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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

EDITORIAL 23.03.11

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month march 23, edition 000787, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh's offer to leave office, possibly by the end of the year, was received with jubilation by anti-Government protesters but has left the international community worried about what lies ahead. Mr Saleh, who had earlier refused to step down until 2013, has had a change of heart when he found himself deserted by several close associates. Over the past few days, the President has been hit by a damaging series of defections by senior military commanders, powerful tribal chiefs and several members of his diplomatic corps, and his offer on Tuesday to allow for a "constitutional transfer" of power is a major concession to protesters demanding his immediate resignation. However, the details of this power-transfer deal remain unclear: On the one hand, Opposition groups have rejected the deal, but on the other, reports have emerged that an agreement is still in the works while Mr Saleh himself struck a discordant note when he warned against a coup and refused to hand over power to the military. Mr Saleh's 32-year-rule was first threatened in late-January when activists took the streets following the ouster of President Ben Ali of Tunisia but suffered its most serious setback on Friday when the Government launched a brutal assault that killed 45 people — this attack opened the floodgates for the wave of defections. By Tuesday, at least 18 Yemeni Ambassadors, Yemen's Representative to the Arab League, its Ministers of Youth, Culture, Tourism and Human Rights, other ruling party members, tribal leaders and military commanders had deserted Mr Saleh. Notably among them was Major-General Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, a senior Army commander who has been a long-time confidant of the beleaguered President and is also his half-brother. Gen Ahmar's defection has led to a split in the Yemeni armed forces as troops under his command in the powerful 1st Armoured Division have also switched loyalties and are now shielding the protesters while the Presidential Guard, headed by Mr Saleh's son, continues to protect the palace. Gen Ahmar's desertion may well prove to be a turning point in the crisis, especially since Mr Saleh has also lost the support of influential tribal leaders: On Monday, the leader of the Hashid tribal confederation — of which he is a member — and one of Yemen's most important tribal leaders joined the protesters.

As Mr Saleh's Government is pushed to the brink, the international community must now worry about the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a regional franchise of the global terror outfit which has found a safe haven in Yemen. Mr Saleh's Government has long been an ally of the West in its global fight against terror and since 2009, the President has shared a 'relationship of convenience' with the Obama Administration — the latter has kept the Yemeni Government in good humour by supplying it with wads of cash ($300 million annually in American aid) and loads of weapons; in turn, Mr Saleh offered to look the other way while the US carried out its counter-terrorism operations. It is still uncertain how supportive the new regime, if there is one in the near as well as distant future, will be of the campaign against Al Qaeda and its terror offshoots, especially as it finds itself dealing with more pressing problems at home where it has a restive Shia population in the north, secessionists in the south and widespread poverty and illiteracy across the country.







While millions of Indians in rural areas currently lack access to potable water, 26 out of 33 districts in rural Maharashtra are not worrying over water, even during the summer months. Today, some 1.2 million households in this region receive piped water in their homes — thanks to the Jalswarajya project, a World Bank-supported rural water supply and sanitation programme that was launched in 2003. Water scarcity is a reality not just in India but world over with more than two billion people affected. However, according to a Unicef report, the crisis in India is acute and in future there will be "constant competition over water between farming families and urban dwellers, environmental conservationists and industrialists". The Jalswarajya project has successfully involved villagers in the decision-making process and empowered them to plan, operate and maintain their own water supply systems. Right from identifying the sites for wells, hiring local contractors with the help of NGOs to operating the wells, the project has galvanised both men and women. So much so, villagers have come together to build roads when inaccessible hilly terrain made logistics difficult. Interestingly, they were willing to contribute to the cost of the project — people in a tribal village paid five per cent of the cost, whereas those in a non-tribal village contributed 10 per cent — as it would make life easier for them. Most important, the availability of water has made them conscious about hygiene. Today, not only children are learning the importance of cleanliness and washing their hands, several gram panchayats have been declared free of open defecation as low cost toilets are a new phenomenon.

Without doubt Governments, irrespective of the political party in power, have made efforts to solve the country's water problem. When former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed Parliament on the NDA's action plan, he said if there was one thing he would like to do in five years it would be to ensure drinking water for all villages. Before him, Rajiv Gandhi set up a drinking water mission. The Jalswarajya project has proved to be a success because it has moved away from the usual practice of the bureaucracy deciding and delivering on local schemes, its top-down approach taking years to implement projects. Hence, it would be a step in the forward direction if State Governments develop a water supply model by involving stake-holders for the sustainable management of groundwater resources and sensitising them towards the need of proper maintenance of the supply system. Further, to address the impending threat of a water crisis, State Governments should focus on rain water harvesting, take measures to reduce rapid depletion of water sources and balance competing demands between urban and rural areas, and the industry and the environment.









Recent incidents of piracy by Somalis on high sea indicate that the pirates have moved out and beyond the Gulf of Aden and dangerously close to India's shoreline. They now attack with impunity merchant ships in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean a short distance from India's territorial waters. The Government should act with a firm hand before it's too late

The ancient phenomenon of piracy resurfaced in the 1980s and 1990s and reached a peak around 2000 when there were a total of 469 attacks on merchant vessels. The bulk of these attacks (242 incidents) were focussed around the straits of Malacca. Concerted international action managed to bring down the number of these attacks. However, by then Somalia had emerged as a failed state where the central state authority had crumbled and local warlords ruled the roost. Such failed states become shatter zones of collapse and form the ideal havens for non-state actors like terrorists and pirates. By 2008, Somalia had become the new locus for world piracy. In fact, the levels of piracy reached such a peak (406 incidents) in 2009 that many nations felt compelled to deploy their navies in the Gulf of Aden to escort ships and enforce convoys. The Indian Navy had sent its first ship into the area on October 23, 2008. Energetic operations by the combined International Task Force 150, combined with naval ships sent by Russia, China and India, soon forced the Somali pirates to reduce their operations off the Coast of Somalia.

However, in response, the Somali pirates simply began to shift their areas of operations further. They first shifted to the East African Coast and off the island states of Seychelles and Madagascar. What is now cause for alarm is the major shift of Somali pirate attacks into the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean Region in 2010. The piracy incident maps issued by the International Maritime Organisation for 2005 and 2010 clearly highlight this major shift in the Somali pirate attack patterns. Somali pirates have struck last year off the Lakshadweep Islands and hijacked ships as close as 300 to 400 nautical miles from the Indian coast. To range so far and wide on the high seas the Somali pirates hijack ocean going commercial vessels and use them as mother ships to stage attacks in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. What was the world's problem so far, may now increasingly become an India's problem.

As of February 2011 the Somali pirates were holding 33 ships and 711 sailors as hostages for ransom. Some 215 out of these (almost 30 per cent) were Indian sailors. Of this staggering number, 136 sailors have so far been released. However, 79 crew members and seven Indian ships are still held hostage by the Somali pirates. The Somali pirates are now increasingly striking the busy shipping lanes off the Lakshadweep Islands. Between November 24 and 29, 2010, there was a spurt of piracy attempts in the eastern Arabian Sea between 350 and 700 nautical miles from the Indian shore. On December 5, 1910 they captured a Bangladeshi merchant ship (MV Jahan Moni) some 70 nautical miles from Indian territory off the Minicoy Islands. On January 28, 2011 the Indian Navy and Coast Guard destroyed a pirate mother ship Prantalay 14, some 300 nautical miles off the Lakshadweep Islands. This ship had been seized by pirates in April 2010 and was being used as a mother ship.

The latest incident has occurred on March 14, 2011 when Indian warships rescued the ship, Vega-5 of Mozambique which had been hijacked by Somali pirates just 600 nautical miles from the Indian shore. A group of 61 Somali pirates were captured and 90 weapons recovered. Clearly the problem has come too close to our shoreline for comfort. The Indian state's mollycoddling of terrorists and pirates has encouraged them to strike closer to our shores. In concert with our soft approach to terrorism, we have so far adopted an equally soft approach towards piracy. Our concern for observing the niceties of international laws seemed far greater than our concern for the safety of our citizens.

There was media outrage recently over the Government's "lack of sensitivity and concern" towards the fate of Indian sailors of MV Suez (an Egyptian ship) hijacked over 11 months ago. It is surprising that the Government has expressed its total helplessness in the face of such pirate attacks on it citizens. We have been insisting that our security forces deal with all the 21st century problems of piracy and terrorism under the CrPc enacted in the 18th century. We first of all need to enact laws that criminalise piracy as defined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marcos need to be freed to act far more energetically against suspected pirate ships and hijacked mother vessels. Mercifully, the rules of engagement have now been reviewed and the Indian Navy has shown what it can do to raise costs for such piracy. We need to engage and disable pirate ships in a far more pro-active manner and if necessary storm any Indian merchant ships that are hijacked by pirates. We need to act and avoid tying ourselves into bureaucratic knots. Such expressions of helplessness only invite more attacks.

Hijacked ships taken to Somali ports must be tracked by GPS and surveillance satellites and wherever operationally feasible, rescue attempts must be mounted to deter such hostage-taking. Alternatively once the hostages and ships are released, the crews must be thoroughly debriefed and Somali ports or facilities where these were berthed must be subjected to naval aviation/naval gunfire strikes. The UN Security Council Resolution of December 17, 2008, in fact, had called for international land and sea operations in pursuit of pirates. We may also consider putting armed guards on our merchant ships traversing such vulnerable areas.

The world cannot passively watch the mushrooming growth of the menace of piracy. This is endangering commercial activity on the high seas, particularly in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean Region. Lloyds of London have now added "war zone premium" for commercial marine activities in the Arabian Sea and the north-west part of the Ocean. This area is fast becoming an actual war zone and we need to go beyond our habitual pacific mindsets and soft approaches to free the Indian Navy to act aggressively against such non-state actors that are endangering the lives of Indian seamen. The Americans have never hesitated to use force to safeguard their sailors. The MV Mearsk Alabama's captain was taken hostage by Somali pirates in April 2009. The US Navy Seals struck and killed all the pirates involved and rescued their Captain.

The Chinese are using the piracy threat to muscle their way into the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean Region. So far the Chinese Navy has mounted over 300 escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean Region. It has escorted 2,454 Chinese and foreign vessels in this region.

The island micro states of the Indian Ocean Region like Maldives, Mauritius and Sychelles are getting concerned by the rise of piracy. At this rate they may invite the Chinese to establish bases to provide security. India will have to pre-empt such moves. That means it must reach out and try and become a net-security provider in its own geo-political backyard. To do that, it must first secure its own citizens and ships. It is also time to send a clear message that we will not tolerate attacks on our citizens — whether by pirates or by terrorists. We will do all in our power to raise the costs for such attacks. The threat of Somali pirates is coming too close to our shores for comfort. It is time to act pro-actively before other Navies move into our backyard to undertake this task for us. India has great military power at its disposal. The state must now learn to use it to safeguard the lives and property of its citizens.

-- The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army.







If US and India have developed a relationship that is institutionalised then it is a no-brainer to believe that change of Governments will not lead to any policy shift

The conversation was in a plush room near where the United States Secretary of State works. It was indeed a stately room. And the discussion took place some months after India voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency. One of the Indian parliamentarians began the conversation with Ms Condoleezza Rice by saying that there was broad support for the Government of India's decision to vote against Iran. The normal practice for parliamentarians on travels abroad is to behave exactly the way they haven't been behaving in Parliament, with decency and a unanimity that suggest all is well. But this statement was a red rag for me, as it was for Mr Shahid Siddiqui, then still with the Samajwadi Party.

My interruption of the bonhomie talk was un-parliamentary but polite. When I said there was no such unanimity but resentment, Ms Rice had a surprised expression. She quickly asked the obvious question, "But why?" And so I began my explanation with history, and the perception of India-Iran relations. Little knowing that WikiLeaks would provide a document to suggest the contrary of what I was to say. Some US diplomat has written in one of the leaked cables that India is friends with Iran because of Islam and oil. And I in fact began by saying that was exactly the perception but not based on facts. I explained that India and Persia have known each other well from long before Islam was born and oil was found. And that they had been neighbours until 1947. A little forgotten fact.

To cap my argument I said, dramatically, that the world was looking for the Northern Alliance on September 12, 2001, and it was still alive because of India, Iran and Russia. And I, as an Indian, cannot say for sure that we may not need another Northern Alliance once Nato/ISAF tires of this war and returns home. So that was the reason I disagreed with the Government of India's decision to vote against Iran. Mr Shahid Siddiqui was vocal in his support, and even had it published the next day in his newspaper. And to her credit, Ms Rice stared for a bit, and then said, "Interesting."

So when I read about a US cable put out by WikiLeaks talking about the BJP and its policy toward the US, and people trying to put the party in a pickle, I was amused. Some members of the BJP are quoted in the leaked cable suggesting that the party's posturing was simply that, posturing, and in power the BJP would be different. And so various official spokespersons, as also unofficial spokespersons, are beating the drums loud and cheering this so-called doublespeak. But it is laughable; both for the naivety of the US diplomat who wrote that cable, as also for those trying to fish in waters that haven't any.

Sure I was in the stately room of the US State Department talking to their Secretary of State as a member of the BJP, but on no account did I think that my sermon on Iran was an enunciation of the party's policy in toto. It certainly reflected elements of party policy, but the stresses were mine, as an Indian with a greater interest in that country than most English-speaking types would have. I personally thought that it was a continuity of the policy that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee put into practice, and my explanation of angst was rooted in that period when New Delhi made policy on the basis of its interests, first and foremost.

A former US Ambassador was re-assigned to some high profile post in Washington, DC, and asked an interesting question to the visiting Indian delegation. He wondered if the UPA would be as extroverted in practice as was the NDA Government. I was reminded of that unanswered query when one of the leaked cables carried a lament by an Ambassador in Delhi about the changed nature of the bureaucracy under the UPA vis-à-vis the NDA. He felt that the bureaucrats were more forthcoming when the NDA was in power, and now they had retreated into their old selves. I thought it was a telling observation on the insular origins of Congress policies and the expansive nature of the NDA Government.

Even as some tried to scare the BJP leadership into supporting the India-US nuclear deal — otherwise the middle classes won't forgive you, et al — the party took a decision to oppose it on the basis of its vision for the country and its place under the Sun. A lot was made out about how the NDA had changed the paradigm vis-à-vis the US and that the romance had begun when Mr Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. It did, but there was much more to Indian policy than simply the India-US narrative. India, then, had built up its relationship with Israel that it had inherited from the decision of PV Narasimha Rao in opening up with the Zionist state. India had also built up its relationship with Saudi Arabia that has rarely been matched since then. And it developed its relationship with Iran to a point where it seemed ancient India and Persia were once again playing the game. Nothing could reflect statecraft better than managing relations with the three, distinct, poles of politics in the western parts of Asia. But India did, without hiccups — and without having to please its partner, the US.

Even as relationships between sovereign states evolve, change, and are in turn moulded by altering situations, relationships remain stable and secure when governed by long-term institutional benefit. If the US and India have developed a relationship that is institutionalised then it is a no-brainer to believe that change of Governments will not lead to any alterations, WikiLeaks notwithstanding. It is for India to first get a grip on what its interests are. And nothing reflects this better than a conversation with a CPI(M) MP that WikiLeaks will never get hold off.

On the day after the Iran vote in the IAEA, he was livid having been to see the Prime Minister and received a bizarre rationale for the Indian decision. And was lamenting the absence of Mr Vajpayee. On the question of sending troops to Iraq, Mr Mr Vajpayee, then Prime Minister, had suggested to the CPI(M) delegation which met him that they take their opposition to the streets. So he could tell the Americans that his countrymen were against the decision, said the MP. That is political statesmanship, he added. And that is how policies are going to be made, even as naïve cables may surmise otherwise thanks to WikiLeaks.







For two years, the Obama Administration has had a relationship of convenience with Yemen: The US kept the Yemeni Government armed and flush with cash; in return, Yemen's leaders helped fight Al Qaeda or, as often, looked the other way while the US did. That relationship is about to get a lot less convenient.

Of all the uprisings and protests that have swept West Asia this year, none is more likely than Yemen to have immediate damaging effects on US counterterrorism efforts. Yemen is home to Al Qaeda's most active franchise, and as President Ali Abdullah Saleh's Government crumbles, so does Washington's influence there.

Mr Saleh pledged to step down by the year's end. His 32-year hold on power has weakened during street protests over the past month.

Several foreign diplomats have turned against him. This Monday, three senior Army commanders have joined a protest movement calling for his ouster. But Mr Saleh has vowed not to hand power to them and branded their defections as an attempted coup.

Current and former US Government officials and analysts speculated on Mr Saleh's fall. "In the counter-terrorism area, it will be a great loss," said Wayne White, a former senior State Department intelligence analyst.

Whoever replaces Mr Saleh will inherit a country on the brink of becoming a failed state. There is a secessionist movement in the south. Pirates roam its waters. A rebellion in the north has been a proxy fight between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Half of Yemen's citizens are illiterate. A third are unemployed. Drinking water is scarce, yet the population is growing at one of the fastest clips in the world, far outpacing the Government's ability to provide even the most basic services. Half the country lacks toilets.

With all that, the challenge for the US will be to persuade Yemen's next leader to continue an unpopular campaign against Al Qaeda. Sheik Hamid al-Ahmar, a leading member of the Opposition who has been mentioned as a possible President, has dismissed Al Qaeda in Yemen as a creation of Mr Saleh's Government. The Obama Administration, however, considers the group to be the most serious terrorist threat to the US

The group, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, includes about 300 people sheltered by tribal allies in a rugged, hard-to-travel country twice as big as Wyoming. The group was behind the nearly successful bombings of US cargo jets last fall and a passenger airliner on Christmas 2009. The attacks grabbed the attention of Washington, which previously had regarded the terrorist group as a threat only in West Asia.

The Obama Administration responded by stepping up airstrikes in Yemen and encouraging Mr Saleh to carry out raids based on US intelligence. Aid to Yemen more than doubled. Green Berets and Navy SEALs trained Yemeni counter-terrorism forces, and US security teams arrived with airport screening equipment.

Last year, the CIA established a new department in the Counterterrorism Center to deal with Al Qaeda in Yemen and al-Shabab in Somalia. The CIA station in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, meanwhile, has grown in recent years from an office of a few dozen people to a bustling station several times larger.

Despite the recent push, the US still has little clarity about what the Yemeni Government would look like without Mr Saleh. The Obama Administration has not speculated publicly about it, but officials believe the two countries share a counter-terrorism interest that goes beyond any one person.

For years, the US knew it could influence Yemen by influencing President Saleh and those close to him. Because the Government there is notoriously secretive, and influence is traded among tribal and tribal leaders, the US has struggled to understand the world behind Mr Saleh's leadership.

"I don't think we know who runs Yemen and what they think," said Christopher Boucek, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who briefs Government officials and recently testified before Congress about Yemen. "I don't think we know very much about who they are, how they're connected to each other, what their family relationships are."

Earlier this month, the Congressional Research Service produced a 48-page analysis for law-makers on the situation in Yemen. The question of who might replace Mr Saleh was among the first topics. But the research paper devoted just two paragraphs to it, mostly speculation.

"Currently, there is no real consensus alternative to President Saleh," researchers wrote. "The security forces are led by members of his extended family and uprooting all of them may lead to civil war and the dissolution of the country."

Further complicating US efforts to build a new partnership in Yemen is the fact that one of the driving forces behind the protests is the country's fundamentalist Islamic Opposition party, known as Islah. The party's spiritual leader, Sheik Abdel-Majid al-Zindani, is on a US list of terrorists and has been described as a loyalist of Osama bin Laden. Though experts caution that Islah today is held together by shared Opposition to Mr Saleh, the group's ties to al-Zindani would make it harder for Washington to justify spending more money to arm or stabilize an Islah-led Yemen.

In its statements about Yemen, the Obama Administration has been careful not to put too much pressure on its fragile ally. After 40 people died in a Government crackdown on protests last week, the White House called for calm. But it has not publicly backed Mr Saleh or the protest movement.

"Our message to everybody involved is that this should be channeled into a political dialogue in pursuit of a political solution and a Government that is responsive to Yemenis," said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

On the question of who succeeds Mr Saleh, perhaps the worst possible answer for Washington is no one. A civil war, a series of unsuccessful leaders or a failed state would provide Al Qaeda with even more mobility and sanctuary. The worse things get for Yemen, the harder it would be for the Government to turn any attention toward fighting terrorism.

"You're talking about three insurgencies, no water, no oil, a failing economy, a food crisis," Mr Boucek said. "How much can this country take?"

-- AP






The explosions at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant sent stocks plummeting on Japanese stock exchanges. The Nikkei and TOPIX indexes fell 10.55 per cent and 9.47 per cent, respectively. Pessimism is spreading across the world, with key indexes in China falling by 1.4-2.4 percentage points and the Russian market dipping 2.5 per cent by noon on March 15.

One could chalk this up to speculators overreacting, if not for two things: First, the global crisis began in 2008 on the exchanges, and second, the post-crisis economy continues to teeter between recovery and decline.

The year 2011 was bound to be difficult. Last year's droughts and floods have caused food shortages and higher inflation around the world. Revolts in West Asia have caused oil prices to spike. Thousands of refugees are spilling into Europe, further complicating ethnic relations.

Any one of these challenges could prove fatal, as the global economic crisis is far from over. It continues to manifest itself in different ways around the world, for example as a sovereign debt crisis.

"The economy is teetering on the brink," said Mr Igor Nikolayev, chief of strategic analysis at FBK, one of the first private auditing firms in Russia. "The problems that caused the crisis have not been fixed; worse still, on top of stock market and commodities bubbles, there is now a food market bubble."

Even a smaller disaster could have provoked a new round of the crisis, Mr Nikolayev says, not to mention the massive earthquake and tsunami that have crippled the third largest economy in the world. This may sound like an exaggeration, but the fact is that Japanese automakers have halted production, the country is facing food and fuel shortages, and the earthquakes still have not stopped.

Early estimates put Japan's economic losses at three per cent of GDP, and this figure is likely to grow.

The bad news coming out of Japan is pushing Asian stock exchanges down, and rippling through exchanges across the world. The panic factor could easily tip the scales, sending the global economy hurtling back to 2008, when plummeting stock prices deflated many bubbles. A new financial crisis could emerge. Banks could restrict lending, with the subsequent erosion of demand and investment hitting the non-financial sectors hardest.

The time may have come for the world to settle its old debts, so to speak. During the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, politicians and business leaders identified the root causes of the crisis but failed to eliminate them. Some countries, such as the United States, took measures to restore economic balance, while others, for example Russia, moved in the opposite direction.

There is no consensus on how the humanitarian and economic disaster in Japan will affect the global economy. Yevgeny Yasin, academic supervisor of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, says the market economies are good at adapting to crises. They "mobilise resources during times of trouble and encourage business to work and generate profit." The economist is convinced that Japan will see a return to economic growth sooner rather than later.

Support for this view can be seen in the relative tranquility on Western exchanges. The Dow Jones fell only 0.43 per cent yesterday, while the Nasdaq dropped 0.54 per cent.

YuliaTseplyayeva, chief analyst at the Moscow office of BNP Paribas, is also skeptical of the doomsday scenarios. She believes the disaster will bolster the construction sector and keep energy prices high (which suits Russia), as Japan will need to buy more fuel to rebuild its economy. The increased demand in Japan will also benefit Chinese industries.

However, Mr Nikolayev thinks that the benefits, such as the inflow of private and Government investment, will not come into play for at least a year, whereas the negative consequences for the global economy could be felt much sooner.

-- The writer is a Moscow-based economic affairs columnist.









There will be some sighs as the Trinamool and Congress parties finally seal their seat-sharing deal for the upcoming Bengal elections, the allies sighing in relief, the incumbent CPM in resignation at the challenge posed. With the Congress settling for 65 of 294 seats, some aspects of realpolitik come to light. Aware of the crest Mamata Banerjee is riding, the Congress has made a wise decision to not squabble over numbers but give in to its more powerful regional partner. On its side, the Trinamool recognises the advantages of the alliance, keeping the anti-Left vote together and retaining its link with the national-level party. Why the last is a plus is connected to the Left's history in Bengal.

The CPM came to power in 1977, riding a tide of hope and achieving accomplishments like Operation Barga, land transferred to sharecroppers, while maintaining communal harmony in a state that experienced horrific rioting at Partition. However, it also choked much of Bengal's civil society, party politics dominating everything - whether college entrances, job allocations, law and order, the last a terror tactic used by party musclemen snatching rights and resources. Bengal once held myriad businesses and manufacturing. Over the years, faced with regimented bullying, these dried up. Meanwhile, the state's performance in poverty reduction and education dipped, its fiscal debt rose, its professionals migrated and the desperation around land intensified. Recently attempting to rejuvenate industry, the Left blotted its copybook severely. Its 'official' goondas terrorised locals at sites like Nandigram, handing Mamata a moral advantage.

Currently, while her own precise vision for Bengal's development is yet to fully emerge, Mamata's electoral strategy has been astute. The Trinamool first broke open the CPM's rural bastion, performing well in panchayat, zila and civic elections. It won over intellectuals, roped in software guru Sabeer Bhatia to help its cyber campaign and announced FICCI secretary-general Amit Mitra's candidature, sending encouraging signals to industry.

In all this, its link with the Congress remains significant for it sends a message that Bengal's days of isolation may be over. A government working with the Centre, not constantly opposing it, could serve popular aspirations well. The implementation of poverty reduction strategies, such as NREGA, could improve in an environment divested of patronage politics and ideological wars. And being linked to a party often in central government, answerable to Parliament, could help reduce political violence in the state. It is through moves like these that Mamata can show the Trinamool Congress isn't just about realpolitik but also real change, providing the break Bengal longs for.






Just three days after the United Nations Security Council approved resolution 1973 - that authorised member states to take 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians and to implement a no-fly zone in Libya - the Arab League has expressed reservations over western powers' interpretation of enforcing such a no-fly zone. US president Obama has wisely ruled out the involvement of American ground troops, and the British and French are hardly likely to send their soldiers in. But does enforcing a no-fly zone include attacks on Colonel Gaddafi's forces on the ground, thus trying to tilt the balance of Libya's civil war in favour of the rebels? The West must understand that it needs the support of Arab states. Alienating the Arab League would not only undermine the credibility of the UN-authorised resolution on Libya, it would lend legitimacy to the claim that this is another war by the West on the Arab world.

The initial objective of the resolution was to discourage a massacre that Gaddafi was openly threatening to inflict on his own people. One needs to tread carefully here. If aerial attacks by western powers begin to inflict civilian casualties, that is no different from Gaddafi's forces massacring civilians. The West must, at all costs, avoid an Iraq-like intervention in Libya. Regime change cannot be paradropped from outside, only Libyans have the right to bring about such regime change. External intervention must limit itself to strictly humanitarian objectives. And it must at all times carry neighbouring Arab nations along. Intervention with a heavy hand will only provoke a nationalist backlash in the Arab world, putting at stake the democratic resurgence taking place in the region.









Five years is a long time in the life of a democracy. It seems even more laborious in the rapidly transient world of today where any event or issue, irrespective of its consequences, ceases to impact public opinion for long. That only raises a simple question: Will the government's indifference to corruption or the opposition's no-holds-barred attack that we see today have any bearing on the elections of 2014?

A case in point is the way UPA-I handled terrorism. For four and a half years, Shivraj Patil, then home minister, was consistently ridiculed for inaction. The BJP was all set to fight the 2009 elections on the plank of "national security". However post-26/11, thanks to some deft damage control initiated by the new home minister, P Chidambaram, "national security" was instead usurped by the UPA. And instead of incurring losses for its mediocre performance in the first four years, UPA-I reaped the benefits of forging an image of aggressive governance in the last six months.

In a country where vast chunks of the population are not well-informed or discerning with their electoral choices, it is easy to psychologically manoeuvre their perceptions. That possibly explains why UPA-II continues to remain indifferent in the wake of umpteen scams. It knows that the opposition will find it virtually impossible to drag these issues till the next elections, especially if UPA-II changes its prime minister sometime in 2013 and effectively kills the very issue of a "weak PM". In that situation, it will be easy to paint Manmohan Singh as the culprit, while the Congress from being the culprit will effortlessly don the mantle of 'saviour'. And, for all you know, the party might fight the 2014 elections on the promise of cleaning up the mess that Singh had left behind.

This is where the opposition needs to show more foresight and form a shadow cabinet, a move that has been discussed at various points but has never taken a concrete form. In the present Indian scenario, a shadow cabinet holds several advantages.

First and foremost, we ought to understand that the public today has only a limited attention span. The sheer pace at which scams have been unearthed one after another in the last few months makes it easy for individual attention to slip from one to the other. In the long run, it provides the government adequate scope to fudge investigations as strong action taken in one case might give it the benefit of the doubt and enable a successful cover-up in other cases. It becomes equally difficult for the public to keep a tab on the opposition's handling of each of these cases, especially when two key leaders speak in different voices.

This raises the need for a clear role division among opposition leaders. As, say, a shadow finance minister, Arun Jaitley will have a clear area of jurisdiction. Similarly, Sushma Swaraj as, say, the shadow home minister or Sharad Yadav as the shadow defence minister will have clear agendas to pursue. Thus, clear demarcation of responsibilities will ensure more groundwork, continued pressure and effective follow-up throughout the tenure of the shadow minister. The latter ought to compile a performance report of his ministry in the end, which should serve as a ready reckoner of facts for the public.

Second, it is often seen that while opposition leaders clamour to be heard on specific political issues that are likely to grab media attention, many of the other mundane issues are ignored. For instance, the recent death of nearly 20 pregnant women at a Jodhpur government hospital due to neglect could have just as well put the government on the mat, provided the opposition had a shadow health minister pursuing health issues with equal zest.

Thirdly, by pitting the shadow minister directly against the actual minister, the opposition will only aid less discerning voters in making informed choices. For instance, if we had a younger and more alert shadow external affairs minister, S M Krishna would have found it difficult to get away with indifference after reading from the Portuguese minister's speech at the UN. Similarly, a shadow railway minister would have taken an absentee Mamata Banerjee to task over Indian Railways' escalating losses.

Finally, from the country's perspective, a shadow cabinet might help in setting a constructive agenda for each ministry. This has been proved in the case of Britain, Canada and Australia where shadow cabinets are looked up to. Issues need not come up for discussion only when something has gone haywire. Setting a new agenda is as important a role for the opposition. If the BJP feels strongly about pursuing a more aggressive policy for introducing biofuel in India, it should take the lead by appointing its shadow petroleum minister who raises the issue regularly inside Parliament, besides educating the public about its advantages.

It is worth noting that the media simply loves one-pitted-against-another situations. In the event of a shadow cabinet being formed, one can imagine the media conducting its own popularity polls between the minister and his shadow, especially before the elections. The results are bound to influence public opinion and the poll results. With so much at stake, the opposition could be losing out on a huge opportunity by doing things the old way.

The writer is an author, scriptwriter and columnist.








Actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks to Subhash K Jha about his new film Aarakshan and other projects.

You've just about completed Aarakshan with director Prakash Jha. How was the experience?

Yes! I just completed my last shot and the experience has been delightful. It's been wonderful working with Prakashji. The choice of subject, its intensity in today's world, the language of the film and its purity, issues that have been addressed and overall, the meticulous planning in drawing up the schedule of this film and making it work to order, have all been a rewarding experience.

You shot Aarakshan in your sasural (Bhopal). Did that make the experience special?

The film required a setting that was commensurate with the environment of a place like Bhopal. So Prakashji's choice to shoot the film here was justified. I would strongly recommend Bhopal for outdoor shoots to directors and makers that desire this kind of a backdrop. The most encouraging factor has been the city itself...disciplined, humble, respectful and most cooperative. We never had a single problem during the entire making from the city or its people. Being the 'jamai' (son-in-law) of the city always puts one in a special category, and I was never made to forget that.

The film Aarakshan goes into the issue of job reservation. What is your take on the issue?

Aarakshan does mean reservation, but I think the film deals with many more aspects than that issue. It would not be prudent to go into specifics just yet. We should wait for the release, allow it to be seen and then address any questions, if at all there were to be any.

You worked with Deepika Padukone for the first time. Many feel she physically suits the part of your daughter?
Yes Deepika and I have worked for the first time. She has an inherent warmth which she infuses in all she comes in contact with. She is a consummate and accomplished artiste, with an underlying grace. The choice by Prakashji, for her to play my daughter in this film, where I play the principal of a college, is greatly justified, and not merely because of her physicality.

You worked with Saif in Eklavya. Again, you've worked with his mom Sharmila Tagore. How do you rate Saif?

It was a joy to have worked with Saif. He is different from his mother, in having carved his own perception of the roles he has played so convincingly. I always believed an artiste brings along with his creativity a whiff of the kind of upbringing that he had. I notice glimmers in his temperament of a western education combined beautifully and so aesthetically with his regal background.

You now return to Mumbai to shoot Bbuddah, where you play a man who won't accept his age. Since you've never had a problem accepting age with grace how do you connect with such a defiantly 'young' character?
No... I think far too much speculation on the content of Bbuddah is being played out and unjustifiably so. The film isn't about me playing a character that refuses to accept his age; it has a lot more going for it. I will be playing my age in the film, but some of the circumstances that I get surrounded by and how they are eventually dealt with, would perhaps make people in the story of the film wonder, how someone of my age was able to accomplish it. That's all. He is going to be tough. And yes a bit vulnerable too. Much like most heroes in films. The only difference being the difference in age!







Hats off to Manmohan Singh. He's had the courage of his convictions to show us what Indian democracy is really all about. With three notable exceptions, almost all other major figures in India's political firmament today are hypocrites, in that they put up a public pretence as to what the word 'democracy' has come to mean in our country. Almost all our politicians try to foster the increasingly indefensible illusion that democracy - the supposed rule of the people, by the people and for the people through their elected representatives - involves a certain set of principles and practices above and beyond the successful contesting of elections. Among many other things, these principles include transparency and accountability in governance and the promotion of social and economic equity for all sections of society.

Though such principles and practices have been remarkable for their absence from our polity ever since Indira Gandhi's authoritarian regime which culminated in the Emergency, most of our netas have tried to convince us by putting up a show that these considerations - accountability of governance, the pursuit of social and economic justice, etc - are indeed part and parcel of the bori-bistar of our democracy.

Everyone knew, of course, that this was only a show, a tamasha put up for our benefit. Like the clown's routine in a circus, for a while the show was amusing. Then it began to become tedious, like a clown's act which goes on for too long, and finally it became an insult to the citizen's intelligence.

Now, with admirable candour, Manmohan Singh, following the example of Lalu Prasad and Narendra Modi, has brought the curtain down on this theatre of political hypocrisy by telling us in totally unambiguous terms what Indian democracy is all about, shorn of all stage props: it is only about winning power and hanging on to it by any means possible, once you have got it. The prime minister said as much when he brushed aside the opposition's charge of the cash-for-votes episode which occurred during the tenure of UPA-I. Singh's argument was that the fact that the coalition government had won the people's vote and been reborn as UPA-II was enough to absolve its previous avatar of any charge that might be levelled against it. The message of the PM (who himself hasn't won an election) was clear: Indian democracy is about the winning of elections and nothing else. Once you have won at the hustings you can justify anything that you do by claiming that you have the people's mandate to do it. In other words, electoral might is not only right, it is the only right that exists in our democracy.

Lalu Prasad had used a similar argument when, as chief minister of Bihar, he was indicted by a court of law for his involvement in a scam. At that time he had famously proclaimed that the only court he was answerable to was the 'court of the people'. In other words, his winning of an election was absolution for any crimes he might commit, before or after the event.

That same argument has been used by supporters of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who has yet to be cleared of his alleged implication in the post-Godhra riots in the state. That Modi - billed as the architect of 'resurgent Gujarat' - won the subsequent election is seen by his followers as a baptism by ballot which has cleansed him of all taint.

Manmohan, Modi and Lalu - for all their seeming ideological differences - represent the common reality of India's democracy: political power is its own justification. Might is right. Jiski lathi, uski bhains (the owner of the lathi, owns the buffalo). Or, to update the saying: Jiski jeet, uska desh.







The aftershocks of the March 11 earthquake in Japan are being felt in the world economy primarily through higher energy prices. Crisil Research estimates that with Japan shutting down 12.4 gigawatt of nuclear power capacity and Germany another 7.4 gigawatt, the price of liquefied natural gas could climb by as much as 50% over the next three months as the world's third and fourth largest economies switch to alternative sources of primary energy. Coal prices are likely to fall till the Japanese steel mills — the country accounts for a quarter of the world's coking coal trade — start rolling again while crude oil prices are held hostage by the crisis in West Asia, a Japanese switchover to oil will not have a significant impact. Refinery shutdowns in Japan, accounting for 9% of Asian capacity, have pushed up margins in Asia. But oil refiners elsewhere in the continent will have to grapple with high crude oil prices.

The second transmission mechanism is through Japan's position in the global supply chains of a host of industries from cars to computer chips. General Motors has already halted production at a Louisiana truck plant because of a shortage of parts from Japan. Moody's Investor Service points out that carmakers in the US have two months of inventories. But the 4.4 million cars sold by Japanese manufacturers remain vulnerable to seeing entire production lines grinding to a halt for the want of the proverbial pin from Japan. Similarly, US semiconductor manufacturers like Intel, AMD and Texas Instruments source a tenth of their revenue from Japan, which is the world's largest supplier of raw silicon wafers. Likewise, over 40% of the world's NAND flash memory chips used in mobile electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets are made in Japan. Already, spot prices of NAND memory chips have shot up by 20%. Again, Japan controls 90% of the global output of the basic resin used in integrated circuit chips and printed circuit boards.

India's direct exposure to the Japanese disaster is likely to be limited on the trade account because our big exports to the country comprise natural resources like iron, which will be back in demand once reconstruction begins in the second half of this year. The immediate trade disruption as the Japanese industrial complex shuts down is unlikely to be prolonged. Japanese investments into India, however, may face a longer-term squeeze as the country restores its devastated infrastructure.





When the Indian government speaks, the world listens. New Delhi's position on the decision of France, Britain and the United States to impose a 'no fly zone' over Gaddafinagar was made crystal clear by none other than India's external affairs minister SM Krishna. Armed with the gift of the diplo-gab, Mr Krishna stated that the Indian government views "with grave concern the ongoing violence, strikes and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya". 'Concern' is a good emotion; 'concern' is a strong emotion. He then added that "we regret the air strikes that are taking place" — an emotion that, we believe, even those conducting the air strikes share for various reasons.

But the true bugle blast that should make both the countries conducting airstrikes in Libya as well as the whole Qadd-adfa tribe shake in their boots is Mr Krishna's finger wag: "India calls upon all parties to abjure violence and the use of threat and force to resolve the differences. I think the need of the hour is cessation of armed conflict." The beauty of those rousing lines is that they could have been apt even at a Miss World contest or, with Mr Krishna's record, at a gathering for peace among the world's Portuguese-speaking people.

India, with its growing power on the world stage, practically read out the riot act (to whom is so obvious that it bears no reiteration) when Mr Krishna said that New Delhi would take up the issue of the airstrikes at various levels and would "continue to exert whatever influence we have on international fora to prevent further escalation of violence and conflict in Libya". So be sure to find the next South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), Non-Aligned Movement (Nam) and Rotary Club summits to be abuzz with India's bovine faeces-free line on Libya. And allowing no waffling-room whatsoever, Mr Krishna has stated that India will respect "the aspirations of the people of Libya". So there. Let there be no doubt now about where India, so deserving of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council, stands when it comes to Libya.






Is it any surprise that Congress ministers have dismissed the WikiLeaks papers as "speculative and unverifiable communication" that should not be "dignified"? This was the political mind-set that in 2005 actually argued the Mitrokhin Archive was not a repository of KGB papers but 'fiction'.

Somnath Chatterjee, then Speaker of the Lok Sabha, agreed with the Congress claim that the book was 'fiction' and stonewalled a discussion in Parliament. When it came to the 'cash for votes' affair, he did his best to obfuscate matters.

As such, when Chatterjee appears on television today, all injured innocence, it is difficult to sympathise with him. He has been part of serial cover-up operations.

To be fair, Chatterjee is only incidental to the story. The real issue is: how should a mature democracy use the WikiLeaks exposé? In the normal course, these diplomatic cables should not have come into the public domain. Yet the fact is they have. The information they offer comes in a context. There have been other, independent allegations of bribery before the July 2008 vote of confidence. The inquiry into those allegations has been suggestive but inconclusive. As such, wouldn't it be in order that the account of events as reported in the WikiLeaks cables also be considered?

It is nobody's case American diplomats (or even staff members of the US embassy who may be Indian citizens) be asked to give evidence or describe what they saw. Diplomatic immunity and the right to privacy any sovereign government and its mission have will prevent any of that. What comes in the way, however, of a questioning of the other individuals mentioned in the cables? If a police case cannot be built on the basis on 'unverified leaks', how about interrogation by a special parliamentary committee?

Mechanisms can be found if there is will. Unfortunately, that will is entirely absent. The Mitrokhin precedent is particularly telling. As is well known, the Mitrokhin papers are the largest repository of KGB documents ever removed from the Soviet Union/Russia. In 1992, Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior archivist at the KGB who had copied and pilfered thousands of top secret files over the years, defected to Britain with his treasure.

The Mitrokhin Archive is in the custody of MI6, the British external intelligence agency. A small, extremely sanitised portion of the KGB papers was published after vetting by London's intelligence and political establishment as the Mitrokhin Archive I (1999) and the Mitrokhin Archive II (2005).

The second book devoted two chapters to India, which it called "the third world country on which the KGB eventually concentrated most operational effort during the Cold War". It told some truly bizarre stories, including of suitcases of money being transferred through car windows on a busy New Delhi street.

The KGB, Mitrokhin Archive II alleged, routinely bribed Left and Congress politicians. It bought secrets and paid retainers. The KGB funded election campaigns of chosen candidates and parties and operated through a network of recruits in the intelligentsia, the media and the civil services, in addition to political proxies. The Mitrokhin books were careful not to use too many proper nouns, largely restricting themselves to naming people who were dead, or referring to KGB code names and broad descriptions of individuals and institutions. However, the chapters on India offer tantalising clues and often mention some names in other contexts, as if pointing the reader in the right direction.

What was published was a teaser trailer, all that was allowed to be shared with lay readers. MI6 and the British Foreign Office have made it clear that friendly countries and intelligence agencies are free to request access to the Mitrokhin papers, at least to sections and dossiers that concern them.

The foreword to Mitrokhin Archive II says: "A report by the all-party British Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) reveals that a series of other Western intelligence agencies have also proved 'extremely grateful' for the numerous CI [counterintelligence] leads provided by Mitrokhin's material." Aside from Britain, the US, Germany and Italy are among the countries that have used the KGB papers to uncover spies. Why not India?

Admittedly, not every criminal incident can leave behind enough evidence to ensure a conviction. However, the truth can still be reached and the guilty shamed.

Take cricket's match-fixing scandal. In 2000, it became clear some Indian cricketers had taken money from corrupt bookmakers to tailor their performances. There was a money trail; there were details of meetings and phone transcripts. However, technically the cricketers had broken no law. Also it was impossible to prove that, for example, a batsman had got out first ball because he had received money and not because he had been genuinely beaten by the bowler.

How did cricket authorities react? They appointed a former Central Bureau of Investigation joint director, K Madhavan, as a one-man inquiry committee. He interviewed and posed hard questions in one-to-one meetings with each of the cricketers mentioned in the police investigations and media reports. His professional rigour ferreted out hitherto unknown details and caused at least a few cricketers to break down and confess. Nobody went to prison, but the cricketers were blackballed. Will any politician ever be?

Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator n The views expressed by the author are personal.





Sara is a British Libyan living in Dubai and she emailed me an hour before our TV edition. "Please call me," she urged, "I want the world to know about my father." So we did.

Her voice had an urgency and her words a high-tempo. "He's a 70 and lives in Tripoli, and I think has spoken to the media. This morning he was attacked by eight men who support Gaddafi. They put a gun to his head, dragged him around the house and then made him sit and watch one of our family's nannies being raped. She's Indonesian, she has nothing to do with it." Her story became a plea. "The world has to intervene. People are disappearing, they're being tortured, they're being murdered. The world can no longer sit and watch. Words are not enough, Gaddafi doesn't care about words. This is what I have to say to the world." And with that she ended her call.

For Ahmed, a Libyan doctor in Manchester, Sara's words had an awful ring of truth. "My three brothers and father have never carried a weapon in their lives. They disappeared this week and we have no idea where they are. My mother is beside herself."

I often marvel at the calmness and eloquence of people in situations of unbearable pressure. As we talked, I flinched as I imagined living the day that Sara and Ahmed were halfway through, wrestling with the maddening thought of loved ones suffering out of your reach. "I'm a psychiatrist, I'm just managing to keep things together," Ahmed explained. It still seemed remarkable.

Earlier in the week, I'd spoken to Ramira. She lives in Manila, but her husband Alberto works in the oil industry in Libya. She'd stayed up late to take our call and hers was better news. Alberto was in Benghazi and looking certain to get out. "Do you resent him working so far from home?" I asked. "Oh no," she replied, "he can earn much more money there." "And what about the future, would you want him to go back?" "Of course, we need the money, there is no other way."

This is the long view that says that Libya can offer good work whichever way history's path turns. It's hard to believe that Sara's father's nanny would feel the same way.

Jalal followed Ahmed and Sara. He lives in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Ahmed mocked Colonel Gaddafi's claim that this people love him and wanted to know if Jalal knew anyone who felt that way. "Gaddafi is delusional," replied Jalal. "I'm certain even his children don't like him." Not that they could see each other, but the two men smiled across the screen.

Zainab broke that united front. She called from Libya, and her anger and frustration matched Sara's. "You're not getting a clear picture. I live in an area held by the revolutionaries, and they have hijacked the place, and kidnap those who oppose them." We don't want you here, was her unequivocal message.

It's always said of the Palestinians and the Israelis that there are two parallel narratives. The same applies to Libya, and we continue to hear both.

Ros Atkins is the host of World Have Your Say on BBC World News television and BBC World Service radio. The views expressed by the author are personal






When WikiLeaks was started in 2007 by a youngster Julian Assange, it was considered as yet another online manifestation of possibilities in cyberspace. But when in July 2010 WikiLeaks posted on its website more than 91,000 secret United States military reports related to the war on Afghanistan mostly unredacted (uncensored), the world — and particularly government authorities in the US — sat up and took note. Then came more than 400,000 documents related to the war in Iraq with the names of informants redacted this time.

But it was only in late November 2010, when more than 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables, mostly related to the last three years, were released through the website that the leaks started becoming a major global concern. In the first day itself, more than 220 such cables were published. These cables related to diplomatic communication to and from the various American diplomatic missions reporting to the US State Department. Washington immediately sounded out most nations of the possibility of those contents creating concerns. Rightly, most nations have tried to steer clear of making this an issue with the American government. Right at that time, India was alerted by the US government that there would be related cables, but the timing of its 'going public' was unknown. In the next few days, nothing of real significance came up. It was only in the last couple of weeks that the actual cables started coming up. And since then, it's been trouble for the UPA government.

WikiLeaks mentions on its website that it believes that "it is not only the people of one country that keep their own government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government through the media". So the latest WikiLeaks have triggered a debate beyond the 'cash for votes' issue India is obsessing about. The bigger question that WikiLeaks has brought forth is regarding the extent of content regulation and a relook at cyberlaws across the world. The Espionage Act of the US was the closest legal entity that could have addressed and tackled the issue. But nothing foolproof has emerged regarding the jurisdiction of the Act being applicable outside the US when applied to non-Americans. The Shield Act introduced in December 2010 plugs the gap. In India, however, the provisions of the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 clearly provide measures on how to deal with such content. Section 69A of the law defines the procedures for the blocking of such content under a well-laid down procedure so that it is not misused by the government of the day. Luckily, the government has not abused the law and the track record so far for dealing with online content in India has been good. Security systems around the technical infrastructure of the internet have come under closer scrutiny since WikiLeaks first surfaced and better measures and firewalls are being already involved.

Multiple authenticity levels are already being put up. In fact, WikiLeaks mentions combined high-end security technologies with journalism and ethical principles as its defining feature. But to deal with the problems emanating from WikiLeaks, organisations and governments are having to scamper and look for a beefed-up security and a redefined ethics. While for many WikiLeaks is about letting the truth out, for others, it has created an atmosphere of fear and caution  about speaking out or even speaking.

Subimal Bhattacharjee writes on technology and security. The views expressed by the author are personal.





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






The West Bengal negotiations between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress have come to a close after much tension and jostling. The Tamil Nadu tug-of-war, of course, was even more charged, revealing the still unsettled nature of the Congress's state-level alliances and the party's internal tension over whether to go it alone in its erstwhile bastions instead of playing second fiddle to regional partners. It might appear as if the Congress has been shown its puny place in these states, going by the number of seats allocated. (It is contesting 65 of 294 seats in West Bengal, and 63 of 234 in Tamil Nadu.) These are big, potentially game-changing elections and in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, old certainties may well be upended.

Far from being marginalised, the Congress, as the largest party in the UPA, is still bang at the centre of these elections. If it ceases to regard itself as being in competition with its regional allies, the picture looks rather different. There is no single, unifying story to be played out in these five electoral arenas — but it is clear that the UPA is likely to be buoyed by the overall results. With the past few months having given the impression of the government at the Centre being in disarray, these elections could provide the Congress a chance to retrieve political coherence. A high-stakes electoral campaign of necessity forces parties to articulate their politics, something the Congress has been mystifyingly shy of doing of late, thereby reinforcing the impression of drift. Indeed, with the Left expected to fade out electorally, at least temporarily, and political forces consequently clustering around one or the other big pole, the Congress and the BJP should see reason to craft more nuanced platforms.

How fast the Congress cottons on to this opportunity could have implications for governance at the Centre. Instead of treating its alliances as a patchwork of necessities, the party needs to articulate a strong vision. Right now, the UPA lacks even the most rudimentary mechanisms for coordination — most issues are left for leaders to settle among each other. If the Congress hopes to be a binding agent for smaller players, it first needs to outline a cogent politics, and demonstrate how its policy interests mesh with those of its allies and how inventive it can be in reaching out to the opposition to pass important legislation. This could turn out to be a productive juncture for national politics.






If you're in trouble, there are few things that should cheer you up as much as Warren Buffett coming into view on the horizon. If he's interested in you, it means he thinks that you'll recover — that he is, in effect, betting the hefty purses of his investors on you picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and marching onwards. Buffett was recently in South Korea on a long-planned visit there, visiting plants used by an Israeli tool-making company in which he's invested; while there, he looked across the sea to battered Japan and declared that he saw "buying opportunities". It is tough to think of any two other words from any other man as capable of inspiring confidence in a Japanese recovery.

People look to Buffett because, in a world surrounded by those worrying about the short term, he looks to the long term. In the darkest days of the financial crisis, the moment at which many began to believe that, however difficult the climb up, there was a way out of the pit in which we'd fallen was when Buffett stepped in to buy $5 billion worth of Goldman Sachs stock — in spite of the fact that he'd long been a critic of the Wall Street investment-bank culture of which Goldman was emblematic. Lehman had crashed, Bear Stearns had gone down, Merrill Lynch lay dead — but, even so, Buffett took what he now calls "a bet on the US economy" and put money in the biggest I-bank of them all. So much of a surprise was it, of course, that it is precisely for allegedly passing on insider information about that buy that former McKinsey head Rajat Gupta is now being prosecuted.

So favourable were the terms at which he bought that Buffett makes $500 million a year from that investment; $15 a second. When a country is recovering, Buffett knows there's money to be made. It isn't that surprising, perhaps, that after his South Korea trip he visits India, to talk about insurance and machine tools. Oh, and as a reminder of why he invests, not just how, he will try to follow up on the efforts he and fellow philanthropist Bill Gates are making to corral India's wealthy into giving away more than a pitiful fraction of their fortunes to charity.







The world's great cities weren't born great. Consider this: "Household liquids and waste water were cast on the ground and flowed through the streets... It was common for city dwellers to use streets as a dumping ground for all manner of refuse." (New York City, 1900s, from Sanitary City by Martin Melosi.)

"The 'Abyss' is a pit of despair, into which pours a flood of vigorous life that perishes by the third generation. The city is a large maw into which tumble down the exploited millions, who eke out their lives in misery, dumb desperation and filth." (London, 1900s, from People of the Abyss by Jack London.)

These cities have come a long way from overflowing sewers and intergenerational hopelessness. The message: India's cities can also be fixed.

However, this requires evangelising the urban cause and a great deal of hard work. Cities transcend traditional sarkari definitions of being social or economic sector; they engulf education, health, infrastructure, housing, economic activity, environment and sustainable development within their boundaries. Hence, the idea of fixing our cities is not about finding a magic elixir or a silver bullet. Rather, it is about defining an enabling framework within which cities will improve, and — when they face challenges — self-correct.

The first step is to make cities relevant, moving the locus of debate away from chandeliered conference rooms. Compared to the somnolence of the preceding decades, India's urban narrative has come alive over the past five years. Today, most policymakers accept that urbanisation is a big challenge. Political parties acknowledge the importance of urban India. Media houses cover the travails of our cities with greater granularity. Corporate leaders regularly include "urban" in their "top 10 issues" lists. Academics and civil society institutions hold regular workshops on a variety of urban themes.

It is in this context that the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM, launched by the government of

India in December 2005) needs to be evaluated. If the mission were a movie, I would call it The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. While it is tempting to label JNNURM as having "succeeded" or "failed", public policy is rarely black or white, and a single initiative rarely delivers a comprehensive outcome. JNNURM's most significant value is that it made "urban" relevant, highlighting the challenges that confront urban India. Given how the process of any change in India is like the proverbial manthan — where the poison must first gush out before the nectar is extracted — JNNURM has unquestionably stirred the urban cauldron.

We now need to focus on moving ahead from JNNURM, which ends in 2012. Here, we need mature, nuanced debates, not pugilistic rhetoric that gets thrown across entrenched corners of the ideological boxing ring. The urban space, by its very existence, challenges ideological fundamentalism of both stripes — left and right. For any debate, context matters. And the recent report of the high powered expert committee (HPEC) on urbanisation is as good a context setter as any (visit to access the full report).

Among its recommendations, HPEC calls for a New Improved JNNURM (NIJNNURM), an idea that has stirred criticism.

Solving our urban challenges will require more money for urban infrastructure creation, more technical manpower for urban management, etc. The most important factor, however, is political will: state representatives willing to cede political space to mayors and corporators. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that politicians hate giving up power. Also, since 2008, our newly delimited electoral constituencies have had an unexpected effect on urban politics: positive for urban representation, with more urban MLAs and MPs, but negative for urban decentralisation, with bigger dogfights over political space. Add to this urban land and money politics, and the ground reality for "political will" is actually getting worse.

There are three — not necessarily independent — routes to solve this problem. One, get the courts to enforce constitutional amendments. Two, create public pressure. Three, design a mission that enables decentralisation, even if slowly and incrementally.

On the first, a recent spate of court rulings have not been positive for decentralisation activists. As to the second, generating public support is the sine qua non of a democracy. But our history as a "holding together" federal system has urban voters expecting the chief minister to fix their roads, and MLAs to clear the garbage — urban India's knowledge of local government is inversely proportional to its importance.

This is exacerbated by error-ridden urban voter rolls. Two years ago, in collaboration with the Election Commission, my organisation Janaagraha undertook a study of voter rolls in Bangalore. We found error rates to be over 60 per cent. With high migration into and movement within cities, current systems of electoral roll management barely keep pace.

This is where NIJNNURM fits in. It would be wrong to position a central initiative like NIJNNURM as the answer to India's urban problems. But it can be a sutradhar of urban change, catalysing responses and coaxing out the nectar, even as the manthan is churned.

One final point on our urban future, not about big-ticket infrastructure issues, but about individual urban residents, poor and rich. Whatever our "architecture" of urban reforms, we need to give people a voice in their mohallahs and neighbourhoods. The role of a government cannot just be about providing public goods, but also nurturing this sense of citizenship, by creating spaces for us to learn the art of collective decision-making.

In a feudal society like ours, citizens as well as governments see the state as a "provider" of services, at best treating citizens as "customers" but always outside the decision-making process. Given our development challenges and social heterogeneity, debates about deepening democracy are often seen as luxuries that we cannot afford, good only as esoteric ideas for drawing-room conversation.

In fact, the very origins of local government in India are rooted in training for citizenship. In Ideologies of the Raj, Thomas Metcalf writes of the sweeping local government reforms that Lord Ripon instituted: "As a liberal, Ripon introduced for the first time the objective of training Indians for self-rule. In the 1882 resolution, he said, 'local government is an instrument of political and popular education'."

We cannot build a vibrant society only on one wing of economic liberalisation; we also need to flesh out our civic identities. If not, our coping mechanism when faced with challenging public issues is to withdraw, pulling ourselves into a tightly wound cocoon of ever-shrinking personal space that we can control.

If we treat local governments as political kindergartens for our citizens to learn the ropes of democracy, the benefits are enormous — better quality of life in our cities, with local problems being solved locally; better quality politicians; and, most importantly, more harmony among classes, castes and communities.

The writer is national technical advisor, JNNURM. He was a member of the high powered expert committee that recently submitted its report on urbanisation







Claiming self-respect as more important than merely grasping for power, Vaiko, leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), impulsively walked out of J. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK-led alliance on Sunday. The statement, released by the party, gave vent to the hurt feelings of its leader V. Gopalswamy, popularly, known as Vaiko. He dubbed Jayalalithaa "haughty, arrogant and unilateralist in her decisions". But since he has been her ally for the last six years, Vaiko should only be too aware of the Iron Lady's temperamental ways.

Vaiko is caught in a bind. It is too late to move across to the rival DMK camp, where the electoral alliances with partners, including the Congress, have been sewn up. Besides, he had parted company with Karunanidhi and Family in a trail of bitterness. Going it alone will be tough and would only mean a complete wipe-out. Also, as the MDMK is no longer a recognised state party, its candidates cannot even expect to get a common symbol. Small wonder, then, the MDMK rationalised its decision to boycott the polls by claiming the moral high ground. "Just as there is no point in buying a painting after losing your sight, the MDMK has no need to obtain power after giving up its self-respect," explained Vaiko.

The difference between Jayalalithaa and Vaiko was over the number of seats. The MDMK climbed down from its initial demand of 35 to 21, but the AIADMK was willing to offer no more than 12 seats. In Tamil Nadu politics, where the swing of a percentage or two can make a difference between winning and losing, the outcome depends not only on the popularity of the main Dravida parties but also on the line-up of smaller outfits backing the rival formations. Some believe that Vaiko's alienation could be a setback for the AIADMK. After all, his party has all along garnered 4-5 per cent of the total votes polled.

But Vaiko's damage potential hinges on whether his party cadre heeds his advice to stay away from the assembly polls. Vaiko will not be able to stop his district leaders and their followers from switching to either of the two main political formations. A larger number is expected to join forces with the AIADMK. Vaiko's quixotic gesture of renunciation may end up harming his own party most of all.

