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Monday, March 28, 2011

EDITORIAL 28.03.11

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Editorial

month march 28, edition 000791, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL  http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. DOOMED DIPLOMACY
  2. CREATING PARTNERSHIPS
  3. BUCK STOPS WITH PM - BALBIR PUNJ
  4. UPRISING TURNS INTO IKHWAN RISING - BARRY RUBIN
  5. ADDRESS PEACEFUL POLITICAL PROCESS NEXT - RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR
  6. JOY OVER LIBYA INTERVENTION COULD END IN TEARS

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. DON'T BURY IT
  2. BAT FOR AMITY
  3. WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY? - HARMALA GUPTA
  4. 'YOU NEED TO REACH OUT TO THE COMMON PEOPLE' - KIM ARORA
  5. DIVA'S DAY OUT - SRIJANA MITRA DAS

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. LOOSE CHANGE MAY PAY OFF
  2. A GENTLEMAN'S GAMBLE
  3. LINK LABS TO THE FIELDS - B ASHOK
  4. ONCE THERE WAS A CITY - ABHIJIT BANERJEE
  5. HOW TO KEEP OUR VOTES SAFE - JAGDEEP S CHHOKAR

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. NO-CLEARANCE CM
  2. FEVER PITCH
  3. SPOT THE TIGER
  4. A PLATTER OF CHOICES - ABHIJIT BANERJEE

IT IS WRONG TO COPY

  1. RAHUL MATTHAN
  2. THE LEAST BAD OPTION? - BAIJAYANT 'JAY' PANDA
  3. BECAUSE WALLS HAVE EARS - INDER MALHOTRA
  4. THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM - THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  5. COVERED, BUT NEVER UNCOVERED - DAVID CARR

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SLR TROUBLE
  2. INDIA'S KYOTO
  3. WHOM DO YOU BANK UPON?  - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN
  4. HIGH NOON IN EU - MEGHNAD DESAI
THE HINDU
  1. GREEN REFORM
  2. OPEN-ENDED WAR
  3. THE GARDENS OF THE NIGHT AT MOHALI  - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. U.S. CABLES SHOW GRAND CALCULATIONS UNDERLYING 2005 DEFENCE  FRAMEWORK (PART - II)  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  5. THE PENTAGON'S $27 BILLION 'NEAR TERM' INDIAN WISH LIST  
  6. SPEAKING OF THE INDIA CABLES
  7. OUR ASSESSMENT NOW IS THAT WE'LL WIN: KARAT

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. TO STOP THE ROT, WE NEED BASIC CHANGES
  2. CHARITABLE THOUGHTS - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. FUMES OF FUKUSHIMA - T.P. SREENIVASAN

DNA

  1. WHO CARES FOR THE STATE BUDGET?
  2. DEEPAK LOKHANDE
  3. WHAT'S THE LINK BETWEEN AIDES AND AEDES? - PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE
  4. NATURE'S TIMELY WARNING - CHANDRIKA
  5. IT'S BETTER TO BOW THAN TO BREAK  - SHUBHANGI KHAPRE
  6. NEW LEASE OF LIFE FOR TOTTERING INSTITUTION - MANOJ R NAIR

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. OF DISCRIMINATION AND WALKOUTS
  2. CRICKET DIPLOMACY
  3. INFLATION AND PRICE RISE  - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  4. CLIMATE CHANGE - BY JEET DOGRA
  5. WIKILEAKS EXPOSURES GOOD FOR DEMOCRATIC POLITY - BY NANTOO BANERJEE

THE TRIBUNE

  1. BATTING FOR PEACE
  2. SHUNGLU INDICTMENT
  3. HARDLY A MISSION
  4. LOOMING URBAN CHALLENGE - BY N.S. SISODIA
  5. THE CHANGING CONTOURS  - BY B. K. KARKRA
  6. THE WAY THE TRIBAL SEE IT
  7. THE OTHER MASTERS - VANDANA SHUKLA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE MYTH OF AMERICAN DISPENSABILITY

