipts (read: disinvestment proceeds). Going forward, the finance minister needs to improve on the budgetary balance, as stated in the mediumterm fiscal policy statement outlined last year, and restrict the fiscal deficit figure to no more than 4.8% of gross domestic product for next year. The point is that large deficits, and the consequent overhang of public debt, do pose a systemic threat in that they preclude the scope for overextended government finances in the event of economic shocks and slowdowns. In any case, investors and market participants do tend to be overtly discouraged when governments continue to be 'fiscally incontinent', with public expenditure simply out of sync with revenues and receipts. Besides, improved budgetary balance is much warranted in the here and now to rein in inflationary expectations and reduce 'crowding out' of private expenditure. The latest Reserve Bank of India figures do point at smart growth in credit offtake, with the numbers suggesting about 24% year-onyear increase. But a big chunk of it also includes bank lending for third-generation telecom licences, which has since accrued to the government account. The point is that with liquidity conditions tight in the banking system, the scope for dearer monetary policy is rather limited.

Apart from sticking to the already-announced deficit reduction target, the finance minister would need to do some loud thinking about the overall public debt-to-GDP ratio, and the way ahead. It is true that a surge in the growth momentum is likely in the next two decades, but it would be poor logic in the process to be generally sanguine about heightened borrowings and consequent public debt.

In parallel, there is the need to incentivise skills development, with upfront tax incentives. Given the yawning gap in skills requirement and availability, there is no reason why skilling and formal training ought not to receive the same or similar weighted tax deduction as, say, research and development expenditure. Corporates would have an added incentive to take to skill development, which would be for the greater good and reduce the skills gap.

In tandem, we need a simplified tax code that aids administrative efficiency, adds to tax buoyancy by way of lower rates, and with tax exemptions ideally none but in practice — given the panoply of distortions like lack of housing, insurance cover, social security, etc — limited to a few items. In any case, it would make ample sense to increase the exemption limits available on personal income-tax front against the backdrop of relatively high inflation.

As for corporate income tax, continuing tax exemptions for infrastructure would make sense, given its deficit and the pressing need to better allocate resources for the head. But here again, it would be desirable to end profit-linked tax incentives for infrastructure projects, and see to it that the incentives are investment-linked to minimise distortions. As for indirect taxes like excise and service tax, it would make sense not to raise the existing rates and, instead, prepare for an integrative goods and services tax that is likely to tweak the existing rate a notch or two, on both production and consumption, and both for central and state levies. The objective ought to be a tax rate of 8% plus 8%.

Given that the indirect tax burden is regressive, paid by all and sundry regardless of income, it is essential that it is within limits. The ideal is, of course, to have uniform duty levels across the board, but there is a valid case for higher excise on segments like bigger automobiles. Overall, the main burden of taxation ought to be on consumption rather than transaction taxes like stamp duties.

Additionally, what is required is suitable policy for a deep and active debt market, including for corporate bonds. A lower fiscal deficit, with government borrowings at prudent levels, is necessary for a proper bond market. It would better reveal a rupee yield curve and the cost of funds. But the bond market here is 'limited and stunted', in that the monopoly trading platform for bonds is under the purview of the monetary authority, unlike global practice. Securities trading ought to be overseen by markets regulator Sebi. We do need to rev up the market for single-name (read: corporate) securities.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



The abduction by Naxalites last week of Orissa's Malkangiri collector, Mr R. Vineel Kumar, along with junior engineer Mr Pabitra Majhi, underlines the complexity of dealing effectively with the Maoist problem. There are some crucial lessons here too. Since the Naxalite issue affects about 60 districts across seven states, what we are witnessing in Orissa has wider implications.

The initial focus was on whether or not to engage in talks with the Maoists who demanded the release of arrested colleagues in return for the captured officials. It is just as well that the Orissa government chose to agree to such a swap. It has been a ready prescription for some years that there should be no negotiations with terrorists.

It is thought that such a course of action is pusillanimous, that it emboldens terrorists, and that it is a relatively painless way of getting freed desperadoes captured with some difficulty. In India we have almost always chosen the path of dialogue, but the no-negotiations stance is especially strong among Western nations.

The Rubaiya Sayeed case in Kashmir and the Kandahar hijack case highlight the unspoken Indian approach. Possibly what explains the Western view is that usually these countries deal with terrorists who are not their own citizens, and those abducted are usually ordinary individuals (not large groups) — often in non-Western locations (such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) — and not senior officials or their families.

Should the worst happen and a hostage is killed by the kidnappers, the domestic political fallout is expected to be relatively small. A genuine test of the no-negotiations-with-terrorists approach is yet to come. Only if a senior official or a large group of their own nationals is taken captive home soil will we get a real idea of how firmly committed Western democracies are to the principle they espouse.

Most hostage situations which have played out on Indian soil involve our own citizens — those captured as well as the outlaws — or, as in the Kandahar case, a very large group of our citizens are affected. This brings an altogether different perspective into play.

It should also be kept in mind that if an official as senior as a district collector is allowed to be tortured or killed by outlawed bodies, the faith of the populace in the administration is likely to be badly shaken, not to mention that government officials would hesitate to serve in such areas.

There is another consideration as well. Vile as the operating techniques of the Naxalites are, should they be deemed to be terrorists in the ordinary sense of the term? The answer is not easy or uncomplicated, for the stated aim of Naxal violence is succour for the poorest sections and this brings in a degree of sympathy for them among the intelligentsia. Another issue in the debate, of course, is that Naxalites are not external elements but our own citizens. The rules of engagement may have been different if their gangs included foreigners.






The gloves are off in Europe. Lord Alexander Carlile, QC, was appointed by the British government to review the country's anti-terrorist legislation. The publication of his final report strongly states that Britain's long-standing efforts at "multiculturalism" in respect to immigrant communities does not seem to be working.

In fact, it is turning Britain into a safe haven for terrorists, especially from immigrant communities, primarily because of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that made it difficult to deport people considered terrorist risks, and other decisions that curbed the application of British anti-terrorist laws.

Since 1960s, Britain has practised a policy of "enlightened liberalism". But Prime Minister David Cameron felt sufficiently alarmed by the growth of religiously radicalised militancy within the country to bite the bullet and move away from political correctness. He publicly expressed serious concerns about "segregated communities where Islamic extremism can thrive".

Speaking at a security conference in Germany on February 4, Mr Cameron referred to the "hands-off tolerance" in Britain and other European nations that had encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups "to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream". He said that the policy had allowed Islamic militants leeway to radicalise young Muslims, some of whom went on to "the next level" by becoming terrorists.

He went on to say that the multiculturalism policy — based on the principle of the right of all groups in Britain to live by their traditional values — had failed to promote a sense of common identity centered on values of human rights, democracy, social integration and equality before the law.

He urged European governments to practice "a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism", reverberating and amplifying what French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said elsewhere about the situation in their own countries.

Immigrant groups in Britain are dominated by Muslims, whose numbers have been estimated in some recent surveys at 2.5 million in Britain's population of 60 million. Britain's domestic intelligence service, MI5, has said that as many as 2,000 Muslims in Britain are involved in terrorist cells, and that it tracks dozens of potential terrorist plots at any one time, all with a very substantial Pakistan connection.

In Britain, organisations like al-Muhajiroun founded by the cleric Sheikh Muhammad Umar Bhakri openly proselytise and recruit second- or third-generation British Pakistanis. They motivate them to attend jihadi training camps in Pakistan and join the holy war in Afghanistan where some have fought against British troops.

Britain plans to tackle extremism by barring "preachers of hate" like Sheikh Bhakri or Abu Hamza al-Masri from visiting the country and not allowing them to speak in mosques and community centres. Often, neo-jihadi groups masquerade as social organisations and receive government funds. They divert the funds to develop platforms that are hostile to British perceptions of gender equality and other Western social values.

India needs to carefully assess the impact of Mr Cameron's speech. This can have inevitable side effects on the way the Hindu and Sikh diaspora in Britain is perceived by the British. Hindus and Sikhs are also from South Asia but are separate from their Pakistani counterparts. They are now trying to move out from the blanket of South Asian coverall by demanding specific classification as "British Hindus" or "British Sikhs".

Eastern Europe — with a turbulent history of indigenous Euro-Muslim populations in the Balkans and the North Caucasus undistinguishable from their non-Muslim compatriots — is experiencing its own ethnic turbulence. In the Balkans, the disintegration of Yugoslavia ignited religious conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo along historical Serb-Muslim faultlines that had been kept in check by the former Communist government.

In North Caucasus, two no-holds-barred wars in Chechnya against the Russian government have given rise to the Imarat Kavkaz or the Caucasus Emirate. It was proclaimed by rebel Chechen leader Doka Umarov in the troubled Stavropol region of Russia bordering the Caspian Sea in the southernmost republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia.

These five Russian republics are home to fundamentalist separatist insurgencies that carry out regular attacks against Russian security forces and government officials not only their "near presence" in the Caucasus, but also the "far enemy" in Moscow itself.

Europe has experienced a series of major terrorist attacks over the past decade. Attacks like the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the London Tube cum bus bombings of 2005, the Beslan School hostage crisis of 2004, have portrayed Russian security agencies in extremely poor light. The perpetrator of the January 2011 suicide attack at Moscow's Domededovo airport was a militant of the North Caucasus Nogai tribal Jamaat. He was allegedly trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In India, the country's earliest encounter with European militancy began with the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in December 1999. Sadly, the Indian authorities mishandled the situation and released Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and two other Pakistani terrorists. Sheikh was a British passport holder. That sequence was re-enacted in October 2009 when David Coleman Headley (aka Daud Gilani) was caught by the Chicago police as he was boarding a flight from the US to Pakistan.

Headley — an American citizen of Pakistani-American parentage — was allegedly involved in the planning and management of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. It is alleged that he carried out five reconnaissance visits to Mumbai between 2006-2008, posing as an American businessman.

Back home, India on its part needs to congratulate itself, and count its blessings at the success of its own social integration post-1947 which has been hugely inclusive. We must thank the wisdom of the founding fathers who insisted on strong secular roots in an enormously multicultural society.

As a result, in spite of massive external provocations and sponsorship from Pakistan, global jihad has not been able to establish indigenous foundations in India. Neither Akshardham nor Malegaon can be tolerated in India. The watchword is eternal vigilance.

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






Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin's new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on February 19 — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: "It's like Cairo has moved to Madison".

It wasn't the smartest thing for Mr Ryan to say, since he probably didn't mean to compare Mr Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent Conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that US President Barack Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it.

In any case, however, Mr Ryan was more right than he knew. For what's happening in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget, despite Mr Walker's pretence that he's just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that's why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators' side.

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away.

In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signalled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr Walker isn't interested in making a deal. Partly that's because he doesn't want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers' ability to bargain.

The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state's workers, in effect busting public-employee unions. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it's as if Mr Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state's budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there's not much room for further pay squeezes. So it's not about the budget; it's about the power.

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance thinktanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr Walker). On paper, we're a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we're more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it's important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don't have to love unions, you don't have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognise that they're among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle and working class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that's to an important extent due to the decline of private sector unions.

And now Mr Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public sector unions, too.

There's a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America's oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-2009, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don't know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn't.






26/11: Seeking justice, not revenge

By Sidharth Bhatia

During a television discussion soon after the announcement of the Ajmal Kasab verdict by the Bombay high court on Monday, my co-panelist, a survivor of those terrible hours on November 26, 2008, was asked: "Are you disappointed at the pace of the judgment?" The lady replied, in a firm voice: "No. We are a democracy and the due process of law must be followed".

This is a welcome change from all those who complain that the legal process in 26/11 terror attacks case has taken far too much time. Of course, the issue of time is debatable considering that two courts have pronounced judgments in just two-and-a-half years on what is still a very emotionally-charged issue. The son of the policeman who arrested Kasab but lost his own life has said that nothing short of hanging the terrorist in a public place will serve the cause of justice. But that would be vengeance, not justice. Killing Kasab summarily will not bring the dead back, only satisfy our desire for bloody revenge.

The fact of the matter is that slow or not, the courts have examined all the evidence put before them and given their considered view. Indeed, the two Indians, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, have once again been found not guilty as co-conspirators. The proof collected by the Mumbai police — mainly hand-drawn maps — has been found inadequate to nail them. So while the police and the prosecutor are congratulating themselves about having prepared a fool-proof case against Kasab, they need to relook at the evidence they have about the other two. The Maharashtra state government wants to file an appeal in the Supreme Court, but if no new evidence is unearthed, it promises to be a futile exercise once again.

Coming back to Kasab, two courts have firmly said that his crime was the "rarest of rare" and hence death sentence is justified. But the high court has gone a step further and accused him of seven murders specifically, including those of the three senior police officers — chief of the Anti-Terrorism Squad Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar.

The high court judge pointed out that Kasab had been a willful participant in the training given by his masters in Pakistan and no doubt, as it being continually repeated on our TV screens, the terrorist's lack of remorse or regret must have weighed against him. As a highly trained operative, this lack of emotion can only be expected.

One more important milestone in the legal process has been achieved and Kasab can now appeal to the Supreme Court and then put up a mercy petition to the President. So it is quite likely that it will be a while before the death sentence, if it is upheld, is carried out.

But for the moment, in light of the high court's crucial judgment, an important question needs to be asked: Is this some sort of closure? Closure for the victims, for the survivors, for Indians as a whole? Can we just feel satisfied at the fact that our legal system delivers justice and let it go at that? The answer is, no.

In the aftermath of those terrible 60 hours when the attention of the world was on Mumbai, the people of the city rose as one and demanded answers. They took out processions to express their outrage and anger. Tall promises were made by the establishment. At least three top politicians — Shivraj Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh and R.R. Patil — lost their jobs. Assurances were given that not only would security systems be enhanced and toughened, but those responsible at all levels would be made accountable. An enquiry report was commissioned.

Two-and-a-half years on, what do we see? All three are back in office; Mr Deshmukh has gone from strength to strength while Mr R.R. Patil is sitting in Mantralaya. The report, which was not made public for a long time, turned out to be a dud, putting all the blame on the then police commissioner Hasan Ghafoor. Diplomatically we are still struggling with Pakistan to proceed against the masterminds of terror attacks. Why, even our best friend the United States was very reluctant to give us access to David Coleman Headley, who had done the original recce in Mumbai to prepare the dastardly plan. Had information on him been shared in advance, perhaps 26/11 could have been prevented. More details on this are available at [1].

But why blame others when our own leaders have been lax? A bigger let down has been the lack of any comprehensive public enquiry into the whole episode. In the US, sustained pressure from families of the survivors of 9/11 attacks and citizens forced the government to establish a commission which called everyone before it, including sitting President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton. Over 1,000 witnesses were examined. Though the commission's report was criticised for being too soft on the Bush administration, at least there was a document that was presented to the public. At the very least, holding such a commission contributes to some kind of social catharsis at a time when the people are hurting.

The Kasab case will now move forward and take its own legal course. Other terrorist incidents in the state (Mumbai train bombings of 2006, German Bakery case in Pune) are still being investigated and the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Even the real brains behind 26/11 are out there somewhere. The citizen is within his rights to feel frustrated. Yet, the Kasab case shows that the system does work and that should give the citizen some hope, too.

* Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai






India Inc. has made significant progress in biotechnology in the last decade. This sector has the potential to have long-term impact in addressing many of the developmental challenges of the nation, be it in healthcare through innovative and affordable medicines, or in food, environment and energy security.

The Indian biotechnology industry has shown steady growth over the last decade with average revenue growth figures greater than 20 per cent. Despite the global downturn in 2009 and slow recovery in 2010, revenues touched Rs 15,000 crores as revealed by the industry survey conducted by the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE).

The industry has set itself a target of Rs 45,000 crores turnover by 2015 which would require it to grow at about 30 per cent year on year. This is an achievable target but will require perfect execution and a helping hand from both, the state and the Central government.

Biotechnology is a research-intensive sector. So, a number of items on this sector as well as pharma's wish list (as identified by PricewaterhouseCoopers) for Budget 2011-2012 have to do with tax incentives for research, starting with a request — to extend the sunset clause for claiming tax holidays for exports (Section 10B) by one year, to March 31, 2012.

The other suggestions are:

* The provisions relating to weighted deduction of 200 per cent is available to companies engaged in business of manufacture or production. The same is not available to companies only engaged in undertaking contract research activities.

In order to promote India as a research and development hub, extension of above incentives to contract R&D companies would be welcome. Further, benefits in the form of research tax credits, which can be used to offset future tax liability could also be considered. Also, considering the long gestation period to break even and R&D incentives offered globally, the rate of weighted deduction should be increased to 300 per cent.

* Exemption of 100 per cent profits of companies engaged in scientific research and development for a period of 10 consecutive assessment years should be extended to companies obtaining approval till March 2012.

* The current rate of Minimal Alternate Tax (i.e. 18 per cent MAT) is very high. It should be reduced, and all approved clinical research companies should be exempt from MAT to facilitate sustaining their cost advantage and, in turn, gaining higher share in the global research business.

* Clinical trials and services directly or indirectly related to it should be exempt from service tax.

* Given the inherent regulatory gestation in this sector, the 100 per cent tax-free status for Biotech SEZs should be increased from five to 10 years.

* There is an urgent need for genuine "industry-ready" workforce in biotech. The biotech industry strongly recommends that the government invests in seeding "finishing schools in biotechnology" to impart industry-specific programmes, vocational training in quality control, using current good manufacturing practice technology in a pilot operating plant, and provide scholarships to encourage students to enroll in these programmes. The ongoing pilot experiment in Karnataka with finishing schools suggests that a fund of `100 crores may be required to have a national impact.

The country faces a serious challenge of food security and the situation is not helped by the fact that growth in agricultural productivity is not high. Biotechnology interventions offer immense opportunities to meet this challenge. Reform in agricultural education is necessary.

We would request allocation of around `100 crores for educational reforms as well as general dissemination of the strengths and weaknesses of modern agri-biotechnology.

This year, as we celebrate the birth centenary of Homi J. Bhabha, his words at a Science Council in 1966 still ring true: "The problem of developing the underdeveloped countries is therefore the problem of... transforming their economy to one based on modern science and technology".

* Vijay Chandru is the chairman-CEO, Strand Life Sciences and president of the Association of Biotech-Led Enterprises






We often repent after throwing a fit of anger and decide not to get carried away again by the same emotion. But when the actual moment comes, all the resolutions are swept away by the tornado of anger.

Most of the management programmes teach techniques to control anger. But controlling anger is giving it more power. Controlled anger enters the unconscious mind, draws strength from other negative emotions and waits to erupt at the right time. Meditators think that anger is a hindrance, a barrier in becoming peaceful. So they try to divert their attention by counting 10 and other such feeble attempts. This doesn't work either.

What Osho has proposed is an extremely original approach to anger. The first and foremost thing is to look upon anger as an energy; do not label it as good nor bad. Anger has two features: heat and the light. Usually we only experience the heat of anger. Osho gives a method by which we can transform heat of anger into light.

When you think anger is coming to you, close your eyes and meditate on what anger is. Dig deep inside and find out the source from where it is coming. At that point your body may want to take the restlessness out, maybe jump up and down, so do it. You can dance your anger, you can sing your anger. Cooperate with the body.

"Watch it; do not indulge in it — because if you indulge in it, it will be thrown out without being transformed. And do not suppress it — because if you suppress it, it will be thrown back to the original source which is overflowing. It cannot absorb it. It will be thrown back again with a more forceful movement. Just be conscious," says Osho.

The inward movement of your consciousness slows down the emotion; this very observation transforms the quality of anger, because this calm watchfulness is an antidote. It works like cold water on fire. When this calm watchfulness enters into anger, it changes its quality, and the heat becomes light.

— Amrit Sadhana is in the management
team of Osho International Meditation Resort,
Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops
around the country and abroad.









TWENTY-SIX years after he stormed out of the African bush as head of the National Resistance Army to seize Kampala and power, Yoweri Musaveni on Sunday bought himself a further five years as President of Uganda following an election marred by huge irregularities. The election, which also saw Musaveni's National Resistance Movement secure a majority in Parliament, was skewed in every possible way to favour the incumbent. Elements of the state were synonymous with the party in the run-up to the election. Voters were bribed, the President himself and the Speaker of Parliament were among ruling party luminaries to be seen doling out cash; there were accusations of Army high-handedness in intimidating voters, many of whom stayed away, and overall there was a feeling, as some observers put it, of a people who seemed to want change returning the incumbent with a two-thirds vote. There were accusations that the controversial Voters' Register had been manipulated, and international observer groups found that many Ugandans were turned away from polling stations because their names did not feature on the register. In short, there was a sense that an essentially dictatorial regime had bought itself the robes of a democracy.

The Ugandan story ought to strike a chord with at least some countries in India's neighbourhood. For Musaveni's story may well be repeated in Nepal. Like the Maoists, he too espoused Communism when he grabbed power in 1986. Soldiers of his militia became a part, or indeed the whole of the regular Army, which is the aim of Nepal's Maoists as well. Musaveni consolidated power by advocating a party-less system over which he reigned for two decades. It was only after he felt his position was invincible did Musaveni yield to Western pressure to usher in multi-party democracy. And in the first elections held under this system ~ in 2006 ~ there was widespread use of terror and intimidation to secure a victory for the NRM. Musaveni's story is also illustrative of Western two-facedness in dealing with issues of democracy. Justified as President Barack Obama's criticism of India's ambivalence towards the democracy movement in Myanmar might be, Americans in particular and Western nations in general have been benevolent towards Musaveni's regime after he decided to join the so-called war on terror. The discovery two years ago of what was described as unquestionably the largest onshore oil deposit ever in sub-Saharan Africa has raised the stakes significantly. Uganda is clearly afflicted by the "oil curse" and Sunday's election result might well be another manifestation of this.




WHEN Napoleon scripted his celebrated military maxim that "an army marches on its stomach" he could never have imagined a General like the one that an Indian Army court martial has just cashiered and awarded a jail sentence to. True the legal process still has some way to go, but unless all investigative and judicial processes have been turned on their head the basic crime appears established ~ sub-standard foodstuffs were supplied to soldiers. True also that the former Director-General of Supplies and Transport at Army Headquarters is not the sole officer of the rank of Lieutenant-General to have been "punished", but his offence goes far beyond a mere financial scam. It is even more despicable than scandals over land-use, poor quality weaponry or sexual misconduct: it actually borders on the sinful for it hits its victim where it hurts most ~ the "gut". In some legal systems food adulteration is equated with manslaughter, to think that our valiant soldiers serving in Siachen and Kargil were deliberately fed dubious-quality rations is simply mind-boggling. For it amounts to sinister betrayal, an erosion of the faith and trust the jawan has in his superiors ~ the very trust that sees young men walking through a hail of fire to "take out" what their officer had asked them to. At such times it is not just discipline and training that kicks in, it is a belief that their commander will never ask them to put their lives on their line unless the objective was of critical importance. Will such faith and trust survive once the truth trickles down that a "General Sahib" lined his pockets at the cost of their basic needs?

Yet this cannot be written off as a one-man show. Others down the line must have been involved too, and even many more must have been aware of the poor quality foodstuff ~ has the Army's chain of command and discipline regime been so perverted that none dare speak up? It is difficult to believe that this was a "first offence". Something must be downright rotten in a system that permits such an officer to rise to the top slot of his "branch", be awarded a coveted Distinguished Service medal. Cariappa once declared the Indian jawan as "the salt of the earth". What can be said of his present officers? The alibi of "aberrations" and "stray black sheep" is fast losing credibility.



THE loss of face is total. Calcutta High Court has reinforced Raj Bhavan's rap on the knuckles of a government that stumbles from Netai to Barasat. A Division Bench (coram: JN Patel, CJ; and AK Roy, J) has handed over the investigation into the Netai carnage to the CBI. It is a resounding indictment of the West Bengal police whose Criminal Investigation Department has been trashed as "impotent". Not that the CBI has been famously efficient in its work; the reality is quite the contrary. Friday's order is a reflection on the administrative ineptitude, indeed the CID's failure to arrest those whom the court calls the "masterminds". And the state's investigative agency has failed despite the confession of the "key accused" that armed cadres had acted on the orders of the CPI-M's Lalgarh local committee. Verily is the government on the mat with the stinging observation that it is "shielding the culprits". An index perhaps of the degree to which the police administration has been politicised over time. The fine print of the court's order is fairly obvious ~ the inquiry into the 7 January incident has been thoroughly politicised and suitably airbrushed by an effete CID. To the extent that it will not be able to conduct the probe "fairly and impartially as the suspects are members and leaders of the ruling party"... to summon the words of the Bench. The administration's ignorance of the source of arms is itself intriguing. It has fumbled in response to the court's observation: "It is strange that the party is funding the armed camp but has no idea of where the arms are coming from."

Seldom in the past 34 years has the police been a victim of serial disasters ~ the Netai mayhem and its stodgy investigation, the Dooars firing and the Barasat killing. Trust in the police has been shattered for good measure and the Chief Minister's appeal to the brass to "rebuild the people's confidence" rings hollow.  Visuals of his visit to the Barasat home of the victim might suggest that he is visibly upset; alas, it may be too late in the day to arrest the drift. Friday's High Court order makes it plain that the judiciary has lost confidence in the law-enforcement arm of the executive. The state's occasional appeal to the army arguably mirrors that desperation. West Bengal has an incredibly inept Home (Police) minister; sadly he is also the head of government.









Every democratic country has a chapter on  rights in the Constitution. These rights are essential for the development of an individual's personality. The Indian Constitution had initially granted seven rights. The right to property was subsequently deleted by the 42nd amendment. They are both enforceable and fundamental.
Those who drafted the Constitution were aware that a mere declaration of rights was meaningless unless they were made enforceable through the judiciary. Thus, an aggrieved person can move the Supreme Court and High Court under Article 32 and Article 226 respectively for the restoration of a right. The court can restore the right if it has actually been infringed upon or curtailed by anybody. Even if the law made by the legislature or an Act of the executive branch transgresses upon such a right, it becomes void under Article 13(2). This is why the Supreme Court held in the case of Ram Singh vs Delhi (1950), "It is our duty and privilege to see that rights which are intended to be fundamental are kept fundamental."

These rights are also fundamental as they are at the root of the democratic system. Those who drafted the Constitution wanted to ensure that in case of  infringement, the affected person would seek legal remedy from the judiciary. But the most significant point is that when the person moves the Supreme Court under Article 32, he actually utilises a fundamental right for the restoration of another fundamental right because Article 32 itself has been inserted in Part III of the Constitution.

The Constitution has granted five categories of rights ~ (i) right to equality (Article 14-Article 18); (ii) right to liberty (Article 19-Article 22); (iii) right against exploitation (Article 23-Article 24); (iv) right to religion (Article 25-Article 28); (v) educational and cultural rights (Article 29-Article 30). The right to constitutional remedy (Article 32) facilitates the entitlement to the other rights. This remedial right has been made a fundamental right by its inclusion in Part III. This is a unique arrangement, not to be found in any other Constitution. As Dr BR Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Constitution, told the Constituent Assembly: "If I were asked to name the particular Article in this Constitution as the most important Article without which this Constitution would be a nullity, I would not refer to any other Article except this one. It is the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it."

This comment indicates that the fundamental rights represent the most precious aspect of the Constitution. Unfortunately, however, these rights have occasionally been denied to Opposition leaders and critics of the West Bengal government.

Article 19(1)(a) has granted us the freedom of thought and expression. When the government tried forcibly to acquire 995 acres of fertile land in Singur and 6500 acres in Nandigram, it met with fierce resistance from the locals. Naturally, the move was condemned by Opposition leaders.  Even Calcutta High Court criticised such action as "wholly unconstitutional" as did Amnesty International, Jana Adalat, and the National Human Rights Commission. But when perceived intellectuals opposed the government's action, they were bitterly criticised. Even the Governor, who had sympathised with the victims, was not spared. It seems that the dissenters have no right to express their views even when the authorities are on the wrong side of the law.

Second, under Article 19(d), we have the right to "move freely throughout the territory of India". The state, however, can prohibit the entry of any person to a place if there are objective reasons to believe that it would create a problem of law and order (Khare vs Delhi, 1950). But the state government repeatedly prevented some people from visiting Singur and Nandigram by enforcing Section 144. The High Court intervened to enable them to visit the disturbed areas.

Third, Article 19(1)(a) has recognised the right of all to settle and reside in any part of India. There are, however, some "reasonable restrictions"; but such restrictions must be judicially "reasonable" and not arbitrary curbs. The planned industrial development of Bengal had threatened to evict thousands of people in the interests of a few industrialists. The need for rehabilitation has never been seriously considered. Moreover, the forcible occupation of cultivable land for private investment can never be regarded as "public purpose".
Fourth, under Article 19(1)(g), everybody has a fundamental right to choose his occupation or trade. Obviously, some restrictions may be imposed for the greater interest of society (PT Society vs RTA, 1960, and New Bihar Biri Leaves Society vs Bihar, 1981). In both Singur and Nandigram, thousands of peasants were set to be dislodged from their ancestral land with the promise that they would be rehabilitated as  industrial workers, gatekeepers, shopowners, servants and bearers. This can hardly be compatible with the right as enshrined in this Article.

Finally, Article 21 has given us the inherent "right to life". But the police action in Nandigram killed 14 people and injured hundreds. In the cases of Satwant vs Assistant Passport Officer (1967) and Maneka vs Union (1977), the Supreme Court had offered an extended interpretation of this Article, specifically that it implied a variety of rights eminently necessary for civic life. Thus, this right does not merely imply the right to exist; it also means the right to live with personal honour and human dignity. Can it be ignored or trampled upon by a car factory or a chemical hub?

Though fundamental rights are a gift of the Constitution, they are often denied to those who may not endorse the policies of the ruling class. Significantly, the Preamble to the Constitution has pledged to establish a "democratic republic". But democracy is based on liberty, equality and tolerance. As Harold J Laski observed: "The government can learn more from the criticism of the opponents than from the eulogy of its supporters." The Preamble also speaks of "equality of status and opportunity", "liberty of thought, expression, faith and belief", "justice" and "dignity of the individual". A government is bound by oath to honour and uphold the Constitution. It is dutybound to ensure the rights to the Opposition. The gift of the Constitution must be available to all, irrespective of their political leanings.

(The writer is former Reader, New Alipore College, Kolkata)








Escape Of The Assassin

A head constable, Srish Chakravarty, doing duty with the Calcutta Force in connection with political crimes, was shot a short distance from the house where he was living in Sikdar Bagan Street on Tuesday night between half-past seven and eight o'clock. He was returning to his home after a short walk in company with a friend of his when he was shot in the back, by an unknown assassin, at such close quarters that his shirt was actually set on fire. Sikdar Bagan Street is a dark and very narrow street and at night is practically deserted. There are a few gas lamps at long intervals along one side of the street which only give an imperfect light for the thoroughfare. It was in a dark portion of the street that the shooting took place. The assailant, who had approached the head constable from behind unperceived, bolted immediately he had fired the one shot. No other shot was fired; all accounts show that only one report was heard.

The bullet passed right through the head constable's body about the region of the liver. The unfortunate man ran into his uncle's dispensary (where he lived), which is close by. He was with all possible speed placed in a ticca gharry which happened to be waiting in the neighbourhood, and was taken to the Medical College Hospital, where he arrived in a dying condition. He reached the hospital at about a quarter to nine, and died at about twenty minutes past nine. Sub-Inspector Mullick reached the hospital in time to take his dying statement.
Within a very brief time the Commissioner of Police, Mr F.L. Halliday, Deputy-Commissioner Tegart, and other officials were on the scene, a police cordon was drawn round the locality and an energetic investigation was set in progress.







Chand Bibi lit many candles for me when I was a child. I thought of her again last November, when on the night of Shab-e-barat, the street where I live was choc-a-bloc with devotees heading for the nearby graveyard to light candles for the dead. But Chand Bibi lit candles so that I might live with gusto, and she lit them in a graveyard different from the one near which I currently live.