Jayalalithaa was shrewd enough to realise that it was more important to accommodate actor Vijayakanth, whose political star is on the rise, than Vaiko whose influence is waning. In the 2009 parliamentary poll, the MDMK contested four seats and won only one. Vaiko himself lost from Virudhunagar seat. In the 2006 assembly poll, the MDMK won only six of the 35 seats it contested in an alliance with Jayalalithaa. Vijayakanth, who made his political debut in the 2006 assembly elections on his own by forming the DMDK, may have secured only one assembly seat, but got an impressive 8 per cent vote share. In the parliamentary elections, his vote share went up to 10 per cent. In both polls, he appears to have eaten into the AIADMK's vote bank. Vijayakanth, a fresh face in the state's political scene, has evoked much enthusiasm among the youth as well.

When Vaiko launched the MDMK in 1994, after being evicted from the DMK for protesting against M. Karunanidhi elevating son Stalin as his political heir, he too was a youth icon. He had a clean, charismatic image and was a great orator who focused on issues seen to be relevant to the state. He argued against the oppression of Tamils by the Sri Lankan government, while also sympathising with the Tamil Tigers and its leader V. Prabhakaran. But over the years he frittered away much goodwill because of his impetuousness.

Curiously, while Vaiko has had rocky relations with state-level leaders, he's enjoyed extremely good relations with prime ministers, from Rajiv Gandhi to Manmohan Singh. In fact, he did not push for a minister's post for himself at the Centre during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure, though he was a favourite and an important member of the NDA. He not only sacrificed his own interests, but he also failed to meet the expectations of his key supporters, several of whom have deserted him over the years. More than once, Vaiko has impulsively walked out of an alliance without weighing the consequences. After pulling out of the AIADMK alliance, Vaiko left to immerse the ashes of Prabhakaran's mother.

His party could turn out to be yet another lost cause. It would continue to cling to the self-respect slogan, first coined by Periyar and Annadurai, and would aggressively champion the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils, the MDMK resolution said. However, by deciding to boycott the coming poll, the MDMK is in serious danger of jeopardising its future.








World Cup 2011 has been one of the most exciting ones, ever. And after two dreary World Cups in 2003 and 2007 (remember the Kenya-India semi-final in 2003?), what a treat awaits cricket fans as the quarter finals get underway starting March 23. While a treat for the fan, a nightmare for those pretending to be Paul the Octopus.

But pretend we must. If elections in India can be forecast, why not cricket matches? I first took on this exercise in 1987 when I authored Between the Wickets which was then (and perhaps still is?) the only book to evaluate cricket statistically. The passion for the game still burns bright as ever — as does the quest to analyse, and predict, cricket matches and cricket outcomes.

I realise this is a hazardous exercise and the probability of being wrong is large. But who can correctly forecast cricket, with all its glorious uncertainties — and especially those involving Afridi's wandering warriors? But herewith some assessments and forecasts. For the true fan (both statistical and otherwise) has the details, past forecasts, and analysis and more. The details are for the geeks, but let us have some fun with their efforts.

Part of the reason for the excitement in this Cup is the fact that the top four Test-playing teams are at their closest in strength, ever. At the beginning of this Cup, there were no clear favourites, and this holds at the quarter-final stage as well. How CricketX gets at team strength is a circuitous and complicated affair; sufficeth to say that it is all UBHH — untouched by human hands. Yes, it is a computer model that generates the strengths, and updates such attributes on the basis of performance in each match.

Enough of the caveats by way of background. The safest quarter-final match to predict is the South Africa/New Zealand quarter-final. CricketX places South Africa as firm favourite with a 70 per cent chance of winning. Yawn. All the other three quarter-finals are forecast to be close matches with each of Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka having a 55-45 per cent chance of winning against West Indies, India, and England, respectively. Does that mean that the quarter-final is the end of the road for India?

Not so fast. In batting, India is ranked (by CricketX, of course) number one, some 15 per cent ahead of Australia, and 8 per cent better than South Africa. But, yes, all the rumours are true. India's bowling attack is the weakest; it is 20 per cent worse than the best bowling attack of South Africa. One-day experts generally underestimate the role of bowling. It counts for as much as batting. Which means that Australia wins?

Well, there are some other tricks that a statistician can pull. Remember home-team advantage? Analysis suggests that sometimes it can add about 4 to 8 percent to a side's chances of winning. Add that to the India Australia match and the outcome is even closer. And in such circumstances, especially as an Indian, you say that all the right things will happen, that Sehwag and Tendulkar will both click, and that India will proceed to the semi-finals for a match against Pakistan.

The likely line up then: India vs. Pakistan and South Africa vs. Sri Lanka. What can one say about Pakistan? They are entertaining, and unpredictable, which only adds to their appeal. Any neutral fan would want to see them in the final. But statistics back India. On the other hand, Pakistan is the most improved team since the beginning of the tournament. And in the last match, it defeated Australia, against all odds, including itself. The gang that hasn't been able to shoot straight for quite some time was able to win with pin-point accuracy. You gotta go with momentum; but then India is ahead of Pakistan in both batting and bowling. We have the best batting side in the tournament (remember that India scored 296 against South Africa). Luck and chutzpah can only take one so far. So while the India Pakistan match should have the usual fireworks, the odds back India.

South Africa - Sri Lanka. SA the most balanced side with one of the best bowling attacks of all time. Sri Lankan bowling is well, not South Africa. But Malinga, and especially oldie but goldie Muralitharan, can post a surprise. But don't bet on it. England can be there, (remember it is a close match between England and Sri Lanka ) but one is not allowed more than one exception to the CricketX rules, and I exhausted my referral with the forecast that India will win against Australia.

The story of forecasts so far. In the quarter-finals, the introduction of home-team advantage allowed the overruling of the Cricket X . If India cross the Australia hurdle, then according to Cricket X, they should win the final. But it will be close, and closer against South Africa than Sri Lanka. If Australia beat India, they are unlikely to win their fourth consecutive world cup. Now let us sit back and enjoy the cricket — and the forecasts.

The writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm







Libyan sideshow

The military initiative against Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship is good political theatre for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Little Europe's "big war" in Libya is only mildly controversial, for now. It has not drawn the kind of ferocious criticism that George W. Bush's occupation of Iraq did when it was launched eight years ago this month.

Put simply, Libya is not Iraq. While Gaddafi owns the prized "sweet crude" of Libya, he is at the geopolitical periphery of the Greater Middle East. Whatever it's final outcome, the current military intervention in Libya will not alter the region's balance of power.

The only countries that have chosen to raise the stakes in Libya are France and Britain. If the Libyan intervention is successful, Sarkozy and Cameron, both battered at home, should come out looking taller. Nothing boosts political ratings in a democracy than a show of force abroad.

Imagine the TV coverage when Sarkozy and Cameron land triumphantly in Benghazi over the next few days.

For US President Barack Obama, Libya is an unwanted distraction.While providing the much needed military weight to Franco-British muscle flexing, Washington wants out, and fast.

Obama is expected to cede operational leadership of the military action to the Europeans in the next few days. Unlike Sarkozy and Cameron, Obama is not hunting for political credit in Libya. He wants to avoid political debit.

Russia or China could have easily vetoed the expansive UNSC resolution that gave so much room for France and Britain in Libya. But they didn't. Moscow and Beijing have bet that they can wait.

If Gaddafi is ousted, Moscow and Beijing will exercise their leverage in the UNSC to define the terms of engaging the new regime. If Sarkozy and Cameron stumble, China and Russia can renew their bonds with Tripoli. India's game is no different. It's about minimising risks by sitting on the fence.

Bahrain hypocrisy

Many in India rightly point to the current double standards in the Western discourse. Paris and London say they have a duty to intervene in Libya and protect its people against a brutal dictatorship.

Neither of them has condemned the crackdown in Bahrain against peaceful protestors. Washington does not want to rock the boat in the tiny island nation for good reason. The US navy's Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain.

Bahrain has no oil, and its population of about 500,000 is not much bigger than what Mamata Banerjee might draw to the Kolkata Maidan on a rainy day. But Bahrain's geopolitical significance far outweighs that of Libya. It is now at the heart of the Saudi-Iran power play in the Middle East.

An overwhelming majority of Bahrain's population is Shia, but is ruled by a small Sunni minority. Saudi Arabia can't accept majority rule in Bahrain and chose to send its troops to put down the Shia revolt.

Iran, unsurprisingly, is the only country to protest Saudi intervention. Washington, London and Paris have much too much stake in Saudi Arabia to object.

If Western double standards in Bahrain are plain, so is Indian hypocrisy. Facing elections in Bengal, Kerala, and Assam — where the Muslim vote is of consequence — the UPA government wants to protect its left flank.

Delhi's expression of regret at the use of force in Libya and deafening silence over violence and foreign intervention in Bahrain do measure up well against the Western standards on hypocrisy.

Our communist parties, as always, are good at simplifying matters with an easy rule of the thumb: Western interventions are "imperialist" and Communist interventions are "progressive". Recall how the CPI and CPM defended the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan in the '80s.

While they fulminate against the Western actions in Libya, the Left parties are yet to speak up against Saudi intervention. Maybe their newfound love for Iran will persuade them to speak up.

Iran's intervention?

Meanwhile, Iran will find it hard to criticise its ally Syria's crackdown on its protestors. In Syria, a small Shia and Alawite minority has ruled with brute force over the majority Sunni Muslims.

Iran is said to be mounting its own intervention in Syria. According to the Syrian opposition, Iran has sent elite units of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps attack the anti-regime protestors in the town of Dera.

Iranians, of course, can argue that if Europeans can intervene in Libya and Saudis butt into Bahrain, why can't they protect their Syrian equities?

In the Middle Eastern "Hamam" there is no major power — global or regional — that is not naked in its pursuit of its interests. The question, then, is not about the legitimacy of interventions, but which ones might succeed and who might end up on the list of losers in the new Middle East.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







Who's keeping us safe?

An article in CPM weekly People's Democracy raises questions about the safety of India's nuclear plants. It also called for a separation of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to make it a truly independent body, reporting directly to Parliament.Although the government has promised a full safety audit of the existing reactors, it asks who would do this audit. The AERB draws its personnel and reports to the Atomic Energy Commission and is, in fact, located in the headquarters of the AEC, it argues, saying that "this is no way to run a critical safety regulatory function."

"In no country with a large nuclear energy programme is the nuclear regulator a part of the body it is supposed to regulate," it says. "If India is indeed serious about a nuclear energy programme, it needs to create a proper safety organisation in this area instead of the current AERB, which has become a virtual rubber stamp for the Atomic Energy Commission. A safety audit without an independent regulatory body is of little value," the article notes.

It observes that one of the points that the country's nuclear establishment has made repeatedly is that pressurised heavy-water reactors — the bulk of the Indian reactors — are much safer than light-water reactors. It is in this context that we have to look at the controversial Jaitapur project. "India should halt all import of reactors, particularly of untested and unproven designs from Areva, GE or Westinghouse and focus on creating a proper safety infrastructure for nuclear energy", and till then, there should be a moratorium on all imported reactors including Jaitapur and Kudankulam. All existing plants should be reviewed by creating a taskforce including independent members outside DAE, says the article.

The state of West Bengal

The CPI's deputy general secretary, S. Sudhakar Reddy, has written an article in the party's journal New Age about the forthcoming assembly elections in five states. Referring to West Bengal, he says that "some mistakes might have been committed" and that "long innings in power attract all sections including some undesirable elements. Lapses and mistakes to a certain extent have been identified."

He reiterates the Left's attack on the Trinamool Congress for joining hands with the Maoists. "The prime minister has been continuously carrying on the campaign that Left extremism is the biggest enemy of the nation. For him, cross-border terrorism, unprecedented price rise, unemployment and hundreds of billions of rupees of black money are not the main problems but Maoism is the biggest. But his party joins Mamata, and willingly accepts the support of Maoists to realise its dream of wresting power in West Bengal," he says. He says the CPI and the Left recognised that Maoism was a socio-economic problem which needs a political solution. "It is the Congress government, which wants to solve the problem through the barrel of the gun," he says.

He also says the Maoists, in their blind anti-Left attitude in Bengal, are unable to understand the dirty game of Congress and the Trinamool. "Maoists may realise later who their real friends are and who their enemies are, but it may then be too late to rectify the political blunder they are committing now," he says.

The truth dribbles out

The editorial in People's Democracy says the WikiLeaks exposures suggest the active involvement of sections of the BJP, with specific reference to the son-in-law of former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee, besides bringing out the role of "a close associate of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, considered to be a very close family friend of Sonia Gandhi".

"Thus, both the ruling and the principal opposition parties would have been very embarrassed if the investigations proceeded properly. Does this explain why the recommendations of the parliamentary committee were not implemented in right earnest by the UPA government?" it asks.

The CPM journal notes that the WikiLeaks cables make explicit the link between India's vote against Iran at the IAEA and American pressure on the fate of the India-US nuclear deal. "The cables reveal that while India had no illusions about Iran's nuclear ambitions or its capabilities for nuclear weaponisation or its support to terrorism, it, however, subordinated these to pursue a pro-US policy." On the cabinet reshuffle, it says: "That the USA was not merely interfering but directly influencing vital decisions of the Indian government becomes all the more apparent in the exposures contained in the cables." The editorial predicts that America's role in "snaring non-Left allies to support the UPA in cementing the nuclear deal will be exposed in future revelations".






These days we are all co-religionists in the church of multilateralism. The Iraq war reminded everybody not to embark on an international effort without a broad coalition.

Yet today, as an impeccably crafted multilateral force intervenes in Libya, certain old feelings are coming back to the surface. These feelings have been buried since the 1990s, when multilateral efforts failed in Kosovo, Rwanda and Iraq. They concern the structural weaknesses that bedevil multilateral efforts. They remind us that unilateralism may be no walk in the park, but multilateralism has its own characteristic problems, which are showing up already in Libya.

First, multilateral efforts are marked by opaque decision-making and strategic vagueness. It is hard to get leaders from different nations with different values to agree on a common course of action. When diplomats do achieve this, it is usually because they have arrived at artful fudges that allow leaders from different countries to read the same words in a UN resolution and understand them in different ways. The negotiation process to arrive at these fudges involves a long chain of secret discussions and it necessarily involves eliding issues that might blow everything up.

Sure enough, the decision-making process that led to the Libyan intervention was remarkably opaque. (It is still not clear why the Obama administration flipped from scepticism to resolve.) More important, the nations have not really defined what they hope to achieve.

Is the coalition trying to depose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? Are coalition forces trying to halt Gaddafi's advances or weaken his government? Would the coalition allow Gaddafi to win so long as he didn't massacre more civilians? Is it trying to create a partitioned Libya? Are we there to help the democratic tide across the region?

The members of the coalition could not agree on answers to any of these questions, so the purpose of the enterprise was left vague.

Second, leaders in multilateral efforts often obsess about the diplomatic process and ignore the realities on the ground. The reports describing how the Libyan intervention came about are filled with palace intrigue. They describe the different factions within the Obama administration, the jostling by France and Britain, the efforts to win over the Arab League. It's not clear who was thinking about the realities in Libya.

Who are the rebels we are supporting? How weak is the Gaddafi government? How will Libyans react to a Western bombing campaign? Why should we think a no-fly zone will protect civilians when they never have in the past?

In this, as in so many previous multilateral efforts, the process blots out the substance. Diplomats become more interested in serving the global architecture than in engaging the actual facts on the ground.

Third, multilateral efforts are retarded and often immobilised by dispersed authority and a complicated decision-making process. They are slow to get off the ground because they have to get their most reluctant members on board. Once under way, they are slow to adapt to changing circumstances.

Sure enough, the world fiddled for weeks while Gaddafi mounted his successful counterinsurgency campaign. The coalition attacks are only days old, but already fissures are appearing. The Arab League is criticising the early results. The French are not coordinating well with their allies. NATO leaders are even now embroiled in a debate about the operational command structure.

Fourth, multilateral forces often lose the war of morale and motivation. Most wars are fought by nations — by people aroused not only by common interests but by common passions, moralities and group loyalties. Multilateral campaigns rarely, on the other hand, arouse people. They are organised by elites, and propelled by calculation, not patriotism. No one wants to die for the Arab League, the United Nations or some temporary coalition of the willing.

In the Libyan campaign, Gaddafi's defenders will be fighting for land, home, God and country. The multinational force will be organised by an acronym and motivated by a calibrated calculus to achieve a humanitarian end.

Finally, multilateral efforts are built around a fiction. The people who organise coalitions pretend that all the parties are sharing the burdens. In reality, only the US can do many of the tasks. If the other nations falter, the US will have to leap in and assume the entire burden. America's partners go in knowing they do not bear ultimate responsibility for success or failure. Americans do.

All of this is not to say the world should do nothing while Gaddafi unleashes his demonic fury. Nor is this a defense of unilateralism. But we should not pretend we have found a superior way to fight a war. Multilateralism works best as a garment clothing American leadership. Besides, the legitimacy of a war is not established by how it is organised but by what it achieves. david brooks








Back in 2000, the time the Tata Group took its first tentative step in taking the salt-to-software group global with Tata Tea's acquisition of UK's Tetley, no one gave the group half-a-chance to become the harbinger to a now all-too-obvious globalisation move by all manner of Indian businesses. A decade hence, the $67-billion conglomerate boasts of getting around 60% of its sales from outside India, thanks to its acquisitive business strategies—from Corus, Daewoo to Jaguar-Land Rover. More importantly, it has hoisted its corporate flag high in industries and geographies hitherto considered as the sole domain of developed market transnationals—from luxury autos, brand-led consumer expendables, to competing successfully in mature markets of Europe, Korea and the US. There were sceptics aplenty, and the group was ridiculed for what was seen as an overambitious play with risky global acquisitions, but its stayed the course, believing in itself. A keen sense of values-driven management, and developing the ability to cater to both ends of the market—from luxury to the bottom-of-the-pyramid consumers—has created a corporate umbrella vital enough to stretch from a Nano to a Jaguar, and nearly 90 operating companies in 80 countries, in between.

No wonder, it is the Tata moniker that has become the first Indian brand to break into the top 50 global brands by brand value in the Brand Finance's Global 500 list, as reported in this newspaper yesterday. The group's brand value is pegged at $15.08 billion, as compared to $11.21 billion in 2010, and has seen its brand value double in the last four years, from $7.38 billion in 2007. Considering all nine entries from India in the Global 500 list, the story is mixed. Whilst Tata, State Bank of India and Infosys have bettered their rankings over those of last year, Reliance Industries, Bharat Petroleum and ICICI Bank have dropped in the global pecking order.

Globally, technology brands have seen a resurgence, from Google dethroning Wal-Mart as the numero uno brand, the ascendancy of Microsoft and Vodafone in the chart to the entry of Facebook in the Global 500. The biggest shock was Coca-Cola's inglorious exit from top 10 (to rank 16) and Nokia's dubious distinction of largest fall in brand value, down almost $10 billion—emphasising the toughness of staying at the top of a dynamic industry. Perhaps Tata's emphasis of values-driven business model and long-term vision over profit-driven short-sightedness is a model for not just other Indian businesses to emulate, but even for big-brand MNCs driven purely on bombarding the consumer with marketing hype dressed in multi-million dollar advertising.





The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the funds spent under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), which was placed in Parliament last week, should be an eye opener for the political leadership and policymakers. The damning indictments of the report makes one wonder how MPs, who manage to utilise just 37-52% of the funds allocated for spending under their direct supervision in their core constituencies, can possibly supervise the huge funds spent by different ministries. Or is it that the MPs are so preoccupied running the country they don't have enough time to look after their own backyard; in which case, the decision to hike MPLADS from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore annually wasn't a great decision. In fact, the CAG report, which looks at the schemes executed between 2004-05 and 2008-09, shows that the working of the MPLADS is no different from the other major spending programmes of the government. Some of the faults are with the scheme design, which does not ensure participation of various constituents. But even the criteria laid out for the implementation of the scheme has been neglected. In many districts, the authorities executed works without the recommendations of MPs. In other cases, the costs of the works sanctioned exceeded the ceiling limits or were sanctioned without adhering to the stipulated procedures. Another unhealthy practice was the MPs' recommendations on the choice of implementing agencies, which is not allowed under the guidelines of the scheme. Sometimes the MPs have even recommended the release of funds directly to the user agencies. And then there is the issue of wastage of funds, as many projects have been abandoned or suspended because of the missing basic internal control records like asset registers and work registers. In many cases, the assets created were not put to the targeted use. The slack monitoring of the scheme is highlighted by the tardiness with which the implementing agencies furnished the utilisation certificates to the authorities and the inability of the central ministry to ensure proper and timely receipts of monthly progress reports.

However, the real tragedy is that—if one goes by past experience—no great changes can be expected despite the damning indictment and the recommendations of the report. In fact, the CAG itself noted that though two earlier audit reports on the scheme were placed in Parliament in 1998 and 2001, the Action Taken Report came only in 2009 after a lapse of ten and eight years, respectively. If this is the seriousness with which constitutionally-mandated audit reports are acted upon, there is little hope for any positive changes.





World Cup 2011 has been one of the most exciting ones, ever. And after two dreary World Cups in 2003 and 2007 (remember the Kenya India semi-final in 2003!) what a treat awaits cricket fans as the quarter finals get underway starting March 23rd. While a treat for the fan, a nightmare for those pretending to be Paul.

But pretend we must. If elections in India can be forecast, why not cricket matches? I first took on this exercise in 1987 when I authored Between the Wickets, which was then (is it still?) the only book to evaluate cricket statistically. The passion for the game still burns bright as ever—as the quest to analyse, and predict, cricket matches and cricket outcomes.

I realise this is a hazardous exercise and the probability of being wrong is large. But who can correctly forecast the glorious uncertainties of cricket, and especially those involving Afridi's wandering warriors? But herewith some assessments and forecasts. For the true fan (both statistical and otherwise) has the details, past forecasts, and analysis, and more. The details are for the geeks, but let us have some fun with their efforts.

Part of the reason for the excitement in this World Cup is the fact that the top four Test playing teams are the closest in team strength, ever. At the beginning of this World Cup, there were no clear favourites, and the situation holds at the quarter final stage as well. How CricketX gets at team strength is a circuitous and complicated affair; suffice it to say that it is all UBHH—untouched by human hands. Yes, it is a computer model that generates the strengths, and updates such attributes on the basis of performance in each match.

Enough of the caveats by way of background. The safest quarter-final match to predict is the South Africa New Zealand quarter final. CricketX places South Africa as firm favorites with a 70% chance of winning. Yawn. All the other three quarter-finals are forecast to be close matches with each of the teams Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka with a 55-45% chance of winning against West Indies, India, and England, respectively. Does that mean that the quarter-final is the end of the road for India?

Not so fast. In batting, India is ranked (by CricketX, of course) number one, some 15% ahead of Australia, and 8% better than South Africa. But, yes, all the rumours are true. India's bowling attack is the weakest; it is 20% worse than the best bowling attack of South Africa. One-day experts generally under-estimate the role of bowling. It counts for as much as batting. Which means that Australia wins?

Well, there are some other tricks that a statistician can pull. Remember home-team advantage? Analysis suggests that sometimes it can add about 4-8% to a side's chances of winning. Add that to the India Australia match and the outcome is even closer. And in such circumstances, especially as an Indian, you say that all the right things will happen, that Sehwag and Tendulkar will both click, and that India will proceed to the semi-finals for a match against Sri Lanka. England can be there, (remember it is a close match) but one is not allowed more than one exception to the CricketX rules, and I exhausted my referral with the forecast that India will win against Australia.

Onwards to the semifinals: Pakistan vs South Africa and India vs Sri Lanka. What can one say about Pakistan? They are entertaining, and unpredictable, which only adds to their entertainment value. Any fan would want to see them in the final. But statistics back South Africa. On the other hand, Pakistan is the most improved team since the beginning of the tournament. And in the last match, it defeated Australia, against all odds, including itself. The gang that hasn't been able to shoot straight for quite some time was able to win with pin-point accuracy. You gotta go with momentum; but then South Africa is also a great team, with one of the best bowling attacks of all time. There are times when one should be agnostic, and I am afraid I will spoil the forecast fun and sit on the fence. Toss a coin and enjoy a cracker.

CricketX, fortunately, forecasts an Indian win over Sri Lanka in the probable semi-final line-up. We have the best batting side in the tournament (remember that India scored 296 against South Africa), and Sri Lankan bowling is well, not South Africa. But Malinga, and especially oldie but goldie Muralitharan, give Sri Lanka the edge over India in bowling.

The story of forecasts so far. In the quarter-finals, the introduction of home-team advantage allowed the overruling of the Cricket X. If India cross the Australia hurdle, then according to Cricket X, they should win the final. But it will be close, and closer against South Africa than Pakistan. If Australia beat India, they are unlikely to win their fourth consecutive World Cup. Now let us sit back and enjoy the cricket—and the forecasts.

—Please visit for behind the scenes enjoyment of the great unpredictable game of cricket.

The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm





The easy, almost languid way the sage of Omaha—Warren Buffett—has side-stepped the insurance firewall, which was crafted over almost 20 years by Parliament savants, is amazing.

For many years, successive finance ministers of India had been chastised at investor forums for first having failed to allow any foreign investment in the sector, and then capping this at 26%—a cap that is almost getting a halo as a sort of legendary barrier that one cannot change!

Breaking usual foreign office protocol, even President Obama had to expressly acknowledge the US discomfort with the cap.

In these circumstances, the business plan that Berkshire Hathaway has rolled out is simple, legal and, in the process, sharply whittles down the effectiveness of the cap.

Buffet has signed a deal with Bajaj Allianz that will make a subsidiary of his investment vehicle Berkshire Hathaway a corporate agent for the non-life insurance company. This is in sharp contrast to the way other foreign investors have approached tie-ups in the insurance sector. Where they have wrestled with ways to stick to the 26% cap on foreign investment, the Buffett plan takes advantage of the fact that the detailed restrictions written out by the government and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) makes no mention of any foreign investment cap on corporate agents.

This means while Bajaj can offer its foreign partner Allianz only a 26% share in its equity, the downstream corporate agent suffers no restriction. So while the upstream company battles a tough route to raise only domestic equity, the Berkshire corporate agent can draw upon the cheque book of Buffett without any restriction.

What does a corporate agent for an insurance company do? Like other agents, it procures premium for the insurance company it is tied to. In this respect, it is similar to individual agents, except it is registered as a company under the Companies Act and also with Irda. But while it does not carry the risk of the claims on its book, it can certainly share in the non-insurance expenses of the mother company. An example is the marketing business. Ballpark figures for Indian insurance companies show that marketing accounts for about 10% of their total spend. The corporate agent can then therefore, short of writing the policies, spend massively to expand its reach across the country. In the process, it gives Bajaj Allianz the financial space to increase its solvency margins to underwrite more policies, when other non-life insurers will, at the same time, be funding both their capital adequacy requirements and financing their networks to service their clients. As an entity, the corporate agent can also access the public issue far more easily than the insurance companies.

Buffett has actually benefited from an Indian model in the non-life business. Since 2003, SBI has worked as a corporate agent for the New India Assurance Company, using its massive reach to give the public sector a huge national market. Making good use of its experience, SBI too floated an insurance subsidiary in 2010 in a joint venture with Insurance Australia Group. So, it is fair to presume that Berkshire Hathaway will also move in a similar direction. For the time being, as the corporate agent of India's second largest private sector non-life insurance company, it will be able to make the brand widely noticed across the country. But the strength of the Buffett model is the surprise element he has brought to the sector. Few Indian insurers have explored the full benefit of the corporate agency model till now. So, at a stroke, Berkshire Hathaway has overturned an insurance company-led model into a corporate agency-led model.

Will this encourage the other non-life insurers to also use the Buffett plan to market their policies? It is too early for any company to spell out me-too plans but it won't be surprising.

But that's not all. The beauty of the model is also visible at the other end.

Insurance companies reinsure their business with the specialists to keep themselves solvent. This is standard industry practice and is the basis of the global reinsurance market. While Buffett's AIG is a powerful presence in the reinsurance market globally and the Indian insurance market is expanding at the rate of 22.53% (April 2010-January 2011), the attraction for Bajaj to do more with AIG will obviously be considerable.

The foreign direct investment cap for the insurance sector in India applies for the reinsurance business, too. So, if Buffett wants to bring in his AIG to register in the Indian market as a reinsurer, the restrictions will apply. In fact, this has been one of the chief reasons why foreign reinsurance companies have been reluctant to set up shop in

India, as it is a high-capital-intensive business. Doing reinsurance business abroad again sidesteps that restriction. A related issue is that of transfer pricing rules. Since Berkshire Hathaway is not an investor in Bajaj, the business between it and entities like AIG will not come under the glare of the transfer pricing restrictions.

In effect, what Buffett has done is to catch the insurance business in India at the head and at the foot. This allows him to call the shots so strongly and yet play within the rules. In the process, the restrictions developed by the legislature has been made redundant. While the sage rewrites the rules of the insurance business in India, one therefore wonders what the long drawn out fight was all about.







The current edition of the Cricket World Cup has already been more of a success than the previous one, partly by design, partly by accident. After the early departures of India and Pakistan in 2007, the format was re-structured to ensure the top teams reached the business end: six league matches as opposed to three meant a side of lesser ability couldn't progress from the preliminary level on the strength of one above-par performance. Fortunately, the heart-warming underdog stories of Ireland and Bangladesh in 2007 weren't done away with altogether. Ireland showed it has improved into a team capable of defeating the big boys while the Netherlands nearly pulled off an upset of its own. Bangladesh was schizophrenic, capable of both world-class cricket under pressure, demonstrated in the match against England, and abject surrender, seen in the collapses against West Indies and South Africa. England nearly ruined the script of the best eight teams reaching the quarterfinals, but it provided rich drama in the process. The league stage had its moments — it wasn't until the last game that the quarterfinal fixtures were determined — but it didn't escape the tedium that is common with embarrassing mismatches and inconsequential contests.

The intention to prolong the presence of the contenders has, however, also led to a situation where either India, the perceived favourite ahead of the tournament, or Australia, which has won the last three World Cups, will make it to the last four. This risk was inherent in the inclusion of an additional knockout round — the quarterfinal — but if the organisers had had their way the marquee encounter would have been saved for later. No side has stood out thus far, confirming this is the most open of World Cups. Australia isn't as formidable or as feared as it once was, but it tends to do well in knockout games. India's bowling and fielding haven't inspired confidence nor has the tendency when batting to self-destruct from positions of strength; it needs to pull itself together if it is to get past Australia. South Africa and Sri Lanka appear the teams with the most options. But the former has yet to answer questions about its mental frailty in crunch games and the latter is vulnerable to being overpowered. Pakistan and West Indies are the wild cards; New Zealand continues to make the most of what it has; and England, which often teetered on the brink before surviving, may believe the force is with it. The extra knockout game has ensured that the team with the most-rounded roster and the strongest desire will triumph. It will also be the team that best compensates for its weaknesses, which are more or less evenly distributed among the quarterfinalists.





Despite rapid technological progress and economic growth, close to 900 million people the world over do not use drinking water from improved sources and over 2.6 billion lack access to decent sanitation facilities. This indefensible public failing, which is conspicuous in the developing world, comes with tremendous economic and social costs. Safe drinking water and basic sanitation, as United Nations organisations have often emphasised, help prevent water-related diseases. Specifically when it comes to diarrhoea, which kills 1.6 million annually, improved water supply reduces morbidity by 20 per cent while improved sanitation cuts it by 37.5 per cent. The indirect benefits of providing access to drinking water to households, such as the time saved by women and children — who are often carriers of this precious commodity from source — are reflected, for example, in better school attendance. The debilitating effect of the lack of sanitation facilities is seldom appreciated. A World Bank study placed the total economic impact of inadequate sanitation in India at Rs.2.44 trillion (6.4 per cent of India's GDP in 2006). Three ongoing UN initiatives spotlight the importance of water and sanitation: the Millennium Development Goals, the Water for Life Decade (2005-2015), and the annual World Water Day (March 22) which had "Water for Cities" as the theme this year.

India, its urban areas included, is a laggard, especially in sanitation. More than 37 per cent of urban India's human excreta is unsafely disposed of, posing significant health hazards. The country is also home to the world's largest number of persons who defecate in the open (665 million persons of a global total of 1.1 billion). Shockingly, 4,66,853 elementary schools did not have toilet facilities, going by the data for 2009. The crisis looming over urban India is best revealed by a central government survey between December 2009 and March 2010. In this exercise, which ranked the 423 class-I cities according to metrics set by the National Urban Sanitation Policy, not a single one was eligible to be in the top slot of a "green city" (which needed to score at least 90 per cent) and only four were "blue cities" (67 per cent to 90 per cent). With 189 cities categorised as "red" (less than 33 per cent), and the remaining 230 in the "black" zone, it is evident that India has a long way to go in providing this basic infrastructure, which not only offers minimum dignity to life but is the elementary requirement for a healthy society. High economic growth rates, even if they are sustained, do not such a society make.








The world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl raises troubling questions about India's plans for a huge expansion of its nuclear power programme through reactor imports. Given its low per-capita energy consumption, India must generate far more electricity to economically advance. So it needs more nuclear-generated power. The real issue thus is safe and cost-competitive nuclear power.

What is disconcerting about India's plans for massive imports is that they are not part of a well-thought-out strategy but a quid pro quo to the United States, France and Russia for bringing the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear deal to fruition, including through a Nuclear Suppliers Group waiver. For example, while keeping Parliament in the dark, the UPA government faxed a letter to U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns on September 10, 2008 — just hours before the White House sent the deal to the U.S. Congress for ratification — committing India to import a minimum of 10,000MW of nuclear-generating capacity from the U.S.

As the WikiLeaks' revelations, published by The Hindu, underscore, the U.S. has a big stake in the nuclear deal and went to unusual lengths to drum up support in India and ensure the outcome it desired. And although the deal is loaded with largely one-sided and irrevocable conditions for India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked his premiership on getting the deal through.

The WikiLeaks' disclosures over the cash-for-votes scandal during the consummation process only confirm the role mucky money played in lubricating the deal. Now big money is influencing the opaque contract making.

Those who pushed the deal through without building national consensus or permitting parliamentary scrutiny now seem too invested in this deal to objectively gauge long-term safety or the cost competitiveness of reactor imports. One indication of this is the unabashed manner in which a nuclear park has been exclusively reserved — without any competitive-bidding process — for each of the four preferred foreign vendors. Yet after Fukushima, several major safety concerns stand out:

India is committed to importing reactor models that are yet to be operated in any country, including state-owned Areva's 1630MW European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) and the General Electric-Hitachi's 1520MW Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), which is still to receive the final U.S. design certification.

There is no justification for importing untried reactor models. In the 1960s, GE sold India the first two prototypes of its Boiling Water Reactor (BWR), whose designs it later supplied for all six reactors at the now-crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant. India had little option then because nuclear power was relatively new. The GE-built Tarapur plant faced important operating and safety issues, in part because the Americans cut off supply of even safety-related replacement parts in response to the Pokharan I test. Today, the rush to buy untried foreign-reactor technology is simply indefensible.

It is only after the Fukushima nuclear crisis unfolded that India's nuclear chief belatedly acknowledged the need for an earthquake- and tsunami-related safety evaluation of Areva's EPR design. Why wasn't this done before committing India to buy the EPR prototype?

The drive to build energy "security" by importing foreign fuel-dependent reactors — that too without transparency, open bidding and public accountability — is nothing but a money-spending boondoggle, with the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks for the corrupt.

In an openly manipulated process, price negotiations are taking place only after each of the four chosen foreign vendors has been gifted an exclusive seaside nuclear park to build reactors. What bargaining power are the authorities left with when they have already reserved each park for a particular firm?

With the rise of the corporate nuclear lobby, the line between the seller and the buyer has blurred. The nuclear deal was pushed through by the Prime Minister's Office with the aid of some serving and retired nuclear officials, private-sector companies attracted to nuclear business, and interested foreign governments and vendors. The very entities and consultants that are set to reap major commercial gains helped build the dubious case for massive reactor imports by India.

Now an incestuous and unethical relationship exists between the buyer and seller, underscored by the moves to place initial import contracts worth more than $10 billion without any competitive bidding. It may require the Supreme Court's intervention to stop this brazen cronyism, or else a 2G-style scam would likely unfold, but with long-term safety ramifications.

To compound matters, the line between the regulator and the operator has also blurred. And the secrecy enveloping the nuclear military programme has unwarrantably been extended to a purely commercial sector — nuclear power.

Structurally, the national regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, is in no position to act independently because, like the operator, it is under the Department of Atomic Energy. More worrying, however, is the manner in which the Board has become the handmaiden of the political agenda set in New Delhi.

Before embarking on a major expansion of its programme, shouldn't India first create a strong, truly independent nuclear regulator?

Worse still, the planned import of four different types of new Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology will make India's nuclear-power complex the most diverse in the world. Technological diversity may be good to obviate reliance on one supplier. But the wide-ranging diversity India is getting into will make its safety responsibilities extremely arduous and complex, given the multiplicity of reactor designs it already has in place.

It takes a long time to create teams of experienced safety engineers for any reactor model. But when a particular reactor model is still not in operation anywhere, training of engineers cannot even begin. By contrast, India has immense experience in building, operating and safeguarding indigenous CANDU-style reactors.

The chain of incidents engulfing all six Fukushima Daiichi reactors was triggered by their close proximity to each other. With a flare-up at one reactor affecting systems at another, Japan ended up with serial blasts, fires, spent-fuel exposures, and other radiation leaks.

This seriously calls into question India's decision to approve the construction of six and more large reactors at each new nuclear park. The plans to build clusters of reactors must now be abandoned.

At Fukushima, the spent-fuel rods — holding most of the highly radioactive uranium at the site — have proved a bigger radiation problem than the reactor cores. This shines a spotlight on the spent-fuel challenges at the sister but older plant in Tarapur, where the discharged fuel has been accumulating for over four decades because the U.S. has refused to either take it or allow India to reprocess it.

The mounting Tarapur spent-fuel stockpile poses greater safety and environmental hazards than probably at any other plant in the world. The spent-fuel rods — unlike the reactors — have no containment structure, and they endanger public safety in India's densely-populated commercial heartland.

The spent-fuel bundles are kept under water in bays at a special facility at Tarapur. But such temporary pools have proven Fukushima's Achilles heel.

The cost to move the spent-fuel rods in secure dry casks to a faraway desert area will be prohibitive. India already has borne high storage costs at Tarapur. Those costs should not only be billed to Washington, but India must exert pressure on America to agree to the immediate spent-fuel reprocessing under international safeguards — the only viable option to contain the risks.

India's nuclear accident-liability legislation has seriously burdened the Indian taxpayer by capping the liability of foreign suppliers at a modest level. With the foreign vendors also freed from the task of producing electricity at marketable rates, the taxpayer is to subsidise the high-priced electricity generated. For the foreign vendors, there is no downside risk; only profits to reap. Yet GE and Westinghouse are unhappy with the state operator's right of recourse.

The legislation was passed after the BJP — a party too compromised to be able to withstand pressures — cut a deal with the government. But after Fukushima, it is important to tighten some provisions of the legislation, which goes beyond U.S. law to channel both economic liability and legal liability to the state and abridge victims' legal rights.

More broadly, before signing multibillion-dollar contracts, India must first formulate a coherent nuclear-power policy that also addresses safety issues. After all, Dr. Singh is seeking to take India from a largely indigenous capacity to a predominantly import-based programme by implicitly jettisoning Dr. Homi Bhabha's vision and strategy. Not only is the goal of a self-reliant thorium fuel cycle now pie in the sky, but India is also set to become dependent on foreign suppliers even for critical safety-related replacement parts.

Actually, the corrupt means employed in engineering the nuclear deal must now lead to its long-blocked scrutiny by Parliament. A larger question haunting the country is whether it has institutionally become too corrupt to be able to effectively uphold nuclear safety in the long run — a concern reinforced by the troubled state of internal security, high incidence of terrorism and politicisation of the nuclear establishment.







CHENNAI: While reassuring the United States government of "friendly intentions and a desire for good U.S.-India relations," Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), made it clear to a senior American diplomat in mid-2005 that his party would oppose the U.S. on "a number of issues that matter to the USG such as some FDI, privatization, missile defense and military to military relations."

In his first meeting with U.S. Embassy officials after his election as general secretary in April 2005, Mr. Karat welcomed closer ties between the United States and India, and FDI on a case-by-case basis, stressing that it must benefit the country.

'Talented and skillful'

Overall, the meeting between Mr. Karat and Charge d'Affaires Robert O. Blake, Jr. and the Political Officer of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, on May 4, 2005 went very well. The Embassy, in a cable to Washington the same day ( 31968: confidential), described Mr. Karat as a "talented and skillful leader who is well-aware of his political importance." The CPI (M) leader, the Charge reported, could walk a fine line and draw subtle distinctions in policy. "Relatively young [at 57], he will be a powerful figure on the Indian political scene for years to come, and could play an increasingly important role in the formation of future Indian governments."

The cable, sent under the name of Mr. Blake, has been accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Mr. Karat told Mr. Blake that the CPI (M) had no problems with stronger economic ties between the U.S. and India, and that the party found increasing trade, especially in the Information Technology sector, promising. "On the whole, he emphasized, his party favors improved bilateral relations, but wants India to maintain its 'independence' and has 'reservations' on several issues, noting that the CPI (M) objects to the proposed US provision of a National Missile Defense (NMD) system to India. The party wants closer ties with Pakistan and does not want to encourage an India-Pakistan arms race."

On the NMD, the Charge responded that the U.S. proposal was only for a "limited missile defense system that would be a stabilizing influence." Likewise, the U.S. was interested in supplying combat aircraft to India, "as this will meet an existing need, and the prospect for India-US co-production will benefit the Indian economy."

On FDI, a subject of considerable importance for the U.S., which figured prominently in the discussions, the cable reported Mr. Karat as saying it should be cleared on a case-by-case basis. His view was that the requirements must be prioritised to ensure that the FDI benefited the country through employment creation and technology transfer. On retail trade, the CPI (M) was apprehensive that opening this sector to foreign companies would displace labour in the small trading sector and put Indian shopkeepers out of business.

The cable recorded in detail the conversation on this issue: "To demonstrate CPI (M) commitment to case-by-case examination of FDI proposals, Karat noted that his party had no objection to increasing FDI in civil aviation, which benefits the country. The party wants to ensure that the GOI [Government of India] gives preference to domestic capital over foreign investment in certain areas. 'We want India to build on its strengths, and have no phobia against foreigners, like the swadeshi wing of the BJP,' he stated."

Mr. Blake's response to this was predictable. Holding up China as an example before the Marxist leader, he claimed that research had documented that opening China to retail trade benefited its economy. Chinese suppliers to Walmart, he noted, created more jobs than were lost. "India would benefit even more, as it has a strong private sector and the expansion of markets would more than make up for job displacement."

The Charge took the opportunity to pitch for a liberalised banking sector, saying it would "introduce long-term banking methods that don't currently exist in India and provide financing for much-needed infrastructure projects."

On telecom

Mr. Karat saw no reason to raise FDI in the telecommunications sector as India already had private companies in competition with a viable public sector entity and providing good service. "Raising the cap to 74 percent as Congress proposed 'would eradicate Indian companies,' Karat maintained, and in any case the communication sector should not be completely foreign-owned for security reasons."

The confidential cable reported that the general secretary of the CPI (M), which was supporting the ruling United Progressive Alliance at the Centre from the outside, was well aware of his party's limitations in this context: "Karat joked that the CPI (M) has little leverage on these investment issues, as the GOI can make many investment decisions without parliamentary approval. Insurance is an exception, and there the party could use its clout to oppose proposals to increase FDI from 26 to 49 percent."

As for domestic politics, the cable sent by the New Delhi Embassy to the State Department reported Mr. Karat as emphasising that "the Communists wanted to play a responsible role in governing India and avoid confrontation and harsh rhetoric" but were determined to oppose policies that clashed with their ideology.

Interestingly, Mr. Karat emphasised that the Left was "the UPA's strongest guarantee of stability…as the Communists do not want this government to fall and it will not do so unless Congress does a poor job of managing the coalition." Further, "Karat was confident that the CPI (M) would expand its influence, but had no illusions that it could form a Third Front capable of taking power in New Delhi any time soon… There have been three such 'experiments' so far in India, with little success. The CPI (M) is cautious and wants to create a stable coalition, not just an ad hoc alliance. To be successful, there must be a common policy plank to which all the parties must agree, he stated."

'Wary of grand visions'

Asked whether the Communists had a vision for India, Mr. Karat replied that they were "wary of grand visions." However, the Left parties wanted to implement land reform throughout the country, which would be nothing less than an agrarian revolution.

"He asserted that many of India's development problems stem from its failure to enact land reform, leading to unequal agrarian relations and skewed rural development. Karat defined land reform as the strict enforcement of land ceilings and the distribution of land to the landless."

The Marxist leader noted that land reform was the strength of the CPI (M) in West Bengal, "where it increased agricultural production, made the state into India's largest rice producer, and demonstrated that small farms can be productive." He cited Kerala as an example of the progress an Indian State can make when land reform was coupled with investments and inputs. He contrasted the State's performance with that of Uttar Pradesh, which had one of "India's most corrupt bureaucracies" and where all policies were hampered by the caste factor.

The Charge pointed out that developing countries benefited from investment in basic health and primary and secondary education and that USAID (United States Agency for International Development) had large health programmes in India. "Karat agreed, noting that the Communists were pushing the GOI to increase spending in both sectors, especially in the rural areas."

According to the cable, the discussion ended with Mr. Blake — who was to become the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka in September 2006 — expressing the hope that "the Embassy and the CPI (M) could maintain regular contact and discuss the issue" and Mr. Karat welcoming the chance to open a dialogue with the United States government and discuss issues face-to-face and promising to hold more such meetings on a regular basis.

The meeting took place at the CPI (M) headquarters in New Delhi.

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')






CHENNAI: The Ministry of External Affairs may have inadvertently caused some of the confusion over a hoax call to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari that escalated tensions between India and Pakistan during the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

Pretending to be India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the caller conveyed threats of an imminent military response to the attacks.

Pakistani officials said then that the call forced the Pakistan Air Force to go on high alert and scramble its fighter jets. Rattled, Pakistan began a frantic diplomatic effort in western capitals to restrain India.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice telephoned Mr. Mukherjee in the middle of the night to find out why he had made the call, only to be told by the Minister that he had not made any phone call to the Pakistan President.

But still nervous about the possibility of war breaking out between the two countries, Dr. Rice cut short a visit to Europe to fly to South Asia on December 3, visiting both capitals in an effort to calm the tensions.

Exactly a year later, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper revealed that the culprit behind the hoax call was none other than Omar Saeed Shaikh – the militant released by India in 1999 in exchange for the passengers on the Indian Airlines flight IC-814, that was hijacked to Kandahar. He is reported to have made the call from a mobile phone sitting in his Karachi prison cell, where he is being held for the 2002 killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

A U.S. Embassy cable from New Delhi, sent on December 4, 2008 ( 181351: confidential) – which was accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks – revealed that Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar had told the Americans on December 1 that Mr. Mukherjee had made a phone call to Mr. Zardari.

Ambassador David Mulford said in the cable that later, on December 1, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan had informed him that no such call was made and he would have known if it had been otherwise.

In order to clear the confusion, Ms. Kumar met the American Political Counselor again on December 3 and offered a version that squared with Mr. Narayanan's. She said the Minister had last spoken directly with Mr. Zardari in an informal setting during his May 2008 visit to Islamabad, before he was elected President, and that he had never spoken to him on the phone.

Since then, Mr. Mukherjee had only spoken to his counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the envoy reported Ms. Kumar as telling the Embassy official. On the evening of November 28, Mr. Mukherjee phoned Mr. Qureshi. He did not convey any threats, and Mr. Qureshi confirmed this at a press conference in Islamabad.

Though Ms. Kumar gave the Americans no explanation for the discrepancy between this report and the one she gave on December 1, Ambassador Mulford wrote that he "suspects she incorrectly inferred that a Mukherjee-Zardari call took place from the fact that Mukherjee's office had, as a precaution, prepared points for him to use if Zardari were to phone Prime Minister Singh when he was unavailable, leaving Mukherjee to receive the call."

The American Ambassador cabled that despite the conflicting versions from the Government of India, he had concluded that Mr. Mukherjee "did not in fact" phone Mr. Zardari.

Considering the Indian government was aware of a previous incident of a hoax call after the Mumbai attacks, it is surprising the mix-up occurred at all. In a cable sent on November 30, 2008 (180629: confidential), the Ambassador reported a November 29 conversation with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, during which Mr. Menon clarified that the Indian government had no knowledge of another hoax call that was made to the U.S. State Department.

Media reports at the time suggested that the caller had wanted to speak to Dr. Rice, but was not put through.

Cabling his conversation with the Foreign Secretary, Ambassador Mulford wrote that "Menon stated categorically that the Indian Government had no knowledge of the origin of the hoax calls placed to the Department's Operations Center. Menon added, 'The last thing we want is people misleading our Pakistani counterparts and General Kayani regarding India's intentions'."

The Foreign Secretary asked whether the U.S. "had traced the phone numbers and requested that we share any phone numbers originating from India with the Indian authorities for investigation."

The Foreign Secretary also denied reports that India was mobilising its Army.

The Ambassador wrote that "Menon wanted the U.S. to be clear that India was not deliberately raising tensions, stating that 'no one is mobilising' and 'we are sitting mum'."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')





CHENNAI: The Federal Bureau of Investigation thought Indian requests for information on the IC-814 hijacking were "fishing expeditions," but it was concerned India was withholding information that could affect its own prosecution of the case in the United States.

Three cables from the U.S Embassy in New Delhi tell the story of deep mistrust between the two countries on the IC-814 issue.

The information the Indian government wanted was listed in two non-papers given to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi in March and May that year ( Cable 29497: confidential, March 24, 2005; 32567: confidential, May 13, 2005).

The non-papers asked for information relating to the reported seizure of documents about the hijacking by U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan; data from the Kandahar airport about the flight's landing; information about the roles played by Afghan Taliban authorities during the hijack crisis.

Taliban functionaries

In particular, India sought "the responses of two senior members of the Taliban government who were reportedly in U.S. custody" and for the Americans "to examine the possibility of getting statements from other Taliban functionaries also reportedly in the custody of U.S. forces."

The two senior Taliban government functionaries were ex-civil aviation minister Mansoor Akhtar, and the Taliban corps commander, Akhtar Usmani.

The non-papers asked for "any additional information" about the whereabouts of the seven "Pakistani nationals" involved in the hijacking; their conduct "prior to, during and after" the hijacking; and about "the landing of the hijacked aircraft at Lahore Airport, its subsequent refueling, take-off, etc."

India witholds?

While conveying the Indian request in March, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blake wrote also that the CBI had given a visiting FBI team access to "hundreds of documents" to enable U.S. prosecution of the IC-814 case.

He added that the CBI had told the team "they were only sharing 'what we think you need to know'."

Mr. Blake worried that such a formulation "might raise US prosecutorial concerns" that India had withheld "some exculpatory information."

Later that year, the Embassy once again conveyed that India was withholding information ( 45536: secret, November 18, 2005).

Reporting a meeting with MEA Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar, Mr. Blake cabled on November 18, 2005 that the Indian official had raised doubts about U.S. intentions to prosecute the accused in its own case on the 1999 hijacking, as there had been no indictments.

To this, Mr. Blake added the Legal Attache's explanatory comment that the U.S. had not filed indictments because the FBI was still awaiting all available investigative documents and reports from India.

"(…Since 2002, Legat has submitted at least six requests for information, and the GOI has yet to release all documents related to the case. We are following up in diplomatic channels. End Legatt Comment)."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')






CHENNAI: While some influential Pakistanis believed that "south Indian" men had carried out the Mumbai attacks and lashed out at India for blaming Pakistan, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seemed to have no doubts right at the beginning that the attackers were Pakistani.

A cable ( 181951: confidential) sent by Acting Principal Officer Clinton Taylor of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore on December 9, 2008, describes how the Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader told a visiting delegation of U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham that he had listened to the phone call made by one of the attackers to an Indian TV channel, and even though the individual claimed he was Indian, he had heard a Pakistani accent.

At that December 6 meeting, Mr. Sharif showed none of the ambivalence about the origin of the attackers that he later resorted to in keeping with the mood of denial in Pakistan.

"The people involved were from this country — I am convinced," Mr. Sharif is quoted as saying. "We must take strictest action against those elements." Once India produced concrete evidence, "we should proceed whole hog," he declared.

In doing so, Mr. Sharif was perhaps also trying to clear the U.S. perception of him as a politician with links to Islamists, and therefore not a trustworthy partner in the "war on terror."

The road to Islamabad goes through Washington, the saying goes in Pakistan. The former Prime Minister seems to have been only too aware that to secure his prospects as a future leader of the country, he needs to keep on the right side of the U.S.

He told the senators that his party had acted responsibly with the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to fight terrorism.

He recounted that former President Pervez Musharraf had exiled both him and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, and he was "amazed when President Bush provided his support for a dictator."

Mr. Sharif recounted that during his stints as Prime Minister he had offered Pakistan's support for the Gulf War and discussed in great detail with U.S. President Bill Clinton how to deal with extremist forces in Afghanistan. "Who could be more committed to fight against terrorism?"

He recalled his part in signing the Lahore Declaration with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On the other hand, General Musharraf had launched the Kargil operation, which Mr. Sharif described as "the biggest blunder he committed."

His party had refrained from using India to score political points, he said, adding that the PML(N) had strongly condemned the Mumbai attacks, and if there was evidence to prove Pakistani links, "we must take action."

The people responsible for Mumbai, Mr. Sharif said, "are also operating in Pakistan — we face those forces here." He mentioned the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the year before, his own narrow escape from bullets fired at his election rally on the same day as her killing, the Marriott bombing in September 2008, and a ghastly bombing in Peshawar a day before his meeting with the senators.

Mr. Sharif underlined his commitment to help the government "eradicate this menace."

However, some members of his party did not share the same views.

Bryan Hunt, principal officer at the U.S. Consulate, in a cable sent on December 3, 2008 ( 181158: confidential), detailed a conversation with Ali Haroon Shah, PML(N) member and a former legislator in the provincial assembly, who said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has started a "blame game" before any evidence appeared. He said India had many insurgent groups, any of which could have carried out the attack.

Mr. Hunt wrote that he had met Lahore High Court Judge Bilal Khan. The judge welcomed the December 1 statement from the White House saying the U.S. had found no evidence to indicate that the Pakistan government had planned the attacks. The judge took this as absolving "all Pakistanis of responsibility," Mr. Hunt wrote.

The diplomat clarified to the judge that while there was no indication that the Pakistan government had a hand in the attacks, groups operating in Pakistan, specifically in Punjab, were the most likely culprits.

A senior Lahore lawyer who was present at the meeting told him that from the photographs, the attackers "looked south Indian."

With some foresight, Mr. Hunt commented that "the innocence felt by most Punjabis will make it difficult to crack down on Pakistani perpetrators."

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.')









ALMOST IMMEDIATELY after the United States, the United Kingdom and France began their relentless air attacks on Libya to enforce a no-fly zone across that country, India "regretted" these strikes and, in a carefully-worded statement, urged all parties concerned to "mitigate" an already tragic situation and not "exacerbate" it. Russia and China, along with this country, Germany and Brazil, had abstained from voting on the UN Security Council's resolution authorising the imposition of no-fly zone on Libya, and have deplored West's action in strong terms.
Even more significantly, the Arab League, that had supported the UN Resolution 1973 (but for whose support the resolution would never have been passed), has radically changed its position. Its secretary-general Amr Musa, a former Egyptian ambassador to India, has "slammed" the Western nations for having gone "too far". The African Union has demanded immediate cessation of bombing. More such voices are almost certain to be raised as Libya's bombing by the Western "coalition" goes on, even though, according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, Admiral Mike Mullen, the no-fly zone in Libya is already a reality. American strikes have also destroyed a building within Col. Muammar Gaddafi's residential compound, although Washington says he is not a target.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that Col. Gaddafi, who has ruled his country for 41 years and can be more tyrannical than other dictators and despots in the region, has no intention of giving in. His megalomania has no limits. Yet, his declaration to fight to the bitter end the "colonial crusader aggressors", who he has compared to Hitler, should not be dismissed. Nor should anyone underestimate the unflinching support he enjoys from his Gaddafa tribe in a land that is divided and decentralised along tribal lines without any pluralistic tradition. The rebels demanding freedom, democracy and release from Col. Gaddafi's tyranny, concentrated around Benghazi in the eastern part of the country, are, no doubt, elated by the Western military action, especially because missile strikes have destroyed the armour and other assets of the Libyan Army on the march on Benghazi.
However, the longer the air strikes last, the greater will be the anti-Western anger in Libya and elsewhere, even among those who intensely dislike the colonel. Although the US is denying this, civilian casualties have already resulted from Western bombing and more will take place. This would accentuate popular fury.
There is another powerful reason why the Western military action in Libya would evoke irate reaction not in Libya and Muslim countries alone but all over: the manifest double standards of the US and its allies. Libya is not the only country where an oppressive regime is slaughtering innocent civilians. In Bahrain, not far away, a 30 per cent Sunni minority — with military help from neighbours such as Saudi Arabia — is meting out the same treatment to the 70 per cent Shia majority. Why don't those anxious to save Libyan civilians and offer them humanitarian assistance have any sympathy for the poor Bahrainis who have also demanded UN and US intervention?
Similarly, in Yemen another long-lasting tyrant is killing protestors as mercilessly as Col. Gaddafi is doing in Libya, but no one seems to be bothered. Is it because Yemen is an American ally? As Nicholas Burns, a former US under-secretary of state and currently professor at Harvard, said on CNN, the three Western nations — with the support of only two small Arab states, United Arab Emirates and Qatar — have plunged into aerial action in Libya without any clear idea of their long-term aim.
The mandate of the Security Council is confined to saving civilian lives by enforcing a no-fly zone and providing them humanitarian aid. The regime change is not a part of it, nor is the provision of arms to the rebels, even though the Western coalition is, in effect, siding with one of the two sides in the Libyan civil war. Yet, both US President Barack Obama and secretary of state Hillary Clinton have kept up the litany: "Gaddafi Must Go".
How is this objective to be achieved without using the same methods that the US, during the regime of President George W. Bush, resorted to against Saddam Hussein in Iraq? But then "boots on the ground" in Libya are forbidden by Resolution 1973. At the same time, Col. Gaddafi's option to quit and flee, in the unlikely event of his wanting to exercise it, is also closed on him, for he is to be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes. Nothing could be more hypocritical than this, for neither the US, nor France, Russia, or China accept the jurisdiction of the ICC. Nor, for that matter, does India.
No wonder there is intense and widespread speculation that the Western objective might be to partition Libya into eastern and western regions, between the east ruled by the rebels and the west by Col. Gaddafi and his sons. The idea of Col. Gaddafi continuing as the ruler of the whole country is obviously distasteful. The editorial in this newspaper on Sunday (Is Military force needed in Libya), underscored the irony of the US going to war in the third Muslim country in eight years, and that too under a President who is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and had, in a famous speech in Cairo within months of moving into the White House, tried to reach out to the entire Muslim world. This plus his country's weariness with the Afghan war should explain President Obama's decision to reduce America's current lead role in the operations in Libya to a minimal, at best supportive one. This would mean handing over command to either Britain or France and not to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, because this military alliance functions on the principle of unanimity, which is lacking. Neither Germany nor Turkey support Odyssey Dawn. Altogether, luckless Libya has now become a massive cauldron of witches' brew. The situation is tailor-made for chaos, confusion and grim consequences.