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. SPRING IN SUMMER
  2. BANNING PLASTIC BAGS
  3. MANMOHAN SINGH BATS AGAIN - SANJAYA BARU
  4. CLIMATE GAMES AND AMERICA - SUNITA NARAIN
  5. CERTAINTY AT STAKE - A V RAJWADE
  6. RENAME AND RENEW - BALA V BALACHANDRAN

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. PENSION PRAGMATISM
  2. CRICKET, QUITE
  3. HAUTE PROLETARIAT
  4. THE RISK OF WANING INVESTMENT
  5. 'OUR FOCUS IS INNOVATION, NOT LOW COST'  - SHELLEY SINGH
  6. DEAD PARROT TRADE TALKS  - JAGDISH BHAGWATI

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. TO STOP THE ROT, WE NEED BASIC CHANGES
  2. CHARITABLE THOUGHTS
  3. CRICKET DIPLOMACY IS A WELCOME MOVE
  4. THIS HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA
  5. MORALITY OF MEAT
  6. FUMES OF FUKUSHIMA

THE STATESMAN

  1. GROUPS TO FEED
  2. POSITIVE EFFORT
  3. OUTRAGE IN JERUSALEM
  4. PRESIDENCY'S TRAVAILS - DIPAK BASU

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. ACROSS THE SEA
  2. PEOPLE'S TURN
  3. THOUGHT CONTROL
  4. PICK AND CHOOSE  - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. DIPLOMATIC PITCH
  2. HELP MYANMAR
  3. COOL DOMESTIC HAPPINESS  -  M J AKBAR
  4. RADIATION'S ENDURING AFTERGLOW -  GEORGE JOHNSON, NYT
  5. WHY NATURE IS KIND TO INDIA - BHARATHI PRABHU

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. WHO WILL RESCUE FINANCIAL REFORM?
  2. NEW JERSEY STUDENTS, SHORTCHANGED
  3. HE DREAMED HE SAW JONG-IL
  4. A WAR BY ANY NAME - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  5. AMERICAN THOUGHT POLICE - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  6. THE DISSIDENT'S WIFE - BY GENG HE
  7. THE NEW GRAVE ROBBERS – BY RAY D. MADOFF

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. ELK, OWLS, 'GLOBAL WARMING'
  2. AN INVESTMENT — AND A CHALLENGE
  3. THE PRICE OF PORK
  4. UNDESERVED U.N. LEGITIMACY

HARARETZ

  1. LET SYRIA TAKE CARE OF ITSELF
  2. THE SYRIAN POSSIBILITY - BY AMIR OREN
  3. ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  4. THE MODERN SLAVERY LAW  - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  5. THE PRICE OF THE PRICE TAG  - BY ALEXANDER YAKOBSON