As a child, I was extremely fond of sweet-and-sour eatables, such as hajmi-goli, churan, aam-papad, and so on. Most of these eatables were dark brown black in colour, owing to the liberal doses of black salt with which the main ingredient was mixed. Particularly, there were these toffees with a rough surface to them, which scoured the roof of the mouth.

The,n there were pickled berries and a spike-shaped fruit called kamranga, which has the most excruciating sweet and sour taste imaginable. All of these delectables, which are making me salivate even as I describe them, were sold by a churan-wallah who positioned himself strategically at the entrance of our school, so that we could make a quick purchase at the start of school, at lunchtime, and when leaving school at the end of another murderous day.

I had the habit of making my purchase while entering the school, so as to make the task of paying attention to the droning of the Physics or Mathematics teacher less onerous by rolling around the savouries in my mouth and enjoying their flavour. I would take a quick bite by opening the lid of my desk while the teacher's front was turned to the blackboard, and when she turned to face the class, I would be looking at her seriously, with baleful eyes. This used to be the routine when I was in the upper classes and walked to school on my own or with friends from the neighbourhood. I would buy the savouries by saving the 20 paise that my mother used to cover the bus fare.

Chand Bibi entered the scene when I was much younger, maybe seven or eight years old. At that time I was not allowed to go to school on my own, and neither was I given any pocketmoney. But I somehow managed to get hold of the above-mentioned delights and would gorge on them until my stomach gave way. Fearing my mother's wrath, I didn't tell her about it, and went to school with ominous rumblings in my stomach. And many were the days when the class teacher puckered her nose when near me and yelled for the ayah to take me to the toilet for my pants to be; and many pants were changed. The school had a set of one-size-fits-all half-pants which, when the ayah would tie it around my scrawny waist, ballooned out like a skirt and hung to my knees, making me look like an RSS volunteer.

As the pant-changing routine increased in frequency, my mother decided to take action, and that's when Chand Bibi entered the scene. Chand Bibi was a widow with most of her teeth gone, save one that protruded. She had one daughter with a similar tooth, whose husband had abandoned her along with a brood of noisy kids. They lived where the AJC Bose flyover ends at Park Circus, in a single room in a tenement that housed a phone booth in front and a masjid at the back. The room had a large four-poster bed that stood high from the ground, so that the underneath served as a second room in which were stashed children's clothes, pillows, toys and what have you. The room itself was nondescript, with pots and pans strewn around. Chand Bibi had some reputation in the neighbourhood of a quack, whose curative powers involved a mixture of herbs, incantations and mysticism.
She heard my mother out, and said she would prescribe a remedy. But first, she needed to light candles in the graveyard. So, on a dark, moonless night, Chand Bibi lit candles on the graves of the dead, and sent up, with incense fumes, her prayers that my stomach would hold tight for evermore, no matter how sweet or how sour the eatables I engulfed. After that, I consumed, every morning, Chand Bibi's remedy for one long year: a tablespoon of the bitterest concoction imaginable. But the result was potent: I developed a stomach of iron. Over the years, I've travelled around the world and never needed to change pants for reasons from my childhood.







The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon, has called for an immediate end to violence unleashed on peaceful protesters in Bahrain and said he would contact leaders in West Asia and north Africa to urge them to institute bold reforms and not repression.

"I am disturbed by all these violent means of trying to disperse demonstrators, the (muzzling of) freedom of expression, freedom of access to information, particularly in case of journalists," he told reporters in New York. "Here as elsewhere, violence should not be used against peaceful demonstrators and against journalists. It must stop. Those responsible must be brought to justice. In responding to peaceful protests, authorities have an obligation to respect human rights. There should be no violence from any quarter. I urge all parties to exercise restraint."

According to media reports from Bahrain, riot police used clubs and tear gas on demonstrators, many of whom were sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault in the main square of Manama. Mr Ban had made statements earlier on the uprising in Tunisia and Egypt whose Presidents had to step down following popular protests ~ sparking off largely peaceful demonstrations in half a dozen other countries. He iterated the UN's calls to regional rulers to listen attentively to their people and respond to their legitimate aspirations.

"I will be reaching out again in the days ahead to leaders in the region to reiterate that message. I will say it once again: the situation calls for bold reforms, not repression," he said. "Sustainable progress can take root in places where people are empowered, where governments are responsive, where growth is inclusive." He called the recent developments in north Africa and West Asia "extraordinary", with people rising to voice their legitimate aspirations and civil society and young people leading the way. He stressed that while each country was unique and each situation different, there were common challenges and important principles to uphold. "Throughout this period, the United Nations has been clear and consistent in supporting basic human rights and freedoms," he said. "Above all, we have insisted on respect for the rights of peaceful protest and assembly, freedom of the press and access to information."

He noted that transitions had been initiated or reforms promised in a number of countries. Mr Ban underscored the crucial need for leaders to deliver on those pledges. He welcomed public commitments made in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down last week, to hold free and transparent elections and enact measures enabling them, all as part of a transition to democratic, civilian rule. "Those commitments must be fulfilled," he said.

"There must be no turning back. For many years, the United Nations has pointed to the problems which have now come so forcefully to the surface. Both the leadership and the citizens of each country have a responsibility to work together, starting now. The United Nations not only stands ready to help, but we are actively preparing to provide any assistance that may be requested."

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Mr Christof Heyns; Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Mr Frank La Rue; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Mr Juan Méndez; and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention too issued a joint statement.

USA vetoes draft resolution

The US Ambassador to the UN, Ms Susan Rice vetoed a Security Council draft resolution co-sponsored by India, France, UK, Brazil and Germany and other members condemning Israeli illegal settlements on Palestinian territory after the Palestinians refused to withdraw the Arab-drafted text. The draft resolution received 14 votes in favour, no abstentions with the USA voting against it. Ms Rice said that Washington had "regrettably" chosen to oppose the resolution, sponsored by some 130 countries and supported by Palestine. "This draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides," Ms Rice said. "It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations." She stressed that the veto by President Barack Obama administration should not be taken as US support for Jewish settlements. She also said the UN was not the correct place to resolve the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict.

anjali sharma







Dictators try their best to hold on to power as long as they can. If Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was relatively prudent in his reaction to the popular revolution that saw his downfall, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya has thrown caution to the winds. A peaceful uprising, led yet again by the people, in Libya is being suppressed with brute force by Mr Gaddafi's autocratic regime. As the arc of protest widens to engulf the Arab world — Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco, Oman, Algeria and Kuwait are also stirring after years of silent suffering — leaders are growing desperate as well. The army has been deployed in Tehran by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's faux-democratic regime to forestall any unrest. But the case of Libya is more complicated than Iran, which has entered the bad books of the West by refusing to disclose details of its clandestine nuclear programme. Libya, in contrast, has behaved impeccably. Once described by the Central Intelligence Agency as an uninhibited supporter of international terrorism, Libya reinvented itself as a token supporter of democracy in the 1990s when it handed over two suspects to the Lockerbie bombing trials. In 2003, Libya abandoned its weapons of mass destruction project. Another feather was added to its cap when it started cooperating with the European Union on illegal immigration. However, such gestures merely amounted to cosmetic surgery, and Libya's image, for its own citizens, did not change remotely for the better. Under Mr Gaddafi's iron rule, human rights were made a hash of, and Libya's Western allies decided to not meddle with its internal politics for fearing of losing its cooperation.

It may be easier for the West to offer support to other countries experiencing regime-threatening moments than to Libya. For years, Arab intellectuals like Edward Said and Saad Eddin Ibrahim tried to open up a space for debate and dissent in mainstream Arab societies. But the main challenge to their vision was Western investment in the region, mainly in the form of oil import. From Lebanon in 1958 to Iraq in 2003, Western leaders endorsed Arab regimes which were beneficial to their interests. But a major strategic change started with the end of the Cold War. Trade became a matter of financial, rather than strategic, transaction. So Western powers are now in a position to influence Middle East politics in a more positive way. But will they dare disturb the old order?







There is a tide in coalition politics, as in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Mamata Banerjee knows this as much as the leaders of the Congress. But it helps in coalition politics to reach out to allies in unequivocal terms. By openly calling upon the Congress to join an alliance with her party, the Trinamul Congress, for the forthcoming assembly polls, Ms Banerjee has achieved two things. She has put to rest all speculation about the future of the alliance. True, there was little doubt anyway about the two parties jointly fighting the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in these elections. But what is more important is her message that she would try to live up to the Congress's hopes for "an alliance with honour". It is not so much a question of generosity on her part as one of her accepting the reality. Her party may be much stronger in Bengal than the Congress. The elections to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and other civic bodies last year proved that beyond doubt. But the polls in the districts also proved that she still needed the Congress in order to defeat the CPI(M) all over Bengal. Obviously, Ms Banerjee would not want to take any chances during her final assault on the Left this summer.

Ideally, though, political coalitions are more about common programmes and policies than about the sharing of seats during an electoral campaign. That makes the TMC and the Congress natural allies. And that is so not merely because the Congress happens to be the TMC's parent party or because both are partners in the United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi. Both parties share similar outlooks on fundamental issues such as democracy, secularism and the State's role in economic development. The TMC's earlier alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party was an unnatural one because the former totally opposed the latter's politics of Hindutva. Such an alliance had no hope of succeeding in Bengal, where 28 per cent of the population is Muslim. It is not generally understood how much of Ms Banerjee's current success owes to her return to an alliance with the Congress. Since she hopes to come to power in Bengal this time, it is important that she wins the trust and respect of her ally. Mutual trust among partners can make a big difference to the credibility and performance of a coalition government. An unhappy partner can be a spoiler both in alliance politics and government.






Every year or two, the prime minister exposes himself to an hour-long interrogation by high priests of the fourth estate. That occasion recurred last week. This time the same thought was uppermost in all suspicious minds. Much dirty riches had been made in the vicinity of Manmohan Singh, who has made a name for cleanness. Forbid the thought that he patronized the self-enrichment of his colleagues and subordinates; but short of that, how would he explain his systematic passivity in the presence of their cupidity? That is not quite what he wanted to do. As he said, he wanted the nation to feel good about itself; talk of scandals was liable to impair its exuberance. He wanted to put it back on cloud nine. The whole world thinks the world of India; it would be wrong if India did not agree with the world on this. The law will take its course, and wrongdoers will be brought to book. When asked whether he would assure his people that this would happen in their lifetimes, he said he would try. In the meantime, he wished the television moguls to join him in cheering up the people.

On the immediate matter that was depressing many, he spelt out the rules of the coalition game he plays with such finesse: that ministries are the jagirs of each coalition partner. The rules ruled out his telling the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to replace A. Raja with a less corrupt minister. He left it unsaid that the same rules will continue to apply: that if another minister makes hay, he will watch helplessly. Meanwhile, he led everyone in saying that corruption must be eliminated; just how remained unanswered.

It was interesting how the prime minister handled the non-cooperation of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Parliament; he suggested delicately that it was because a BJP minister was under arrest. That description narrows down the list to three: Mayaben Kodnani, accused of organizing the murder of Muslims in the 2001 riots, Babu Bokhiria, accused of being involved in the murder of Molu Modhwadia, a Congress member of the legislative assembly, and of illegal mining, and Amit Shah, accused of getting Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kausar Bi killed in a fake encounter. Of the three, Kodnani and Bokhiria are living free and easy lives. Amit Shah has been in and out of jail, but when last seen he was having a good time in Mumbai. So it is not clear whom the prime minister was talking of. But of the three accused of murder, Amit Shah is the big fish; it looks as if the BJP wants him back on his jagir in Gujarat. Lal Kishenchand Advani went to see him in Sabarmati jail last year. If Shah is the man responsible for the BJP's unending mayhem, the nation should be told more explicitly.

The nation has been confused about the prime minister's willingness to face interrogation. The impression was that he was prepared to be questioned by the parliamentary accounts committee but not by a joint parliamentary committee. The first is a permanent committee of Parliament which receives and discusses reports from the comptroller and auditor general about corruption and inefficiency in the government; the second has not been appointed, but the BJP would like one on the spectrum scam. The prime minister seemed to be saying: JPC, PAC, OBC — he was prepared to face any committee. While the BJP claims to have sabotaged Parliament because the prime minister was not prepared for a JPC, it has really done so because Amit Shah is not being allowed to return to the killing fields of Gujarat. If the prime minister had said this in so many words, it would have been a sensation, and might have led the BJP to own or disown Amit Shah as the case may be. But the delicacy with which he handled the issue ensures that it will be promptly buried.

He was equally adroit in sidestepping a question about infrastructure investment being held up by the lack of long-term funds: he expected some announcement would be made in the budget. Many have been made on that issue in many previous budgets, so he was announcing continuation of business as usual. What he does not see is that there can be no long-term debt in an economy suffering from high and variable inflation. Issuers would not be prepared to promise indexed interest on long-term bonds because prices can rise at different rates and they cannot be sure that their returns will go up at the same rate as general inflation; and if they just offered an invariant rate of interest, no one will buy their bonds. Inflation is the worst enemy of infrastructure investment in this country; and the government is addicted to inflation.

The prime minister is concerned only about how inflation might hurt the living standards of the poor, and thinks that he has protected them with two things: rations of wheat and rice at prices that have not been raised since 2002, and public employment programmes which pay indexed wages. He does not see that he protects only those whom his government certifies as poor; there are reports that there is considerable inaccuracy as well as corruption in this certification. There are endless controversies amongst government types about the proportion of the poor in population; in the circumstances, the government is simply incapable of accurately identifying the "poor". And the government pays wages only to those poor that turn up for public employment where and when it is offered; there too there are reports of labour roll faking and corruption. Apparently, the prime minister is perfectly comfortable with these imperfections. Honesty is the best policy, but only for himself; for the rest in his government, anything goes.

On the Antrix affair the prime minister was on top of the facts and laid them out in much detail. Its crux was that his office was entirely innocent. Whatever had been done was done by the Space Commission. He did not say that what it had done was perfectly right, only that in the end it did the right thing. The nation was no doubt reassured; but it could entertain some doubt on whether wrong things would continue to be done so that the right thing could be done in the end.

But it would be left in no doubt if it understood the prime minister's point of view. He gave instances of the enormous subsidies the government was giving, and said it would be wrong to call them losses; hence there was no loss involved in giving away spectrum below market prices. He thought it was impossible to estimate losses, the way the public accounts committee had done, unless spectrum was sold at market prices. But if it was so sold at market prices there would be no loss anyway. So there are never losses; there are only subsidies. And it is the government's privilege to give subsidies to its chosen poor. They create dual markets, induce diversion from subsidized to unsubsidized markets, and generate enormous illicit gains. It is this uncomfortable truth that the prime minister simply refused to face. Maybe that was because no journalist pointed it out.






The budget session of Parliament has resumed, and we Indians will be hoping that our leaders would cease to behave like charlatans, mocking the very premise of parliamentary democracy by misbehaving in the Houses of Parliament at the cost of the people of India. The last session, in particular, shamed and saddened us. A 'shining India' declaiming about its 'rate of growth' from rooftops, led by a bunch of elected representatives who often scream and break microphones in the House and chuck them at fellow members, has demeaned the people of this great nation. Equally, scams, loot, extortion, and everything that goes along with such mafia-type activities have deeply embarrassed and angered the ordinary, hard working people who are, in fact, responsible for growth and change despite a failed and corroded system.

The ordinary Indian is the 'Indian of the Year'. He has triumphed over evil practice, harassment, mal-administration, the abject lack of infrastructure and managed to function in an environment in which the rules that govern economic and social activities have been framed by domineering colonials. It makes one sick to think that after six decades, India's leaders have not been able to rewrite the laws they inherited from an alien power that had exploited and repressed India. Nor have they modified the laws to take care of the changed circumstances, so as to reinforce liberties and draft rules to facilitate good, clean and transparent governance. This is the reason why we are ridden with scams in high places. No knowledge of rocket science is required to comprehend the reasons behind the socio-economic upheavals that are taking place in India. They stem from decades of ruthless, faulty, exclusive and corrupt governance.

Step out

As governments are compelled to face the horrific outcomes of their deeds, ordinary Indians are being confronted with all kinds of assaults and accusations. Government servants and politicians will be running for cover, desperate to hide the wrongdoings that accompany their acts of omission. Therefore, the government needs to urgently activate the overhaul of the administrative and law and order machinery. Otherwise, the aspirations of a burgeoning middle class will drown India in a poisonous sea of violence.

Leaders, comfortably placed inside their palaces, offices and homes, have lost touch with the ground. They only listen to coteries with vested interests that have access to them. History is replete with human follies such as these, and the leaders should have the strength to stall the impending doom.

The anthem of the 'rate of growth' reminds one of the slogan, 'India Shining', that had isolated the dispensation at the Centre from what was really happening on the ground. Consequently, the National Democratic Alliance lost its gaddi in Delhi. Why are leaders oblivious to the truth, going only by the 'briefs' that are given to them by their various agents each morning? Why do they abdicate their engagement with those who give them their power? Why do they lose their good sense and intellectual integrity? And why can they not step out of the rusted frame and renew good leadership and governance even if it seems like a huge risk that could remove them from the pinnacle of power? Morality, in its broadest sense, is as important as the rate of growth and both need to move in tandem.

We want to hear much more from our prime minister in Parliament. We need forthright and regular interventions. We need him to engage with the people through the press by having monthly Q&A sessions. We need him to give long interviews to the Karan Thapars of the world. We need active leadership.



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




The Mumbai high court has confirmed the death penalty on Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the ten Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives who had carried out the attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. A special trial court had given him the death sentence last May and Kasab appealed that ruling. The appeal has been rejected now by the high court. A reaffirming of the trial court sentence was expected. The evidence against Kasab was enormous. Kasab pleaded guilty initially, only to retract it later. Over 650 witnesses testified against him. Besides, there was fingerprint and DNA evidence as well as CCTV shots of him walking around the scene of the gruesome attack, an AK-47 rifle slung on his shoulder. Little had changed in the case since the trial court verdict. In the circumstances, the Mumbai court's confirmation of the sentence was inevitable. Justifying the award of the death sentence to Kasab, Justices Ranjana Desai and R V More observed that there is no scope for reforming or rehabilitating Kasab. He has reportedly shown no remorse during his time in jail for the terrible killings he carried out. That seems to have confirmed his fate.

Some have justifiably argued that the death sentence to Kasab would make him a martyr, providing terrorists with a new hero and their cause a shot in the arm. Better to keep him languishing in jail, they argue. It is debatable too whether the death sentence actually deters others from committing similar crimes. Many also point out that spending a lifetime in confinement is far more difficult than facing death. Kasab's fate is not sealed yet as he can still challenge the death penalty by appealing to the supreme court and if that fails, he could file a mercy petition with the president.

Over the past decade, the Indian government has rarely carried out the death sentence, preferring to keep appeals to the president pending. The Kasab judgment surely falls in the 'rarest of the rare' cases category and the families of the victims would surely like to see that the harshest punishment is meted out to him. But then, death sentence as a form of retribution has been abolished by many countries as it is seen as crude and medieval justice. This may be the appropriate time for the country's apex court and the government to ponder over the issue and come to the right conclusion.







The optimism that has returned to food production targets may lift the gloom that enveloped the sector in the recent past but there are several caveats and imponderables that should cause worry to the people and the policy-makers. Agriculture might record a 5 per cent growth this year and the production of wheat, pulses, cotton and maize might touch record levels. The projections have been made by the agriculture ministry and they are subject to revisions later. There is a view that the projected figures are on the high side. Even if they are not, it will be the low base of last year when there was an overall fall in output that will account for the high growth percentage. It is also possible that weather conditions or other factors may adversely affect the output in the case of many crops.

It is hoped that the possibility of greater supply of agricultural produce will have a moderating effect on food inflation. This may not turn out to be the case. It is predicted that farm output will fall in many important parts of the world because of the vagaries of the weather. Drought might cause a severe shortfall in wheat output in China and production in countries like Australia and the US might also be hit. The increased demand resulting from output shortfalls and fall in exports are likely to keep international prices high. This will have an impact in India too. Higher output in India is likely to result in higher rural income and a greater demand for food products, in an environment in which demand is even otherwise increasing. Therefore there is still no certainty about the easing of food prices in the near future.

In India the problem is compounded by the lack of adequate investment in agriculture, in irrigation, in R&D and its applications, poor weather forecasts and many inefficient practices. Higher output does not translate into greater availability of food because of an inefficient supply chain and delivery glitches. Wastage of food on its way from the farmer to the consumer is very high. The transport infrastructure is inadequate. Trade policies, including those relating to imports and exports and movement of food produce inside the country, are not always conducive to best returns for the farmers. Therefore higher production is itself no matter of comfort.







The failure to implement the Fifth Schedule represents a breach of faith with the tribal India and a violation of the constitution.

Talks between the government and ULFA, now formally split between the moderate Arabinda Rajkhowa wing and the militant Paresh Barua faction operating somewhere in the Myanmar-China borderlands after being expelled from Bangladesh, have formally opened with a first round in Delhi.

The ULFA leadership has dropped its demand for sovereignty but insists it has come to the table without preconditions. This should be accepted at face value. ULFA cannot be seen to have abandoned its core position even before commencement of the talks and must be given enough leeway to declare in due course that it has been 'persuaded' to drop this demand in lieu of corresponding 'concessions' by the government. Such tactical maneuvers are par for the course and should not be allowed to rock the boat by those unable to differentiate process from outcomes.

The NSCN, ULFA or United National Liberation Front of Manipur, like the separatists in J&K, need to understand that India represents a commonwealth of peoples. They, in turn, are engaged in transforming diverse and ancient communities into a plural, democratic society of equal citizens armed with the constitutional flexibility innovatively to accommodate all manner of ethnicities and autonomous entities within a structure of cooperative federalism.

The NSCN(IM) leadership appears to have softened its stance on Naga independence though it must be appreciated that this will not be formally dropped until a settlement is concluded. The idea of a Naga constitution within the constitution was earlier bruited and could conceivably yield a solution acceptable to all.

These already exist in embryo in the family of Articles 370, 371, 371A to 371-I pertaining to different states and sub-regions within the country and under the provisions for upward and downward 'entrustment' contained in Articles 258 and 258A. Likewise, non-territorial solutions can and have been devised in the Indian context to provide satisfaction to smaller ethnic groups without formal separation.

Equally, special provisions exist in or can be devised under the constitution to provide for the special needs of various sections of society whether religious, linguistic, minority, backward, scheduled caste, tribal, women and children. So there is plenty of negotiating space to accommodate diversity within unity.

Meanwhile, there will be some disquiet following reports that a ranking Naga leader, Anthony Shimray, who was abroad and arrested while clandestinely entering India, has confessed to the Naga leadership talking to the Chinese about posting a 'permanent representative' in China and seeking other assistance in return for providing intelligence on Indian Army movements in Arunachal and the activities of the Dalai Lama.

China link

If true, this would scarcely be in keeping with the spirit of the suspension of operations agreement under which the current peace talks with Delhi are proceeding. It would appear that sections of the Manipur and Bodo underground are also in touch with the Chinese. These reports merit clear explanations from those involved.
The 24-hour suspension of operations 10 days back by the security forces against the Maoists near Naryanpur in Chhattisgarh to permit the release of some abducted police personnel through the good offices of Swami Aginvesh and another social activist, Gautam Navlakha, in its own way offers an opening to initiate a dialogue and initiate efforts to restore normalcy in at least some Naxal-affected areas.

There has been no real or sustained let up in their activity but with the build up of a better coordinated and trained security grid the Maoists have found it increasingly difficult to impose their writ at will.

The decision to locate an army training camp in interior Chhattisgarh has also unnerved the Maoists as its very presence will induce caution in engaging in unlawful activities. Demanding that the army camp not be located there if negotiations are sought is an unacceptable demand. The military encampment is not being placed there for operations and the army will only react  in accordance with specified terms of engagement if attacked or provoked.

The Centre and Planning Commission have between them worked out a series of socio-economic measures to be implemented in the Naxal belt. These will not go far unless three obvious and essential measures are taken. First, the Fifth Schedule must be activated in full as willful failure to implement it represents a breach of faith with the tribal India and a gross violation of the constitution.

The failure to take this simple fact on board even at this juncture is astonishing. Governors have been in default of their bounden duties and must be enjoined to fulfill these conscientiously. Secondly, there must be a dedicated and suitably incentivised administrative cadre for the tribal areas with a single line administration so that innocent tribals are not driven from pillar to post even on petty matters.

Thirdly, the state must engage with civil society and corporates in the social and economic development of these very backward areas under a strict but reasonable framework of environmental safeguards and corporate social responsibility within a well defined legal framework. Continuing ad hocism will simply not do.

Such an effort will be assured of greater success if Maoist-sympathisers are brought on board and are convinced of the bona fides of the State. Once the bowl is drained, hard core, proletarian-revolution Naxals will, like fish, find it difficult to survive in depleting waters.








If terrorists acquire a nuclear weapon, they would not be deterred by threat of nuclear retaliation.
Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapon of terrorism, whether in the hands of a terrorist organisation or those of the leader of a country. They are weapons of mass annihilation that kill indiscriminately men, women and children. Given the terrorist nature of nuclear weapons and their capacity to destroy civilisation, what makes them acceptable to so many people? Or, at a minimum, what makes so many people complacent in the face of nuclear threats?

The acceptability of nuclear weapons is rooted in the theory of nuclear deterrence, which its proponents argue has kept and will keep the peace. This theory is based upon many assumptions concerning human behaviour. For example, it assumes the rationality of political and military leaders. It seems quite evident that not all leaders behave rationally at all times and under all circumstances.

The theory requires clear communications and the threat to use nuclear weapons in retaliation must be believed by opposing leaders, but as we know communications are not always clear and misperceptions may inform beliefs.

Madman theory

There is a madman theory of nuclear deterrence. It posits that to be truly believable, the leader of a nuclear armed state must exhibit behaviour that appears sufficiently insane to lead opposing leaders to believe that he would actually use the weapons. Thus, insanity, or at least the impression of it, is built into the system. At a systems level, can anyone doubt that the reciprocal threats of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) were truly mad, as in insane?

Another aspect of deterrence theory is that it requires a territory against which to retaliate. Thus, the theory is not valid in relation to a non-state terrorist organisation. If a country has no place to retaliate, there can be no nuclear deterrence. If a terrorist organisation acquires a nuclear weapon, it will not be deterred by threat of nuclear retaliation. This places a fuse on the nuclear threat, and means that there must be zero tolerance for a non-state terrorist organisation to acquire a nuclear capability.

There should also be zero tolerance for states to possess nuclear weapons. I am not limiting this observation to states that seek to develop nuclear arsenals. I mean all states and, most importantly, those already in possession of nuclear weapons.  Current nuclear arsenals may be used by accident, miscalculation or intention. And so long as some states possess nuclear weapons and base their security upon them, there will be an incentive for nuclear proliferation.

Widespread nuclear complacency is difficult to understand.  Most people are aware of the tremendous damage that nuclear weapons can do, but perhaps feel reassured that the weapons have not been used since 1945. The weapons are largely out of sight and out of mind. It is also possible that people feel impotent to influence nuclear policy and thus defer to experts and policy makers. This is unfortunate because until large numbers of people assert themselves on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons, the countries with nuclear weapons will continue to rely upon them to their peril and to the world's peril.

The New Start agreement between the US and Russia is a modest step forward in reducing the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons on each side to 1,550 and the number of deployed delivery vehicles to 700. The greatest value of the treaty may be in restoring inspections of each side's nuclear arsenal by the other side.  At the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation we advocate the following next steps forward:

* Reducing the total number of nuclear weapons strategic, tactical and reserve to under 1,000 on each side;

* making a binding commitment to 'No First Use' of nuclear weapons and to never using nuclear weapons under any circumstances against non-nuclear weapon states;

* De-alerting all nuclear weapons so that there will be no use by accident, miscalculation- or in a fit of anger;
* Placing limits on missile defence systems and banning space weapons;

* commencing multilateral negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, which would ban all nuclear weapons worldwide in a phased, verifiable, irreversible, and transparent manner.

With due regard for the sanctity of life and for future generations, we can do better than to live with such inertia. We can move to zero, the only stable number of nuclear weapons. This is the greatest challenge of our time, a challenge that we must respond to with engagement and persistence. It is time to replace Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) with Planetary Assured Security and Survival.








The excitement preceding the Sunday was palpable in every home.

They were the tenth regulars, or the 1957 batch, in deference to their year of selection, in the legion of IPS cadets of independent India. In the early 70s, coincidentally many of them were on deputation to the capital, usually attached to one arm or the other of the home ministry. And with this critical mass was born the '57ers Club.

They met at noon on the lush lawns of the North and South Block. Lunch boxes, prepared in the early morning bustle, in many Lutyen's Delhi's D-II kitchens were opened and shared. The dosas, chole, parathas and dhoklas merrily rubbed shoulders. Each meeting provided valuable grist for the family grapevines, in an era of scarce residential phones. Over dinner, my father would give my mother the day's update — the bargain that family Y had bought, the great flat allotment that family X had landed or the harmless prank that Z had thought up.

It must have been on one such beautiful Delhi winter afternoon that the idea struck. I was not privy to the serious discussions on the lush Rashtrapati Bhavan lawns. But my guess is that it was probably mooted by the most genial and creative of them, a favourite Uncle of mine, brilliant and incisive, with an inimitable pun or brilliant 'PJ' a minute. The 57ers in Delhi decided to meet every 8th Sunday, en famile in one of the lovely parks in the city for a picnic lunch.

Menus were planned with precision. Suggestions were made from helpful spouses in individual homes, reviewed at the lunch club and the next iteration communicated back home. If it was aunty Radha's turn to make the evergreen favourite, the dosa, aunty Thangam would be mandated to make bucketfuls of sambhar. The puri bhaji was aunty Malviya's domain and the rosogollas of course from Mukherjee aunty. Aunty Dadibhoy's dhansak was eagerly awaited and Lilly aunty's cakes were to die for.

The excitement preceding the Sunday was palpable in every home. The ladies had their winter saris and shawls laid out while we children planned to discuss the latest Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew or Just William that we had read with our counterparts.

The day itself was a lovely mix of fun and food. Fathers and children horsed around with cricket and Frisbee, and the lovely ladies ladled out large helpings of home food. Every picnic ended with much discussion on 'where next?' We children listened to this with much interest and held our collective breath hoping the final decision endorsed the one already taken in our junior cabinet.

Born into a family of civil servants — grandfathers, parents, and many a beloved uncle — the civil services have really been my family for as long as I can remember. I cannot recollect a time at boarding schools or hostels when somebody from the services was not my local guardian.

As children of the fraternity, we developed great bonds with our father's batch mates and their families. Even today a trip to a faraway city or town is not really complete without a phone call or visit to a beloved colleague uncle's family. The defence services are known for their tight bonds. But I for one would not for a moment trade this one.







Speaking at the Krasnoyarsk economic forum, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin made an instant hit with political commentators when he said Russia "needs fair and honest elections." Some cast Kudrin as a traitor to the current leadership for having suggested that fair elections do not exist in Russia. Others saw in his comments echoes of Latin American finance ministers of the last half of the 20th century who sometimes criticized prevailing conditions in a bid to become president themselves.

But if there are any obvious differences between those bygone Latin American regimes and Russia, it is that in Russia, the finance minister gets relatively little respect. And yet, for many years Kudrin has been the main defender of everything good in Russia's macroeconomic policy, including the stabilization fund, opposing costly pork-barrel projects and advocating for more transparency in the country's financial system.

Unfortunately, these accomplishments — however important they have been to stabilizing the economy — have not made him especially popular.

Thus, it is unlikely that Kudrin is about to campaign for a top political post anytime soon. He used the word "honest" because it would be difficult to express the same idea without it. For the last six months, I have stopped reading comments from political scientists and commentators who use the word "elections" without putting it in quotation marks or without qualifying statements as to how elections are manipulated in Russia.