The Japanese are the world's best experts in earthquake-resistant designs. They are also the most knowledgeable in protective designs against the impact of tsunamis. To add to this, Japan is a country that has a superb disaster management organisation and an often-rehearsed working team to handle such emergencies.
In contrast, India is most disorganised and unprepared for handling emergencies of much less severity. In fact, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board's (AERB) disaster preparedness oversight is mostly on paper and the drills they conduct once in a while are half-hearted efforts that are more of a sham.
In the name of earthquake engineering, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited's (NPCIL) strategy is to have their favourite consultants cook up the kind of seismicity data which suits them, with practically no independent verification of the data or design methodologies. A captive AERB, which reports to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), thus, makes the overall nuclear safety management in India worthless.
There needs to be a complete re-organisation of the AERB, making it totally independent of the DAE. The AERB, which today works as a lap dog of the DAE and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), should be made stronger with the recruitment of reputed senior specialists.
While it is unlikely that the kind of devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan may strike an Indian nuclear plant as well, the earthquake-resistant designs and tsunami abatement measures we have adopted for our nuclear plants do need a high-level, in-depth review by an independent expert group, predominantly consisting of non-DAE and non-NPCIL experts.
Ever since the United Progressive Alliance government came to power in 2004, the collusion between the PMO, DAE, NPCIL and various corporate houses in India and abroad has substantially increased. This closeness was deliberately engineered by the PMO initially to bring home the Indo-US nuclear deal, but the continuity of this closeness between corporate business houses interested in nuclear power and concerned supervisory government agencies is distorting and damaging the independence of government decisions. This is leading India speedily towards large economic losses and a sharp increase in the potential for hazardous reactor accidents in India. This trend must be immediately arrested, if necessary, by Parliament's intervention.
The decision of the government to import nuclear reactors is all the more perplexing when we know that India has already built about 18 pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) on its own over the last four decades and has perfected its design through extensive years of operation. We can continue to expand nuclear power in India by setting up 700 per megawatt electrical (MWe) PHWRs of our own design and 1,000 MWe ones thereafter. In view of the vast nuclear devastation we are observing in Japan, I would strongly urge the government not to proceed with the Jaitapur Project with purchase of European pressurised reactors (EPRs) from France or any other import of nuclear reactors.
Secondly, the promoters (NPCIL and Areva) are completely silent about the serious problems which India, and especially the local community, have to face after operations commence and spent fuel starts accumulating at the Jaitapur site. The higher burn-up spent fuel from EPRs has its own unique hazards at the storage and transportation stages, unlike in the case of current light water reactors (LWRs) which use lower burn-ups.
Thirdly, we are buying into all these high risks at an enormous cost to the taxpayers. An EPR will cost no less than `20 crores per Mwe if the government does not hide most of the costs through invisible subsidies. As against this, an Indian PHWR will cost at the most `8 crores per MWe. Why not purchase natural uranium alone from abroad and multiply the number of 700-1,000 MWe PHWRs, for which India does not require any technology imports?
Today, there is very little public trust in the country's various atomic energy institutions and their heads, unlike in the days when Indira Gandhi or Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister and Homi N. Sethna or Raja Ramanna was Atomic Energy Commission chairman. The ethical standards in the PMO, DAE, NPCIL and AERB have fallen considerably, especially since 2004, perhaps because of the current Prime Minister's direct interference with these institutions to meet the political ends of getting the Indo-US nuclear deal passed through Parliament.
All along, the nuclear agencies of the government have also colluded with and were assisted by major Indian and foreign corporate houses and their federations interested in the sizeable nuclear power market they are helping to create in India. Even in the evaluations and negotiations of cost, and safety and liability of imported reactors, the official nuclear agencies today are operating hand-in-glove with their friends in corporate houses and business federations. Under such circumstances, these government agencies must first be visibly delinked from corporate influences and made truly independent before the public can be expected to believe any of their assertions.
It will be best if a high-level national commission on nuclear power is appointed to review India's nuclear power policies and their implementation at the earliest. The members of this commission must be people of high ethical standards with expertise in matters of nuclear power, safety and economics and preferably people outside the government, who are not connected with business houses or federations.

The author is a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board






Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's proposal to levy service tax on airconditioned hospitals came under heavy fire from a wide cross-section of society. The National Human Rights Commission thought it fit to take exception. The Indian Medical Association protested. Philanthropist-surgeon Devi Shetty, who was the personal physician of Mother Teresa, called it "Misery Tax" and likened it to the salt tax levied by the British.
The small minority that found merit in the proposal looked at it from the narrow perspective of tax policy. Some even advanced the specious argument that only the affluent sections of society frequent large centrally air-conditioned hospitals. It is okay to tax them!
Mr Mukherjee was eventually moved by the howls of protest. But this ill-advised move certainly served the purpose of bringing into focus the scandalous state of healthcare in the country. There is something very rotten with a healthcare model where an upmarket suburb of a metro teems with corporate hospitals, but has absolutely no facilities for those without deep pockets, or access to coverage, leave alone other less privileged sections of society, including the poor.
This is the situation in Gurgaon, northern India's pre-eminent corporate hub. Throw a stone out from any of its posh neighbourhoods and gated communities. The chances are high that it will land on a swanky, state-of-the-art multi-star hospital. All-expenses-paid-for havens for the sahibs. For the rest, there aren't even any private nursing homes, let alone government hospitals. Those are available, in small numbers, in the old city, many miles away from new Gurgaon. Holistic urban development indeed!
If this is the situation in a premier urban centre, it is far worse in the rest of urban India. In rural India, the situation is abysmal. Availability and affordability are the two banes of Indian healthcare. Medical care is simply not available to huge sections of the population. And where it is available, it is often unaffordable for the majority. But no politician makes this his/her election issue. No political leader finds it even expedient to declare like US President Barack Obama that the issue of healthcare is central to our future.
Most of our politicians seem to see nothing wrong in driving India increasingly in the direction of the high-cost, private-care dominated, Big Insurance-led US model that Mr Obama has been railing against and seeking to modify. In India, the situation is far worse because insurance penetration is extremely low. Millions of middle-class here have either no coverage or inadequate coverage. In fact, almost 90 per cent of private spending on healthcare in India comes from the pockets of patients or their families. And banish the thought that only the poor find themselves in situations where absence of resources comes in the way of receiving treatment. According to Dr Shetty, as much as 90 per cent of the people in need of tertiary healthcare cannot afford the cost of life-saving surgical intervention. More and more people annually slide into poverty simply because of the sheer cost of healthcare, relative to income levels.
Healthcare is a complex business and the most advanced nations of the world are still grappling with its myriad aspects in an effort to get it right. However, there is no gainsaying that some countries are closer than the rest to having a system that delivers the greatest good to the largest number. India is spending more on healthcare than ever before, but its expenditure is still no more than one per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). Compare this with the UK which spends over eight per cent of its GDP on healthcare, which is still one per cent less than the European Union average.
At present, the government accounts for less than 30 per cent of the total spending on healthcare in India. Clearly, this must increase drastically. But, as we all understand, throwing money at social sectors is not the same thing as reforming them. There is a crying need for reforms in the healthcare sector. We must move swiftly and decisively towards a system where there is universal access to healthcare and no citizen is denied medical care on grounds of lack of financial resources.
We have to work towards having a system that delivers quality, affordable healthcare to all citizens, regardless of income, background, nature of illness or age. We are perhaps too far gone in the other direction to look at the models of Canada (Medicare) or the UK (National Health Service) where the state delivers free quality healthcare to all citizens at all times. But comprehensive reforms in what we have can save us from falling over the precipice.
The state cannot abdicate its responsibility towards its citizens. After jobs, food and education, healthcare must be the next frontier.

Vivek Sengupta, public affairs analyst, is founder and chief executive of the consulting firm Moving Finger








No-one imposes limits on your thinking. The limits you have are the ones you created or set for yourself.

So if you have set low parameters, you will only get there as your life focuses itself to achieve that. We have so many beliefs that are grossly negative and unrealistic but we stick to them as the belief we have is that we are no good and will not get what we want or even deserve. Sometimes, it is because we have failed in doing something and do not want to try again due to fear and the consequent hurt and embarrassment. We need to change these self-limiting beliefs and replace them with ones that ride on positive waves. There are facts in our life. But the way we view those facts is what makes our belief system.


We are not born with beliefs. Children do not feel limited at all. That is why they have a wild imagination. But parents, teachers and friends, put in thoughts that make them feel inadequate, sowing seeds of negative self-beliefs. These act as filters in their brain. In short, the damage starts. Maybe, your father or mother said something negative about your abilities. You took that seriously and started believing in it. It became your belief. It became one blind spot in your life.


It is true that our belief systems come out of our life experiences. But it is also true that it is up to us to interpret those experiences. If we look at it positively, we will be able to turn it into a learning experience.


If we perceive it negatively, it will hang around our necks for a lifetime. It all depends on how you choose to look at it.


That is why most of us need to rewrite our beliefs. We need to erase old beliefs that are negative and self-defeating and replace them with beliefs that are positive, energetic and designed to help us succeed with our dreams and desires.


When we do that, the reality in our life changes to rise up and meet those beliefs. It is rightly said, "When you expect the best, your mind focuses on the best."


The writer is a journalist and corporate trainer







If you count yourself among those for whom this Holi weekend went well, that's good. Because there would be some, and here I stress women, for whom rang panchami would've been about revelry (the good part) and then about unasked-for touchy-feely behaviour — colloquially called chhed chhaad.


A phenomenon not confined only to maximum city. And worse, a phenomenon not confined to Holi, but increasingly becoming more worrisome in its avatar of greater intensity: that of violence against women.


Consider the last few weeks alone, in a month making a big noise about Women's Day:


In Mumbai, five differently-abled girls are raped in an orphanage. A mother jumps to her death, the apparent extent of her personal anguish such that she throws both her children down before her (reports later suggest mental torture in her marital home). More macabre, two women found dead, one of them pregnant, their bodies stuffed into suitcases.


In Delhi, a 20-year-old on her way to college shot in broad daylight by a random stalker. In Goa, an 11-year-old reportedly raped at Colva beach, last Tuesday.


I could go on listing violent acts against women in Indian cities, but why highlight just the last few weeks? Young actor Sonam Kapoor on Woman's Day, remarked that being a woman in general (not just a woman in B-Town) was a struggle, and she wasn't far off the mark. Random acts of violence in public, or covert ones inside households, the implications are the same — frightening.


In fact, a woman's struggle, especially in India, begins at birth. Should I call it a gift then, a girl child's survival? You would know that female foeticide being greater only in rural sectors is a myth. City doctors confide how affluent families 'forget' to visit their bahus in elite hospitals if the baby delivered is a girl.


Recent figures in Maharashtra, released by the State Health Mission Resource Centre, show an alarming dip: in the age group 0-6 years, the ratio of female per 1000 male children was 946 in 1991 and 908 in 2009. Reports say it's more worrying in affluent districts.


A recently reported global survey on gender equality showed that 24% of Indian men have committed sexual violence at some point in their lives and 20% have admittedly forced their significant others to have sex. Worse, it was reported that over 65% believed that a woman should tolerate domestic violence to keep the family together. Rather topsy-turvy, for a country remarkably enamoured of the feminine divine, and, in fact, identifying itself in the feminine, as in 'motherland'.


There have been proposals to tackle violence, in fits and starts: the government's concern over female foeticide has led to the proposal of a website for sex determination complaints, to be up by May. Despite protests and debate, plans are on to restrict the sale of abortion pills. But there's a very long way to go — a dedicated effort is sorely needed, one which also addresses violence apart from foeticide.


Meanwhile, I do know other women who, like me, have never quite enjoyed Holi — they too believe the licence to misbehave is unfairly heightened in such settings. And how to combat instances of violence in a society that is turning increasingly hostile? There are no easy answers. There are, though, evolved men who in positions of trust and power might set the standard. Like India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He was the one who pointed out that you could tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.









At least three fairly alarming scams have been unearthed during past couple of months in the State. First, there was the ration scam in which it was revealed that food grains meant for BPL families was swindled and sold in black market. Then surfaced the land grab scam in which it was revealed that forest land had been grabbed by some politically influential persons in connivance with the revenue and police officials. Now more recently, the fake gun license scam has come to forefront in which hundreds of fake gun licenses are reported to have been issued. In this connection the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Mendhar and some of his junior staff members being implicated in the scam are reported to be absconding. These scams have come to light just by chance and not by design. How many more scams will be there that may go unnoticed or ignored nobody can say. There are widespread rumours all around that corruption and bribery have increased manifold in the state. The apprehension is that bribery could become the norm of administrative arrangement in the state. People going through the experience say that in most of the offices there is bribery in full swing and money transactions are made openly. Half of the bribe money is paid when a particular assignment is entrusted to the concerned person and the remaining half is paid on completion of the mission. Previously, generally the PWD was notorious for fixed norms of bribery but now every department is seething with bribery without any norm. It is taking as much and giving as much. India is among the most corrupt countries in the world far before Bangladesh.
Issuing license for keeping a gun for self defense is a practice with set rules and regulations. Anybody applying for a gun license has to fulfill the conditions laid down for the issuing of license. Knowing that militancy has struck the State very badly the authorities should have made issuing of gun license very stringent. Misuse of a gun by even a genuine holder of its license could be possible because of the deep and wide tentacles of militancy and terror. There should have been foolproof precaution against any official tampering with the rules. In fact there should have been rigorous scrutiny of the applicant for the license of a gun. By not evolving a high and foolproof standard of issuing a valid gun license, the home department has been playing with the lives of ordinary people. How come those scores of fake licenses have been issued over a period of time and at no time this practice has been screened and testified. It is by chance that the police tumbled on two persons with guns and their fake license and the whole racket came to be uncovered. With the disclosure of so many fake gun licenses, it is clear that authorities in the home department have been sleeping over the matter thus allowing the swindlers to have a field day. Maximum number of fake licenses has been issued in the two border districts of Rajouri and Poonch. Budhal area is infested with militants both local and external as the town falls along the mountain track to Pir Panchal range, the area where militants have considerable presence. It is, therefore important that the government conducts deep and wide enquiry into the fake license cases and follows the trail about which there could be many doubts and questions. When the food grain and land grab scams came to light, there was some articulation in the media but then it faded away quickly and nobody now asks as to what happened to those scams. Our judicial system is lengthy and cumbersome, and culprits take advantage of delayed justice. People are judging the administration and the judiciary by the will and speed required to pursue the scams and bring the culprit to book.






Chairman of National Commission for Minorities presided over the annual conference of State Minority Commission in New Delhi recently. Among other things, he has strongly recommended that 3700 Kashmiri Pandit families staying back in the valley, be declared a minority community. Under the Constitution of India, it is only the Union Home Ministry that decides the groups of Indian citizens who can be entitled to the status of a minority. Minority issue is one of the internal issues of the State that has remained shrouded in ambiguity. No government ever tried to address the subject. There are two contradictory positions. The Muslims of India have been declared a minority community in the country. As such, certain privileges meant for the Indian minorities under law accrue to them automatically. They are entitled to it by the law of the land. The Muslim populations of J&K, too, have been deriving benefit of this provision. But at the same time, they are a majority in the state. On that basis they enjoy the privileges of being a majority community and thus have majority rights, and rightly so. What is the position of non-Muslim of the state? This has never been addressed by the government. If Article 370 hampers the non-Muslims of the state from entitlement to minority status, then by the same token, it should hamper the state majority community from enjoying the minority status on national level. The actual case is the reverse of it. That is why we say that the issue of minority status in J&K has remained unresolved. There seems no logic is just picking up 3700 families of Kashmri Pandits staying back in the valley and recommending them for minority status because their condition, as per the statement of the Chairman NCM is worse than half a million persons of the community living in exile for last two decades. If we go by the Indian Constitution, then all non-Muslims in the State are in minority and have to be treated as such. In fact this has been the demand of J&K State Minorities Forum which has been fighting for the minority status for Hindus, Sikhs, Bodhs and Christians of the State. The State government should take up the case with the Union Home Ministry and remove the dichotomy in the context of minority status.








The Chief Election Commissioner's decision to appoint expenditure monitoring observers, along with the usual observers, for the ensuing state legislature elections has, once again, highlighted the malaise of black money role in the elections. Despite legal limits on such spending and heavy penalties if caught cheating, it has not been possible to eradicate the malaise that afflicts our electoral system which often gets distorted under the influence of extravagant spending. The call for electoral reform given from time to time to impart transparency to the process and to ensure that deserving candidates do not get edged out by criminal elements and wily politicians who have mastered the technique of concealment, has fallen mostly on deaf ears. Suggestions to control extravagant spending have not received serious consideration by political parties, all of whom are equally guilty of breaching campaign funding ceilings. All of them agree in principle, but when it comes to implementation, they betray nervousness.

One is not sure whether Mr. Quresi is going to succeed in curbing the menace, but he shows seriousness in tackling the situation. His observers are going to monitor campaign expenditure and take sue moto notice of violations, if brought to their notice, through spot verification. They will even take notice of media complaints or exposures of lavish spending, instead of waiting for rival candidates to file complaints after the elections to get the rivals disqualified. Since the observers will be armed with powers to take immediate action, they can even disqualify a candidate from contesting. The outcome of the new initiative will be known only after the Assembly elections in April are over, but it is worth giving a try.

Any new measure to tackle the menace of huge campaign expenditure, in which black money plays a part, is indeed welcome, but one must keep one's fingers crossed whether parties will cooperate in enforcing the ceilings, because there are politicians who are competent enough to circumvent the law.

The Election Commission has been forced to take the inflation factor into account and raise the limit of expenditure, which excludes the expenditure incurred by political parties, which is not counted. The candidates also receive funding from well-to-do Indian dispora, which also comes under various guises and is not openly declared. Though the limit has now been raised from Rs. 25 lakh to Rs 40 lack for Lok Sabha elections, the actual permissible ceiling is much higher considering the contribution of the political parties. Those who opposed higher permissible limits often argued that the use of money power should be curbed and that it will not be possible for candidates with meager resources to participate in the democratic exercise which, in turn will distort democracy and diminish its participatory content. The truth is that the really poor find it difficult to contest even now unless he is popular enough and can mobilize the services of genuine volunteers to see him through. But such instances are rare. By and large money power plays a great role in elections, however freely and fairly conducted.

A suggestions has been made by Congress MP Manish Tiwari that the Election Commission should circulate a consultation paper on campaign financing, hold open discussions with people across the social and economic spectrum, meet representatives of political parties and then arrive at a ceiling on election expenditure, which must be reviewed after every Lok Sabha election. He has also suggested removing the ceiling on corporate funding of poll expenses of parties above the 5 per cent profit cap under the Companies Act. But care should be taken that such enhanced contribution does not come through money laundering. He also wants the Government to establish an independent campaign finance trust to be chaired by a former president of India, consisting of a former vice-president and fomer chief justice of India as its trustees. This trust would receive all corporate funding, which would then be given directly to political parties registered with the Election Commission.
While the first suggestion is worthy of consideration, the second is impractical for various reasons. It is true that if corporate contributions are made in an anonymous manner, the element of coercion is reduced. But, the point is why should corporate houses fund elections in the first place? They do so selectively in order to back a political party or candidates who support private enterprise and are interested in its growth in order to increase national production and usher in prosperity. They will consider it a sacrilege if the money contributed by them goes to finance communists or other anti-corporate Left outfits or candidates. Apart from contributing to the parties, some corporate houses also finance the election spending of individual candidates who are in tune with their economic philosophy and will look after the interests of private enterprise. Therefore, this suggestion should be left at that because the corporate are unlikely to accept it, unless forced by law to do so, which cannot happen under our Constitution.

State funding of elections stands on a different footing because from a corpus that may be created, a mechanism can be devised to make contributions to political parties in proportion to the votes secured by them in elections. This proposal has been hanging fire for decades but neither has the Government accepted it, nor there is a consensus among parties over its feasibility. State funding would presume that the expenditure incurred on elections by parties will be met entirely out of state funds, which will automatically eliminate contributions by corporates or others which makes the campaigns extravagant. Such a limit is unacceptable to the parties on the face of it and they would not mind state funding, along with freedom to raise money from other sources. With government contribution added to such expenditure, it will make the whole electoral exercise more costly then ever. Though several suggestions as regards state funding have been made, including contribution to parties, or direct cash transfer to the winner on the basis of votes polled by him, none has been found acceptable.

Clearly, the present system suits all the parties because they can conduct high-profile poll campaigns with funds derived from diverse sources without getting caught. The bulk of the corporate funding for individual candidates and, partly also parties, is in cash for which there is no account and which certainly is black money on which tax has been evaded. It is very amusing to watch members of parliament cry hoarse over the government's failure to curb the menace of black money. While themselves accepting cash contributions for poll expenses.

The election law, particularly relating to campaign financing and preventing entry of criminals into legislatures needs to be reviewed sooner the later. The parties owe it to the electorate to join hands in increasing the transparency, fairness and quality of our democracy and prevent further deterioration. (NPA)








The Indian economy in value term is the 12th largest; it is the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and second fastest growth wise. It is important to note that during the last three years, our economy have been severely impacted, but has successfully withstood two shocks in rapid succession: first was global financial crisis leading to the collapse in world growth, trade & financial system in 2007-09 whose ripple continue to persist even today; and second was year 2008-09 domestically, was a year of erratic monsoon which resulted into year of severe drought in 2009-10. Yet, Indian economy is coming through it with resilience and strength.
Industrial Growth Hit Hard

The industrial growth in India is measured in terms of index of industrial production (IIP) which continued to fluctuate in last three years. IIP-based cumulative industrial output growth during April-December 2010 was 8.6 per cent, on a par with the growth rate of the corresponding months of the previous year. It is to be noted that overall growth decelerated to 3.2 per cent in 2008-09 because of global economic meltdown. Timely intervention of the Government by way of appropriate monetary and fiscal policies resulted in the sharp recovery and overall industrial growth improved to 10.5 per cent. Growth in the industrial sector was buoyant during the first two quarters (April-June, July-September) of the current financial year. Thereafter, industrial output growth has begun to moderate partly due to higher base effect.

Industrial sector in India is divided into three broad sectors - mining, manufacturing and electricity. Manufacturing accounts for 79.4 per cent of the weight in IIP and the weights assigned to mining and electricity is 10.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively. IIP data is measured by 'use based classification' which is segmented into five broad groups: basic goods, capital goods, intermediates, consumer durables and consumer non-durables. Industrial sector has a share of 20 per cent in GDP. A moderation in industrial growth, therefore, affects the GDP growth proportionate to its share in GDP. Pressure on industrial growth, including manufacturing sector, became intense in 2008-09. Global economic slowdown impacted the Indian economy, particularly the industrial segment impinged by pull and push of domestic and external demand. The impact was widespread but worst hit were all the three key segments viz., mining, manufacturing and electricity.


Government acted swiftly to the winds of change and timely intervention resulted in a quick recovery.

Policy Activism by the Government

The Government to sail through crisis resorted to policy activism and came up with three quick stimulus packages amounting to Rs.1,86,000 crore which was to the tune of 3.5 per cent of India's GDP. It generated the much needed push in demand with a new set of optimism. Response to the global crisis was through fiscal and monetary policy interventions. The monetary and fiscal policy response intended to keep the impact of global crisis to the minimum and maintaining the aggregate demand at high enough level to stimulate the hard hit sectors. On the fiscal front the response essentially had two components- reducing excise duty by 6 per cent in two phases and rates of service tax by 2 per cent; and enlarging the Government expenditure to infuse confidence. On the monetary policy front, RBI undertook steps to expand liquidity. This was done to address the issue of Indian firms, during crisis to raise funds abroad, including trade credit, which had in turn put pressure on domestic banks for more credit. In a span of seven months between October 2008 to April 2009, the repo rate was reduced by 425 basis points to 4.75 per cent and reverse repo rate was reduced by 275 basis points to 3.25 per cent. Further, RBI reduced cash reserve ratio by a cumulative 400 basis points to 5.0 per cent.

Winds of change after Interventions

With these measures in pace, turn around in industrial sector began around June 2009 and continued to gather momentum. Overall industrial growth reached a peak of 18 per cent in December 2009, which was highest growth achieved since 1993-94. Manufacturing with its six core sectors has a weight of 26.68 per cent in overall IIP, (i.e. electricity, coal, crude petroleum, petroleum refinery products, steel and cement) also witnessed a sharp V shaped recovery and growth peaked to an all time high of 91.6 per cent in December 2009. Though even today month on month growth continued to fluctuate, overall industrial growth continued to be generally healthy. This clearly shows that timely intervention by the Government paid off.

According to the use based classification, capital goods posted a growth of 20.9 per cent during 2009-10 as against the 8.2 per cent during 2008-09. This classification also revels that consumer goods sector registered a growth of 6.2 per cent during the same time frame. Basic and intermediary goods industries posted a growth of 7.2 per cent. Basic goods and capital goods and intermediate goods registered a growth rates of 6.1 per cent, 16.7 per cent and 9.2 per cent respectively. Six core industries which is the backbone of our industrial growth registered a robust growth of 5.5 per cent during 2009-10 as compared to 3.0 per cent in 2008-09.

India's policy advantage

World over we were acknowledged for out monetary and fiscal management during the global economic meltdown and thereafter. There are few things that are unique about our stimulus package, in the process of liquidity injection the counter-parties involved were banks - there was no dilution of government securities or mortgaging of securities or commercial papers to any country. In terms of fiscal incentives, the increase in public expenditure was to stimulate rural economy and it did not go for recouping losses of the financial institutions or the corporate. In turn it created a long term productive assets through MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.), which provided remunerative prices to the farmers through a system of minimum support price.

To sum it up, there has been a significant capacity addition in some of the core industries. Undoubtedly, a robust growth and steady fiscal consolidation regime has now become the hallmark of the Indian economy. But, slow rate of capacity edition in physical infrastructure sector is constricting industrial sector growth. Capacity addition in core sectors and renewal of bottlenecks would spur industrial sector output in the medium to long term. (PIB Features)








Is Pakistan serious enough to resolve all bilateral issues with India including the prolonged Kashmir issue through dialogue? It may be but under the influence of growing extremism, the country is moving away from the sustainable dialogue with India on bilateral issues.

A keen assessment of the developments taking place in Pakistan time and again indicate that the country, which although has declining voters' support, lacks power to act against the wishes of anti-India forces' in the Army and various fundamentalist groups. Under the influence of growing extremism, the successive governments have failed to pave way for sustainable yet result-oriented dialogue with India.

Needless to say that over the years, successive civilian governments' in Pakistan have worked under the tremendous influence of extremist forces' which have held the government hostage to their vested interests and taken the country to the brink of disaster. The roots of extremism are spreading fast in the country and it has become even more obvious from the assassination of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, by cops of elite force of Punjab police at Islamabad on January 4.

India has always maintained that for a meaningful dialogue to resolve the bilateral issues including Kashmir, Pakistan must first act against the anti-India forces' operating from its (Pakistan) soil and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Ironically, instead of acting against these forces' operating since years from its soil, Pakistan has often tried to cover-up unlawful activities carried out by extremist groups by misleading the international community.

Pakistan's non-seriousness or inability to hold dialogue with India on bilateral issues was again exposed before the world community in the recent past. To the utter surprise of many in India and also in Pakistan, former foreign minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was strongly advocating Indo-Pak dialogue to resolve bilateral issues' was excluded from the Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's re-constituted cabinet.
Barely few days after foreign secretaries of two-countries met in Thimpu in February this year and pressed the reset button on the frozen dialogue process on the sidelines of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) event, to the astonishment of many in India and also in Pakistan, Qureshi was deprived of Foreign Minister portfolio in the re-constituted cabinet.

Qurashi's exclusion yet again belied tall claims of Pakistan that it was serious about resolving all bilateral issues with India through dialogue. While commenting that Qureshi was strongly advocating resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan, a section of media in Delhi analyzed that his exclusion from re-constituted Pakistan cabinet was a setback to proposed India-Pakistan dialogue to be held in July.

The former foreign minister was scheduled to visit Delhi in July for holding talks with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna on bilateral issues in pursuance of the programme agreed by the foreign secretaries of the two nations in Thimphu on the sidelines of a meeting of SAARC countries.

Whenever there has been mounting international pressure on Pakistan for taking stern action against Jihadi forces', it (the Pakistan) has tactfully tried avoid the pressure by jailing top wanted militants leaders only to be released later.

Dialogue with Pakistan has never yielded tangible results for obvious reasons. Talks have either failed or yielded intangible results in the past due to Pakistan inability to address India's concerns, which have been acknowledged even by the world community. Trade across LoC, resumption of bus and rail links, people to people and cultural contacts are few results of talks held amid unfavorable conditions.

Pertinent to mention that India's foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir agreed on February 6 on resuming stalled dialogue process between the two countries, which had started in 2004 and got disrupted in 2008, when Pakistan-supported terrorists attacked Mumbai.
The two foreign secretaries, with the approval of their respective governments, decided that talks on eight subjects would be held and followed talks between foreign ministers of the two countries.

Although the word, 'composite dialogue' was avoided, the foreign secretaries agreed to talk on terrorism, humanitarian issues, peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, other economic issues and the Wullar Barrage/Tulbul navigation projects.

There was a glimmer of hope in India, and also in Pakistan that relations between two neighboring countries would improve, when the two foreign secretaries announced to resume the dialogue process. However, Qureshi was not returned the foreign minister's portfolio in the re-constituted cabinet, which once again exposed Pakistan's 'seriousness' about the proposed dialogue.

Unfortunately for the people of Pakistan, the successive governments have never been the masters of foreign policy vis-à-vis India, Afghanistan and the United States (US). Instead the foreign policy in respect of these countries has always been dictated by the Army and ISI.

Pakistan Army and ISI have always tried and often succeeded to keep India-Pakistan relations hostage to Kashmir issue. Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir's meeting with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao ignited hopes at a point in time but expectedly Pakistan reverted to the traditional tone of "core issue Kashmir" once Bashir returned home.

In our efforts to normalize relations with Pakistan, we have to accept the reality that since November 1988, when democracy was revived after General Ziaul Haq's death in August that year, elected civilian governments' have only been the front of military dominance.

There is another bitter reality which India has to deal with. Terrorism has become the skin of the Pakistani concept of national security like the military uniform of General Pervez Musharraf had become his skin. He had to run into self-exile when he took off his uniform. The Pakistani Army has made it known to the world that its support to Afghan Taliban and terrorist groups like Lashkar-i-Taiba is for the survival of the country's security policy.

As for as Kashmir is concerned, the Army seeks in it its self-sustenance. Over past six decades, it (the army) has taught the common men to live by Kashmir. How effectively this lesson has been drilled into successive generations is reflected in Fatima Bhutto's book "Song of Blood and Sword". She writes that the Kashmir valley was "Promised to them (the people of Pakistan) by their ancestors………". That shows the misconception of a young America-educated girl about Kashmir. It will be not be a bad idea, if India insists that Pakistan teaches correct history of Kashmir to its school and university students and allow teaching of this history in schools and colleges of occupied Kashmir as well.


(Ansar Murad is a freelance writer. He can be reached at









Political prudence prompted the Congress to accept what appears on the surface to be a humiliating deal offered by Mamata Banerjee. The Congress in West Bengal, however, never had any illusion of being the dominant political force after Banerjee parted company with it 12 years ago and built up the Trinamool Congress. That is why the national party had staked its claim to contest only 'one-third' of the 294 Assembly seats for which elections begin next month. But Banerjee was willing to allow only 64 seats to the Congress as opposed to the 98 that the PCC chief demanded. After the Congress threatened to contest all the seats, a threat which nobody took seriously, the party had to swallow its pride while meekly accepting just one additional seat that Banerjee agreed to spare. But while Congress leaders desperately lobbied for at least some of the seats in and around Kolkata, all that she conceded was the Canning seat, forty kms away from the eastern metropolis. In an even more telling blow, the Congress had to give up as many as five of the seats it had actually won last time.


Despite such a demoralising deal, it has actually been a good bargain for the Congress. Keeping Mamata Banerjee in good humour was necessary to ensure the stability of the UPA government at the Centre and also an imperative to strive realistically for the defeat of the Left Front, which has governed West Bengal since 1977. The Left Front has generally been securing half the votes polled in Assembly elections but has been bagging a much larger share of seats because of Opposition disunity. But then the Congress is a pale shadow of its once formidable presence in the state. The party does not have even a single leader who commands a following across the state and influence of leaders like Deepa Das Munshi and Adhir Choudhury does not extend beyond their own respective strongholds.


The national party would, therefore, be hoping for Mamata, if she is swept to power in the state, to make a mess of the opportunity and allow the Congress to emerge by the next election as the more viable and more responsible alternative by default.









IT would be difficult for one to endorse the Kerala High Court's rejection of the Election Commission's plea against the state government's decision to include fresh beneficiaries in its Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme. On the face of it, the court has erred in its judgement. After elections to the State Assembly were notified by the Commission, the model code of conduct has come into force and thus, the government is not expected to take any decision that would disturb the level-playing field among all political parties in the elections. The issue in question is not whether the government is competent to take a policy decision of this nature or the rationale behind the scheme but the very propriety of taking such a decision when the election process is on and the model code of conduct is in force. Clearly, the government's decision to expand the scope and ambit of the rice scheme by including 40 lakh more beneficiaries is a brazen violation of the code of conduct. By doing so, the government sought to influence all the new beneficiaries in the run-up to the elections.


It is for the Election Commission to decide whether it should challenge the Kerala High Court's decision and go in appeal to the Supreme Court. However, the state government's contention that it has not violated the code of conduct because it had launched the scheme on February 23, much before the elections were notified, is unconvincing. More important, the High Court's order that the Election Commission had no authority to halt the scheme is flawed. Under Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission enjoys untrammeled powers to ensure free and fair elections. If High Courts start overturning every order of the Commission, as the Kerala High Court has done in this case, it will open the floodgates of corruption and elections would cease to be free and fair.


There is an urgent need to ensure the purity of elections. The government's move to extend the ambit of a populist scheme, though aimed at larger public good, should not be construed as legitimate activity but as an attempt to woo the people for votes. Thus, the decision is an evil practice, if not a corrupt practice in the letter and spirit of the law. Since the dividing line between an evil and corrupt practice is very thin, the Kerala government ought to have refrained from taking the decision at this juncture.









Cricket is a religion and Sachin Tendulkar is the presiding deity — acknowledged unanimously as one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. What is amazing is that his ethics and integrity are also of the same class as his game. He set yet another example of such sterling standards in the match against the West Indies in Chennai on Sunday when he walked off despite being given not out by umpire Steve Davis. The TV replays had also remained inconclusive. Such gestures may have been commonplace in the gentlemen's game some decades ago but are a rarity in the present era when the credo is to come up trumps somehow, ethics be damned. What a magnificent sacrifice he made! After all, if he had stayed on, he might very well have scored a century of centuries. But he has always been above such narrow considerations. That is why he makes an ideal role model.


His gesture gathers even more sheen in the backdrop of the fact that others are ever willing to do quite the opposite. For instance, Australia captain Ricky Ponting very well knew that he had got a thick edge to Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal on Saturday in Colombo but stood his ground till he was given out by a TV umpire's review. Ponting may justify his decision by reasoning that the lucky reprieves that batsmen get from umpires even out the bad decisions that they are handed at other times, but holding one's ground when one knows one is out does no credit to either the player or the game.


Yes, umpires do err at times. That is why the umpire decision review system has been put in place. There may be mistakes even when there is ample time to think through a decision with the help of TV footage. But in the end, it all boils down to the character of the players involved. Despite the mega-bucks that are at stake, they should not turn into mercenaries who conveniently give human values a go-by.









IN March 2003, a multinational force led by the US had launched a military campaign "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's alleged support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people." That was sequel to a prolonged 'no fly zones' maintained by multinational forces over Iraq. The US had hoped that with economic sanctions, frequent air patrolling and strikes to impose 'no flying zones' and its funding of the Iraqi opposition groups would enable Saddam's enemies within Iraq to overthrow him. That did not happen. It led to a full scale invasion of Iraq.


Eight years to the day, within hours of obtaining a mandate from the UN Security Council, another multinational force, led by France this time, has been launched to enforce a 'no fly zone' over Libya: the largest military intervention by Western powers ever since the Iraq war. According to French President Sarkozy, "it was the duty of France along with its partners to protect the civilian population from the murderous madness of a regime that has forfeited all claims to legitimacy."


The military campaign in Iraq had resulted in its occupation followed by 'regime change' and then a prolonged Iraqi insurgency which very nearly exhausted the coalition partners and their multinational force. The US, in particular, paid a heavy political and military price for the intervention. It is too soon to predict how the military campaign in Libya will end. But the political aim and the military strategy followed so far raise several questions and possible lessons for political and military leaders in future.


Libya has a civil war in which poorly equipped and fractious rebel forces, mostly from its Eastern part, are opposing the better organised and equipped armed forces of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. It will be obvious to any one that the civil war would end only when there is a 'regime change' or when Gaddafi's forces are able to crush the armed rebellion. President Sarkozy's statement, though couched in more acceptable human rights rhetoric, makes it clear that the coalition partners' main political aim is a 'regime change' in Libya.


Admiral Mullen, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has denied it. But his denial is most unconvincing. The Western powers hope that the 'regime change' will lead to establishment of a set up by Libya's civilians "who want to choose their own destiny", and thus favour political stability in North Africa.


While the couched political aim is clear, the military strategy adopted so far to achieve it gives rise to several issues. The coalition political leadership would have to be prepared to face them for the future direction and course of war.


First, it is not easy to impose a 'no flying zone' over a nation half the size of India. This will require substantial resources, 24/7 activity and a long duration. Will the coalition partners, already tired of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, be able to sustain it when the US has made it clear that it does not wish to be sucked into a Libyan civil war?


Secondly, imposition of a 'no flying zone' by itself cannot win a war or enable regime change. It will also require Libyan rebel forces to be organised, supported with military weapons and equipment, and trained to take on Gaddafi's regular forces for a prolonged military campaign.



Thirdly, to make 'no flying zone' effective, it is necessary to insert Special Forces inside Libya to carry out reconnaissance, identify targets for attack, establish contact with rebel forces, and to create a post war political framework. It is believed that Special Forces from several Western powers are already inside Libya to do this work.


Fourthly, the multinational force assigned to impose the 'no flying zone' has to ensure its own security against enemy missile and other ground and air attacks. To achieve its own security and prevent Gaddafi's forces from reaching rebels' strongholds, the multinational force would have to attack his command and communication facilities, radar and missile bases and other military installations. Combat forces moving towards the rebel's position would have to be destroyed. Such attacks, despite cruise missiles and other sophisticated targeting weapons and aids, are bound to result in substantial collateral damage including human lives.


Many political leaders who voted in favor of the 'no flying zone' resolution in the United Nations are surprised by the military action, which began with heavy pounding of Gaddafi's palace, military and civil installations and his armed forces. Russia, China and many Arab nations have expressed serious concern over the aerial engagement of targets and collateral damage. The Arab League and African Union appear to be backtracking from their earlier stance. But shouldn't they have known it better? Politically and diplomatically, the most interesting part is that both the interventionists as well as protesting nations are invoking the same rhetoric: of human rights and security of the Libyan people!


India, which abstained during the vote on the UN resolution, has protested strongly and called for an immediate halt to such attacks. The Indian response shows that the officials in the Ministry of External Affairs could neither perceive the military implications of a 'no flying zone' nor bothered to consult its military experts.


The military campaign is unlikely to be short unless Gaddafi decides to abdicate voluntarily or is killed along with his key supporters. His abdication and submission to the rebels and multinational force appears most unlikely at present. Even if the multinational force is able to destroy Gaddafi's air force and some components of ground forces, that would not stop him from developing insurgency operations with his forces and tribal loyalists. Libya, then, would see a long drawn insurgency and counter-insurgency operations like in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Important questions that arise at this stage are: how far is the coalition prepared to fight Gaddafi's forces and provide support to the rebel forces to enable a 'regime change', particularly in the face of Arab and some other nations' opposition? How long will the campaign remain an air operation? Is any coalition partner prepared to send ground troops into Libya?


My hunch is that we shall soon see a change; either in the political aim or in the military strategy of the campaign. What is certain is that the military campaign launched with the ostensible political objective to "protect civilian population and end human suffering" will impose greater human suffering, not only in Libya but elsewhere too. 


The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff









LADIES and gentlemen, welcome aboard Air India flight AI 420 from Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, to Heathrow Airport, London. This is your captain speaking.


Sorry for the slight delay in departure. We will be airborne as soon as we have finished reading this manual and learnt how to reverse the plane away from the parking bay.


The flight from Delhi to London will take approximately 10 hours, plus a few hours that we may require to locate the airport there. We will hit the tarmac five to six times before coming to a halt. You will not be charged anything extra for this pogo ride.


Please keep your seat belts fastened all through the journey because we are yet to master the technique we learnt at the correspondence school on how to keep the plane on an even keel. As a special gesture, there are 20 air-sickness bags in the pocket in front of your seat.


It is mandatory for every passenger to recite a prayer during takeoff and touchdown, because we fly on a wing and a prayer.


In conformity with international regulations, we would like to familiarise you with certain safety precautions. We will be cruising at an altitude not exceeding 2,000 ft because I happen to be scared of heights. Smoking and the use of electronic equipment is not permitted on this flight. Anyone using a cellphone, laptop or I-Pad to disseminate jokes about fake certificates of pilots is liable to be arrested for terrorist activities.


For your entertainment, two movies will be screened during the journey. Let me remind all passengers that you are not allowed to proceed to the exit doors midway through our films.


The progress of the journey undertaken and the time left to destination will be flashed regularly on your screens. If the dot does not move, please presume that we are flying in circles.


In case of a sudden drop in the cabin pressure, the plane will come down to the rooftop level automatically. Please do not wait to be provided with parachutes. Jump out straight away.


The weather in London is clear and sunny. The temperature there is 250 C. I am sorry, I have just been informed that it actually means 25 degrees centigrade.


As soon as you are airborne, you will be served light refreshments followed by dinner. For any special services like procuring genuine duty-free duplicate certificates, please feel free to press the buzzer.


Goodbye for now. Cabin crew, takeoff stations!


* * *


MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY! Please brace yourself for your lives. Some idiot in the air traffic control tower has led us onto what must be the shortest runway in the world. It has finished as soon as we started and there is no way that we can take off from here. Pray, pray, pray! Harder, harder, harder!!!!


Friends, I am so sorry that we had by mistake taxied on the runway breadth-wise, rather than length-wise. Still, a catastrophe has been averted at the last minute due to your good karmas. Thank you for flying with us. We hope to serve you again 









THE budgets of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have avoided hiking taxes. Jammu and Kashmir has increased the tax on cigarettes and tobacco. Since tax hikes annoy voters, governments now resort to borrowings.


Punjab leaders have wasted much of the Vidhan Sabha time fighting over the budget figures. Since a budget presents estimates, actual and projected figures do vary and only a professional body like the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) can point out irregularities and omissions.


On the 2009-10 budget the CAG report, tabled in the assembly a week before the Punjab budget, says that the budget estimates are not prepared with due care and there is need to review and streamline the system. This is the issue worth taking up.


According to the CAG, the actual revenue receipts were 15% less than those projected in the budget presented by the Akali Dal-BJP government in March, 2009. The actual tax revenue was much lower than the estimates. Manpreet Singh Badal was then the Finance Minister.


If the revenue was inflated, the expenditure was understated. The revenue deficit in the budget was mentioned as Rs 4,234 crore whereas actually it was Rs 5,251 crore. A Finance Minister can plead that he or she can never accurately assess future prospects. So there is no point in quibbling over figures. The broader picture needs to be studied.


Budgets in general are unduly long, badly written and come loaded with unwanted, excessive data and needless information. The Himachal budget, for instance, mentions details of the monkey menace, clerks' promotions and congress grass.


If an economist finds it hard to make sense of a budget, what should one expect from an ordinary MLA? Conveniently, opposition legislators either stage walkouts or boycott the debate. The treasury benches too get involved in issues they are comfortable with.


A budget, like a bikini, hides some of the crucial things. No budget speaks about the cost to the exchequer of a chief minister, a deputy chief minister, a minister, a parliamentary secretary or an MLA. Just ask any finance minister what is the number of jobless in the state/country. How many jobs have been created or lost in the past one year? How many have left agriculture or moved from villages to cities? How many distressed farmers have committed suicide? No budget carries such information. The US jobless rate is watched and discussed worldwide.


Even if the Punjab, Haryana and Himachal budgets fail to take note of unemployment and its consequences, a survey of the Labour Bureau of Chandigarh is revealing. The unemployment rate in Punjab is the highest in the region at 10.5%, which is higher than the national average of 9.4%. It is followed by Haryana (8.7%), Himachal Pradesh (5.9%), Jammu and Kashmir (4.9%), Chandigarh (0.2%) and Delhi (0.8%).


Punjab and Haryana have focussed on education. Himachal cares for its employees. Financially, Haryana has done well, Himachal is making improvements and there is hope, while Punjab is a consistent laggard if compared to a progressive state like Gujarat.


The fiscal deficit (the gap between the state revenue and expenditure) is a key indicator of a state's financial health. Haryana has a fiscal deficit of 2.6% of the GSDP, for Himachal it is 2.70% (reasonable in both cases) and for Punjab it is an outrageous 3.45%. This is despite Punjab raising cash by selling government land and the VAT pushing tax collections and also explains ministerial extravagance.


The Finance Minister has missed a chance to raise revenue by taxing the neo-rich like builders, transporters, hoteliers, mega mall owners and the liquor-mining mafia. In Punjab liquor shops are allotted by a draw of lot and house and plots are auctioned. There is no move to cut government expenditure and extravagance. Punjab politicians' lavish lifestyle, foreign trips and VIP culture are partly responsible for driving crowds of Punjabis to Manpreet Singh Badal's rallies. The rebel Badal is aware of public disgust on this issue.


Dr Upinderjit Kaur, a former economics professor, said in her budget speech in the assembly that "Punjab is now among (the) fastest growing states in the country", and then in the same breath adds, "its growth rate is practically equal to (the) national average". How can that be?


She says the state is "expected to grow at 7.78 per cent" in 2010-11 against the Planning Commission's projection of 5.9 per cent during the 11th Plan period. This is because of the new accounts with 2004-05 as the base year. She also recalled Gujarat's growth at 11.2%, Haryana's 11% and Himachal Pradesh's 9.5% -- all above Punjab's growth rate.


If Punjab is growing so fast, as she claims, why is it that the state's per capita income has slipped to number 8 in the country from the number one position not long ago?


The second most important factor about Punjab's economy is its almost unmanageable debt. A state's debt is seen in the context of its gross state domestic product (GSDP). Punjab's debt-to-GSDP ratio is 30.43% in 2010-11 and it will be slightly higher at 30.43% in the next fiscal year.


Gujarat, for instance, will have a debt of Rs 1.29 lakh crore by the end of 2011-12, a jump of Rs 21,000 crore over the current year. It is much higher than Punjab's Rs 77,585 crore projected for the same period. But Gujarat's debt-to-GSDP ratio is 22 per cent. So it is not a serious problem.


Punjab's debt figure excludes the loans taken by various boards and corporations which would become the government's responsibility in case of a default.None of the three states under discussion has tried to privatise or dispense with loss-making state enterprises. Punjab has 62 boards and corporations, including Punjab Gau Seva Board, Punjab Parvasi Bhalai Board and the Potato Development Board, mostly floated to park idle politicians from the ruling party to check their nuisance, but burdening the exchequer and the taxpayer unnecessarily.


Haryana's debt-to-GSDP ratio in comparison is still less at 18.96% in 2010-11 and it will move to 18.35% in the coming fiscal. Financially, Haryana is the strongest in the north-western region. It has the highest per capita income in the country after Goa. The state, hopes the Finance Minister, Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, will become revenue surplus in the next financial year.


Farmers in Haryana do not get free electricity. The minimum wages and wages paid under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNAREGA) are the highest in the country. Prosperity is visible even if unevenly distributed.


By growing at 9 per cent in 2010-11 Himachal Pradesh, a tiny hill state with geographical constraints, has beaten Punjab. It is also ahead of Punjab in education and human development. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who holds the Finance portfolio, underplayed the debt issue in his budget.


Ruling politicians often blame Punjab's poor industrial performance on the tax holiday given to the hill states. Dr Upinderjit Kaur said in her budget speech that "274 industrial units have either shifted or set up their expansion units with an investment of Rs 3,675 crore in the neighbouring states having (the) privilege of fiscal concessions" between 2002 and 2008.


This is unlikely because Himachal has attracted mostly pharmaceutical units. Chief Minister Dhumal had also claimed that industries coming to his states were not from Punjab. Punjab units landing in Uttarakhand is a distant possibility. The FM should put on the government Web site a list of units and the places they have moved to if she wants to be believed.


On the other hand, ASSOCHAM has maintained that if Punjab is getting government and private investment less than half of Haryana it is because of corruption, administrative delays, official apathy, high land prices and locational disadvantage.


Punjab had managed its finances well until 1986-87. Its debt position was at its worst in 1994-95 and has been improving, albeit very slowly. The successive Congress and Akali-BJP governments have been responsible for the fiscal deterioration. As Finance Minister, Manpreet Badal had presented budgets in keeping with the party's policies. When he tried to touch the root of Punjab's troubles – high debt and liberal subsidies – he was expelled from the Cabinet. That shows how deep are so-called political compulsions to carry on with populism. 







* Which Punjab budget has failed to address the issue of post-harvest waste. A massive 30% of agricultural produce goes waste every year for want of storage, transport and processing facilities. India is the second largest producer of rice and wheat, and the largest producer of pulses and milk. However, only 2% of fruits & vegetables get processed compared to 70% in Brazil and 60-70% in developed nations.


* Only Haryana is trying out private distributors of power in select cities. Power reforms are incomplete in Haryana and failing in Punjab.


* Punjab has not proposed a single project to make use of funds available under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, launched in 2005.


* Punjab has not yet set up a municipal infrastructure development fund. This has hurt the development of cities. There is no recycling of garbage in cities.


* Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia has suggested that Punjab - and Haryana too — should have a regulatory authority for water and levy a cess on energy used for drawing underground water. No takers for sane advice. The state has rather resumed free power supply to farmers.


* The budget makes no effort to encourage alternative crops like oilseeds and horticulture to replace paddy. Water-deficit Punjab exports rice to water-surplus states.


* The budget has neglected the issue of agricultural produce marketing. The APMC Act needs to be amended to provide for private sector participation in the development of agricultural markets, currently run by the state and a mafia.


* The predominantly agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana are not pushing for FDI in retail, which can provide better returns to small farmers through tie-ups with firms for better seeds, soil testing, guidance on chemicals and post-harvest management.










It's one of those t-shirt ideas I had a long time ago and really should get made one of these days. All I'm looking at is a plain white tee with the words "Jai Bajrang Bali" in quotes. Attributed to, of course, Bob Christo. You're welcome.


We lost that unforgettable gent earlier this week, and the outpouring of grief and genuine commiseration on the Internet has been heartening, triggering off a wave of nostalgia about that ruddy, beefy Australian man our cinema so enthusiastically cast as the face of foreign evil.


 Depending on what exactly you Google, you learn that Christo had quite the checkered past – involving CIA spy-ships and engineering and karate and terrorists in Rhodesia – before he came to India, became Sanjay Khan's bodyguard, and apparently struck up a friendship with the gorgeous Parveen Babi. He then became Bollywood's wicked-whiteman in residence for a quarter of a century. Fascinating stuff, and apparently, a memoir by the man is mercifully on its way. It's just a shame that Bob won't be around to see us lap it up.


For lap it up we doubtless will. Christo, frequently clad in either period costume as a British officer in pre-Independent India, or in Bollywood costume as a smuggler (read: goldframed Aviator sunglasses), always entered the film all guns blazing, promising to be a formidable foe to the good guy till he inevitably received his comeuppance. Yet, incredibly enough, this firangi foil, this stock-character Caucasian cliché – a strongman with a bald head and french beard, like a caricatured wrestler – turned out to be a hugely popular actor with a genuinely warm screen-presence, likable even in folly: even, in fact, as he cowered at the feet of an invisible superhero trying desperately hard to pronounce a line of prayer right.


 Rest In Peace, Bob. You were one of Bollywood's blessed imports who gave the industry true character. We are an industry notoriously quick to latch on to foreigners showing an interest in our wares, but ruthlessly quick to drop them as soon as we find something more unique.


Yet there are names who become a part of us and whom we appropriate as our very own. The English-Greek Fearless Nadia is as much a part of Indian cinema as is, say, Madhubala. Katrina Kaif, the most successful actress in the country today, is as Indian as heroines can get. We have forced them into being ours, just as we did with Bob. And ours they shall remain.


So thanks, Mr Christo. Not just for taking the punches all those years, but for being such a sport about all our jingoistic idiocy. We've always appreciated it. May the force be with you. Or, as you said, Jai Bajrang Bali.




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Make no mistake, all countries seek to strike a balance between narrow self interest and broad-minded idealism in adopting positions on international affairs. If French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron are so exercised about lack of democracy in Libya, it is as much to do, perhaps even more, with their sagging domestic image and enduring economic interests as it is to do with their commitment to human rights in the Arab world. If US President Barrack Obama is dithering about how much force to use in Libya to protect Libyan lives, it has as much to do with domestic politics as it has to do with oil economics, even if dithering has become second nature to Mr Obama. Perhaps a new great game is afoot in the Arab world, perhaps it is not and what we see is what there is to see — support for an uprising against a repressive regime. Whatever the factors that have contributed to the current situation in Libya, India has so far done well not to take explicit sides and to repeatedly emphasise the importance of protecting the lives of innocent people. India need not defend the likes of a Muammar Gaddafi, but it need not get involved in a western plot to replace unfriendly regimes with friendly ones if no direct Indian interests are served. India has both long-term and immediate interests and stake in the region and Indian policy must strike a balance between protecting these interests and upholding the values of freedom and democracy.

India's guarded response to events in Libya has been a wise one. At a time when the West is itself divided, and Russia and China have so far adopted a neutral stance, there is no need for India to be excessively involved, unless there is a United Nations mandated and supervised intervention in the region. India can certainly be part of a UN peacekeeping force in Libya and any other West Asia and North Africa (WANA) nation. But it need not get involved with half-baked western initiatives as is the present campaign in Libya. India has long standing civilisational and people-to-people relations with the Arab world, on the one hand, and vital economic interests, on the other. Not only are countries in the region a source of oil supply (though Libya accounts for just about 5.0 per cent of Indian petroleum imports), but they also provide livelihood to millions of Indians, whose homeward remittance of savings sustain large economies, including a large part of the economy of a state like Kerala. Given these vital economic interests, India's first priority should be to seek peace, security and regional stability in WANA, without necessarily ignoring the aspirations of the Arab people. India must think beyond Libya and ask what it should do if the anger on the Arab street, and tribal conflict, spreads to other countries, including Saudi Arabia. Given the destabilising impact of such a development on the Indian economy, pro-active diplomacy that facilitates transition to democracy without disruption of economic activity would be advisable.







With Parliament hardly able to conduct any legislative business, the campaign against the latest draft of the Seed Bill 2010, spearheaded by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and backed by several farmers' organisations and major opposition parties, will not be the only reason for a further delay in the bill's approval by parliament. The Bill was drafted after a prolonged process of consultation involving all stakeholders and members of the parliamentary standing committee. Its purpose is to regulate the quality, production, distribution, import and export of seeds, besides promoting private participation in the seed sector. It also creates a legal framework for the production and distribution of genetically-modified (GM) seeds, ending the current practice of introducing them merely after getting the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) and the environment ministry. This would enable registration of GM seeds, like seeds of any other crop variety or hybrid and subject to stipulated regulations. The existing Seed Act, 1966, which the new legislation seeks to replace, does not cover GM seeds. While the proposed legislation seeks to reform an out-dated Act, its detractors remain unconvinced. The major grouse of Mr Nitish Kumar, which is shared by several other chief ministers, is that this legislation steps into the Constitutional domain of states, since agriculture is a state subject under the Constitution. As such, it takes away the right of the states to decide which seeds to be allowed for cultivation and fix the prices and royalties concerning them. Further, they fear that encouraging private sector participation in the seed sector would put farmers at the mercy of the big agribusiness (read multinational seed giants). On GM seeds, the chief ministers feel that the draft Bill does not lay down adequate safeguards.

While, on balance, these chief ministers are not being fair in raising the objections they do, the fact is that in a federal system, the Centre must win the confidence of states, especially when different political parties are in power in different states and the Centre. Since the move to amend the seed law was initiated way back in 2004, the Centre had enough time to engage the states and draft a bill based on a wider consensus. Interestingly, many of the proposed provisions in this law are already there in the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001, which has very rightly been hailed by one and all as the most appropriate sui generis statute on crop seeds under the trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPs) regime of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This law adequately protects the traditional rights of farmers who use self-grown seeds of even the patent-protected varieties and also exchanging them amongst themselves or selling them to others, but without branding them. The new draft of the seed Bill, therefore, can be revisited to avoid duplications and address the concerns expressed by the critics, without sacrificing some of the good clauses of the current Bill. A pro-active approach by the Centre to build wider consensus should be able to win over reasonable chief ministers like Mr Kumar.







This year's Economic Survey, a statutory document presented annually to the Parliament, had an unusual section on morality and economics. In its lucidly written second chapter, entitled "Micro Foundations of Macroeconomic Development", the survey says that "honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are not just good moral qualities" but lead to economic progress and human development. Traditionally, economics and moral science have had an uneasy relationship, if at all. The former is based on the premise that people are fundamentally selfish and act only in self interest. Their collective selfish actions magically lead to social welfare and economic progress guided by the invisible hand of the market. The pursuit of self interest by the butcher, baker and bee-keeper was the foundation upon which was built the Wealth of Nations, as Adam Smith described in his eponymous book of 1776. So, what is the role of morality? The Economic Survey quotes from extensive research from behavioural economics, and asserts that efficient functioning of economies requires some amount of altruism and trustworthiness. Modern experimental economics research also shows that people are not just driven by innately self seeking behaviour. But their altruism thrives when there's more of it around in society. The idea that social capital (a proxy for the level of trust) is a key determinant of wealth and prosperity is not entirely new, nor is it uncontested. Much before he wrote his most famous book, Adam Smith also wrote another book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759, which describes another innate motivation called sympathy, apart from self-interest. It was this book where Mr Smith first used the phrase "invisible hand".