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS STRAIGHT - TURNING INTO A DYSTOPIAN SOCIETY
  2. THE (HI)KING'S SPEECH - EMRE DELİVELİ
  3. LIBYA AND ALTRUISM - GWYNNE DYER
  4. CHANGES IN TCK: CITIZENS UNPROTECTED AGAINST WIRETAPPING - SEDAT ERGİN
  5. TURKEY, ITS NEIGHBORS AND EUROPE - DAVID HOWELL
  6. NOTHING LIKE A GOOD WAR - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  7. NEW SYKES-PICOT DEAL? - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. THE LANGUAGE OF VIOLENCE
  2. POWER SOLUTIONS
  3. QUEST FOR AN ELUSIVE MUTUAL INTEREST  - ASIF EZDIA
  4. OUR BURDEN OF LIES  - AYAZ WAZIR
  5. PAINFUL EPISODES  - DR A Q KHAN
  6. BIRDS OF A FEATHER  - HUSSAIN H ZAIDI
  7. MEMORIES OF MARDIN  - S IFTIKHAR MURSHED
  8. SHADES OF NIGHT  - CHRIS CORK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. SALMAN BASHIR'S PRAGMATIC ASSESSMENT
  2. PAKISTAN STANDS FIRMLY WITH KSA
  3. WORLD CUP COMING CLOSER TO SOUTH ASIA
  4. TECHNOLOGY DETERMINES POWER STATUS - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. SEE-SAW OF PAK-US RELATIONS! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. PCS-DMG STANDOFF - QUDRAT ULLAH
  7. AKAZ-E-GHAZAL - DR A Q KHAN, NI & BAR, HI
  8. INDO-PAK DIALOGUE PROCESS - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. PEOPLE POWER TRIUMPHS OVER LABOR SPIN DOCTORS
  2. IT'S THE ECONOMY IN QUEENSLAND
  3. LABOR SHOULD RETURN TO WORKERS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. O'FARRELL OPENS A NEW ERA IN NSW POLITICS
  2. NSW POLL HOLDS LESSON FOR LABOR EVERYWHERE
  3. OFFICIOUS ACTS OFFEND COMMUNITY

THE GUARDIAN

  1. UNIVERSITY FINANCE: RICHER BY DEGREES
  2. AFTER THE TUC MARCH: NOW FOR THE HARDER BIT
  3. IN PRAISE OF … POOHSTICKS

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. THE NEEDS OF WEAKER EVACUEES
  2. PREPARATION BEGINS NOW
  3. FIRMS PREFER PUSHING TOBACCO TO THE POOREST - BY CESAR CHELALA
  4. INDIA'S VEXING FLYOVER OF LIBYA - BY HARSH V. PANT
  5. WEEKLIES GETTING THE GAVEL FOR TARGETING PUBLIC FIGURES

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. A NEW LOW FOR MALAYSIAN POLITICS
  2. BRINKMANSHIP AGAINST NEWMONT

DAILY MIRROR

  1. ABSOLUTE POWER
  2. TAKING DEVOLUTION TALKS FORWARD
  3. ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY
  4. BOMBS AND ALLIES FALL APART - DILIP HIRO
  5. GOOD, MY VOTE MATTERED…  - HODA OSMAN

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. LESSONS NOT LEARNED...    - BY DR JAMES J ZOGBY PRESIDENT

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DOOMED DIPLOMACY

WATCHING CRICKET TOGETHER WILL TAKE US NOWHERE


They say cricket is religion in India (and Pakistan) but when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh fashions the game into a legitimate foreign policy tool, he is pushing the ridiculous. On Friday, Mr Singh sent out identical letters to the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and to that country's Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, inviting them to the India-Pakistan semi-final match in the ongoing Cricket World Cup tournament and ostensibly, starting another silly chapter in India-Pakistan bilateral relations. Scheduled for March 30 at Mohali in Punjab, the match will pit the rival nations against each other for the first time since Pakistani terrorists attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and bilateral ties plunged to a new low. A 2009 tour of Pakistan by the Indian cricket team was cancelled as our neighbours refused to cooperate in bringing those responsible for the deadly attacks to justice. In fact, till date the Pakistani administration has done little other than drag its feet over the investigation process. Yet, New Delhi offered to let Islamabad off the hook last month when Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao met with her Pakistani counterpart in Thimphu on the sidelines of a SAARC event — although the rationale behind the decision remains suspect. But meetings at the level of foreign secretaries is not quite the same as inviting the top two civilian leaders of that country for a friendly watch party that, to quote Mr Singh, "will be a victory for sport". Indeed, it is still a mystery as to what exactly Mr Singh hopes to achieve at the game. Does he honestly believe that an afternoon of cricket can make a significant contribution to the peace process? Of course, this is not for once to suggest that India should not engage with Pakistan at all. But dialogue has to be within the framework of India's foreign policy and must be a part of the mandate of the Indian people. The problem with Mr Singh's invitation is that it bears the signature of the Prime Minister of India but is neither representative of the Government's policy nor does it have popular support from the people of this country. It is extraneous to India's official foreign policy and merely a manifestation of Mr Singh's personal strategy which does not even have the support of his own party.