In real, honest elections, incumbents are voted out of office 30 percent to 40 percent of the time. What happens in Russia has long ago ceased to have any semblance to true elections.

The fact that Russia lacks a viable mechanism for voting in new municipal, regional and national leaders does not make the political system more stable. On the contrary. Although competitive elections do not guarantee stability, their absence almost definitely guarantees prolonged periods of stagnation that result from the same people holding office for a decade or longer. This, in turn, makes revolutions one of the only viable options left to remove an entrenched and ineffective leader.

I don't think Kudrin spoke about "honest elections" as a challenge to those in power. More likely he, like most Russians, simply believes that this country needs honest elections — without quotation marks.








During the Krasnoyarsk economic forum over the weekend, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin made the sensational statement that increased defense expenditures are putting a strain on the budget. Kudrin said, "Three tasks — modernizing the army, better equipping soldiers and increasing provisions for the defense industry — are expenses that did not exist before and that will require an additional 1.5 percent of gross domestic product." Thus, the Finance Ministry becomes the first to fulfill the 1997 order by former President Boris Yeltsin that 3.5 percent of GDP be spent on defense. Until recently, defense spending had been in the range of 2.6 percent to 2.8 percent of GDP.

Had this happened several weeks ago, I would have been glad to hear the news. For more than two years, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has been carrying out the most radical military reforms of the last half century without requiring any additional funding. They began in fall 2008 with his announcement that the officer corps would be cut from 355,000 to 150,000. The plan was to reduce the ground force units by 11 times.

Until recently, the military has been firm — and, at times, even ruthless — in carrying out the reforms and reorganization plan that is so important to the country's national security. The top brass was forced to accept the painful reality that Russia would no longer have the mass mobilization army it had enjoyed for the last 150 years.

Understandably, these painful changes sparked bitter opposition from officers and the top brass. But Serdyukov implemented the cuts with determination. To curtail the excess number of officers, the Defense Ministry stopped admitting new students to military academies, while those students who were already graduating were either demoted to the position of sergeant or simply dismissed.

Serdyukov started backtracking on his plans only when he realized that armed forces had a shortage, not an excess of officers. Following a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev in February, Serdyukov announced plans to increase the officer corps by 70,000. His explanation for this was that these additional officers were needed to staff the planned Aerospace Defense System, but this doesn't hold water. That system will be built on existing missile defense and early warning units. New units can only be formed as new technologies and systems are introduced, an extremely slow process at best. In no way would it justify the demand for 70,000 more officers.

What was the point of going through the painful exercise of reducing the officer corps to 200,000, only to hire 70,000 new ones? The most likely reason is that the government lacked the resources to meet its obligations to newly retired officers. In the middle of last year, it became known that the same number of officers — 70,000 — couldn't find new jobs in the armed forces, but the state could not fire them because it did not have apartments to give them upon retirement, as the law requires. And then, last fall, that number mysteriously dropped to 40,000. But it is impossible to verify these figures. Defense Ministry officials declare whatever numbers they want to declare. Realizing its predicament, the top brass might have simply decided to keep those unneeded officers on the payroll.

Another possible reason might be that the officer jobs were cut with the intention of filling the gap with trained sergeants and civilian personnel, such as lawyers, economists and doctors. But the low salaries allocated for those jobs may not have been very attractive to qualified specialists. What's more, the program for preparing sergeants has also run into problems. Educational centers simply cannot prepare the more than 100,000 sergeants required. This is a serious blow to reforms because officers would once again lose their status as the elite of the armed forces and be relegated to junior positions.

The last and worst possible cause for the change is that generals have managed to convince Medvedev — and, more important, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — that Russia can only achieve military preparedness by returning to the old mass-mobilization model. If so, after the presidential election is held in 2012, the mandatory conscription service period will inevitably be increased and the whole process will have come full circle.

Whatever the reason, adding 70,000 officers will create an additional burden on Kudrin's budget without producing any tangible benefit to national security. That, unfortunately, is another sign that military reforms have clearly gone off track.






Social media triumphed during the Jan. 24 terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport. Twitter is credited for breaking the story. Many believe this spells victory for new media outlets and casts doubt on traditional media's continuing role. But a closer look actually calls into question the utility of both new and traditional media in Russia.

The use of social media at Domodedovo follows a worldwide pattern. Thanks to modern technology, users can publish up-to-the-minute observations directly from news hot spots. Critics counter that unvetted amateur journalism lacks the reliability and perspective that can be provided by professional journalists at traditional media outlets.

Another triumph for social media was the story of the despised taxi drivers at Domodedovo. They charged outrageous fares to shuttle distressed travelers back to the city. The news went global. USA Today reported that cab fares "were averaging as high as $700."

Was that really a triumph? Journalist Ilya Barabanov of New Times magazine implied that the taxi scandal was a political ruse. He said the idea was to shift public anger away from an airport security failure to a trumped-up story about taxi drivers. But bloggers claimed that Barabanov admitted his claim was unsubstantiated.

Broadcast coverage of Domodedovo came under scrutiny as well. Many suspected that key television outlets held up coverage to see how political leaders wanted the story characterized. What kind of reliability and perspective would that lend to this big, distressing story?

It left me wondering where the truth lies. Although social media reports come promptly, they often have questionable reliability. Professional journalism is potentially more reliable, but for many it fails to fulfill its promise. Reliability and perspective become the casualties.

What a conundrum. But a recent report on print advertising revenues in seven key cities suggests an answer. It shows that the top moneymaker in each city was a TV guide. Contents include the program listings; entertaining but frivolous celebrity gossip; and food and fashion articles.

Revenues of the city newspapers pale in comparison. That may be the answer to the conundrum. The television guide does what many of the newspapers don't do. It promises something that readers want — and then delivers on the promise. This allows it to assemble a substantial audience and create a framework of trust. That's exactly what companies need for their advertisements to get the best results.

Readers wouldn't want a television guide that's unreliable. Someone who's looked up the time and channel for Anna Chapman's new television show doesn't want to find that he's tuned in to a self-laudatory program about the mayor. The consumers don't want to be tricked.

The problem for so many newspapers is that they don't deliver the reliable news that consumers want. Readers look for news but instead find too much paid propaganda that is masquerading as news. That doesn't build trust, and it certainly doesn't put readers in a frame of mind for buying what they see advertised.

Perhaps that's one reason why Russian newspapers get such a small share of legitimate ad spending. Figures from 2007 — particularly reliable because they were pre-crisis — show that newspapers worldwide got nearly 30 percent of total advertisement. In Russia, it was only 5 percent.

As a result, many of these indigenous newspapers are abject business failures. In the competition for print advertising, they are losing to television guides. Without corrupt money from paid-for news, how many could even stay in business?

The media situation is really a vicious cycle that is driving a downward spiral. A dearth of legitimate advertising money begets corrupt payments for phony news. That, in turn, begets reduced readership and weakens reader trust in advertisement content. That brings diminished results for legitimate advertisers who respond with tighter ad budgets. And so on.

Fortunately, President Dmitry Medvedev has a program to normalize the country's dysfunctional media sector. He is seeking to diminish corruption throughout society and promote modernization. The news business certainly needs that. More recently he has come out in favor of getting the state out of the media business and making sure that media decisions are not dictated by the government.

But now we need to see this program bear fruit for neglected media consumers. If Medvedev can pull this off, it will make him a real hero. The consumers, advertisers, as well as the economy and society as a whole will all benefit.






Russia is headed for some major shocks. I came to that conclusion after reading a news release with the heading: "Yabloko Party Activists Detained at Putin's Black Sea Dacha." The key word here is "dacha."

Late last year, businessman Sergei Kolesnikov wrote an open letter informing President Dmitry Medvedev that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was having a $1 billion palatial residence built for himself on the Black Sea shore, and the money to finance the project was obtained by extorting money from businesses. Kommersant, Dengi, Vedomosti and Novaya Gazeta newspapers and Radio Svoboda all ran stories on the subject, and Sobesednik newspaper reporter Rimma Akhmirova was recently arrested at the construction site. Investigations by journalists have generally corroborated Kolesnikov's claims.

Instead of being elated by the triumph of the free media over corruption, I am deeply concerned. The problem is that every time there is a public fight against "dacha corruption," it ends with a new round of hardships for ordinary citizens.

For example, in 1990-91, rather modest dachas owned by nine ministries from the Soviet Union's powerful military industrial complex were bought out by top officials from those ministries. Then, in summer 1991, democrats from the Supreme Soviet attacked this blatant attempt at nomenklatura privatization. A coup d'etat was all but unavoidable. The captains of military industry had no qualms about shedding their Communist ideology; it was their dachas they were prepared to defend tooth and nail. A nomenklatura putsch was staged in August 1991, and that soon led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev lost power when he was at his dacha in Foros, Crimea, the construction of which had met with significant opposition even during the perestroika years. He was first kept in isolation there by the people who had staged the putsch and later brought to Moscow by the victorious democrats to be subjected to public humiliation.

In 1992-93, the ideological struggle between the "democratic" President Boris Yeltsin and the "red-brown" Supreme Soviet boiled down to the media outlets controlled by both forces reporting on how the other side was building luxurious suburban dachas for themselves while the people were going hungry. The end result was the order for tanks to fire on the White House and the passage of the authoritarian 1993 Constitution.

The next round of the dacha wars was fought in the international arena. During the 1999 State Duma election campaign, reporters from the pro-Luzhkov NTV showed aerial shots of an enormous castle in southern France that they claimed belonged to the Yeltsin family. The pro-Yeltsin ORT television station aired live reports from a collection of luxurious cottages in Spain and claimed that they belonged to the owners, senior managers and leading journalists of NTV. Since then, there hasn't been any free, balanced coverage of elections.

The next dacha war was initiated in the fall. Reports on Luzhkov's opulent dachas outside Moscow and in Austria was a key weapon used by state-

controlled media to discredit the capital city's mayor, who had fallen out of favor with the president.

And now we have the latest dacha scandal, and this time it involves Putin. For the time being, all talk about Putin's palace has been confined to the print media, but when we start seeing aerial shots of the castle on our television screens, you can be sure that another wave of political upheavals will soon follow.









Who are the people, including the editorial writers of this newspaper, who have gone ballistic over the education minister's announcement that students should be taken on heritage trips to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron? Are they Zionists, non-Zionists, post-Zionists or anti-Zionists? Have their roots in the Land of Israel withered over the years, or have they lost hold of their senses in these tumultuous times?

They seem to have forgotten the very foundation of Zionism: that the Jewish State is located in the Land of Israel just because it is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, and that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem are the icons of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel - constant reminders to one and all that the Land of Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, who have returned after 2,000 years in exile.

They seem to have fallen under the spell of the "1967 borders." They are infatuated by the "Green Line" drawn like a scar across the Land of Israel. West of this line Israel is kosher, not an occupier of another people, but east of that line, you had better watch out. These, they hold, are occupied territories where Israel rules over another people, and no Jew should be living there, or God forbid, be allowed to settle there.

So what is this sacrosanct Green Line? It is nothing more than the armistice line agreed between representatives of Israel and Jordan at Rhodes on April 24, 1949. It was never intended to be a border between two nations. It simply represented, with some modifications, the line where the fighting during Israel's War of Independence ceased. The British-officered and -equipped Jordanian Arab Legion that had invaded the newborn state of Israel on May 15, 1948 had reached the point during the fighting where its commander, Glubb Pasha, realized that unless Jordan agreed to a cease-fire, the Israeli army was going to advance to the Jordan River and his army would be powerless to stop it.

The armistice left the biblical heartland of ancient Israel, the mountains of Samaria and Judea, the major historical and biblical sites of the Jewish people, east of the armistice line. The War of Independence brigade commanders Moshe Dayan and Yosef Tabenkin had urged the Israel Defense Forces' General Staff to allow them to capture the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron, but they were halted by the cease-fire of October 22, 1948.

With Jordan in control of these areas, not only were Jews not allowed to live there, but during the 18 years of Jordanian occupation, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's tomb. Masada, a site visited over the years by almost all Israelis, young and old, came under Israeli control only in March 1949, when IDF units moving from Be'er Sheva reached the Dead Sea at Sodom and Ein Gedi. One can imagine that had this "last-minute" operation not taken place, the very same people who now complain about students visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron would be arguing against visits to Masada, located in "occupied territory."

This perverse objection by some to visits east of the March 1949 armistice lines seems to be part of a wider boycott movement of the whole area. Whether it is Ariel or Hebron, these rootless Israelis will not set foot there. They give credence to the frequently heard Arab propaganda that the Jewish claim of a historic connection to this land is nothing but fiction.

The supporters of the "two-state solution," who insist that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and consider Judea and Samaria to be occupied territory, seem to give no thought to assuring contact between the Jewish people and these sites if such a withdrawal were to take place. Was this even on the agenda in the negotiations between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, or between Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni and the Palestinian Authority?

Perhaps supporters of the "two-state solution" would prefer to sever the connection between the Jewish people and the sites that are reminders of the Jewish people's connection to the Land of Israel. That might be one explanation for the objections voiced to visits by Israeli students to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.







Uzi Arad's resignation from his posts as national security adviser and head of the National Security Council reflect a deep crisis in Benjamin Netanyahu's job performance. The fact that Arad, Netanyahu's longest-serving and most senior aide, chose to abandon him expresses his lack of trust in the prime minister. And the circumstances of his departure - the foreign minister's refusal to name him ambassador to London - point to Netanyahu's increasing weakness vis-a-vis Avigdor Lieberman, the government's strongman.

At the end of his first term as premier, a dozen years ago, Netanyahu endeavored to establish a national security council. The idea was good, if not very original. It was copied from Britain's Committee of Imperial Defence and the U.S. National Security Council.

Ever since Henry Kissinger's glory days in the Nixon and Ford administrations in the 1970s, there have been Israelis who dreamed of imitating Kissinger's role as senior staff officer for the top decision maker and a negotiator on his behalf. And so, gradually, a national security "team," and then a "council," and finally a "staff" were created within the Prime Minister's Office.

The good intentions, however, disintegrated in the face of political and organizational realities. The foreign and defense ministries, the Israel Defense Forces' General Staff and the intelligence community - the Mossad, Shin Bet and Military Intelligence - were less than enthusiastic about sharing their power with an additional organization, one close to the prime minister. And both the ministers and the heads of the intelligence agencies soon discovered that prime ministers were in no hurry to confront them.

The national security staff was bolstered legislatively, but never became empowered in reality. It partly fulfilled its goal of serving as a resource for the ministerial security committee (in both its official incarnation as the security cabinet and its semi-official one as the forum of seven senior ministers ), but its influence over the prime minister and its effect on the cabinet's performance have been minuscule.

Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon might be satisfied with the National Security Council's performance, but Netanyahu is a prisoner of Lieberman and of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And his bureau preferred to act through other advisers and external envoys.

The government's failures are mainly due to Netanyahu's personality and his zigzagging foreign policy. Improving the National Security Council's staff work and appointing a strong, decisive figure to head it will have to wait for the next prime minister.







NEW YORK - A new era has dawned at the United Nations with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From this point on, new, different rules will characterize discussions of the conflict in the Security Council.

The most important and, from Israel's standpoint, alarming change is this: In the one UN body that has the authority to forcibly enforce resolutions, a new alignment of forces is rapidly taking shape, and a new distribution of influence is emerging between the United States and the other four members of the exclusive club of states with permanent membership and veto power.

The first result of the new era was the Palestinians' proposed resolution to denounce Israeli settlements. Though the resolution was vetoed by America in the Security Council vote, it remains inscribed in the council's annals as a fascinating case and a model to be followed in the future. Granted, it bore no diplomatic fruit. But it is laden with important policy implications that will soon be felt in UN decision-making on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and particularly in the Security Council.

One diplomat who immediately grasped the meaning of the veto of the Palestinian initiative was Brazil's ambassador to the UN, Maria Viotti, who holds the Security Council's rotating presidency. She explained to The New York Times that the council views the settlements as an obstacle to peace, and adopting the resolution would have "sent some key urgent messages." These messages, the Times said, were that "further settlement construction threatens peace in the region, and that halting construction has been misrepresented as an Israeli concession while in fact international law requires it."

What set the stage for the sea change in approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the UN was the lack of progress in talks between the sides. The awareness among leading UN members of the complete breakdown in communications between the White House and Israel's prime minister created a new mood in which Palestinian concerns are at the top of the international community's agenda. The UN has become fertile ground for advancing the Palestinian cause.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's disappearance from the stage strengthened the Palestinians' resolve to oppose America's entreaties to remove their resolution from the agenda. UN sources say the absence of Mubarak - a moderating influence who helped ease tensions when crises arose between Israel and the Palestinian Authority - has seriously complicated American diplomacy and undermined America's status as the decisive power in dealing with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

"In cases of friction with the PA, the U.S. usually turned to Mubarak, who was always quick to try to help," explained a diplomat close to the U.S. delegation. "This time, when the Palestinians obstinately refused to withdraw their proposed resolution denouncing the settlements, the U.S. government had nobody to turn to." In the headline of an article posted on Time magazine's website, one veteran commentator summed up the situation as follows: "Without Mubarak, U.S. struggles to shield Israel from diplomatic pressure."

It is clear - and behind-the-scenes statements from UN ambassadors bolster this conclusion - that the British and French support for the Palestinian resolution reflected a significant hardening of European Union attitudes toward Israel. The fact that the two European powers voted against the U.S. was seen in New York as a clear statement of the EU's intentions, and of its desire to boost its diplomatic involvement and become a leading force in advancing the Middle East peace process.

From Israel's standpoint, the most dramatic result of the drama that occurred behind the scenes at the Security Council is that the settlements have been irreversibly and categorically defined as the number-one problem impeding peace between Israel and the Palestinians. No Israeli attempt to blame the stalemate on the Palestinians will be accepted at the UN.

And the fact that 130 member states affixed their signatures in support of the pro-Palestinian draft resolution was seen in New York as a dress rehearsal for the declaration of a Palestinian state at the next General Assembly session in September.







Prime Ministers' Offices are almost always saturated with power struggles, intrigue and disputes. The prime minister's advisers and aides' desires and ego tend to soar at their entrance to the office and then, after a year or two, on their way out, shrink back to size.

Benjamin Netanyahu's office is no exception. Even if there never was and never will be an adviser like Uzi Arad, there certainly have been dispute-mongers of the same magnitude. We have seen (almost ) everything.

But usually on the other side of the corridor, behind a heavy door, someone is sitting and running the state's affairs. Yitzhak Rabin. Ariel Sharon. Ehud Olmert. Is that the situation after two years of Netanyahu's second government? Is the prime minister running his cabinet and navigating the state's affairs?

On election eve, Netanyahu promised at the Herzliya Conference "the end of the era of weakness and the beginning of the era of strength." At the same conference last February he presented the "heritage sites" project. This year he didn't even attend. That is how his second term looks, more or less - a loud blast transformed into a faint mumble. From the Bar-Ilan speech about freezing the construction in the territories to paralysis in the peace process. From the reform in the Israel Lands Administration and in planning and construction to fantastical apartment prices. From reducing taxes to a sharp rise in the price of services and dying social services.

The attempt to extract an achievement, hope or joy from the government's two-year term leads to grief. We've been through the Barack Obama-Netanyahu saga. We've witnessed diplomatic and economic flip-flops, futile news conferences and inexplicable announcements by the prime minister to the nation. We've heard Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's speech at the UN assembly. We learned that 49 ministerial committees have been set up. We saw a jurist being appointed justice minister who didn't say a word about racist bills and inciting rabbis.

The culture minister declared a prize for Zionist works, the education minister proclaimed students' visits to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the transportation minister pledged that soon a train will chug through Jenin and Nablus.

What luck Israel was accepted to the OECD, and how encouraging to remember that two ministers did not give up the fight and succeeded. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (in the gas royalties ) and Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (in the chief of staff issue ).

Two years after the government's formation there is no peace initiative, no negotiations and nobody is even talking about it. Even the sentence "not a day goes by in which I don't do something for the release of Gilad" has disappeared from our life.

Nobody knows where the government is heading and what its priorities are, what Netanyahu's diplomatic agenda is and whether he will make any sort of move to calm the Middle East. And everybody knows these questions will be redundant when Lieberman brings the government down at a time convenient for him.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, ministers and experts scoff at the American policy in the Middle East and sneer - how original! - at the Palestinians for not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

What about Israel and its policy? When was the last time the prime minister or any Israeli minister said anything about that? When will we hear about an Israeli initiative?

The Netanyahu government is silent and paralyzed. Why? Journalists have complained recently that the media failed in its duty when it refrained from dealing with the Moshe Katsav and Boaz Harpaz affairs. What is it doing now, pray? This is the question: What is paralyzing Netanyahu?








"Thou shalt not murder," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet" are among the Ten Commandments given to the Jewish people at Sinai. The budget division at the Finance Ministry has an eleventh commandment: "Thou shalt not exceed thy budget, neither on the expenditure side nor on the revenue side."

The people at the budget division are not prepared to debate this commandment. It is absolute and like the Ten Commandments unconditional.

The question is whether Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and budget director Udi Nissan will observe the 11th commandment or thumb their noses at it. They know the punishment for violating any of the Ten Commandments is severe, but they should know that failure to observe the 11th is also harsh: severe damage to the economy and to our national resilience and stability.

On Sunday the cabinet approved budget cuts to fund a set of benefits that it had granted two weeks ago. It had lowered public transportation fares, requiring NIS 300 million cuts elsewhere. The cabinet approved flat, across-the-board spending reductions of NIS 150 million, affecting the budgets of all of the ministries except social welfare, education and defense.

The cuts only affect purchasing, not staffing levels, and they don't eliminate unnecessary government operations. This is a bad sort of budget reduction that will not hold up over time.

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently carried out major austerity cuts in his country's budget, but they were of an altogether different kind: the real kind. He slashed government spending by closing departments, eliminating duplication and laying off 490,000 government employees! Netanyahu and Steinitz don't have the courage to carry out similar steps (even on a much smaller scale ).

The second part of the Israeli government's cuts (the other NIS 150 million ) are coming from reductions to funding for the National Roads Company for the development of interurban highways. It's a cut that will hurt outlying area of the country and therefore also affect future economic growth, but highways don't cry and highway intersections don't plead for help.

And that's nothing compared to the situation on the revenue side. On Saturday evening a battle raged on the subject between the budget division staff and the politicians. The conflict was so fierce that the draft of the cabinet resolution only emerged at the last moment, at 7:30 Sunday morning. The argument was over the revenue side of the 2011 budget.

When they reduced the tax on gasoline two weeks ago, Steinitz and Netanyahu were applauded. They wanted to stop at that, however, and not find funding for the reduction.

"Maybe during the year a miracle will happen and there will be a tax revenue surplus," they thought to themselves. Economics is not built on miracles, however, and their move was also in contradiction to the 11th Commandment. It's as if they were creating something from nothing, because it is impossible to know a thing about what to expect in the course of the year from only the beginning. And the Middle East is also in flames, so who knows how it will affect us.

In the end, it was resolved that in January 2012, the tax brackets for taxpayers earning over NIS 14,000 a month will not be adjusted and that Steinitz would submit a resolution to the cabinet within 10 days on "filling the hole" for 2011 while "maintaining the budget balance in each of the budget years." That means that a decision was put off again.

Many commentators and economists are currently debating all kinds of tricks to increase tax revenues, and everyone is talking about increasing taxes on individuals or corporations. They have forgotten why we have come to this point. They have forgotten about all the great, unprecedented budget riders that Steinitz and Netanyahu passed out to all the government ministries on every possible subject, for every possible purpose, including money for yeshiva students and yeshivas, without differentiating between the wheat and the chaff. Everyone got what they wanted and now they wonder why the need arose to raise taxes.

Steinitz's policy of generosity added the handsome sum of NIS 15 billion to the 2011 budget. If he had sufficed, for example, with the respectable addition of NIS 10 billion, none of this chaos would have ever occurred.

But now the horse is already out of the barn, and the Finance Minister has an obligation to reduce the damage. He should come to his senses and face Netanyahu and propose a plan to raise corporate taxes, this year, immediately. He really has no alternative. He has to obey the 11th commandment.



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



President Obama has decided that the failure of last year's comprehensive climate bill does not have to mean the death of climate policy. Instead of imposing a mandatory cap and stiff price on carbon emissions, as the bill would have done, the president is offering a more modest approach involving sharply targeted and well-financed research into breakthrough technologies, cleaner fuels and more efficient cars and trucks.

This is all part of a broader investment-for-the-future strategy that he outlined in his State of the Union address, and it all makes sense as a way of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, creating more green jobs and reducing America's dependence on foreign oil.

Yet even this retailored approach is sure to whip the Republicans into a fresh frenzy of opposition. They have already made clear their determination to cut off financing and otherwise undermine the Environmental Protection Agency, which plans to regulate carbon emissions from power plants and other industrial sources using its authority under the Clean Air Act.

But basic scientific research? Energy efficiency? Cleaner fuels? The House Republican budget resolution gives the back of its hand to even these worthy and unobjectionable strategies, which until now have enjoyed reliable bipartisan support.

Mr. Obama's outlays for the Energy Department would jump 12 percent next year to about $30 billion, despite planned austerity elsewhere in the government. Of this, $8 billion would be devoted to research and development, aimed broadly at a greener economy.

Inside the research-and-development budget are robust investments: a $450 million increase in basic science, doubling (from three to six) the number of Energy Innovation Hubs to encourage collaboration among universities, government labs and the private sector; $550 million for the fledgling Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, known as ARPA-E, which looks into cutting-edge ideas. There's also a $1 billion increase for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a $588 million jump — 88 percent — for advanced vehicles.

The main area of agreement between Mr. Obama and the Republicans seems to be nuclear power. Both sides support extensive loan guarantees to an industry that hasn't built a new reactor in years but could supply a lot of clean power if it ever got going.

Otherwise, as expressed in their budget resolution, the Republican agenda is breathtakingly negative: a mere $50 million for ARPA-E, $900 million less for basic science, $900 million less for energy efficiency and alternative fuels, a much-reduced loan program for deploying clean power sources like wind, solar and geothermal.

Some of these programs would take extra hits because the bill would, unconscionably, strip them of unused stimulus money, a hefty $10 billion in the case of efficiency and renewables.

The message to the White House and the Democratic leadership is clear: get ready to fight. Mr. Obama was AWOL in last year's struggle for a comprehensive climate bill — a great pity because he had more support in Congress than he does now. He'll need all the energy he failed to expend last year — and more — to achieve even his slimmed-down objectives this year.






When Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented his new budget for New York City, he rightly took credit for keeping the city fiscally fit through the worst recession in decades. His $65.6 billion budget for the next fiscal year was less painful than expected. Now he needs to make sure that an improved economy — and improved tax revenues — helps those who need help the most.

In his presentation of the 2011-2012 city budget (the fiscal year begins July 1), the mayor announced a $2.1 billion projected increase in tax revenues. The city (read that as mostly Wall Street) has recovered "faster and stronger" than the rest of the country, he said. That cuts significantly into a projected $4.6 billion deficit for next year, but the mayor says he needs another $2 billion in savings or cuts — more if the state does not provide the $600 million in financing and pension relief that Mr. Bloomberg wants.

That's going to spark a battle — as will his list of cuts. Mr. Bloomberg proposes eliminating 6,000 of the city's 80,000 teaching jobs, closing 20 firehouses, cutting library financing by 8 percent, reducing the budget of parks and recreation by 11 percent and closing 100 senior centers and 17,000 child-care spots for children of low-income working parents. The City Council should soften some of these cuts, starting with child care, and, if necessary, find ways to squeeze that $30 million out of those rich New Yorkers who have recovered so nicely.

If some loss of teachers is necessary (Mr. Bloomberg says 1,400 jobs would disappear through attrition and the rest through layoffs), city and state education officials need to find a better way to lay off teachers.

The present policy allows teachers with more seniority to automatically keep jobs over newcomers. There are better ways to determine which teachers are good and which are not — no matter how long they have been on the job — and to arrange layoffs by performance. New York is taking far too long to get there.

The mayor also has a long list of pension reforms that he wants state lawmakers to approve. He said the city now spends more than 12 percent of its budget on pension costs, and he wants future retirees to work longer and contribute more to pensions and health care. He wants the city to negotiate pensions as part of city contracts. State lawmakers control those pensions and keep making them more expensive to please union lobbyists.

Such changes are needed but will be tough to get out of Albany. (The mayor is already in an intense battle with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over proposed city budget cuts.) Mr. Bloomberg wants at least $200 million in state revenue-sharing money and $200 million more than the governor proposed for education.

He said the city would save another $200 million if the state agreed to cancel year-end bonuses of up to $12,000 each for new retirees.

Without some of these changes, the mayor is threatening to cut city operations by another $600 million. Still, the city looks in better shape than we expected, even a few weeks ago.







The House Republican majority made a big show last week of pursuing its campaign promise to slash the federal budget. Far less obvious was the discreet dinner break for campaign fund-raising taken by 13 freshmen Republicans on the Armed Services Committee. The yearling defense appropriators went to solicit re-election help from the defense industry.

It's no wonder the freshmen call themselves the "Lucky 13" for having secured a politically priceless committee perch as defense budget gatekeepers.

The fund-raiser let the newcomers learn the real ropes of Washington: the debating floor is for talk of empowering constituents while nearby restaurants are where lawmakers cozy up to the power of deep-pocketed special interests looking for the inside track on legislative business. Thus it goes "inside the beltway," a lucrative place that candidates perpetually run against then rely on to bolster their incumbency.

There is nothing illegal or partisan about this hypocrisy. The late John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was a Democratic legend at milking defense donors for political money while earmarking and protecting even their most bloated interests in runaway Pentagon budgets.

The new appropriations master, Howard McKeon, a Republican of California, showed his priorities in organizing the fund-raiser for lobbyists and executives to help the "Lucky 13 Joint Fund Raising Committee," according to Bloomberg News. Mr. McKeon, the Armed Services Committee chairman determined to keep his gavel, was the dinner's "special guest" at the Acadiana restaurant.

Minimum contributions of $5,000 were solicited for re-electing the freshmen even though they barely have records. The campaign manager for one newcomer, Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, described the fund-raiser as "an opportunity to be further educated about military issues." Not hardly. Ethical issues are patently the heart of the matter. It's shameful that the House and its ethics committee continue to duck the pay-to-play implications of their relentless fund-raisers.







The drama of urban snow removal has preoccupied this newspaper for 150 years. In 1910, The Times wrote about no-show contractors failing to get men and wagons onto the streets after a storm that buried New York City and snarled the Long Island Rail Road. In 2010, we — and pretty much everyone in the city — criticized a no-show mayor who left town before a storm that buried the city and snarled the Long Island Rail Road.

So we were intrigued by a report that Quincy, Mass., has found a way to get rid of snow more efficiently and more cheaply. Last year, it decided to pay contractors not by the hour but by the inch to remove snow in about one-fourth of the city. A storm of up to 2 inches cost $8,455 per ward, rising as the drifts got deeper, up to $42,500 per ward for storms of 14 inches to 18 inches. Above that, the rate fell sharply. This means companies take a gamble when bidding on a contract, and Quincy is unlikely to be bankrupted by a monster storm.

Exact savings are difficult to calculate because snowfalls vary from year to year, but pay-per-inch seems to be costing about 5 percent to 10 percent less, Quincy officials say. It worked so well last year that the city has now doubled the size of the program.

At a time when governments are gutting or abandoning essential services, the search for efficiency through innovation is encouraging. Not that every new idea is new. More than a century before December's fiasco in Queens and Brooklyn, New York City seemed to have snow figured out. It paid contractors by volume. In January 1905, the rate was 16 cents a cubic yard.