The survey gives many examples of how high levels of interpersonal trust is essential for higher economic growth. Long-term contracts do not get signed if there's a lack of trust (corporate bonds anybody? or undeveloped mortgage markets? pensions?) The only really long-term promises are those with the sovereign behind them. If longer private contracts have to prosper, we need a culture of honesty. The survey admits that it is not clear how these qualities can be developed. The other explanation that certain societies are innately untrusting is too politically incorrect to even contemplate! How then to explain that in some countries, unmanned four-way stop signs suffice, while in India, traffic lights with multiple manning also cannot prevent law breaking! Or that coin-operated machines still require humans to supervise. It has been an exceptionally bad season for the trust business. It is not simply because of the fallout of the Lehman crisis, wherein people found out that banks were selling short the very same securities that they were hawking to their clients. Or that banks were accepting stimulus money to pay fat bonuses to their own executives. Goldman Sachs turned down Facebook's offer to invest as private equity, but then invited its own customers to invest $1.5 billion into Facebook at more adverse terms. Morality requires that "you do unto others as you would have others do unto you". But the Facebook sauce that Goldman dished out to its clients, wasn't sauce enough for its own gander. Turns out this makes economic logic, even if not moral. This transaction sure didn't enhance trust capital.

More subtle but longer lasting damage to trust capital comes from individuals, not corporations. There are recent high-profile cases of trust dismayers. These are pedestalised, and much felicitated examples. The young and extremely popular defence minister of Germany, possibly a future Chancellor, resigned because his University stripped him of his PhD, as it was a copy-and-paste job. (Inadvertently, he said). A distinguished alumnus of IIT and Harvard, long time Managing Partner of McKinsey and Chairman of Public Health Foundation of India is tainted by serious charges of insider trading. A winner of global award of corporate governance confesses to SEBI that he has been stealing thousands of crores from his shareholders. The Director of London School of Economics resigned because of a money-tainted PhD. (Doctoral theses seem to be particularly vulnerable in this trust deficit times.) Even the Nobel Prize winning father of microfinance has not been spared. His central bank has asked him to resign, and he is also battling charges of theft, fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.

These example may not be illustrative, but they have enough potency to putting cracks into the edifice of trust capital. Call it micro fissures in the macro structure of trust. The examples quoted above are telling, because these individuals became repositories of trust, which was strengthened over a long period of time. The breaking of trust by individuals in public life has huge externalities, and inflicts collateral damage on social trust.

The broader message from the Economic Survey cannot be denied. A culture of trustworthiness goes a long way in enhancing economic well being. But how to build it? While the survey wrings its hands saying that we don't really know how trust capital accumulates, there may be simple thumb rules to follow. The rules should basically reward actions and behaviour that enhances trust capital, and swiftly punish actions that erode capital. More transparency to expose all kinds of conflicts of interest. Zero tolerance of trust breaking for high-pedestal occupiers. Zero tolerance for tainted individuals to occupy public office. In Germany, the minister resigned on mere charges of plagiarism in a PhD thesis. Can we aspire and hold ourselves to such standards?






It was a pleasant surprise that there were no loud protests when airfares on many domestic sectors almost doubled during the Holi weekend. There was added relief, too, as there was no government intervention either to discipline the airlines. The Delhi-Mumbai economy class one-way fare for an evening flight last Friday shot up to Rs 14,800-16,400, compared to the normal weekend fare of Rs 5,500-6,000. What happened? Why didn't the aam-aadmi government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) issue a warning or two to the airlines for what it should have seen as a ploy by them to pocket super-profits?

Remember that the UPA government did just that last Diwali in November 2010, when the airlines decided to raise fares by almost 300 per cent taking advantage of the holiday rush. The civil aviation ministry had issued a stern warning to the airlines asking them to limit the fare increase on such occasions within a pre-determined slab. The airlines' argument that fares tended to go up automatically just before major festival holidays, particularly for those purchasing tickets at the last minute, failed to impress the government. Nor was there any taker of the argument that the airlines' business model was such that they had different buckets of fares and once the low-fare buckets were fully booked, travellers had no choice other than buying tickets from high-fare buckets.


 To be sure, the increase in fares during the Holi weekend remained within the government-stipulated cap. Here then was a government that seemed to be tying itself in knots over its own mindless game. Having first tinkered with market-determined prices and imposed a fare cap that too for a service that a tiny percentage of well-heeled Indians consume, it had no reason to intervene again since the airlines raised fares within the permissible range, never mind that the increase was more than 100 per cent.

There was another governance failure that stood out in stark contrast. The airlines experienced a surge in the Holi weekend booking rush also because the ongoing Jat agitation had paralysed train services in large parts of northern and western India leading to the cancellation of many trains. The absence of government intervention in defusing the Jat agitation also contributed to the airline fare spike. The irony is too obvious for anyone to miss. The government could do precious little with the spike in air fares because the increase was within the limits set by it. At the same time, there was no effort by the government to prevent the cancellation of a large number of trains, which had inconvenienced most ordinary Indians planning to travel home during the festival.

There is, of course, a larger problem in the way the government has been dealing with airline fares. The belief that airline fares should be subject to government directives has no rational justification. Yes, airline fares too need to be regulated, so that airlines do not make super-profits by taking advantage of sudden shortages in airline seats availability, but that regulation should be done by a regulator, and not by the government. Unfortunately, airline fares continue to come under the regulatory domain of the directorate general of civil aviation, which many believe is an extension of the civil aviation ministry.

Those who had heaved a sigh of relief at the formation of the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA), in the belief that over time this body would expand its role and bring under its ambit the regulation of airfares as well are in for a major disappointment. The government proposes to create a separate regulatory authority to oversee airfares, while AERA would continue to deal with only airports regulation. Indeed, the government's thinking is that there should be a new apex level regulatory body supervising the functions of the two regulators — one for airports and the other for airlines. Why the government has made such elaborate plans to create multiple regulatory authorities within the same sector defies all logic and common sense.

Consider the following. The power sector has three distinct operations with different functions. There are companies that generate power. Then there are some companies, which are in the business of transmitting that power after evacuating it from the producing plants. Finally, there are companies, which are engaged in the plain business of distributing power.

Now imagine a situation where instead of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission as at present, there would be three different regulators — each one of them looking after the three segments of the power sector. What would be the advantage of such a system? None, except that more jobs would be created and more retiring bureaucrats (primarily those belonging to the Indian Administrative Services) will feel more secure about landing themselves with decent jobs with the perquisites and pay that are not lower than the last pay drawn by them prior to their retirement, thanks to the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations.

If only the government began seeing beyond the myopic interests of its bureaucrats, the civil aviation sector would benefit from better governance with a proper regulator overseeing the airports and the airlines. There is no need to create more regulatory bodies, which can only create more confusion and widen the governance deficit.







Whenever a socio-legal problem flares up, one can bet on two things to happen. Bollywood will make a film on it; and law-makers will pass legislation to solve it. Both will soon fade from public memory. There are several social welfare laws that are passed and forgotten. Two of them are meant to protect unorganised construction workers.

The construction industry is said to be the second largest one after agriculture. It is labour-intensive, employing 20 million and it is estimated that every Rs 1 crore invested on construction project generates employment of 22,000 unskilled man-days and 23,000 skilled or semi-skilled man-days. Recognising its importance, Parliament passed the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996 and the Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Act 1996.


 The government stated in the Preamble that construction works are characterised by their inherent risk to the life and limb of workers. The work is also characterised by its casual nature, temporary relationship between employer and employee, uncertain working hours, lack of basic amenities and inadequacy of welfare facilities. Although the provisions of various labour laws like the Minimum Wages Act, Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act and Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Services) Act are applicable to building workers, there was no comprehensive central legislation for this category of workers. The two enactments were aimed to improve matters.

After nearly 15 years, the central and state governments have done little to implement these laws. Ten years after the laws came into force, a public interest petition was moved in the Supreme Court pointing out the non-implementation of the provisions of the Acts (National Campaign for Central Legislation on Construction Labour vs Union of India). The court passed several orders over the years asking state governments to implement the main provisions of the law. There was little response. Last week, the court took a tough stand and summoned five top labour officers in the country to be present in the Chief Justice's court and explain the lapse.

The dubious honour goes to the Union Labour Secretary, the Director General of Inspection, Government of India, and Labour Secretaries of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Lakshdweep.

The court stated that many among the 36 states and Union territories have not taken even the initial steps. They have not appointed "Registration Officers" before whom the employers of workers have to register their establishments. They have also ignored their obligation to constitute state welfare boards.

Around this time last year, the court had passed 11 detailed directions to state governments. Constitution of welfare boards, holding regular meetings, creating awareness through the media were some of the recommendations. The Comptroller and Auditor General was asked to audit the implementation of the law. Even as late as November last year, there was no progress. The court recorded that the Union Government has also not done its part. A chart was prepared to verify the action taken by governments.

After studying the chart, the court wrote: "It is obvious that most of the states have defaulted in complying with the provisions of the Act and some of them, in fact, have not even constituted state welfare boards despite the writ petition having been pending since 2006 and the court having issued various directions in that regard." Thus the court was forced to take contempt-notice state-wise. Summoning the top babus was one such step.

Some of the big states with huge infrastructure projects are also culpable in flouting the laws. Among them are Maharashtra, Goa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. As a preliminary step, their labour secretaries have been impleaded in the case. No worker has been registered as a construction labourer in Assam, Mizoram, Sikkim and Jammu & Kashmir. The governments have not collected statutory cess for the welfare of workers (like food and education of their children). The order underlined that the "disobedience" of earlier directions persisted over a long period and the court had no choice but to take contempt of court action.

The capital has seen huge projects like the Commonwealth Games and the metro work. Therefore, the Delhi High Court has also taken up the issue, which should be emulated by major high courts in the country like that of Mumbai. The Delhi High Court has also summoned senior officials before them to explain their lapse. Cynics may not see much change in the hearts of the bureaucrats who have different compulsions. But the country has come to such a pass that unless the courts prod the executive, risking criticism, welfare laws will remain drawing-room decorations of the ruling elite.






A single policy rate may provide a stable signal to the money market but it might be a bit premature to give up the additional flexibility that the reverse repo gives

Samiran Chakraborty

Regional Head of Research, India, Standard Chartered


This will not mean an abandonment of the multiple objectives approach but ensure that we do not see a repeat of 2010 in the money markets

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has traditionally followed an approach of multiple objectives, operating targets and instruments while designing monetary policy in India. This has generally worked well in the past. There were odd periods of volatility but they did not last long.

However, two policy challenges arose in 2010. One, transmission of monetary policy was slow, making it ineffective. Second, volatility of overnight rates made communication of the monetary policy stance difficult. To get the background right, both fiscal and monetary policy were loosened aggressively in 2008 and 2009 in response to the global financial crisis. Only from late 2009 did the RBI start withdrawing the monetary stimulus as inflationary pressures emerged.

This reversal in monetary stance initially did not have any impact on the short end of the curve. However, in June 2010 payments for the 3G spectrum auction sucked out more than Rs 1 trillion and the call rate jumped 150 basis points without any policy trigger from the RBI. Still, deposit and lending rates did not go up in tandem because there was hope that liquidity might come back to the system when the government spent its surplus cash. So, the inability to forecast government revenue expenditure patterns, uncertain banking system liquidity, volatile short-term rates and ineffective monetary policy transmission became the backdrop for instituting a committee to evaluate the operating procedure for monetary policy.

In totality the recommendations of the committee address the above issues adequately. Although the suggestion of moving to a single repo rate for signalling monetary policy stance is a crucial departure from current practice, there are equally important proposals with regard to liquidity management. The RBI's endeavour will be to keep banking system liquidity primarily in deficit mode (one per cent of net demand and time liabilities, or NDTL) so that the repo rate is the operational rate and the call rate remains close to the repo rate. Under exceptional circumstances the RBI will be willing to absorb liquidity from the banking system at the reverse repo rate (100 basis points below the repo rate) and also inject liquidity at the bank rate, which will be 50 basis points higher than the repo rate. The width of the corridor between reverse repo and bank rate will be fixed at 150 basis points, obviating the need for the market to speculate on this issue.

The idea behind this framework is to provide a stable and less uncertain overnight rate without sacrificing the flexibility to deal with emergency liquidity situations. Also, the RBI hopes that monetary policy transmission will be more effective in a deficit liquidity mode. Its analysis shows that a change in the repo rate under deficit liquidity conditions is about three times more effective in pushing up the call rate than an equivalent change in the reverse repo rate in a surplus liquidity environment. The choice of one per cent of NDTL as a guidance for the targeted deficit in the system is driven by its finding that if the deficit moves above that threshold then the overnight rates might exceed repo rates by a significant margin, making the objective of stabilising short-term rates around the policy rate difficult to attain.

For this proposed mechanism to succeed, liquidity assessment and management will be key. Two suggestions stand out — one, government cash balances lying with the RBI can be auctioned if frictional liquidity shortage is high and, second, banks will be incentivised to mark-to-market the government securities in their held-to-maturity Statutory Liquidity Ratio portfolio. This is likely to improve banks' participation in the RBI's open market operations where valuation losses were suggested as one of the possible reasons for a lukewarm response from banks. Also, the RBI is considering putting out its own liquidity forecast in the public domain after fine-tuning its model. The only uncertainty seems to be how promptly the RBI will take action if the systemic liquidity is outside its target band of (+/-) one per cent of NDTL. It is important to appreciate that the single policy rate framework will not mean a complete abandonment of the overall monetary approach of multiple objectives, targets and instruments. It will just ensure that we do not see a repeat of 2010 in the money markets.

Ajit Ranade

Chief Economist, Aditya Birla Group

The quest for the holy grail of a single policy rate is admirable, but attaining it requires many other prerequisites to be met

A single policy rate to conduct monetary policy is a holy grail in the policy world. Most advanced countries are closer to this grail than India, because their money, credit and financial markets are much more integrated. Hence in those countries the monetary transmission, in normal times is predictable and swift. But even this mechanism broke down in the aftermath of Lehman's bankruptcy, when credit markets froze, and policy action was rendered relatively impotent. The spectacle of a possible liquidity trap loomed large, and the US Federal Reserve Bank had to resort to unorthodox methods like buying non-sovereign assets from banks. Even today the danger of a liquidity trap has not receded, and more unusual tactics of the Fed are not ruled out. In India too, the RBI's unorthodox action prevented a crisis for mutual funds in late 2008, an action possible due to policy flexibility.

The Deepak Mohanty committee was set up to review the operating procedure of monetary policy, most notably the working of the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF). The LAF came into existence in 2000 primarily as a tool to control volatility in short-term rates. Before the existence of the LAF corridor, readers may remember that inter-bank call money rates had zoomed to 120 per cent, albeit in extraordinary times. After LAF there has been more sanity. The Mohanty committee's main recommendation are that (a) the repo rate be the only policy rate; (b) the LAF corridor width be fixed; (c ) repo loans should not exceed one per cent of Net Demand and Time Liabilities (NDTL); (d) above this limit, a higher bank rate be made operative.

The committee expects the banking system to be mostly in deficit mode. These recommendations raise the following questions. First, by giving up the flexibility of the corridor width, the use of reverse repo rate to absorb excess liquidity gets undermined. Our experience from 2007 and again in 2009 suggests that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) needs extra tools to mop excess liquidity. Just relying on Market Stabilisation Schemes or Open Market Operations is not enough. Having flexibility on the reverse repo rate ensures that it can be made low enough occasionally to manage excess liquidity. Secondly, if the repo is to be determined by an auction, should it not vary from day to day? Ever since the beginning of LAF we have not really witnessed a genuine auction. Even if we have genuine daily auctions, how can we ensure that total demand is restricted to one per cent of NDTL (approximately Rs 50,000 crore)? If the repo is not allowed to vary, then we will have excess demand. The last few months have seen repo demand zoom all the way to nearly Rs 2 lakh crore! In such a case, how to ration? Will it be first come, first served? Or proportionate allocation based on bids? Any rationing scheme is likely to be seen as arbitrary. Thirdly, the committee's recommendation implies a higher (penal?) rate for demand that exceeds one per cent of NDTL. It says this higher rate be 50 basis points above the repo rate and 150 basis points above the reverse repo. This (higher) bank rate would then change every time with policy changes. The fact is that the bank rate as it stands (being the refinance rate) has hardly changed in many years. The elevation of the repo's status would mean that the bank rate would need to change frequently. Is that possible?

The quest for the holy grail of a single policy rate is admirable, but attaining it requires many other prerequisites to be met. Globalisation and integration are perhaps making it easier to use a single rate to signal monetary stance. India's fiscal situation already reduces a lot of elbow room. But sometimes there are other anomalies too. Not too long ago the liquidity and inflation situation called for a simultaneous increase in repo and decrease in the cash reserve ratio! This awkward situation could have been prevented with proactive and stern anti-inflationary measures. But such situations certainly call for maximum instrumental flexibility. The world is moving away from inflexible paradigms like inflation targeting and single regulators. In such a scenario, it might be a bit premature to give up an additional degree of freedom that the reverse repo gives.









The Centre's decision to roll back, for now, the 5% service tax on air-conditioned hospitals with more than 25 beds and on diagnostic services is pragmatic and, therefore, welcome. But why make this a temporary rollback? The government should shun the 'misery tax' even when the goods and services tax (GST) is rolled out, hopefully, next year. It makes sense to keep healthcare and education out of GST. A small negative list of goods and services that will not attract the levy would be in order. However, it will not do to merely exempt these two sectors from GST. Genuine relief will be available to the healthcare and education service providers only if refunds are given for taxes paid on inputs across the value chain. For this, healthcare and education must be treated like exports. A country does not export its taxes and, hence, exports would be zero-rated under GST. This means the final product or service will be spared tax, and taxes paid on all inputs refunded. The rising cost of healthcare and education makes the case for their inclusion in the negative list for GST even stronger. The government has also done well to introduce the Constitution Amendment Bill that would give new powers to the Centre to tax goods up to the retail stage and states to tax services. Here again, the Centre has been pragmatic and ensured that it does not infringe on the autonomy of the taxation powers of states. It will not have power to veto rate changes in the proposed GST Council to be chaired by the Union finance minister. The Bill says that every decision of the GST Council will be taken with the consensus of all the members present at the meeting. This means states will have the flexibility to change GST rates if they want to, although ideally they should not. The proposal to have GST Dispute Settlement Authority, created by Parliament, to deal with grievances of the Centre and the states is also welcome. Clearly, the Centre is now in a stronger position to convince states to come on board and introduce the biggest-ever indirect tax reform in the country. The states, too, must reciprocate the Centre's accommodation of their concerns and move ahead on adoption of GST. A grand-bargain will work.









Telecom minister Kapil Sibal has done the right thing by ordering an enquiry to find out why it has taken the government and the Tata group more than nine years to separate the telecom operations of VSNL from the surplus land under its control. In 2002, with Arun Shourie as disinvestment minister and Pradip Baijal as his secretary, the government sold VSNL, with a monopoly on international calls, to the Tatas. More than 770 acres of land was found to be surplus and it was decided that the land would be hived off and returned to the government. This seemed to be a sensible arrangement. Yet, over time, the land was not demerged from the company, neither under the NDA nor under the UPA regime that succeeded it. Did dilatory tactics of the Tatas, aided by a pliant telecom ministry, prevent the demerger of land from VSNL? Reports by former attorney general Milon Banerjee and telecom secretary Nripendra Mishra are critical about the delays in demerging and in 2006 the Comptroller and Auditor General published a highly critical account on disinvestment, including the sale of VSNL. Meanwhile, the Tatas say that they have gained nothing from retaining the land as part of VSNL. Sibal's probe must clear up the muddle.

The government should quickly push the demerger through. It has already appointed people to value the land and can expect a pleasant surprise. The historical value of the land is less than . 200 crore; today the market value would be between . 8,000 crore and . 10,000 crore, a fat windfall gain for the exchequer. The government must clean up the way it controls state-owned companies and the disinvestment process. Today, each PSU falls under the ambit of some administrative ministry, creating little fiefdoms for mantris. This creates a double hazard: if ministers resist, disinvestment can stop; if they act in collusion with potential buyers, PSU assets may be undervalued in a selloff. It'll be better to take PSUs out of administrative ministries and club them all under a single holding company that will appoint and sack boards and implement Cabinet decisions on disinvestment.








The year 1990 saw the release of a book titled I n d i a: A M illi o n M u t i n i e s N o wby V S Naipaul. Some 21 years later, the national mood ahead of Thursday's match between Dhoni's boys and Ponting's team could be characterised as I n d i a: A B illi o n S ele c t o r s. Everyone and his uncle, not to speak of the aunt, is selecting the Indian team for the knock-out stage of the World Cup that begins today with Pakistan playing the West Indies at Dhaka. TV news channels have phone-ins where callers can quiz panels of former international cricketers-turned-experts on 'burning questions' like whether India should go in with seven batsmen or five bowlers in the playing eleven.

And each answer yields more questions. If India go with seven batsmen, should the last one be Yusuf Pathan (who scored a century in an ODI in South Africa, which has the best bowling attack in the world) or Suresh Raina (who is India's best fielder in the World Cup, which demands moments of brilliance on the field)? The TV news channels invite the country's billion-plus fans to not only play the role of selectors but also those of coach and captain. Callers ring up to tell the experts what India should or shouldn't do against the Australians in Thursday's match. For instance, a caller suggested that Sreesanth play in Thursday's game but only to be told by former skipper Sourav Ganguly that it had been more than a month since the bowler had last played against Bangladesh on February 19 and that it made sense to stick with Munaf Patel who was more consistent in his line and length. The callers' touching concern is matched only by their humility. What if one of India's opening bowlers was injured on the eve of the match against Australia, the caller persisted. We'll only know the answer to that one on Thursday, March 24!






Last month, I took issue with Professor Amartya Sen on the importance of growth comparisons in policy discourse. Space constraints precluded a critique of his views on international comparisons of the well being of people and public versus private provision of healthcare. I undertake this task below.
Sen argues that India compares poorly with China on indicators of people's well being. As he himself recognises, this difference is partially due to China's superior growth performance, which has given it a per capita income more than thrice India's. But he glosses over the fact that the current differences also reflect China's historical advantage over India. According to World Development Indicators, by1980, China already enjoyed life expectancy at birth of 66 years against India's 55 and under-five mortality rate of 59 per thousand against India's 149. These differences persisted in 2008 with China achieving a life expectancy of 73 against India's 64 and under-five mortality rate of 21 against India's 68. More puzzling is Sen's comparison of India with Bangladesh: the advantage India enjoys over Bangladesh in per capita income, he says, is not reflected very well "in things that really matter". But in reaching this conclusion, he chooses his indicators selectively. Thus, he never discusses the relative levels of poverty, which place India well ahead of Bangladesh: 27.5% as against 40% at the national poverty line for 2004. World Bank calculations using a common poverty line paint a similar picture.

More surprisingly, Sen does not cite the Human Development Index, which he himself helped the UNDP design and launch in 1990 to facilitate international and intertemporal comparisons of people's well being. While the index is difficult to interpret because it packs a diverse set of characteristics into a single number, it has consistently placed India well above Bangladesh, the gap being as many as 10 countries in the latest 2010 rankings.

True, Bangladesh marginally outperforms India on life expectancy at birth (66 versus 64 years), infant mortality (42 versus 52 per thousand births) and a few other indicators but it is outperformed by India along a large number of other important indicators, sometimes by wide margins. As an example, India is miles ahead of Bangladesh in primary completion rates for both females (92% versus 57%) and males (95% versus 52%). Contrary to the impression conveyed by Sen, even limiting the comparison to women, Bangladesh has not outperformed India across the board. Most disturbing of all, however, are Sen's diagnosis of and prescription for healthcare. He lashes out against "premature privatisation of basic healthcare", arguing that "with the patients knowing very little about what the doctors (or 'supposed doctors') are giving them, the possibility of fraud and deceit is very large." As evidence, he cites "cases of exploitation of the poor patients' ignorance of what they are being given to make them part with badly needed money" uncovered by his Pratichi Trust. His solution to this "quackery and crookery" is to replace private by public provision of healthcare supported by larger health expenditures.

For every crime of commission by private providers discovered by Sen's Pratichi Trust, I could point to a crime of omission by public providers with far more grievous consequences. Just within the last month, 17 pregnant women have died, four of them after giving birth to stillborn children, in a prestigious government hospital in Jodhpur, owing to contaminated fluids injected intravenously. Symmetrically, I could point to many sparkling examples of private providers of healthcare: Life-Spring Hospitals in Andhra Pradesh, the Merrygold network in Uttar Pradesh and Aravind and Sankara eye hospitals in Tamil Nadu, etc.


While examples are helpful, policy formulation must be based on representative data and studies. On this score, Sen's case is quite weak. After decades of effort and expenditure, the performance of public healthcare has been dismal. Based on the National Sample Survey data, a 2001 World Bank study concluded that 80% of outpatient and 55% of inpatient care in both rural and urban areas was provided by the private sector in 1995-96. Even the poor overwhelmingly seek private providers.

A 2006 study reported that the countrywide absenteeism of public sector doctors exceeds 40% on average. Given that they can almost never be fired and therefore cannot be held accountable, the public sector doctors often run private practices in nearby towns, away from their assigned posts. In contrast, private doctors or "supposed doctors" earn their living from the service they render and are, therefore, accessible to the patients. Economists Jishnu Das and Jeffrey Hammer found in a 2007 study that private sector doctors, while less qualified, put far greater effort into patient care than their public sector counterparts.

No doubt, the government needs to raise expenditure on health. Luckily, the growth Sen discounts has made this possible through increased revenues. But the wisdom of spending this money on expanding public healthcare is highly questionable. Given the remote prospects of drastically altering the prevailing perverse incentives, is it wise to throw good money after bad? Instead, the government should use the extra expenditure partially to provide cash transfers for outpatient care and modest health insurance for inpatient care to the bottom 30-40% of the population and partially to improve public health services such as sanitation, immunisation and medical education and research.











There are three compelling reasons why the black money issue should be taken very seriously. First, the magnitude of such illicit funds stashed abroad is gargantuan. Former IMF economist Dev Kar estimates the present value of illicit fund flows from India between 1948 and 2008 to be $462 billion, i.e. over . 20 lakh crore. Can a country with the largest concentration of poor and hungry people in the world afford such colossal drain of resources? Even if a fraction of this amount is recovered — and it is eminently feasible — precious resources for welfare programmes like PDS, school education and public health can be mobilised.
Secondly, the fact that over 40% of India's FDI inflows come from Mauritius as against only 7% from the US, exposes the extent to which this tax haven is being misused. Most of the recent scams, including the 2G and IPL, have a Mauritius connection. Shell companies registered in Mauritius are being brazenly used for tax evasion, money laundering and other fraudulent activities. Despite repeated demands from political quarters to scrap or rework the DTAA with Mauritius, the government has maintained the status quo on this front. Unless this route is plugged, the impression will remain that the government tolerates the lawlessness of the domestic and foreign corporate class. Thirdly, much of these illicit funds are ploughed back into the Indian financial system as hot money flows through channels like the participatory notes, which currently account for 16% of the assets under custody of the FIIs in India. The experience of the global financial crisis should serve as a dire warning against the destabilising potential of such hot money flows. Furthermore, experts have expressed apprehension regarding such channels being used to raise funds from Indian capital markets to finance terrorism and other criminal activities. Laxity in dealing with such illicit funds can impair national security.
It is imperative that the Indian government lives up to the promises it has made in Parliament and the Supreme Court to crack down and unearth black money.



The answer is yes, but we need to ensure that we do not end up chasing a mirage! No doubt, there is a steady flow of black income and there is a stock of the same. Part of the stock may be held abroad — some in tax havens, some elsewhere.

While the stock of such black money held in tax havens may be substantial, it is only axiomatic that the stock of such black money in India will be phenomenal. From that perspective, it will seem that even if tackling the menace of huge amounts of black money held abroad may be important, what is more important is to stem the tide of generation of black income in the country.


The recently articulated action plan of the government seems to place too much reliance on the mechanism of exchange of information in terms of the bilateral tax information exchange agreements in order to ferret out information about Indian taxpayers from a few secretive tax havens. Granted that such a mechanism is an important tool in the hands of the tax administration in dealing with tax evasion, particularly of the crossborder variety. Yet, it must be understood that there are certain inherent limitations of the system that is in place. The information exchange agreements do not provide for automatic or spontaneous exchange of information. None of the tax agreements, comprehensive or limited, allows what is derisorily referred to as 'fishing expedition'.
For preventing generation of black money or even bringing back black money stashed in tax havens, there has to be a healthy respect for the tax laws. The tax offenders should know that they would be relentlessly pursued and not let off. For that to happen, however, we need to change our attitude towards tax evasion; the courts need to desist from taking a benign view of tax evasion, considering the same as almost inevitable.
Treaty shopping, which is the most efficient way by which black money held abroad gets laundered, needs to be recognised as an evil and not equated with deficit financing. Unless and until we do that, chasing black money in tax havens will indeed remain a pipedream.







It is indeed ironical that despite India's pharmaceutical industry being the third largest in the world in terms of volume and the leading producer of generic drugs, it is unable to meet the needs of its people. There are problems of access, quality and affordability. The cost of medicines is a major public health issue in the country, especially when the majority of people do not have health insurance and medicines provided by the public sector are often unavailable. According to NSO estimates, upto 79% cost of healthcare in rural areas is due to the cost of medicines and this situation is further compounded by the fact that 78% of the total expenditure on the healthcare is out of pocket with 65% of the Indian population, as per WHO estimates, not having access to modern health care. One of the effective ways of making healthcare affordable to people is by making quality medicines available to the people, especially the poor and marginalised at affordable prices. The Indian drug market is peculiar in many ways — first, even though most of the domestic drug products are generic but nearly all of them carry a brand name. Unbranded generics are rarely sold in the private sector. Secondly, there is a massive price differential across brands for the same formulation where the cost of production is just a fraction of the price at which the drug is finally sold. For example, cetrizine, a common anti-allergic drug, costs . 0.28 per tablet to . 4.70 per tablet under different brand names, depending on the company manufacturing it and its overhead costs, though the cost of production is less than 10 paisa. Similarly, if one takes amoxicillin plus clavulinic acid injection, the price varies across branded products between . 90 and . 174.
Thirdly, it is generally seen that the brand leader is also the price leader and the volume leader, meaning that the costlier brands sell more than the cheaper ones even when cheaper good-quality brands and unbranded generics are available. Drug pricing is a result of a complex web of influences between manufacturers, medical representatives, prescribers and patients. Couple this scenario with the fact that various state governments spend only between 8% and 30% of health expenditure on drugs, thereby leaving patients with little choice but to buy expensive drugs from the market. Therefore, in order to make healthcare affordable to the poorest of the poor we have to think of different paradigms of making lowcost available to them.

Take the case of Chittorgarh in Rajasthan where, because of the zeal of one dedicated IAS officer Samit Sharma, low-cost drugs are made available to people in 17 government cooperative stores through open tender procurement of quality generic drugs. The initiative includes persuasion of doctors to prescribe generic medicines. Medicines are dispensed at prices much below MRP (at one-fourth price) and yet make a 20% profit, thus rendering the initiative self- sustainable. Locost, Baroda-based voluntary organisation, was founded in 1983 with the objective of making quality low-cost drugs available to the rural and urban poor. It is an innovative experiment to show that goodquality medicines can be made and marketed at viable low prices. At present, Locost makes around 60 essential medicines in 80 formulations and by virtue of having its own manufacturing has demystified the production process.

Niramaya is an endeavour on the part of the administration, doctors and chemists of the Wardha district to provide lowcost but effective medicines to patients, especially the poor and needy. It does so by creating awareness among doctors, chemists and consumers regarding the massive price differential that exists across brands for the same formulation. A comparative price list across brands for essential drugs is provided to each doctor in the district to act as an illustrative ready reckoner for prescription. Doctors and chemists that participate in the scheme display the Niramaya board with its logo, making it easier for patients, especially the illiterate people, to identify doctors or chemists who provide affordable treatment under the scheme.
Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Delhi are procuring high-quality generic drugs at very low prices and have an efficient inventory management system. There are 46 Jan Aushadi generic medicine stores functioning in the country but 46 stores are too few for a population of 1.2 billion. Therefore, proactive intervention by state governments down to the district level is required to help people procure life-saving medicines at affordable prices.
Other options include expanding price control on essential drugs, having a profit margin cap for all drugs and awareness campaigns a la the Jago Grahak Jago regarding the price differential across brands wherein informed citizens demand for low-cost, effective drug prescription from doctors. In the end, market competition alone can bring prices down and for that to happen, there must be a demand for low-cost, effective drugs.

(The author is an IAS officer who started the Niramaya programme in Wardha.
Views are personal)




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The forthcoming Assembly election in West Bengal — to be held in as many as six stages to permit the security forces to be deployed effectively to deter troublesome elements — is unusual for two key reasons. Not for a long time has there been a direct clash in the state between two political fronts, one led by the CPM and the other by the Trinamul Congress. No bit players this time round — the minor players are not really in the race. The original Congress had split into two, and the two formations have come together in this election for the first time following a clear understanding. It is this which makes the CPM uneasy. If there were other anti-Left parties around that existed outside the Congress-Trinamul nexus, the ruling front is unlikely to have been nervous about the outcome. The second noteworthy feature of the April-May Assembly elections is that it throws up the likelihood of the CPM being voted out simultaneously in its twin citadels of West Bengal and Kerala (excluding tiny Tripura from this analysis). The Left has not relinquished power in Kolkata for well over three decades. The expectation in many quarters that it may be going out in this election is reinforced by the fact that the anti-Left vote won't get split this time. (In Kerala, if the standard cyclical pattern over decades holds good, the CPM may be on the way to relinquishing power.) If, however, the Left is able to beat the odds and surprise its opponents (in either of its strongholds), it may be expected to be on an ideological roll despite its relatively modest presence in Parliament. This can impact the political climate in the country. If not, a rightward shift in the country as a whole could be on the cards, beginning with a marked market-oriented thrust in economic deliberations all around, not just at the Centre. Also, a setback to the Left in its strongholds is apt to throw it into a measure of organisational confusion. Therefore, particularly in West Bengal, the Left may be expected to offer the Opposition a "do or die" battle. The challenge to the Election Commission on this count is obvious. The CPM's opponents too are not likely to leave any bases uncovered, and there is a big question mark on what role might be played by the Maoists, who not too long ago went on a spree of violence in many districts. Clearly, the stakes are high in the coming election, particularly in West Bengal. A reflection of this is the radical line the Left Front has taken in its choice of candidates. As many as nine sitting ministers were denied tickets and over half of its nominations have gone to newcomers. The Left is clearly out to impress the electorate with a "new look" approach. The challenge to it will lie especially in the countryside. It is yet to be seen if it can keep the dividend it earned in three decades with its land-to-the tiller approach and its emphasis on the cooperative movement in the state. The Congress-Trinamul Congress combine looked like rocking on the question of seat-sharing. In the end, however, the national party backed off for it did not want to give the electorate the impression that it was giving the Left space by fighting with its regional partner, which appears to be in a strong position.







ALMOST IMMEDIATELY after the United States, the United Kingdom and France began their relentless air attacks on Libya to enforce a no-fly zone across that country, India "regretted" these strikes and, in a carefully-worded statement, urged all parties concerned to "mitigate" an already tragic situation and not "exacerbate" it. Russia and China, along with this country, Germany and Brazil, had abstained from voting on the UN Security Council's resolution authorising the imposition of no-fly zone on Libya, and have deplored West's action in strong terms. Even more significantly, the Arab League, that had supported the UN Resolution 1973 (but for whose support the resolution would never have been passed), has radically changed its position. Its secretary-general Amr Musa, a former Egyptian ambassador to India, has "slammed" the Western nations for having gone "too far". The African Union has demanded immediate cessation of bombing. More such voices are almost certain to be raised as Libya's bombing by the Western "coalition" goes on, even though, according to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, Admiral Mike Mullen, the no-fly zone in Libya is already a reality. American strikes have also destroyed a building within Col. Muammar Gaddafi's residential compound, although Washington says he is not a target. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Col. Gaddafi, who has ruled his country for 41 years and can be more tyrannical than other dictators and despots in the region, has no intention of giving in. His megalomania has no limits. Yet, his declaration to fight to the bitter end the "colonial crusader aggressors", who he has compared to Hitler, should not be dismissed. Nor should anyone underestimate the unflinching support he enjoys from his Gaddafa tribe in a land that is divided and decentralised along tribal lines without any pluralistic tradition. The rebels demanding freedom, democracy and release from Col. Gaddafi's tyranny, concentrated around Benghazi in the eastern part of the country, are, no doubt, elated by the Western military action, especially because missile strikes have destroyed the armour and other assets of the Libyan Army on the march on Benghazi. However, the longer the air strikes last, the greater will be the anti-Western anger in Libya and elsewhere, even among those who intensely dislike the colonel. Although the US is denying this, civilian casualties have already resulted from Western bombing and more will take place. This would accentuate popular fury. There is another powerful reason why the Western military action in Libya would evoke irate reaction not in Libya and Muslim countries alone but all over: the manifest double standards of the US and its allies. Libya is not the only country where an oppressive regime is slaughtering innocent civilians. In Bahrain, not far away, a 30 per cent Sunni minority — with military help from neighbours such as Saudi Arabia — is meting out the same treatment to the 70 per cent Shia majority. Why don't those anxious to save Libyan civilians and offer them humanitarian assistance have any sympathy for the poor Bahrainis who have also demanded UN and US intervention? Similarly, in Yemen another long-lasting tyrant is killing protestors as mercilessly as Col. Gaddafi is doing in Libya, but no one seems to be bothered. Is it because Yemen is an American ally? As Nicholas Burns, a former US under-secretary of state and currently professor at Harvard, said on CNN, the three Western nations — with the support of only two small Arab states, United Arab Emirates and Qatar — have plunged into aerial action in Libya without any clear idea of their long-term aim. The mandate of the Security Council is confined to saving civilian lives by enforcing a no-fly zone and providing them humanitarian aid. The regime change is not a part of it, nor is the provision of arms to the rebels, even though the Western coalition is, in effect, siding with one of the two sides in the Libyan civil war. Yet, both US President Barack Obama and secretary of state Hillary Clinton have kept up the litany: "Gaddafi Must Go". How is this objective to be achieved without using the same methods that the US, during the regime of President George W. Bush, resorted to against Saddam Hussein in Iraq? But then "boots on the ground" in Libya are forbidden by Resolution 1973. At the same time, Col. Gaddafi's option to quit and flee, in the unlikely event of his wanting to exercise it, is also closed on him, for he is to be hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes. Nothing could be more hypocritical than this, for neither the US, nor France, Russia, or China accept the jurisdiction of the ICC. Nor, for that matter, does India. No wonder there is intense and widespread speculation that the Western objective might be to partition Libya into eastern and western regions, between the east ruled by the rebels and the west by Col. Gaddafi and his sons. The idea of Col. Gaddafi continuing as the ruler of the whole country is obviously distasteful. The editorial in this newspaper on Sunday (Is Military force needed in Libya), underscored the irony of the US going to war in the third Muslim country in eight years, and that too under a President who is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and had, in a famous speech in Cairo within months of moving into the White House, tried to reach out to the entire Muslim world. This plus his country's weariness with the Afghan war should explain President Obama's decision to reduce America's current lead role in the operations in Libya to a minimal, at best supportive one. This would mean handing over command to either Britain or France and not to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, because this military alliance functions on the principle of unanimity, which is lacking. Neither Germany nor Turkey support Odyssey Dawn. Altogether, luckless Libya has now become a massive cauldron of witches' brew. The situation is tailor-made for chaos, confusion and grim consequences.







There are just 13 months to go until the French presidential election and Le Phénomène Marine Le Pen, as it is called here, is getting spooky. Not so long ago, the 42-year-old daughter of Jean-Marie, now leader of the French National Front herself, was regarded as something of a joke — albeit quite an intelligent one. But now her detractors are taking her seriously. The last national opinion poll placed her first, with Nicholas Sarkozy trailing in third place. A quarter of Sarkozy's former supporters are thought to have abandoned him for this twice-divorced mother of three, and it is becoming increasingly hard to dismiss her chances of becoming the next French President. Having taken over as party leader in January, she still has a novelty factor — she is a regular on the sofas of French television shows. Many French analysts refused to believe her surge in the opinion polls, and are trying to find methodological inconsistencies. Le Monde went as far as to launch an investigation into the pollsters and their tactics. But there is no mystery as to why she jumps out as a candidate. Her main rival on the right is the increasingly unpopular Sarkzoy, while on the Left she faces the austere Martine Aubry, socialist party leader and daughter of Jacques Delors, and the priapic bon viveur Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former finance minister. Little wonder the colourful Mme Le Pen is on something of a roll. She is, alas, no monster. She has a polished, winning charm. She has always made herself accessible, pitching herself as a woman of the people — in contrast to the haughty Sarkozy, who annoys the French with his nervous tics, his sweating, and his hastily acquired supermodel wife. Mme Le Pen gains popularity by whipping up the xenophobic French into a fervour over immigration issues and the endlessly debated question of national identity. Polls suggest some 40 per cent of the French population regard Islam as the enemy within — and Muslims account for two thirds of immigrants. The 1995 Paris Metro bombings — by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group — still loom large in the national memory. In a country with unemployment at 10 per cent, there are constant complaints about how immigrants "take all the jobs". The turmoil in the Arab world has added to these fears. France's Muslim population is mainly composed of immigrants from North Africa, and the tumult in Tunisia and Libya has prompted fresh concerns about another wave of immigration into Europe. Italy's foreign minister has spoken about a "biblical exodus" from north Africa, with a third of a million making their way across the Mediterranean. Le Pen, presenting herself as moderate, has played on these anxieties, saying France should give refugees food and water but by no means allow them to land. To make the point, she travelled to the Italian island of Lampedusa last week, where more than 8,500 migrants have landed since the Tunisian revolution. Given that in many French cities, such as Paris, Marseilles and Lille, the approach to assimilation is to put immigrant populations on the outskirts of town and try to pretend they don't exist, her message has been well-received. Multiculturalism, Le Pen says, is a myth: the places where it was meant to thrive, such as the Balkans and Lebanon, descend into bloodshed and war. Unlike her father, Le Pen is careful not to say or do anything that could easily be labeled "racist". She has drilled party members not to employ objectionable terms. She is canny about avoiding explosive far-Right issues. She has made it clear that she does not share her father's anti-Semitism. (The 82-year-old Le Pen notoriously dismissed Hitler's gas chambers as a "detail of history".) She instead stresses her party's core agenda: halting immigration and ending citizenship by birthplace. She advocates what she calls a "French first" system of welfare and has predicted the collapse of the European Union. One could almost call her a proponent of Fascism Light, a Facebook-generation Right-winger. She is a far better judge than her father of where to draw the line between nationalism and obvious extremism. It also helps that she is telegenic, intelligent, interesting, outgoing, self-deprecating and modern. She is no Sarah Palin. Her declared tactic is to reach out to younger voters and women — and so far it is working. She has learnt lessons from the Netherlands and Austria, where the far-Right have flourished. She is cheerfully pitching herself at a very different type of voter to the sort her father courted. But the clever branding cannot disguise the fact that she is the same old package, dressed up in new clothes. Jean-Marie Le Pen's secret was to harness fear and exploit France's longstanding fear of immigration. His daughter, who has learnt from her father's mistakes, is gaining a popularity that the old demagogue could never have achieved. With her blonde bob, her wide smile and her anti-Islamic views, Marine Le Pen has become a perfect ambassador for fear.








The Japanese are the world's best experts in earthquake-resistant designs. They are also the most knowledgeable in protective designs against the impact of tsunamis. To add to this, Japan is a country that has a superb disaster management organisation and an often-rehearsed working team to handle such emergencies. In contrast, India is most disorganised and unprepared for handling emergencies of much less severity. In fact, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board's (AERB) disaster preparedness oversight is mostly on paper and the drills they conduct once in a while are half-hearted efforts that are more of a sham. In the name of earthquake engineering, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited's (NPCIL) strategy is to have their favourite consultants cook up the kind of seismicity data which suits them, with practically no independent verification of the data or design methodologies. A captive AERB, which reports to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), thus, makes the overall nuclear safety management in India worthless. There needs to be a complete re-organisation of the AERB, making it totally independent of the DAE. The AERB, which today works as a lap dog of the DAE and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), should be made stronger with the recruitment of reputed senior specialists. While it is unlikely that the kind of devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan may strike an Indian nuclear plant as well, the earthquake-resistant designs and tsunami abatement measures we have adopted for our nuclear plants do need a high-level, in-depth review by an independent expert group, predominantly consisting of non-DAE and non-NPCIL experts. Ever since the United Progressive Alliance government came to power in 2004, the collusion between the PMO, DAE, NPCIL and various corporate houses in India and abroad has substantially increased. This closeness was deliberately engineered by the PMO initially to bring home the Indo-US nuclear deal, but the continuity of this closeness between corporate business houses interested in nuclear power and concerned supervisory government agencies is distorting and damaging the independence of government decisions. This is leading India speedily towards large economic losses and a sharp increase in the potential for hazardous reactor accidents in India. This trend must be immediately arrested, if necessary, by Parliament's intervention. The decision of the government to import nuclear reactors is all the more perplexing when we know that India has already built about 18 pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) on its own over the last four decades and has perfected its design through extensive years of operation. We can continue to expand nuclear power in India by setting up 700 per megawatt electrical (MWe) PHWRs of our own design and 1,000 MWe ones thereafter. In view of the vast nuclear devastation we are observing in Japan, I would strongly urge the government not to proceed with the Jaitapur Project with purchase of European pressurised reactors (EPRs) from France or any other import of nuclear reactors. Secondly, the promoters (NPCIL and Areva) are completely silent about the serious problems which India, and especially the local community, have to face after operations commence and spent fuel starts accumulating at the Jaitapur site. The higher burn-up spent fuel from EPRs has its own unique hazards at the storage and transportation stages, unlike in the case of current light water reactors (LWRs) which use lower burn-ups. Thirdly, we are buying into all these high risks at an enormous cost to the taxpayers. An EPR will cost no less than Rs 20 crores per Mwe if the government does not hide most of the costs through invisible subsidies. As against this, an Indian PHWR will cost at the most Rs 8 crores per MWe. Why not purchase natural uranium alone from abroad and multiply the number of 700-1,000 MWe PHWRs, for which India does not require any technology imports? Today, there is very little public trust in the country's various atomic energy institutions and their heads, unlike in the days when Indira Gandhi or Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister and Homi N. Sethna or Raja Ramanna was Atomic Energy Commission chairman. The ethical standards in the PMO, DAE, NPCIL and AERB have fallen considerably, especially since 2004, perhaps because of the current Prime Minister's direct interference with these institutions to meet the political ends of getting the Indo-US nuclear deal passed through Parliament. All along, the nuclear agencies of the government have also colluded with and were assisted by major Indian and foreign corporate houses and their federations interested in the sizeable nuclear power market they are helping to create in India. Even in the evaluations and negotiations of cost, and safety and liability of imported reactors, the official nuclear agencies today are operating hand-in-glove with their friends in corporate houses and business federations. Under such circumstances, these government agencies must first be visibly delinked from corporate influences and made truly independent before the public can be expected to believe any of their assertions. It will be best if a high-level national commission on nuclear power is appointed to review India's nuclear power policies and their implementation at the earliest. The members of this commission must be people of high ethical standards with expertise in matters of nuclear power, safety and economics and preferably people outside the government, who are not connected with business houses or federations. * The author is a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board







The world of spirit begins when logic ends. At a recent function, I was invited by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to demonstrate clairvoyance and the power of yoga. It would suffice to say that the doctors, being respectful, did not believe in the accuracy of this ancient science. They gave clairvoyants of Dhyan Foundation randomly selected images of some sick and some healthy people. The clairvoyants, in a matter of 10 minutes, identified the sick and also pinpointed the exact area affected by the disease. In the words of Dr R.D. Lele, IMA's former president, "Clairvoyants' predictions by looking at the pictures of the subjects, which were provided by the IMA, are 80 per cent accurate, which is good enough". At the event there was also a yoga performance. The pulse of the practitioner was noted before and after the asanas. It was found that the pulse rate of the practitioner dropped by 15 counts after the asanas. In fact, the IMA has even given a written validation that the pulse rate of a practitioner dropped by 15 counts after 50 minutes of strenuous asanas. They said, "We have today changed for the positive, our opinion on yoga and a yogi". Further, all present were amazed by the beauty, glow and health of the people who practice yoga. They could not believe their eyes when a 55-year-old performed rigorous asanas without sweating. Clearly, yoga arrests ageing. What's more, the pulse rate was also reduced, indicating a complete control. It is not a miracle but Sanatan Kriya. A yogi is not bound by age, diet, ritual or lifestyle... yoga sets you free. So what is clairvoyance? To understand this let's understand Creation first. Prana is "the force" in the universe, and there is nothing in Creation which is devoid of prana. In fact, prana combines with the five elements (fire, air, water, ether and earth) to give form to the entire Creation. Whatever has been, whatever exists and whatever lies in the future dimensions of the physical world is nothing else but these five elements with different pranic frequencies. Prana vibrates in innumerable forms at innumerable dimensions. In one dimension it is sound and in another it is colour. There exist different colours with different shades and combinations. Some are pleasant, or soothing; some represent love, Divinity; some stand for power, some for anger and some are dull and depressing. All are different and have different effects. A clairvoyant is a person who can see the colour pattern of prana around the physical. Darker shades like dark reds, browns and dark greys are grosser colours while whitish pinks, violets, blues, greens, etc. are subtler colours. In fact, colour is the code by which the subtle body communicates with the physical body. It is by seeing the colours in the next layer that clairvoyants are able to foretell disease before it manifests in the physical. These colours are regulated at seven energy centres of the body, the seven major chakras. What the clairvoyant can see is the aura or chakra imbalances. Considerations like what shade is mixing with the natural colour, in what proportion, the positioning, the luminosity etc. all determine the state of the being. You can hide your true face by applying make-up or you may hide your true body by wearing loose fitting clothes, you may even lie about your character and intention but it is impossible to hide your true self from the eyes of a clairvoyant. For he or she would see your aura, which is something you cannot hide. However, not all clairvoyants can see the same thing. Some have a more developed sense of vision than the others. But since this is a subject on which clairvoyants ostensibly don't meet at a club to share notes on, there may be a paucity of information on how they compare. Clairvoyants are often unaware of their gift or constraints thereof, if they are using it. A clairvoyant can only see the colours and needs a guru to correctly interpret it. This science is more accurate than any present diagnostic equipment available, because the equipment tells you what is happening now and that also when the problem is strong enough to come into the catching capacity of the machine, while a clairvoyant tells all that is happening and what will, or is about to, happen. Such is the power of this ancient science. — Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting. Contact him at






The Finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee's proposal to levy service tax on airconditioned hospitals came under heavy fire from a wide cross-section of society. The National Human Rights Commission thought it fit to take exception. The Indian Medical Association protested. Philanthropist-surgeon Dr Devi Shetty, who was the personal physician of Mother Teresa, called it "Misery Tax" and likened it to the salt tax levied by the British. The small minority that found merit in the proposal looked at it from the narrow perspective of tax policy. Some even advanced the specious argument that only the affluent sections of society frequent large centrally air-conditioned hospitals. It is okay to tax them! Mr Mukherjee was eventually moved by the howls of protest. But this ill-advised move certainly served the purpose of bringing into focus the scandalous state of healthcare in the country. There is something very rotten with a healthcare model where an upmarket suburb of a metro teems with corporate hospitals, but has absolutely no facilities for those without deep pockets, or access to coverage, leave alone other less privileged sections of society, including the poor. This is the situation in Gurgaon, northern India's pre-eminent corporate hub. Throw a stone out from any of its posh neighbourhoods and gated communities. The chances are high that it will land on a swanky, state-of-the-art multi-star hospital. All-expenses-paid-for havens for the sahibs. For the rest, there aren't even any private nursing homes, let alone government hospitals. Those are available, in small numbers, in the old city, many miles away from new Gurgaon. Holistic urban development indeed! If this is the situation in a premier urban centre, it is far worse in the rest of urban India. In rural India, the situation is abysmal. Availability and affordability are the two banes of Indian healthcare. Medical care is simply not available to huge sections of the population. And where it is available, it is often unaffordable for the majority. But no politician makes this his/her election issue. No political leader finds it even expedient to declare like the US President, Mr Barack Obama, that the issue of healthcare is central to our future. Most of our politicians seem to see nothing wrong in driving India increasingly in the direction of the high-cost, private-care dominated, Big Insurance-led US model that Mr Obama has been railing against and seeking to modify. In India, the situation is far worse because insurance penetration is extremely low. Millions of middle-class here have either no coverage or inadequate coverage. In fact, almost 90 per cent of private spending on healthcare in India comes from the pockets of patients or their families. And banish the thought that only the poor find themselves in situations where absence of resources comes in the way of receiving treatment. According to Dr Shetty, as much as 90 per cent of the people in need of tertiary healthcare cannot afford the cost of life-saving surgical intervention. More and more people annually slide into poverty simply because of the sheer cost of healthcare, relative to income levels. Healthcare is a complex business and the most advanced nations of the world are still grappling with its myriad aspects in an effort to get it right. However, there is no gainsaying that some countries are closer than the rest to having a system that delivers the greatest good to the largest number. India is spending more on healthcare than ever before, but its expenditure is still no more than one per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP). Compare this with the UK which spends over eight per cent of its GDP on healthcare, which is still one per cent less than the European Union average. At present, the government accounts for less than 30 per cent of the total spending on healthcare in India. Clearly, this must increase drastically. But, as we all understand, throwing money at social sectors is not the same thing as reforming them. There is a crying need for reforms in the healthcare sector. We must move swiftly and decisively towards a system where there is universal access to healthcare and no citizen is denied medical care on grounds of lack of financial resources. We have to work towards having a system that delivers quality, affordable healthcare to all citizens, regardless of income, background, nature of illness or age. We are perhaps too far gone in the other direction to look at the models of Canada (Medicare) or the UK (National Health Service) where the state delivers free quality healthcare to all citizens at all times. But comprehensive reforms in what we have can save us from falling over the precipice. The state cannot abdicate its responsibility towards its citizens. After jobs, food and education, healthcare must be the next frontier. * Vivek Sengupta, public affairs analyst, is founder and chief executive of the consulting firm Moving Finger Communications










MAMATA Banerjee has forged an alliance, so to speak, with the Congress on her terms and the splinter outfit of 1998 has well and truly outgrown the parent party. It would be premature to speculate whether Monday's quid pro quo or more precisely an agreement to disagree will turn out to be a brittle electoral engagement. Yet there is no mistaking that the ha-ha at the level of the Trinamul president is matched with either fraught silence or articulated resentment in the Congress camp. The response of the  state party president, Manas Bhuniya, ~ "I am helpless" ~ just about sums up the mood. For the Congress ~ wavering as long as Sonia Gandhi was in London ~ has made the best of a bad bargain. Clearly, it has been driven by the larger goal of effecting a change of guard, arguably a manner of squaring up to the Left's withdrawal of support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. Both parties have a similar one-point agenda. Yet what the Trinamul Congress hails as a deal is no more than a poorly woven patchwork quilt for the Congress.  Neither party can be unaware of the jerky background; the projected pact was teetering to the brink last Friday when Miss Banerjee unilaterally announced her list of nominees. Even the mission undertaken by Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress's trouble-shooter for all seasons, appeared to have come a cropper. Miss Banerjee's attitude itself ran counter to the conventional certitudes of an electoral alliance. In a very bizarre turn of developments, Trinamul has won the first round; the gamble has paid off; and the alliance has been rescued virtually from the dumps seemingly on the formula of a quid pro quo but very much on the terms of the dominant force.


Small wonder that the engagement has caused a flutter in the Congress roost. The leadership has quite plainly compromised on the demand for what it called the "winnable seats", at least those constituencies that had elected the Congress in 2006. The agreement has already rocked the boat in the Congress stronghold of Murshidabad where the Behrampore MP, Adhir Chowdhury, has trashed a deal thrust by a party that "has no base in the district". As many as five sitting MLAs of the Congress have been dropped, notably former ministers, Gyan Singh Sohanpal and Fazle Haque.  The allotment of the prized Canning East constituency to the Congress might eventually cut no ice against the CPI-M's land reforms minister, Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who has won the seat since 1977. His spirited emphasis on agriculture instead of industry has reinforced his support base among the peasantry. The AICC's Shakeel Ahmed articulates the general disenchantment over the fact that quite a few sitting members will now have to wilt in the wilderness. Trinamul may be gloating; perceptible no less is the sulk in the Congress ranks. There is thus a fundamental disconnect in the alliance. But one thing must be said, Miss Banerjee seems to have matured as a strategist.



UNLIKE Misa, Tada or Pota, the acronym for the Public Safety Act in place in Jammu and Kashmir is not a four-letter word: yet it still evokes criticism expressed in near-invective. In this country Amnesty International may not enjoy the credibility and reputation it does elsewhere, but its slamming of the misuse of the PSA in recent times cannot be written off as "motivated" ~ a convenient shield against uncomfortable exposures. Only a couple of weeks ago New Delhi's team of interlocutors had also expressed displeasure over increased detentions in J&K. Though they did not specifically mention the PSA, nobody had any doubt about what they had in mind. Without going into the details mentioned in Amnesty's recently-released report ~ figures can always be disputed ~ there is no reason to reject the contention that the law and order machinery has thoroughly misused the special powers the enactment provides, and then claimed that rampant militant activity and separatist-sponsored unrest leaves it little alternative. It is time Omar Abdullah & Co (and perhaps Chidambaram and his North Block cronies too) understand that the reasons advanced for using the PSA are not very different from those cited by the Army for functioning under the AFSPA umbrella. Yet both the "operational mandates" add up to providing much scope for the violation of human rights, treating the local populace in high-handed fashion. Next time Omar talks of withdrawing AFSPA in select areas to earn public confidence, he must be asked if he is game for a corresponding dilution of the PSA.

If the statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the various "preventive" legislations in force across the country at one point in time or another were to be scrutinised, valid reasons for the enactments would be found. Disgracefully, all the seemingly good intentions and much-vaunted "safeguards" have been ignored during their implementation. Maybe PSA has not targeted a single community as Tada and Pota did "on the ground", but its misuse has fuelled the unrest ever latent in the Kashmir Valley. It has reconfirmed the failure of the police to identify the real troublemakers and collect judicially-sustainable evidence against them. Large-scale arrests may be warranted in certain scenarios, but continued detentions only prove counter-productive. The "roots" of militancy/unrest may be social, economic or political: police overhaul is critical to any remedy. The more extensive the use of "special laws" the more the cops condemn themselves.



NOW he is a Meghalaya Cabinet minister. But when Martin M Danggo was Speaker from 2006 to 2008, he was known for his crusade for the betterment of the poor and the downtrodden. After he vacated his official residence in May 2008, a Comptroller and Auditor-General report revealed that CCTVs, cameras and intercoms worth Rs 1.94 crore; carpets, air-conditioners, Sony LCD television sets and other installations in his bungalow estimated to cost Rs 2.5 crore, and other items worth Rs 2.47 crore were missing. The report also spoke of an  "unauthorised" poultry cooperative valued at Rs 11.81 lakh. The Opposition's furore for Danggo's removal from the Cabinet made little impact. He also led a 17-member delegation ~ of 15 legislators and two Assembly secretariat staff ~ to Europe. The legislators, according to the report, produced fake travel bills worth Rs 1.67 crore on a day's tour of the British Parliament. The team was to stay there for a day but the trip lasted 10 days as the legislators went footloose in Holland, France and Italy, all at public expense. One or two MLAs were said to have returned the travel allowance collected and at least one of them filed an FIR against his personal assistant for misleading him. But Danggo seemed unrepentant. Such goings-on are not uncommon. In fact, the trend is catching on in Meghalaya for the simple reason that there is no one to keep tabs on what democratically-elected representatives do. Even Governor RS Mooshahary has come in for sharp criticism for using a helicopter on numerous occasions, even for distances that could be covered by car. When present chief minister Mukul Sangma was deputy in 2006, he reportedly collected Rs 10.49 lakh in three years as travelling allowance, a figure surpassed by a home minister who pocketed Rs 13.75 lakh. No government has been free from charges of corruption and financial bungling, if for no other reason than Mammon continuing to be the presiding deity for politicians and bureaucrats.