Past events have shown that Mr Singh has a penchant for going beyond the official mandate and introducing his own policies instead. In 2009, Mr Singh managed to alienate senior Ministers in his own Cabinet when he signed a controversial joint statement with Mr Gilani in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt which made the Indian Government look like it was soft on terror, only months after the Mumbai attacks. Similarly, his 2006 meeting with former President Pervez Musharraf in the Cuban capital of Havana also met with much criticism for going beyond State policy. Now, it seems like Mr Singh is doing the same at home through the dubious tools of 'cricket diplomacy'. It would do him well to note that each time this tactic has been used, it has failed miserably. In 1987, President Zia-ul-Haq came over to watch a Test match with then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Jaipur while in 2005, Gen Musharraf was in New Delhi for a One-day International match and both meetings failed to produce anything substantial. It is time Mr Singh learnt from his mistakes.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CREATING PARTNERSHIPS

COMMUNITIES SHOW HOW TO MANAGE WATER


Water scarcity is a reality that Indians have learnt to live with in areas where annual rainfall is low. Even in urban areas many do not have access to piped water. However, concerted community efforts, supported by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, have helped in overcoming the challenge of scarce water supply in places where there are no perennial rivers, groundwater is saline and summers are harsh. Two hundred villages of Pali, Barmer and Jodhpur districts in the Marwar region of Rajasthan are cases in point. Thanks to cooperation between communities, today 300,000 people in these villages, who witness six drought years in a decade, have finally got access to clean drinking water. Villagers, who waited long enough for gram panchayats to provide them safe water, have come together to participate in constructing water structures and conserving water sources. With the help of an NGO, they have created a water management fund to restore and build 300 water harvesting structures and undertake sustenance and maintenance activities. That women, who remain in the shadow of men in the conservative patriarchal society of Rajasthan, have come forward breaking social norms to participate in building equitable access to water speaks volumes. Saved from the drudgery of walking miles to fetch water, they now manage and operate small water enterprises as a source of income. Even rural areas in Maharashtra have benefitted from similar projects. These projects have brought in focus more than one important points: For one, following community approach results in efficient upkeep and maintenance of water resources. Secondly, decentralisation of social governance system can successfully address water shortage problem. Further, a water supply model involving stakeholders works because it inculcates a sense of ownership as communities operate, manage and maintain their water resources. But most important, involvement of women in community projects can lead to their empowerment.


Certainly, such water projects should serve as an eye-opener for the Union Ministry of Water Resources and State Governments while formulating policies on water. The Government of Rajasthan has already incorporated critical inputs from these projects in the Rajasthan State Water Policy. Further, creating awareness among people about safe water practices using a mix of traditional media like wall paintings and posters and electronic media will be a step in the forward direction because in India thousands of children die of diseases caused by polluted water and lack of basic sanitation. It is interesting to note that people in areas where water projects have been implemented are becoming aware of the importance of hygiene and sanitation — which made little sense to them so long as availability of water remained a serious concern.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BUCK STOPS WITH PM

BALBIR PUNJ


Manmohan Singh's response to the sins of omission and commission committed by him has become predictable. He simply refuses to accept responsibility!


When the Prime Minister says he was not aware of or he had not authorised questionable action when things go wrong in the Government he heads, he is skirting the responsibility his office confers on him. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's approach to issues of corruption shows his indifference to the notion of probity in public life.

The other day Mr Singh said in Parliament that neither he nor his party was involved in bribing MPs to influence the confidence vote sought by his Government in 2008 after the Left withdrew support over the India-US civil nuclear co-operation agreement. He also drew attention to the fact that the parliamentary committee which had inquired into the 'cash-for-vote' allegation had said the evidence was insufficient to draw a conclusion. This line of defence is not only limp but is typical of Mr Singh who is busy negating facts.