Back then a reporter for The Times marveled at how well it went. "Hardly, in fact, had the white, fluffy bees ceased swarming on Wednesday when the Bureau of Snow Removal began its work," enlisting more than 8,000 men to clear 2 million cubic feet from 186 miles of streets in 12 hours. The commissioner of street cleaning was so satisfied that he even bought workers coffee and sandwiches, paying out of his own pocket.






Buried deep beneath the stories about executive bonuses, the stock market surge and the economy's agonizingly slow road to recovery is the all-but-silent suffering of the many millions of Americans who, economically, are going down for the count.

A 46-year-old teacher in Charlotte, Vt., who has been unable to find a full-time job and is weighed down with debt, wrote to his U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders:

"I am financially ruined. I find myself depressed and demoralized and my confidence is shattered. Worst of all, as I hear more and more talk about deficit reduction and further layoffs, I have the agonizing feeling that the worst may not be behind us."

Similar stories of hardship and desolation can be found throughout Vermont and the rest of the nation. The true extent of the economic devastation, and the enormous size of that portion of the population that is being left behind, has not yet been properly acknowledged. What is being allowed to happen to those being pushed out or left out of the American mainstream is the most important and potentially most dangerous issue facing the country.

Senator Sanders is a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats. He asked his constituents to write to him about their experiences coping with the recession and its aftermath. Hundreds responded, including several from outside Vermont. A 69-year-old woman from northeastern Vermont wrote plaintively:

"We are the first generation to leave our kids worse off than we were. How did this happen? Why is there such a wide distance between the rich and the middle class and the poor? What happened to the middle class? We did not buy boats or fancy cars or diamonds. Why was it possible to change the economy from one that was based on what we made and grew and serviced to a paper economy that disappeared?"

A woman with two teenagers told the senator about her husband, a building contractor for many years, who has been unable to find work in the downturn:

"I see my husband, capable and experienced, now really struggling with depression and trying to reinvent his profession at age 51. I feel this recession is leaving us, once perhaps a middle-class couple, now suddenly thrust into the lower-middle-class world without loads of options except to try and find more and more smaller jobs to fill in some of the financial gaps we feel day to day.

"All we want to do is work hard and pay our bills. We're just not sure even that part of the American Dream is still possible anymore."

One of the things I noticed reading through the letters was the pervasive sense of loss, not just of employment, but of faith in the soundness and possibilities of America. For centuries, Americans have been nothing if not optimistic. But now there is a terrible sense that so much that was taken for granted during the past six or seven decades is being dismantled or destroyed.

A 26-year-old man who emerged from college with big dreams wrote: "I had hoped to be able to support not just myself by this point, but to be able to think about settling down and starting a family. My family always told me that an education was the ticket to success, but all my education seems to have done in this landscape is make it impossible to pull myself out of debt and begin a successful career."

How bad have things become? According to the National Employment Law Project, a trend is growing among employers to not even consider the applications of the unemployed for jobs that become available. Among examples offered by the project were a phone manufacturer that posted a job announcement with the message: "No Unemployed Candidate Will Be Considered At All," and a Texas electronics company that announced online that it would "not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason."

This is the environment that is giving rise to the worker protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere. The ferment is not just about public employees and their unions. Researchers at Rutgers University found last year that more than 70 percent of respondents to a national survey had either lost a job, or had a relative or close friend who had lost a job. That is beyond ominous. The great promise of the United States, its primary offering to its citizens and the world, is at grave risk.

A couple facing foreclosure in Barre, Mass., wrote to Senator Sanders: "We are now at our wits end and in dire straits. Our parents have since left this world and with no place to go, what are we to do and where are we to go?" They pray to God, they said, that they will not end up living in their car in the cold.






Over the past few weeks we've begun to see the new contours of American politics. The budget cutters have taken control of the agenda, while government's defenders are waging tactical retreats. Given the scope of the fiscal problems, it could be like this for the next 10 or 20 years.

No place is hotter than Wisconsin. The leaders there have done everything possible to maximize conflict. Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, demanded cuts only from people in the other party. The public sector unions and their allies immediately flew into a rage, comparing Walker to Hitler, Mussolini and Mubarak.

Walker's critics are amusingly Orwellian. They liken the crowd in Madison to the ones in Tunisia and claim to be fighting for democracy. Whatever you might say about Walker, he and the Republican majorities in Wisconsin were elected, and they are doing exactly what they told voters they would do. It's the Democratic minority that is thwarting the majority will by fleeing to Illinois. It's the left that has suddenly embraced extralegal obstructionism.

Still, let's try to put aside the hyperventilation. Everybody now seems to agree that Governor Walker was right to ask state workers to pay more for their benefits. Even if he gets everything he asks for, Wisconsin state workers would still be contributing less to their benefits than the average state worker nationwide and would be contributing far, far less than private sector workers.

The more difficult question is whether Walker was right to try to water down Wisconsin's collective bargaining agreements. Even if you acknowledge the importance of unions in representing middle-class interests, there are strong arguments on Walker's side. In Wisconsin and elsewhere, state-union relations are structurally out of whack.

That's because public sector unions and private sector unions are very different creatures. Private sector unions push against the interests of shareholders and management; public sector unions push against the interests of taxpayers. Private sector union members know that their employers could go out of business, so they have an incentive to mitigate their demands; public sector union members work for state monopolies and have no such interest.

Private sector unions confront managers who have an incentive to push back against their demands. Public sector unions face managers who have an incentive to give into them for the sake of their own survival. Most important, public sector unions help choose those they negotiate with. Through gigantic campaign contributions and overall clout, they have enormous influence over who gets elected to bargain with them, especially in state and local races.

As a result of these imbalanced incentive structures, states with public sector unions tend to run into fiscal crises. They tend to have workplaces where personnel decisions are made on the basis of seniority, not merit. There is little relationship between excellence and reward, which leads to resentment among taxpayers who don't have that luxury.

Yet I think Governor Walker made a strategic error in setting up this confrontation as he did. The debt problems before us are huge. Even in Wisconsin they cannot be addressed simply by taking on the public sector unions. Studies done in North Carolina and elsewhere suggest that collective bargaining only increases state worker salaries by about 5 percent or 6 percent. That's not nearly enough to explain current deficits. There are many states without collective bargaining that still face gigantic debt crises.

Getting state and federal budgets under control will take decades. It will require varied, multipronged approaches, supported by broad and shifting coalitions. It's really important that we establish an unwritten austerity constitution: a set of practices that will help us cut effectively now and in the future.

The foundation of this unwritten constitution has to be this principle: make everybody hurt. The cuts have to be spread more or less equitably among as many groups as possible. There will never be public acceptance if large sectors of society are excluded. Governor Walker's program fails that test. It spares traditional Republican groups (even cops and firefighters). It is thus as unsustainable as the current tide of red ink.

Moreover, the constitution must emphasize transparent evaluation. Over the past weeks, Governor Walker increased expenditures to pump up small business job creation and cut them on teacher benefits. That might be the right choice, but if voters are going to go along with choices such as these, there is going to have to be a credible evaluation process to explain why some things are cut and some things aren't.

So I'd invite Governor Walker and the debt fighters everywhere to think of themselves as founding fathers of austerity. They are not only balancing budgets, they are setting precedent for a process that will last decades. By their example, they have to create habits that diverse majorities can respect and embrace. The process has to be balanced. It has to make everybody hurt.







LIKE any self-respecting Irish Catholic boy from Boston, I covered the walls of my childhood bedroom with Red Sox paraphernalia, images of Jesus and photos of the Kennedy brothers.

Yes — Jack, Bobby and Teddy. Unnaturally handsome for politicians, they had a look in their eyes that said, "Let's save the world from nuclear annihilation ... right after this game of touch football." From a young age I decided that if the Red Sox wouldn't take me, surely the Kennedys would.

That's why, when I moved to Washington five years ago to attend graduate school at Georgetown, I resolved to get a job with Senator Edward Kennedy. I hoped to become an assistant at least, or an adviser or perhaps even — dare to dream — a speechwriter.

Instead, I became Splash, the senator's Portuguese water dog.

Having begged my way into an internship with the senator, I spent most of my time making copies, keeping records and answering phones. But then on a quiet winter afternoon when there was not much else going on, my supervisor came to me with an apologetic look on her face.

The senator, she explained, had recently written a children's book called "My Senator and Me." The book depicts a day in his life from Splash's perspective. Someone — I'm not sure who — suggested including an e-mail address where curious young readers could reach the supposedly computer-savvy Splash.

That's where I came in. Someone had to reply to Splash's e-mails, in his voice, lest the children think the dog had let the thrill of being a published author and Washington power broker go to his head.

I'd taken Splash on walks on more than one occasion. Once, near the Russell Senate Office Building, we happened upon a mysterious pile of pellets that appeared to be some kind of fertilizer. Splash lurched toward them and devoured a mouthful before I could stop him. As I ferociously tugged on his leash, a headline ran through my head: "Intern Returns Poisoned Dog to Living Legend."

But beyond Splash's indiscriminate eating habits and love of tennis balls, he was little more than a furry mystery to me. What would he say in response to the hundreds of e-mails that came to him from children across the country? School simply hadn't prepared me for this.

Most of his messages went something like this:

Dear Splash,

My teacher read us your book. You are so cute! Can you come over and play with my dog? What kind of dog food do you like? My mom says your senator is a great man. I hope he feels better.

After checking with the senator's assistants on Splash's preferred dog food brand, and then reading the book myself to better prepare for my role, I answered every single e-mail, ending each reply with the mandatory "WOOF WOOF!! Splash."

My feelings on this assignment were conflicted, to say the least. On the one hand, I was impersonating a dog. On the other, I was heartened by the warmth that people from so many other states felt for the senator from mine.

In time I found a strange satisfaction in writing back to these puppy-crazed children, one that I never got from answering the office phones. None of Splash's correspondents cared about or even knew Senator Kennedy's position on the estate tax, or whether he'd invoke cloture on a resolution to incrementally finance the defense budget. In fact, a simple "Woof!" seemed to be all the constituent outreach they needed to be assured that the senator was on their side.

Of course Senator Kennedy demonstrated his loyalty to the youth of America in many ways. He pushed to finance Pell grants for college scholarships and to ensure all children were covered by health insurance, and fought to lower the voting age to 18.

Today would have been Senator Kennedy's 79th birthday. In December, Splash died, a little more than a year after his master. Reading that sad news, I remembered the "liberal lion" sitting at his desk while Splash slobbered away on a grimy tennis ball in the corner. It was an image that had soothed nervous interns and disarmed even Kennedy's fiercest critics in Congress. Then I remembered the letters to Splash, and I realized those children felt the same way that I had as a kid in Boston, and still do — that we were all a small part of the Kennedy family.

Colin H. P. Buckley is a presidential management fellow with the federal government.








No day is more suitable than today for reflecting on the greatness of our first president, George Washington. He was born on this date in 1732.


Nearly three centuries later, we marvel at his wise and stalwart guidance during the American Revolution and in the formative years of our United States of America.


Washington's leadership was vital in throwing off the yoke of British tyranny and establishing the greatest, freest, richest country the world has ever known.


But Gen. Washington was not only "first in war" but also "first in peace" and "first in the hearts of his countrymen."


Unwilling to establish anything akin to a monarchy in the United States, Washington declined to serve more than two terms as president. While more terms of service by a president of Washington's stature and goodness might have seemed desirable in the short term, he surely knew that unlimited terms could become a curse on the nation if a power-hungry president took office.


The custom of presidents being elected to serve only two terms was wisely upheld voluntarily for more than a century. Then Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected four times, in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. He died in office in 1945.


Prudently, in 1951, the 22nd Amendment to our Constitution was ratified, so today, no one may be elected to the presidency more than twice.


As we remember Washington's legacy, it is important for us to examine our modern United States of America and consider whether we are living up to the lofty principles that our Founding Fathers established—principles that made this the finest country in history.


Would Washington embrace today's reckless government spending, which makes a mockery of our Constitution's clear limits on federal authority? Even allowing for inflation over the centuries, would he find it conceivable that the United States has amassed a $14 trillion debt—with trillions more on the way? Would he accept the fact that much of our debt is owed to foreign nations?


Would he approve of federal dictation in medical care, in education and in many other things that the Constitution left to the states or the people—and prohibited to the federal government?


Wouldn't he instead be shocked upon seeing our government's assumption of so much power in almost every area of our lives. Wouldn't he plead with President Barack Obama and our Congress to restore respect for the Constitution's limitations on government authority?


Our hearts swell with pride as we remember George Washington. But we can best honor his memory by upholding the principles that he and our Constitution helped establish.


As for Washington himself, consider some remarks by another great American, Abraham Lincoln, in 1842 on the 110th anniversary of Washington's birth: "On that name a eulogy is expected. It cannot be. To add brightness to the sun, or glory to the name of Washington, is alike impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name, and in its naked, deathless splendor, leave it shining on."






Chattanooga's able, conservative U.S. Sen. Bob Corker "visited" our appalling U.S. debt problem in Washington recently. He and some other senators toured the U.S. Bureau of Public Debt.

Unfortunately, too many members of Congress—and the president—are busy piling up more national debt, spending more than even too-high taxes bring in, adding to our country's $14 trillion debt—much of it owed to foreign countries.

In fiscal year 2010 alone, we paid $400 billion in taxes just to cover the interest on that debt! And the debt is increasing more than $1.6 trillion just this year.

Unfortunately, there is no prospect for any immediate solution, with President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress continuing to claim that more spending is necessary to improve the economy.

But Corker, noting that much of our debt is borrowed at short-term interest rates for one month to one year, wants to lock in current low interest rates for up to 30 years to save billions of dollars.

He also wants to limit our federal government spending to 20.6 percent of our gross domestic product—all that we produce in a year.

Corker is trying to do something about our national debt problem, while too many members of Congress and the president are going in the opposite direction.







Tennessee's excellent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is rightly deploring the failure of the $862 billion "stimulus" bill that President Barack Obama signed into law two years ago.


"The so-called stimulus plan ... not only failed to create the jobs that would keep unemployment under 8 percent, as taxpayers were promised, but also added over a trillion dollars to our already-staggering debt, which is now the most urgent problem facing us today," Alexander said in a news release on the anniversary of the stimulus.


The senator, who voted against the "stimulus" in 2009, added, "There is no doubt about the fact that it increases our national debt." The stimulus, he said, increased our national debt by an amount of money greater than the cumulative debt amassed "from the beginning of the Republic until 1982." It is adding $10,000 to the share of the debt owed by every U.S. family.


Don't you wish a majority of the 100 U.S. senators were as sound as Alexander, that all 435 U.S. representatives were as sound as our Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and that President Barack Obama were not convinced additional spending is the solution to our economic problems?







When Cherokee Indian Chief John Ross founded Ross's Landing as a trading post on the bank of the Tennessee River (an area that was to become Chattanooga in 1838), the only way to get across the broad Tennessee River here was by swimming, boat, a later ferry, and then a War Between the States-era bridge, which soon was swept away by a flood.


But on Feb. 18, 1891, the then-magnificent Walnut Street Bridge—constructed at a cost of $241,388!—was opened for pedestrians, horses, wagons, and later, electricity-powered streetcars and automobiles.


In time, though, the two-lane Walnut Street Bridge became "shaky" and was closed to vehicles in 1978. It was expected that the deteriorating bridge would be torn down for safety.


But nostalgia fortunately energized a "save-the-bridge" effort! Generous contributors financed refurbishing the 2,376-foot-long span as a "linear park" for pedestrians. Brass plaques were affixed to honor contributors.


But brass is valuable, and sadly, there always are vandals and thieves. So, many brass plaques were stolen, for scrap sale or souvenirs.


But all is not lost—yet! The Parks Foundation has begun a fundraising campaign to replace the Walnut Street Bridge's original 1,776 name-engraved brass plaques with zinc postings that are less likely to tempt thieves. About 400 plaques have been replaced so far.


We value the Walnut Street Bridge—and the donors who have long supported it—and we hope the plaque replacement effort will be successful.









Yesterday, Turkey marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the deepest economic crisis in the history of the Republic, a recession that evaporated something approaching a quarter of GDP. The scars of that symbolic day, when a banking panic sent overnight interest rates to 7,500 percent and the Istanbul bourse plunged more than 18 percent, remain. 

So where are we now? By many measures, Turkey's economy has witnessed a remarkable turnaround and growth has been – and continues to be – healthy. Not stellar, as some will argue. On average, the growth annually over the last decade has been comparable with Turkey's growth since 1960. But we certainly seem to have tamed the scourge of inflation that haunted Turkey for three decades and we (knock on wood) appear to be avoiding the boom-and-bust cycles that also for many years characterized Turkey's economy. 

The virtues wrought in the 2001-2002 banking reform initiated by then-economy czar Kemal Derviş, including tighter regulation, higher reserve ratios and transparent accounting, are not to be dismissed. If anything they can be credited with aiding Turkey's weathering of the global recession of 2007-2008. That the current government has nurtured this legacy of reform is to its credit. 

But we would caution against too much self-congratulation. The roughly $60 billion in private bank debt that was converted to a burden on the taxpayers has scarcely been recouped through the sale of seized assets. And the charge that some assets have been all but gifted to new owners is one left unanswered. 

That Turkey's per capita GDP has risen nominally from about $3,000 to $10,000 must be noted along with the caveat that the methodology for tallying GDP has been changed not once, but twice. In real terms, Turks are certainly richer than they were in 2005, but an honest accounting would not have them richer than they were in 2000. 

And we must also bear in mind that growth has been accomplished with resort policies favoring consumption. Turkey's current account deficit for 2010 was $48.5 billion. Some $30 billion of this was the cost of energy. But the rest was for imported goods. We have financed this with resort to "hot money" inflows, basically speculative short-term investment. Global financial winds only have to shift slightly and this source of financing will disappear. The current account deficit is now at a record high, nearly 7 percent of GDP. 

To put it simply, if the current deficit-financing system were to collapse, Turkey would be in serious trouble. One estimate is that Turkey would need to turn once again to the IMF and would need as much as $40 billion in aid. This would compare with bailout levels last seen in the 1998 Asian crisis.

There is much to praise in any look back. There is great deal to worry about in any look forward.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.






It remains to be seen if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the proud holder of the Moammar Gadhafi Human Rights Prize, will have anything to say to his friend the Libyan leader about the bloodshed he is perpetrating against demonstrators in his country in total violation of all norms governing human rights.

The chances are that Erdoğan will try and remain as silent for as long as he can and only make a pronouncement when circumstances force him to do so. Justice and Development Party, or AKP, executives are more than aware that Erdoğan's remarks criticizing Hosni Mubarak may have been highly popular on the streets of Turkey and Egypt as the demonstrations were going on, but were nevertheless a gamble.

Had Mubarak managed to somehow stay in power it is clear that Erdoğan's remarks would have had a very detrimental effect on Turkish-Egyptian ties. As it was, Cairo did not waste time to criticize him then, even though the outcome of developments in Egypt eventually turned out to be favorable for the AKP administration, making the diplomatic gamble work.

Given this experience it is likely that Erdoğan's remarks on Libya, if and when he utters them, will be more in the cautious category of "exhorting peace and calm" rather than calling on the Libyan strongman to listen to the voice of the people and introduce democracy.

Erdoğan can justify this position by pointing to the billions of dollars of Turkish investments in that country, particularly in the building sector, which is a fact that Ankara has to keep in focus, of course. But Erdoğan will also discover soon enough that Gadhafi is a "loose cannon" when it comes to Turkey.

We had the rare distinction of interviewing the Libyan leader during the first Gulf War, shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Gadhafi was angry at Turkey for siding with the U.S.-led international coalition at that time. He even brought up old ghosts from the past and said Turkey owed Libya compensation for leaving his country to the mercy of the Italians in the 1920s, thus causing the brutality visited on the Libyan people by the notorious Gen. Rodolfo Graziani.

Former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan – from whose Islamist National Salvation Party, or MSP, which is now defunct, the AKP eventually sprang – realized through bitter experience at the time just what kind of a loose cannon Gadhafi was. Shortly after coming to power Erbakan, who had no taste for the West whatsoever, embarked on a tour of Islamic countries in October 1996.

His aim was not only to display solidarity with Islamic countries, but also to try and lay the foundation stones of an "Islamic NATO" and "Islamic EU," as it was put at the time by Islamists. All he got, however, from "his brother Moammar," during their joint press conference in the by now-emblematic Libyan tent, was a mouthful.

Gadhafi, whose whole attitude toward the Turkish prime minister was demeaning from the start to the end, blasted Turkey for mistreating its Kurdish minority, among other things. Erbakan and his close associates have still not been able to fully digest this development, given the political embarrassment the whole incident caused for the MSP, and for the country as a whole.

Now we find the same Gadhafi, who only a short while ago awarded Erdoğan his Human Rights Prize, accusing Israeli-trained Turkish operatives of being among those stirring trouble in his country. In the meantime the AKP administration is scurrying to try and save its citizens who are caught in Libya at the moment.

It is clear that Mr. Erdoğan's embarrassment will increase if the Libyan leader continues to kill unarmed demonstrators, while also continuing to point at Turks as being among the culprits destabilizing his country. It remains to be seen how Erdoğan will react in that case, and whether he will return his Human Rights Prize.

Erdoğan clearly has to tread cautiously here since what is at stake is his political credibility at home during an election year when politics are expected to get even more vitriolic. It is clear that this will provide the opposition with plenty off material to hit at him and the AKP as the June elections near.

What is certain in all this, however, is that maintaining "friendly ties" with brutal Middle Eastern dictators is going to get harder, and not easier, for the AKP administration in the face of developments in the region. These developments are also going make it increasingly difficult for President Abdullah Gül, who is also from the AKP himself, to maintain some of his friendly regional ties.

We had a taste of this too during Gül's high-profile visit to Tehran last week, which took place as demonstrators were being brutalized on the streets by police, who in that country are no more than the regime's armed thugs. It was reported that Gül had exhorted his Iranian interlocutors while in Tehran to be more tolerant and democratic toward the opposition.

But his remarks to this effect were not writ large in the news items about his visit, during which he was photographed warmly embracing and walking hand in hand with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The muted way in which his exhortation for tolerance and democracy was reported also suggests that Gül himself was not too keen on having that aspect of his visits highlighted.

At any rate, Gül found out just how tolerant the Mullah regime is when the fundamentalist deputies, who are the majority in the Iranian parliament due to what many believe are fixed elections, started chanting "death" to their political opponents. Clearly they had no notion of just how ugly an image of Iran this reflected abroad – but perhaps they simply didn't care.

Whatever their case may be, this image and the violence on the streets was not so nice from Turkey's point of view either, given that its president was in Tehran as these ugly scenes were unfolding. Needless to say, the Mullah regime was grateful to Gül for his visit, which served its propaganda purposes at a difficult time.

Whether the AKP administration can continue to keep this kind of company as "people power" increasingly comes onto the streets in Islamic countries is an open question. Our best guess is that it will not be able to do so, not because it does not want to, but because the inconsistency will be glaring.

After all, you can not laud Hamas for being democratically elected and support demonstrators on the streets of Egypt, while at the same time continuing to break bread with regional characters that have grabbed power and have been clinging to it for decades by anti-democratic, oppressive and brutal means.








Two basic elements of the law are:

1) Innocent until proven guilty.

2) General claims are meaningful only if concrete evidence is provided. 

All right, what is press freedom?

I don't express any opinion about those who are screaming their lungs out on TVs; who are criticizing everyone though they themselves have no in-depth information; who have no other choice but to defend any particular opinion because they are paid money for that; who are trying to cover their darkest ignorance; who are about to explode because of their ego at the highest level; who are irritated by Soner Yalçın for his reminding us how unreliable they are; who are thinking that it is time now to take their hats off to civilian tutelage after taking hats off to the Feb. 28 process and the Sept. 12 1980 military takeover; and those who are stealing roles to say that Yalçın once slammed at them.

Because what they say or write is not worthy intellectually!

However, I do take Gülay Göktürk of the daily Bugün seriously. An article of hers dated Feb. 18 on press freedom has attracted my attention.

Göktürk points out the following points accurately:

"1) An actor at a theater, a sculptor or a painter can be, at the same time, incurably devious. 

"2)... a real press freedom should also mean defending the pro-coup. If a person believes that parliamentarian democratic order is not good for Turkey and that this country can make a progress only under the military tutelage, s/he should be able to voice it in his/her articles.

"3) If Soner Yalçın is put on trial for his pro-coup line of publications, I personally read this as an attack against freedom of the press and stand against it."

However, Göktürk also says:

1) "We know Yalçın's line of publications. Everyone knows that his course of line is based on saving the pro-coup from trials, changing the course of trials and preventing Turkey from getting rid of the military tutelage."

I find quite odd in terms of thought ethics for a columnist making generalization starting from his/her personal opinions. Where is Göktürk getting this right to make that generalization and based on which systematic or measurement? Why does she have a need to rely on generalization?

2) Then Göktürk asks the following question:

 "What if there is an organic relation between Yalçın and the Ergenekon crime gang?"

An organic relation!

I cannot understand what this term means in the law.

I think she means "natural relation." But I still don't get it. There are many people who have natural connections (lovers/relatives/spouses/friends/supporters etc.) with the Silivri cases, and they are not guilty of anything before the law.

On the other hand, the European Court of Human Rights' criteria for detention is the following:

"The European Court of Human Rights' reasonable criterion for doubt is the existence of elements or information to convince an objective observer that a crime is committed. What is important here is these elements are based on concrete evidence." (Rıza Türmen, the daily Milliyet, Feb. 21, 2011)

The European Court takes concrete elements, information or evidence as basis.

But so far we only have the following de facto accusations:

In digital contents, necessities are noted as the formation of new media institutions and creation of new stories to create a new agenda by the existing media as well as names of several media members. A request for preparing a book on the Egyptian upheaval is also included in the content… Some news articles and books on the Fethullah Gülen movement.

The accusations include "membership to a terror organization," "supply and publication of secret documents on the state's security" and "instigating people to hatred and grudges."

Gülay, you clearly write in your article that these abstract claims do not constitute a crime. In any of them, there exists no "organic tie" whatsoever, let alone concrete evidence.

Dear Gülay: As soon as a concrete element, information or data comes out rather than ambiguous organic ties, I will be ready to wait with you for the conclusion of this case.

General claims are meaningful only if they are supported by concrete evidence!







In both the United States and the eurozone, there is still no sign of a rapid exit from stagnation. So why, then, are the European Central Bank, or ECB, and the U.S. Federal Reserve expressing concerns about the resurgence of inflation?

The answer is very simple: after a long period of stagflation between the first oil crisis and the start of this century, these two important central banks have realized that inflation is the biggest economic problem to tackle. It also implies that the inflation risk is accepted as a greater threat than a longer period of stagnation.

Will the world economy be able to return to reasonable growth rates again without entering a new inflationary era? Creeping inflation in leading Western and emerging economies prevents an optimistic answer to this question. Another problem is that nobody is sure of the governments' intentions. Will they prefer some mild inflation instead of stagnant markets or will they accept the central banks' concerns? For some economists, the inflation risk is overstated. Is this true?

Soaring food prices are pushing up inflation, especially in leading emerging countries. Although the consumer price index fell below a 41-year low in January, the annual average figure is still over 8 percent in Turkey. A base effect which helped the record drop in monthly figures will work in the opposite direction during the coming months. The big gap between the consumer and producers' price indices is another concern; this may create a new period of "cost-push inflation" if total demand is strong enough to pull the prices which costs push.

For the sake of ending the crisis and solving the severe unemployment problem, mild inflation might seem reasonable. However, as past experience shows, mild inflation can get out of control very quickly even without giving any indication. In addition to Brazil, China and India, the average consumer price index jumped to higher levels in the eurozone in a surprisingly short period of time.

The culprit is known: soaring commodity prices. If it is believed that commodity prices will stop rising during the coming months, then it could be defended that the inflation risk is overstated. But if there is no guarantee of weaker demand for commodities in the near future, then the concerns about the beginning of a new inflationary era are not unfounded.

Some governments that faced stagnant markets but were also afraid of stimulating inflation decided on the so-called "middle-way" solution. That was a policy which gave a mild push to total demand and at the same time controlled any increase in consumer prices by the help of tight monetary and fiscal policies. This looks like the behavior of a loveable mother who thinks that her children must eat everything she cooks to become healthier but, at the same time, becomes worried that her children are becoming more obese day after day. That middle-way solution was proven wrong as the "mild inflation" alternative. As inflation sometimes might appear spontaneously without any contribution (!) from the authorities, it is so silly to give a (government's) hand for its revival. However, in a panicky situation, even the most able governments might act in a silly way.

Some economists maintain that the rise in commodity prices is a sign of an increase in economic activity. But what kind of activity? If it is a revival of manufacturing, then the rise in commodity prices is the result of the input demand increase in this sector. Then it is good for growth and employment. However, if the rise is for speculative purposes, it only creates a chain effect on inflation as seen just before and after the first oil crisis.

Talking on the same topic for days on end is always boring, but it is sometimes useful. The inflation risk is not overstated and is still there for every country, including Turkey. Our country has a bad record on inflation, on how to create it and how to fail to stop it. Nowadays, foreign experts, politicians and economists applaud the economic performance of Turkey. However, a short time ago they were also applauding some European countries that are now struggling against serious economic problems. It means that although it is normal to be proud of this praise, it is better to be realistic and ready for likely problems, including inflation, which might appear during the coming months and years.






Take a look at the region we live in and the other side of the Mediterranean (North Africa).

Syria, Iran, the Gulf countries, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia.

For many years, all these countries have been led by dictatorships. They've been encircled by the United Kingdom, France and the United States. The threesome had but one fear and tried to keep Islamic power under control. And those placed in leading positions of these countries were exactly responsible for this task. Their task was to keep radical Islam under control through a solid military regime and to do this in the name of secularism. People were forced and pushed around and their rights and freedoms were null and void.

Those who went off the rails were punished.

For example, when the Islamic FIS in Algeria in the 1990scame to power after general elections carrying the Islamic flag, the military interfered and civil war broke out. Thousands were killed and Algeria descended into a bloodbath. The West didn't even care. Now people are longing for the FIS.

Then there were countries where the strategy backfired. For example, when Iran exploded it resulted in something the West did not desire at all. Washington made Iraq attack Iran in order to civilize the newcomers. The result backfired and Khomeini's sympathizers grew gradually and are now on their way to becoming the nuclear power in the region.

For example, Moammar Gadhafi, who got his hook into Libya, gave the West a hard time.

Now, with a changing world all strategies change. People are waking up.

Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen are at a boiling point. The domino effect is taking place. In Afghanistan, despite great NATO power, the Taliban is advancing with safe steps to share power with the administration. You'll see, the United States won't be able to succeed, just as was the case with Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are in the line of fire. The United States, only to obtain petroleum, shut its eyes to the production of radical Muslims by the Saudis; the pilots in charge of the aircraft attacks in New York on Sept. 11 turned out to be students of Saudi Arabia. Regarding Pakistan, again for strategic reasons (benefit from Afghanistan), it keeps quiet for now. But the day will come in which Pakistan and Saudi Arabia become chaotic and the balances are disturbed. Western powers will regret what they did but it will be too late. So why didn't it happen to us?

We were saved by democracy

To tell the truth, the template was implemented on us as well.

The Turkish Republic, since its creation, spent all its time and effort on creating and maintaining its secular system. Those creating the Republic used the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, and carried the heritage of "defending the secular system no matter what" through the generations.

Our politicians did not interfere in the task that was bestowed upon the military.

It was in their own interest.

After the 1940s the TSK embraced secularism and Kemalism even further, which lasted until 2006. But its understanding of secularism solidified in such a way that the pious and fundamentalist were confused with each other and were perceived as one and the same.

Things got worse with the military coups, and too much pressure caused the pious segment to revolt in the end. On one side, freedom, except for religious freedom, would increase and the economy would grow, but, on the other side, the pious segment were not to benefit from it.

The first signal came from the late President Turgut Özal in 1983 with his approach to religion, then in the 1994 municipality elections and in the 1996 general elections, in which Necmettin Erbakan and his Welfare Party won.