THE condition of the common man in the Arab world, now witnessing an upsurge, is better than that in India. Bread was distributed free in Egypt. The queues for getting bread were longer in the recent past. Nevertheless, many were wholly dependent on this item of food. President Ben Ali of Tunisia used to help the poor in distress. During a visit to that country, I was told of a car driver who had lost his job and could not pay his house rent. He wrote to Ben Ali who arranged free government accommodation for him.

In Libya, health and education are funded by the government. The country occupied the top slot among African nations in the Human Development Index prepared by the United Nations Development Programme. Libya's rank was 56th, against India's 134th. The Human Development Index is based on three parameters ~ health, education and income. A high rank for Libya implies that the common man is better off than his counterpart in India. Yet it is the common man in the Arab world who is now up in arms. The health consultant, William Murra writes, "While access to free bread was a given in Egypt, the youth who went to the streets were yearning for something more ~ self-worth, an attribute realisable in part when one has opportunity to earn an income."
Oil is the other aspect of the raging turmoil. All Arab countries do not have oil. Tunisia has very little of it and Egypt has virtually none. Libya, on the other hand, has plenty. Four per cent of the world's oil supply comes from Libya. Moreover, its oil is of high quality and is called 'sweet oil'. The attitude of Western countries towards the upsurge in the Arab world appears to be influenced by the availability or otherwise of oil.
My assessment is that the Western powers intervened in favour of the agitators in Tunisia and Egypt. They convinced the rulers that investments made by them in the Western countries, often ill-gotten, would be frozen if they used force against the agitators. Why should the West intervene against rulers deemed favourable? It seems the West had little to lose by letting these rulers go and more to lose if the opposition won despite their support to the entrenched rulers.

I have visited Tunisia twice to meet my daughter who was working with the African Development Bank. I wanted to meet the political opposition as well as student leaders. I was told, however, that President Ben Ali had an extensive network of spies. Every move of the people is monitored as in a police state. Even the speech of the Imam in the mosque is screened by the police before being delivered. I was advised not to venture into that political minefield. I would think that such a ruler would easily use force against the agitators. But they did not do so, I reckon, because they were told not to do so by the Western powers. These rulers preferred to abdicate and hold on to the wealth they had stashed away in the Western countries.
Conditions in Libya were different. This country is a major supplier of oil to the Western countries which do not want this country to fall into the hands of anti-West Islamic forces at any cost. Therefore, the Western powers have given silent consent to the use of force by Muammar Gaddafi.

The  Western countries are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Gaddafi is anti-Western in his basic orientation. He has supported many anti-West liberation movements in Africa. He wants the African countries to merge into one country ~ the "United States of Africa." Such a vast country would be able to pursue an independent course and would not be easily manipulated by the West. He was an ardent supporter of the Soviet Union till it disintegrated. Recently, he has supported the Taliban and Somali pirates in a speech at the United Nations. He has threatened that he will support and join Al Qaida if the Western countries interfered in the domestic affairs of Libya.

However, Gaddafi has mellowed down in recent years. The disintegration of the Soviet Union removed his basic source of support in global geopolitics. He has since adopted the neo-liberal model of economic development, promoted by the Western countries. He has privatized 100-odd state companies and opened the country for foreign investment. He has promoted the sale of Libyan oil to the West. He has established cordial ties with Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, reportedly to the extent of visiting his harem. But these pro-West moves appear to have been made under duress as his sole support line from the Soviet Union has collapsed.
The Libyan protestors are more anti-Western than Gaddafi. They resent his espousal of the neo-liberal model. The choice before the Western countries, therefore, was between Gaddafi, who was only anti-West at heart but pro-West in deed, and the agitators who were wholly anti-West. This assessment appears to have led the Western powers to allow Gaddafi to use arms against the agitators. Reportedly the initial decision not to impose a 'no-fly' zone over Libya was taken at the behest of Russia and China. Both these powers have aligned with Gaddafi lest they provide a justification to the Western powers to intervene in their own countries.
Two aspects of the Arab unrest stand out. First, the people cannot be silenced with the supply of free bread. "Man does not live by bread alone." The people want jobs and yearn for self-respect. They do not wish to waste their lives by merely queuing up for free bread as in Egypt. The neo-liberal economic model, as propounded by the West, does not provide jobs. On the contrary, it seeks to encourage production with the help of automatic machines... and at the cost of jobs.

Clearly, there is a fundamental conflict between the neo-liberal economic model and social welfare and stability. Adoption of this model has led to the undoing of Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and is threatening Gaddafi. The second aspect is that Western countries will prop up only those rulers who will allow the natural resources of their countries to be willingly extracted by the West. These powers did not support Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt because resources could not be extracted. They supported Gaddafi until the other day because he allowed Libyan oil to be extracted by the Western countries.

Leaders in India can derive a lesson. Schemes, such as the one on guaranteed employment and loan-waivers will not lead to social stability. The common man wants jobs and business opportunities. A high performance rate in terms of the Human Development Index, as advocated by Amartya Sen, does not actually deliver. The mandarins of North Block should backtrack on corporate-funded economic development coupled with the distribution of doles. They should formulate policies to create jobs and business opportunities even at the cost of some inefficiency.

The second lesson is that Dr Manmohan Singh will be allowed to remain in power only as long he encourages the extraction of our natural resources like iron ore by the West.

The writer is former Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.







Eyebrows were raised immediately after news broke about the alleged suicide of Sadiq Batcha, close partner of former telecom minister Mr A Raja. The latter is currently in jail as the main suspect in the 2G Spectrum scam. Batcha was reputed to be in the know of all payments made in the scam and considered the most crucial probe witness by the CBI.

The very timing of the death was too coincidental to remain unnoticed. Batcha was due to fly to Delhi to be questioned by CBI hours before his death. By all accounts, he was looking forward to the interrogation quite cheerfully. Many hours after Batcha was found hanging in his residence, the police produced the suicide note purportedly written by him. For a dying man, Batcha's priorities in his last message were, to say the least, curious. Apart from stating that none was to blame for his death, the note was very self effacing. It highlighted instead the fact that Mr A Raja and his wife were innocent in the scam.

The post mortem identified asphyxiation as the cause of death. It was conducted by Dr Dekal. Now media has unearthed a fact that makes suspicions about Batcha's death darker. The good doctor claimed that he had offered to resign a month earlier in order to contest the forthcoming Assembly election as an Independent candidate. However this fact was publicised only four days ago.

There was therefore a clear conflict of interest revealed by the doctor's intention to enter the electoral fray. As an election candidate he was in a position to be helped by the DMK to which party the main accused Mr A Raja belongs. Why, then did the authorities not get the post mortem performed by another doctor? Dr Dekal claims that no other doctor had been available at that time. He may have performed the autopsy unmindful of the implications. Surely, the government would have perceived the glaring conflict of interest given the importance of the case. Could not another doctor be assigned the task from all of Chennai since Batcha's death was an extra-sensitive case?

The questions and doubts expressed by the media and the public started swirling. The state government was pushed on the back foot and was constrained to reject the doctor's resignation. So, for the moment, the possibility of an Independent unexpectedly getting elected does not seem to arise. But the damage to the credibility of Batcha's alleged suicide has been inflicted. It has further eroded our faith in criminal investigation. Doubtless, the controversy will gather momentum as more and more questions will continue to be raised.  
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist








After Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali's election as the UN Secretary-General, I congratulated an Egyptian friend I had met in Nairobi for his country having, for the first time, nominated a member of the minority community for a global role. I was overwhelmed when he looked me straight in the eye and said: "We nominated an Egyptian and not a Christian."


When the authoritarian Indira Gandhi regime fell in 1977, thanks to mainly Dalits and Muslims of north India, it was greeted by celebrations. Though the eventual trajectory of the Egyptian democratic revolution remains uncertain because ad hoc power still rests with the military, this insurrection, led by people themselves and not charismatic leaders, remains an epoch-making event. Mohamed ElBaradei, a member of the right-wing American think tank International Crisis Group, who returned to Egypt after an international career, was ignored by them; Mr Ghali, who, by his own admission, had allowed himself to be at the receiving end of British racism, was kept away; Mr Amr Moussa, Hosni Mubarak's former foreign minister and current head of the Arab League failed to excite them too. We have already seen how the spirit of freedom and democracy, coupled with the strength to challenge oppression, has percolated in Arab society.

The Egyptian revolution will go down as a "civilised" one and it has, indeed, been a festival of the people. Had Mao Zedong been alive, he would have noted with satisfaction how his dictum had played out in Tahrir Square. The people there had no arms, only hope, determination and the willingness to make sacrifices. They did not launch a reign of terror as the French revolutionaries had, nor did they lynch Mubarak as the Mujahideen had Soviet Union's "puppet" Muhammad Najibullah. They also left alone Omar Suleiman, Mubarak's CIA-groomed lieutenant ~ much unlike the fate that greeted Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife in Bucharest or the Tunisian strongman Ben Ali. A civilised and peaceful revolution which will stand as a model for similar uprisings, not least in the Arab world.

The utter lack of invitation for an American involvement in the uprising is perhaps the sign of changing times. At a seminar where I was to confront Professor Samuel Huntington years ago in Riyadh, he had declared that the large population of youth in Arab countries posed a threat to the West. He was right in that. The spontaneous and independent nature of the Egyptian uprising makes it clear that young Arab people view American interest in former colonies differently from their parents.

The royal Arab houses are feeling the heat. Bahrainis have already turned Manama's Pearl Square into their own Tahrir Square. The peaceful nature of the revolution that is engulfing the Arabian Peninsula will actually serve to further the cause of the protesters. Arabian economies are largely dependent on expatriate expertise and a lack of disruptiveness will only encourage an objective global appreciation of the issues that sparked off such an unrest in the first place. This is important if dictators propped up by Western nations across West Asia and north Africa are to be shown the door. More than 70,000 French troops are currently stationed in a number of sub-Saharan countries and mounting global disapproval of mercenary tactics, fuelled by an increasing awareness of the root of the peaceful revolution in the Arab world may just lead to their withdrawal. This might even invalidate the neo-colonial economic order to which most former colonies fight themselves manacled to.
Every country must have a Tahrir Square where the masses can transform themselves into catalysts of peaceful, positive transition. Americans need one to help them reclaim the values of great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln. Where will India's Tahrir Square be?

The writer, a Thiruvananthapuram-based ecologist, specialises in international environmental policy and can be contacted at

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US, British and French forces began their military strikes against Libya on 19 March in an operation the United States has codenamed Operation Odyssey Dawn. The military action followed a West-engineered United Nations Security Council resolution on the establishment of a "no-fly" zone in Libya and started with an hours-long bombardment of the North African country.

Western countries have long harboured the intention of dethroning Libya's Muammar Gaddafi regime. The recent military strife in the country between government troops and rebels offered an immediate and a rare excuse for Western military intervention. In the wake of political, economic and social crises in neighbouring Egypt, Tunisia and other West Asian countries, Libya was soon hit by a similar social unrest, with Opposition forces calling for Gaddafi to relinquish his decades-long hold on power. But the crisis in Libya was partly a result of political incitement from Western countries, which seem to have seen a glimmer of hope that Gaddafi might be driven from power by unrest such as that in Egypt.

The Gaddafi regime, however, chose to take a tough stance and mobilise the military. In the face of the more powerful government troops, Libya's Opposition forces were soon on the brink of collapse, a result beyond the expectations of the US-led Western nations. Against this backdrop, the Western countries plotted a "no-fly" zone resolution within the UN Security Council and then launched military assaults in the name of guaranteeing the implementation of the UN mandate.  But no matter what the well-decorated excuses, the latest military action in Libya is part of Western political and strategic intentions.

The US and other Western countries have long regarded the Libyan ruler as a thorn in their flesh that, they believe, should be uprooted. However, any means adopted by the West over the past years failed to produce a power change in the oil-rich African country. Under these circumstances, the ongoing West Asian unrest was seen as a rare opportunity for the West to oust Gaddafi and realise a power change in Libya. Some politicians in the West are also using the military action in Libya as a means to extricate themselves from their current political predicaments.

In the USA, the ongoing social crises as well as public demonstrations in Wisconsin and other states have plunged many state organs into functional paralysis. The government has also suffered a setback on the issue of the federal budget because of opposition from Congress. As a result, US President Barack Obama's approval rating has declined to a record low since he took office. His declining popularity, if not curbed, will pose a severe challenge to Mr Obama's bid for re-election. In this context, a limited military action in Libya is possibly seen as an effective way to help Mr Obama break away from the current unfavourable political situation.
France, the spearhead of the latest Western action in Libya, is also suffering from widespread social problems. With strikes spreading, President Nicolas Sarkozy still trailed his political rival Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front in a latest opinion poll, despite several cabinet reshuffles. His party hopes that France's military action in Libya will help boost Mr Sarkozy's popularity ahead of next year's elections.

Given their unparalleled military pre-eminence, the military action by the multinational coalition in Libya is capable of producing a power change in the North African nation. But in view of Gaddafi clout within Libya and his announced determination to unite all the people in the fight against Western aggression, the coalition forces will in all likelihood refrain from launching a large-scale and highly intensive ground offensive. In the face of the much more powerful Western military forces, the possibility cannot be ruled out that Gaddafi will adopt a flexible stance by choosing to hold talks with the opposition parties and asking for mediation from other major powers and even from the UN.

china daily/ann

The writer is deputy secretary-general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies 







All critics do not make good presenters of alternatives. Mamata Banerjee, the undisputed leader of the Trinamul Congress, won her political laurels by positioning herself as the most strident critic of Left rule in West Bengal. For a very long time, before violence in Nandigram brought intellectuals and members of civil society out on the streets of Calcutta to protest against the Left Front's arrogance and abuse of power, Ms Banerjee was the sole voice against the communist rule in West Bengal. It is this consistent and relentless opposition that has enabled her to dominate the entire anti-Left space in the state. She is poised now to challenge the Left in the forthcoming elections and, maybe, to overthrow it. There was, however, the lingering doubt, even among those who were sympathetic to her, about her abilities to make the critical transition from being a courageous street fighter to being a leader who was capable of taking West Bengal out of the morass of decline. Ms Banerjee, most people sighed, was a leader without a vision.

The election manifesto of the Trinamul Congress — which the party's numero uno released on Monday — should serve to dispel the doubts that people had about Ms Banerjee's lack of a vision. The manifesto not only spells out in some detail what Ms Banerjee proposes to do if she is voted to power but also sets out a time frame for the tasks she proposes to carry out. The last point is significant, because it is somewhat unique. It is difficult to dig out from the past an election manifesto of any party that put down a precise timetable against the promises being made. Promises are the alpha and omega of any election manifesto —promises are what manifestos are all about. But to limit the promises by a time frame adds to them a different dimension. It suggests that the party can be held accountable if the promises are not fulfilled within the given period. The promises acquire a concreteness because of the timetable. Ms Banerjee cannot say, as others before her have said, that she has miles to go before she can keep her promises. She has erected her own milestones.

The manifesto begins, expectedly, with an exposition of the failures of the Left Front government, and of the perilous and parlous condition in which it has left the state. The exposition is incisive and shows that Ms Banerjee has in her backoffice experts who know what they are talking about. This is not the stuff of empty rhetoric. But the manifesto moves swiftly into a different gear and proposes several measures in various realms to rejuvenate the economy, governance, infrastructure, education and health. Change is in the air. People will make the change. Ms Banerjee will have to deliver it.






Celebrations of historic events offer an opportunity to revisit the past and plan the future. Historians will pore over archival material to re-examine the circumstances that led the British to create the separate state of Bihar from the Bengal Presidency on March 22, 1912. A year-long celebration to mark the event can thus go beyond the ritualistic. The task for Nitish Kumar, Bihar's chief minister, is to seize the occasion to try and plan for the state's future. He has an image and the popular support that few Bihari politicians have had in recent decades. He may do well to begin the task by asking the basic questions. Bihar's economic decline has long puzzled experts who wondered what really went wrong in a land that had the richest soil in the Gangetic plain. Bihar has lost most of its industrial resources to Jharkhand after the latter came into being in 2000. But Bihar's industrial decline predates the creation of Jharkhand. Its economic decline has been reflected in lawlessness, caste battles and in other manifestations of social backwardness. Conventional wisdom holds its politicians responsible for Bihar's descent into chaos.

Mr Kumar has begun the task that may lay the foundation for a turnaround. So much has to be re-built that real change may take years to come. But what the state needs as the first step forward is the people's pride in their identity as Biharis. And the biggest hope for the state is the fact that while Bihar declined, Biharis continued to shine in many social and administrative spheres outside the state. For a long time, one of the largest contingents in the Indian Administrative Service has been from Bihar. Their successes in academic fields, too, show that the people from Bihar have abilities waiting to be harnessed for the state's recovery plan. Mr Kumar may have to break with many past traditions in order to build roads to the future. But he could go back to the past to correct a historical mistake — by renaming the state Vihar, as it was known in history.






The popular upsurge in the Arab world which has already thrown out two dictators and threatens many more has been seen as part of a currently unfolding global struggle for democracy. Such a reading, though exhilarating, is alas inaccurate. For, precisely when Arab dictators are being made to bite the dust, the state of Wisconsin in the United States of America has passed legislation that virtually decimates trade unions in the public sector; and several other states are set to emulate the Wisconsin legislation. Since in the US only about 7 per cent of private sector employees are unionized anyway, compared to over a third of the public sector employees, the destruction of trade unionism among the latter virtually amounts to an erasure of trade unions. This is a severe blow to democracy in the mightiest land of corporate capitalism. The struggle for democracy in one part of the globe in other words is accompanied by a struggle against democracy in another; put differently, the advance of the democratic revolution in one region is accompanied by a triumph of the counter-revolution against democracy elsewhere.

The sweep of the counter-revolution, however, is even greater than appears at first sight. The essence of democracy consists in the fact that the interests of the vast majority of the populace must not be sacrificed for the benefit of a few. The Mubaraks and the Ben Alis of the world amassed power and wealth at the expense of the people of their respective countries, and this, everyone recognized, was a negation of democracy. But let us take a look at what happened in Greece recently. Like in other countries, a handful of financial institutions had speculated and gained heavily in the financial markets, and when the bubble burst in 2008 they needed to be "rescued" with public money. The Greek government's support for shoring up such institutions widened the fiscal deficit. To keep the deficit in check, since the government could not borrow enough, massive cuts had to be imposed on public expenditure which entailed significant erosion in the living standards of the vast bulk of the working population. The interests of the vast mass of the population, in other words, had to be sacrificed to maintain the wealth and power of a handful of financiers.

What has happened in Greece is merely the repeat of a story enacted virtually everywhere in the capitalist world, except that governments elsewhere were not pushed to the brink as the Greek one was. Originally, when the governments in the advanced capitalist countries embarked upon their financial rescue operations, the argument was that the common people, including depositors, would be hard hit if the financial institutions were allowed to fail; that is, they needed to be rescued in the public interest. While this argument found wide acceptance, the overwhelming public view at the time was that, even though these institutions had to be rescued, those who brought these institutions to the sorry pass they were in deserved to be punished; hence the governments, in lieu of the rescue assistance, should take over these institutions and restructure them, without compensating their existing managements. This way a repeat of financial recklessness, and the ensuing crisis that sucks up public money, could be avoided.

Soon, however, the Obama administration came up with a new catchphrase. The financial institutions that needed to be rescued were not only "too big to fail" (which is why they had to be rescued), but they were also "too big to be restructured". In other words, they should just be left exactly as they were, with their managements making merry even as they were getting rescued with public money.

"Making merry" is no hyperbole here. Goldman Sachs, one of the firms rescued, is on track, according to the financial press, to pay out $17.5 billion as "compensation" for last year when many of its top executives had missed out on their bonuses. Its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, will be receiving a bonus of $12.6 million, even as his base salary triples.

But the sacrifice of the interest of the people for that of a handful of corporate rich is not confined to the case of financial rescue alone. The US federal budget under George Bush had handed out massive tax breaks to the rich while cutting back on programmes that would benefit the common people. Barack Obama has not been able to roll back the tax breaks, and hence has had to cut a series of welfare programmes further. All this has made many commentators see contemporary US as moving towards an authoritarian State largely controlled by the corporations and a financial elite. And the tendency manifesting itself in the US is also apparent in all major capitalist countries.

The Mubaraks and the Ben Alis, strutting around displaying their power and wealth, are easy to identify as targets of the struggle for democracy. But there are less visible, but no less real and far more powerful, targets in this struggle. These consist of the corporate-financial elite in each country which in turn is integrated much more closely than before with similar elites elsewhere, including in the powerful capitalist countries. Overthrowing them is as essential for the struggle for democracy as it is difficult.

The Arab people rising in revolt are acutely aware of this. In fact, Noam Chomsky reports that on February 20, Kamal Abbas, the Egyptian trade union leader and a prominent figure in the uprising against Mubarak, sent a message to workers in Wisconsin: "We stand with you as you stood with us." This awareness is what makes the Arab uprising such a source of inspiration for those who love democracy anywhere in the world, and so different from the so-called "orange" and other similar "revolutions" promoted by the US some years ago in Central Asia. These so-called "revolutions" were also ostensibly for the realization of "democracy", but a necessary component of such "democracy" was the pursuit of neo-liberal policies, which were designed to hand over control of Central Asian gas to US multinational bodies.

What is striking about the current Arab uprising is that similar efforts on the part of the big powers have failed till now because the uprising is aware of their machinations. Egypt and Tunisia were "fortunate" not to have oil, so that imperialist concern about their uprisings was confined only to the potential implications of such uprisings for Israel. But in the case of oil-endowed Libya, there have been attempts at direct intervention. The British prime minister, David Cameron, even sent agents to make contact with the Libyan resistance, ostensibly to inquire about the requirements of humanitarian aid, but in reality to attempt imperialist penetration into the Libyan resistance as a means of achieving future control over Libyan oil. The agents were captured by the resistance and sent back, since it did not want Gaddafi to benefit from the people's anti-imperialist sentiments by identifying the resistance with imperialism. But notwithstanding this awareness on the part of the resistance, imperialist overtures to it and interest in getting control over Libyan oil has been a potent factor behind Gaddafi's survival.

What is inspiring about the Arab uprising is not just its struggle for democracy but the fact that its struggle for democracy is informed by anti-imperialism; its notion of democracy is not a facile one, which mistakes the fall of a dictator for the achievement of democracy. This fall is only the first step in a protracted process which entails confronting the power of the global corporate-financial elite that is currently engaged in constricting democracy everywhere, even in the advanced capitalist countries. What happens in the Arab world will depend also upon what happens outside it, which is why it is not enough to celebrate the Arab uprising; one must join it in one's own country.

The author is a former professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi







The headline of the front-page news item of The Financial Times for February 18, 2011, screamed, "US doubts over India jet fighter partner." Reportedly, Timothy Roemer, the ambassador of the United States of America to India, expressed his profound doubts in the following words — as revealed by WikiLeaks — "The potential for HAL to successfully partner with US firms as a truly advanced aircraft remains untested and suspect." The implications are clear. The US needs to avoid being the partner of Indian aviation manufacturers. It would be preferable for the US to have India as a steady customer of aircraft manufactured by it. A buyer-seller relationship would keep the monopoly of technology in the hands of the US while India would spend the dollars.

Understandably, the US doubt, per se, is not misplaced. As observed by Roemer — "India's aviation industry is two to three decades behind that of the United States and other Western nations." Very true, indeed. But the US seems to have misread an essential ingredient of its capitalist economic policy. In a depressed market — with limited buyers — when a large ticket-buyer is in a stronger position to dictate a seller, it has to show respect for the latter. Else, chances are that the high-technology producer, which is also the seller, may face a mega financial loss at a time of unprecedented economic downturn, thereby creating a crisis in its domestic employment market.

Apparently, Roemer is partially guided by the British defence company, BAE Systems, which recently supplied the advanced jet trainer, Hawk, to the Indian Air Force. It has emerged that the British have given adverse report pertaining to the usage and maintenance of their aircraft by Indian personnel. "BAE technicians supervising work at HAL became aware that parts were being taken from the kits intended to assemble new aircraft and used instead as replacement parts for the aircraft already delivered." The scathing indictment showed Indians in a poor light: "Lack of controls left BAE unsure of what parts were now missing from the kits."

Two sides

Roemer, however, seems to have forgotten that the coin has two sides. How could he not have taken into account an equally damaging counter-charge made by the defence minister of India on the floor of Parliament that the United Kingdom's BAE Systems has supplied "sub-standard" materials to the IAF?

Paradoxically, however, Roemer's apprehension and doubts are unlikely to be shared and supported by US aviation companies bidding for the multi-billion-dollar fighter order from India. Thus whereas Boeing is "enjoying a productive partnership" with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Lockheed Martin expressed optimism as it could "ensure HAL will be successful". It is a tale of two opinions. Roemer's suspicion and observations are sweetly countered by those of the manufacturers from his own country.

What then is the prospect of an Indo-US industrial co-operation in case Washington DC wins the US $11 billion fighter order? Will the US fulfil the contractual obligations? Or will it inject fresh conditions as stumbling blocks to the modernization of the IAF? To be fair to Roemer, one cannot brush aside his queries and apprehensions. If he is "struck by the lack of automation and safety precautions at the HAL plant", they need to be addressed and corrected.

At the same time, India's aircraft industry would do better to produce, upgrade and use indigenous fighters (as done by China). It must lessen its dependence on imported goods. No country can become a superpower without adequate progress in the field of technology and without its own defence industry.


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It is certain that the denial of a seat to Kerala chief minister Achuthanandan by the CPM would have done damage to the prospects of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the state's assembly elections next month. But it is not equally certain whether the reversal of the party's decision would undo that potential damage.

This is because the circumstances of the denial of ticket to the veteran leader, the party's hide-and-seek game over it and its unconvincing explanations about the whole affair badly exposed  it at a crucial time. The state leadership had refused to offer a ticket to the chief minister clearly because of the factional fight between the groups led by Achuthanandan and party secretary Pinanrayi Vijayan. The Vijayan faction, which controls the party, thought that it could marginalise Achuthanandan.

But the protests all over the state forced the party to reconsider the decision and to announce Achuthanandan's candidature. It does no credit to a party like the CPM, which claims to be close to the grassroots, to have made such a miscalculation of the sentiments of the people.

Achuthanandan is no great administrator, he is a conservative on many issues, but he has a clean reputation bordering on charisma. Just before the last election also the party had denied nomination to him but the central leadership had to reverse the decision following widespread protests, as it did again this time. History has repeated itself and it has made the CPM leadership look like a cast of comic players.

History is against the LDF coming back to power in this election in the state where no government has ever been returned. The LDF had done badly in the recent Lok Sabha and local body elections. But Achuthanandan had in the last few weeks forced the rival United Democratic Front (UDF) to go on the defensive by shifting the focus to corruption and personal misconduct where its leaders are vulnerable.

If these became electoral issues he had an advantage. But the party's flip flop on his candidature has badly affected its image and credibility. Now the voters will not be sure whether Achuthanandan will be the chief minister even if the LDF wins the election. But he remains a vote-getter. A welcome message from the episode is that politicians who enjoy a clean image elicit spontaneous support from people across party lines even in these cynical times.







There were also reports of conviction and imprisonment for 80 years of some pirates by a US court. In spite of all the efforts being made by different countries to eliminate piracy the pirates have been expanding their activities. The figures released by the International Maritime Bureau prove this. There are still many ships which are being held by the pirates and a number of sailors are in captivity.

Once a ship is captured, negotiations usually end up in payment of ransom for the release of the ship and the captives. Therefore it is good news that a ship which was hijacked last December has now been captured by the Navy.

As it has become usual practice, the pirates were using the hijacked ship as a mother vessel from where they launched operations to capture other ships. But it has been a matter of surprise that the navies of many countries, including the US Sixth Fleet, have not been able to eliminate this threat posed by irregular, ragtag bands of outlaws.

Coordinated action has been lacking, in spite of efforts by the UN Security Council to deal with the problem. Indian ships have prevented some attacks in the past and India has set up a Coast Guard station in Lakshadweep to respond more quickly to calls for help. There are over 50 Indians who are held hostage by Somali pirates.

The government has ruled out direct negotiations with the pirates for their release and so their lives depend on the willingness of the shipping companies to pay ransom. The government should take a more active role in securing the release of  hostages. Payment of compensation has also not been satisfactory. Families of the crew of a ship which has been missing since 2005 have still not got their  compensation.

There is no domestic law on piracy and the government is planning to formulate one. While this is needed, it is more important to take effective action on the seas, coordinate anti-piracy operations with other countries, help in the release of hostages and extend aid to their families.







Nuclear energy is a good alternative for base load stations since the fuel packs a punch and it does not emit any greenhouse gases.

It is but natural that the instability in some of the reactors at the ageing Fukushima nuclear power complex, some 240 km north of Tokyo, as a result of damage caused by the massive earthquake following the tsunami on March 11, should reignite the debate in India about the wisdom of pursuing nuclear power as an energy resource.

Before we go into the pros and cons of the issue, we must first be clear about why we are considering nuclear energy at all. Energy is a prime need for economic development, even more so now, when we are ramping up our pace of development. As of now, we have a low per capita energy consumption, around 510 kg equivalent of oil per annum, which is less than half the world average.

It is estimated that at a GDP growth rate of 7 to 8 per cent per annum and an energy elasticity of 0.8 (this is a measure of the efficiency of energy utilisation in relation to growth rate), India's energy requirement will grow four-fold in the next 25 years.

If we leave aside the traditional biomass used primarily for cooking in rural areas, most of this energy requirement will be in the form of electric power. At the end of the 11th Plan, India will have a power generating capacity of around 1,90,000 megawatt.

Another 2,00,000 mw is proposed to be added during the next two Plan periods (2012 to 2022).

As of now, fossil fuel (petroleum, natural gas and coal) accounts for 90 per cent of the electricity produced. Since our crude and gas resources are meagre (we are currently importing 70 per cent of our requirement), the bulk of future electricity generation will have to be from coal. Although we have plenty of coal reserves, a large portion is located in forested and tribal areas which throw up environmental and  social problems in their exploitation. Recall environment minister Jairam Ramesh's  'Go/No Go' diktats regarding mining in coal bearing areas.

Then there is the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from coal combustion. At the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate  Change Summit, India has made a commitment to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP 20 to 25 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. This will not be possible if we produce most of our future electricity from coal.

What about other sources of energy? Large hydroelectric power is limited due to problems associated with inundation of forestland, large scale displacement of people and construction difficulties associated with mountainous terrain. Moreover, the dependence on   capricious monsoons makes hydroelectric power an unreliable source of energy. Renewables like wind, biomass and solar power have severe limitations of being diffused, irregular and requiring very large land areas to scale up. They are more suitable for small, dispersed loads.

Suitable for base load stations

In any large power network, most of the energy is generated in what are called base load stations, each one of which can generate large amounts of steady power on a sustained basis. Such generation is possible when the fuel is compact and available in large quantities, as with fossil fuels. Sources like hydro-electricity are not usually used for base load generation since they have a rapidly depleting energy source, which is the stored water. Hydroelectric power is brought into play for 'peaking,' that is, those parts of the day when the power demand is more than the capacity of the base load stations.

Nuclear energy is a good alternative for base load stations since the fuel packs a punch in small quantities and it does not emit any greenhouse gases. The downside is well known — radiation risks in case of accidents, high cost of decommissioning and problems associated with safe storage of spent fuel which remains radioactive for a very long time.

In India's case there is another problem with opting for nuclear energy. Our natural reserves of uranium ore are very low. To overcome this deficit, the founders of our nuclear power programme, proposed a 3-stage nuclear fuel cycle which would be able to exploit the vast deposits of thorium in our country in the final stage to produce uranium fuel.

Unfortunately for us, the development of fast breeder reactors, essential for the second stage, has been vastly delayed due to myriad technological problems and our nuclear power programme is still mired in the first stage with severe dependence on imported uranium.

Thanks to the embargoes imposed on us following the 1974 nuke test, we fell way behind our original nuclear power targets. At present, the installed nuclear power capacity is only around 6,000 mwe, which is just 3 per cent of total power generation capacity. However, with India no longer a pariah with the Nuclear Suppliers Group following the civilian nuclear agreement with the US, the government of India has plans to rapidly ramp up nuclear power capacity to 20,000 mwe by 2020 and 63,000 mwe by 2032, mainly through imports of plant, equipment and fuel.

If we go back on the nuclear option because of the panic generated by the Fukushima episode, that leaves us with just two choices. One is to go back to the good old 'Hindu rate of growth' (less than 3 per cent per annum) and learn to live with 12 hour power cuts as well as massive unemployment with all its attendant social chaos. The other is to go whole hog for coal and face global condemnation for not sticking to our commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And, who knows, climate change can be more disastrous for us than a malfunctioning nuclear reactor!








Proposed constitut-ional amendments are designed to establish the foundation for coming elections.

Egyptian voters have overwhelmingly approved a referendum on constitutional changes that will usher in rapid elections, with the results underscoring the strength of established political organisations, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and the weakness of emerging liberal groups.

More than 14.1 million voters, or 77.2 per cent, approved the constitutional amendments; 4 million, or 22.8 per cent, voted against them. The turnout of 41 per cent among the 45 million eligible voters broke all records for recent elections.

"This is the first real referendum in Egypt's history," said Mohamed Ahmed Attia, chairman of the supreme judicial committee that supervised the elections. "We had an unprecedented turnout because after Jan 25 people started to feel that their vote would matter."

President Hosni Mubarak was forced from power last month, 18 days after demonstrations against his three decades in power. The referendum result paved the way for early legislative elections as early as June and a presidential race possibly in August. The ruling military council had sought the rapid timetable to ensure its own speedy exit from running the country.

Next steps

The military council has been somewhat vague about the next steps. But Maj Gen Mamdouh Shaheen said the generals would issue a constitutional declaration to cover the changes and then set dates for the vote once the results were announced.

The Muslim Brotherhood and remnant elements of the National Democratic Party, which dominated Egyptian politics for decades, were the main supporters of the referendum.

They argued that the election timetable would ensure a swift return to civilian rule.

Members of the liberal wing of Egyptian politics mostly opposed the measure, saying that they lacked time to form effective political organisations. They said early elections would benefit the Brotherhood and the old governing party, which they warned would seek to write a constitution that centralises power, much like the old one.

Voters were asked to either accept or reject eight constitutional amendments as a whole — all of them designed to establish the foundations for coming elections. Most addressed some of the worst excesses of previous years — limiting the president to two four-year terms, for example, to avoid another president staying in office as long as Mubarak. The amendments were announced Feb 25 after virtually no public discussion by an 11-member committee of experts chosen by the military.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former top United Nations nuclear official and a Nobel Prize winner planning to run for president, opposed the amendments, as did Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, another potential presidential candidate.

Most 'no' votes emerged from Cairo and Alexandria, whereas support flowed in heavily from the provinces.

Essam el-Erian, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, hailed the results, saying that most Egyptians wanted to move forward toward rapid change, though he noted that the 23 per cent opposed should not go unnoticed.


It was the first time the Muslim Brotherhood had campaigned openly since the party was banned in 1954, and the group flexed its full organisational muscle — printing up countless fliers and posters, sending workers out to convince the undecided and driving voters to the polls.

"I believe that even with this result we can never go back to the way the country was," said Hisham Hawass, 30, a university lecturer in the delta city of Mansoura. But he was worried about the strong Brotherhood showing. "I want our country to advance, and we will not advance if they win."

The main group of young political activists who helped organise the revolution that toppled Mubarak had crisscrossed the country in the weeks since the referendum was announced, trying to convince voters to hold out for a longer transitional period before elections.

One activist, Ahmed Maher, 30, said that on the bright side, the election was not rigged, a first for Egypt, but he worried about the religious element that crept into the get-out-the vote efforts. "The results of the referendum make me worried about Egypt's political future," Maher said, vowing to redouble his efforts to get out onto the streets to organise before the elections. "The interference of religion in politics can destroy Egypt."
Islam Lotfy, a young Brotherhood member of the Revolution Youth Council, the same alliance of activists that helped lead the revolt, said that he was glad the amendments passed but that the main thing was that the vote happened at all.







If you didn't walk or cycle a mile each day to school or climb trees and jump over walls, then you don't belong to our generation that grew up in Bangalore where simple joys simply made your day.

The long walks to school and back on the shady roads blended fun and adventure. We played marbles on the way, filched guavas and mangoes from wayside trees and stopped in our tracks if we heard a Beatles or Cliff Richards number blaring from the radio of any home.

Nearly everyday we reached early to school and until the bell rang we played outdoors. From 'olly-colly,' a game of mercilessly hitting one another with a ball, sticks and stones, cricket or hockey to swinging on the parallel bars or watching a wrestling match in the sand pit, there were games galore.

After emptying our lunch boxes and drinking water straight from the tap (not once were we afflicted with jaundice, cholera or malaria) we revelled in more games. Post-school, play continued in our vicinity till the street lights came on.  All this despite having games classes twice a week.


If one pocket had marbles jangling, another had a top. Yes, we played tops with great gusto. Rolling up a string around a wooden top and throwing it on the ground to spin or knocking out another's top out of a small circle to win was a thrill in itself. We also hid a catapult in our pockets to shoot birds and squirrels or scare away eagles, monkeys or stray dogs. None had heard of SPCA those days.

Our houses, even schools had ample trees and if some boys were not found anywhere, they were perched on the branches of trees, feeling literally on top of the world. Undeniably, 'Monkey up the tree' was another popular game we enjoyed. We also sent paper kites soaring into the skies.

Few had residential phones and mobiles were a mystery. Yet we remained in touch with friends frequently. We just landed at their gates, yelled out their names or puckered our lips and blew whistles. Sometimes, we clapped to draw attention.

Of course there was homework, tests and exams. Few took them seriously. We pored over comics, story books and magazines more than our notes. We suffered bruises and cuts frequently but took it all in our stride. Indeed, we played more than we studied.

Tutions and stress were words that didn't exist in our dictionary. Our generation will never tire of reminiscing those carefree school days. Pomeroy rightly said: "Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect."








District Court judges George Karra, Miriam Sokolov and Judith Shevach set a milestone for the State of Israel yesterday. They placed the severity of former President Moshe Katsav's sexual offenses and the prominence of his position on the scales of justice. They thought about it and shifted Katsav's position of authority to the side of the offenses. They deliberated further and decided that Katsav is a serial sexual offender, and they sentenced him, by majority vote, to seven years in prison.

Even if the sentence is reduced on appeal to the Supreme Court, coming closer to Shevach's suggested four-year prison term, that will be nothing but a quantitative change to the fundamental fact that the person who used to sign Israel's laws and swore in its judges will be severely punished for violating those laws and will go to jail for years.

The person most responsible for Katsav's fall from grace is the former president himself. While holding public office, posts that became increasingly high in stature, he abused his authority to force his desires on women who happened to fall within his purview. When he got into trouble, he lied and defamed his accusers in an attempt to portray himself as victim rather than assailant.

In 2008, Katsav rejected the controversial, generous and overly lenient plea bargain he was offered by then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. Instead of sobering up, expressing remorse and asking for forgiveness, Katsav continued to attack the victims, the witnesses, the prosecution, the media and the courts, demonstrating to the country that there would be no rehabilitation for him.

His sentence, in addition to punishing Katsav and compensating the victims, also sends two important messages. It encourages victims of sexual offenses to speak out about the crimes, no matter how high and mighty is the assailant, and it deters public figures from believing in the illusion that their position will buy them immunity. The courts have already convicted former ministers Yitzhak Mordechai and Haim Ramon of sexual offenses, but they were not sentenced to jail; now the Katsav trial demonstrates even more forcefully that the police, the state prosecution and, ultimately, the judges do not automatically attribute to prominent men a tendency to attract false complaints from women. From here on, all senior officials will know that their job titles do not, in the words of the judges in the Katsav case, constitute a hunting license.

It's no great comfort, but Katsav's mark of shame is a badge of honor for Israel's police investigators, prosecutors and judges.







The latest fashion in Israel is to brandish the threat of Tahrir Square. Are the emergency rooms overcrowded? Do the banks charge astronomical fees? Were the prices of water and gas raised? Is the real estate market in a frenzy? Have costumes become more expensive? Just wait, in the end people will take to the city square here, too.

But not to worry. The entire Israeli middle class - from the weak tail that has difficulty making ends meet to its crazy head, which is willing to pay NIS 13 in order to bite into a small slice of pita with chocolate spread "for the concept" - won't rebel. Although it is not satisfied, it has no idea what it wants in place of what it has now, the cause of its dissatisfaction.

The Israeli bourgeoisie is not rebelling. It is affronted. By the salaries of senior executives, by the villa of Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant, by the grand piano of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the Akirov Towers, by the junkets of Ehud Olmert, by the acquisitions of business mogul Nochi Dankner, by the good life of billionaire Shari Arison, by the power of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to appoint ambassadors - in short, by anything that someone else has received, and they haven't.

How can we know that it's a matter of affront rather than hardship? Because according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the situation of the middle class has improved in recent years. Evidence of that is the turnover in new cars and electric appliances, the grabbing up of new apartments (on paper! ) in the center of the country and the crowding at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and at restaurants and shops.

Although government expenditures have shrunk and privatized services are limping, the bourgeois have become accustomed to purchasing private education, health and nursing care, and have even enjoyed the image of the presumably-wealthy that these grant them. Most believe that the present economic system is a dizzying success. What do you want, they mockingly ask critics of the system, to return to the Bolshevism of Labor Party forebear Mapai?

Nor is the middle class complaining about hardship. In any case, not about hardship similar to that of the lowest deciles, from which it makes a great effort to separate itself and makes sure to pity, if at all, by means of a donation to one of 30,000 non-profit organizations in the voluntary sector. They are only very angry that others (Who are they? Where did they come from? The bourgeoisie was here before them! ) have much more.

As in the song by Yehuda Poliker, the middle class in Israel wants also wants "everything, the best, the most," just like those others - and to hell with everyone else. For decades it has been supporting centrist parties with vague platforms, which support the neo-liberal order and sweeping privatization in every area, and that avoid any commitment to equality, freedom from religion, peace and civil rights. And it goes crazy only when it suffers from inconvenience: parents' school fees, an overly long wait for a medical examination, bureaucracy that delays the construction of the pergola on the roof.

The middle class is not exercised by the exclusion of Arabs or racist legislation; what bugs it are the strikes by social workers and doctors. Nor does it care that rabbinical court judges abuse women or converts; the settlements don't bother it; and the occupation? Spare the cliches. It's been known for a long time that there's no partner on the other side, so what can we do?

In general, don't bother it with politics. Politics is a despicable matter. It's much more comfortable to talk about "motherhood and apple pie": a core curriculum for the ultra-Orthodox, for example. Oh yes, and the salaries of senior executives. A scandal.

The affronted don't look down or to the sides, nor at themselves and their responsibility for the profound and destructive changes taking place here. They refuse to see the link between the government's policies in all areas and the fact that Israel is turning into a reclusive and panicky country, whose investors gather mainly around the flickering screens in the stock market and whose technological and scientific achievements are shrinking, and they don't see the connection between the unbridled increase in wealth, the destructive disparities and the elimination of the public sector on the one hand, and the collapse of society and the strengthening of its fascist tendencies on the other.

They prefer to look only upward and to see only what they lack, and to direct their energy to hating those who "took things away from them." But as long as they do so, and they prefer political parties and candidates who reflect their private complaints just as they flee as if from fire from nonpopulist and courageous political opinions, they are doomed to go around in circles, from one political fashion to another, and to continue being affronted.







If there is one country in the world that should not have built nuclear reactors, it is Japan, and that is not 20-20 hindsight. The traumas of World War II, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the fact that Japan sits on the seam of tectonic plates, should have kept it away from that path. But Japan became a leader in the construction of reactors after all.

If there is one country in the world that should not have fallen into the chasm of anti-democratic racism, it is Israel. The traumas of World War II and the horrors that racism and hatred wreaked on democracy, along with the fact that Israel sits on the seam of the Islamic world, should have kept it away from that path. But the government threatens to turn Israel into a rising anti-democratic power after all.

It is not for nothing that Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, for the many months during which he could have taken over the Old City of Jerusalem in late 1948, refused to do so. Israel's first prime minister understood that if the country took the path of antagonistic and provocative religious-messianic identity, the cracks on the Islamic-Jewish-Christian fault line would bring about destruction. Only if Israel chose to turn its back on the sanctity of Jerusalem and to prefer a realistic and normal identity, could it flourish.

And so Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accurate in his warning after the terror attack in Itamar against incitement that leads to murder. As we look inward, and we must first of all look inward, we will easily grasp the extent of the danger. It is not "just" state-funded Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu inciting against the Arabs and it is not "just" the leader of the racist world in Israel, Rabbi Dov Lior, who enjoys a respectable amount of funding and a variety of official posts. It is not even "just" the fact that most first-graders in Israel who are defined as Jews receive religious and ultra-Orthodox education in which it is self-evident that a non-Jew is not a human being.

Rather, Netanyahu can find the danger in his much more immediate environment. The Knesset, led by the Netanyahu government, in the face of the unrest in the region, has chosen of all things - just like during the Great Revolt that led to the destruction of the Second Temple - to turn to violence against its own people. The victim is democracy itself. In one day the Knesset passed the "Nakba law" and the "discrimination committees law," both directed at smashing the fundamental principles of separation of branches of government, freedom of expression and equal rights.

Netanyahu should look even more deeply inward. This expert at incitement knows very well that the person who whips up a crowd of tens of thousands to shout "in blood and fire we will drive out Rabin," leads directly to three shots in the square. The disaster toward which he could lead Israel now is even worse than the revolt that spilled over from the public square in Jerusalem to the public square in Tel Aviv.

This is not a unique case. A battered child frequently becomes a battering parent. It was precisely Japan's defeat by the atom that pushed it to make use of the atom's power despite the danger. The fact that Jews were the ultimate victim of the anti-democratic and racist world has led many of them to embrace precisely that world.

However, Israelis do not have to defend the country's uniqueness but rather to defend their identity and their lives. If the regime that encourages incitement, racism and anti-democracy is not toppled soon, we will find that the future is already here. No law will stop the lamentations that call the disaster by name. The nakba - the catastrophe - that is getting close must be stopped by overturning the regime.







The Hamas authorities once again forgot that the neighbor/occupier to its east is crazy. Fact: Over Shabbat, Hamas' military wing fired more than 50 mortar shells at Israel. Or perhaps it didn't forget: Perhaps it merely thought the Palestinian people in Gaza were ready for another high-tech Israeli onslaught, for another Israel Defense Forces video game in which children playing on a roof are identified as lookouts and sentenced to death.

In this testosterone-rich competition, there will always be more checkmarks on the Israeli side. But Israel is clever enough to act like the threatened party and to hide its deadly performances. Who cares that the "appropriate Zionist response" to 50 mortar shells, which sowed fear but did not kill, was the killing of two 16-year-olds? Imad Faraj Allah and Qassam Abu Uteiwi, from the Nuseirat refugee camp, were the people killed by Israel's retaliatory bombing later that evening - not "two terrorists," as our media obediently said, parroting the commanders' dictation.

Those 50 mortars were the "appropriate Hamas response" to the death of two members of its military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, in an Israeli airstrike. That teaches us that armed men are worth more than boys: The response to the teenagers' death was a lone Qassam rocket.

Nor did the dialogue of testosterone end there. Tuesday morning, we learned of another Israeli assault that wounded some 20 Palestinians, including children. Due to lack of space, we won't detail what came in between or what came before. But what will come next is frightening.

In the binary thinking of those who oppose the Israeli occupation (Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners ), public criticism of the tactics used in the struggle of an occupied and dispossessed people is taboo. It is as if criticism would create symmetry between the attacker and the attacked. To a large extent, this taboo has been broken with regard to the Palestinian Authority: Many opponents of the occupation have no qualms about portraying the PA as a collaborator, or at least as the captive of its senior officials' private interests. But when it comes to Hamas' use of arms, silence falls. As if there were sanctity in the Qassam soaring high into the sky, only to fall amid the clamor of Israeli propaganda.

The Goldstone report - so widely reviled by Israelis, but endorsed by the Palestinians - actually did force Palestinian human rights organizations to accept the application of the term "crime" to Palestinian rocket launches at Israel's civilian population, both before and during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. In other words, it forced them to distinguish between the Palestinians' right to defend themselves (albeit unsuccessfully ) by force of arms against Israeli military assaults and their lack of right to put on an act of being an army, one that targets civilians, and thus provide Israel with more ammunition for its victim show. But this distinction is not in use for whatever doesn't appear in Goldstone's report.

Though they didn't denounce those 50 mortars, Palestinians who are not Hamas supporters did give them a political interpretation. This wasn't "the attacked party's right to respond" (or, more accurately, the fly's right to play Ping-Pong with the elephant ), but a clear message to young Palestinians, reinforced by the brutal suppression of their demonstrations: You aren't in Cairo or Tunis, so stop pestering us with theories about a smart popular struggle in our emirate.

But the neighbor/occupier to the east is crazy. It's wrong to provide it with pretexts that would enable it to once again put Gaza's children and old people through an ordeal like Cast Lead, or even one half as bad.

So for all those who demonstrated in support of the Gazans when they were trapped under Israeli fire, all those planners of past and future flotillas, this is your moment to raise your voices and say clearly: The Qassams merely feed Israel's madness. It is not the Qassams that will ensure the Palestinians, both in and out of Gaza, a life of dignity. It is not the Qassams that will topple the Israeli walls around the world's largest prison camp.







As I took a peek yesterday at Sky News before perusing the headlines in the British newspapers on the war in Libya, I felt as if I were watching Channel 2 during Operation Cast Lead. The British reporters sounded a lot like Roni Daniel, proclaiming that "our pilots" had gone to battle, Muammar Gadhafi's air defenses had been "neutralized," and the enemy had resorted to using civilians as "human shields."

Even the political argument in London sounded familiar, with the prime minister said to be eager to overthrow the Gadhafi regime while his military was adhering to the more modest goals of Operation Odyssey Dawn. This argument sounded exactly like the dispute between Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak over whether to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza.

In the United States, the picture is more complex. Left-wing columnists who assailed George W. Bush over the war in Iraq are now praising Barack Obama for his war in Libya. On the right, it's the opposite. The headlines there are declaring that the mission has been accomplished and Libya has been declared a no-fly zone. Leaders have taken to using the customary newspeak reserved for situations like this. "This isn't a war, but a brief humanitarian mission," said a senior U.S. official who was visiting Jerusalem yesterday.

For an Israeli listening to these statements, it's easy to get angry over the West's attitude toward the war, particularly British hypocrisy. While the British mount legal battles against Israeli leaders and IDF commanders over the bombardments of Gaza, they boast about their own bombings of Tripoli. But this is too simplistic an approach. The justness of a war is in the eye of the beholder, and it depends on its final outcome.

Swift victories with minimal casualties help a war to be portrayed positively, while a prolonged, bloody entanglement retroactively erodes the rationale for ordering the operation. If Olmert had defeated Hezbollah after two days of fighting, he would have been praised for his boldness. Since he didn't achieve victory after five weeks, the decision to embark on war was in the eyes of the Winograd Committee a "grave error," staining his reputation forever.

All wars look the same on television. There are images of fighter jets, sounds of gunfire, footage of smoke rising above destroyed buildings, pictures of civilians seeking refuge, and scenes of dead and wounded bodies. Neither Obama nor British Prime Minister David Cameron possess any new gimmicks that Bush didn't have in Iraq or Olmert in Gaza. Public opinion will determine whether the killing and destruction constitute "humanitarian aid" or "war crimes."

Regarding the Gaza war, most of the world leaned toward the opinion that the operation was a criminal act. In Libya, opinion is more divided. While the developing world is condemning the operation, the West is firmly in support. This shows Gadhafi's popularity relative to Israel's. We are hated more. Whether fought in modern or ancient times, whether they are world wars or regional skirmishes from Europe to the Middle East, all wars share one iron rule: The launching of war invariably stems from domestic considerations. Leaders embark on war only when they feel that the political price to be paid from refraining is higher.

The reasons vary: the need for domestic legitimacy (Olmert in Lebanon ), public pressure on the leaders (the Romans in the war against Hannibal, Levi Eshkol in the Six-Day War ), and limited room to maneuver because of an adherence to an ideology (Adolf Hitler in World War II, Gamal Abdel Nasser in the Six-Day War and Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam ). Usually, though not always, the decision to fight is influenced by the belief that the enemy is weak and will be quickly cut down to size (the Kaiser in World War I, King Farouk in 1948 ).

Obama is abiding by the iron rule of war, just as every leader does. He didn't want a war, but Gadhafi portrayed him as a dishrag, while his supporters demanded that he respect his ideological support for bridge-building diplomacy and human rights, as well as his call to remove the colonel from power. That was how he was dragged to war. He is also certain to have been enticed into believing that Libya is a "one-man regime" and the leader's removal would spark an easy victory. This was also what Bush was told about Saddam Hussein before the war in Iraq.

Obama is not the first leader to launch a war after snaring a Nobel Peace Prize. He was preceded by Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. He is no more hypocritical or dishonest than the others. He's just more like them than he expected to be once he gained power. The same paradigms that have dictated the human race's behavior since the dawn of history also apply to him.

Now it is important for Obama to remember the second rule: The only thing worse than going to war is not winning a war.


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



Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a House subcommittee recently that a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing could be the "Achilles' heel" that kills the natural gas industry. Like many others, Mr. Salazar sees natural gas, which America has in great abundance, as cleaner and more climate-friendly than coal or oil and a useful transition to alternative fuels. But he also fears, as we do, that public support for drilling will diminish unless the industry and its state and federal regulators do a better job of making sure the gas does no harm to drinking water.

Hydraulic fracturing involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations to unlock the gas they contain. The technique has been around for many years and has been used, mostly without incident, in hundreds of thousands of natural gas wells. But the risks have multiplied as the wells are drilled deeper and stretched vertically and horizontally to get at remote deposits. A single well can cough up a million gallons of wastewater laced with carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium.

The technique has become especially controversial in Pennsylvania, the epicenter of a big push for natural gas locked in the Marcellus Shale, a formation stretching from West Virginia to upstate New York. Ian Urbina's recent series in The Times found that conventional wastewater treatment plants in Pennsylvania could not prevent radioactive contaminants from entering rivers that provide drinking water for millions of people. The series also identified many instances of poor regulation.

At the urging of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun an investigation of hydraulic fracturing's effect on the environment. An earlier E.P.A. study in 2004 was superficial and skewed toward industry. The oil and gas companies provided much of the underlying data, and there were few onsite inspections. This time the study must involve rigorous field testing. It must also be thorough and transparent.

There is a message here for New York State as well. Albany has been dithering for years over whether to allow increased hydraulic fracturing, and under what conditions and rules, in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale. The state's Department of Environmental Conservation is nearing the end of a revised environmental impact statement that is due on June 1.

Given all the new information, this is a ridiculously short time frame. The department — which hasn't even finished processing comments from a 2009 study — needs to get it right. We would hope that it prohibits drilling altogether in two watersheds that supply millions of people with unfiltered drinking water, while imposing the strictest possible drilling standards elsewhere. The two watersheds are the New York City watershed, which covers one million acres north and west of the city and provides drinking water to 8.2 million people, and the smaller Skaneateles Lake watershed near Syracuse.

The issue here is not whether the country should be drilling for natural gas, which is an important source of energy as well as jobs in places like Pennsylvania and New York. The issue is whether it can be done safely.





The British government is, at last, moving to reform the country's notorious libel law, which has long made London a magnet for frivolous lawsuits. The reform proposal presented to Parliament last week by Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, is far from perfect but represents a reasonable first effort to change a law regarded as so unfair that it has been condemned by the United Nations. Last summer, President Obama signed a bill blocking enforcement of British libel judgments in American courts.

Under British libel law, a defendant is guilty until proved innocent. A plaintiff does not have to show damage to his reputation. Further, under the 1849 Duke of Brunswick rule, each individual newspaper sale — or hit on a Web site — counts as a new publication and thus another libel. The law also treats opinion, however measured, just as it treats tabloid gossip until a defendant convinces a court it should be accepted as fair comment.

As a result, London has become, in effect, a center of libel tourism, and the Royal Courts of Justice favored tribunal for what a House of Commons report called "blatantly inappropriate cases, involving foreigners suing foreigners."

The new American law — the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act — bars American courts from recognizing defamation judgments by foreign courts if they are inconsistent with First Amendment protections. But it is no way an answer to problems of British libel law itself.

Mr. Clarke introduced the bill with lofty rhetoric. "The right to freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our Constitution," he said. "It is essential to the health of our democracy that people should be free to debate issues and challenge authority."

The bill includes a requirement that statements must cause the defendant "substantial harm" in order to be considered defamatory. The bill would allow defendants to claim "responsible publication on matters of public interest" as an argument in their favor. It does away with multiple libels and reduces London's attractiveness as a lawsuit destination by requiring plaintiffs to prove that England or Wales is "clearly the most appropriate place" to sue someone who doesn't live in Europe.

The proposed barrier against jurisdiction is significant and a welcome change. In most other respects, the bill is not nearly as protective of speech as American law, and the burden remains on the defendant. Still, the bill has the potential to bury London's deserved reputation as the world's libel capital. It deserves the measured praise it is drawing.







If you asked someone to draw an atom, he or she would probably draw something like a cockeyed solar system. The sun — the nucleus — is at the center, and the planets — the electrons — orbit in several different planes.

The critical discovery in this atomic model emerged a century ago in a talk before the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in March 1911 and a paper published soon after in the Philosophical Magazine. Both were by Ernest Rutherford, who had won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in part for his discovery of the alpha particle, which he later proved was the nucleus of a helium atom.

By 1911, scientists had already measured the charge and mass of an electron. But no one was sure how the atom was structured. Among his endless contributions to atomic theory, Rutherford explained a curious phenomenon. When fired at an extremely thin sheet of gold foil, some alpha particles scattered at surprising angles.

A few even bounced straight back at the observer, which Rutherford said was as unexpected as firing a cannon shell at tissue paper and having it come back and hit you.

The answer, Rutherford wrote, is that "the atom consists of a central charge" that is "concentrated at a point" — a point soon called the nucleus. A near collision with the nucleus caused the alpha particle to deflect. A direct collision caused it to bounce straight back. Compared to the whole atom, Rutherford said, the nucleus was like "a fly in a cathedral."

As the scientist Freeman Dyson later wrote, finding the nucleus was the start of nuclear physics, which has transformed our picture of the atom. Now it looks something like a composite of quarks surrounded by clouds of uncertainty. More accurate. Much harder to draw.