Turkey was no longer as it used to be. The religious people also wanted to have their share. Secularism was to be interpreted differently and the pious were to get a piece of the cake.

The perception of Islam in Turkish society was not similar to the perception of Iranian Shiites, which is "to protest on the streets no matter what." Thus the perception of Islam in Turkish society manifested itself in the outcome of the elections.

AKP carried Turkey's pious segment to the forefront

Kemalist republicans and the military did not or could anticipate this course. Instead of elasticizing their attitude or searching for a compromise, they did the opposite.

The post-modern coup dated Feb. 28 put an end to this approach. Çevik Bir's famous phrase, "We are fine-tuning democracy," was a very unfortunate statement, for exactly the opposite of what the general said came true. The TSK's fine tuning backfired only to raise the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. As a result of the intervention Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stepped in and became its leader.

Turkish society preferred the aggrieved. We all were saved by the regime of democracy, even if it still isn't perfect.

It was due to the outcome of elections that Turkey did not experience civil war and no blood was shed while trying to strike a balance between those who think differently, live together and tolerate each other. It may take some more time to sort things out but democracy certainly provided a smooth landing for this country.






It is the commandment of all religions: "Thou shall not kill!"

Eager to distract attention from gross violation of human rights, mass wiretapping complaints, calls for the release of imprisoned journalists and pleas for some benevolence for those who dare to criticize his "semi divine" government, for some time absolute ruler Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been concentrating on foreign policy issues.

Right, to some extent the vizier for external affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu and his neo-Ottomanist foreign policy doctrine should be credited with the surge in the love of the absolute ruler in foreign policy issues, but still such external subjects are best to distract public attention from hot domestic subjects.

Many people would recall the famous "one minute" intervention of the absolute ruler at that conference organized in the land of the infidels. What did he say? "You know best how to kill," he burst into the face of the Zionist head of state before he left the rostrum, reciting from the Jewish holy book the "thou shall not kill" commandment.

He has repeated the sentence quite often since then, whenever discussion opens on Israel and Israel's barbaric onslaughts on the Palestinians or on the Mavi Marmara Turkish humanitarian aid ship in international waters of the Mediterranean, killing nine Turkish nationals, one of them also an American national.

Thou shall not kill!

Killing is prohibited for the Jews in their holy book. Killing is prohibited for the Christians in their holy book. Killing is prohibited for Muslim people in their holy book. According to the Quran, killing one innocent person is no less than murdering all of humanity.

That is, not only in some Muslim interpretations and Sufi traditions is every human being sacred because there is a reflection of God in every living being or as is said in the holy Quran, God blows spirit into men from His spirit. Yet, all throughout the history of mankind people kept on killing other people in the name of religions. What a farce? Anyhow, that's not our subject for the day.

Obviously, irrespective of what the religions say, and how terrible the contradiction of the behavior of men with the religions men have been subscribing to, crime is a reality of all ages.

The sufferings of the Palestinians at the refugee camps, Gaza, the West Bank or elsewhere in their occupied homeland have been continuing for decades. There are times those immense sufferings are brought to the attention of the international community with some fresh examples of the talent of Israeli soldiers to kill, otherwise the world tends to forget where Palestine is and the much-hoped-for American President Barack Obama, for example, can demonstrate his skill in hypocrisy by appealing to Palestinians to drop their opposition to Israel building new settlements and thus enlarging its territory on Palestinian land. That has become a "political reality," unfortunately. As is said, there is one principle in international politics: Supremacy of the law is valid as long as it is replaced by the supremacy of the powerful.

Anyhow, not only Obama, but our absolute ruler himself was in best spirits a while ago and publicly asked the Hosni Mubarak administration in Egypt to respect the will of the people and not to use force on the people. They indeed issued veiled threats, reminding Mubarak that should he order troops on the people the world would not be a spectator to such a criminal act. Well, Mubarak was angered and his government accused Turkey and some other countries of intervening in the internal affairs of Egypt, but eventually could not stay and to the shock of this writer was toppled by a military coup.

Now, the Moammar Gadhafi regime in Libya and the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regime in Iran are killing people on the streets. Is the absolute ruler of Turkey suffering from amnesia? Why can he not remember the "Thou shall not kill" commandment and as a pious Muslim fulfill his duty of reminding Gadhafi, who presented him a human rights award just a while ago, and Ahmadinejad, his so intimate friend?

Or is there a problem? How can Turkey remain deaf and blind to the bloodbath in Libya?






What are investors to make of the transfer of power in Egypt? 

Confidence and credibility are important hallmarks that international business needs to protect capital. The military can instill a sense of security and safeguard the state, but governments must create confidence in the system through deeds.

Although the United States has been Egypt's ally, it failed to bring any meaningful economic change to the North African country since the 1980s. Decades of U.S. aid helped create a parasitic class of beneficiaries and an economy that urgently needs to discover new ways to revive its engines of growth.

How can it be that Turkey has a slightly smaller population, but its gross domestic product is almost four times bigger than Egypt's? The answer lies in five obstacles that the new regime in Cairo must tackle immediately.

First, the crony capitalism that defined business-state relations since the 1970s and grew stronger during the Mubarak era must be given clear limits. Favoritism was rampant under President Hosni Mubarak, so much so that even the businessmen who are today touting democratic values were once the former president's beneficiaries. But the new regime should be careful not to embark on a witch-hunt that targets the very elements that the country depends on for its economic recovery.

Justice for all

Weeding out corruption after the departure of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and President Suharto in Indonesia has been a long process. Bringing everyone to justice isn't easy because cronyism often doesn't breach any laws. The government must define the limits of the state in accordance with the demands of the protesters.

The second challenge is Egypt's economic direction. The entrepreneurial spirit has to be enhanced. Banks must support such efforts and gear less capital to large and well-established firms, and more toward small and medium-sized enterprises. Egypt's advantage is clearly in tourism and services, and some manufacturing. The nation can build on that and begin to increase the opportunities for small entrepreneurs to create businesses in the tourism industry.

The third challenge for Egypt is job growth. Currently, the country needs 650,000 to 700,000 new jobs each year and it barely generates half that. Even with strong growth, the private sector has failed to create enough employment. The labor market suffers from a mismatch between demand and supply of adequate skills. Underemployment is pervasive and the phenomenon of the working poor is rising.

Impossible task

Creating enough jobs in the short to medium term is almost impossible. The economy will have to grow about 11 percent a year in order to employ those currently out of work and new arrivals in the labor market. The growth of the Egyptian economy over the last few years was 5 percent to 7 percent but it didn't help much of the population. Income inequality rose and the perception of inequality grew even more.

The fourth challenge is income distribution. Society has to realize that building an economy is much harder than just destroying the figurehead of a regime. Inflation, particularly food prices, is a sticky issue that has to be addressed as it has hit people on low incomes. In a country where agriculture is an important contributor to economic growth, it is baffling to see food prices surge 18 percent.

Equitable distribution

Inflation is unbearable for most Egyptians and has forced real incomes to fall. At the same time, capital concentration in the hands of the top 20 percent of the population has doubled and, as a result, the middle class has shrunk. More equitable wealth distribution will take time.

Fifth, red tape is stifling growth. In a policy speech in 1989, Mubarak said Egypt's bureaucracy "seeks to make the easy difficult and the possible impossible."

Bureaucratic procedures and an overlap of conflicting jurisdictions among ministries is a structural problem with no quick solutions.

Many people were ready to draw parallels with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Yet few remember that once the euphoria settled, Germany paid a hefty bill for its unification. Egypt doesn't have a much wealthier half in waiting.

Above all, Egypt needs a Mandela-like figure who can unite the country and patiently push ahead. Even with such a leader – and there are no signs of one so far – the road won't be easy.

*John Sfakianakis is chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia. This piece originally appeared on Bloomberg.









 Sometimes, we wonder if top PPP leaders communicate with each other at all. The task should not be an especially arduous one in this age of mobile phones and instant messaging available in various forms. Yet, even as President Asif Ali Zardari advised the prime minister to renew efforts to woo Nawaz Sharif and persuade him that efforts are being made to implement the 10-point agenda laid down by the PML-N as a condition for retaining some kind of partnership with the party, the Sindh Home Minister, Dr Zulfikar Mirza, a man who apparently does not believe in tact or diplomacy, has launched a vicious attack on the PML-N. Addressing a meeting in Lyari, he has warned that PML-N offices in Sindh would be closed down if any undemocratic means were used against the PPP in Punjab. This presumably refers to the future of PPP ministers in the province, with the Punjab chief minister stating a decision would be taken within the next 24 hours or so. Dr Mirza's unexpected attack, somewhat similar to the one he launched not too long ago against the MQM, cannot have helped the mood; nor can the references made to Lyari taking on Lahore – a kind of open call for confrontation, which is the last thing we need right now. Unsurprisingly, Dr Mirza's comments have been met by an almost equally furious diatribe from the Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah – also a man not accustomed to mincing words – who has described the Sindh home minister as a 'hooligan', accused him of working against national interest, and warned that PPP ministers will now almost certainly not be retained.

In these circumstances, it is hard to see the prime minister succeeding in making any kind of peace. The environment appears to have become too hostile for diplomacy to work. It is hard to see the logic behind Dr Mirza's attack. The senior PPP leader seems hell-bent on creating more problems for his party. With the PML-N's 10-point agenda largely ignored, the party will be in no mood to experiment with yet another round of diplomacy. And with the party enjoying a comfortable hold on Punjab, it is the PPP which will be the loser in this scenario. The angry exchange, which in many ways seems totally unnecessary, cannot do much to improve the political environment on the whole. It also raises further questions about strategy within the PPP, and whether a particular game plan is being followed or if each leader is free to say what he, or she, chooses, regardless of the consequences.







After a hiatus since shortly before the arrest of Raymond Davis in Lahore, the drones are back in the killing business. There has been much speculation, but no confirmation, that the lull in aerial activity was linked to Davis' detention - but if that was the case then it no longer appears to be so and the conspiracy theorists will have to find a new angle. The attack late on Sunday night reportedly killed six and injured another two, but other than that it happened 15kms to the west of Wana, details are sketchy as ever. The attack coincides with a report in the Washington Post on the efficacy or otherwise of the drones, particularly in their ability to target and kill senior Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives. Given that the original intention was to target the most senior of the forces ranged against the US - and us to a limited extent – the drones do not appear to have been particularly successful. According to the American National Counterterrorism Centre, only two figures from the 'most wanted list' were killed in 2010 - Sheik Saeed al-Masri, Al-Qaeda's No 3, and Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali - with the latter reputed to be Al-Qaeda's chief of paramilitary operations in Afghanistan.

This has to be weighed against the total number of strikes - 118 - which reportedly cost in the region of $1 million apiece to mount. Depending on who is doing the counting, it appears that 581 'militants' died in 2010 and an uncounted number of non-combatants. This averages out to 4.92 deaths per strike - or expressed another way it costs the Americans $203,252 to kill a little under five of their enemy. Non-combatants are not factored in so they come 'free'. It should be noted that non-combatant deaths are not counted by any of the forces that inflict them, and figures compiled by humanitarian agencies vary too wildly to quote with confidence. There may be thousands every year, but we have no clear idea as to just how many thousands. Whatever the reasons behind the recent pause in drone operations it is clear that it was temporary and not a move to appease an extremely angry Pakistan. Raymond Davis may find himself enjoying our hospitality for rather longer than he anticipated.







The fate of Colonel Sultan Amir Tarar, better known as Colonel Imam, is now clear. A harrowing video released by the Taliban shows him being beheaded in the presence of TTP Chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, on charges of being a US spy. Imam, abducted in North Waziristan early last year, had apparently been facilitating a UK-based journalist with a documentary, along with another former ISI official, Khalid Khwaja. Khwaja was killed soon after the kidnapping while Imam was killed in January this year. A report in this newspaper indicates that the TTP may have believed the two men had given away the locations of key leaders – including Mehsud – whom they met in North Waziristan, to Pakistani and US intelligence triggering drone attacks apparently intended to kill them.

The full truth behind all this may never be known. Much of the past, and the present, is shrouded in mystery. Till the release of the video, there were doubts about whether or not Colonel Imam, regarded as a hero of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, was dead. Some accounts have also suggested he and Khwaja may have been attempting to negotiate a peace deal between militants and security forces. There is also mounting evidence of the divide between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban – a factor which introduces a new set of complications to the ongoing war. But there is no doubt now, about the kind of force the TTP represents. The brutal murder, captured on film, underscores their ruthlessness and should drive home to everyone, the need for them to be vanquished and for the violence they employ to be eliminated for good.








  "...thank God that I'm not aware. And thank God that I just don't care. And I guess I just don't know. And I guess I just don't know." - Heroin by Lou Reed.


Fans say Lou Reed and Velvet Underground never endorsed the use of drugs with the song "Heroin". Critics say it was a fork-tongued endorsement of the use of narcotics.

In four days, it will be exactly a month since l'affaire Raymond Davis titillated, angered, amused and confounded Pakistan. One month of front-page news, leaks, admissions, submissions and threats flying in a cacophony of self-righteous posturing between two countries that have little to be proud of when it comes to diplomacy in the twenty-first century.

From the White House, to Aabpara, and from Langley to Raiwind – the saga has exposed how utterly unprepared Pakistan and the US are to be in any kind of "strategic dialogue". Forget nuclear disarmament, peace in South-Asia, or democracy in Afghanistan, the US and Pakistan cannot even agree on what constitutes diplomatic immunity. These are two countries that share an embittered need for co-dependence, despite both countries' gut instinct telling them to run the other way.

It has become part of convention in Washington DC to constantly invoke Pakistan's dire fiscal need for US support. It has become convention in Islamabad and Rawalpindi to constantly invoke America's dire need for land-access to Afghanistan. It does not take rocket science to figure out that neither of these are permanent needs. If Raymond Davis has taught us anything in this past month, it is that all the sugar-coating in the world can't hide the uncomfortable realities of US-Pakistan relations. Despite the best efforts of champions like John Kerry, Husain Haqqani and others, this has been, remains, and for the foreseeable future, will continue to be a transactional relationship.


The anger and bitterness felt in Pakistan is palpable and real. When some of the smartest and most incisive commentators in the country label these sentiments with derisive terms like "ghairat brigade" they're not dealing with the root of the problem, which is a justifiable and necessary sense of autonomy and self-respect that Pakistanis have and must continue to cherish. They're addressing the cynical and self-serving narrative machine located inside the Pakistani establishment, and peddled by mostly by the radical religious right-wing.

In this back and forth however, it is entirely possible that Lou Reed's song is about Pakistan, and this country's habitual ability to tie itself up in knots over issues that are, at best, secondary to the primary structural and existential challenges the country faces.

Pakistan's total population of unenrolled children between the ages of five and 18, is 40 million. They have been deprived of education for many reasons. But Raymond Davis' trigger-happy ways are not among them.

The disjoint between the provincial governments and the centre was wide before the 18th amendment, it is increasingly looking like it is becoming wider in its aftermath. There is no viable set of mechanisms or instruments to deal with jurisdictional issues – because the inter-provincial ministry is, for lack of a better term, dedicated to big picture, macro issues. Yet, a lot of the Standard Operating Procedures for making a mooth transition to a post-18th amendment world, simply don't exist, and where they do, have not been tested.

What is worse, is that the corrective course measures for mistakes or miscalculations, such as too much or too little devolution of administrative, fiscal or political power, are so tortuous and politically fraught, that the likelihood of policy drift is great. Policy drift is what caused Pakistan to take 37 years to "fix" the federal-provincial imbalance. It is what happens when problems are not dealt with, but deferred, and delayed. Evading structural challenges is something the bureaucracy has developed an expertise in. The cost however, has been the correct way of doing things. A heavy cost, indeed.

While we invest reams of newsprint and terabytes of data into meaningless tirades about either the existence or non-existence of Davis' immunity, Pakistan's economic chill, has grown into a full-blown infection. "The State of Pakistan's Economy – First Quarterly Report 2010 - 2011" issued by the State Bank of Pakistan makes for depressing reading.

But nobody reads anymore. It is much more invigorating to be serenaded by the cynicism and anger that constitutes the inner core of news television. The report demonstrates the impossible task of running Pakistan in 2011, stating that: "Being conscious of the spending needs for reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, the government scaled down and re-prioritised spending introducing steep cuts in development spending. However, the potential gains from these measures could only be partially realised due to sharp fall in non-tax revenues during Q1-FY11". In short, even when the government starts to pull up its socks, it runs into a deeper ravine. Or in very short, the Pakistani state has no money.

This is an issue that Paksitanis of all political persuasions need to think deeply about. There's no need to get bogged down in politics to think about the fiscal reality of Pakistan. It is a country with an abundant reservoir of national honour, and no ownership of the nation. What is Pakistan supposed to be constructed with? Flaming nationalist rhetoric? Or unerring belief in our status as God's chosen people? (What will we say to Israel? Sorry cousins, you got there first, but we got here last?).

Patriotism, even when it is infused with a militaristic machismo, is fine. It just has to be consistent. If you feel strongly about national honour, then you should feel even more strongly about the need to feed that beast. Maintaining a nation-state costs money (especially when it is rife with contradictions, and which, by nationalist accounts, is constantly the target of conspiracies). That money doesn't come from taxes. Because taxes too come from somewhere. That somewhere is economic vigour. Business, trade, commerce, industry, innovation. The hustle. The hard sell. The hunger for more. You can't wear rags and expected to get into the VIP room at the swanky club.

If Pakistanis want this country to be strong and prosperous, then there has to be some kind of a realistic narrative for that strength. Whether we like it or not, that strength is economic might. The question is not how Pakistan will become an economic powerhouse. That question reeks of unrealistic and fabricated gusto. The real question is, how will Pakistan start thinking about an economic growth story?

The same week as the Davis incident, a group of 25 Pakistani entrepreneurs and businessmen, accompanied by Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh, were welcomed by the US embassy in Islamabad. They were being honored for being the 2011 Pakistan 25 – globally recognised as the fastest growing companies in Pakistan, according to the All World Network. This, and not Raymond Davis, is where the story of a successful Pakistan will begin.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.








We are dealing nobly with our misery. We have survived three years and counting of Zadari and Gilani. Any country that can do that is as resilient as any. But will our patience and fortitude be in vain because sadly, the future seems no less troubling. What if elections are held this year and the public feeling that there is no escape turns suicidal and leads to the election of Nawaz Sharif?

Soothsayers offer comfort and say that is not going to happen but this is small consolation. Assuming they are right and the amir-al-momineen, the only multi-millionaire (in dollars), who pays as little as Rs 5000 per annum in taxes, is not (s)elected, then who?

There is talk of Imran Khan. If there is a politician who has earned his spurs by sticking to his policies, however inelastic they may appear and however much of a narcissist some find him, it is Imran and one wishes him well.


Interestingly, now there is another candidate, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Fresh from jumping ship or being thrown overboard – take your pick – he has made himself available. Besides, Qureshi is a good political acrobat; he keeps his sense of balance by saying the opposite of what he does and in this way earns the support of the influential lot who never opt for the best leader but for the one who will do the least harm and prove the most malleable.

He has all the right qualifications and has said and done the right things. He has pleased Allah by tending conscientiously to the tombs of pirs; he is ever mindful of the Army, actually he is besotted by what they think and is desperate to please them, and he could not possibly have got any closer to (America and) Hillary without raising eyebrows.

However, since losing the post of foreign minister, he is having second thoughts, which is why, a friend reports, Kerry offered him the job of foreign minister back when they met recently. Imagine, an American senator, offering jobs in the Pakistani cabinet.

Qureshi has two problems, although some would say that neither is an insurmountable obstacle. First, he does not have a party. But that's never been an insuperable hurdle in Pakistan; a party can be conjured out of the blue if the establishment is so inclined. Ayub Khan did it and so did Musharraf. Besides Qureshi seems to feel that the PPP will be up for grabs once Zardari is out of power and has fond hopes that somehow he will inherit the mantle or at least the support of a sizeable group of loyalists.

The second is Qureshi's elitist image and his charisma. If clothes rather than 'manners maketh the man', then Shah Mehmood Qureshi leads the field. He appears the sort who is dressed to the hilt, even when he takes out the trash. More of a performer on stage than a serious politician, it helps Qureshi that the two vocations are closely allied.

But there is an important difference. While to be an actor you have to pretend to ingratiate yourself with producers and directors you would not spit on if they were on fire, a politician has to be able to drop the pretence and show that he would gladly risk an inferno to rescue the populace and that only he would succeed in doing so. Many may claim that they will but very few do so convincingly, Qureshi's feudal get-up and background virtually ensure that he cannot.

Noticeably, on his return to Multan, Qureshi lost no time baiting the Americans. That is about the one stance that our politicians seem to think will earn them the favour of the electorate, even with all the anti- Americanism flying around.

Why patriotism is seen only as 'the last refuge of the scoundrel' and not as the first bolt hole of the hypocrite isn't clear. Frankly, such rhetoric is wearing thin, there are enough wrongs at home – and committed by the regime that Qureshi was part of till just recently – to occupy people's attention.

It is typical of those like Qureshi who prate about patriotism, to take millions from the country and turn a blind eye to hundreds of thousands of their countrymen, barely a two hour drive from Karachi, who are surviving on snakes and lizards and have not bathed in months for lack of water. And when confronted with such disturbing facts, not a trace of shame would be seen on their faces.

Qureshi's best bet is that the path to fresh elections comes about with the ousting of the regime either by the courts or demonstrations – possibilities that many sense in the air. Both events would ordain a prolonged period of stability and calm before elections are held and Qureshi might well be the favoured candidate of the military to head a political-technocrat set-up given his willingness to toe the establishment line. That would provide him time enough to establish his worth and, unless he proves worthless, a good chance at the hustings.

On the other hand, if this decrepit government actually gets to complete its term and elections are held on schedule, the existing parties will likely enter the fray with their list of candidates and office-bearers finalised, in which case, there will be little room for political mavericks like Qureshi. (Of course, if a national unity government is ever put in place, people like Mushahid Hussain might be considered better to head such a body. He broke with Nawaz and Musharraf, appears clean, moderate and is also supremely pliable. Some may deem him a better choice to lead a largely techno team than Qureshi).

The fact is, that our former foreign minister is now out in the cold and unless he can form a party of his own, he will have to return, cap in hand, to the PPP, or find solace elsewhere, perhaps even in the bosom of his very first love, the Muslim League, formed under the auspices of the greatest of turncoats, Ziaul Haq, and now presided over by the defunct amir-al-momineen. It would be poignant for him to end his political meanderings and lodge himself once again in the party where he began his political career and where his father ended his.

The writer is a former ambassador.









Libya, Yemen and Bahrain are showing all the symptoms of the Tunisia syndrome. "Two down, twenty to go" is a slogan gaining currency on Arab streets. A demonstration in Jeddah is making the rounds in the blogosphere. Will the virtual spark in Jeddah set the whole desert on fire? Apparently, the ingredients necessary for a revolt (parties, unions, social movements) are missing. However, Saudi history is replete with mutinies, attempted coups d'etat, regional unrest, and struggles for reform. But the present Saudi dynasty has survived subversion every time. Will the House of Saud weather the storm?

In January 1902, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, not merely wrestled back Riyadh from rival clan, Rashid, but re-established the Al-Saud dynasty, for the third time. The first was established in the 18th century, but the Ottomans defeated it before it could extend its rule across the Arabian Peninsula. Revived in the 19th century, the second dynasty collapsed mainly because of internal strife.

As the members of the House of Saud became jetsetters, their commitment to Wahhabism evaporated. Wahhabism is attributed to 18th-century preacher Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, a revivalist zealot who was appalled to see Arabia sunk in corruption. The solution, he concluded, would be a return to puritan Islam, by force if necessary.

The present Saudi state would not have come easily had ibn Saud not courted the Ikhwan. Starting in 1912, the Ikhwan movement consisted of Bedouins who accepted the fundamentals of Wahhabism. However, British subsidies also played a key role in the defeat of ibn Saud's rivals. When ibn Saud had subdued his rivals, the Ikhwan themselves became a challenge. By 1926 the Ikhwan had as many as one hundred settlements across the country and the ability to mobilise 50,000 to 60,000 armed men, and they were thus a grave threat.

But the Ikhwan were defeated in a series of battles in the following two years. Again, motorised transport provided by the British proved great help in the subduing of the Ikhwan, with the British Royal Air Force itself playing a role.

On Sept 23, 1932, ibn Saud proclaimed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. By the time he subdued the country, the Saudis had staged 40,000 public executions and 350,000 amputations.

On Feb 14, 1945, came the historic meeting between Roosevelt and ibn Saud, during which the oil-for-security relationship was established between the two sides. Ibn Saud died on Nov 9, 1953, and was succeeded by Crown Prince Saud.

In 1954, there was an isolated mutiny in the army. Communist-inspired pamphlets were found circulating in Al-Hasa in 1955. Anti-monarchy slogans were found even on palace walls in Riyadh. In 1956, workers of the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco) went on strike for three days. The strike was mercilessly crushed, with three activists beaten to death. Two hundred people were arrested.

When Gamal Abdel Nasser visited Riyadh in 1956, thousands turned up to welcome him. During the Suez crisis later that year, the Saudis used oil as a weapon for the first time, though reluctantly. Amid pressure from the USA, power passed to Crown Prince Faisal in March 1958. Faisal introduced some social reforms. Slavery was abolished. The need for girls' education was emphasised. In 1965 television was introduced.

Eclipsed by Nasserism, the Saudi dynasty remained marginalised in the Arab world until the six-day Arab-Israel war. Two factors played a decisive role in the improvement of Saudi fortunes. First, the nationalists' failure to bring about meaningful social change. Secondly, an unheard-of petrodollars rush. Between 1965 and 1975, the Saudi GDP rose from 10.4 billion riyals to 164.53 billion, enabling Faisal to lavishly increase disbursement of government revenues, stimulating business activity and benefiting merchants.

Petrodollars were not merely transforming the desert's architectural outlook, emerging billionaires were forging new ties with global capital. Roughly 84,000 "high net-worth" Saudis invested a staggering $860 billion in American companies. The Texas-based Bush family greatly benefited from Saudi investments. The oil weapon used during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war improved the Saudi image in the Arab world. In January 1975 Kissinger warmed that the United States would use military force if the oil embargo threatened to produce "some actual strangulation of the industrialised world."

This US-Saudi friction was temporary. Already, in March 1974, the Saudi threat to leave OPEC had been pivotal in keeping prices low, demonstrating Saudi commitment to imperialism. On March 25, 1975, Faisal was assassinated, and his brother Khaled became king. During Khaled's reign, which ended on his death in 82, contradictions between the Islamic facade and affluence started worsening.

Two events symbolised it. Mishaal, a prince, eloped with a lover, Muhalla. They were caught while escaping from Saudi Arabia. Both were beheaded. On Nov 20, 1979, the Grand Mosque in Mecca was taken over by armed men led by Juhaiman bin Muhammad Utaibi. The bloody drama costing hundreds of lives ended on Dec 5 as Juhaiman's band surrendered.

The Saudis funded Iraq against Iran (by $25 billion) and the Afghan Mujahedeen fighting the Soviet Red Army. When Fahd succeeded Khaled, oil prices had declined and a period of austerity had arrived. In 1985, for the first time since 1972, electricity and gas prices were increased by 70 per cent. Ordinary Saudis resented the hike.

Deportation of illegal immigrant workers meant that in 1985-86, 300,000 were bundled off. Social and economic divisions began to appear. Middle-class youths were becoming jobless and frustrated. Some responded to Osama bin Laden.

On Aug 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Over 50,000 US troops arrived, leading to a tense debate in Saudi Arabia. The central questions were: can Saudis get non-Muslims' help against Muslims? Can a government that receives such help be Islamic? Mecca University's Dr Safar al-Hawali's taped speeches and Riyadh University's Salman al-Awdah's lectures began to find mass hearing.

On Nov 6, 1990, 45 women violated the driving ban in Riyadh. The religious police, the Mutawwa, called them "communist whores." The ulema blamed this act on the presence of US troops that brought Western culture with them. The groups associated with bin Laden's Advice and Reform Committee (ARC), appeared as the real oppositionist challenge.

In 1996, bombs exploded near a US military mission in Riyadh and Al-Khobar Towers, killing many Americans. In 2000, a Saudi airliner en route to London was hijacked by two Saudis. Their demands were schools, hospitals, welfare. Having eliminated secular opposition in the 1950s, the Saudis were now facing religious fanatics whom they pampered and continue pampering all across the Muslim world. These fanatics point out Saudis' corruption and consider further Islamisation of the society as a solution to all ills.

But the democratic wave that has swept the Arab world is secular in outlook. Most importantly, it is peaceful as if the Arab world has learnt about the futility of Al-Qaeda methods. None of this is a good omen for the House of Saud. Even if it avoids another jolt, it will survive as a besieged fortress.


The writer is a freelance contributor.









Global inflationary pressure is on the rise with much of the upward pressure on inflation resulting from commodity prices (food and fuel). The current debate is centred on whether the rise in food prices, and the more recent increase in the price of oil, is a function of transient supply side issues or more fundamental underlying demand pressure. In some countries in Asia (Indonesia, China, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam) inflation is disproportionately driven by food prices, while in others it is largely the outcome of excessive demand.

Inflation in Pakistan is largely driven by food and energy prices. Average inflation (measured by changes in the CPI) for the first seven months (July-January) of the current fiscal year were 14.5 per cent against the same period the previous year. While food inflation remained high at 18.8 per cent, non-food inflation was up 11 per cent, which suggest that inflation in Pakistan is driven by food inflation.

A closer look at Pakistan's inflation reveals some interesting facts. The general price level was up 14.2 per cent in January over the same month last year, with food and non-food prices showing an increase of 20.4 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. In January food prices accounted for over 60 per cent of inflation, and fuel and transport for 12 per cent. This 72 per cent contribution to the rise in prices by food, fuel and transport raises a question about the efficacy of the current monetary policy stance of the SBP.

Inflation last month was the lowest in the last five months. However, this does not mean that the monetary policy stance was a success. Inflation in January was up 1.3 per cent over December—a sharp increase since it had declined by 0.5 per cent that month. Inflation in January was at a five-month low because it was measured against the high base of January 2010.

Inflation has averaged 14.8 per cent during the last three-and-a-half years, as against an average of 5.5 per cent during 2000-07. Various factors have contributed to the persistence of high inflation since 2008. These factors include the criminal increase in the support price of wheat, the unprecedented surge in global commodity prices (food and fuel), the sharp depreciation of the exchange rate (the Shaukat Tarin effect), excessive borrowing by the government from the SBP to compensate for the fiscal deficit.

In short, inflation in Pakistan since 2008 has been partly home grown and partly imported (the rising global commodity prices). Although high commodity prices were driven externally, many countries in Asia succeeded in mitigating the impact to some extent through currency appreciation. Unfortunately, in the case of Pakistan, the impact of higher global food and fuel prices was further worsened by the Shaukat Tarin effect (sharp depreciation of the exchange rate). Pakistanis were deprived of the benefits of the collapse in commodity prices as a result of the global economic meltdown. While commodity prices witnessed a sharp decline, the depreciation of the exchange rate neutralised the benefits for Pakistani consumers. Admittedly, the food and fuel prices are on the rise, regionally as well as globally; further depreciation of the rupee would be catastrophic for the people of Pakistan.

With memories of the 2007-08 inflation surge still vivid, the recent sharp jump in global food prices sparks fears that the region might be facing a similar shock. Disturbing news has already started appearing about the surge in food prices. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has issued a warning that the world could see a repetition of the 2008 food crisis if prices rose further. Persisting high prices, especially in grains such as wheat, would particularly hit the poor countries.

Grim drought conditions in the wheat belt of China have raised serious concern regarding global wheat prices. With 1.3 billion mouths to feed, China may need for the first time to import wheat in large volumes, thus pushing up the global prices.