They are called the Amazon Warriors, the Lady Hawks, the Valkyries, the Durgas.

There is something positively mythological about a group of strong women swooping down to shake the president out of his delicate sensibilities and show him the way to war. And there is something positively predictable about guys in the White House pushing back against that story line for fear it makes the president look henpecked.

It is not yet clear if the Valkyries will get the credit or the blame on Libya. But everyone is fascinated with the gender flip: the reluctant men — the generals, the secretary of defense, top male White House national security advisers — outmuscled by the fierce women around President Obama urging him to man up against the crazy Qaddafi.

How odd to see the diplomats as hawks and the military as doves.

"The girls took on the guys," The Times's White House reporter, Helene Cooper, said on "Meet the Press."

Rush Limbaugh mocked the president and his club of "male liberals," saying: "Of course the males were opposed. It's the new castrati. ... They're sissies!"

Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador and former Clinton administration adviser on Africa, was haunted by Rwanda. Samantha Power, a national security aide who wrote an award-winning book about genocide, was thinking of Bosnia. Gayle Smith, another senior national security aide, was an adviser to President Clinton on Africa after the Rwandan massacre. Hillary Clinton, a skeptic at first, paid attention to the other women (putting aside that tense moment during the '08 primaries when Power called her "a monster"). She also may have had some pillow talk with Bill, whose regrets about Rwanda no doubt helped shape his recommendation for a no-fly zone over Libya.

How odd to see Rush and Samantha Power on the same side.

We've come a long way from feminist international relations theory two decades ago that indulged in stereotypes about aggression being "male" and conciliation being "female." And from the days of Helen Caldicott, the Australian pediatrician and nuclear-freeze activist who disapprovingly noted the "psychosexual overtones" of military terminology such as "missile erector" and "thrust-to-weight ratio." Caldicott wrote in her book "Missile Envy:" "I recently watched a filmed launching of an MX missile. It rose slowly out of the ground, surrounded by smoke and flames and elongated into the air — it was indeed a very sexual sight, and when armed with the ten warheads it will explode with the most almighty orgasm."

There have been women through history who shattered gender stereotypes, from Cleopatra to Golda Meir to the "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher, whose critics on the left sniffed that she was not really a woman. As U.N. ambassador, Madeleine Albright pushed back against Colin Powell on a Balkans intervention — "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" she asked him — and Condi Rice pushed ahead with W. and Dick Cheney on invading Iraq.

When President Obama listened to his militaristic muses, it gave armchair shrinks lots to muse about. As one wrote to me: "Cool, cerebral president chooses passion and emotion (human rights, Samantha, Hillary, Susan) over reason and strategic thinking (Bob Gates, Tom Donilon). Is it the pattern set up by his Mom and Michelle — women have the last word?"

White House aides smacked back hard on the guys vs. girls narrative. A senior administration official e-mailed Politico's Mike Allen that Power, Smith and Hillary Clinton weren't even in the meeting where the president decided to move forward and tell Rice to seek authority at the U.N. for a no-fly zone. Maybe they were already nervous that the president was sightseeing in Rio with his own girls and watching drum performances while senators like James Webb and Richard Lugar were charging him with overstepping his authority in Libya, and Dennis Kucinich talked impeachment.

Whatever the reason, the spinners were so afraid that the president would seem to be a ditherer chased by Furies that they went so far as to argue that three of the women were not even in the room for The Decision. So the women were in their place? Where, the kitchen?

As compelling as the gender split is, it's even more interesting to look at the parallels between Obama and W. Candidate Obama said about a possible strike on Iran, "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Yet both men started wars of choice with a decision-making process marked more by impulse and reaction than discipline and rigor.

Denouncing the last decade of "autopilot" for presidents ordering military operations, Senator Webb told Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC: "We have not had a debate. ... This isn't the way that our system is supposed to work."






  David Kirkpatrick, the Cairo bureau chief for The Times, wrote an article from Libya on Monday that posed the key question, not only about Libya but about all the new revolutions brewing in the Arab world: "The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?" 

This is the question because there are two kinds of states in the Middle East: "real countries" with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called "tribes with flags," or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens. They are Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The tribes and sects that make up these more artificial states have long been held together by the iron fist of colonial powers, kings or military dictators. They have no real "citizens" in the modern sense. Democratic rotations in power are impossible because each tribe lives by the motto "rule or die" — either my tribe or sect is in power or we're dead.

It is no accident that the Mideast democracy rebellions began in three of the real countries — Iran, Egypt and Tunisia — where the populations are modern, with big homogenous majorities that put nation before sect or tribe and have enough mutual trust to come together like a family: "everyone against dad." But as these revolutions have spread to the more tribal/sectarian societies, it becomes difficult to discern where the quest for democracy stops and the desire that "my tribe take over from your tribe" begins. 

In Bahrain, a Sunni minority, 30 percent of the population, rules over a Shiite majority. There are many Bahraini Sunnis and Shiites — so-called sushis, fused by inter-marriage — who carry modern political identities and would accept a true democracy. But there are many other Bahrainis who see life there as a zero-sum sectarian war, including hard-liners in the ruling al-Khalifa family, who have no intention of risking the future of Bahraini Sunnis under majority-Shiite rule. That is why the guns came out there very early. It was rule or die. Iraq teaches what it takes to democratize a big tribalized Arab country once the iron-fisted leader is removed (in that case by us). It takes billions of dollars, 150,000 U.S. soldiers to referee, myriad casualties, a civil war where both sides have to test each other's power and then a wrenching process, which we midwifed, of Iraqi sects and tribes writing their own constitution defining how to live together without an iron fist.

Enabling Iraqis to write their own social contract is the most important thing America did. It was, in fact, the most important liberal experiment in modern Arab history because it showed that even tribes with flags can, possibly, transition through sectarianism into a modern democracy. But it is still just a hope. Iraqis still have not given us the definitive answer to their key question: Is Iraq the way Iraq is because Saddam was the way Saddam was or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq is the way Iraq is: a tribalized society? All the other Arab states now hosting rebellions — Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Libya — are Iraq-like civil-wars-in-waiting. Some may get lucky and their army may play the role of the guiding hand to democracy, but don't bet on it.

In other words, Libya is just the front-end of a series of moral and strategic dilemmas we are going to face as these Arab uprisings proceed through the tribes with flags. I want to cut President Obama some slack. This is complicated, and I respect the president's desire to prevent a mass killing in Libya.

But we need to be more cautious. What made the Egyptian democracy movement so powerful was that they owned it. The Egyptian youth suffered hundreds of casualties in their fight for freedom. And we should be doubly cautious of intervening in places that could fall apart in our hands, a là Iraq, especially when we do not know, a là Libya, who the opposition groups really are — democracy movements led by tribes or tribes exploiting the language of democracy?   

Finally, sadly, we can't afford it. We have got to get to work on our own country. If the president is ready to take some big, hard, urgent, decisions, shouldn't they be first about nation-building in America, not in Libya? Shouldn't he first be forging a real energy policy that weakens all the Qaddafis and a budget policy that secures the American dream for another generation? Once those are in place, I will follow the president "from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli."






DESPITE the American-led counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, the Taliban resistance endures. It is not realistic to think it can be eradicated. Efforts by the Afghan government, the United States and their allies to win over insurgents and co-opt Taliban leaders into joining the Kabul regime are unlikely to end the conflict.

The current strategy of "reintegration" may peel away some fighters and small units, but it does not provide the political resolution that peace will require.

Neither side of the conflict can hope to vanquish the other through force. Meanwhile, public support in Western countries for keeping troops in Afghanistan has fallen. The Afghan people are weary of a long and debilitating war.

For their part, the Taliban have encountered resistance from Afghans who are not part of their dedicated base when they have tried to impose their stern moral code. International aid has improved living standards among Afghans in areas not under Taliban control. That has placed new pressure on the Taliban, as has an increasing ambivalence toward the Taliban in Pakistan.

The stalemate can be resolved only with a negotiated political settlement involving President Hamid Karzai's government and its allies, the Taliban and its supporters in Pakistan, and other regional and international parties. The United States has been holding back from direct negotiations, hoping the ground war will shift decisively in its favor. But we believe the best moment to start the process toward reconciliation is now, while force levels are near their peak.

For the insurgents, the prospects for negotiating a share of national power are not likely to improve by waiting until the United States withdraws most combat forces by the end of 2014; on the contrary, the possibility that Americans might find a way to maintain an enduring military presence past 2014 suggests that perhaps the only way they can truly get the Americans out is with a negotiated settlement.

A peace settlement would require a domestic element — a political order broadly acceptable to Afghans — and an international element: severing Taliban ties to Al Qaeda and containing rampant drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan. Both elements would need to be negotiated along parallel tracks.

None of it will be easy: Afghans will have to allow for fair representation of the Taliban in central and provincial governments; get the Taliban to abide by election results; determine the proper role of Islamic law in regulating dress, behavior and the administration of justice; protect human rights and women's rights; decide whether and how to bring perpetrators of war atrocities to justice; and incorporate some Taliban fighters into police and security forces. A guaranteed withdrawal of foreign forces, as the insurgency has demanded, would almost certainly be part of a deal.

As chairmen of an Afghanistan task force with 15 members from nine countries, organized by the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research institution, we had confidential conversations for nearly a year with dozens of people from almost every side of the conflict.

Attention has rightly focused on the conflicting views about negotiating peace with the Taliban among Mr. Karzai's supporters, disaffected northerners and other groups in Afghan society, not to mention hesitation in the international community. But there is considerable division within the insurgency too.

The insurgency is not as fragmented as the old anti-Soviet mujahedeen alliance was, but it is hardly monolithic, as we learned from conversations with Taliban field commanders and individuals close to the Quetta Shura, which is made up of Taliban leaders loyal to Mullah Muhammad Omar; the Haqqani network, an insurgent group allied with the Taliban; and the Hezb-i-Islami group, which is led by the longtime mujahedeen warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Some of the people we interviewed stuck to hard-line positions: "There is nothing to negotiate," "Foreigners just need to leave Afghanistan," "This is our country," and so on. But others engaged in a give-and-take, making clear they wanted to see an end to violence and a start toward serious talks for peace.

For example, an adviser to the Haqqani network told us it was operationally independent but recognized the authority of Mullah Omar — and therefore could not negotiate separately with the Karzai government and the American-led coalition. Yet we were also told that the network was eager to engage in "friendly" dialogue.

Contrary to popular view, Pakistan cannot unilaterally dictate the outcome. Pakistanis told us they were finding it increasingly difficult to prevent the Afghan conflict from fueling extremist violence in their country. Pakistani security officers who have provided long-time support for the Taliban run the risk of events getting beyond their control.

A neutral international facilitator is needed to begin explorations with all potential parties toward negotiation. The United Nations could appoint a facilitator. Or a facilitator could be a group, an international organization, a neutral state or a group of states. A settlement would require international guarantees, aid, peacekeeping and enforcement of the agreement.

The international community has confronted equally intractable conflicts in Cambodia, Bosnia and elsewhere and, with unity of purpose, resolved them. Afghanistan is a particularly challenging case, but it is not hopeless.

Lakhdar Brahimi is a former United Nations special representative for Afghanistan. Thomas R. Pickering is a former ambassador and under secretary of state.






The North African nation of Libya, where rebels are challenging the despotic rule of Moammar Gadhafi, is an excellent place for American military forces not to be involved. Gadhafi's crimes are many, but today he is not a serious threat to U.S. security.

And yet, the United States is militarily involved.

Alarmingly, a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle jet fighter went down in Libya this week — reportedly from mechanical failure, not enemy fire.

Most fortunately, both crew members ejected from the fighter, though at a perilously high altitude.

Almost miraculously, one American airman was quickly recovered and returned to U.S. control.

Then, after much anxiety, the second airman was found and rescued as well.

It was reported that a U.S. Osprey aircraft, capable of vertical flight and hovering somewhat like a helicopter, picked up one of the airmen and took him to safety.

Both of the rescued airmen suffered only minor injuries, and both soon were reported to be "out of Libya" and "in U.S. hands," bringing a broad sense of relief to the American people.

U.S. Air Force B-2 bombers, along with F-15 and F-16 fighters, have been involved in the action in Libya.

But what resolution of the crisis is expected? What are the ultimate U.S. goals? Answers have not been clearly spelled out by U.S. political or military officials.

Obviously, it would be desirable to have Gadhafi out of power — but we know little thus far about who or what might replace him.

The situation remains serious — and the final objective and outcome are unknown. But for now, we give thanks for the safety of the two U.S. airmen who have escaped a scary situation.





Alarmed by recent local shootings that caused deaths or injuries, we editorially remarked only last Thursday that "Chattanooga isn't Dodge City," as in the days of the Wild West. But some irresponsible and lawbreaking individuals seem to be trying to prove that our city is a shooting gallery.

On Page 1 of yesterday's Times Free Press was a news story noting a police report that gunfire had broken out in an intersection in the 1200 block of Cypress Street Court the evening before.

The article said Chattanooga police officers carrying AR-15 rifles searched a building, seeking suspects in a triple shooting — as children played nearby in the College Hill Courts development!

These are alarming signs that we have a serious situation among us, as too many people — perhaps some involved in gangs — ignore laws that make it illegal to go armed for the purpose of engaging in violence and mayhem.

Police reported that three men and three vehicles were struck by the barrage of gunfire Monday. A suspect was being sought.

Injuries to the men were not life-threatening. How fortunate we are that there were no follow-up notices from funeral homes as a result of the shootings.

The public should insist that all of our people be safe to go about their normal business, in their cars and walking along our streets, without fear of being targeted — or of being shot accidentally.

Our police are trying to do their job, but they need the help of us all to combat the serious dangers posed by gunmen on our streets.





A year ago today, President Barack Obama signed ObamaCare into law.

Democrats in Congress had passed the bill after managing to hide its true impact. As then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said prior to the vote, "[W]e have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

It's worth noting that Pelosi's party is now in the minority in the House, largely because of public disapproval of ObamaCare. And what did we "find out" about the new law?

Well, its provisions are so burdensome that the administration has had to exempt the health plans offered by more than 1,000 employers and labor unions from the requirements of ObamaCare. Those employers and organizations, including some that strongly supported the law, simply were not going to be able to meet all its costs and mandates.

The 1,000-plus exempted plans cover about 2.6 million Americans. But there is no assurance that hundreds of millions of other Americans will be exempted from the law's rule that they purchase Washington-approved medical insurance.

Meanwhile, federal courts have issued divided rulings on whether ObamaCare is constitutional. So it is bound to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which may overturn it.

And while other big federal programs gain grudging acceptance, a year after ObamaCare became law it is still hugely unpopular.

Among likely voters, 53 percent in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll at least somewhat favor repealing ObamaCare, compared with only 42 percent who oppose repeal. And citing a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, The New York Times reported that current public views of the law are actually "slightly more negative than when it was passed."

It is no wonder most states are suing to keep ObamaCare from taking effect. The states and the American people realize what the president and Democrats in Congress apparently do not: that Obama-Care was an unaffordable, unconstitutional mistake.

If Congress will not repeal it, the Supreme Court should overturn it.





Aside from life-or-death issues and matters of war or peace, what is more emotion-stirring among many Americans than sports?

But alas, sports have their "casualties," too.

The latest is the removal of University of Tennessee head men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who over several seasons has sometimes been highly successful.

For years, you could see him at courtside, mouth open, extremities pumping, seeming to get almost as much exercise as the players.

But in sports, there are rules, of course, and some of those rules deal with subjects such as the appropriate ways to recruit talented players, and how those players may be contacted. It is in that area that Pearl and some of his staff came under fire, leading to their dismissal.

Isn't college, after all, supposed to be about classes and learning? Aren't — or weren't — sports supposed to be mainly just fun games, healthful exercise and wholesome competition?

Well, yes. But all too often, the importance of winning has gotten out of control.

College sports — not just the big professional ones — involve untold millions of dollars in salaries, gate receipts, etc., plus prestige for winning programs.

Some coaches win and some lose, and they apparently have varied ideas of how to handle the rules — off the court or field as well as on.

Sports, college spirit, fan enthusiasm and the rest are great. But "how you play the game" also matters a great deal — particularly when impressionable young people are watching.

These are not issues only for UT. They are spread throughout the sports world.

But in this instance, we are painfully witnessing the playing out of those issues with the dismissal of Coach Pearl and his staff.







As our planet is currently boiling up with natural disasters, human-made disasters as well as clashes and newborn cyber threats, we humans are generally inclined to think that we are doomed to face a post-apocalyptic landscape very soon. Or that we are already there.

Is this a version of collective narcissism, a will to posit ourselves in a very special context in history, space and time? Maybe our times are special, maybe not. Most often it is up to the future generations to decide the importance of previous generations. When they do make that decision, we, as items of the period of study, will become objects of "other" subjects. A constant flux. Yet what is more probable is that at the moment our minds are more blurred than ever.

Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek in an article titled "Soul of the party," which delves into the role of theology in radical politics, refers to St. Paul's saying, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise" ("Sapientiam sapientum perdam" in Latin.) Maybe we are experiencing a time in which this saying finds ground.

The clashes and uncertainty in the Middle East. Then came the earthquake in Japan, the following tsunami and the nuclear fears engulfing the entire planet. Afterward our gaze is focused again on Libya while at the same time we are trying to understand what is really going on within the borders of our own country. As if we could find one version of that reality.

We have our technology at hand to depend on. It is progressing, revealing the utmost capabilities of the human mind in practice. Probably it should not be the only tool to prove our "special place" in history. We, undoubtedly, have also had many of our ancestors' graces victimized in time.

Yet, the tools of technology that are shaping the wisdom of our era are eroding our trust in the embedded instruments of our own knowledge production. Faced with so many possibilities, we do not know what to believe, but in our own greed, we try to create our own persuasions for a sort of self-deceit. At the end of the day, we, humans, find ourselves puzzled more than ever, trying to find grounds to be in a meaningful action. Yet Zizek's quote from Paul for a "definition of the emancipatory struggle" gives an idea about what seems more stable in human history. 

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against leaders, against authorities, against the world rulers [kosmokratoras] of this darkness, against the spiritual wickedness in the heavens" (Ephesians 6:12).

Zizek translates this into "today's language" as: "Our struggle is not against concrete, corrupted individuals, but against those in power in general, against their authority, against the global order and the ideological mystification that sustains it."

And this probably starts with the emancipatory struggle in each of our own minds.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.






For some of us who have covered Turkey's foreign policy over the course of the past 20 or so years, it is becoming quiet difficult to read and understand the current policy decisions.

 I am in serious doubt as to how many people in Turkey seriously understand what the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been trying to do while handling the recent developments in Libya. Even when you read pro-government journalists and listen to pro-government commentators, all you hear is empty sentences supporting the position of the government. Yet a lucid, clear, rational explanation clarifying the government's stance is absent in most of the reports or comments you read or listen to.

I listen to TV reporters' coverage on Turkey's position in NATO. No one is able to give us a credible understanding to the objections of Turkey. The government wants the no-fly zone area to be narrowed. For what reason? We don't know. May be there is a rationale behind it. But we are not told. It wants NATO to review its military plans on Libya. Which parts of the plan, for what reason?

No explanation.

Is it the fault of the journalists? Partly. But what can they do if they are not offered any explanation? It is becoming harder and harder to find and speak to a diplomat who would explain to you the government's stance. It seems fewer and fewer diplomats are willing to talk, since I have the feeling that they themselves cannot from time to time make sense of the government's policy preferences.

Because the mentality behind that action is one that we have not witnessed since the advent of the AKP to the government. And that is the mentality of juxtaposing Turkey against the West.

Look at the prime minister's statement: "NATO's involvement should not be used to distribute Libya's natural resources to certain countries."

This is not traditional Turkish diplomatic rhetoric. This is the traditional rhetoric of Turkey's Islamist movement that sees itself in the Arab-Muslim camp, against the Western imperialists that in their eyes have done nothing but oppress the Arab-Muslim world. Its late leader Necmettin Erbakan used to call the EU as the Christian Club, objecting to Turkey's wish to enter the 27-nation bloc.

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has diverted from that line, he still harbors this "anti-European/western mentality." That is why he cannot grasp the fact that, as I wrote previously, Turkey is not some kind of an outside element to NATO. Turkey is part of NATO.

And actually, if the AKP mentality really fears dirty plans of the "exploitation of Libyan natural resources" (which are already "exploited" by the very NATO members anyway), then the only way to avert those plans will be through getting the operation under the NATO umbrella, rather than keeping it a separate action of the coalition of the willing.

Being upset at France for taking the lead in the military intervention and being unwilling to let NATO contribute to French leadership is one thing. Being uneasy with the way the military operation is being handled and asking for more careful planning on the part of NATO is another thing. The latter is easier to justify, compared to the former.

Is Turkey obstructing a general consensus in NATO because it genuinely wants the Alliance to act in a way that will be in the best interest of Libyans or it is doing so because Turkey was caught unprepared?

It is extremely difficult to understand why Turkey is unhappy with the fact that it was not invited by France to the Paris meeting that discussed the military intervention. Why should the French government invite a country – Turkey – which has openly made clear its objection to military intervention to a meeting that has for its subject military intervention?

It is not a genetic habit for diplomats to be vague. They avoid clear-cut statements precisely to leave room "for adjustments." You may not like it. But this is the rule of the game in international politics.

If you say, "What has NATO got to do in Libya? A NATO intervention in Libya would be absurd," just as the prime minister said, you are bound to be sidelined in a scenario where NATO gets involved.

The naïve expectation to see Gadhafi leave politely

The government claims to have a "principled" policy in the Middle East. Which of the AKP principle can accommodate watching a ruthless dictator calling his own people rats and promising to "cleanse" them?

Prime Minister Erdoğan said he called Gadhafi and asked him "politely" to leave his office. He naively expects Gadhafi to go "politely."

Prime Minister Erdoğan was the first leader to call on Egyptian leader Mubarek to leave office. His stance towards Gadhafi was nuanced, which is understandable due to the presence of 25,000 Turks in the country. Yet once an imminent threat to Turkish citizens was avoided and he told Gadhafi to leave office, how can he envisage living with a clear "no" as an answer from Gadhafi? So Turkey's principled position was going to be, "Oops, you don't want to leave Mr. Gadhafi. All right then, let's continue business as usual?"

Looking to pre-intervention and post-intervention comments in pro-government and Islamist commentators you see a sharp U-turn. Gadhafi has been turned into a victim by those who fiercely attacked him just a couple of weeks ago. And this is being done on behalf of "Muslim solidarity against Western crusaders." We are supposed to watch a bloody dictator kill all those who want him to put an end to his four decades of ruthless rule, on behalf of Muslim solidarity against Western imperialism.

I have the feeling that this rhetoric will become more difficult to sell even in the Arab world especially among the Facebook and Twitter generations.







This newspaper's editors may be thinking that "Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is that rare political figure who captures the imagination of a broad spectrum of observers and analysts ("A request to Dr. Davutoğlu," From the Bosphorus: Straight, March 16, 2011)." They may also be thinking that "Dr. Davutoğlu has developed a number of doctrines, without being doctrinaire." Minister's Davutoğlu's wit and sense of humor, too, can be absolutely appealing, especially as "they were displayed at a dinner when a Daily News staffer spilled red wine down the front of the minister's white shirt, with the minister smiling and answering: 'Now I look like the Turkish flag.'"

At times like this, I felt particularly grateful to Mr. Davutoğlu that our unnamed staffer was not arrested on charges of spilling wine on his majesty's shirt – or for just drinking it. But no doubt, the minister's modesty and personal allure are facts acknowledged by everyone who may or may not agree with his doctrines (without being doctrinaire). I always wished his personal modesty were reflected in his political thinking.

Last May, in this column, I humbly advised Mr. Davutoğlu that "It may be a good idea to remember from time to time that Turkey's economic and political power could be disproportionate with its regional ambitions. And it may be another good idea to remember that self-aggrandizing behavior can cause disgrace."

Apparently, "Turkey's rising diplomatic voice in the Middle East" could not be heard in the face of thundering raids on Col. Moammar Gadhafi's Libya. Resolution 1973 meant that Turkey was a "watcher," not a game-changer its foreign minister often claims it is. Tomahawks over the Libyan skies meant that Turkey is an outsider, not the useful mediator that pops up in every troubled corner of the world, especially the Middle East. It looks like the couple of bombs and missiles on Libyan targets may have also hit Turkey's stealth campaign for new "Third Worldism."

Mr. Davutoğlu may, naturally, have ignored (or, speaking more realistically, may have been totally unaware of) this columnist's advice for a more realistic doctrine that is more proportionate with Turkey's influence and its regional and/or global ambitions. But he certainly has been on a path which this column tagged last May as the "unofficial Non-Aligned Movement of the 21st century:" "It could be a good idea to make the unofficial Non-Aligned Movement an official one. I suggest eligible members could be Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, Bolivia, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and North Korea – with Brazil maintaining a part-time, energy-specific seat, and Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban and the Moro National Liberation Front having observer status."

The big players of the past century sorting out the Libyan crisis in the way they think is most appropriate seals the defeat of Mr. Davutoğlu's doctrine that "we have to clean up our own backyard because otherwise major powers will get involved."

This official manifestation of the unofficial non-aligned spirit or of the new Third Worldism has obviously been defeated. It must be a sad day for Mr. Davutoğlu whose Strategic Depth was pillared by the idea of "warding off major powers from our backyard." Now they are at our backyard with their fighter planes and warplanes and bombs and rockets.

Apparently, Turkey's Third Worldism appeared in the shape of bizarre zig-zagging in the Libyan case: In Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's words, Ankara, in a span of three weeks, has journeyed from "opposition to any military intervention including a no-fly zone" into "can we in any way help you in your military campaign?"

And most recently, we have learned that Turkey will serve as a "protecting power" for the United States in Libya, a self-tasked mission with duties like representing the U.S. in Libya including acting as consular officers on behalf of U.S. citizens in Libya and passing messages between the United States and Libya. Levent Şahinkaya, the Turkish ambassador to Tripoli, told CNN that he will represent America in Libya along with the United Kingdom and Italy.

Meanwhile, Ankara complains that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is "making a show" by spearheading the coalition's military campaign against Libya. Indeed, it may be a show. But the trouble for Ankara is not the "show" part. The trouble, rather, is the fact that the show is not a Turkish one. And that's so saddening!







I spent a couple of hours writing and reading messages on Twitter last Sunday night. And it turned out to be one of the most educating discussions that I recently had.

The topic was Libya and the air strikes on Gadhafi forces. Right after this operation began, under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, I received an email in Turkish that denounced "this latest imperialist war against Libya." With a few dozen signatories, the manifesto-like text condemned the NATO, and the West in general, for its "new Crusade" on the North African nation.

"But wait a minute," I said to myself. Was not the Arab League among the supporters of a no-fly zone over Libya? And have many Arab commentators not called on the "international community" to do something to stop Col. Gadhafi, who had already killed some 8,000 rebels and was preparing for a greater massacre in Benghazi?

Twitter calling

With those questions in mind, I opened my Twitter app, and typed: "We should not see what is happening in Libya through the lens of imperialism."

And, oh mine, hell broke loose. I received dozens of angry replies which blamed me for being either too naïve, or too evil. On the latter side, I was accused of being a "mouthpiece of imperialism" and a "CIA agent." More lenient critics reminded of the American invasion of Iraq, and how it all turned out to be "a big lie to steal Iraq's oil." I simply had to understand, or admit, that "the West" was bombing Gadhafi only for some sinister and wicked plan.

"Well, I agree with you that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and damn wrong," I tweeted back to one of the critics. "But the Americans did not do a bad job by preventing an ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, right?" My intention was to show that the West can do helpful things as well, along with the "imperialist" ones we keep talking about.

But that did not work either. Less then a minute later, someone tweeted back, and refuted my best argument: "The U.S. is in Kosovo only because there are rich uranium sources there!" Why else would Uncle Sam bother to prevent the Serbian onslaught on Balkan Muslims?

The Muslim theme here should not misguide you. The Turks who bombarded me with all those "anti-imperialist" tweets were not only the Muslim pious. They were rather from almost every political camp in the country. "Finally the secular and the Islamic Turks have found a common theme," I wrote back on Twitter. "They all believe in the same international conspiracy."

'Unfalsifiable' arguments

Now, allow me to put all that in perspective. Like everybody else, I have been following the events in Libya with concern. I was hoping that the rebels would be able to take Gadhafi down, and establish at least a proto-democracy, but that did not turn out to be the case. The mad colonel proved to be resilient – and merciless – enough to wage war against his own people.

So, I was happy to see the United Nations Security Council take the decision for a no-fly zone in Libya. I knew there were serious risks, and the civilian casualties of the very first days made me cautious as well, not to mention my distaste for Mr. Sarkozy's arrogant enthusiasm. But I know that Gadhafi would probably have destroyed thousands of innocent lives in eastern Libya had the NATO allies not acted. I also know that the West was working quite happily with Gadhafi since the early 2000s, so I can't convince myself that the whole affair is a pre-planned "Western plot" to occupy Libya and exploit its sources.

Yet such arguments do not sell well in Turkey. Most people here rather want to see something evil in whatever the West does. And they find that evil no matter what happens. When NATO allies stand aside while Gadhafi kills his own people, this shows that the West is hypocritical about human rights and does not give a damn about Muslim lives. If the same allies act against Gadhafi, then they become "crusaders" and "oil-sucking imperialists." As Karl Popper rightly pointed out, there is simply no way to beat such an "unfalsifiable" scheme.

Now, none of this means that the West is innocent when it comes to the rest of the world, and especially the Middle East. Quite the contrary: Western powers do have a very nasty history here – one filled with colonialism, support for dictators, and all sorts of double standards. It is thus understandable that the peoples of the region are suspicious of Western motives. Had the George W. Bush Administration not invaded Iraq in 2003 without false pretexts, for example, the U.S. would probably not be this much distrusted.

But most peoples of the Middle East, including the Turks, take this distrust to extremes, and indulge in conspiracy theories which leave no room for rational discussion. For worse, those who try to question these theories can easily be accused to be a part of the conspiracy – an accusation that is impossible to falsify.

How can you prove, really, that you are actually not paid by the CIA?






Though reason seldom prevails in the Turkish government led by Absolute Ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ankara for the past several days has been pondering, consulting with some "trusted" allies such as U.S. President Barack Obama and trying to make a decision about what to do on Libya despite NATO pressure.

Turkey was upset with France taking the lead and launching the attack on Libya without giving diplomacy a last opportunity. Besides, France ignoring the need of inviting Turkey to a pre-operation meeting in Paris – though even the puppet regime in Baghdad and some trivial countries were invited – was obviously a clear, humiliating message to Ankara by Nicolas Sarkozy. Even though some other Western countries joined in the operation, the absence of efficient coordination in the absence of NATO involvement unfortunately turned the operation into an indiscriminate blanket bombing of Libya rather than a limited operation aimed at crippling the air defense systems and aerial operational capability of the Moammar Gadhafi regime.

Therefore, the decision Turkey made at a long meeting Monday night was to stay away from blocking the NATO alliance taking a leading role in the operation but at the same time explain to its allies that Ankara should not be expected to dispatch combat troops or bomb the people of Libya with its fighter planes but it could undertake a role similar to the role it has been undertaking in Afghanistan.

Secondly, Ankara wanted to clearly convey to its NATO partners that the operation on Libya should stay within the limits of U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 and for that reason NATO should update its operational plans. As is underlined in the Security Council resolution, neither should the people of Libya be targeted, nor should the operation on Libya be allowed to turn into an invasion.

Thirdly, Ankara has reminded its allies that not only can some degree of collateral damage on civilian population not be avoided in operations like the one undertaken on the Gadhafi regime in Libya, but also such operations bring about the urgent need for social assistance and emergency relief programs.

Lastly, Ankara has made it clear that it would not engage in any way in an operation that might turn Libya into a second Iraq – a country devastated, occupied and with all its natural resources shared by the companies of the occupation countries.

Thus, Ankara has not only reminded NATO that it should stay within the framework of the U.N. resolution while acting against the Gadhafi regime, enforcing a ceasefire and a no-fly zone, but it must take some measures on land to heal the social impacts of the operation, headed by the urgent food and medical needs of the affected population. Naturally, by stressing that Ankara might undertake only a role like the one it has been playing for the past many years in Afghanistan and stressing the need for some social programs on the land, Turkey has indeed made clear that not only does it agree with suggestions floating around for the past few days of the need to have at least two "land bases" with port or airport access for logistic reasons, but also its intention, as it has been doing in Afghanistan, to contribute to the "Libya force" with non-combat troops.

For a change, the decision that the government made was one that must be applauded, though Ankara could have performed far better in the first place in avoiding the immense suffering of Libyan people under French, American and British aerial bombing by convincing the mad man of Libya of what was coming and how he might have avoided it. Saying Erdoğan called him on March 1 and advised him to step down is not enough as only a day before, on Feb. 28, the same Erdoğan was publicly opposing a probable NATO operation on Libya. Saving four American journalists from the Gadhafi regime is of course praiseworthy, but why did Erdoğan not save the Libyans from the wrath of Gadhafi's endless greed by convincing the tyrant that the time was up and he should pack and go?

Another action of the government in this crisis that requires applause was the decision according to which Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will brief the opposition parties – today and tomorrow – and Parliament at a convenient date on the whole Libya affair.

Surprising, but good to see reason sometimes prevailing in the government.






During the prime minister's group meeting yesterday and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's chat with Taha Akyol on CNN Türk the other night, it became apparent what Turkey's approach will be from now on in politics regarding Libya.

First it was full of ups and downs, even conflicting. But this approach has passed. It is obvious that Ankara has left the past behind and is dealing only with the future.

At this point, important principles have surfaced:

- Turkey will not be using weapons in Libya.

- Turkey will push for the end of military intervention.

- Turkey is definitely against invasion movements.

- But Turkey is ready for humanitarian support within activities organized by NATO.

These principles are very true.

Risk is not for the benefit of any side.

The Western coalition will neither be satisfied nor will an effective role in the Libyan war be played.

But this attitude at least reveals a distinct approach.

Let's not forget that events in Libya are just the beginning.

It is not for sure which direction the winds will blow in.

Today maybe Ankara remains in the background but tomorrow there might be developments that will prove Turkey to be right (just as was the case in the Iraqi invasion).

Actually, it is not developments in Libya that will give Turkey a hard time. It is the developments in the Shiite protest in Bahrain.

In short, Ankara clarified with this event that in respect to the Middle East, it has a distinct view from the West. 

Turkey is very upset, Sarkozy will benefit from Libya

Turkey does not particularly like it, but it is obvious now that Nicolas Sarkozy will benefit from the operation in Libya.

He started the movement and did not wait for anyone when he fired his gun. Ankara became upset but there was not much it could do.

Sarkozy once more involved Europe in the region.

While Egypt and Tunisia are in an uproar, we saw how Europe became ineffective. And France was criticized for flirting with Tunisian dictators and backing the wrong horse. There was not even a trace of other European countries. They preferred to be mere spectators.

When looked from this point of view, events in Libya were a not-to-be-missed opportunity for Sarkozy. He took over the initiative.

First he convinced the United States. He came up with a coalition of countries that approved intervention and pioneered the issuance of the decision by the United Nations Security Council.

Right after that, he gathered his supporters in Paris last Saturday and pushed the button.

Without losing further time he started the intervention with his own aircraft that very same night.

A romantic approach

While all of this was going on Turkey exhibited a unique approach.

Ankara's general approach was three-phased:

To save the 25,000 Turks without any harm (which was successfully done); to engage in efforts to convince Col. Moammar Gadhafi and the opposition to prevent a civil war; to pioneer a peace mission even if it takes forever. Based on the above, it wanted NATO to get involved and opposed an armed intervention. This way it wanted to shut down the Middle East for intervention so a new order could be established. (This approach was based on principles but very romantic at the same time.) But when Gadhafi did not listen to anyone and attacked the insurgents, Sarkozy quickly formed a coalition and Ankara remained motionless. It was late and disabled. Then it opposed the invasion and use of force. That is why Sarkozy did not invite Turkey to Paris (he didn't intent to anyway).

French sources draw attention to the following:

"The Paris meeting was intended to make plans with those who approved of the intervention, not to discuss it. Why would Turkey be invited when it was opposing the intervention anyway? And besides, the United States, England and the Arab league had any such desire."

Neither Paris nor Washington have approved including NATO in this operation. One justification was that NATO decisions should be delayed. The other justification was that NATO should not be associated with the U.S.-Western coalition. A crusade perception was to be omitted.

Paris humped Europe to give it prominence.

And Sarkozy, especially in respect to internal politics and upcoming presidency elections next year, gained an important advantage.

No one should be jealous.

Game not over yet

One should not look at all these developments and think that Turkey has lost with respect to events in Libya.

The game is not over yet.

Tomorrow there may be further developments and winds that blow from a different direction that will give Turkey prominence over Sarkozy.

Consider the invasion in Iraq.

We've come a long way.

That is why we shall wait and see.






After Tunisia and Egypt, the international community expected a similar pattern in Libya. Yet, Col. Gadhafi not only resisted stepping down but also organized a counterattack against the protesters. He seems to stop the momentum and have the chance to reverse it. From this point on, the critical question is: How to stop Gadhafi, at least to protect the civilians?

The U.S. does not have a partner in Libya. The army is weak and the tribes are not in favor of being with the U.S. The situation is quite different from Egypt. Thus, the U.S. does not have a reliable partner for a secure transition in Libya. As an outsider the U.S. has three options to help the opposition in Libya. These are imposing a no-flight zone, direct military intervention and indirect assistance to the opposition.

The most debated option for Libya is imposing a no-flight zone in Libya. The countries in Europe, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, and some senators in the U.S. are suggesting a no-flight zone as the solution. Mostly this option comes from the actors that are opposed to a direct military intervention but at the same time think that something should be done. But this perspective does not make the option an optimal solution. As U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asserted, a no-flight zone begins with a U.S. attack on Libya. This is a type of intervention. Besides, these attacks are not free from mistakes such as causing civilian casualties. In addition to these risks this option will not stop Gadhafi on the ground. Gadhafi can continue his attacks with ground troops and tanks despite the no-flight zone. 

The U.S. has not adopted this option as its policy yet. Barack Obama presented imposing a no-flight zone as only one option on the table. Nevertheless, the U.S. does not want to carry the whole burden. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected a unilateral U.S.-led action and pointed to the U.N. to make the decision. After a U.N. decision the U.S. may evaluate this option more seriously. Because the U.N. decision may provide legitimacy to the action and a multilateral action will protect Obama's image in the international community.

The direct intervention as the second option seems to be the most effective option in military terms at the first glance. Nonetheless, this option even under U.N. or NATO may portray the U.S. as the occupying force again. The international community would forget the Gadhafi's violence against the civilians, but spot the U.S. instead as the primary responsible actor about all negative developments in Libya in the future. Moreover, Gadhafi and his supporters would have the chance to use this intervention to make propaganda against the legitimacy of the opposition. They will claim that the opposition is only a tool of the foreign powers to intervene the domestic matters of Libya.

Besides, a military intervention will clearly damage both Obama's and the U.S.' image in the international community. This would harm the attempts to heal worldwide anti-Americanism. Besides, American public opinion is against such intervention as well. According to Rasmussen Reports 63 percent of Americans think that the U.S. should stay out of Libya. It is quite hard to convince the Americans that substantial U.S. interests are in stake in Libya. Moreover, 51 percent of Americans think that the U.S. involvement in Iraq was a mistake. Thus, there are the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan. In order to have the public support the policy makers may return to strikes and the no-flight zone option. This option may decrease the risk of troop casualties which may also facilitate convincing the American people.

Other than direct intervention and the no-flight zone option, an indirect support to the opposition in Libya may suffice. This option seems to be the most plausible one since a direct intervention may bring another Iraq in North Africa. This is the war of the Libyan people, let them to do their fighting on their own. The support for the Libyan people may come in terms of logistics. There is the problem of communication in Libya. As some experts in the U.S. suggest phone and Internet connection may be provided to the Libyan people via mobile servers. In addition to this, regarding them as the true representatives of the country in the international arena may help as well.

In conclusion, it is more convincing to rely on non-military solutions in Libya. We have the example of Iraq for both the no-flight zone and direct military intervention. A no-flight zone did not stop Saddam and military intervention caused a mess in Iraq. Both of them are not plausible options for Libya. The international community may provide assistance to the opposition but should let the Libyans fight for their own future.

* Mehmet Yegin is a researcher in the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, Center for American Studies.







Presidential speeches are rarely the stuff of political legend, and President Zardari's address to the joint session of parliament yesterday was no exception. He read from a prepared text and spoke to a chamber that did not contain most of the members of the political opposition who, right up until the start of the session, were talking of disrupting the speech. In the end they voted with their feet and the PML-N, the Q-League the JI along with the MQM that just failed to show up for the show – were absent. The president spoke virtually without interruption other than by some enthusiastic desk-banging by his more loyal supporters. His less-loyal supporters looked at the ceiling or their papers while their fellows banged away merrily. Effectively, he was speaking to the party faithful and a mixed bag of dignitaries and observers. This may have been 'historic' in that it was his fourth address to parliament of this government, but the empty chairs and fractious intra-party relations speak of a system deeply divided.

What the president said amounted to little more than a reading of the shopping list, the items were ticked off as bullet points and policy was absent throughout other than in anodyne nods in the direction of foreign policy. It was not a speech of highs and lows, more a plateau of uniform mediocrity. The devolution of budgets to the provinces got an honourable mention – the failure to create the provincial capacity to effectively spend those budgets did not. The Benazir Income Support Programme was lauded as being our first national safety net – the tale though is marred by the incompetent administration of BISP. Any economists listening might have experienced a cardiac moment at the announcement that the economy was 'back on track'. The politics of revenge were eschewed, murdered minorities mourned and the regulation pleas for political peace and harmony were duly delivered. When the president sat down he must have felt pleased that he had managed to get through the event without having anything thrown at him. Which is perhaps progress – of sorts.







The Lahore Resolution, or the Pakistan Resolution, was adopted by the Muslim League during its general session of March 22-24, 1940. It called for greater Muslim autonomy in British India and eventually became the lever which gave us Partition. It was a bloody process. Borders were arbitrarily drawn, families split apart, villages dismembered and the dreadful images of the silent trains laden with bodies are somewhere deep in the collective consciousness of all of us. Seventy-one years later we live in a state wracked by terrorism, teetering on the brink of economic ruin, poorly educated with almost a third of the population suffering food insecurity and one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Predictions of our demise have become almost routine and scarcely a month passes without this-that-or-the-other economic guru or think-tank discussing Pakistan in something approaching the past tense.

Whilst it is true that the dream of the founding fathers has tarnished and faded, it is equally true that despite frequent and dire prediction – Pakistan has endured. It may not have prospered as much as it might, been dragged hither and thither by polarised politicians and generals who thought they knew best, but we are beginning the fourth session of the current parliament and the opposition does not seem inclined to derail the process of civilian governance. We have inept and corrupt governance but, by the standards of the Arab world, we do not have a particularly repressive governance and we have a media that is, despite the rulers' attempts to muzzle it, comparatively free. We have a growing sense that accountability under the law may be becoming more real as some powerful figures find themselves behind bars accused of serious crimes. We remain hobbled by dynastic politics and the stranglehold of feudalism, and democracy must be considered a work in progress rather than a fully-fledged reality. We could remain at this position, stalled in our development as a mature nation, far into the future. Our dependence on external aid and the importance of our strategic position mean that, like it or not, those who keep us afloat will continue to do so because the alternative, state failure, is unthinkable. Ultimately the key to our future lies in whether or not we choose to invest in the education of our young people. In that choice lies the future of all of us individually and all of us as citizens of Pakistan; and failure must not be an option.







Today, Pakistan take on the West Indies in the first of four do or die encounters of the World Cup, and those with weak hearts and dispositions had best stay as far away from their television screens as possible. Having defied all odds and come out on top of their group, Shahid Afridi's men have managed to find their dream opposition: a team even more prone than Pakistan to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But given Pakistan's peculiar penchant for the unpredictable, anything can happen in Mirpur today. As always, a health warning is relevant before any match involving the boys in green.

There are enough good omens for Pakistan's demoralised fans to hope that the spectres of at disastrous year have been laid to rest. Apart from the odd hiccup or two along the way, particularly the embarrassing and unexpected thrashing by New Zealand, Afridi's men have managed to defeat two of this tournament's favourites, Australia and Sri Lanka, on their triumphant march to the quarter finals. It is this very fact --- that we beat the two best teams in the group and lost to a lesser one --- that suggests there is no room for complacency today. As for the rest, the top eight teams eventually managed to make it to the quarter finals, as the format intended. So there we have it: the somewhat battered Australia play a much-hyped but brittle India in the clash of the giants, the mighty Sri Lanka get a chance to outwit England, which is fast earning the reputation of being 'the new Pakistan' for their sheer unpredictability, and the chillingly professional South Africans get a chance of shaking off their 'choker' reputation against New Zealand. Whatever happens between now and April 2, when the cricketing extravaganza climaxes, is guaranteed to be exciting and nerve-wracking. Not least because fate might yet pit Pakistan against India in a decisive semi-final at Mohali.








Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered less than three weeks ago. He was as proud and patriotic a Pakistani as there was, and his commitment to the Constitution, to the rule of law, and to the way Pakistan should be was palpable. I had several chance encounters with Bhatti, and one reasonably long sitting over dinner. He was the furthest thing possible from an irresponsible, fiery blowhard. His passion, and his religious conviction ran deep, but it was measured and packaged in the most elegant way. Bhatti may have been a vocal advocate for the Christian community, but he was much more than that. He was a good, proud and brave Pakistani. A nationalist, if there ever was one.

The new Pakistani nationalist is an ever increasingly more complex and sophisticated creature. The sacrifices of brave Pakistanis like Bhatti are helping transform what it means to be a good, proud and patriotic Pakistani. The pile of bodies that is accumulating owing to lawlessness and hatred in Pakistan is rightly a source of anger and bitterness among Pakistanis who are tired of this parade of violence. Yet, because of the pressures that greater transparency, a wider dissemination of information and a smaller, more intimate world impose, that pile of bodies is changing Pakistan. Slowly, but surely, it is shifting power away from dark and invisible sources of defining what makes a good Pakistani. Instead, the power to define things is changing, opening up, and democratising. The days of a free ride for self-appointed guardians of the national interest being the sole definers of nationalist virtue are over.

No better case can be made for this slow but unstoppable glacier of transparency and accountability than the Raymond Davis case. Davis was among hundreds of American soldiers and mercenaries deployed to Pakistan to conduct a covert war against violent extremists. These covert warriors are not in Pakistan without the consent of the highest powers in the country (primarily military, but also civilian). Not everybody in the ISI is necessarily proud of having to facilitate this covert war, but working with the US intel community is the official Pakistani policy.

Generals and politicians in Pakistan have developed the bad habit of what Altaf Hussain once referred poetically to as, "meetha-meetha hupp-hupp, karwaa-karwaa thoo-thoo." This is the Urdu equivalent of having one's cake and eating it too. In the age of Al-Jazeera, Geo, Twitter and multiple tracks of public diplomacy, this habit is becoming a bit like smoking – a habit that eventually catches up with you and gives you asthma, emphysema, and cancer of the mouth, throat and lungs. Simply put, you cannot have your cake and eat it too.

Pakistan's military leadership wants a budget that is never touched or scrutinised. It wants infinite jobs, with extensions that choke up the entire meritocracy of the military and diminish officer morale and motivation. It wants to make deals with the United States and other powers that allow cadres of officers to have the benefits of being trained at Ft. Leavenworth and Sandhurst. And to top it all off, it wants an Islamo-centric nationalist pride to be the sole domain of military-led Pakistaniat.

When Raymond Davis killed two men at Mozang Chowk in Lahore he may have exposed the fragility and moral emptiness of Obama's war in Pakistan. When the ISI and CIA agreed on how to spring that killer from jail, however, they exposed the self-effacing calculus of the Pakistani military elite. While so much of the national conversation invests itself in issues like honour and aid, the real impact of Davis is that it exposes and loosens the military's grip on the definition of Pakistani nationalism.

The GHQ no longer gets to define itself as an infallible institution. Not after Gen Musharraf faced zero resistance from the corps commanders as he tried to bulldoze the superior judiciary. The military no longer gets to define who loves Pakistan and who doesn't. Not after it aches for Coalition Support Funds with the right hand and stirs up controversy over the Kerry-Lugar Bill with the left. The ISI no longer gets to choose what kind of Pakistan it wants to project. Not after it helps leak Raymond Davis data to the press one day, and help negotiate his escape from Pakistan the next.

Meanwhile, somehow this coalition government still stands, three years after taking office. Just consider what the current democratic dispensation has endured. The country's worst ever flood, an NRO crisis, a hyperactive Supreme Court, a fake-degrees scandal, Pakistan's biggest internal displacement crisis, the rank and utter incompetence of key cabinet members, a vocal and outsized influence-enjoying MQM, the takeover of Swat, an unpopular war-cum-alliance with America and the regular terrorist bombings of shrines and mosques. Still, democracy stands – blood, incompetent, corrupt and woozy. It is a credit to the PPP and PML-N that this edifice still stands.

What at least three generations of military planners and guardians of the national interest have never quite appreciated is that Pakistan's enormous diversity is a great asset. Democracy helps amplify this diversity. It is cantankerous and noisy, and it will not always produce the technically correct outcomes, but the Pakistani national project-a modern and powerful South Asian Muslim majority state can only be achieved through making sense of the noise. Thanks to Raymond Davis, thanks to technology, media and globalization, thanks to the lawyers' movement, and thanks to a set of incomprehensible service extensions for the COAS and DG ISI, the noise gets louder and louder.

From Shahbaz Bhatti, to the soldiers on the frontline in FATA, to the innocent victims of drone strikes by the US, to the martyrs at shrines and mosques that have been attacked by suicide bombers, to Pakistani victims of lynchings in Bahrain Pakistanis are witnessing an era in which nationalism is not restricted to the strict definitions of the term in Rawalpindi cantonment.

It is nationalism that fuels those that protest against the assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. It is nationalism that drives criticism of Pakistani military acquiescence in US drone attacks. It is nationalism that seeks transparency in Pakistani military operations in FATA and Swat. It is nationalism that values the white in the Pakistani flag as much as it values the green. It is nationalism that seeks justice for Dr. Afiya and nationalism that seeks justice for Aasiya Bibi. This diverse and cantankerous new Pakistani nationalism is an enduring strength for the country. It may be exploited by some, but it cannot be debased.

The zipper on the straight-jacket of nationalism defined by a khaki ascendancy in Pakistan has come undone. It cannot be zipped back. If Pakistan contradicts itself, very well then, it contradicts itself. Like Walt Whitman, Pakistan is large. It contains multitudes.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.









The word rival originates from Latin rivalis, meaning sharing a river. A water war between two Sumerian city-states, Lagash and Umma, 4,500 years ago, is recorded on a stone carving. However, the subsequent history of water dispute resolution has been impressive. States have favoured cooperation over conflict. Since the Laggash-Umma war 3,600 international water treaties have been signed, 145 being in the 20th century.

Of three trans-boundary river basins in South Asia, the Indus River Basin is the lifeline that feeds the agrarian economy of Pakistan. During the first year of Partition, Indus Basin waters were apportioned by the Inter-Dominion Accord of May 4, 1948. Twelve years of negotiations led by the World Bank saw the signing of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty. It allocated three western rivers, Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab, to Pakistan.

The treaty gave Pakistan a transition period till 31 March 1970 to build a link canal system to divert water from the western to the eastern rivers. Pakistan rose up to the challenge and constructed two major dams, Tarbela and Mangla, along with barrages. Also built were 62,000 kilometres of canals, which fed 1.7 million kilometres of tertiary canals, the world's largest contiguous irrigation system.

According to the treaty, India was allowed to harness the hydroelectric potential of the western rivers without storing or diverting the water. It was also bound to inform Pakistan about the design of any work on these rivers well before initiating it. With the passage of time, water scarcity, compounded by our lack of political will and vision, encouraged India to manipulate the treaty. And the World Bank, which brokered the treaty, had no monitoring provisions and enforcement mechanism.

Jawaharlal Nehru called dams the "temples of modern India." Today these temples and tunnels are being built at a feverish pace. Sitting on our headwaters in occupied Kashmir, India has completed various projects, thus greatly limiting the flow downstream. Successive governments have failed to influence India against this.

The Chenab River alone provides water to 21 canals and irrigates about seven million acres of agriculture land in Punjab. India has already built 14 hydroelectric plants on Chenab River. All these and other projects are reservoir-based; many are diversion dams. By 2017 India reportedly plans to construct another 192 power projects on the Jehlum, the Indus and the Chenab and the tributaries. India is also spending around $200 billion on the construction of water tunnels to funnel away water from the Indus River.

"The treaty worked well in the past, mostly because the Indians weren't building anything," says John Briscoe, an expert on South Asia's water issues at Harvard University. "This is a completely different ballgame. Now there is a whole battery of these (Indian) hydro projects." Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao termed our stance on Indus treaty manipulation as "breast-beating propaganda," adding: "The myth of water theft does not stand the test of rational scrutiny or reason."

India's sits on our headwaters in occupied Kashmir. Its conduct has been that of an errant child who finds itself in charge of a water tap. On April 1, 1948, India totally shut off water from the Ferozepur Headworks to the Dipalpur Canal and the main branches of Upper Bari Doab Canal, thus totally starving Punjab of water.

Also by 2017 India will acquire the capability to completely shut the sluice gates on the Jhelum, the Chenab and the Indus. Sun Tzu says in The Art of War: "The greatest victories are those won without fighting." Thanks to the indifference and apathy of our political czars, we have allowed India military and political supremacy through the building of these dams.

When President Zardari assumed office, he declared that the "Kashmir dispute be left to future generations," even though his claim to being heir to his party's leadership could not wait for even a few days after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. This was an utterance which belittled our own sustained stance on the core issue, if not the sacrifice of thousands of Kashmiris. When Jairam Ramesh was India's power minister, he countered the row over Kishanganga by saying: "This is an issue with geo-strategic and foreign-policy implications." President Zaradari and our political mandarins seem oblivious to these implications as they seem to be on all other matters of national import.

In a knee-jerk reaction to the energy crisis, the controversial rental power projects have given way to a proposal to import 1,000 MW electricity from Tajikistan, an upper-riparian country. Being lower riparian countries, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are opposing the construction of Ragun Dam by Tajikistan. Importing electricity from Tajikistan will be our tacit approval ceding right to the upper riparian. If this intended import goes through, we will sabotage our own case against Kishanganga in the International Arbitration Court, India being the upper- and Pakistan the lower riparian.

The Indus Water Treaty was supposed to guarantee equitable distribution. What we have is India asserting a unilateral and unfair doctrine of upstream riparian propriety rights. We may soon face, in addition to the host of stress factors, what Prof Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute terms "water stress."

The upcoming Pakistan-India secretary-level talks in New Delhi (March 28-29) should prominently figure our reservations about India's dam-building spree in Occupied Kashmir and the Kashmir issue itself. It will be all the more appropriate with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement in Jammu that the upcoming talks will include Kashmir. Ironically, the vacant foreign minister's slot at this crucial juncture portrays Pakistan khappay style of governance.

Global warming may soon see inadequate drinking and agriculture water leading to starvation and dislocation on an unprecedented scale. With an annual average rainfall of just 240 millimetres and groundwater falling as much as 20 feet per year, we remain oblivious to this looming water challenge. Our imbalance between water use and resource, Indian dams on our headwaters and climate change pose a grave threat to Pakistan. The greatest factor, though, is our indifference and a total planning deficit.

We have to build multiple water reservoirs all over the country and maintain and upgrade our existing water infrastructure on a priority basis. As a nation we have to conserve water and improve efficiency of water use, including modern farming techniques. Benjamin Franklin says in Poor Richard's Almanac: "When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." We still have time before the well runs dry.

The writer is a freelance contributor.









Every year, we commemorate March 23 in remembrance of "The Pakistan Resolution" passed in the historic city of Lahore. The Idea of Pakistan was about to be born.

On that day, the Muslim League led by Mr Jinnah declared its support for the Idea of Pakistan. That is why generations of Pakistanis will always remember March 23 with profound reverence and respect. Seven years later, thanks to the iron will and determination of Mr Jinnah, we became proud citizens of a sovereign, independent country-a country we could live for and die for. As he left the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an admirer, "Dr. Franklin what have you given us". Franklin turned to the questioner and replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Not too long ago, we possessed a great country. But where giants walked, midgets pose now. The talk today is of a vanished dignity, of a nation diminished in ways not previously imaginable. It is almost as if no one wants to acknowledge a sad end to what once was a beautiful dream. Our rulers squandered Jinnah's legacy and turned his dream into a nightmare.

Many nations in the past have attempted to develop democratic institutions, only to lose them when they took their liberties and political institutions for granted, and failed to comprehend foreign threats to their sovereignty and independent. Pakistan is a classic example. Born at midnight as a sovereign, independent, democratic country, today it is neither sovereign, nor independent, nor democratic. Today it is not just a "rentier state," not just a client state. It is a slave state, ill-led, ill-governed by a corrupt, power-hungry junta running a puppet government set up by Washington.

Sixty-three years after independence, are we really free? Are the people masters in their own house? From the kind of country we have today, Pakistan has lost its manhood and is a ghost of its former self. If Pakistan were to look into a mirror now, it wouldn't recognise itself. The contrast between Pakistan in 1947 – idealistic, democratic, progressive, optimistic, and Pakistan today – leaderless, rudderless, violent, besieged, corrupt, uncertain about its future – could not be sharper or more disheartening. If you want to know how a people can survive despite their corrupt government, or corrupt leaders, well, visit Pakistan.

The independence of Pakistan is a myth. By succumbing to American pressure, we managed to secure a temporary reprieve. But at what price? Twenty-four hours after CIA spy Raymond Davis – charged with killing two Pakistani citizens in broad daylight in Lahore – was allowed to leave the country with the full support of the government, American drones attacked Data Khel in North Waziristan, killing 25 innocent Pakistanis – men, women and children. No protest. No regrets. No word of sympathy. No remorse.

Today Pakistan is dotted with American fortresses, which seriously comprises our internal and external sovereignty. American security personnel stationed on our soil, like Raymond Davis, move in and out of the country without any let or hindrance. Pakistan has become a launching pad for military operations against neighbouring Muslim countries. We have been drawn into someone else's war without understanding its true dimension or ultimate objectives. Nuclear Pakistan has been turned into an American lackey, currently engaged in a proxy war against its own people.

With all her shortcomings, Benazir Bhutto had undoubted leadership qualities – charisma, courage, political acumen and articulation. After her tragic assassination, Mrs Zardari's sudden ascension to the Presidency caused panic among the people. Zardari reminds one of the American black leader J Raymond Jones. President Truman once asked a New York news paper reporter whether Mr Jones could be trusted. The reporter replied: "Well, Mr President, I can tell you one thing. If Ray Jones stole the Brooklyn Bridge, no would ever find it."

The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. The course they are on leads downhill. How meaningful is our twisted, stunted, pallid democracy, replete with parliament, cabinet, political parties, when crucial decisions are made elsewhere. How can authentic democracy take roots in this country when it has been stripped of all its core values – sovereignty of the people, Inviolability of the Constitution, rule of law, supremacy of civilian rule, independence of the Election Commission, sanctity of the ballot box, and a neutral, honest civil service? How can democracy flourish in the absence of ruthless accountability of corrupt rulers, past and present?