Wheat prices in Chicago jumped nearly 2 per cent on Feb 10, when the UN food agency issued a rare alert that China's wheat crop was in trouble. Furthermore, the world has moved a step closer to a food prices shock after the United States surprised traders by cutting stock forecasts for key crops, sending corn and soybean prices to their highest level in 30 months.

Are we ready to face yet another crisis of the 2008 magnitude? Is anybody watching these developments in the ministries concerned? Or we are still indulging more in politics than engaged in watching developments on the economic front? This article should be taken as and early warning. Food constitutes 40 per cent of the CPI basket in Pakistan and has been the key driver of the headline inflation. While exchange-rate appreciation has minimised the impact of imported inflation in Asia, Pakistan has not been fortunate enough to witness such developments. In fact, we saw the Pakistani rupee plunging under Shaukat Tarin, and this compounded the difficulties for Pakistan and its people.

The typical signs of domestic demand-pull inflation include a tight labour market, tight capacity utilisation, a large current account deficit and persistence of excessive credit and monetary expansion. Such a situation most likely provokes monetary tightening. Are these signs currently visible in Pakistan? If not, is there need to review the monetary policy stance. I leave it to the SBP to decide.

The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan








The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

The country's pre-occupation with the Raymond Davis affair has overshadowed a promising development for the region. Earlier this month Pakistani and Indian officials met in Bhutan and were able to break the protracted stalemate on reviving broad-based dialogue between the two countries.

Talks between foreign secretaries Salman Bashir and Nirupama Rao on the sidelines of a Saarc conference in Thimphu were followed by the announcement that Pakistan and India "have agreed to resume dialogue on all issues".

This marked a significant step towards resumption of the peace process suspended by India after the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist incident. It meant the revival of the 'composite dialogue' in all but name.

All the eight issues covered in the 'composite' process in 2004-2008 will be included in future talks: Peace and Security including CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Counter-terrorism (including progress on the Mumbai trial), Siachen, Economic issues, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Sir Creek, promotion of friendly exchanges and humanitarian issues. The addition is humanitarian affairs, which figured in past discussions but not as a formal agenda item.


The agreement on the terms of re-engagement represents a diplomatic climb down by Delhi. For the past two years India had set a pre-condition for renewing full-fledged peace talks, insisting on prior action by Islamabad against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. Indian officials had also questioned the utility of the 'composite' framework suggesting that terrorism had to be tackled first. Islamabad wanted a return to the eight-issue composite process drawn up in 1997 and sustained since – with fits and starts – to enable multilayered talks covering the entire gamut of issues between the two countries.

In September 2010 an agreement was reached in principle between Islamabad and Delhi on a "comprehensive" dialogue covering "all issues". A draft 'outcome' paper to reflect this was exchanged. This was to be announced after a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Both the meeting and announcement fell through when Delhi insisted that Shah Mehmood Qureshi omit reference to Kashmir in his UN speech. As the former foreign minister himself disclosed last week, he declined to do so. The September 2010 understanding was however resuscitated at Thimphu.

The shift in India's stance to unconditionally reinstall the comprehensive peace process sought by Pakistan, may reflect a set of compulsions and calculations. International urgings are an obvious factor but Delhi might also have calculated that it had exhausted a conditions-based diplomatic option, with diminishing returns setting in. The approach was unsustainable, as the hiatus in the formal dialogue had failed to deliver what Delhi wanted. So India may have considered it had more to gain by engaging Pakistan.

Restoring the normalisation process may also have been seen by Delhi as helping to strengthen its claim for a seat at the international big table. At a time when India is trying to leverage its position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council to reenergise its bid for a permanent seat on an enlarged Council, it may deem 'peace-making' with Pakistan as aiding movement towards that objective.

Also Delhi cannot overlook the changing global and regional environment in which the shifting balance of power is transforming great power relationships and prompting adjustments and realignments. An approaching Afghan endgame in this scenario of flux will likely urge India toward diplomatic activism in the region and greater interaction with Islamabad.

Whatever the reasons behind India's shifting posture, renewed dialogue offers an opportunity to the two neighbours to deepen their engagement and improve its quality. On, for example, advancing commercial ties there should be no hesitation in trading with each other where it is in their mutual interest.

Among the key questions about the future dialogue at least three stand out.

The first relates to Kashmir: whether talks can pick up the threads from where they were left off in the backchannel that operated in 2004-2007 on President Pervez Musharraf's initiative. The answer to the question raised both publicly and privately by Indian officials will be determined in the dialogue process itself.

For a start, discussions on the Musharraf formula took place in 'quiet diplomacy' and never figured in the 'front' channel. So it is unlikely to now be discussed in the formal dialogue. It may be a different matter once the backchannel is reactivated. But the present government seems to have distanced itself from the formula if not disowning it altogether. Even when backchannel talks were going on the details of the formula were not shared with the wider civilian and military establishment, and were for that reason viewed with suspicion. The initiative never won support from the public, which remained in the dark about its actual content.

Moreover recent developments in Indian-held Kashmir can be seen as a game-changer. The resistance has morphed from an insurgency to a non-violent civil disobedience movement – as the youth-led mass protests over the past three years testify. Even if unacknowledged in Western capitals, the message from the Kashmiri people is loud and clear: refusal to accept the status quo.

With cross-border infiltration down and the ceasefire on the Line of Control continuing to hold, negotiations will have to move beyond the India-Pakistan paradigm to a Kashmiri-led solution in which the centrality of the Kashmiri people is regarded as paramount. This means focusing discussions on how expression can be given to the wishes of the people of Kashmir.

Another question about the future talks relates to whether previous progress on the Siachen and Sir Creek disputes can become the basis for agreements. Understandings after all had been reached on these issues at different junctures in the past. But in both cases Delhi was unable or unwilling to translate progress into concrete agreements as the Indian military resisted any settlement. So the question is whether past understandings can be revived and obstacles removed to craft solutions. If this were to become possible it would send a powerful signal to the world and to the people of the two countries that Pakistan and India are capable of resolving their disputes.

The third question relates to the increasingly vexed disputes over the sharing of river waters. It remains to be determined whether differences can be narrowed on several hydro-electric projects being undertaken by India on western rivers at a time when Pakistan is seeking US and international support for the Daimer-Bhasha Dam, on which India has already conveyed objections to the Asian Development Bank. What kind of accommodation is possible on an issue vital to Pakistan's economic future?

There is an even more immediate question. Can weak governments in both countries, confronted with internal political challenges, concede ground to the other to settle fundamental issues? This along with the differing priorities of both sides weighs down prospects of any breakthroughs. Neither government is politically strong enough to sell an agreement that will inescapably be based on a compromise.

This means that a more realistic near term objective is to manage a difficult relationship to avert any escalation in tensions or breakdown in ties while moving incrementally towards normalisation.

The process of managing relations should identify the mix of enduring and emerging threats that can de-rail the relationship and even plunge the region into a crisis. The more important of these threats include a) Terrorism b) India's arms build up and provocative new military doctrines c) The fraught situation in Kashmir with continuing human rights violations there, which not only inflame public sentiment in Pakistan but also weaken the voices of those who want normalisation with India.

Establishing a stable environment for meaningful engagement is a necessary first step to resolve the disputes that lie at the heart of India-Pakistan contention. Neither country can hope to make real progress or meet the aspirations of its people without developing a cooperative bilateral relationship and addressing the mistrust that has bedevilled their ties.









 'By indirections find directions out' — Hamlet 2.1

Shakespeare's character did not simply mean finding the correct direction by the empirical use of the data given by wrong leads; he was also referring to human subterfuge by which one canny interlocutor can ferret out the truth of another with deliberately false prompting. Something similar has happened between India and Pakistan during the last year. The saving grace is that on February 6, foreign secretaries, Salman Bashir and Nirupama Rao, set the stage for a future dialogue with exemplary professionalism, with opportunities for political leaders to turn it into a robust peace process. Pakistan has a "composite dialogue" if by another name and India continues to attach high priority to its Mumbai-related demands.

A notable impediment to a result-oriented dialogue will be the weakening of governments in New Delhi and Islamabad. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his moral authority eroded by his alleged apathy in the face of mega corruption scandals. In Pakistan's tangled politics, there is much haemorrhage from self-inflicted wounds. Then, Nature dealt a heavy hand in the form of calamitous floods. In the midst of new vulnerabilities, the leaders of India and Pakistan can easily forget that a successful peace process can empower them in no small a measure.

The committees addressing various agenda items of the new structured conversations must not be bound only by the old briefs. Since India is suspected of conducting talks for the sake of talks, Pakistan has to be more proactive in energising them with fresh ideas especially on "doables" like Siachin and Sir Creek and the manageable problems of trade and investment.

Pakistan's delegates to the committees should be able to draw upon an overarching strategic vision. Unfortunately, the Pakistan foreign office has borne the brunt of the murky Raymond Davis affair. In their time, both Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri and Shah Mehmood Qureshi imprinted a distinct political signature on the conduct of foreign policy. It was an advance on the inane era when General Musharraf pronounced ex cathedra on every issue while attended by tired bureaucrats dressed up in ministerial robes.

During the last three years, some new issues have assumed ominous tones. With vastly enhanced financial and technical resources, India plans to build more and more of what it calls non-consumptive projects on rivers allocated to Pakistan. There is virtually no alternative to the Indus Basin Treaty and yet Pakistan is unable to get its concerns addressed under it. Again, Indian plans for Afghanistan cast a shadow not only on bilateral relations with Pakistan but also on Islamabad's interaction with the United States. Yet again, the US gift of untrammelled nuclear commerce with the major industrial powers enables India to build a large nuclear arsenal. This already has the hawks in Pakistan demanding a new array of tactical nuclear weapons along with dangerous concepts such as pre-delegation of nuclear authority down the line.

The committees can and must make incremental progress but the Gordian Knot between India and Pakistan will be cut only when political leaders seek to eliminate visceral hostility by aligning their strategic culture better. Foreign policy was the forte of the party of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. With the so-called intellectual phalanx of PPP withdrawn into splendid alienation, even the task of finding an effective interlocutor on the international stage seems more difficult than it should. We need to tool up for the 'composite dialogue' in time for the July meeting of foreign ministers. This needs a confident India group in the foreign office and a dynamic minister.
The writer is a former foreign secretary and ambassador of Pakistan









ACCORDING to a report appearing in this newspaper, the country's power sector has landed into a deeper financial crisis, as receivables of cash strapped Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) have swelled to Rs 284.377 billion. The worst aspect of the situation is that the Government itself is defaulter of the PEPCO besides Rs 126 billion dues from the private sector.

The power sector is bleeding because of wrong policies, inefficiency, corruption and theft and as a consequence not only the ordinary consumer but the economy of the country suffers hugely. Experts are of the opinion that the energy sector can become self-sustainable if steps are taken to recover huge arrears and operation is launched to plug once for all the power theft that inflicts heavy losses to both WAPDA and KESC. But instead of initiating these measures, the authorities resort to frequent increases in power tariff to the disadvantage of those consumers who pay their bills honestly. How can we justify the policy of fixed amount for certain categories of consumers and in certain areas of the country when other consumers are burdened with hike after hike in rates? Similarly, why Federal and Provincial Governments are not deducting electricity arrears of different departments and institutions at source? Every ministry and department has its separate allocations every year for electricity and gas but huge default shows either they are reappropriating this budgeted amount for some other purpose or their power consumption exceeds due to misuse, a tendency that needs to be discouraged. We hope that the Government would come out with a clear-cut policy that helps PEPCO come out of its existing financial crisis. We have also been hearing about steps aimed at addressing the long-standing issue of circular debt but despite that the amount of debt is increasing with the passage of time. This is one of the major causes of power shortage in the country but instead of taking measures to resolve this problem, the Government is only paying lip-service to the issue which amounts to hoodwinking the people.








SINDH Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, known for hurling threats at the opponents, has once again roared warning that if there was an undemocratic attack on the PPP, there would be dire consequences and the party would make sure that not even a single office of the PML-N was left in Sindh from Karachi to Kashmore. Addressing a PPP workers gathering at Lyari in Karachi, Mirza said that Nawaz Sharif should stop giving deadlines to the PPP.

We think as a matter of principle no political party including PML-N should resort to undemocratic practices. However we would like to point out that the statement of Zulfiqar Mirza too falls in the same category. The threat from the PPP's Sindh Vice President comes as the last round of talks between the committees of the two parties on ten-point agenda given by Mian Nawaz Sharif is going to take place today (Tuesday) which is being considered as a make or break meeting. If the PML-N is not satisfied over the pace of implementation of the agenda, it might expel the PPP Ministers from Punjab Cabinet as a first step and that would be the beginning of a confrontation between the two main Parties of the country. So far Mian Nawaz Sharif has avoided a direct conflict with the Government and one hopes that the situation would be calmed down after an expected meeting with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani at his Raiwind residence. The democracy in Pakistan is facing multifaceted challenges on economic, social, political and international fronts. This needs a sagacious approach to ensure continuation of democratic rule which could be sustained when all sides show tolerance and accommodation. Today the respect of a nation in the international community is directly linked to prevalence of democracy. Pakistan has to strengthen democracy in order to earn a respectable place in the world and head towards the road of progress and prosperity. Political culture cannot flourish until political Parties start functioning in democratic manner. Political players must set good norms as thirst for power, intolerance and corruption have plagued the politics of Pakistan. Time has come to stop the old practices of open confrontation between the ruling and the Opposition Parties and follow the democratic values prevailing in developed societies. In our view it is the supreme responsibility of the ruling Party to show greater maturity and ensure that the democratic system goes on even if it has to surrender to opposition on some issues.









THE Arab world is in turmoil ever since a pooAr, unlicensed Tunisian fruit-seller set himself on fire after police seized his wares, which led to ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sparked unrest in Egypt as well where octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak had to quit in the face of relentless protests by furious crowds. And now there is a wave of protests and demonstrations in several other States including Yemen, Libya, Morocco and Bahrain.

No doubt, there is unrest in some of the countries for a host of reasons and factors but it is also a fact that this is being blown out of proportion by the Western media for obvious reasons and unfortunately the media in the Third World countries follows the same line. People of these countries might have genuine grievances like price hike, unemployment, poverty and lack of civil liberties and the Governments have to respond to their aspirations. But the way the protests are spreading to other countries and the manner these are being highlighted by the Western media compels one to subscribe to the view that it is part of the American plan to redraw the map of the Middle East to suit its regional and global agenda. The United States has long been trying to bring about change in the region to protect its oil interests and security of Israel and one would recall comments of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who had justified 2006 Israeli bombardment of Lebanon as 'birth pangs' of new Middle East. No one can deny the fact that there was peace and stability in the Arab world (with the exception of countries hit by Israeli aggression) which is a prerequisite for economic prosperity. The objective of stirring up trouble apparently is to destabilize the region so as to make it vulnerable to intrigues of all sorts. In the process, it is unlikely that the protests would yield the same results as people of these countries want because there are apprehensions that world powers would exploit the opportunity to advance their own agenda.








The Raymond Davis affair with all its ramifications is well on its way to becoming the stuff of legend. So much has been (and is being) written — and spoken — on the subject that it would require all one's will power to keep one's mouth shut. One can hardly resist the temptation, though, to mention that this affair has a lot to do with the age-old coarse art of treading on toes. Who is treading on whose toes and with what results only time will tell. For the moment though it would be expedient to take time out, look back, and devote one's undivided attention to the 'coarse art' in question.

There was a time (pre-pre nine/eleven?) when the high and mighty of this blessed land took delight in this pastime. This was particularly true of those who delighted in dabbling in the art of 'diplomacy' or whatever it was known as in those days of somewhat loose habits. Of course those good old times are no more. One lives and learns. There are several little lessons that come one's way, if only one pays a bit of attention. One wonders if the reader has noticed that any sane individual spends half of his/her life in either avoiding treading on other persons' toes or, alternatively, in saving his/her own toes from being trod on. This, however, is not all! A good part of the remaining half is spent on living down the after-effects of having (inadvertently?) trod on some (tender) toes, or the other way around. The same can be said of nations and nation states. So, when one talks of 'persons' the implications are rather wider! Treading on toes, it must be stressed, is as old as history itself. Persons of all stations and divers dispositions have over the ages lost their heads over it – and not only figuratively. In the individual sense, treading on toes is the bane of all societies. Most - if not all - of the society's problems can ultimately be traced down to this phenomenon. Most disputes, machinations and vendettas have their origins in an incident or incidents of treading on toes, in the figurative sense. Of course, it is important to know who does the treading and whose toes are being trod on, since one cannot afford to be non-discriminatory when it comes to toes. Toes have a pecking order too, you know. There are toes and there are toes!

Oriental societies such as ours are particularly sensitive. Treading on toes in our kind of societies at times becomes a matter of family (national) honour, in a manner of speaking, with its myriad ramifications. Our feudal lords (not to talk of lords not so feudal) have peculiar sensitivities about their toes being trod on by the small fry. Not that this has discouraged the practice. Come to think of it, in this age of globalization, deliberate treading on toes appears to have caught on like an epidemic. A good many statements issued by public figures, for instance, appear to be aimed at somebody's toes. The newspapers are full of them. The owners of the toes on the receiving end, quite naturally, consider it their duty to retaliate in kind; and so the battle is joined. Several public figures have become past masters at this game of sorts. Practice makes perfect, as they say. One could name a few names if only one did not have one's own (tender) toes to worry about!

We as a society are by no means the only offenders, though. There are numerous other nations that would beat us hollow in the treading on toes' stakes. Our strategic partner (?), the United States of America, is a case in point. The presidential primaries' campaign there appears to signal open season on toes. The no-holds-barred campaigning and the foot-in-mouth syndrome may well be the two most outstanding contributions of the American politics to world democracy at large. Take, for instance, the free for all jousting that is becoming the hallmark of the would-be candidates for the US presidency. It is something of a pity that quite a bit of this bile had been directed against this blessed land and its (already tender) toes! As we have come to learn to our cost, the sole superpower appears to have reached the conclusion that the toes of smaller (client?) states are fair game.

World history would not be what it is today, if only known personalities and nations had paid a bit more attention, betimes, to what they were treading on. In fact, one could safely venture farther a-field and opine that a little research into this subject could well sift this out as the single most significant cause of the outbreak of armed conflicts. Why go far; a cursory glance at the recent military adventures of the powers-that-be, and the chain of events they unleashed, should be enough to provide ample food for thought.

All in all, the art of international diplomacy has a lot to do with how deft one is at avoiding treading on at least toes of the wrong kind. Successful diplomacy can aptly be defined as the ability to cross a minefield of sensitive toes and emerge on the other side without having trod on any. About our own diplomacy, the less said the better. If anything, we appear to specialize in treading on toes; and the wrong ones at that. Add to that our wee-known reluctance to protect our own toes from being trod on and you have the whole picture! There are times when our diplomacy – our own sore toes notwithstanding - actually goes through a whole series of treading on (sensitive) toes, interspersed occasionally, for good measure, by the dropping of an almighty classical clanger. Who said our brand of diplomacy is not exciting?

On another note, our liberal brigade appears to have perfected treading on toes into something of a fine art form. Needless to add, half of our social problems stem out of this regrettable practice. Life would be a lot simpler (though perhaps not as exciting) if only people generally held on to the dictum that toes are a part of the anatomy just not intended for being trod on. But how desirable would such a state of affairs be? One realizes that this would take the spice out of life, leaving it dull and goody-goody. How many persons would wish to peruse the morning papers with all the juicy bits and pins and needles missing? It would be too much to hope, perhaps, that our public figures would leave each other's toes alone. Such habits dye hard.

What can be accomplished, though, is in the fields of diplomacy and international relations. Our statements in the domain of foreign affairs could be honed in such a fashion as not to give a handle to our critics to discover a chink in our armour. The tendency to shoot from the hip (that we have apparently borrowed from our friends the Americans) will need to be shed in favour of a more circumspect approach towards issues. For the time being, the moot point is how to side step the American juggernaut on the Davis affair! Our diplomatic toes are in for a painful experience indeed.








Controversial debate continues between Pakistan and the United States in connection with the arrest of American national, Raymond Davis who is an under-cover secret agent of American CIA, and has become a symbol of anti-American resentment in Pakistan because of the dreadful murder of two innocent Pakistanis in Lahore and subsequent suicide by the wife of one of his victims. Like other US high officials, even President Barack Obama urged Pakistan on February 15 this year to free Raymond as he has diplomatic immunity under the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, the visiting Chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, while addressing a press conference in Lahore pointed out that issue of "Davis has nothing to do with local courts as diplomats enjoy immunity…we cannot allow that one incident can break the strong relationship between the two countries."

On the other side, legal experts in Pakistan opine that Raymond Davis is a murderer who has no diplomatic immunity. Many Pakistanis are suspicious about Davis, who was arrested with loaded weapons, a GPS satellite tracking device, photographs of Pakistan's defence installations and tribal areas, while American authorities are still silent about his role in Pakistan.

It is notable that the former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has stated that he was dropped from the new cabinet owing to his principled position on the question of diplomatic immunity to the killer, and he adopted a stance, seen by majority of people. Some sources confirms that Raymond Davis has visited Pakistan twice under the cover of diplomatic status, and this time he came with changed name to conceal his identity. However, Davis is killer and is an agent of CIA, while Washington is blackmailing Islamabad by applying coercive diplomacy. In this respect, on the one hand, US high officials say that on the issue of Davis, America will not break relations with Pakistan; while on the other, they continue pressure on Islamabad for his immediate release.The issue of Raymond Davis is not new one as past history of Pak-US ties prove that America has always blackmailed Pakistan on various occasions. In this context, it is of particular attention that in the aftermath of the November 26 catastrophe of Mumbai, Washington, while tilting towards India had blackmailed Islamabad. Setting aside the ground realties that Pakistan, itself, has been the major victim of terrorism, which has been bearing multiple losses in combating this menace since 9/11, with the support of the US, Indian blame game against Islamabad, continued during exchange of information between the two neighbouring countries regarding Mumbai mayhem.

While, rejecting Pakistan's stand that its government or any official agency was not involved in the Mumbai attacks, presenting one after another list of bogus evidence, New Delhi wanted to make Islamabad accept all other Indian demands since our rulers admitted on February 12, 2009 that Ajmal Kasab is Pakistani national and Mumbai terror-attacks were "partially planned in Pakistan." In fact, being a responsible state actor, Islamabad's admission which had emboldened New Delhi was forced by the US-led some western countries which have continuously been blackmailing Pakistan by insisting upon our government to "do more" against the militancy in the tribal areas by ignoring internal backlash and sacrifices of our security forces during war on terror—while paying no attention to the Lahore-terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team including other similar terror-incidents. In that context, India wanted to avail the Mumbai tragedy in increasing further pressure on Pakistan with the help of America in order to force Islamabad to confess that all the terrorists responsible for Mumbai attacks came from Pakistan.

In that respect, US former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Milliband who had visited India and Pakistan stressed upon Islamabad to take actions against the banned Jamaatud Dawa and the already banned Lashkar-i-Tayba. Speaking in Indian tune, they had also said that the terrorists involved in the Mumbai events came from Pakistan. In that connection, Ameria had played a key role in getting passed a resolution through the UN Security Council which added Pakistan-based Jamaatud Dawa and four of its leaders to the list of Al Qaeda-related terrorists. Without any doubt, this similar approach by the US and India show that these states are in collusion to destabilize and 'denuclearise' Pakistan through blackmailing diplomacy as demands on Pakistan to take action against the Jamaatud Dawa and its related welfare organistions including admission regarding the departure of the Mumbai culprits from our soil were forced. And Islamabad accepted these false allegations as our country was facing serious internal and external challenges of grave nature.

In the recent past, IMF decided to sanction loan to Pakistan after American green signal. Past experience proves that economic dependence on foreign countries always brings political dependence in its wake. While, at that critical juncture, our country had been facing precarious financial problem, US-led some western allies compelled Pakistan to accept some Indian false demands. Hollowness of New Delhi's allegations and forced admission of Islamabad could be gauged from the fact that on February 27, 2009, Pakistan's Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Nuaman Bashir remarked that he had no proof that Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks used Pakistani waters to reach India. The statement of our naval chief coupled with American duress makes it quite clear that Mumbai mayhem was pre-planned by the Indian intelligence agency, RAW to further distort the image of Pakistan in the comity of nations.

Another example of blackmailing is that the US is emphasising Islamabad to to take action against the militants of North Waziristan. It also continuous drone attacks on Pakistan's soil without bothering for the sovereignty of the country. Inaction of the US-led west over Hindu terrorism and such duplicity undoubtedly indicates that America and major European states have their common interest in India. Hence, they blindly support New Delhi's shrewd diplomacy against Islamabad. These major countries only tolerate Pakistan owing to its role as a frontline state against terrorism, otherwise, they leave no stone unturned in blackmailing our country so as to harm our interests. In this respect, forced demands on Pakistan regarding Mumbai mayhem entailing accusation of cross-border terrorism either in Afghanistan or the Indian-held Kashmir are also part of this blackmailing practice. In fact, we are living in an unequal world order. The prevalent global system tends to give a greater political and economic leverage to the affluent developed nations who could safeguard their interests at the cost of the weaker countries. Whenever, any controversy arises on the controversial issues, the UN Security Council enforces the doctrine of collective security against the small states, while the five big powers protect their interests by using veto.

This shows discrimination between the powerful and the weaker. In this context, it is notable that in 2001, UN had permitted the United States to attack Afghanistan under the cover of right of self-defence. In case of the Indian occupied Kashmir, the issue still remains unresolved as UN resolutions regarding the plebiscite were never implemented because Washington and some western powers support the illegitimate stand of India due to their collective interests. Particularly, in economic context, the world order reflects greater disparities as the flow of capital and credit system is also dominated by the United States and other developed countries—the consequent result is an increase in the activities of the Multinationals which have shattered the economies of the poor developing states. Besides, international financial institutions like I.M.F and World Bank are under the control of the US and its partners who protect their interests by blackmailing the governments of the small states through financial pressure. In these terms, US-led countries especially blackmail Pakistan directly or indirectly.

In sense of Hobbes, Machiavelli and Morgenthau, a renowned strategic thinker, Thomas Schelling remarks about the US, "coercion to be an effective tool of foreign policy." Kissinger also endorses politics of bargaining and pressure through threats, coercion and even violence as essential elements of the American diplomacy. In this regard, diplomacy itself becomes the real tool of blackmailing. Returning to our earlier discussion, Raymond Davis is a murderer, but the US blackmails Pakistan for his release as the latter depends upon Washington for military and economic aid in wake of multi-faceted problems. America should remember that it also depends upon Pakistan which is a frontline state of the US war on terror, and without Islamabad's support the sole superpower cannot win this 'different war' against terrorism.









With the beginning of New Year there have been some significant and rapid developments in Pakistan as well as in the region. The assassination of Governor Punjab and its fallout, particularly the opposing statement of Pope Benedict, the eruption of factional rivalry resulting into target killings in Karachi, the rejection to North Waziristan operation as conveyed by the Pakistan government, the political deadlock between two top political parties and its subsequent consequence, are a few examples to name. Amidst all there came a strong message from the Pakistan side to rebuff any attempt to initiate the "Great Game" in Afghanistan. Though, all aspects may require separate examining, the foremost appears to be the looming 'Great Game'.

Although it is not new, yet the term 'Great Game' is used for the strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia. The classic Great Game period was from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. A second, less intensive phase followed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The Great Game dwindled after the United Kingdom and Russia became allies of the World War II. The prevailing incursions in Afghanistan and Central Asia are synonymous and replicate a similar phenomenon. This is also being categorized as New Great Game where domination of the Central Asian states and Caspian Sea is the major goal. However, this has also become as old as a decade or so. Then why suddenly a need has arisen to refute it at this point and time? Is there yet another game in the offing? If it is so, then it would be really mischievous. Therefore it requires a pragmatic and in-depth analysis.

The US plans to start handing over responsibilities to Afghan security forces by mid 2011 and complete it by 2014. For the purpose the work has to start now. Accordingly, an intense activity in the months to come is envisaged. The pullout of sizeable troops from Afghanistan is likely to create vacuum. To fill in that, America is keen to create space for an Indian role in Afghanistan. This is obvious in the backdrop of increasing strategic bondage between India and the United States. The US aspirations to contain Chinese influence by positioning India on a vantage point should also be kept in sight. However, the neighboring countries and major players are not willing to grant such a concession. As Pakistan believes that if India is assigned any dominant role, it could pave way for 'Great Game' in Afghanistan and probably that is what is being refuted. The phenomenon may have to be viewed while drawing inferences from the policy of reshaping borders of various countries with a view to bringing peace in the world. Such an idea was floated first through an article published during 2006 wherein Pakistan's borders along with few other countries were suggested to be re-demarcated. In this context an independent Balochistan and Pushtun territory extended further towards south should better serve the West and India both. Subsequently there came another pulse seeking idea of division of Afghanistan on ethnic basis drawing a line between Pushtuns and others.

There is another reality and that is Pushtun domination in Afghanistan. Anyone who wishes to rule Afghanistan has to take the Pushtuns along. As Taliban constitute significant proportions of Pushtun community, proposal of their integration seems a compulsion of all stake holders. The Afghan Taliban, though, demonstrate ideological rigidity and do not exhibit pre 2001 passion for Pakistan, yet, their leaning towards India remains out of question because of ideological variance.

Therefore, the proposal of integration of even a modest Islamist faction and that too a Pushtun would in fact jeopardize Indian designs. As a matter of fact, India has always drawn more rhetoric from enmity of Pakistan than anything else. The enhanced role of Indians is likely to do nothing but to exacerbate the internal environment of Afghanistan rather than bringing peace. Nevertheless, it would facilitate India to create turbulence in Pakistan which remains its ultimate objective. India has invested heavily in Afghanistan. There are various economic ventures which are underway by New Delhi. India has opened a number of consulates along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Indians' involvement in Balochistan while operating from Afghanistan is not a secret now.

As far as other countries, it is likely to have inverse bearing on certain regional countries particularly China and Iran. India's covert rivalry towards China is not much veiled now.









The Hindu daily reported that the CBI moved the Supreme Court challenging an Allahabad High Court order that dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against top BJP leaders including L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi in the Babri Masjid demolition case. In its appeal, the agency said that the High Court had not come to the right conclusion and the charges of criminal conspiracy should be restored against them.

The High Court had dismissed the CBI plea on 20th May last year seeking revival of criminal conspiracy charges against top BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders including former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, besides Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray. In his 44-page judgment, Justice Alok Kumar Singh of the Lucknow bench of the High Court had concluded: "There was no merit in CBI's revision petition challenging the May 4, 2001 order of the special court which directed dropping of criminal conspiracy charges against them". This judgment of the High Court upholding the decision of the lower court knocks the bottom our of India's pretense and the claim that courts in India are fair and just, as the High court should have ordered reinvestigation of the case before giving the verdict. On 30th September 2010, the Allahabad High Court had ruled, by majority, that the disputed area of the Babri Masjid Mosque, demolished on December 6, 1992 by Hindu extremists, will be divided into three between Muslims and Hindus. The Hindus were allowed to maintain the temple built on the main body of demolished mosque.

Another Hindu trust and an Islamic group would manage two other parts of the mosque. This verdict was also given under pressure of the Hindu extremists, as experts have always had strong doubts about the validity of the Hindus claim since the existence of the demolished Babri Majid, which dates back to 1528, built by the Mughal emperor. For the last six centuries, one had never heard any claim, and it is only about 60 years that Hindu extremist groups started claiming the mosque was built on the ruins of an earlier Hindu temple. The Court had also commissioned extensive research of archaeologists on the site, but about five months of digging from March to August 2003 resulted in no new discoveries. On this basis, the court should have rejected the claim of Hindus, but the court wished to avert the wrath of the Hindu extremists.

Evidence suggests that before becoming prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi had started his election campaign from Babri Mosque, which was locked up under the orders of the court because some extremists Hindus had placed statues there. Rajiv along with his supporters broke open the locks and worshipped in the mosque. And BJP naturally had to go further to score the point over the Congress. Anyhow, India has inflicted many wounds on its minorities. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits - low caste Hindus - all have suffered in equal measure. Their places of worship are destroyed and they are not allowed to lead their lives according to their faith and culture. On December 6, 1992 Babri Mosque was demolished by Hindu nationalists despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed. On 16 December 1992, Liberhan Commission was set up by the Government of India to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Commission was expected to submit its report within three months, but after a delay of 17 years, the commission submitted the report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 30 June 2009.

During 17 years of its proceedings, the commission recorded statements of several politicians, bureaucrats and police officials including Kalyan Singh, late Narasimha Rao, former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and his colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati as well as Mulayam Singh Yadav. On 23rd November 2009, the media reported on the contents of the report, which had been leaked before being presented in the Indian Parliament. It indicted top BJP leaders as being actively involved in the meticulous planning of the demolition of the mosque. The report implicated 68 people, including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Kalyan Singh, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The report accused the RSS of being the chief architect of the demolition. The Justice Liberhan Commission Report and Action Taken Report (ATR) on it were tabled in the Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament on November 24, 2009. The Commission had identified the Kalyan Singh-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh as the key to the execution of the conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid. Justice M S Liberhan termed Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi as pseudo-moderates, pretending to keep a distance from the Ram Janambhoomi campaign when they were actually aware of the whole conspiracy.

The report also said, "They have violated the trust of the people...There can be no greater betrayal or crime in a democracy and this Commission has no hesitation in condemning these pseudo-moderates for their sins of omission". The question also arises, why the investigations by the CBI and Liberhan report were not given due consideration by the Allahbad High Court. Now, India's Supreme Court is 'on trial', and it has to be seen whether it would also buckle under pressure of the Hindu extremists, or it would show the guts by ordering to indict those who were let of the hook by the special court, and the verdict was upheld by the High Court.

There have been instances when the courts' orders regarding Gujarat riots and other such occurrences were not implemented in letter and spirit, as the courts showed their helplessness stating that the implementation has to be done by the government. In other words, even if the court gave verdict against the Hindu extremists, it was not implemented by the government for the sake of political expediencies. International community should take notice of atrocities on minorities in 'secular' and 'shining' India, and abandon the policy of appeasement of the so-called largest democracy of the world.








The affair around the cold blooded murder case of two Pakistani young men against Raymond Davis which has been raging by now for almost a month is getting more shameful by the day. A third man was crushed by the American rescuers who rushed to the scene on a SOS call of Raymond Davis and all efforts of Punjab governments failed to recover the driver and car from the US Consulate in Lahore. However the Lahore High court has now taken cognizance of this murder also.

The fourth victim in this case is the suicide committed by Shumaila, wife of one of the victims murdered by Raymond Davis; Geo TV recorded her statement before her death, which is very touchy and painful to every one in Pakistan. American pressure on the Pakistani government to extradite Davis whom they now claim to be attached to the US consulate in Lahore is mounting and actually going out of any proportion. After frantic calls of US ambassador Munter and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, refusal to meet our foreign minister in Munich and canceling of tripartite talks and threats to stop all aid for Pakistan, threats to send the Pakistani ambassador back and many more now even the president of the US has taken up the issue and demanded that Davis should be released. Senator John Kerry who is usually looked upon as a well-wisher of Pakistan before Kerry-Bremen aid package draft has been dispatched with the same task – to get Davis out of Pakistan. That he did not meet much success is only due to the firm stand of former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi. What does this tell us about the person of Davis and the job he has been doing for the Americans? Would the president of the US deal with someone who is a security guard or a 'technician' attached to one of the US consulates in Pakistan? This is unbelievable. Therefore, there must be something fishy about this man Davis and dozen of other such consultants busy in taking free joy rides in Pakistan and perhaps involved in many serious and heinous crimes to destabilize our national solidarity. There is something that has to be hidden, to be covered up.

Who is Raymond Allen Davis in realty and what has he been he doing in our country? In the past he had been part of a security establishment in the US and that is what has been claimed he is doing here under the title of 'technical support'. But the kind of evidences the Punjab police recovered from the scene of the crime suggests that there is much more alarming revelations to surface about it. There is no doubt that two Pakistani nationals were shot dead by Raymond David not in his self defense, furthermore that he tried to run away from the scene of the crime after taking photos of the dead Pakistanis, that he was carrying a firearms and ammunition in violation of Pakistani law, that he had wireless equipment and that his camera which was found with him has photos of sensitive locations in Pakistan and that residing in Lahore in privately rented accommodation, he was driving a car with a fake number plate.

The way how US security firms and personal have been admitted into Pakistan and have been spreading throughout the country obviously through their high profile local sponsor companies without any knowledge and check of our administration is not only dangerous for the lives of Pakistani citizens as we have seen but it is also shameful for the government of Pakistan because it is another case after giving nods to drone attacks by the US on Pakistani soil and citizens of surrendering our sovereignty as an independent nation and involvement of these technical experts and consultants can not be ruled out. A government whose primary responsibility is to protect the life and security of its people but which is reportedly doing this and who is doing this repeatedly is not worth the position it is taking. It is also a challenge to the solidarity and security of our state. Our secret service is keeping mum and seems not to know any thing about it. One wonders what the Pakistani army is doing which should have an interest in the security and stability of Pakistan; not only in the kind of jobs the Americans are doing in this country, in the security of our nuclear assets and in the stability of the political system which is undermined by this government by undermining its institutions such as the police, the foreign ministry, the courts and – last but not least- the opinion of the people.

If Davis is surrendered under US pressure in spite of fool proof evidences of his criminal acts through out his stay in Pakistan, then that would mean surrendering another part of our sovereignty. But it also means surrendering and compromising our security. And then all future American Rambo's would be covered and encouraged by this surrender. There are other, political implications also. The public rage over this surrender could converge with the rage over the dismissal of Mehmud Qureshi and with the pledges of TTP and JI which could trigger an Egypt-like situation. This government could be swept away but given the number of militants in the country we could find ourselves locked up in a civil war throughout Pakistan, which appears to be the ultimate agenda of the West. There is another thought with regard to the state of the PPP. This party which has already suffered loss of many senior members and of support among its members might lose another one in the person of Shah Mahmud Qureshi. This will weaken it further and may also undermine its support among the people of Pakistan. The other alternative is not to surrender Davis and let him face the bar of justice. For that there will be strong legal arguments based on un-deniable facts, but it will drive the US mad. There might be some more sanctions coming against us; may be Mr. Huqqani will have to give up his job, which act may be to install another American chip in future political dispensation and nothing else but at the end of the day the US needs Pakistan as an ally in the so-called war against terror. If no money is coming as actual re-imbursement of cost of this proxy war, we could stop transit traffic of NATO supply goods as we have done before. We could and actually should also quit this unholy war. If we consider both scenarios of surrender is surely not the best. One can only hope that mental deterioration in the government has not yet reached a stage where they can not see this.

In this hour of crises our rulers have to adopt a policy of national reconciliation and consensus building on vital issues and not divide the nation on the basis of foreign threats and propaganda. Pakistan can only survive if we try to stand on our own two legs instead of borrowed foreign crutches. The on-going policies of our rulers have steered Pakistan towards authoritarian rule and allowed corruption and nepotism to flourish, while the economy is going down the drain, poverty is increasing day in and day out and a bleak future is starring in the eyes of the nation. Let not Pakistan also become another nation of shop keepers. And think cool headedly "Who lives if Pakistan dies, and who dies if Pakistan lives".








Geographically, Alice Springs is at the heart of Australia. And, being riddled with danger and despair, especially for the young teenage girls whisked away each night by carloads of men in vehicles laden with illegal alcohol, it's at the heart of Australia's greatest social challenge. Had Nicolas Rothwell's account inThe Weekend Australian of what happens in the Alice after the KFC shuts at 10pm been written about white girls in another town, the national outcry would already have drawn a swift, stern response from authorities, with rape and other serious criminal charges laid. Indigenous children deserve no less. But, as the article showed, in the midst of a local leadership vacuum there is only so much police and security officers can do when confronted by 70 teenagers, some with knife-blades at the ready. Had this bleak article been set in a north Queensland indigenous community, effective leaders with consciences, such as Noel Pearson, would be standing up for the young people, insisting that parents, communities and authorities do their duty. And he would be drawing up a long-term recovery plan.

But who will stand up for the boys and girls as young as 10 marauding about Alice Springs at midnight, especially the girls who are "for sale" and those "checked out" by the African gangs and the old bush men from the desert communities, whose own lives lack aspiration and hope?

The Dodson brothers, Tom Calma, Lowitja O'Donoghue and other vocal indigenous rights campaigners should speak out now, as advocates for our most maltreated young Australians. Warren Snowdon, the local MP and Indigenous Health Minister, urgently needs to take a lead. So does the NT media, which has a responsibility to hold the NT government to account and focus on the human tragedy in its midst. Local journalists and editors must look beyond the preoccupations of bureaucrats and service providers, who are probably the bulk of their audience and readers.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has worked hard pressing ahead with the framework of the NT intervention, which the social disorder in Alice Springs shows is more urgently needed than ever to salvage the well-being of young people, especially. But for years the NT government played cynical politics of the worst kind, with Commonwealth Grants Commission figures showing that in the five years to 2009 about $2 billion of federal funding earmarked for indigenous and key services was diverted to mainstream spending, much of it in marginal Darwin seats. In 2007-08, for example, the commission assessed the amount needed for services to indigenous communities at $253.4m, but the Territory spent only $139m. That year it also spent less than a third of the recommended outlay on family services. The consequences of such under-investment are now obvious.

The Henderson government must re-order its priorities. And long-suffering Alice Springs residents need real leaders to highlight their grim predicament and ensure that authorities, the community and parents do all in their power to stop the degradation. Unless the leadership vacuum is filled, the deadly mix of alcohol, drugs, violence and despair will obliterate even more lives.







From the anti-employer rhetoric of Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes last week to the threats of strikes in pursuit of a 24 per cent wage rise by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union on the weekend, the nation is confronted with language and threats from a bygone era. Australia can ill-afford either a wages breakout or a return to industrial militancy.

As reported in The Weekend Australian, the CFMEU sees no need to find trade-offs in return for a four-year deal that would increase wages by double the rate of inflation. A sensible approach would be to look for productivity gains in return for pay rises above inflation. To flatly reject such an approach and, in the same breath, to threaten strike action to achieve the rises is bloody-minded.

With The Australian also reporting that Mr Howes is unrepentant about his broadsides at Rio Tinto, the portents for industrial harmony in 2011 are not good. It is important for the key parties involved, the unions, employers and governments, to remember who will pay the price of increased union militancy because, in the end, to use a favoured Labor Party phrase, it will be working families.

The unions, which must be partly motivated by a desire to increase membership figures, need to understand that such bluster might repel potential members rather than attract them. They must also consider the impact on their political comrades in Canberra. The Gillard government, struggling to define and deliver its own agenda and suffering perceptions of financial mismanagement typical of "old" Labor, cannot afford an outbreak of industrial belligerence.

Most importantly, with employment at close to full capacity, a wages breakout remains a significant risk to the economy. Wage restraint will enable the economy to grow with minimal inflationary pressures but if unions force unsustainable wages growth in key sectors, it will exacerbate any upwards pressure on interest rates and directly lead to increased cost of living pressures on working families. This cannot be the outcome responsible union leaders want, which is why they should temper their actions, as well as their words.






The Brisbane Lions have sacked their star player and infamous hooligan Brendan Fevola, forfeiting a sometimes unstoppable forward for the sake of club standards and team cohesion. The former Carlton spearhead's long list of personal indiscretions includes public urination, drunken television antics and the infamous, unapproved and naked photo of Lara Bingle taken on his phone. Seeking a second start in the sunshine state, the Victorian created only more storms, as Fevola denied allegations he exposed himself to a woman in a park and ended New Year's Eve in a police lock-up for public drunkenness. Given his attempt to deal with his drinking and gambling problems through treatment at a clinic, his sacking will be the subject of ongoing discussion and dispute. But The Australian believes, so long as it provides appropriate personal support, a club must be able to dispense with players who threaten the team's ethos and reputation. The case of rugby league star Todd Carney shows how this approach can work for the club and the player. Axed by the Canberra Raiders for a Fevola-like run of misbehaviour, Carney was banned by the NRL for a full season. But he returned via the Sydney Roosters last season and won the Dally M medal, equivalent to the AFL's Brownlow.

In helping young athletes adjust to the riches, spoils and pitfalls of success, managers play a pivotal role, which is why AFL player manager Ricky Nixon's actions are lamentable. In his self-confessed but unspecified "inappropriate dealings" with a 17-year-old girl at the centre of AFL sex claims, he has failed many people. As a 47-year-old man, he had a duty of care to an obviously troubled and vulnerable teenager. As a manager of players caught up in the girl's earlier escapades and allegations, he had a responsibility to his clients not to inflame the scandal. And as a registered agent, he had obligations to the AFL, which has tried to help the girl. We also feel for Mr Nixon's family, although that's an issue for him alone. Police and AFL inquiries are under way but already, on the agreed facts, it's clear Mr Nixon no longer should be given the privilege and responsibility of guiding the careers of impressionable young footballers.








An extraordinary wave of protest is sweeping the Arab world, from Morocco on the Atlantic to the Gulf states on the Indian Ocean. It is a time of uplifting democratic sentiment, varying in degrees of bitterness and desperation according to the nature of the regime involved and its particular response. The more autocratic the regime, it is fair to say, the harsher the response.

If the eventual concession to the public mood shown by the Egyptian military was to be followed everywhere, the outcome would be relatively bloodless and encouragingly progressive – though the follow-through of Cairo's generals needs careful watching. The monarchies of Morocco and Jordan, each headed by young, worldly  kings, may well have the flexibility to meet the rising demand for popular government. The emirs of the Gulf – fiefdoms where in many cases nationals are greatly outnumbered by expatriates, and some home to large numbers of Shiites  under Iran's influence – are clearly more jumpy. In Bahrain's case, the rulers quickly reached for the gun, an overreaction they are now trying to unwind.

The bizarre dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has reacted most extremely, with its military and loyalist goons gunning down hundreds of protesters. Whether this becomes a small Tiananmen, quelling a regime challenge for a generation, or the start of a civil war that will unseat the ruler of the last 42 years, is an open question. That the events don't fit easily into any paradigm is shown by Gaddafi's claim that the Western powers are trying to destabilise him, and the demonstrations here and elsewhere by the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir against alleged Western efforts to prop him up.

As Kevin Rudd observes, blaming protest on external interference is ''a tired but predictable script'' in the Middle East. Rather, the Libyans and other peoples around the region are finding a voice.

The patronising orientalism that the Arabs or even Muslims in general are somehow culturally conditioned to political slavery is being ripped up in front of our eyes. It is a time of great upheaval, partly the result of an open information age that perhaps ironically one of the Gulf's autocrats, Qatar's emir, embraced with his sponsorship of the pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera. It will be hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

The West is left looking flat-footed by developments. Britain has been shamelessly cosying up to Gaddafi. America has relied on regimes now facing popular uprisings. Even Australia has its substantial military presence at the Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai.

The situation demands a steady stand on principles by our governments, firmly supporting the right to free expression. We should be ready to accept, as the West hasn't always done (as in Algeria, Gaza and Lebanon), that free elections sometimes may not bring the results we want.





 The state government's approach to car drivers caught speeding by its fixed point-to-point cameras on the Great Western Highway and the Pacific Highway is nothing short of baffling. Truck drivers get caught and warned or fined. But as we revealed yesterday, more than 94,000 car drivers were found to have exceeded the speed limit over the two stretches of road in just 12 months. If every one was exceeding the limit by only the smallest margin – 10km/h or less – that represents $8.5million in fines forgone, or roughly 8 per cent of the total estimated annual income from speeding fines. Yet the Roads Minister, David Borger, has ruled out using the cameras to check on cars. His opposition counterpart, Andrew Stoner, has followed suit. Why?

Speed kills. The phrase is a cliche because it is true. But speed cameras are unpopular. Motorists claim mobile cameras are nothing but revenue-raising devices. They are obviously more than that: they deter speeding by making monitoring less predictable and more effective in reducing speed.

Motorists and their representatives do have a point that on many NSW roads maximum speeds change too often within a short distance. For drivers coping with visual clutter while concentrating on the road ahead and other drivers, the changes are easy to miss. Lower speed limits, as long as they are uniform, would be preferable to frequent chopping and changing.

Yet while all these issues have irritated drivers and made them – and politicians – sensitive to any new speed cameras, they are peripheral to the question of whether to use existing fixed point-to-point cameras to restrain speeding drivers. All the government's indulgent approach to speedsters does in this case is legitimise the flouting of road rules. Does the Roads and Traffic Authority believe speed limits on these trunk routes are too low? If so, the government  should raise them, and police the new faster limit. But if the RTA believes they are as they should be now, the technology that is now available should be used to fine those who exceed them. It should not allow the idea to develop that there is one set of rules for trucks and another set – or none at all – for cars.    






IT COULD have been worse. As Labor leader Daniel Andrews argued after Frank McGuire's underwhelming victory in the Broadmeadows byelection, when former premier Jeff Kennett quit upon losing office in 1999, the Liberals lost his seat. The ALP avoided that humiliation after John Brumby's departure. Still, no matter what gloss was put on Saturday's result in Labor's safest seat, the faithful did not rally to the party after the shock of losing government. Mr McGuire suffered an 8.5-point drop in Labor's primary vote, on top of a 5.35-point fall for Mr Brumby in November. Even in its heartland, Labor faces a battle to win back voters.

The alarming thing for its supporters is that the ALP hasn't acted on the reasons for deep public disenchantment. While a federal election review called for community involvement, it was business as usual for ALP powerbrokers. Mr McGuire may have been a ''Broady boy'' by upbringing, but he was not the choice of Broadmeadows ALP members, nor even a party member. The executive aborted the local preselection process, thwarting the aspirations of Hume city councillor Burhan Yigit. Whatever the mutterings about Mr Yigit, the fact is that Labor again parachuted a big-name candidate into a safe seat.

This does not bode well for the federal election report's recommendation on preselections, despite the status of its authors - former premiers Steve Bracks and Bob Carr, and former ALP federal president John Faulkner. They suggest that, in seats without sitting ALP MPs, local party members should have 60 per cent input, registered ''Labor supporters in the community'' 20 per cent and unions 20 per cent. In Broadmeadows, the feeling of being ignored may have helped an independent running on local issues, Celal Sahin, win 19.7 per cent of the vote. The Liberals, to their discredit, vacated the field, depriving the one in four electors who voted for the new government in November of a choice. They scorned Labor and the Greens, whose vote fell from 7.5 per cent to 6 per cent. A notably high informal vote, up from 7.58 per cent to 8.66 per cent, is a measure of public alienation in an area that has been let down by the major parties.

Mr McGuire said the seat's residents would not be forgotten, but Labor is unlikely to restore supporters' faith without showing faith in them. The most basic element of party democracy is giving members a say in who represents them.

The ALP's trouble with this points to the need to clean up corrupted party processes, a daunting challenge to say the least. If Labor's leaders can't or won't do this, however, renewal could be a long time coming.





LEST anyone thought that Libya's dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, really had become a Sensitive New Age Guy after dropping off the West's most reviled list during the US presidency of George W. Bush, the Libyan security forces put that notion to rest at the weekend. Unlike deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Colonel Gaddafi clearly can count on support from his armed forces. At least 173 Libyans have been killed in clashes with them over the past five days, as the demands for regime change that began in Tunisia and Egypt continue to spread across the region.

But, though the protesters share the same democratic aspirations as those who brought down the old communist order in Eastern Europe after 1989, events in the Middle East are no longer playing according to that script. Mr Mubarak and his Tunisian counterpart Ben Ali succumbed in the face of largely peaceful protests, as happened in Europe. Leaders of other authoritarian regimes, however, are using all the repressive means at their disposal to cling to power.

In Bahrain, where the al-Khalifa ruling family, who are Sunnis, holds sway over a population that is 70 per cent Shiite, protesters have returned in their thousands to the Pearl Monument in the capital, Manama, where last week they were brutally attacked by security forces. Five protesters died and at least 200 were injured in the attacks, but thus far the main achievement of the police, many of whom are Pakistani, not Bahraini, seems to have been radicalising the protesters further. Last week, they wanted a democratic constitution and an end to discrimination against Shiites; now many are calling for the removal of the al-Khalifas.

Protesters also battled security forces in Yemen, Kuwait, Jordan, Algeria and Djibouti - and also in Iran, where the regime, with notable hypocrisy, condemned its citizens for having taken to the streets to celebrate the victory of Egypt's democrats, whom it had encouraged. But the ugliest clashes have been in Libya, where the protesters appear to have gained control of the second-largest city, Benghazi. Colonel Gaddafi's son, Saif, using rhetoric similar to that engaged in by Mr Mubarak's son, Gamal, before his father's departure from office, appeared on television offering the demonstrators ''dialogue''. The sincerity of the offer may be measured by his accompanying pledge that Libya is ''not Tunisia or Egypt''. In other words, dialogue or no dialogue the 41-year regime will not surrender power voluntarily.

Mr Gaddafi almost matched the Iranian government's hypocrisy by warning that civil war would invite a return of colonial powers to the Middle East. The Libyan regime has been content to accept Western aid since it abandoned its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs in 2003.

The backlash against the protests in Bahrain and Libya has also muted another aspect of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. As in those countries, the protesters have relied on the internet, especially social networking sites, as an organising tool. Much of what the wider world knows of what is happening in Libya relies on these sources, too. But the government has also shown how effectively an authoritarian regime can restrict internet access if it wishes to.

One thing, however, remains true of all the Middle Eastern nations in upheaval. The protest movements are popular campaigns aimed at achieving democracy and, although Islamist groups participate in them, they are broadly secular. They are signs of hope in a region that has for long seemed without it, and if other nations that have long enjoyed democracy do not bring whatever diplomatic pressure they can to bear on repressive regimes it would be a tragedy for the world as well as the protesters.

That the US, in particular, can wield considerable power was indirectly acknowledged by Mr Gaddafi's remark about colonialism. President Obama should say clearly that the age of the dictators is at an end.








The rolling row about Britain and the European convention on human rights is not just about a subject that is important in its own right. It is also significant because it marks the emergence of a new dynamic in the politics of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. During the government's early months, the coalition was tightly defined by its May 2010 agreement. This involved compromises and trade-offs for both parties across the whole range of government activity. MPs from both camps may not have liked individual details but they were broadly willing to support all aspects of the deal for their mutual advantage.

The response of the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, to the recent arguments over the European convention has been consistent with this. Mr Clarke has batted away any suggestion from his own party that the United Kingdom could withdraw from the convention because of anger with the European court's ruling on votes for prisoners or with the UK supreme court's ruling on appeals against inclusion on the sex offenders' register. He has done this, as he did in his interview with Andrew Marr at the weekend, by explicit reference to the coalition agreement. Adherence to the European convention was in the agreement. Therefore there would be no derogation. A commission on a new British bill of rights was in the agreement. So that would go ahead.

But this no longer washes with the Tory right, which on this issue seems to include David Cameron. It also infuriates the right-wing media; the Sun now routinely dubs Mr Clarke as a "soft touch" minister and dismisses the European court as "barmy". As a result the earlier shared commitment to the coalition programme is starting to fray. Mr Clarke may be upholding coalition policy. He is also standing up for a course of action that should be strongly supported – defending the convention, the importance of human rights laws, and the rule of law. By sticking to the coalition programme, however, he is provoking the Tory party's increasingly impatient desire for a punch-up with the European court over human rights.

Last week, Tory sources made clear that the party will start work on its own inquiry into the European convention so that the Conservatives can go into the 2015 election pledged to a much tougher anti-convention policy. This was a significant moment. It means, on this issue, that the Conservatives will have two separate policies – a government policy and a party policy. Treaties often break down at the edges without collapsing altogether. But the growing desire of the Tories to behave as though they govern alone, rather than in partnership, can only signal a new volatility in the politics of the coalition.






It has been Muammar Gaddafi's conceit that he abolished the conventional state and replaced it with an organic system that empowered the masses. Now those masses are rising up against him, in the process demonstrating how destructive his rule has been in Libya. Far from creating new institutions, he swept away what little the country possessed in the way of civil society and political tradition.

That must now be a source of great anxiety as the system falters and lurches after the uprisings in Benghazi and Tripoli, because Libya has nothing like the relatively rich and developed middle class and oppositional culture possessed by its neighbours Egypt and Tunisia. While a soft landing for the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions is by no means assured, the prospects can at least be described as good.

In Libya it is not clear who can provide the necessary core for a transition. The army's cohesion is in doubt, the old tribal structures are both divisive and weakened, and Libyan Islamists have not gone through the same learning experiences which have made their counterparts elsewhere more sophisticated and flexible. The Egyptians, who might under different circumstances have exerted influence, are distracted. The Arab League lacks both mandate and means.

That there are some decent – or at least shrewd – men in the system has been shown by the resignation of certain key figures in the last couple of days. Gaddafi's diplomats are falling away like the proverbial emperor's clothes. Some of these men, like Abdel Moneim al-Houni, Libya's representative to the Arab League, who called what is happening at home "genocide", could have constituted a nucleus for reform, but that seems the remotest of possibilities. Gaddafi's supporters, including his dubious sons, are too compromised.

Gaddafi is not the sole author of Libya's misfortunes. History had sown Libyan political soil with salt long before he came along. When the Italian parliament excitedly debated the colonisation of Libya in 1911, the deputy Leone Caetani, an Oriental scholar, warned against the project on both moral and practical grounds. Libya, he declared, had "no roads, no ports, no railroads, no buildings, nothing, nothing, nothing!"

What little the Italians did then create in the way of physical infrastructure was smashed up in the second world war, and when Libya became independent it was one of the poorest countries in Africa, although oil was soon to make it one of the richest. Oil gave Libya under Gaddafi an economy of sorts, yet what Caetani said a century ago remained true in a more fundamental sense. Ineffective Turkish suzerainty followed by a brutal period of Italian colonisation, by Rommel's and Montgomery's tank battles, by a short-lived monarchy, and finally by 40 years of Gaddafi's fraudulent state without a state, has left Libya institutionally bereft.

In the beginning Gaddafi's revolution had a certain logic and achieved some useful things. His opposition to foreign interference was well founded and absolutely in line with Libyan feeling. In particular his mistrust of the conventional state mirrored that of most Libyans, who had lost any sense of ownership in whatever political arrangements prevailed from time to time and whose loyalties were more local and parochial. But his dropsical face, looming from the billboards in Libya's cities, has grown more mournful and deranged as the political structures he conjured up have degenerated.

A four-power commission in 1948 concluded that most Libyans were utterly indifferent to their form of government. This has changed totally, in the sense that the majority of Libyans now seem utterly opposed to their form of government. It is hardly Gaddafi's achievement, but it is a consequence of his ruthless and fantastical rule. He has finally given Libyans the unity which had until now eluded them.






The Workmate is the iPad of the hands-on world. If you enjoy making solid things, here is one of those tools, like the Stanley knife, that has made itself indispensable. So versatile is it that cookery writers have urged using it to saw coconuts. Since Black & Decker started producing this folding sawhorse-meets-workbench-and-vice in 1973, more than 30m have been sold. Last year, 60,000 were bought in Britain, proof that these islands, better known for their passionate and perilous love of banking and shopping, retain a residual fondness for manufacturing and DIY. Last week, Ron Hickman, inventor of the Workmate, died. Receiving a pound for every one sold, he became wealthy. But the appeal of a compact, multi-purpose work station that could be carried in the boot of a car was initially lost on some. Hickman had come up with the idea in 1961 after damaging a pricey Swedish armchair from Heal's while using it as an improvised sawhorse. Stanley Tools knifed his ambitions, turning him down on the basis that "sales would be measured in dozens". Luckily, no one said the same thing to Colin Chapman when, at the same time, he nurtured a tiny, immeasurably stylish, lightweight road racer named the Lotus Elan, a commercial success which Hickman co-designed. Now imagine packing a Workmate in the boot of an Elan and setting off for work; the idea of making things for a living does not get more glamorous. For manufacturing's sake, we need Hickman's design elan and the Workmate spirit today.






Two Supreme Court rulings in January on services that allow TV programs to be viewed by people overseas via the Internet highlight copyright problems related to TV broadcasts in the Internet age.

In the first case, NHK and five private TV networks based in Tokyo sued a Tokyo-based company that markets a service that allows a person living overseas to view TV programs in real time through a personal computer. The system consists of a TV antenna linked to transmitters that feed broadcasts via the Internet directly to a customer's PC. The lower courts ruled that there were no copyright infringements because the service does not transmit TV programs to an unspecified number of people. They noted that the TV program transfer is done by an individual and that the program is available to that particular person. But the Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 18 that the company violated the broadcasters' copyrights since it enables the transmission of programs by connecting the antenna to transmitters and the Internet.

In the second case, NHK and nine private TV broadcasters in Tokyo and Shizuoka Prefecture sued a company in Hamamatsu in the prefecture that leases digital recording devices to overseas customers. The customer sends a command via computer to the device, which is kept in Japan, to record a TV program. After the recording, the program is sent to the customer through the Internet.

The lower court took the stance that subscribers are exercising their right to record TV programs for private use as allowed by the Copyright Law. In its Jan. 20 ruling, the Supreme Court did not clearly say that the company violated copyrights but decided that since the company manages the recording machines, it should be regarded as copying TV programs. It ordered the Intellectual Property High Court to reexamine the case.

People have a strong desire to watch TV programs when they want, since technology enabling it is available. The government should create a legal environment in which a clash between people's desires and broadcasters' rights will not cause confusion.





Hepatitis B sufferers and bereaved families who had filed lawsuits at 10 district courts in and after March 2008 for state compensation are holding negotiations with the government for a settlement. But the progress of the talks mediated by courts is hampered by the government's position that people who have suffered from hepatitis B symptoms for more than 20 years as a result of mass vaccinations have no right to claim compensation because the statutory limit of 20 years has passed.

According to the health and welfare ministry, 1.1 million to 1.4 million people are infected with hepatitis B virus, with 90 percent of them not yet having developed symptoms. Up to 440,000 carriers are believed to have been infected through shared needles during mass vaccinations carried out since 1948 under the Preventive Vaccination Law. Only in January 1988 did the ministry issue instructions mandating a one-use policy for needles and syringes.

Under the terms of the negotiations, deceased patients and sufferers of liver cancer or serious cirrhosis would receive ¥36 million, sufferers of a mild case of cirrhosis ¥25 million and sufferers of chronic hepatitis B ¥12.5 million. A carrier without symptoms would receive ¥500,000 as "reconciliation money."

A June 2006 Supreme Court ruling said that the state was responsible for causing hepatitis B infection because of its failure to order local governments to take preventive steps during mass vaccinations such as not reusing needles. The top court ordered the state to pay ¥5.5 million each in compensation to five sufferers.

The government says that it has a separate plan to take some relief measures for people who have suffered from hepatitis B symptoms for more than 20 years. But excluding them from compensation under the court-mediated settlement would be far from an equitable solution. The government estimates that the settlement would cost ¥3.2 trillion over 30 years. This is an enormous amount. It should seek a fair way of raising the necessary funds as part of its social welfare policy.






Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — The front cover of the report by the respected audit and consulting concern Deloitte is dramatic and eye-catching: It consists of just a picture of a fedora hat reminiscent of the 1930s and, above it, a stark headline, "The Untouchables."

It is a little clumsy to make such references with their obvious echoes of 1929 and the Great Depression, widespread unemployment, economic distress and gangland killings and lawlessness. But the people about whom the report is written will probably not complain, since the original "Untouchables" were the good guys.