One of the lessons of history is that when people lose faith in their rulers when they lose faith in the sanctity of the ballot box; when elections are rigged and votes are purchased; when the gap between the rulers and the ruled widens; when there are no ways for people to express political preferences from time to time in an atmosphere free from fear, coercion, or intimidation; when known corrupt people, tax evaders and smugglers are foisted upon a poor, illiterate electorate unable to make an informed political choice, and sworn in as ministers; when elections throw up not the best, not the noblest, not the fittest, not the most deserving, but the scum of the community, and a legion of scoundrels; when hunger and anger come together, people, sooner or later, come out on to the streets and demonstrate Lenin's maxim that in such situations voting with citizen's feet is more effective than voting in elections.

Too long have we been passive spectators of events. Today our fate is in our hands, but soon it may pass beyond control. A shout in the mountains has been known to start an avalanche. We must call things by their names and shout louder. Let Pakistan be Pakistan again. Let it be the dream it used to be – a dream that is almost dead today. From "those who live like leeches on the people's lives" – who have robbed us of everything, our past, our present, our future and all our beautiful dreams-we must take back our land again.

Pakistan shares many of Egypt's problems: rampant corruption, social injustice, a growing wealth gap, inflation, total subservience to United States of America. One reason for the rebellions in Egypt and elsewhere was the in-your-face corruption that everyone knew about. We in Pakistan inhale corruption in the very air we breathe. How can any of our hopes emerge from this quagmire?

This is one of those moments in history when all that is needed is for someone to push open the door. The present corrupt political system would, I have no doubt, disappear in a violent upheaval since it carries within it the seed of its own destruction. At this moment, when the nation is standing on the escalator of corruption and anarchy, right-minded citizens cannot afford to stand frozen in disgust and dismay. We cannot merely look upon the political developments in sorrow and upon our politicians in anger.

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,








It is yet to be figured out that what strategy, compulsion or calculation caused Nawaz Sharif to float, through Shahbaz Sharif, the idea of a consultative conference among the judiciary, the army and the politicians? However, the idea is a solution to most of our problems. Consensus identification and solution to the problems by the three players is not only imperative but inevitable as well. As important players, they need consensus on all important issues. Though unfortunate, the three have instead been treating each others as opponents. Without exception, they are hostages to the mentality of confrontation and intervention in each others domain.

The military is subservient to civilian control in an ideal democracy. The judiciary works within its jurisdiction without crossing into the domains of politics or the military, and respects sovereignty of the parliament. But we have got our own ground realities. Our past search for an ideal democratic system like that in Britain or the US has landed us in trouble. Rulers who insisted on ideal democracy were sent packing along with whatever democratic system we had. Nawaz Sharif rejected the proposal of the National Security Council by his army chief, Jahangir Karamat, and insisted on ideal democracy. Resultantly, the prime minister landed in jail at Attock Fort but left us to contend with another bout of dictatorship for nine years. Unfortunately, politicians learnt no lessons; they neither claimed the moral high ground nor proved capable administrators.

The judiciary broke free from executive influence but could not throw away the chains of institutional and class prejudices. It could not escape the overall social decay as well. The tensions among the three pillars have often led them to the brink of confrontation. In the current scenario, confrontation between the executive and the judiciary appears inevitable.

The country is faced with mortal dangers of extremism and terrorism but the disconnect among the state institutions prevents a consensus strategy against this danger. They comprehend and respond to the threat in mutually exclusive prisms; the army deals the issue from its perspective on the national security and institutional interests; the politicians have a different angle while the judiciary deals with the cases of terrorism in traditional manner.

Notwithstanding public facades, the politicians hold the army responsible for the crisis. Ministers of the ANP and the PPP say that past and present policies of the institution are responsible for the current miss. On the contrary, in off-the-record comments the military blames politicians for the problems. The generals insist that policymaking is not their political domain. The army is mere implementer of the government's decision on military operations or the limits on relations and cooperation with the US. They believe that politicians don't recognise the army's sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. They credit the military for successful operation in Swat and in the same vein point out the civilian government apathy towards establishing the civil and judicial systems there. The civilian and military rulers criticise the judiciary for failure to punish terrorists they arrest.

The intra-institution confusion is another puzzle. Political forces across the divide present identify various roots of the problem. A strand hold the US responsible for all what is wrong with us; another thinks that the double game between the US and Pakistan is the culprit. Some forces advocate reconciliation while some insist on use of brute force. There are political leaders who believe the CIA and Blackwater are behind bloodletting; still others think we are our own enemies. This has understandably not been limited to the three institutions, but rather decisively permeated our social strata.

The anti-politician media men speak the language of the army. Political spokesmen love the stance of our leaders. Our analysts have got their own leanings, prejudices and interests, which inevitably affect their analyses. The people are confused whom they should believe on important national matters. This disconnect can be noticed when it comes to critical issues like relations with India and the US. The military circles allege that political leadership want to earn US support by sacrificing critical national interests while the latter fear that the former plans to push them into a fight with the US. Same is the problem with economic issues and corruption.

How can the country move ahead in presence of such tensions and divisions? Currently, we are heading towards collision wherein the powerful as we know them will again conquer the weak. The democratic project will again go to the dogs. But this time, we should not forget that country's survival is at stake. We have to get out confrontational mood and find a mechanism that brings the three players to same table for consensus on identification and solution of the dangerous problems. The mechanism may well go against the spirit of "pure democracy" but we should better do with "defective democracy" instead of none at all.

The proposal of consultation should naturally get more attention when it comes from a person none other than Nawaz Sharif, a staunch opponent of the military's intervention in politics. He is a revengeful man and so least expected to forget the generals' treatment of him. He is the one having highest stakes in continuity of the system for as he waits for his turn next. So it is unfair to think that his proposal invites the military or judiciary to intervene in politics. He presented it after a good reading of the prevalent ground realities.

The Sharif proposal stops at a onetime conference of the three players. One would go a step further and suggest a permanent consultative forum. This proposal may well be opposed by "democracy brigades," but I am convinced that this is the key to solution of our problems. And if we didn't act today, God forbid, we may rue our decision the same way as the rejecters of Jahangir Karamat's National Security Council proposal did on Oct 12, 1999.

The writer works for Geo TV.









The man who moved the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, A K Fazlul Haq, was late in reaching the venue of the Muslim League session. Jinnah had already started speaking but, as Fazlul Haq walked in, there were thunderous shouts of "Sher-e-Bangal, zindabad!" and the Quaid-e-Azam, who was constrained to interrupt his address, remarked with ill-disguised irritation, "When the tiger appears, the lamb must give way."

The Lahore Resolution stipulated that Muslim-majority areas "in the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states." The word "Pakistan" was not used in the resolution, which envisaged the establishment of two or more states. This provided the basis not only for the creation of Pakistan but, unwittingly, also for the establishment of Bangladesh.

Six years later, a Muslim League convention in Delhi on April 11, 1946, adopted a resolution which demanded that Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Sind (Sindh), the-then NWFP and Baluchistan (Balochistan) "where Muslims are in a dominant majority be constituted into a sovereign independent state." This deviated from the formulation in the original Lahore Resolution, which envisaged the creation of "independent states."

Abdul Hashim, the secretary of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, objected to the change but was overruled by the Quaid-e-Azam, who said that the word "states" in the Lahore Resolution was a misprint. However, legal experts are of the opinion that it was not within the competence of the convention to amend the Lahore Resolution, which had been incorporated into the constitution of the Muslim League during its 1941 session in Madras. Any modification of the original text would have required the endorsement of a plenary session of the League, and this was never done.

The Lahore Resolution did not clearly define the smallest administrative unit that would be used in determining Partition, and neither did the leadership of the Muslim League, unlike that of the Indian National Congress, seriously attempt to specify what areas and units should be combined for accession to either state. This posed no problem in Baluchistan and Sind, which had outright Muslim majorities of 91.8 and 72.7 percent, respectively, and acceded to Pakistan, as did the NWFP after the July 1947 referendum.

But difficulties arose in Bengal and Punjab, where the preponderant Muslim populations of 54.4 and 55.7 percent were concentrated within districts and sub-districts, as was the case with Hindus and Sikhs. Thus, the British were given a free hand to determine the boundary in the two provinces and this had far-reaching consequences for Pakistan.

The responsibility for carrying out this task was entrusted to Sir Cyril Radcliffe on June 27, 1947, whose reputation as "the most brilliant barrister in England" did not compensate for his ignorance about India. In effect, a scalpel had been handed over to a blind surgeon to carve out massive swathes of territory within six weeks of his selection for the job.

For the division of Punjab and Bengal, Radcliffe relied heavily on a blueprint devised by V P Menon, who had redrafted Mountbatten's Partition Plan. The mischief was in the arbitrary criterion that was adopted. Under the scheme, the areas were to be divided on the basis of districts, but with the proviso that this could be at the sub-district, or tehsil, level, where needed. The Lahore Resolution lacked this specificity.

Gurdaspur, which was a 51 percent Muslim-majority district, should have been awarded to Pakistan. Of its four sub-districts, one was on the west bank of the Ravi and three on the eastern side of the river. Though only Pathankot had a non-Muslim majority, it was decided by the Radcliffe Commission to award not only Pathankot but also two other Muslim sub-districts to India, on the flimsy pretext that a decision to the contrary would have affected important irrigation projects. Had the division been on the basis of districts, Gurdaspur, with its critically important tehsil of Pathankot, would have been given to Pakistan, thereby depriving India of its only land link to Kashmir. Under these circumstances, Maharajah Hari Singh would not have had the option of acceding to India.

The Muslim-majority principle as embodied in the Lahore Resolution was applied in a strangely wayward manner in Bengal. Murshidabad, which had a 75-percent Muslim majority, was awarded to India because the two Muslim League representatives, Pakistan's first advocate general, Muhammad Wasim, and Hamidul Haq Chowdhry, later to become foreign minister, were unable to present Pakistan's case effectively before the Boundary Commission. Similarly, the Muslim-majority Malda district, whose inhabitants had even hoisted the Pakistani flag before the Radcliffe Award was announced, was also ceded to India.

With these setbacks, the two Muslim League advocates were replaced and Fazlul Haq was requested to argue the case in respect of Hindu-majority Khulna which, despite the odds, was eventually given to Pakistan. Fazlul Haq, who had earlier been expelled from the Muslim League because of the machinations against him by Khwaja Nazimuddin and Husayn Shaheed Suhrawardy, both of whom were subsequently to become prime ministers of Pakistan, also implored the League leadership not to hand over Calcutta on a silver platter to India. He argued that the metropolis owed its glory to the whole of Muslim-majority Bengal, but his appeal fell on deaf ears.

In 1945, a student at Aligarh University wrote to Fazlul Haq, accusing him of abandoning the Muslim League. In his reply, on Oct 13, Fazlul Haq, said that he stood by "the Resolution whose wording I drafted and which I moved at the Lahore Session of the Muslim League...It is a pity that Muslim leaders do not understand what Pakistan means and merely shout slogans to catch the fancy of Musalmans." He also wrote that he was ready to rejoin the League if the ban against him was removed.

It is significant that none of the speakers at the Muslim League session which adopted the Lahore Resolution mentioned the need for an Islamic government or the imposition of shariah. The Quaid-e-Azam also repeatedly emphasised that he had never envisaged Pakistan as a theocratic state. Yet, on March 12, 1949, barely six months after his death, the non-representative Constituent Assembly adopted the 10-point Objectives Resolution, which pledged that the future constitution would be underpinned by the tenets of Islam.

Since then, as Fazlul Haq had previously lamented, Pakistani political leaders have exploited Islam. Even worse, extremists and terrorist groups have distorted its teachings to justify cold-blooded murder. In 2010 alone, there were 2,113 terrorist-related incidents in the country. Drastic measures are required. Bangladesh responded to the threat by banning religious political parties on July 28, 2010, and this decision has been accepted by its people.

The founding fathers of Pakistan were men of exception ability. Like all mortals they had their failings, but these were never fatal to their commitment to the people, and neither did they hesitate to admit their mistakes. Shortly before his death on April 27, 1962, Fazlul Haq wrote: "I have my hours of penance and regret. I am introspective enough to take an interest in the examination of my own conscience... Disappointments have not cured me of an ineradicable romanticism. If at time I am sorry for something I have done, remorse assails me only for the things I have left undone."









Consider the state of the Pakistan-US strategic partnership by juxtaposing three recent happenings: the Raymond Davis affair, the drone attack that wantonly killed more than 40 tribal notables and their kinsmen and General Petraeus' renewed demand for the Pakistan army to attack North Waziristan. Evidently, there are two wars going on; a war in which Pakistan is a partner and the other, in which it is the victim of a covert war waged by the United States.

That the second war has a certain degree of Pakistani complicity is fraught with consequences that will someday spiral out of Islamabad's control. It is a major cause of its growing disconnect with the people; it weakens it incrementally reducing its leverage with the United States as well as with various internal political forces. The deadliest element in the mix is the dilemma posed by the ever increasing number of drone attacks that evoke bewildering responses from the government.

The Raymond Davis affair created an almost indelible impression that the thinly veiled situation brought to light by it briefly rattled even the national security agencies because it had developed with the connivance of elements in the government and national diplomacy. The collective memory of the people is not shaped by the sophistry of state functionaries; unfortunately, here perception is reality.

The drone attack brought a sharp condemnation from Pakistan but the people saw it through the prism of past responses. From 2004 to 2007, the use of this weapon of choice against Pakistani targets ranged from one to five; it rose to 35 in 2008, 53 in 2009 and 117 in 2010, with 2011 threatening to exceed all past figures.

North and South Waziristan received 166 and 53 hits respectively with 56 reportedly launched against the Haqqani network, 70 against Gul Bahadur and 29 against Maulvi Nazir. Of them, Gul Bahadur now threatens to terminate his 'peace accord' with Islamabad. The loss of lives ranges between 1410 and 2200. No more than 40 of them wore any mantle of leadership in the Taliban/Al-Qaeda fraternity. At one stage, Brookings maintained that for every militant killed, 10 civilians perished.

The aftershocks of the statement attributed to Prime Minister Gilani in the Wikileaks still continue; one only hopes that he never made it. A senior army officer reportedly endorsed the campaign in a recent briefing of foreigners. The truly absurd component in official responses has been the 'revelation' that Pakistan was pressing the United States for the transfer of drone technology. General Kayani's denunciation of the latest atrocity was unambiguous but it was immediately challenged as mere damage control by two former ISI chiefs. The Foreign Office's heroic rejection of a client status was duly appreciated but its impact was undermined by anaemic comments from the political quarters.

Marvi Memon, an indefatigable fighter for lost causes, has finally appealed to the 'conscience of the King', as Hamlet would have it, and asked him to bring the issue to parliament. If she means business, she should lobby across the aisles to get parliament radically engaged with the substantive issues of Pakistan's most vital relationship. If parliament values Pakistan's sovereignty, it should first reclaim its own sovereignty. Debating Pakistan-US relations is hard work and parliament has to go beyond the mesmerising rhetoric of Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the manipulative skills of the ruling elite. It should take up the challenge of defining the parameters of a relationship that we cannot do without and yet cannot manage. Face up to the task or allow the people to elect a new parliament.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.









LEAVING aside what President Asif Ali Zardari covered in his fourth address to the joint session of Parliament on Tuesday and the role played by different Opposition Parties, one thing is certain that from now onwards the political divide would deepen further with the passage of time. Of course, one has to appreciate that the democratic process is just nascent at three years and it is also to be recognised that such heat generation is not considered something unusual in democratic culture but all political parties will have to contribute their share to strengthen the system and ensure its continuity.

In our view, as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared on Monday, the policy of reconciliation should continue and in fact, this is all the more necessary in view of the grave challenges facing the nation. It was in this perspective that the PM not only had a meeting with allies of the Government to discuss matters relating to the joint session but also contacted leaders of other political parties as well in an effort to ensure smooth sailing during the session. But reconciliation should not mean removal of roadblocks from your way and turning of your face to the other side when it comes to discharging your duties towards others. Luckily, there is national consensus that the elected Government should complete its five-year mandated term and that is why no political party is presently seriously demanding holding of mid-term elections or making any worthwhile move to destabilise the Government. This is despite the fact that the Government is to be blamed for some of the most glaring failures like nosedive in law and order situation, deterioration in security environment, lawlessness, proverbial corruption, unprecedented price hike, artificial shortages of essential commodities, crippling power and gas outages and growing rate of unemployment. The Government is also fortunate in the sense that those who can replace it have no definitive agenda to offer to the people. But these things should not be taken for granted and the present Government will have to deliver and deliver expeditiously if it wants to face the electorate in the next general elections. We say so because macro achievements notwithstanding, there is so far no indication that the lot of the common man has improved in any way during the tenure of the present set-up. The Opposition especially PML (N) should also do soul searching as people are losing their faith in its ability to offer any alternative leadership in the absence of any clear-cut agenda to resolve the problems of the people and take the country out of the existing mess.








THOUGH somewhat late yet at the last a realisation has dawned upon conscientious members of the international community that the West, led by the United States, has befooled them in securing UN backing for action in Libya, which is being misused to occupy the country and its resources. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lamented on Monday that the UN resolution authorising military action in Libya resembled "mediaeval calls for crusades". China also pointed out that the nations backing the strikes are breaking international rules and courting new turmoil in the Middle East.

There is also growing resentment and frustration in the Muslim world, which was aptly epitomized by remarks of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who urged NATO to acknowledge that Libya belongs to the Libyans, not for the distribution of its underground resources and wealth. Arab countries that initially backed plans for action in Libya are now having second thought and showing signs of repentance but so far their opposition is a game of zero sum. In this backdrop, Pakistan has come out with a belated criticism of the aggression, expressing concern over the development. It has called for evolution of a peaceful solution by Libyan people themselves in the spirit of mutual accommodation and national reconciliation. Considering that Pakistan has been in the forefront of the States advocating just and principled causes, such a statement should have come at least 48 hours earlier. Anyhow, now that the country has expressed its opposition to colonisation of a sovereign State, Foreign Office should undertake aggressive diplomatic campaign to enlist support of other countries in preventing the US, the UK, France and Italy to trample the sovereignty of a sovereign country. These countries colonised States for decades and centuries and are unable to digest the reality that they are now independent States deserving equal respect and rights.







IN the wake of turmoil in the Middle East and situation in a few Gulf States, some Pakistanis due to sense of insecurity, are packing up particularly from Libya. In fact many Pakistanis have already left Libya and in view of the deteriorating situation there in the wake of unilateral attacks by the US and European countries, others would also have no option but to return to their mother country.

This has certainly raised the question whether in the days to come for one reason or the other, how many overseas Pakistanis would opt for saying goodbye to the countries where they are presently serving? Though there are not many Pakistanis working in Yemen yet in view of the emerging situation, the security situation there has also deteriorated and it would be difficult for the foreigners to stay. Even in the Western countries where unfortunately laws about Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are being tightened, they do not feel comfortable any more as they used to be in the past. As there are no job opportunities in Pakistan, skilled and unskilled workers and even highly qualified professionals seek overseas employment and contribute a lot to the country through remittances. Though a report in this newspaper the other day quoted the Director Bureau of Emigration as saying that some four lakh Pakistanis were being sent abroad every year yet it did not give the figure of how many were returning. The Government estimates that remittances during the current financial year would touch an all time high of $ 12 billion. These remittances by overseas Pakistanis help the foreign exchange starved economy to a great extent as the country's annual trade deficit is in the range of $ 12 billion to $ 15 billion. In this perspective, we would impress upon the Government and the institutions concerned to give a serious thought to the developing situation in the Afro-Arab region and in case there is large scale return, how these people would be adjusted because there is already joblessness and no investment is coming due to law and order situation and crippling energy shortages.








In the history of Pakistani nation, 23rd March has a special significance. On this momentous day, in 1940, the historic resolution for the creation of an ideological state (Pakistan) was passed in the Lahore session of All India Muslim League. In the political struggle of the Muslims of the Sub-continent, this was the biggest gathering, attended by over 100,000 people from all parts of the united India. Indeed, under the exploitative British Colonialism in connivance with majority Hindu population, Muslims of India were targeted to the maximum as the former ruler of the India. Through this historic gathering, the Muslims of Sub-continent gave a message to the world in large and the Britain and Hindu majority in particular that, they were determined to have their own homeland in the form of Pakistan. A state; where they can freely live as a nation, while following the glorious principles of Islam.

Adoption of this resolution was exactly ten years after the historical address of the great philosopher, Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, in the Allahabad session of the All India Muslim League, in 1930., This visionary thinker, and poet had indeed, envisioned a separate homeland for the Muslims of South Asia in that address. The Lahore session of Muslim League was indeed the first substantial step towards the implementation of this vision, a dream turning into reality. Struggle for nothing less than a separate homeland (Pakistan) was the agenda of this session of Muslim League in Lahore, as Qauid had specified prior to this historical congregation of the Muslims of Sub-continent. "The watch-words of 'Faith Unity and Discipline' were the munitions which the Quaid-i-Azam gave to the nation for waging the battle for Pakistan. The most dependable powerhouse in the struggle for Pakistan was the Muslim nation's unity." Following the adoption of this resolution, Muslims of the Sub-continent, devotedly struggled for this God gifted first ideological Muslim state; the Pakistan. Despite difficulties, faced by this newly established country, the spirit of the Pakistan's Resolution remained alive and this great nation confronted the challenges with great vigour, zeal, and zest. Unfortunately, in 1971, owing to a number of external and domestic problems, we lost half of the country in the form of what we now call the Bangladesh. However, the ideology of Pakistan; the concept of 'two nations theory' did not die, as Bangladesh did not become India and follows the Islamic ideology; the very basis of Pakistan.

From its very inception as an independent state, Pakistan has been celebrating this historical day of March 23rd as the Pakistan Day. On March 23rd, 1956, Pakistan formally organized the Pak Day Parade in Polo Ground, Karachi. This practice continued until the capital shifted over to Islamabad in 1960. With this shift, the venue of the Pak Day Parade also shifted to Rawalpindi in the Race Course Ground in 1964. Pak Day Parade has been considered as the best way of inter-connection between the Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan. Through the physical demonstration of the arsenals, the nation indeed, gets to know the potential of its armed forces viz a viz its adversary. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the nation feels deprived of witnessing this jubilant event of the Pak Day Parade. This momentary suspension of the Parade indeed, is because of the unprecedented involvement of the Armed Forces, especially of Pak Army in combating the terrorism and extremism. Starting from the remote areas of Balochistan, Pak Army is deployed all along the Pak-Afghan border, the troubled areas of FATA and even in some of the settled areas of the Khyber Pakhtaunkhawa on anti terror duties.

Since the deployment of Pak Army on counter-terrorism duties, there has been a massive achievement against this erratic and undefined enemy, which has kept the local populace as a hostage for quite some time. There has been intimate support of Pak Air Force available to Pak Army during combating those targets found inaccessible to the ground forces. Since the commencement of the military operation against the terrorists and extremist elements, security forces of Pakistan have lost over 3300 men, whereas, the overall losses during this fight against terrorism have been over 32,000 people. The losses to the economy have been colossal. As per a rough estimate, Pakistan has suffered economic losses of over $64 billion so far, primarily because of its involvement in the global war on terror.

The terrorists, some of them may be operating, disguised as Muslims are indeed, fighting against Islam; the very basis of the Pakistani Ideology. The Armed Forces of Pakistan in fact are fighting a war for preservation of its ideology at the hands of these foreign sponsored militants; may be organized in the form of TTP or any other religious, factional, or any ethnic group. This sacred nature of the war against terrorists, has largely misunderstood by the masses until 2007. However, the human massacres at the hands of these so-called Islamists in the form of suicide bombings, bomb blasts, armed attacks, and through other brutal attacks to the masses, unmasked their true face of conspiring against Pakistan. Terrorists have killed thousands of the innocent citizens of Pakistan throughout in the country during their inhuman acts of terrorism.

Today, the Pakistani nation stands behind its Armed Forces in their derive against all terrorists. The Armed Forces have made a firm commitment that, they will continue their drive until its geographical boundaries are cleared off the terrorists. In this regards, the military operations of Pak Army in Malakand-Swat, South Waziristan Agency, Orakzai, Mohammad and other areas are classical examples of clearing the areas infested with the militants. Pak Army has freed the local Tribal of FATA from the incarceration of the militants. The locals are fully supporting the role of Pak Army against these militants, who have no values, but damaging the traditional values and true teachings of Islam.

23rd March 2011, reminds us the contributions of our forefathers, who scarified their comfort for our future and struggled to attain Pakistan for us. Today, after the 71 years of the passage of the historical resolution, and 64 years after the independence, we need to reassess ourselves, as a nation. If our forefathers have given us an idealogocal country, where did we lose sight of? Let us, trace back the historical mistakes, and put right ourselves. Let us unite ourselves and follow true values of an Islamic brotherhood and Pakistani nationhood by shedding the mutual differences; created by our enemies. Let us respect our sovereignty and secure this God gifted motherland by defeating the evil forces; arising domestically or thrusted upon us by our enemies from across the frontiers. A well aware and educated future generation provided with adequate and identical opportunities of employments would definitely guarantee a stable and peaceful Pakistan, as dreamed by the philosopher and Poet Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and subsequently attained under the leadership Quaid-i-Azam.

—The writer is an international relations analyst.








Seventy-one years ago, it was eventful day of 23rd March 1940 when thousands of Muslims from various parts of the sub-continent shared a dream together. To convert the dream into reality, they gathered in Lahore under the able leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was a dream of having separate homeland for Muslims of the sub-continent, who were largely feeling marginalized and deprived both socio-politically and economically. The Pakistan Resolution was passed as a result of this dream and events unfolded later suggested that it was not an ordinary dream but a vision and a mission as well aiming at uplifting the lives of deprived Muslims in Sub-continent. This was the dream, vision and mission which led a marginalized and deprived community towards creation of a nation where they were free to write their own destiny.

In persuasion of this dream, the great founding father of the nation gave special importance to wellbeing of the people. It is evident from his policy speech on August 11, 1947. The Quaid said "If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor." Hence, we want Pakistan not only economically independent but also free from extremism, free from terrorism and free from poverty. Pakistan was envisaged as state offering equal opportunities and equity in the distribution of resources, for all specially the masses, to live a meaningful life. The history had witnessed that the politics of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Shaheed Benazir Bhutto also revolved around the same vision as the wellbeing of people is imperative for an independent and sovereign Pakistan.

Today, while confronting with unprecedented challenges, it is high time for us to revisit the idea behind the demand and creation of this great nation. Fortunately, the pursuit of translating this vision in to reality has not been abandoned yet. Instead, it has gained an unprecedented momentum by present democratic government, under the unwavering resolve and relentless support of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Right after the inception, the nascent democratic government, had to face multiple challenges i.e. rising inflation, mounting unemployment, and diminishing opportunities resulting in a major section of population living below the line of poverty. On the other hand, the global economic recession and exceptional food inflation triggered the apprehensions that already impoverished would not be able to sustain this economic shock and will plunge deeper into the abyss of poverty and hunger.

The experts depicted a bleak scenario suggesting that this phenomenon would lead to further untoward impact upon already deteriorating socio-economic milieu in the country. Furthermore, with nation already committed in the war on terror, causing a dent to already fragile national economy and consuming a considerable chunk of national resources, situation was ripe for breeding more frustration among the masses leading to apathy and vulnerability to extremism.

Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was immediate and befitting response from the democratic government to confront these looming threats effectively. In no time, the step has become a long awaited ray of hope for the millions of hopeless of this country. Due to its transparent and efficient mechanisms, BISP has emerged as first ever such initiative in the social sector of the country, which has gained support and trust of various prestigious international organizations. Similarly, unanimously approval of BISP Act 2010 from both houses of Parliament in August 2010, both houses of the Parliament demonstrates the confidence reposed in the transparency, integrity and efficacy of BISP.

In this context, the first ever nation-wide targeting survey was started from October 2010 in all districts of the country, including AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Overall more than 60% of the country has been surveyed while the entire process will be completed by the end of June 2011. Survey in KP is also about to be completed. The poverty scorecard survey was started in Balochistan on priority basis under "Aghaz-e-Huqooq Baluchistan". Thus, a sense of provincial harmony has been created through establishing a parity in the all the regions of Pakistan. The initiatives of BISP have also contributed significantly in advancing the cause of women empowerment as cash grants and other benefits to registered families are being provided through the women head of the recipient families. Similarly, educated youth of BISP is being encourage to be part of ongoing nationwide poverty survey in their respective areas.

For poverty eradication, BISP has taken numerous innovative steps besides provision of regular income support to beneficiary families. Waseela-e-Haq is one such initiative which is basically designed to promote self-employment among women beneficiaries or their nominees to improve their livelihood. It offers Rs.300,000 long term interest free financial assistance to randomly selected beneficiaries, to be recovered in 15 years. Similarly, vocational training under Waseela-e-Rozgar scheme, life insurance and emergency relief are proving to be highly instrumental in poverty alleviation as well as economic uplift of the poor and downtrodden segments of society. The payment mechanisms are also being improved by introduction of Mobile Phone Banking and Benazir Smart Card to facilitate all registered deserving families.

It's worth mentioning here that the present democratic government has liberated the people of Swat and Malakand from the clutches of terrorist elements. While saluting the sacrifices made by the civilians, jawans of armed forces and other law enforcing agencies, we feel pride on the prompt contribution of BISP in helping IDPs when they were in desperate need. Slowly but surely, the initiatives taken by BISP are contributing significantly in materializing the dreams of the Muslims of the Sub-continent and making Pakistan a social welfare state. The Pakistan Day is an occasion for us to reaffirm our strong commitment of uplifting the lives of poor and marginalized segments of society. These efforts are aiming to make Pakistan a great homeland for every Pakistani without any consideration of caste, creed and religion, as was dreamt 71 years ago through "Pakistan Resolution".

The writer is Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme.








The Arab world seems awakening after a long sleep. More than five decades the Arab people have been living under despotism. They have been ruled either by monarchs or by military men. It does not mean that there were no dissent voices. Resisting forces have been fighting against the despotic rulers since the very beginning. It was Syed Hasan-ul-Banna and his party Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen who spearhead the resisting movements in Egypt, Syria and in couple of other Arab countries. The Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen was struggling for the revival of Islam.

The party got very effective following in Egypt and Syria and became a serious threat for the military rulers. Ideologically these rulers were near the Communist Russia and like their mentor (USSR) left no stone unturned to crush the Islamic Movement of Ikhwan. There used to be elections in these states, but always grossly rigged. There was indeed one party rule. The opposition parties were never given free play in these elections. These despotic states never thought of people's welfare. The people could never enjoy basic human rights. These countries could not achieve economic stability as well. The situation in Arab kingdoms has almost been the same. The people in these kingdoms could never have social and political identity. They have no say in state affairs. However, these kingdoms have been more generous and less tyrant as compared to the regimes in Egypt, Syria, Tunis and Albania.

The present movement of awakening has stirred the whole Arab world. There is a spirit of revolution in all the Arab countries. The people have come out to show their anger against the despotic rulers. The people of Tunis took the lead and succeeded in ousting the King. A young Tunisian engineer boasted, "We have broken the wall of silence that has paralyzed the Arabs." The successful movement of Tunis inspired the Egyptians and in the wake of weeks struggle they succeeded in dethroning powerful Hosni Mubarak. These successful movements have attracted the youth in particular. They are afire to realize some dreamland where they may have true freedom without any fear. Now this spirit of freedom has gripped the people of Libya. Their passions for freedom are running high. The Libyans are making marvelous sacrifices for the realization of their dream. The new sense of people's power is translating itself into a feeling of civic pride.

An outstanding feature of these movements is that they are not the result of some secret hands. They are the mass movements. There is no extremist or terrorist group at their back. Millions of people are fighting for their democratic rights without resorting to violence. This uprising reveals people's commitment with their mission. They are purely indigenous movements without the support of any big power. This mass awakening has also delivered a serious blow to Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. The Arab youth has given a cold shoulder to Bin-Laden's sabotage designs. People's open and excited participation has given a true revolutionary color to this uprising.

There are different causes of this wide awakening. First of all it was the Iranian revolution which must have affected the Arabs. Many Arabs might have some suspicions about this revolution because of its sectarian color. However, Iran's anti U. S. stance must have appealed a great number of Arab people. America's pro Israel role has always been painful for the Arabs. While the blind following of America by the Arab rulers has been a cause of deep anger for the Arab people. The post 9/11 scenario also stirred the deep calm of the Arabs. Iraq was the worst target of America's naked aggression.

The people there suffered untold miseries. However, the political leadership exercised excellent statesmanship and in wake of this Iraq is inching toward stability. The democratic set-up, though still in a stage of infancy, is undoubtedly a matter of attraction for the Arab youth. The strong and unyielding role of Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon has also revived the spirit of freedom in the hearts of the Arab youth.

Hamas and Hizbullah are the mass movements having no stain of monarchy. Another factor which has affected the Arab's thinking is the present enviable status of Malaysia and Turkey. Both these countries are on the road to prosperity and social justice because of their democratic approach. Fears are there that these mass movements may be put down by force, but the day is not away when the Arab people would see the dawn of freedom.

—The writer works for IPRI.






March 23 in 1940 in Lahore was the historic day when Muslims of India under the dynamic leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah resolved to seek an independent homeland on the basis of the right of self-determination to pursue their lives in accordance with the democratic egalitarian spirit of Islam, tolerance and peaceful co-existence with the sole emphasis on the equality to its citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or gender. It is, indeed, also a historic coincidence that in the year 1929 on March 23 Isphanis of Karachi were gifted by Allah, the Most Generous, with Nusrat Khanum chosen by destiny to be the great woman behind a colossus of a man that her husband Zulfikar Ali Bhutto grew to be and mother to yet another leader of world class Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who did her illustrious parents and Muslim ummah a proud to be the first Muslim woman to be the Prime Minister twice.

Unlike many of her male-counterparts who showed instant preference to surrender at the first crack of the military dictator's whip, it was Begum Bhutto who first dared to assume the responsibility of leading the leaderless masses during the ruthless years when her husband Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was incarcerated by Ayub Khan for opposing his sell-out on Kashmir to Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent.

Surely very few women in a nation's history have left such an indelible imprint on sands of time as Begum Bhutto. Though passing days in a state of inertia and unaware of what is happening around she must be satisfied that though her country is pitched against insurmountable challenges, it is being led by a person chosen to be her son-in-law and the party PPP that ZAB founded to keep alighted the flame and vision of democracy, empowerment of less privileged including women and minorities given new lease of life by the sacrifice in blood by her daughter. Begum Bhutto has become a legend in her life time—an example for others to emulate. Her life is a tragic catalogue of crimes and follies of undemocratic rulers that have scarred the pristine face of Quaid's Pakistan, distorted his liberal ideology and tarnished image of Islam—a religion of peace.

Her ancestry linked to the legendary Islamic hero Salahuddin Ayubi who showed fathomless compassion to the Christians after the blood bath wreaked on Muslim in crusades—Nusrat Bhutto inherited his compassion, grit, dauntless determination and courage from the days of her childhood. And her dynamism, love and care for humanity blossomed her into a young lady who would strive, seek and not yield at challenging times when trains packed with refugees from India were pouring into Karachi in the aftermath of partition.

As a young woman she got into limelight as a self-less member of the Women's National Guard—a Muslim women salvation army— established by Begum Ra'ana Liaquat Ali Khan—wife of Pakistan's first prime minister. Begum Bhutto plunged herself day and night into the relief operations of the millions of the uprooted refugees who migrated from Bharat, feeding them, providing them shelter and succour— when Karachi—nay entire Pakistan—had no resources, no infra-structure, no proper administrative set up, no houses and no medical relief.

In those stressful times though physically frail, she stood tall among the tallest of ladies that carried out one of the biggest relief work ever undertaken during the course of biggest migration in history. She showed rare qualities of leadership and selfless service that inspired others and strengthened young nation's will to survive despite the odds—a fact recognised and acknowledged by both Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Begum Liaquat Ali Khan. Quaid too was proud of such Herculean services that Nusrat Khanum and the like had left no stone unturned to render to the uprooted masses. Looking at their gigantic performance he had remarked that no odds, no challenges, no difficulties could overawe a nation that had youth like Nusrat in the field. Begum Bhutto was born with a silver spoon. And being a lady of sterling qualities of both head and heart as she was, she found her match in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Karachi. It was love at first sight that landed them in a wed-lock and a marriage that lasted to ZAB's martyrdom and her uncompromising devotion to his enlightened vision ever after. Her marriage to ZAB was also a great turning point in their lives. Though himself a highly qualified and richly endowed scion of an illustrious ruling family, stability at home provided to him by Begum Bhutto, enabled him to harness his energies and knowledge in the service of the nation onto pastures new to the last drop of his blood—a promise that he had made in his letter as a student to Pakistan's founder the Quaid. While he made his mark as Pakistan's representative to the UN as a young lawyer, his wife stood behind as a rock, through thick and thin—to see him travel rapidly in the realms of one success after the other.

He was no doubt a great man in the making and the woman behind him was Begum Nusrat Bhutto. When he became youngest member of Ayub Khan's cabinet—a position that he held—handling successfully different important portfolios—until he resigned as Foreign Minister, his capable wife Begum Bhutto acquitted admirably well the responsibilities of bringing up their four children—Benazir, Murtaza, Sanam and Shahnawaz and also the role of playing a graceful hostess. She also lent support to her husband politically, looking after his swelling number of admirers and followers.

Since good bearing was in their blood and top priority fixed for them by their father was acquisition of high quality education, it fell on the shoulders of Begum Bhutto to bring up the children in such a manner that it should do Bhutto heritage a proud—a tradition that is being carried forward by President Asif Ali Zardari in the upbringing of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakthawar and Aseefa.

Begum Bhutto kept alighted the flame of her husband's struggle for democracy and unshackling of the masses, braced to face the dictatorial batons, worst harassment and intimidations keeping the masses march onward until their victory.

—The writer is Pakistan High Commissioner in UK.







March 23 is remembered as Pakistan Day and observed as a day of rejoicing. On this day in 1940 was passed a resolution at the 27th annual session of the All-India Muslim League presided by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Lahore, which demanded an independent homeland for Muslims in South Asia. And that came into being as a result of Partition of the sub-continent on August 14, 1947. Did the Quaid have any concept of Pakistan? What was his vision? Let's talk about it as students of history in the light of the resolution and the day it was presented by Moulvi Abul Kasim Fazlul Haq, Premier of Bengal.

There's no denying the fact that the Quaid advocated unity of all people and that's why he was also known as ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. Admittedly, he was rather a late convert to the idea of Pakistan. After his return to India from London in January 1935 and re-entry into active political life as leader of the Muslim League, he seemingly paid little heed to it. At any rate he didn't put it forward or, perhaps, even mention it during the 1937 election campaign. At that time, although he was already sadly disillusioned about the Indian National Congress, he still seemed to take the political unity of India for granted, according to Sir Edward Penderel Moon of the (former) Indian Civil Service, who presented a paper at the International Congress on Quaid-i-Azam held in Islamabad in December 1976.

After the elections there came a dramatic change—almost certainly a result of the Congress refusal to form coalition governments with the Muslim League in the Hindu-majority provinces. Members of the Muslim League were told they could not hope to share power with the Congress unless they submitted to its discipline and became its stooges. There was naturally a rapid, revolutionary change in the outlook of the Muslim League. In 1938, under Mr. Jinnah's leadership, it formally repudiated the federal scheme of the Government of India Act 1935, and began to consider other constitutional possibilities. In 1939 it declared that Muslim India was 'irrevocably opposed' to any federal objective; and in March 1940 was passed at Lahore a resolution, demanding the partition of India and the formation of the Muslim majority zones of the north-west and north-east into an independent sovereign state.

Thus, ostensibly, the Muslim League, under Mr. Jinnah's leadership, had accepted as its goal the chimerical, impracticable scheme of students led by Ch. Rehmat Ali, which the League spokesman had disliked a few years earlier. The Lahore Resolution was interpreted differently by advocates of Pakistan , but the fact is Pakistan was to be a completely independent sovereign (federal) state. It came into being on 14 August, 1947 , with Mr. Jinnah as its first Governor-General and the first president of its Constituent Assembly. The first observation he made in the Assembly was: "You will, no doubt, agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious belief of its subjects are fully protected by the state…I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you'll find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that's the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state…If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, especially of the masses and the poor."

He believed in Islamic principles and democracy and advocated the cause of Pakistan and its masses. The use of the Islamic idiom was not limited to confrontational situations involving India but extended to domestic reconstruction policy. Thus, on February 4, 1948 , he told a Sibi audience that he, in wanting to give Balochs a voice in the administration of their province, had been moved by his commitment to the principle of Islamic democracy. God had taught Muslims that they should settle the affairs of the state through mutual discussion and consultation. "It is my belief that our salvation lies in solving the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great law giver, the Prophet of Islam. Let's lay the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideal and principles."

The architect of Pakistan had a dream; he visualized a welfare state. He had conceived Pakistan based on foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which stress equality and brotherhood of man. Like Allama Iqbal, he was concerned with the problem of poverty and backwardness among Muslims for the eradication of which they looked, on the one hand, to the urges of dynamism, struggle and creativity in Islam and, on the other, to the Islamic principle of distributive justice. Mr. Jinnah's speech at the 30th session of the Muslim League during the freedom struggle reflected his vision. "It will be a people's government. I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious, which is so wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They've forgotten the lesson of Islam. Greed and selfishness have made these people subordinate to the interests of others in order to fatten themselves…If they're wise they'll have to adjust themselves to the new modern conditions of life. If they don't, God help them; we shall not help them."

Such an idea of Pakistan was picked up by Pakistan People's Party founder- chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Inspired by the devotion of Mr. Jinnah to a great ideal, young studious Bhutto had written a letter to him. He was on the way to accomplishment of the revolutionary programme when some foreign and internal political forces conspired against him, and he was eliminated from the scene in April 1979.









It would be difficult to name anyone at the top levels of politics in the past half-century who did not want to improve the living conditions of remote-area indigenous Australians. Political leaders have poured money and energy into trying to assist poverty-stricken and dysfunctional communities. The solutions have varied, the commitment to policies has waxed and waned -- sometimes to disastrous effect -- but The Australian does not doubt the good intentions that crossed party and ideological lines.

The problem is that little of it has been of much benefit to the people living in areas such as the town camps at Alice Springs, or in Roebourne in Western Australia, or even, for that matter, in Cape York, where Noel Pearson has been arguing for change for 20 years. As this newspaper has shown in its recent reports on Alice Springs, many Aboriginal communities are more dysfunctional, less educated and less healthy than they were decades ago. Plentiful alcohol and cheap drugs have wreaked havoc on many groups, leading to early death or addiction and a complete breakdown of social structures. Rivalling substance abuse is the crisis caused by a lack of jobs, in part because many indigenous people live in remote settlements where there is no economy other than the welfare economy. Billions of dollars have been poured into housing, healthcare, education and training, indigenous tourism and other enterprises, but they have not stemmed the domestic violence, the sexual and physical abuse of children, the child prostitution, the glue-sniffing and the desperation defining many communities. Despite the money flowing from Canberra since the 1967 referendum, state and territory governments have made little headway in this area.

Four years ago, then prime minister John Howard decided on a controversial policy: direct commonwealth intervention in an effort to break these dysfunctional patterns. We backed that policy, and believe that Mr Howard's action was appropriate and courageous. The status quo was not an option. After the 2007 election, Kevin Rudd's government maintained the intervention, cementing a largely bipartisan approach to indigenous policy. Like Mr Howard and Mr Rudd, Tony Abbott and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin have been staunch in their efforts to find a way forward. Julia Gillard has had less time to make an impact, but there is no reason to doubt her genuine interest in this area. It is disappointing, therefore, that presented with an opportunity to advance the conversation, the Prime Minister has resorted to politics. On Monday, she rejected an invitation from the Opposition Leader to travel with him to the Territory to discuss a second intervention to address problems in Alice Springs and towns such as Katherine and Tennant Creek. Ms Gillard accused Mr Abbott of being motivated by the need for a headline rather than genuine concern. That is not helpful at a time when the conditions for Aborigines in remote areas seem to be deteriorating. Nor do we believe Mr Abbott would grandstand on this issue.

This paper is suspicious of centralised solutions, yet history suggests that the states and territories have done a poor job of distributing funds: too often the beneficiaries are not the poor blacks living in remote areas but white bureaucrats living in Darwin or Alice Springs. Ms Macklin herself has often found it hard to get past the Territory's public service culture. Lack of political will is also a problem: for most politicians, finding a solution to indigenous problems is not a core electoral issue. It might, for example, be logical to move people from welfare to work, but which government will insist on people moving from Hermannsburg, 130km from Alice Springs, to the city for a job? There is agreement that education is the way out for people trapped in the cycle of abuse and poverty, yet can those in small, scattered communities really expect the same level of schooling as those living in bigger centres? Again, the question is how far politicians are prepared to go to force young Aborigines to attend regional or city boarding schools to ensure they can learn to read and write English and operate in a mainstream economy.

The intervention was an emergency response to a crisis but it is not enough to deliver the real changes needed in these communities. It is time for a bipartisan discussion, perhaps in the shape of a forum or summit, about how to address the next 40 years. We cannot be defeatist, although it is realistic to think there will always be indigenous Australians whose lack of basic skills will stop them joining the mainstream economy. Even those such as Mr Pearson, who has argued for years that the Cape must develop an economic base, have acknowledged the barriers to development. Many problems of remote communities are historically based, the most dysfunctional often being those created as people moved off pastoral properties after the equal wage decision of 1966 made them unattractive to employers. The upheaval left them with many of the long-term problems that face non-indigenous refugee groups. It is not easy to reverse the intergenerational damage caused by such events. Yet somehow our political leaders must find a way to advance the issue. We cannot accept that in another half a century, the situation for indigenous Australians will be worse, not better.






Labor's industrial laws have not only saddled employers and staff with rigid parameters for pay, conditions and working hours, but they are also increasingly being manipulated by the most powerful unions to dictate who employers will hire, and where they will work. Such inflexibility runs counter to the needs of a modern, productive economy.

The Transport Workers Union wants to replicate its recent "job security" campaign in the road transport industry by curtailing Qantas's use of outside contract labour. Engineers and pilots are also seeking so-called "job security" clauses in their new enterprise bargaining agreements. Engineers are demanding assurances that Qantas will carry out A380 heavy maintenance in Australia.

The union's demands go far beyond their traditional concerns about their members' wages and conditions. They jeopardise the airline's flexibility to manage its affairs efficiently in a globally competitive, changing industry. The campaigns are further evidence that the Gillard government's Fair Work Australia is a misnomer for a centralised, one-sided industrial relations regime that heavily favours trade unions. It is not fair to Qantas, the public or the national interest that the system allows the TWU to threaten strike action by refuellers even before lodging a claim. And for good reason, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is challenging Fair Work Australia's ruling in regard to JJ Richards and Sons waste management that upheld a union's right to take industrial action before starting workplace bargaining.

Despite the TWU's apparent success in winning "job security" agreements with Toll Holdings and Linfox in the road transport sector, real job security is entirely dependent on enterprises remaining profitable. Successful companies appreciate a stable, experienced workforce and dedicated employees who develop in their jobs as their employers' businesses grow. Forcing companies to offer casual workers permanent employment after six months, the case in the transport sector, is a burden business does not need. Long term, it could prove counterproductive for employment. Turnover in the transport business varies with economic cycles and companies need to be able to hire casual workers to meet peak demand periods without being forced to increase their payrolls permanently. In recent years, a significant proportion of job creation in Australia has been in casual employment, to the benefit of employers and workers.

In international aviation, offshore maintenance and codeshare flights are essential to protect profitability and help keep fares at affordable levels. Airline employees in Australia are well paid and enjoy good working conditions -- it is not their unions' business to curb the flexibility of Qantas or other airlines from making cost-saving arrangements with international airlines that pay staff according to their local conditions.

If the ACCI fails in its appeal against the "strike first, bargain later" ruling, it has promised to press Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans for legislative changes. If balance is to be restored to Australia's arcane, rigid IR system, employers and business lobbies need to bring pressure to bear on both government and opposition by winning the public debate and showing that the current laws are undermining good work practices and prosperity.






Despite his huge victory at the 2007 election, there was a lingering sense he and his supporters had "stolen" the party of working men and women. But it is only now, nine months after his deposition as Labor leader, that the extent of Mr Rudd's isolation within his own government has been laid bare.

The revelations by The Australian's political editor, Dennis Shanahan, that it was Mr Rudd as prime minister who led the move to find a compromise on the original mining tax throw a rare light on the workings of government. There is only one conclusion that can be reached from the documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws -- it was not Mr Rudd who failed to grasp the gravity of his party's situation and the need to head off the damaging campaign launched by mining companies against the tax last year. We now learn that he was looking for a compromise within two weeks of the policy announcement. The question for voters -- and ultimately for the history books -- is what role his deputy, Julia Gillard, and his Treasurer, Wayne Swan, played in these efforts to fix the debacle that led to the collapse of support for Labor at the August federal election.

At the least, responsibility for Labor's failure to act must rest with the Treasurer, who had pushed for the super-profits tax to be taken out of the Henry tax report and presented as a fait accompli in May last year, only to see it blow up in the government's face. As the tax debate damaged Australia's business reputation, Mr Swan maintained an aggressive stance. The documents from Treasury show his demonising of the miners as liars was contrary to his own advice that the effective tax rate was 55 per cent -- as the miners claimed. In the seven weeks between announcing the tax and winning the Deputy Prime Minister's job, the Treasurer did nothing publicly to solve this mess. The best that can be said about Ms Gillard was that she was missing in action on the tax, absorbed in managing the crisis over her Building the Education Revolution.

Yesterday, Mr Swan was forced to admit the government had discussed a compromise model for the tax before Mr Rudd's demise. He agreed there were elements in common with the version of the tax finally put forward by Ms Gillard as Prime Minister, but he refused to spell out where the two plans overlapped. That is disingenuous: the documents from Treasury and Mr Swan's office show considerable similarities between the two models. The industry has known this all along: Fortescue Metals boss Andrew Forrest, is on the record about the compromise offered by Mr Rudd.

So what was the problem? Why did the Rudd government not move as the Gillard government did to change tack and remove the most damaging aspects of the mining impost? Yes, Mr Rudd had been distracted in the lead-up, tramping up and down the east coast on his hospitals tour and trying to win support from the premiers for his hospitals package. But it appears he was not well served by the two people, in Ms Gillard and Mr Swan, who would eventually emerge as the big winners from the mining tax debacle. Indeed, much of the negativity within the electorate and the party that was attached to Mr Rudd in the weeks leading up to the "palace coup" was possibly driven by his isolation from those who should have been watching his back. It is well known that Ms Gillard was among those who, after the December 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit, were urging Mr Rudd to dump the carbon pollution reduction scheme upon which he had staked his prime ministership. It proved bad advice. Labor's abandoning of the CPRS was a key factor in its loss of electoral support -- yet Ms Gillard got off scot-free, just as Mr Swan emerged unscathed from the mauling of his tax.

Here are some more facts for historians to consider when they come to look at the Rudd prime ministership. A key advocate of Mr Swan's original mining tax was the powerful Australian Workers Union, through national secretary Paul Howes. The AWU's national president and Queensland branch secretary, Bill Ludwig, a hugely powerful backroom operator in the ALP, goes way back with the Treasurer. It was the withdrawal of AWU support that sealed Mr Rudd's fate last June and led to Mr Swan's elevation to the deputy's job under Ms Gillard.

History will judge the extent to which Mr Rudd was the architect of his own political demise and whether his parliamentary colleagues were pragmatic or principled when they turned against him last year. But it is likely that as more details emerge about the handling of the mining tax, history will be kinder to the former prime minister's policy capacity. For the moment, Ms Gillard and Mr Swan have everything to prove when it comes to their policy delivery.






CHRISTMAS ISLAND is not proving to be the convenient oubliette that Canberra had hoped it to be. It's close enough to Asia for asylum seekers to chance a sea crossing, so small and remote from mainland Australia as to make facilities very expensive. Now things have reached boiling point at its overcrowded detention centres.

With these camps now holding some 2500 of Australia's 6500 people held under the mandatory detention system for unauthorised arrivals, they are at about three times planned capacity. About 1800 of its inmates are single men, held in limbo for up to 18 months while their claims for refugee status and security clearances are assessed.

Even before protests took a more serious turn with a mass breakout and setting of fires, the government was trying to take pressure off by hurriedly opening a relief camp near Darwin.

But the system is still manifestly putting undue stress on the island community, whose members have generally shown a more humane approach to the boat people than the distant mainlanders - perhaps because they see them face-to-face, not as some demonised alien ''other'' as portrayed by some uncaring or unscrupulous politicians and media figures.

The government is in an unenviable position. It has an opposition encouraging the public to believe there is a solution as simple as ''stop the boats'', disguising a virtual Port Arthur approach: more remote and bleak detention until the flow stops. The halfway house of camps in the hotter, harsher landscapes of north-western Australia risks more riots, self-harm and trauma as well as damage to Australia's international image.

The ideas reportedly under consideration of ''community detention'' and a new visa category could be seen as coming full circle. The first system already applies to families and children. It would see thousands of single men now locked up go to a form of community placement with strict reporting requirements. Some would see it as akin to the temporary protection visa that the Rudd government abandoned because of the limbo it created, denying people family contact and work while they waited. The new visa would apply to those judged to be genuine refugees, but still to pass clearances by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Given that ASIO clearances are taking eight months or more, and in 99 per cent of cases are approved, it seems a sensible way to reduce the detention burden for all. The chances of a serious terrorist using this route to infiltrate Australia seem slim indeed. Ultimately the remedy is for Australia to face up to refugee flows as a fact of international life.





IF YOU ask an eye specialist to operate on a case of bowel cancer you may not get a particularly successful result. The same applies to the Treasury's ultra-secret report on NSW government schools compiled by Boston Consulting, ''the world's leading adviser on business strategy''. Using business consultants to analyse the state education system ignores a fundamental problem: state schools are not a business. Some business methods may be transferable, but the profit-and-loss assumptions on which businesses run will fit an education bureaucracy poorly.

The report does get some things right. There is certainly a case for allowing state schools more independence. Teachers and principals need not wonder about whether this is a cost-cutting measure: that is precisely what it is - and should be. The alternative is to continue with centralised management that wastes money. Examples of its wastefulness were revealed with alarming clarity during the federal government's schools building program. NSW's education bureaucracy was so rigid it could use resources neither efficiently nor flexibly enough to meet individual schools' needs. If things can be done more cheaply, they should be - and the savings should be returned to consolidated revenue. That is not a cutback; it is efficiency.

The report is right, too, to question by implication the dogma that smaller class sizes bring better results. Demanding smaller classes and more teachers in the name of quality has been a shibboleth of teachers' unions for decades, but the basis for it is unclear. Smaller classes do improve the results of disadvantaged children. For others, though, the quality of teaching appears to play a more important role. But to attract more able teachers into the system would require better salaries - and that, like the quality of education itself, is far from Boston Consulting's focus.

Elsewhere, too, the consultants' cost-cutting will harm schools and bring no benefit. Moving disabled children into mainstream classrooms may work in a few cases. In most, though, it will be harmful for the disabled child and for the class, because extra resources to help those with special needs will not be forthcoming from an education system whose main focus is now cutting costs. Loading government school classrooms with this extra burden would also accelerate the flight to private schools of children from wealthier backgrounds.

Any cuts that downgrade public education narrow the choices available to parents and are a retrograde step. Yet with a $1 billion budget shortfall looming by 2012-13, downgrading the public system may well be unavoidable, and may be the underlying intention here. If it is, though, it should be stated clearly and debated, not foisted on the public by stealth.






THE Baillieu government needs to level with Victorians about which of its pre-election promises are going to be, or are in danger of being, dumped or deferred - and why. By walking away from explicit and high-profile pledges, the Coalition is committing a breach of faith. By declining to mount a detailed and coherent case as to why it is doing so, it risks poisoning its relationship with the electorate, or at least with significant constituencies that have reason to feel let down. It may be that the government intends to wait until the May state budget before it seeks to fully account for and justify its actions. If so, we would caution against such a delay; the need for clarity is urgent.

The breach of faith is all the more keenly felt because Ted Baillieu said it would not be like this. As opposition leader, he campaigned hard on the idea that the Coalition would give Victorians a government they could trust. Kim Wells, on being installed as Treasurer, said he would put a list of the Coalition's promises on his office wall and tick them off as each was implemented. Less than four months after the election, it is clear Mr Wells's list will have crosses on it, as well as ticks.

The latest broken promise, revealed in The Age yesterday, relates to pay rates for community sector workers. Before the election, the Coalition repeatedly pledged to fund a big pay rise for such workers, in line with any ruling made by Fair Work Australia. Liberal frontbencher Mary Wooldridge matched Labor premier John Brumby's promise of $200 million over four years for ''pay justice'' for some of Victoria's lowest-paid workers - and then went much further.

In a letter signed three days before the election, Ms Wooldridge asserted that Labor was ''backing away from supporting the full pay rise'', and pledged: ''The Coalition will support the decision by Fair Work Australia on the pay claims for workers in the community sector and reflect any wage increase in our agreements with community sector organisations.'' In an interview recorded on the same day, Ms Wooldridge was equally unequivocal: ''We'll be making financial commitments in our policies in relation to supporting that claim and if it's more than [$50 million a year], then we will be funding and supporting it … We won't be backing down from supporting that decision.''

But backing down is precisely what the Coalition is now doing. In its submission to Fair Work Australia, the government refers only to a commitment to $200 million over four years. It says this level of investment is consistent with responsible budget management, which requires maintaining a surplus of at least $100 million a year without pushing up debt. Further, the government warns that pay rises costing more than that could create a funding gap that could result in job cuts and reduced services.

All this will be familiar to the state's teachers. Before the election, the Coalition said that under its policies, ''Victorian teachers will become the highest paid in Australia''. It is now clear Victorian teachers would need an 8 per cent pay rise to reach parity with their West Australian counterparts. Yet the Baillieu government is offering only 2.5 per cent a year, saying anything more than that will have to be offset by unspecified productivity gains.

To the extent that he has offered an explanation for these broken promises, Mr Baillieu has pointed to increased pressure on the budget caused by flagged cuts to Victoria's GST revenue, the cost of the summer floods in the state's north, and what he says is a costings ''black hole'' in the Brumby government's regional rail link project. It is disappointing, however, that under-rewarded teachers and underpaid community sector workers are among the first to be penalised as the new government adjusts its priorities. And it is disturbing to think who or what might be next. Victorians deserve to know.





THIS week, as the ''broad coalition'' brought together by UN Security Council resolution 1973 announced initial success in Operation Odyssey Dawn, aimed at destroying the Libyan regime's air defences and imposing a no-fly zone, US President Barack Obama reiterated a judgment he and other allied leaders have previously made about the country's dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

Colonel Gaddafi must go, the president said, for while he remains in power the Libyan people will not have freedom, nor any peace except that imposed by brutal force.