Deloitte is (presumably) using the expression in its broader sense that the modern untouchables are untouched or unaffected by the prevailing economic mess all around them. But the subjects of its report are not the financiers and bankers who escaped virtually unscathed from the mess they created; they are the big European soccer clubs, or the "Soccer Money League."

"Recession" is clearly not a word that figures in the vocabulary of the leading football clubs. Deloitte reports that the 20 highest earning clubs saw an 8 percent increase in their revenues in the past year to 4.3 billion euro, the first time it has topped 4 billion euro in the 14 years that Deloitte's sport and business arm has been compiling the records.

Real Madrid topped the money league with revenues of 438.6 million euro or 40 million euro more than its Spanish archrival Barcelona in second place. Manchester United, the English Premier League leader, was in third place with almost 350 million euro. English soccer supporters of Manchester United, and their many millions of fans worldwide, may be surprised that the Red Devils of Manchester are not on top.

Forbes magazine last year did its own assessment of the value of the giants of the sporting world, including soccer, American football, baseball, basketball, motor racing and other major sports. Traditionally, U.S. sports teams have been valued by ticket sales. Forbes used what it called a new formula to include the value of stadiums, sponsorships and television to calculate the worth of teams as "entertainment brands." The magazine rated Manchester United as worth $1.83 billion, and the biggest of all sports teams, considerably larger than the Dallas Cowboys, the American football team, which it valued at $1.65 billion and the New York Yankees baseball team, which is third at $1.6 billion.

Real Madrid came in sixth, worth $1.32 billion, though with superior revenues to Manchester United, $563 million against $459 million. Barcelona trailed in 25th place, worth $1 billion, in a list dominated by American football teams, with baseball, basketball and motor racing teams trailing behind. The other big European soccer names, apart from the London club Arsenal (in eighth place), occupied the bottom half of the list, including Bayern Munich (in 27th place), Liverpool (41), AC Milan (43), Juventus (47) and Chelsea (48).

Rumors recently have been rife again in the British press that Qatar Holdings, the investment arm of the royal family of Qatar, is about to buy Manchester United for a sum somewhere around £1.6 billion, money that would almost certainly increase the club's value. United denied that there are any such talks, but such denials are often a precursor to a deal. On the other hand, it may be just another clever marketing ploy by the Qataris, who have shown immense skill in getting free publicity. But the wider point is that soccer is a big and profitable business, at least for the big boys.

Another way of assessing the value of sports teams is by calculating what their players cost. In a single recent English soccer game between Manchester United and their crosstown rivals Manchester City, it cost about $850 million to buy the players on the field and on the substitutes' bench. The following weekend, Manchester City met Chelsea, and there was $900 million worth of talent on view. By comparison, the players of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox cost about $380 million, and those of the Dallas Cowboys or Washington Redskins cost about $350 million.

Some fans cite the worldwide appeal that their sports teams have. Young men and boys wearing the shirts of Barcelona, Manchester United, or Real Madrid, often with the name and number of their favorite player, are a common sight across Asia. But it is difficult to work out the real number of supporters a team has — apart from those who show up and pay to watch matches, and sample surveys are notoriously unreliable, making the fan base a contentious calculation.

But supporters of Facebook say that their site for the first time offers a properly tried and tested way of assessing fan support since you have to sign in and put the team on your list of favorites. As of last week, Barcelona and Manchester United were neck and neck, each with about 9.2 million supporters on Facebook. Real Madrid (8.7 million) and the LA Lakers (5.99 million) trailed behind.

For all this Deloitte, which has considerable experience in calculating what people and companies are worth, sticks to published financial figures. Its report admits that there are many ways of estimating a soccer club's worth, including the number of its fans, its performance on the pitch, gate receipts, broadcast audience, and even the wealth of the club owners, but it prefers to concentrate on counting the hard brass of revenue from soccer operations.

Its report this year predicts more of the same: "We expect a battle between Spain's two super clubs for top spot in the Money League for the next few years at least." Barcelona's revenue will be boosted by a shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Sports Investment Agency, worth a guaranteed 165 million euro over 5 1/2 seasons.

English Premier League clubs have seven of the top 20 places, the most of any country, followed by other members of the big five leagues, four each from Germany and Italy, three from Spain and two from France. The poorer countries don't get a look in.

New European soccer rules supposed to ensure financial fair play will require clubs to balance their books, ensuring that expenditure does not exceed revenue over time, with exceptions allowed for building of a new stadium or a change of owners. Barcelona and Chelsea and Manchester City in England have all recorded large losses recently, thanks to splurging on new players.

However, it is doubtful whether the new financial restrictions will level the playing field in favor of poorer clubs from poorer countries.

The big clubs in Spain have huge advantages, particularly over the English ones. British taxation takes up to 50 percent of high-earning players' salaries, whereas in Spain the rate is 22 percent. The abiding lesson of recent years has been that the clubs that are most successful are those that pay their players most. High taxation means it will be easier for Spain's La Liga to poach from the Premier League, especially those players who are homesick for sunshine and resent the dreary English winter football scene.

Clubs in Spain can also negotiate their own TV rights, and Real Madrid picks up more than $250 million a year. Against this, Spain's La Liga tends to be a two-horse race between Real Madrid and Barcelona with a handful of also-rans, whereas the Premier League is a tightly competitive championship in which even Manchester United has to fight hard to win each game.

The excitement of the competitive spirit and the battle for places in the lucrative European Champions League competition gives the Premier League an exciting international edge and assures the worldwide following of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and even the ailing Liverpool. The elite English clubs will get a £600 million boost over the next three years from international broadcasting rights. English supporters who worry about possible challenges say the well-organized German Bundesliga, with 18 tightly matched teams, is their biggest threat.

If the American Glazer family, who controversially own Manchester United, do decide to sell the club, perhaps for £1.8 billion, some soccer insiders whisper, it would raise the value and the profile of the club and perhaps remove the shadows of the Glazer era. Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought out the shareholders of Manchester United in the 2003-2005 period in a deal worth almost $1.5 billion. To the anger of many diehard United fans, he saddled the club with the heavy debt, including interest of £60 million a year, and raised ticket prices.

Swapping an American owner for a Middle Eastern oil ruler would hardly raise eyebrows in England, where so much of the game is foreign-owned. It would intensify the rivalry with Manchester City, owned by Abu Dhabi interests. If the European football authorities really wanted to level the playing fields they could try to insist that clubs should have owners and players at least from their own country, if not from their own city.

England gave the world the modern game of soccer (even if hardline Chinese say that it was an invention stolen from them), and English fans are so passionate that almost 60 percent of them say they would rather spend a night watching a game rather than with the woman they love, but the English owners of clubs have largely sold out. Such is the attraction and the potential money to be made in the Premier League that half of the 20 clubs, and all of the most famous, have foreign owners, from the U.S., Russia, Hong Kong, Egypt, Abu Dhabi and Iceland. Of the managers, as the English call the coaches, seven are English, four Scottish, three Italian, two French, two Welsh and one each Israeli and Spanish. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid, in contrast to the English practice, are owned by their club members.

Ownership is one thing, but only 39 percent of the almost 600 players on the roster of the English Premier League clubs are English, something that the England soccer team manager, an Italian, Fabio Capello, has complained of. Soccer stardom in the big league does not translate so easily into top financial rewards. Forbes magazine also ranked individuals. Tiger Woods, who had not quite descended into limbo after the break up of his marriage and the crumbling of his game, was still top earner with $105 million, though most of this was in sponsorship deals, some of which he has lost.

The highest ranked soccer player was L.A. Galaxy's David Beckham, formerly of Manchester United and Real Madrid, whom Forbes reckoned to earn $43.7 million, mostly from sponsorships and his burgeoning business brands. Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid came 13th with earnings of $35.8 million in a list dominated by golf, boxing, basketball, baseball and American football stars.

English Premier League players get an average of £28,230 a week, but that is less than half what Dallas Mavericks' basketball players get and a third of the salary of the New York Yankees. And all of this, of course, comes with a job and livelihood that can be savagely cut short by a single tackle.

Leading actor such as Johnny Depp, earning $100 million in the last year, Leonardo DiCaprio ($62 million) or Kristen Stewart ($28.5 million) wouldn't even think of getting out of bed even to play-act the game for the sums that soccer players make. And far beyond them are the real Masters of the Universe, the hedge fund managers, who make plus or minus $5 billion a year; to them the average soccer player's annual earnings would be a poor day at the computer.

Kevin Rafferty, who began his reporting career writing about football for the Oxford University newspaper and The Observer, is editor in chief of PlainWords Media.







NEW YORK — Since the end of World War II, the global economy's trade and financial openness has increased, thanks to institutions like the International Monetary Fund and successive rounds of liberalization, starting with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1947.

In parallel, colonialism collapsed, and we are now slightly more than halfway through a century-long process of modernization for the many developing countries that emerged. But where has that process led, where is it taking us now, and, perhaps most importantly, how can we influence its course?

With formal barriers to trade and capital flows lowered, several trends combined to accelerate growth and structural change in postcolonial and other developing economies. These included advances in technology (especially transportation and communications), management innovation in multinational companies, and integration of their supply chains.

Thus, in the early postwar period, developing countries, whose exports had previously consisted mainly of natural resources and agricultural products, expanded into labor-intensive manufacturing. Textiles and apparel came first, followed by luggage, dishes, toys, etc. Supply chains also dispersed geographically, with lower value-added components and processes allocated to low-income countries.

In consumer electronics, for example, low-income countries became a natural location for labor-intensive assembly processes, while semiconductors, circuit boards and other components were designed and manufactured in high middle-income countries like South Korea.

After more than 30 years of rapid growth, China is entering a "middle-income transition." Over time, labor-intensive components of value-added chains will move away from China's higher-income areas. Helped by massive public investment in infrastructure and logistical capabilities, some of this work will move inland, where incomes are lower. Eventually, though, labor-intensive activities will move to countries at earlier stages of development.

This middle-income transition is sometimes deemed a trap. Indeed, most countries entering middle-income transitions see their growth slow, even stall. Of the 13 postwar cases of sustained high growth (soon to be 15, with the addition of India and Vietnam), only five economies — Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore — have maintained high growth rates through the middle-income transition and proceeded toward advanced-country income levels of $20,000 per capita or above.

Early high-growth economies — Japan, South Korea, Taiwan — initially exported labor-intensive products, then graduated to more capital-intensive goods like motor vehicles, and then to human-capital- intensive activities like design and technology development. As wages rose, Japan's labor-intensive activities migrated to later arrivals in the global economy.

China accelerated to a high-growth pattern in the late 1970s and early '80s, owing to the benefits of its low-cost labor and a major change in economic policy. No one anticipated its abrupt shift away from a closed, centrally planned economy to a more open, market-oriented one with expanded economic freedom for individuals and enterprises alike.

As emerging-market economies shift to higher value-added components in global supply chains, their physical, human and institutional capital deepens. This brings their structure closer to that of the advanced countries, introducing greater competition in what was once the advanced countries' sole territory.

The aggregate size of developing countries, their rising incomes and their movement up the value chain increasingly affect advanced-country economies, particularly the tradable sectors.

What is the impact on a large advanced country like the United States? Some 98 percent of the 27.3 million net new jobs created in the U.S. since 1990 have been in the nontradable sector — dominated by government, health care, retail, hospitality and real estate. Given long-term constraints on both fiscal and household spending in the wake of the financial crisis and downward pressure on asset prices, the sustainability of such an employment trend is questionable.

Indeed, the postcrisis shortfall in domestic demand is causing stubbornly high unemployment, even as the economy recovers some of its growth momentum.

In principle, foreign demand, especially in high-growth emerging markets, could make up some of the difference, but that hasn't happened yet. Although the U.S. trade deficit fell to $375 billion in 2009, from $702 billion in 2007, the adjustment came entirely from a sharp decline in imports, from $2.35 trillion to $1.95 trillion (exports actually fell slightly from $1.65 trillion to $1.57 trillion).

Growth in exports could come with further expansion in parts of the value-added chains where the U.S. is already competitive (finance, insurance and computer systems design, for example). But the scope of the export sector itself will have to expand in order to generate sufficient employment and reduce the external deficit.

That will require restoring and creating competitiveness in an expanded set of value-added components in the tradable sector. There isn't an easy and reasonably certain way to accomplish that. Protectionism is certainly not the answer.

Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate in economics, is professor of economics, Stern School of Business, New York University. Sandile Hlatshwayo is a researcher at the Stern School. © 2011 Project Syndicate








The public in general, or at least those within the Indonesian Military (TNI) circle, must have been shocked by widespread reports from South Korean media over the weekend of stolen files allegedly containing top Indonesian defense secrets.

And the Indonesian government's cold response over the matter has drawn further speculation that the real issue is bigger than what the South Korean media have been reporting.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene has confirmed that intruders broke into one of the hotel rooms where Indonesian officials were staying during their visit to Seoul on Feb. 15-17. That he stopped short of dismissing that any secret or sensitive documents were lost and that the owner of a missing laptop — an aide to a senior government official — had his laptop returned in good condition only cast doubt on claims that the case was simple and nothing had happened.

Apart from the official complaint against the hotel management, South Korean media reported that three unidentified intruders — two men and a woman — broke into a suite on the 19th floor of the Lotte Hotel in Seoul where Indonesian presidential envoys were staying and copied files containing sensitive military procurement information from the laptop using USB memory sticks. If the report is true, it would only confirm our country's poor security precautions and weak counterintelligence measures over state secrets and documents. Some local media even reported that the three intruders were believed to be members of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea.

South Korean media have reported that the stolen files allegedly contained top defense secrets, including Indonesia's potential purchase of South Korean T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets.

T.B. Hasanuddin, a legislator with the House of Representatives' Defense and Foreign Affairs Commission I, was convinced, however, that they contained the joint development project by South Korea and Indonesia of the KFX jet fighter, a modern warplane whose performance and capability is predicted to outclass the existing F-16 and is only below that of the US' future fighter jet, the F-35.

A number of Indonesian government officials, including Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa as the chief of the Indonesian delegation sent to South Korea, Industry Minister MS Hidayat and Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro as delegation members and Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, have denied the alleged theft of the Defense Ministry data.

Hatta, Hidayat, Purnomo and Sjafrie had their points when dismissing the speculation, but the fact that most of the South Korean media had spoken on the contrary made all of us wonder who spoke the truth and who told lies.

The highly politically sensitive issue was worsened with conflicting facts and statements by officials, including House legislators, over the content of the stolen laptop. Some say that it contained no defense or military data, others however expressed belief that the gadget did have such secret military data.

It is understandable if certain parties have attempted to cover up the truth behind the incident, as a failure to do so would undoubtedly uncover their sloppiness or incapability in handling secret and sensitive documents. But there must be a lesson learned from this case, and they will improve themselves only when their incapacity is revealed and criticized.






Tackling climate change can at times seem to be at odds with ensuring economic growth and alleviating poverty. I believe, however, that the only way to truly succeed with either of these goals is by striving to reach them all. Climate change, poverty, population growth, and food, water and energy insecurity are mutually reinforcing.

None of these challenges can be solved in isolation. While economic development is key for achieving social and environmental goals, long-term economic growth and lasting competitiveness can only be secured through environmentally sustainable and climate friendly development policies.

Norway, like all other countries, must strive to transform into a low-emission society, and must take the lead in domestic emissions reductions. As a developed country, we carry particular responsibilities in this regard.

We have therefore established a goal — supported by a large majority of our Parliament — to be carbon neutral by 2030. Our contributions to Indonesia's REDD+ efforts is additional to this goal. We urge other developed countries to set equally audacious goals and follow up on them with determination.

However, the inconvenient truth is that commitment and action from developed countries alone would not solve the climate change challenge, even if all developed countries stopped all emissions today.

Developing countries must act as well. Unless we all take large scale remedial action, huge damage worldwide will follow, wreaking havoc with much of the development progress of the last decades.

Climate change is already affecting the globe through intense and frequent heat waves, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones.

In 2010, the Brazilian rainforest experienced what some scientists describe as the worst drought in one hundred years. The signals are all flashing red; action can be delayed no longer.

Faced with the stark realities of climate change and its consequences for the developing world, no developing country will benefit from building its future on unsustainable resource extraction leading to environmental destruction and large emissions.

Fortunately, even in the most difficult times, there are always alternatives. Tropical forest countries, like Indonesia, are endowed with rich natural resources that sustain essential life support systems both for the region and for the world.

Lasting economic growth can be built on sustainable land use and world class agricultural productivity.

Effective and transparent land use planning and improved governance and transparency can be established at all levels of government.  What the world needs is good examples of how this could be done: Indonesia is in the process of becoming such an example.

Private enterprise, moreover, benefit from the ecosystem services that standing forests and peatlands provide, and will suffer from the consequences of climate change, such as lack of water and unreliable rainfall patterns.

I am pleased to see that Sinar Mas, Indonesia's largest producer of palm oil believe that sustainable palm oil production is in their economic interest, and has vowed not to plant on peat, and not to clear forest where significant carbon is locked up in trees.

Low emission development is a fundamental choice for a country that cannot be imposed from the outside. Norway has pledged to support Indonesia with US$ 1 billion over the next few years. However, the agreement between Indonesia and Norway only captures in writing what Indonesia under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's leadership had already planned to do.

Indonesia's challenge over the next few years — as stated in its climate and forest strategy — is to rationalize land use by the forestry, mining and plantation sectors to ensure more effective protection and reduced emissions from natural forests and peatlands, as well as more effective utilization of degraded lands.

A comprehensive moratorium protecting most of the remaining natural forest and peatlands from this perspective provides a unique opportunity for Indonesia.

It points the way towards a situation where the long-term sustainability of these sectors would be
ensured, thereby strengthening their medium and long term growth prospects. In short, it represents an opportunity for sustainable economic growth.

I strongly believe that the direction in which President Yudhoyono is taking the country will be the best for Indonesia and for the Southeast Asian region, not decades from now, but in the near future.

Rainforests and peatlands provide invaluable services today, to the world and to all Indonesians. The Indonesian government's pledges to both improve the lot of their population and lead the fight against climate change is a beacon to the world. The government of Norway admires these commitments, and we are proud to support them.

The writer is Norway's Minister for Environment and International Development.






Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam spoke like an orator. "They're like vultures feeding on carrion but are clad in white pigeon feathers," he said recently, as quoted by Tempo magazine in the public figure section of its Feb. 7-13, 2011, edition.

It seems today's increasingly confused atmosphere has disturbed the inner circle at the Presidential Palace, prompting a high-ranking official in the circle like Dipo — a former activist and chair of the University of Indonesia's student council — to straighten out what the President's confidants had distorted or even twisted.

This description from "ring one", the term often used to refer to the group closest to those in power, should indeed be given its due attention. It is likely that the statement represents the President's own

During the New Order, the palace circle was very reserved, always trying to avoid providing any lengthy clarifications. They tried to speak briefly and if necessary in a stammering tone to make their listeners or investigative reporters bored in order to prevent any further questions.

The tactic was well understood by news hunters. Officials knew that every word they said could be seen as policy or a decision that was being considered. Therefore, "silence is golden" became their principle.

Those within the palace's inner circle are selected officials whose intellect and integrity should not be doubted. Unless those requirements are met, one should never wish to serve as a presidential aide.

In the government of former President Soeharto, the personnel of the State Secretariat and Cabinet Secretariat were carefully selected.

Like limbs of the body, the secretariats were like the two arms of the President. They could point to,
pick and place whatever was desired. But, they were also able to embrace dedicated friends with unquestionable loyalty. No wonder people say the State Secretariat is "a state within a state".

The selective recruitment of the palace's inner circle personnel is indeed necessary because these figures are also a manifestation of the state and its leadership. Exactness and caution are required to prevent any leakages, as the eyes and ears of the President are with them.

Any failure to make keen observations due to personal interests will surely render the information for the President ineffective. This also applies to all ranks in the inner circle, which in the New Order period was considerably limited.

Administrative order as the main characteristic of the former government of Soeharto deserves praise.
Selectivity certainly doesn't abandon the principle of regeneration and change. There is thus no need to debate the dominance of the younger generation in the current ring one group at the palace.

As long as the intellect and integrity criteria are not ignored, there will be no administrative confusion.

Dissenting views and arguments should not occur if young officials continue to remember the local maxim, "mulutmu harimaumu" (watch your mouth).

Speaking little does not indicate a lack of knowledge, but rather implies wisdom in controlling the heat of power that may have become part of their personal identity.

Ring one officials possess special qualities. This is not only because they serve as the President's closest aides, but also because practically the entire body of state secrets is kept within the State Secretariat.

As the head of government, the President is aided by the Cabinet Secretary, who is in charge of monitoring and coordinating Cabinet members.

Meanwhile, the State Secretary assists the President in his role as head of state, particularly in relations with friendly countries.

For these reasons, the ranks in the State Secretariat and Cabinet Secretariat should be filled by those with broad horizons.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's first five-year term saw a fairly large ring one staff. Since his second term began in October 2009, the circle has continued to grow.

Institutions within the presidential circle have increased in number and many officials have been

But with this reality, when will the staff be slimmed down? If the palace circle itself is unwilling and unable to launch a "bureaucratic reform", how can it set an example for other government institutions?
It seems such reform needs to begin with the ring one institution at the Presidential Palace.

The writer was assistant to the minister/state secretary from 1998-2000.







The International Year of Forests (IYF) 2011, launched Feb. 2 at the UN General Assembly in New York, did not start with a bang.

It didn't make the news in the Indonesian press and received only scant mention in the world media. The crisis in Egypt, particularly the clash between the pro- and anti-Mubarak demonstrators on the same day, crowded it out.

Yet the message of the IYF is profound. Forests cover 31 percent of the world's land area. The livelihood of 1.6 billion people depends on forests. Trade in forest products was estimated at US$327 billion in 2004.  Forests are home to 80 percent of our terrestrial biodiversity, according to the UN.  

The intent of the IYF is to raise awareness of the global agenda for the conservation and sustainable development of all types of the world's forests. The UN resolution making 2011 the International Year of Forests recognized that sustainable forest management can contribute to eradicating poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The iconographic logo of the IYF depicts a tree. In its bough are the shapes of forest-related flora, fauna and products and a green human figure in the middle, arms and legs outstretched. The logo encapsulates the year's core message: Forests for people.

For Indonesia, this calls to the country's own tropical rainforest and the people who make it their home. Indonesia's land area is 193 million hectares. Of that area, 108 million hectares are forest. But nearly half of it is gone or degraded due to forest fires, illegal logging and land conversion. This loss greatly affects the people indigenous to and dependent on the forests.

Indonesia's population is 237 million according to the May 2010 census. Of that number, 50-70 million or 23-32 percent are indigenous peoples, according to Ithe Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) AMAN defines indigenous peoples as a group of people who have lived in their ancestral domain for generations, have sovereignty over their land and natural resources and govern their community by way of customary laws that sustain the continuity of their livelihoods. Many indigenous peoples in Indonesia live in forests.

"Indigenous peoples have the strongest interest and motivation to protect their forest and territories in order to preserve their sustainable livelihoods. They live a low carbon lifestyle," Abdon Nababan, secretary-general of AMAN, told an Asia-Pacific climate change training workshop in Jakarta in January.

Indonesia's indigenous peoples are numerous. Kalimantan alone has more than 500 tribes and there are also the Talang Mamak in Sumatra, the Kayan in Kalimantan, the To Kaili in Sulawesi, the Baduy in Java.

They have their own traditional knowledge and institutions passed down from generation to generation that preserve their environment. They have their own system of land use and land allocation.

They develop diverse cropping patterns, maintain sustainable communal water management and practice sustainable agriculture and agro-forestry. They talk and sing to the trees, the mountains, the rivers, the animals and plants. These are the people who are protecting the Earth, according to Abdon.
One such people are the Lubuk Beringin people in Jambi, Sumatra. Their grassroots local wisdom helps to minimize climate change impact.

They cut trees only after consultation, avoid growing crops on riverbanks and upland to prevent soil erosion and build watermills on rivers for electricity.

In engaging the International Year of Forests, Indonesia can do two things. One is to conserve existing forests and reverse the loss of forest cover. Second, the nation might maximize forest-based environment-friendly economic and social benefits and advance the livelihoods of forest communities.

For the first point, the Forestry Ministry's "Billion Trees" program, initiated in December 2009, is well-intended. However, it would be more meaningful to protect and conserve the trees that are still standing. They already function as carbon sinks whereas it would take a generation for newly planted trees to grow to serve the same purpose.

For the second issue, the government, business interests and the public at large should respect the rights and sovereignty of the indigenous people of the forests. They live in harmony with nature.

To learn from them and apply their values would place Indonesia ahead of the climate curve and reduce the climate crisis by half.    

The writer teaches journalism at the Dr Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS) in Jakarta.







Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution clearly mentions that the state controls natural resources and they should be used optimally for people's welfare.

This rich country has abundant natural resources, including oil and gas, which spreads from the western to eastern tips of the land. Ironically, the Indonesian people have yet to enjoy the wealth in equal portion.

The policy to accelerate gas development in Indonesia will not easily materialize as it will need a breakthrough and strong political will.

Certainly, this is in line with the increasing consumption of gas energy both in international and in domestic markets.

As a country endowed with huge natural gas resources, Indonesia should have served as a good host for the gas industry, both users and producers.

The 2011 Indogas Business Forum held from Jan. 24-27 at least left an important message in the efforts to develop natural gas in the country. The forum, attended by stakeholders in the gas industry, triggered the Indonesian gas industry to engage in critical thought to increase its competitiveness in the global market.

One thing that should be underlined is the regulation in the gas sector, which has been considered "unfriendly" to investors. Issues such as oil and gas income tax, the determination of domestic market obligation (DMO) as well as cost recovery have caused anxiety among the gas industries.

If the regulation cannot be used as a legal umbrella for investors, there will be no conducive and favorable climate for investment. In this case, the government must be more responsive by imposing a fair and balanced rule of the game.

It is not easy for investors to maximize oil and gas development in Indonesia. High-cost development and a costly advanced technology application have been the main reasons for the investors' reluctance to develop oil and gas wells.

It sounds like a classic argument, which always arises but it also carries a strong message. To shift oil and gas fields from the western part of Indonesia to the new area in the frontier part of the east without adequate infrastructure would be a different problem.

Investors have their own business calculation: The margin between production price and selling price would not be too large.

The fact is that the domestic gas price remains too low. This has been deemed an obstacle for investors to explore national oil and gas fields maximally as they have the obligation to supply the domestic market. Gas industry players, especially those operating in difficult areas, lack the enthusiasm to develop their fields because they only offer less profit. Such a problem has always been voiced by Commission VII of the House of Representatives in its hearing with the government.

The new vision of self-sufficiency in the national energy sector should at least be implemented seriously to design a fair regulation that helps create a competitive gas industry.

We have two paradigms in place so far, first when former vice president Jusuf Kalla said that industry should follow the energy source, and second, when current Vice President Boediono said that energy development would not merely focus on revenue but more importantly on economic growth. Both paradigms must be seen as new pillars for the integrated development of national energy sustainability.

To reach the target of energy independency, Commission VII has encouraged integrated efforts to materialize three key factors: Assurance of national gas supply, adequate infrastructure and national policy to set a competitive domestic gas price. National gas supply will need a more concrete, firm and clear policy, as well as a technical regulation from the government to assure huge investment.

In terms of policy, the government must actively encourage the development of industries around gas resources (industry follows the energy concept). Thus, the cost production for gas consumer industries will be more efficient and optimal. Industrial areas in the future will go to the eastern part of Indonesia.

What investors expect more is supply assurance and adequate infrastructure. As we all know, domestic gas supply remains low despite the huge national gas production. Exploration that is not followed
by favorable selling prices has become the main hindrance beside poor infrastructure.

If the problems of gas supply and infrastructure remain unaddressed, it will negatively impact on efforts to shape a maximum consumption pattern of energy. Investors has demanded the government immediately finish the construction of integrated terminals for LNG storage (floating storage and a regasification unit) and a pipeline network to help distribute gas optimally.

Furthermore, we wait for the government's concrete action to create a conducive investment climate in the gas sector. We therefore urge the government to immediately issue a pricing policy for domestic consumption.

We must admit that in terms of gas pricing, the government has yet to provide a solution that satisfies gas investors. While domestic need has increased due to declining supply of fuel oil and huge subsidy for energy, it is time for the domestic industry to leave the comfort zone of cheap gas prices and begin seeking gas supplies that are more expensive but are still more competitive compared to fuel oil.

The House has continuously asked the government to set a domestic gas pricing formula by involving business operators so as to reach its economic value. If the government solves this pricing issue, then the huge domestic-need potentials will become effective demand.

Basically, it would need huge investment and expertise from the gas industry to answer the challenges. The government's role in policy is also needed to support the development of the national gas industry.

Finally,  there are only two options left. We may be proud of our huge gas reserves but let them remain unexploited because of a high-cost economy. Or else we commercialize gas reserves effectively for the domestic need by evaluating the domestic price.

The writer is a member of the House of Representatives' Commission VII on energy from the Golkar Party.









In the deluge after devastating deluge, one of the worst ever in Sri Lanka, some 1.7 million were affected and about 500,000 forced to flee to temporary camps. Besides the human suffering some 500,000 thousand acres of paddy land and tens of thousands of tonnes of vegetables were reportedly destroyed. As a result we see a situation where tables have been turned in our kitchens with vegetable prices soaring to their highest ever levels. The humble red onion is now being sold at a staggering Rs.400 a kilo forcing most people to use third grade big onions imported from India.

In the aftermath of this crisis, in a bid to turn a calamity into a blessing, the government is now focusing on the hallowed home garden concept, which was discarded or drowned when the Jayawardene government of 1977 swallowed entirely the globalized capitalist market policies. As a result for the past 35 years Sri Lanka has been flooded with hundreds or thousands of non essential imported food items. But misguided Sri Lankans swallowed them with glee and that may be one of the reasons why so many people are falling sick so often despite the marvellous advances in medical technology. Adding to the unpalatable misery was the threat posed by genetically modified (GM) foods.

It is after these painful experiences that President Mahinda Rajapaksa speaking at the Saman Devalaya in Ratnapura announced the government was taking new and effective steps to bring about self sufficiency in vegetables. Setting the example he said vegetables were now being planted in the gardens at Temple Trees, the President's house and the Presidential Secretariat.  The President said that while leaving Temple Trees on Sunday he saw large scale cabbage cultivations in Temple Trees and he called on the people to act likewise. Earlier the government announced that all state institutions including schools were being directed to plant vegetables in their gardens as part of the drive to achieve self-sufficiency.

Most of these problems regarding vegetables and related issues arose because Sri Lanka does not have a national food and nutrition policy. For several years, health action groups have been calling on the government to introduce legislation for a national policy on food and nutrition. We hope this will be done soon with bountiful incentives being given to those  who maintain good home gardens. One important factor is the need to ensure that the vegetables or fruits we grow in our home gardens are not polluted by chemical fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides. The government and non governmental organizations need to conduct awareness programmes on bio farming with the use of cow dung or other natural fertilizers. From vegetables and fruits in home gardens, Sri Lanka could then proceed to a healthy second step where every family could have an 'Osu Uyana' in their homes, this means growing medicinal plants. As the President said, for this and other virtues to grow the political leaders and the people need to be liberated from self centeredness and greed and live for the common good of all, though what we see in most politicians today is a huge pig sty between what they preach and what they practice.







 'It takes centuries of life to make a little history; it takes centuries of history to make a little tradition.' – Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan
The term 'power sharing' (like its typically recommended, on-the-ground articulation, 'devolution') has been used for a long time in the Sri Lankan political discourse, especially in the context of resolving what are called 'minority grievances'. 

 Now 'devolution' can be argued for outside of ethnic politics as well -- for example in discussions of development, better distribution of wealth, greater degrees of participation in the decision-making processes etc. On the other hand, there is nothing to state that the objectives relevant to these other arguments can only be obtained through devolution. Better structures of governance and d