As an assessment of Libya's prospects, few could dissent from Mr Obama's remarks. The fact that he and other allied leaders have been so candid in expressing this view, however, has also muddied the waters in discussions about Odyssey Dawn's scope and intentions. Is it an aim of the operation to remove the regime's leadership, specifically by killing the dictator?

There is no reading of the Security Council's resolution on which the answer to that question could conceivably be ''yes''.

The resolution authorises any military action, short of invasion or incursion by ground troops, that may be necessary to protect the Libyan people from the depredations of the regime. That countenances a wide range of air or sea-based operations, including those necessary to establish a no-fly zone, though it is not restricted to them.

The destruction of Libya's most lethal military hardware, such as tanks and heavy artillery, is certainly consistent with the resolution. But regime change is not: if that is to happen, the people of Libya must bring it about.

The need to remain compliant with the resolution is sufficient reason not to launch any direct attack on Colonel Gaddafi, but it is not the only reason. From the time the rebels first requested international intervention to redress the military balance, they have been adamant that they must retain the initiative in the struggle to build a democratic Libya. That is why they do not want the coalition to send ground troops; an invasion might be successful, but it would also be a propaganda victory for those, in Libya and elsewhere, inclined to portray it as another chapter in the history of Western colonialism.

And, there is a still more fundamental reason to avoid direct attacks on Colonel Gaddafi. Those who are fighting to depose him would also hope to see him called to account, in a properly constituted court, for his crimes against his people.

Too many tyrants have eluded justice by death; the allies should strive to ensure that it does not happen again.







As cuts begin to bite, Alistair Darling's measured approach to deficit reduction seem even more sensible now

Coalition ministers from both parties predictably seize every opportunity to blame Labour for the economic and financial woes which will dominate British public life for years to come. George Osborne will undoubtedly do the same in his budget speech today. Yet if there is one politician whose reputation stands higher today than it did a year ago, it is actually Mr Osborne's immediate predecessor.

Alistair Darling's more measured focus on reducing the deficit by half during the current parliament was always a more prudent course, allowing a more nuanced and flexible response than the fiscal shock and awe which Mr Osborne unleashed in his first budget and his spending review. Mr Darling's prudent approach looks even more sensible today, after the downturn in growth in the last quarter of 2010 and yesterday's news that inflation rose sharply to 4.4% in February and that public sector borrowing ballooned to its highest monthly figure in 18 years. These figures cannot credibly be blamed, as the growth figures were, on the snow. They are reminders of the long-term gamble to which the coalition is committed and which remains the backdrop to everything that the chancellor will say today.

It is Mr Osborne who calls the shots now, however, not Mr Darling. And yesterday's figures, though disturbingly bad ones that will increase the pressure for unwelcome interest rate rises, will in no way encourage the chancellor to vary the approach to which he committed the coalition so decisively in 2010. Tory suggestions that this is a pivotal budget seem likely to be wide of the mark. Today's budget was never going to have the economic or political importance of the 2010 measures. Mr Osborne is set on his course now and, however much one may wish it otherwise, he would probably now risk far more damage to his own carefully tended reputation by an about-turn than by keeping broadly to the path he has set. The latest disappointing economic news provides the chancellor with plenty of cover to follow a steady-as-she-goes approach today and not to be seduced into crowd-pleasing budget giveaways or fiscal loosening.

Yesterday's figures were a sharp reminder of why Mr Osborne's stock is not as high today as it was six months ago at the time of the spending review. As a chancellor who was criticised by Mervyn King not so long ago for taking a political view of his options – as all chancellors in fact must do – he will undoubtedly look to do something to boost his standing today. Yet this budget is likely to be more a test of Mr Osborne's resolve in sticking to his guns than a test of his ingenuity in creating diversions. Things are likely to get a lot harder for the chancellor as the cuts really begin to bite. He is likely to become more of a political target, not least because Labour is attacking more confidently on the economy, and he will not be able to lie low and cultivate his mystique in the way he has done recently.

Mr Osborne is an extremely interesting politician, a pivotal figure in a coalition to which he is more seriously committed than some of his colleagues and also a key shaper of his party's strategy without becoming – yet, at any rate – a rival to David Cameron. But he is also about to be tested as a big politician. The temptation on budget day is always to emphasise the headline changes in the numbers and, in particular, the surprises that all chancellors have up their sleeves for the big occasion. Yet the challenge for Mr Osborne today is in fact the same challenge he set himself when he came into office. It is to win a large public gamble about the nature of the modern welfare state and about the balance of the British economy. Everything about that has got a bit harder recently, and this week's protests are a reminder that it will not get easier soon. Mr Osborne is a smart politician – but the public mood remains rightly on Mr Darling's side of the argument.





Ministers who have never seen active service should pay heed to the words of those who have

Only 13 of the 570 MPs who voted in the Commons on Monday opposed Britain's military action in Libya. Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP for Keighley, was not among them. Yet it was he who made the speech that stuck in the memory afterwards. Mr Hopkins was once a soldier, serving in Northern Ireland, Kenya and Germany, and he knows what war is about. He knows it is not romantic, not to be screened or written about as some kind of entertainment. In saying these things, he continued a precious parliamentary tradition. The House of Commons once used to be full of MPs who knew from ugly experience what going to war entails. Now there are few. During the Falklands crisis Margaret Thatcher despaired of her foreign secretary Francis Pym, who even when war seemed inevitable continued to seek a diplomatic solution. Yet Francis Pym was no defeatist: he had served in Italy and north Africa, winning the Military Cross. The famously belligerent Denis Healey also served in Italy and north Africa. His experience left him sceptical, sometimes hostile, towards any resort to war; he vehemently opposed Tony Blair's Iraq adventure. A second intervention on Monday came from Mr Hopkins's fellow Tory backbencher, Rory Stewart, once the deputy governor of a province in Iraq, who warned that, in military interventions, dipping your toes in may be the prelude to being involved up to your neck. Ministers who have never seen service themselves need this kind of advice.





While the world's attention is focussed on Libya, people across the Middle East are rising up against dictators

Just six weeks after Bashar al-Assad declared that Syria was stable ("Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue," he told the Wall Street Journal), it emerges that it is anything but. When police fired on protesters in a provincial town and killed three of them, 20,000 turned out angrily for the burial of the victims. Yemen's dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is probably on his way out, after senior generals, ambassadors and some tribes deserted him in the wake of the massacre that took place on Friday. Egypt voted overwhelmingly for constitutional amendments which pave the way for early parliamentary elections. While the world's attention is focused on Libya, the Arab revolution is continuing, its momentum unstoppable.

Its consequences will be neither uniform nor predictable. It affects both the pro-western dictators and an autocracy like Syria, which backs movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas. It could lead to the breakup of nations but may also produce new alliances. It is ironic that a fate worse than death is being predicted for Yemen, where the west conscripted Saleh in its fight against al-Qaida, and which could divide three ways, but not for Libya, where it is backing the insurgents with air strikes, hoping against hope that the country will remain whole. Nor will independence from America and its dwindling collection of client regimes buy Assad insurance against some of the issues his people have with him and his family: political repression and crony capitalism.

In this revolutionary chaos, it is easy to miss the more significant events, some of which are purely political. Egypt is continuing to be guided by popular will, even though divisions are emerging among those who brought Mubarak's regime down about what that will lead to. Campaigning for last Saturday's referendum on constitutional reform produced some unlikely alliances: the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and the remnants of Mubarak's NDP all pushed for a yes vote, arguing that the military should be out of politics, and parliamentary elections held as soon as possible. If not, they argued, 2011 could yet prove to be a rerun of 1952, when the army seized power and kept it.

Youth coalitions and presidential candidates like Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa campaigned against, saying they needed more time to form proper parties. Their fear is that even though the Muslim Brotherhood has said it would contest just over a third of the seats, an anti-democratic majority would be entrenched in the new parliament. In the end 77% voted in favour on a turnout of 40%. Democracy in action for the first time in a long time.






As more than 10 days have passed since the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, the government should quickly review its setup so that it can carry out its relief operations as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The extent of the damage wrought by the March 11 quake dwarfs that of Japan's last big disaster — the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake — and Prime Minister Naoto Kan must act accordingly. The government must also work to ensure that the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is overcome as quickly as possible.

To alleviate the burden on Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who has been busy announcing the measures that are being taken to cope with the nuclear crisis, Mr. Kan appointed former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku to serve as deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

The Kan administration and the Democratic Party of Japan have also proposed to the opposition camp that the number of Cabinet members be increased by three to better manage the post-disaster relief and recovery effort.

Mr. Kan must make sure that the addition of three more Cabinet members does not complicate the execution of the government's relief operations. All necessary information related to measures to help the areas and people affected by the disaster and measures to deal with the nuclear crisis should be centralized and assessed by the Cabinet.

Efficient channels of communication should be established between the Cabinet and the nation's bureaucracy. A clear chain of command must also be set up.

Two channels of communication need to be established: one for measures to help the areas and people hit by the disaster and the other for measures to manage the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. The person responsible for measures for the relief operations and the person responsible for combating the nuclear crisis should be appointed separately.

Mr. Kan should exercise overall control over the two channels of communication and the two chains of command, and decide which problems should be given priority. He should create an environment in which ministry bureaucrats, Self-Defense Forces members, police officers, firefighters, public-health workers, local government workers and others can give full play to their abilities.

The prime minister should also refrain unnecessarily interfering with crisis-management efforts. For example, the March 12 visit that Mr. Kan made to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant interrupted efforts to manage the crisis. He should avoid making visits that would serve only to increase the burden on those working at evacuation shelters or assisting evacuees in other ways. Instead, he should work to establish channels of communication to ensure that accurate information from the devastated regions can quickly reach relevant government ministries and the Cabinet.

People who were rendered homeless by the disaster are being housed in some 2,100 temporary shelters and are desperately in need of aid. Medical professionals and necessities such as food, water, medicine, clothes, blankets, temporary toilets must be sent to these shelters as quickly as possible. To this end, the government should fully utilize the SDF for transport missions, and use SDF bases as collection centers for aid to be sent to evacuation shelters. Accurate information on needs will also be indispensable.

On March 19, Mr. Kan asked Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki to join his Cabinet and serve as deputy prime minister and minister in charge of post-disaster reconstruction. Mr. Tanigaki turned down his request, saying that the request was too sudden. Mr. Tanigaki's response is understandable because Mr. Kan has not made any efforts to coordinate important policies between the DPJ and the LDP.

Mr. Tanigaki did say that his party would cooperate with the Kan administration on reconstruction efforts from outside the Cabinet. Therefore, Mr. Kan should establish a system that will allow members of both the ruling and opposition camps to cooperate in an effective manner to ensure that relief operations go as smoothly as possible. He should consider asking opposition party lawmakers — especially LDP lawmakers who have experience of serving as Cabinet ministers or are well-versed in administrative matters — for assistance.

Finally, Mr. Kan should strive to utilize DPJ lawmakers to the fullest extent possible. He waited eight days after the earthquake to meet with former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa and former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and seek their cooperation in government relief operations. Mr. Ozawa, who is from Iwate Prefecture — which suffered severe damage in the March 11 disaster — in particular would likely have well-established channels of communication in the region.






NEW DELHI — Just when nuclear energy had come to be seen as part of the solution to energy and global-warming challenges, the serial reactor incidents in Fukushima have dealt a severe blow to the world nuclear-power industry, a powerful cartel of less than a dozen major state-owned or state-guided firms.

Even before the Fukushima No. 1 plant become the site of the world's worst accident since Chernobyl, the share of nuclear power in worldwide electricity production had been stagnant for a quarter-century. In fact, after being constant at 16 to 17 percent from 1986 to 2005, the contribution of nuclear power in global electricity actually has dropped to 14 percent since then.

International studies have shown that nuclear power, although a 50-year-old mature technology, has demonstrated the slowest "rate of learning" in comparison to other energy sources, including newer technologies such as wind power and combined-cycle gas turbines. Nuclear power remains highly capital-intensive. It has high up-front capital costs, long lead times for construction and commissioning, and drawn-out amortization periods that put off private investors.

The industry's trumpeting of a global nuclear renaissance thus has been premature. But after Fukushima, the attraction of nuclear power is likely to dim worldwide. Inherently risky, water-intensive and vulnerable to natural disasters, nuclear-power plants will now face greater public scrutiny.

Many nuclear-power reactors are located along coastlines because they are highly water-intensive. Yet natural disasters like storms, hurricanes, and tsunami are becoming more common, owing to climate change, which will also cause a rise in ocean levels, making seaside reactors even more vulnerable.

For example, many nuclear-power plants located along the British coast are just a few meters above sea level. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused significant damage at the Turkey Point nuclear-power plant on Biscayne Bay, Florida, but, fortunately, not to any critical system.

All energy generators, including coal- and gas-fired plants, make major demands on water resources. But nuclear power requires even more. Light-water reactors (LWRs) like those in Japan and the United States, which use water as their main coolant, produce most of the world's nuclear power. The huge quantities of local water that LWRs use for their operations become hot-water outflows, which are pumped back into rivers, lakes and oceans.

Because reactors located inland put serious strain on local freshwater resources — including greater damage to plant life and fish — water-stressed countries that are not landlocked try to find suitable seashore sites. But whether located inland or on a coast, nuclear power is vulnerable to the likely effects of climate change.

As global warming brings about a rise in temperatures and ocean levels, inland reactors will increasingly contribute to, and be affected by, water shortages. During the 2003 heat wave in France, operations at 17 nuclear reactors had to be scaled back or stopped because of rapidly rising temperatures in rivers and lake.

Paradoxically, the very conditions that made it impossible for the nuclear industry to deliver full power in Europe in 2003 and 2006 created peak demand for electricity, owing to the increased use of air conditioning.

Indeed, during the 2003 heat wave, Electricite de France, which operates 58 reactors — the majority on ecologically sensitive rivers like the Loire — was compelled to buy power on the European spot market. The state-owned EDF, which normally exports power, ended up paying 10 times the price of domestic power, incurring a financial cost of 300 million euro.

Similarly, water and heat problems caused by a heat wave in 2006 forced Germany, Spain, and France to take some nuclear power plants offline and reduce operations at others. Highlighting the vulnerability of nuclear power to environmental change or extreme-weather patterns, in 2006 plant operators in Western Europe also secured exemptions from environmental regulations so that they could discharge overheated water into natural ecosystems — an action that affected fisheries.

France likes to showcase its nuclear power industry, which supplies 78 percent of the country's electricity. But such is the nuclear industry's water intensity that EDF withdraws up to 19 billion cubic meters of water per year from rivers and lakes, or roughly half of France's total freshwater consumption. Freshwater scarcity is a growing international challenge, and the vast majority of countries are in no position to approve of such highly water-intensive inland-based energy systems.

Seaside nuclear plants do not face similar problems in hot conditions because ocean waters do not heat up anywhere near as rapidly as rivers or lakes. And because they rely on seawater, they cause no freshwater scarcity. But as the Fukushima reactors have shown, coastal nuclear-power plants confront more serious dangers.

When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, it flooded India's Madras Atomic Power Station. But the reactor core could be kept in a safe shutdown mode because the electrical systems had been installed on higher ground than the plant itself. But unlike Fukushima, the Indian plant did not bear the direct tsunami impact.

The central dilemma of nuclear power in an increasingly water-stressed world is that it is a water guzzler, yet vulnerable to water. And decades after Lewis L. Strauss, the chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Agency, claimed that nuclear power would become "too cheap to meter," the nuclear industry still subsists on munificent government subsidies.

While the appeal of nuclear power has declined considerably in the West, it has grown among the so-called nuclear newcomers, which brings with it new proliferation and safety challenges. Moreover, with nearly two-fifths of the world's population living within 100 km of a coastline, finding suitable seaside sites for initiation or expansion of a nuclear-power program is no longer easy.

Without a breakthrough in fusion energy or greater commercial advances in breeder (and thorium) reactors, nuclear power is in no position to lead the world out of the fossil-fuel age. In fact, Fukushima is likely to stunt the appeal of nuclear power in a way similar to the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

Brahma Chellaney is the author of "Nuclear Proliferation" (Longman, 1993) and "Water: Asia's New Battlefield" (Georgetown University Press, forthcoming).







Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — Japan's economy supremo, 72-year-old Kaoru Yosano, clad in his regulation ministerial "Action Man" powder-blue boiler suit and heavy gumboots ready to spring into emergency mode instantly, claimed last week that the damage to the country's economy from the earthquake and tsunami would be "limited." He mused to the Financial Times that there could be a loss of perhaps 0.1 to 0.2 percent of output. Thus overall growth would be positive and 1.5 percent in the 2011 fiscal year.

At the very least, Yosano was being economical with the economic truth. Indeed, it seemed a dangerously surreal comment when Japan is fighting to prevent a catastrophic nuclear meltdown. He failed to take account of the spreading damage of the aftereffects of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout, as well as the economic, social and political obstacles to putting the country on its feet again.

Even if you can forget the harrowing individual stories of life and death, the sight of half a million people shivering in temporary shelters, and another million households without power or running water, the triple disasters have shaken Japan to its core. In the relative safety of Tokyo, 373 km away from the epicenter, there are regular aftershocks making the population queasy, rolling power blackouts that have shut much of Japan's manufacturing industry and reduced the normally regular as Swiss clockwork transport services by half. No wonder families nervous for their children's health and worrying about radiation have begun to leave Tokyo.

Outer ripples of the triple devastation have extended beyond Japan's shores, proving that no island, however insular, is really alone in today's globalizing world. Japan's stock market went on a roller coaster ride, with billions of dollars wiped off the value of shares as nervous foreigners withdrew from the market. The yen, perversely, rose to all-time highs since the World War II of ¥76 to the dollar, as Japanese brought back funds to help pay for the disasters, aided by speculators looking for a fast buck.

Only when the Group of Seven industrialized countries got their act together promising concerted currency intervention did the yen weaken to between ¥81 and ¥82, still too high for most Japanese exporters. The stock market gained 2.7 percent on Friday, though it was still heavily down on the week.

Because industrial production lines and supply chains are global, the effects of closures in Japanese factories are being felt as far away as U.S. auto plants. Apple, General Motors and Ericsson are among global brand-name companies worried about disruptions to their assembly lines if the smooth processing of parts and, especially, flash memory chips from Japanese factories is interrupted for more than a few weeks. Global production lines are finely calibrated with components for everything from cars to computers, mobile telephones and cameras supposed to move across the world just in time for the next stage, and Japan is responsible for 30 to 50 percent of critical items.

Yosano did his calculations by looking at the contribution of the most heavily affected areas to Japan's GDP, just 4.1 percent, but he ignored the damage that spread to neighboring areas. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed or disrupted about 9.7 gigawatts (GW) of Japan's nuclear generation capacity, about 20 percent of the country's nuclear capacity. In addition, 12.5 GW of nonnuclear thermal capacity was knocked out, about 7 percent of Japan's capacity in nonnuclear thermal, including crude oil, coal and liquid natural gas (LNG). Refining capacity of between 1 and 1.4 million barrels a day was also disrupted, which is between 26 and 32 percent of Japan's total.

Continuing power cuts in Tokyo and the closure of auto and other factories throughout Japan testify to the fact the spreading economic damage. Toyota alone loses production of 10,000 cars each day its plants are shut. If it is a matter of a few days, losses can be made up, but if the power cuts continue and factories stay shut, the damage will be considerable.

If the closures last longer, or if power cuts means that factories cannot work full time, there will be threats to Japan's manufacturing platform, employment and the economy. Japan has already experienced hollowing out of its industry with production moving to China and neighboring Asia, so it needs to get power and production resumed as a priority.

The most problematic issue as to how quickly Japan may get on its feet again is what may be termed "animal spirits," the mood of the people at all levels. Unless and until the threat from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power complex is contained, the mood will be nervous.

Beyond Fukushima, there are reasons to be optimistic. The Japanese people have time and again shown their resilience and their imagination. The mountainous landscape of Japan has few natural resources apart from the people, who created a prosperous and thriving society that was the envy of the rest of the world several times before, most notably when it rose from the ashes of World War II.

Some economists claim that reconstruction never adds to growth, but Japan will be trying to create a new and upgraded economy learning from the problems of the past. The economy has plenty of slack and the stock market is trading at a 10-year, cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio of 15.4, against an expensive 37.7 at the time of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Indeed, Barron's Weekly's cover declared against a bright red rising sun, "Buy Japan Now."

The costs of reconstruction could be in the $250-$300 billion range, up to three times the costs in 1995, and maybe 5 percent of Japan's GDP. This would be manageable, if handled carefully, politically. Can the animal spirits of the politicians cope with the disaster and its consequences?

One must be sanguine. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his colleagues' pristinely laundered and pressed jump suits show no signs of sweat or dirt of the day. If the government wanted show solidarity, senior ministers could have visited the victims, as well as learning some of the facts on the ground.

Long before the disasters, Japan's politicians were squabbling over a whole range of issues, with vicious infighting inside and between parties and with a kaleidoscope of ambitious but limited personalities clashing constantly.

Japan already has the highest government debts in the world, 220 percent of GDP, a budget heavily in deficit and is going through wholesale structural changes, including a rapidly aging population, 22 percent already over 65, rising to 40 percent in the next 20 years, which will add cripplingly to government health and welfare bills. Additional costs of rebuilding disaster areas will stretch the government imagination and its finances, and mishandled could be a tipping point for the cost of government borrowing.

Kan has suggested a grand coalition government to tackle the immense issues, but has found no takers. There are too many people who want him out. Until the politicians can get serious and understand the momentous issues facing Japan, there will be reasons to worry.

Kevin Rafferty, based in Hong Kong, is editor in chief of PlainWords Media.







PRAGUE — The shattering earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 have wrought devastating physical damage — aggravated by the threat of a nuclear disaster — across the country's northeastern coastal areas, and have rekindled grave fears in the only country to have experienced fully the atom's potential for horror.

Thousands of people are missing, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and millions are without water, food, or heating in near-freezing temperatures. The death toll is expected to exceed 15,000.

Because Japan is a rich country, some people may be tempted to view it as being in a position to undertake most of the effort to rebuild on its own. After all, in a post-economic-crisis world of scarce public and private resources, disaster-relief efforts, one might argue, should target only poorer countries and peoples.

But the scale of the disaster facing Japan is so monumental that it demands our help. A shared sense of human solidarity is just as important to citizens of powerful countries as it is to poorer countries. Indeed, such solidarity, when expressed at times like this, can engender feelings of gratitude and trust that can last for generations.

The threat posed by the potential reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is perhaps the starkest demonstration imaginable that we live in an interdependent world, one in which governments must collaborate in novel ways to ensure our health and safety. Indeed, to cooperate in this way will require the emergence of a new global civil society, whose foundation can be built only with the type of international solidarity that Japan needs now.

Japan has done its part. For decades, the Japanese have been generous in supporting people around the world in times of need, providing extensive financial assistance to developing countries and spearheading rescue and relief activities when disasters have struck. Now it is time for the international community to step up and show the same concern for Japan.

Governments, international organizations, and civil societies around the world have responded by sending professionals, supplies, and aid. Given the extent of the damage, however, there is little doubt that this support will be far from sufficient. It is time for all of us, not just in our professional capacities, but also as individuals, to turn our thoughts and actions to those affected.

We would like to call upon readers of this appeal to help raise funds to support the relief organizations currently working in the affected areas, as well as for the extensive reconstruction efforts that will follow.

The Nippon Foundation, chaired by Yohei Sasakawa, has set up a Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund for this purpose. The fund will be managed with the utmost transparency, and in a way that will most benefit those in the affected regions. Donations can be made online through the Nippon Foundation Web site.

It is our hope that all of us will reach out to disaster victims with our whole hearts, and give, through the Nippon Foundation's fund or through any other respected and recognized humanitarian organization, whatever we can to enable Japan's thousands of victims to recover the simple dignity of normal life. Let us respond to this catastrophe with the best of our humanity and a true sense of solidarity.

Vaclav Havel was president of the Czech Republic, Desmond Tutu is archbishop emeritus of Cape Town and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Richard von Weizsacker is former president of the Federal Republic of Germany. Donations to the Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund can be made online at © 2011 Project Syndicate







HONOLULU, EAST-WEST WIRE — As the triple disasters of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency continue to wreak havoc on Japan, our condolences and admiration go out to the Japanese people for the courage and determination with which they are dealing with the aftereffects of an unprecedented set of calamities, even for a country that is possibly the best prepared in the world for handling such events.

Monday morning quarterbacks are already asking why Japan, a country known for its frequent earthquakes and occasionally severe tsunami (a word that originated in Japan), would decide to build so many nuclear power plants, and site so many of them in coastal areas.

Japan's lack of domestic oil resources was a principal contributor to its role in the World War II, and the end of that war did not change the country's feeling of vulnerability to oil-supply disruptions. A program to develop the peaceful uses of nuclear energy was initiated in 1954, and the first commercial reactors were built during the 1970s in cooperation with General Electric and Westinghouse.

Since then, Japan has itself made contributions to reactor design and manufacturing and it had 54 nuclear power plants in operation prior to the Fukushima accidents. This is by far the largest commercial nuclear power program in Asia: South Korea has 21 plants, India has 20, China has 13; Taiwan has six; and Pakistan has two. The United States has the largest number of nuclear power plants at 104. (All numbers are from the International Atomic Energy Agency).

In addition, as of 2010 China had 20 new nuclear power plants under construction, South Korea had six, India had five and Taiwan had two, while Japan, Pakistan and the U.S. each had one.

Faced with the nuclear emergency arising from the Fukushima accidents, policymakers in Japan are grappling not only with the current crisis, but also with options for future energy supply. Shutting down all nuclear power plants is not a viable option, since they supply a third of Japan's electricity. Supplying the same amount of electricity by oil, for example, would increase oil imports by about 62 million metric tons per year, or about 1.25 million barrels per day.

At the current price of approximately $100 per barrel, that would take an additional $46 billion per year out of Japan's economy. Further, it would take almost a decade to build enough new oil, coal or natural gas-fired power plants to provide the equivalent amount of electricity, and tens of billions of dollars per year would be required to do so.

The production of Japan's economically critical exports, which requires reliable supplies of electricity, would be drastically affected, as we are already seeing in the northern part of the country. Thus, the likelihood is that only a few older nuclear plants that have either reached or exceeded their planned lifetime might be decommissioned, and some that are located at particularly vulnerable sites might be further strengthened over the next few years.

Regarding citing questions, almost all of Japan is prone to earthquakes. Coastal sites are preferred all over the world for siting power plants, since large amounts of hot water usually have to be discharged, and the ocean can absorb the heat without a significant rise in temperature.

In contrast, rivers and small lakes cannot do the same without affecting the fish or other parts of the local ecosystems. A substantial number of the nuclear power reactors in the U.S., for example, are situated along the East Coast, the Great Lakes and the coast of California.

Japan has been a global leader in efforts to curb local air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was one of the first countries to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) at a time when coal was much cheaper, primarily to improve air quality in its then highly polluted cities.

The first United Nations Protocol to address climate change issues was signed in Kyoto, and Japan is one of the few countries in the world that has worked diligently to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases. It has been planning on greater use of LNG and nuclear power to meet its future reduction goals as well.

One likely consequence of the current nuclear emergency might well be the lack of public support for the building of additional nuclear power plants in the country. This would result in much greater use of LNG, supplemented by new and renewable sources. Japan ranked third in the world in terms of solar photovoltaic capacity added to the grid in 2009, fourth for existing solar hot water/heat capacity, and fifth for total renewable capacity including hydropower.

These trends are likely to accelerate during the coming years, as Japan recovers from its current disasters and meets the additional challenge of climate change, while preserving energy diversification for national security.

Toufiq Siddiqi is an adjunct senior fellow in the Research Program at the East-West Center, and is president of Global Environment and Energy in the 21st Century. He has a doctorate in nuclear physics, and initiated EWC programs on the environmental dimensions of energy policies. He can be reached at The East-West Center ( was established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to promote better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia and the Pacific through cooperative study, research and dialogue.









Badminton is one of the most popular sports in Indonesia, along with soccer, that the country has been struggling to excel in after the glorious era of the past. But, our team's poor performance in the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold 2011 last week and the prestigious All England competition the previous week has cast doubt on whether badminton remains as popular as it used to be.

The fact that fewer Indonesian singles and doubles players rank among the top five in the world rankings than in previous years is evidence of the decline. It is a worrying trend as the country of 235 million people has never fallen short of talents and competitions to scout for the best among the best.

Not just in individual tournaments but also in team events titles have eluded Indonesia for quite a long time. Indonesia last won the Thomas Cup men's team championship in 2002 and its Uber Cup women's equivalent in 1996.

Multi-sports events like the Olympic Games, the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games have saved Indonesia's embarrassment, but with the competition standards in these events become tighter, many wonder if Indonesia can maintain its gold medal winning tradition.

Many had predicted the end of Indonesia's superiority in the badminton world when golden couple Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma hung up their rackets a few years after their landmark Olympic wins in 1992.

No one can doubt the regeneration program that the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) has consistently run — and the dividends it has provided. The country's declining performance, therefore, has gone beyond the control of the sports body and calls for contribution from all stakeholders.

The government appears to care greatly about the crisis plaguing the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI), so why does it not show the same concern for the PBSI?

Many top figures, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, are listed as either as patrons or advisers to the PBSI for 2008-2012.

It is thus reasonable for badminton enthusiasts to ask these figures to take some responsibility and act to bring back Indonesia's days of glory. Our bad years of badminton have been too long to endure.




The government again demonstrated its main hallmark — indecisiveness on painful, yet vital reform measures — by deciding Monday to postpone indefinitely its plan to restrict subsidized gasoline sales for owners of private cars. The policy was originally scheduled to be implemented in Jakarta and its surrounding suburbs starting next month.

Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo assured the public that fiscal management would remain sustainable even though international oil prices are already 25 percent higher than the US$80/barrel price assumed for setting the price of subsidized gasoline at Rp 4,500 (50 US cents) per liter.

Bank Indonesia Governor Darmin Nasution also expressed optimism that the inflation target set at a range of 4-6 percent for this year would be achieved.

Both observations are correct. But what the officials actually referred to is merely artificial stability. Fuel subsidies are not only a matter of fiscal deficits or inflationary pressures, but are a cancer that damages the fundamentals of the entire energy industry.

Continuing to waste billions of dollars of taxpayers' money on fuel and electricity subsidies means lost opportunities to spend more on education and healthcare — both vital investments to increase worker productivity — and on developing basic infrastructure, which is pivotal for improving economic efficiency. The wasteful spending is also an insult to justice because more than 55 percent of the subsidies have been enjoyed by private-car owners or well-off families at the expense of poor people.

Postponing the fuel reform measure would heighten uncertainty and increase the risks of misuse and export smuggling as the subsidized fuel prices are now already 48 percent lower than market prices. There are also big risks of hoarding as people foresee the government will sooner or later have to cut subsidies (raising fuel prices) or face heavy market punishment in the form of massive capital outflows.

The government argued the timing now is not conducive for implementing the restrictive policy because of the uncertainty caused by the political turmoil in the Middle East and inadequate institutional capacity and basic infrastructure.

But we think it is precisely because of this uncertainty that the government should act now because floating the prices of fuel for private cars on the market would eventually free the government from being held hostage by wildly-volatile international oil prices and remove the fuel subsidy time bomb from its fiscal management. Moreover, as the rice harvest season has just started, inflationary pressures from food are now easing.

Citing inadequate institutional capacity and poor infrastructure as a reason to postpone the fuel reform measure only shows how pathetic the government is because such a policy instrument had been contemplated since late 2007 when oil prices skyrocketed to over $100/barrel.

Yet more damaging still is that the policy on the promotion of renewable fuels and energy diversification away from fossil fuels is now put in limbo.

On a positive note, though, the government has not canceled, but only postponed the badly-needed fuel reform policy. Hence, the idea is still alive but only waiting for a more conducive environment.






The way Indonesian television is reporting on the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency in Japan reminds us of the coverage of the tsunami that struck Aceh in 2004.

One can easily find a steady stream of news showing the devastating impact of the unfolding calamity in Japan 24 hours a day.

Television stations are repeatedly broadcasting footage from the affected areas, featuring images of sweeping tsunamis, devastated homes and victims and sending graphic accounts of the disaster into households across the country.

It seems like a Hollywood movie.

Mournful background music adds to the feeling of melancholy as we watch the suffering of the victims. On talk shows, local television stations invited so-called experts and sources who produced a lot of speculation, offering the audience chaotic and often conflicting reports.

The exaggerated coverage of the disaster on Indonesian television is a prime example of how the media are scrambling for content to attract a larger audience.

Instead of focusing on disaster mitigation by giving correct information, television has opted for a melodramatic presentation.

There is a thin line between the news and entertainment media. Rather than providing the public with information on the emergency response, the media has produced a steady stream of news that has been exploitative.

Emotion has been included in recent news reporting, which indicates that conventional journalism has been abandoned. In this particular circumstance, Indonesian television has led the way.

Taking many of its methods from popular infotainment media outlets, local Indonesian television news channels depend more on sensationalism than quality reporting.

For Jack Fuller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, it has something to do with neuroscience. Living in an information-immersed environment, the human brain will be attracted to "emotionally significant stimuli", e.g., to sensational news rather than objective coverage.

In Indonesia, newsmakers have combined visual and aural power to produce dramatic reporting. Taking video footage and pictures from NHK, CNN and other international television networks, Indonesian television is broadcasting horrifying imaged of the Japanese tsunami seemingly continuously, as it did during the 2004 Aceh tsunami.

Media scholar Susan Moeller offers an explanation as to why reports on horrifying disasters are easily accessible and go global almost instantly.

An event like a tsunami, she said, was telegenic. Or as Chris Bury of ABC News said: "The pictures themselves proved unusually powerful and compelling, giving the disaster an epic, almost Biblical quality."

The use of audio and voice heightens the melodramatic nuances of the coverage by adding suitable music and also by recording witness and survivor accounts to personalize reportage.

By repeating those powerful images (and sounds) in a constant manner, 24 hours a day, Indonesian televisions are building a narrative of the disaster — not as news but as a movie.

In this context, the victims' pain only has value if it fascinates or overwhelms the audience. This kind of reporting might benefit relief services or emergency response organizations; pictures of victims easily attract sympathy and donations.

However, the melodramatic tone of the reporting frequently obscures the "vérité" nature of the reporting and prevents viewers from understanding the event holistically.

Like infotainment, television news reporting tends to locate the disaster not in a critical conversation about the environment or early warning technology but by evoking the fate of humankind.

This has led to a debate about the moral dimension of the disaster — a popular topic in Indonesian right-wing blogosphere and social networks.

In its broadcast of the breaking news, TVOne, for example, called the audience's attention to the fate of Japanese people, presenting the disaster as an act of God that even a developed country cannot withstand.

By presenting this message, television failed to provide viewers with a critical view of what was really happening and how one might survive in a similar situation.

This moral judgment, strongly held by Indonesian television, is not only because of their lack of perspective but also because TV stations are locked into their business models.

They reduce disaster stories to a commodity therefore it is okay to exploit it is driven by consumer demand.

As Indonesian television competes with the expanding role of the Internet in reporting disasters, it is unlikely that the medium will support emergency relief, let alone recovery programs.

The writer is an independent film curator and has published several articles on Indonesian cinema. She is a graduate of the Jakarta Arts Institute and will pursue a doctorate in social anthropology at Harvard University later this year.







Long before the Internet, there were mail-orders where you could buy goods and services for postal delivery. In the old days, catalogs were used but today everything is on websites. Almost everything is available through mail-order now: Clothes, household goods, food, mail-order brides and mail-order husbands (a quick Google search made my stomach churn, so don't say I didn't warn you!).

But now we have something new: mail-order death. Yep, "Death by Books" is the latest thing going on here in Indonesia.

Of course, I am talking about the book package bombs recently delivered to four people: Ulil Abshar Abdalla, co-founder of JIL (the Liberal Islam Network) and a Democratic Party executive; Comr. Gen. Gories Mere, head of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) and coordinator of police counterterrorism activities; Ahmad Dhani, a member of pop group Dewa; and Yapto Soelistyo Soerjosoemarno, chairman of the Pancasila Youth.

Ulil and Gories were obvious targets for Islamist terrorists, and Dewa had a run-in with hardliners over the use of Arabic calligraphy, but I was surprised to see Yapto's name on the list.

After all, in the 1980-1990s the Pancasila Youth was a prominent state-sanctioned gang of thugs running rackets. Turns out it now fervently opposes religious radicalism. Pretty ironic, huh? Thugs turning on thugs.

But then there are so many ironies in this new "death on delivery" terrorism technique. Using books, which symbolize knowledge, the ability to communicate and free intellectual debate, to kill and maim, is certainly most disturbing.

The biggest irony, however, is that hardliner Islamists are using democracy to attack democracy.

The only reason Islam in Indonesia in all its myriad of manifestations — both moderate and extreme — can express itself, is because of democratization, delivered by the Reformasi in 1998. The hardliners have exploited this new openness to assert themselves: publicizing, promoting and recruiting.

It is great that the multitude of voices that is Islam can be heard after three decades of repression under Soeharto, but if the only voice anyone can hear is drowning the rest out by shouting "Kill! Kill! Kill!", it has to be stopped.

Democracy in Indonesia has spawned a Frankenstein that is turning on its creator, and now democracy must defend itself.

So the big question is: Where is the state in all this? Surely defending democracy is its job? If the press is any indication, then the middle class and the intelligentsia are fed up with the constant vacillation of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the face of a rising conservative Islamist extremism.

After all, the militants are after Yudhoyono too, threatening to overthrow him.

So why is he paralyzed? Opinion-makers are demanding daily that the President act, and their frustration is beginning to spread.

The truth is that Yudhoyono is trapped in a web of his own making: His United Indonesia Cabinet (more appropriately labeled the Coalition of National Enmity).

He is determined to rule by consensus, but two of his bedfellows — the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Golkar Party — keep undermining him and ignoring the coalition rules, even attacking him outright.

His planned Cabinet reshuffle to dump the PKS did not happen, largely because the intended replacement, Prabowo's Gerindra party, would not abandon its loony ultra-nationalistic economic policy. That left Yudohoyono stuck with the PKS and its Muslim conservatives, many of whom share ideologies with the hardliners.

And coalition politics is not the only problem. Another is that the government actually does not mind horizontal religious conflict all that much. The attitude of the police — happy to stand aside and let hardliner vigilantes bash and burn — is a reflection of the government's stance: If people want to beat each other up, do not intervene in case they decide to have a go at the government as well.

All very convenient (if gutless), but Pak Beye needs to remember that if horizontal conflict continues it will inevitably become vertical conflict. Once a government loses the capacity to control disorder, it will eventually fail.

One of the things that makes a state a state is that it has a monopoly on the use of force (albeit in a democracy that is controlled by the rule of law). But if the state loses that monopoly, the result is revolution, civil war or a failed state.

We have already got rising religious violence on our hands with Ahmadis and Christians being wounded or killed. It is true that the state has been successful in cracking down on Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), but it has not done much about all the other Islamist vigilante bullies that share JI's values and use democracy as a cover.

For a decade they have been allowed to act with impunity. Now they have gone postal (, and the book bombs suggest almost anyone they do not like is a potential target. Political cowardice has us drifting toward very dangerous territory.

Yes, Yudhoyono has condemned terrorism, but he has not condemned the radical conservative ideology that motivates and legitimizes it. He and his government (and that includes the PKS!) must now do so, without equivocation. Pak Beye. Ulil, is a prominent member of your own party, and he was nearly killed. The message is that the enemies of Indonesia's traditions of tolerance and moderation are your enemies too.

Now is the time to muster your moral courage and speak and act decisively before it is too late. Yep, that is right: "Stamp" them out!

The writer ( is the author of Jihad Julia.






The orangutan — or "man of the forest" in Malay — is Asia's only great ape. It ranks among the world's most endangered species, confined mostly to the forests of Sumatra and Borneo. For more than four decades, Orangutan have attracted scientists from all over the world, generating a wealth of information on the primate's behavior, genetics and culture.

Unfortunately, such research has not been able to provide enough protection for orangutan from the many threats they are facing.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched a new national orangutan conservation plan in December 2007 on the sidelines of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali. The plan presents the first specific and enforceable agenda for protecting the nation's disappearing orangutan and outlines a wide array of initiatives to bolster the wild population of orangutan.

The government has issued new regulations to help protect the orangutan from habitat destruction. But these measures have so far been insufficient. The success of the plan will depend on the ability to rally people from a wide range of institutions, including NGOs, local communities and government agencies, such as the Forestry Ministry, to have the same vision on orangutan conservation.

Orangutan have extremely slow reproductive cycles and need extensive home range to support their dietary needs. Hence, the slow reproductive cycle, coupled with a high mortality rate, can take a heavy toll on the orangutan population in the wild. Many experts believe that the orangutan population is already in decline and therefore maximal efforts should be channeled toward halting their demise.

There are several essential factors threatening the existence of orangutans: Habitat loss due to changes in land use, forest fires, illegal wildlife trade, and to some extent also because of human's need for food.

How do these threats affect their population? Can orangutans survive under these circumstances? The fact that deforestation is rapidly accelerating, due in part to the increasing demand for palm oil, which has placed an even bigger threat on orangutan conservation.

Orangutan usually need about 900 to 4,500 hectares of forests in order to find food and to mate. Over the last several decades, reports from the field suggest that conflicts between humans and orangutan are increasing. When plantations encroach on orangutan habitats, the animals become confined and are forced to eat whatever is available. There have been records of orangutan eating oil palm and causing significant damage — hence the reason why orangutan are perceived as pests. Orangutan are expendable nuisances in the eyes of plantation holders.

Furthermore, there are hundreds of young orphaned animals held in captivity as result of confiscation from poachers. Reintroduction now becomes one way to solve the conservation problem, especially with species in imminent danger of extinction. But rehabilitation and relocation efforts cannot fix the orangutan-human conflict and/or the population decline.

Many of us do not realize that about 1,000 orangutans are still living in rehabilitation centers in Sumatra and Borneo, although more than 600 orangutans have released back to the forest. Rehabilitation centers are aimed at saving orangutan and releasing them back into the forest.

However, these efforts often are not enough for post-release monitoring necessary to gauge the animal's long-term survival and subsequent reproduction. Relocation can also lead to problems because there are not many forests available and many already shelter wild populations of orangutans.

The human threat extends beyond palm oil operations. Recent surveys by The Nature Conservancy and 18 other NGOs in 2008-2009 on community's perceptions toward forests and orangutan in Kalimantan showed that local villages accounted for 361 orangutan deaths in the last five years. The underlying reasons for these deaths vary: forest fires, the perception of orangutan as pests, the wildlife trade and, to some extent, the primate's appeal as food.

These findings need further verification, but if they are true, much more should be done to mitigate conflict between humans and orangutans. This is especially important because the majority of orangutan live outside protected areas and conflicts between people and orangutan are bound to increase in the coming years.

Strong political commitment is required to stop habitat destruction and fragmentation and to save the orangutan from extinction. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that our children will be able to see the orangutan in the wild and not just in the zoo or through pictures.

We must unite people with diverse perspectives and knowledge to catalyze positive conservation change with no hidden agenda before this species goes the way of the Java and Bali tigers.

The writer is a consultant with The Nature Conservancy.






As a country that has a diversity of religions and races, Indonesia is vulnerable to conflict. Many people are now prone to hate, underestimating others and prejudice concerning social and religious conflicts, all of which threaten the existing harmony.

So many experts have made arguments to solve the conflict and most of them have taken social and religious perspectives in examining their solutions.

In my view, this approach will not lead to a better condition because everyone's mind has already been socially grouped by their upbringing. For example, the liberal underestimate the conservatives and vice versa. It is an unending debate.

Natural science offers an interesting perspective on perceiving differences. Indonesian prominent biologist Prof. Antonius Suwanto has an interesting concept regarding this. In his paper Genetic Diversity and Human Preference, he implies that humans — and other living organisms — have a natural tendency to become varied. This, he says, is because we reproduce sexually.

Biologically, sex is a tool for nature to mix the natural characteristics of the parents to create a new and different baby in the world.

These new genetic characters are important for our species because they benefit the human species' ability to deal with natural selection. To make it clear, just imagine a butterfly species whose genetics allow for the possibility of their wings to be either black or white, and a species whose wings are always white.

When the two species live in a polluted area that makes the tree trunks darker, the former species will survive because a portion of that population's wings are black. But the latter will be eliminated from nature because their wings are white, and therefore are easily spotted in their natural habitat by predators.

To link this back to the human world, diversity is not only about the color of one's appearance like as in the example of the butterfly species. It is about the diversity of many aspects, such as the diversity of vulnerability to disease, skin adaptation, drug resistance, etc. Thus, diversity is beneficial because it helps our species to survive.

In addition, the difference between human ethnicities is actually very small. Of all of our genetic makeup, called the genome, the difference between West African people and Indonesian people is less than 1 percent.

This is such an enlightening fact because we are all "macroscopically" different from West African people in many ways, such as our culture, language, and even social and religious preferences.

We see the same pattern when we compare ourselves to other ethnicities around the globe, such as Eskimos, Scandinavians, etc. Prof. Antonius calls this similarity as at the molecular level.

In the world of cells, we are all the same and different in beneficial ways. We all live by this harmonious system.

Whatever our social and religious preferences, we should perceive other humans with respect and tolerance, because that is how we naturally perceive differences.

Thus, I believe, by educating people that differences are merely the variation of gene expression, which enables our species to survive, I think social conflicts can be minimized.

The writer is a science journalist.









With the local council elections over and despite the catastrophe in Japan and the Middle East, the focus of attention for millions of Sri Lankans will be the tense and vital knockout round of the World Cup cricket tournament. It must have been a sigh of relief for Sri Lankans to have learnt that their team will avoid a quarter final clash with India in the World Cup and will instead play against a lame England side which is minus the big names like Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad.

Taking on India would have meant early heartaches, something that Sri Lankans cannot bean knowing  well that the team was touted as favourites to lift the Cup in view of the benefits of playing in sub-continental pitches and conditions.

Of course there are no short cuts or hiding places in the run-up to the Cup. But then again even the Sri Lankan team, like Australia, were not properly tested in the first round games and would need some crunch moments the way a team like Pakistan have had and whether an underdog team like England can provide it will be more nerve wracking in the days leading to the contest than the rest of the matches.

As for the Pakistanis, they made maximum use of the conditions in Sri Lanka to push their case forward. This will no doubt put them in good stead for their quarter final game against the West Indies. Their's is a case of the dark horse showing its colours and a semi final clash between the two Asian protagonists India and Pakistan cannot be ruled out.Already there has been one casualty with the depleted defending champions Australia having their 34-match unbeaten run in World Cups terminated and given the unpredictable nature of the 2011 World Cup, it won't be the last shock. From the looks of it though, South Africa must be the most deserving given how well they have balanced their approach, rotated their players and played their cards match by match in addition to their cut-above-the-rest in fielding and the variety in their bowling. If they don't win from now on, it will be because cricket is the most freakish and most fragile of all sports.

But what of the Sri Lankans? So far it has been the bowlers who have taken the team this far while the batting has revolved around a player or two the most. What if the bowlers have a bad day on the field in one of the knock-out games? Will the batsmen be able to make up? Can it be possible with a batting line-up that is unlike the 1996 World Cup? We will leave it to the team's think-tanks to decide before the International Cricket Council (ICC) winds up its flagship event for the third time in Asia.

The ICC for its part can take heart from the fact that the tournament so far has been devoid of the dreaded match-fixing syndrome. With a huge dragnet thrown over the whole event we can only hope that the rest of the World Cup will have no stains.





Less than two days after the start of attacks on Libya by the United States, British, and French warplanes and missiles, and as news and images of civilian casualties and destroyed buildings spread, powerful dissenting voices are being heard. Russia, which abstained from the United Nations vote, cites civilian casualties in calling on Britain, France, and the U.S. to stop using "non-selective" force; China, which also abstained, has expressed regret over civilian casualties. Turkey has blocked NATO from taking over the enforcement of the no-fly zone. Above all, the 23-state Arab League — which, by supporting Britain and France in their proposal for a U.N.-enforced no-fly zone, provided essential credibility and thereby persuaded President Barack Obama to back the idea — has expressed its doubts. The League's Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, condemns "bombardment of civilians." In addition, the operation is already showing what is euphemistically called mission creep, with Muammar Qadhafi's ground forces and his own residential compound being targeted.

The parallels with other episodes of western military adventurism since the early 1990s grow stronger by the day. First, the limitations of air power have been repeatedly exposed. In Kosovo, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair were so terrified of casualties among their own forces that they ordered bombing from 15,000 feet, which was inaccurate and ineffective. That mission rapidly expanded to include attacks on Serbian infrastructure. In Afghanistan, indiscriminate NATO bombing has taken a huge and continuing civilian toll and caused great enmity towards the invading westerners. Now, although Libya's anti-aircraft defences have been attacked, the regime can still make low-level sorties very dangerous. That raises the spectre of a land invasion, despite the U.N. Resolution's explicit interdiction. Furthermore, like George W. Bush, the western protagonists have been less than clear about their purposes. U.S. commanders say regime change is not part of the plan. But British Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox says Mr. Qadhafi is a "legitimate target", and Prime Minister David Cameron insists that the Libyan leader must go. An even uglier element the current attacks have in common with the 2003 invasion of Iraq is the domestic political factor. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, facing heavy electoral defeat in 2011, thinks he has nothing to lose by international grandstanding. The parallels therefore must include the morality tales of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Countless Iraqi civilians paid for that with their lives. Now Libyan civilians are dying to get Mr. Sarkozy re-elected, and Mr. Obama, by backing the attacks on Libya, is following in his far-Right predecessor's footsteps.                 The Hindu





Sri Lanka has always been a favoured playground of the West. They tested their many theories here, enjoyed immense political clout with successive leaderships in Colombo and a serious degree of impunity. Denying them these pleasures was a crime Colombo seems poised to pay for. From refusing their 'inputs' on how the war should be fought to following their varied nuances on rights, Colombo enjoys pariah status like never before.

The 'crime' of denying the West the opportunity of treating a post war Sri Lanka as a perfect test case for a political solution is not to be underestimated. The strictures of the West come in many forms and hues. They come in the guise of democracy, good governance or human rights. Granted- these are all virtues that any society must uphold. And Sri Lanka is yet to perfect some. Yet, the threatening force with which the West deems is their right must necessarily remain a threat to the sovereignty of a country. A situation not to be tolerated when appreciating the duplicity of standards applied.

The difference clearly is that while the West can enjoy much impunity, they by their very nature are keen that countries like Sri Lanka don't. It is important that the duplicity displayed is understood. There is very little rationale otherwise for the recent resolution passed by the US Senate pushing for an international investigation of war crimes allegations. Its Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert O' Blake, himself has intimated that the US was keen for a 'proper' investigation in to abuses by both sides. He had opined that if Sri Lanka was unable to carry this out itself, pressure from the international community was unavoidable. 

Quick to take up on the challenge, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group British MP, Lee Scott claimed; "Nothing but an independent international enquiry to alleged war crimes will satisfy the international community; Sri Lanka must be ready to face economic sanctions if it fails to meet internationally accepted standards".

 'The developments in postwar Sri Lanka clearly show that it is slipping into an autocratic state. It is important that Britain act now, along with our European partners, the USA and India. The APPG is very aware of this situation and will continue to do their utmost to bring this to international attention", he added. These are all indications that they are not isolated incidents.

Strangely, for a community that seeks justice on all fronts West is a contradiction at play. For instance, it is still unclear what the Department of State deems its position with regard to the fact that the dubious Trans National Government of Tamil Elam, has started issuing identity cards of its own. These cards are now carried by many Tamil persons on US soil. The United States is famed for the importance it attaches to the oath of allegiance its citizens takes. Technically this identity card would question the validity of the oath. But, the line between technicalities and ground reality is a very fine one there. Much of it is read between that line. Such are the virtues of diplomacy that is cleaver and enjoys immense immunity.

Needless to say one can easily understand the ambitions of those in the hierarchy of the State Department. Or, others aspire such heights even at the level of the post of Secretary of State. None of these are to be underestimated. If they have fulfilled much of the credentials to do so, a success story say for instance, in the form of a political arrangement for the Sri Lankan conflict can close the deal. That might explain such persons' unyielding interest (or as others might unkindly name meddling) in Sri Lankan affairs. Countries like Sri Lanka, heavily dependent on foreign aid are usually the test cases that the West derives much of their strength from.

The recent leaks of State Department notes points to many misdoings by the US. One dispatch exposed moves by US diplomats to seek the possibilities of the UN appointing a Special Envoy to investigate human rights violations. This was barely two months after the war was won. Pursuing an end to the Sri Lankan government's military exercises against what the US itself deemed as one of the most ruthless terror organizations in the world is another. Yet another made the very serious allegation that both the President and his brother were responsible for crimes during the war. Interestingly the leaks that exposed the many war crimes that the US troops themselves have carried out against the Iraqi soldiers are ignored. The UN is not in a hurry to appoint any Committee to look in to those. Neither are the many Non Governmental agencies who seek 'justice, democracy, equality, etc. etc' for humanity concerned. They seem in little doubt about the 'transparency' of the dealings of the US state department, and the way the US handled a war, on a 'perceived threat'.  










Asela had been able to lease out his house in Sri Lanka and travel abroad.  He visited the States and Europe where he had cousins and returned to Sri Lanka at the end of the year when the lease was due to expire.  To his horror, he found that the person he had leased the house to was refusing to leave.  He had no choice but to go to courts and now he has to face the prospect of protracted litigation spanning several years!

 "There should be a law for the Recovery of Immovable Property," commented Mr.Anton Fernando, a senior lawyer who has been active in the field of Public Interest Litigation.

"The right to own property is a fundamental right though not in Sri Lankan law." he stated, adding, "This does not mean simply having a title deed to the property.  You must be able to recover possession when you want."

He explained that when parties enter into a lease, the lessor remains the owner of the property and the lessee or tenant occupies the premises on certain conditions like the payment of a monthly rental for a fixed term.  The other undisputed facts are that the tenant agrees to vacate the premises on the expiry of the fixed term and the lessee cannot claim title to the property. He said that in India, one could apply for a writ of possession in the first instance by filing the lease agreement and an affidavit at the expiry of the lease.

"This Law, if passed in Sri Lanka, will not affect tenants who are protected by the Rent Act.

 Those are tenants who live in premises where the annual value of the house does not exceed Rs.6000/= in municipal areas and houses where the annual value is less than Rs.4000/= in urban areas.  Then there are "Excepted Premises" also coming under the Rent Act.  This proposed new law will only affect those who have entered into a lease agreement for a specific period."observed the lawyer.

He pointed out that the case of Government property was different.  "There are two Acts affecting State Property. They are the "Recovery of Possession of Government Quarters" and the "State Lands' Recovery of Possession Act" and the State can recover its property when required.  The Law at present permits the State to recover possession without going through a regular civil action.  These two Acts empower the State, after giving notice to the Occupier, to obtain a writ from a Magistrate to eject the person from the premises occupied by him.  But private citizens cannot do so."informed the legal luminary.

 "The Law for the Recovery of Immovable Property will also help one-house owners, most of whom are lower middle-class, to get back their houses." he said, adding, "If this law is passed, rents will also come down because a larger housing stock will be available.  There are over 8,000 houses and apartments in the city which are now closed because the owners are afraid to give them out on rent, thinking they won't get them back.  But once this law is enacted, there will be a construction boom for people will want to build houses and apartments and give them out on rent.

  Various categories of professionals and workers such as surveyors, architects, engineers, contractors, electricians, plumbers and masons will find employment."he said, adding, "The workload in the District Court will be reduced.  A 10% growth rate is possible if some of the archaic laws which obstruct development are repealed or amended. The law should help development and it is imperative that provision should be made for landlords to obtain possession with the least expense and delay."







A lot has been written and said about the popular uprisings in the Arab world and some have opined on the possibility or lack thereof of similar events in Sri Lanka. Suffice it be said that the situations in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya are different to that in this country. Over thirty years we have had armed insurgencies in the south and in the north and east of the country. The challenge is to move beyond conflict and whilst it is often the case that the trajectory of international and national politics is unpredictable, the possibility of any such uprising in the short or medium term is slim as the first phase of the local election results indicate, contested though they are by the opposition.

There are a number of factors for this ranging from the practice of democracy however flawed in Sri Lanka, the popularity of the president augmented by the war victory, the state of the opposition, the expectation of economic take off even in the face of economic hardship, apathy, fatigue, fear and the crushing of dissent.

Yet, the response of the international community, in particular, to the events in the Arab world is not without significance to us in Sri Lanka.

UN Security Council Resolution 1973 authorizes the international community to take all necessary steps short of the deployment of ground forces to defend the citizens of Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya from the forces of Muammar al Qadaffi. The resolution was sponsored by the UK, France and Lebanon and has the support of the Arab League. Whilst no single member of the Council voted against the resolution, India, Brazil, Germany, China and Russia abstained.

The latter two have subsequently gone on record stating their opposition to the use of military force and calling for an immediate cease-fire. The Western states aside, Nigeria, South Africa, Colombia, Gabon and Lebanon voted in favour. Earlier, the Council reported Qadaffi to the International Criminal Court.

Arguments of double standards – why Libya not Yemen?- notwithstanding, there is an UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against the Qadaffi regime.

What would the Rajapaksa regime have done if Sri Lanka were a member of the Council? Indeed, what is the Rajapaksa regime's position on the UN Security Council action against one of its nearest and dearest friends?

In the Libyan case there is no question of a war without witness. The international media is there in Tripoli and in Benghazi and reports on an hourly basis on what is going on including the Qadaffi regime's bombing of civilians.

The Council acted when it was clear that Qadaffi was determined to take control of Benghazi and against the backdrop of his warnings that he would do so without mercy. Responding to action by the Security Council he has warned that if the world intended to go "crazy" over Libya he would do so too!

The Rajapaksa regime has allegations against it of war crimes, which are the subject of an investigative panel set up by the UN Secretary General. The doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect or R2P has been rubbished by the regime and its apparatchiks and declared a dead letter and yet it seems to have more than a bit of life in it. After all, Security Council action over Libya is part and parcel of the responsibility to protect civilians against regimes that inflict violence on them. Were it to be the case that Libya has breathed life into a doctrine that was declared defunct by our local pundits and patriots, will it be the case that the Rajapaksa regime could have to deal with action by the UN, facilitated by similar abstentions in the Council?

A lot will depend on the regime continuing to convince its supporters that Sri Lanka is an entirely different case. It will also depend on the enduring nature of their strategic interests in Sri Lanka and the wider region. Most of all it will depend on the report of the Secretary General's Panel and what he intends to do with it. Down the line, it is not entirely fanciful to speculate that were the report to be strong on the question of war crimes and were it to come to the Human Rights Council in any shape or form, for its reception there may well be different to the resolution on Sri Lanka in 2009 which the regime frequently refers to as the barometer of international opinion in its support. Will there be changes in the body of Arab support and will India be pro-active in the regime's defence as it was in 2009 or be passive?

A key factor in the regime's response will be the LLRC report since the regime has insisted that the LLRC is the answer to all questions about accountability in respect of human rights violations and war crimes.

As to what will happen is yet to be seen. The Secretary -General could sit on his Panel Report in the same way that our