His clarifications on matters of serious national concern have become so predictable that one almost knows what his response will be if his Government is caught on the wrong foot. When the appointment of Mr PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner was questioned, his excuse was he was not properly informed of the antecedents of the person chosen. When the 2G Spectrum scam came to light, first it was a denial of wrongdoing, then came the usual reply: "I was unaware." And when he found himself cornered by the argument that the final responsibility rests with the head of the Government, he tried to draw wool over the eyes of the people with his rhetoric on "coalition dharma" and his Cabinet colleague in the Ministry of Telecommunication, Mr Kapil Sibal, claimed "zero loss." However, a deafening silence followed when soon after the Government's own investigating agency rubbished the "zero loss" theory and started trailing the corruption thread under the Supreme Court's supervision.


Mr Singh's stand that the leaked diplomatic cables of the US Government put out by WikiLeaks are "unverifiable" and hence not reliable evidence as they were based on inferences drawn by foreign diplomats is typical of his evasiveness. Nobody has asked Mr Singh to accept the cables as 'evidence'. But the contents of one of these cables suggests that large sums of money were changing hands behind the scene to influence the voting in Parliament.


In fact, the investigating agencies can ask the people named in this particular cable about the money chest they had shown a senior US diplomat, when and where these chests were kept, what was a certain individual doing in the house of an influential Congress member who is known to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The leaked cables of the US diplomats demonstrate the ease with which foreign missions are able to gather inside information about our Government and politicians. And this is cause for concern. The foreign diplomats have generously dropped names. Surely they give us an insight into how and why the foreign diplomats stationed in New Delhi snoop around. Does it also extend to weaving in and out of the circle of defence personnel? The Prime Minister neither takes responsibility for such state of affairs nor expresses concern over the open house kept by some people close to the establishment for foreigners tracking high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians.


When former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to conduct the Pokhran II nuclear weapon tests, he kept his cards so close to his chest that even some of his Cabinet colleagues were taken by surprise when the event took place on May 13, 1998 — within a few weeks of the NDA Government coming to power. Washington, DC, which believes New Delhi is perpetually leaking, was taken by surprise at the secrecy maintained.

However, the NDA Government to its credit did not allow the US to manipulate the situation. Through sustained diplomatic parleys, the Government could bring around the US to see India's point of view. That it succeeded became evident from the fact that then US President Bill Clinton, who was upset over the nuclear explosions in May 1998, visited India two years later. The visit should be seen as the first step in building the strategic partnership between India and the US. That is what leadership is all about.


The leaked cables have also revived memories of another Congress Prime Minister who was convicted for giving bribes to members of a regional party in 1993 to back his Government in a crucial parliamentary vote of no-confidence. In sharp contrast, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 chose to lose his Government, which fell short of a single vote, rather than indulge in buying MPs.


What is more troublesome than buying votes is the submission of the political establishment to the wishes of America. Important Cabinet Ministers are shifted depending on America's likes and dislikes — at least so reveal the leaked cables. Mr Singh has become proactive in building relations with Pakistan to please the US even at the cost of displeasing many in his Government and party.


Even as an academic exercise, a clinical study on how Mr Singh was gradually letting himself to become a pawn in the US's Pakistan policy should be revealing. The leaked cables from the US diplomatic missions show the way UPA1 went along with the Bush Administration on each prominent issue between 2006 and 2009. It is not 'evidence' but material enough for further investigation.


For Mr Singh, rescuing the India-US civil nuclear deal —which failed to convince the Opposition and many in the Congress — in Parliament took precedence over everything else between 2007 and 2008.


Mr Singh gloated in Parliament that he not only won the confidence vote with a substantial margin but also got an endorsement from the people of India who voted his party back to power in the 2009 general election while the BJP was defeated. Imagine the DMK winning the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu next month. Will that victory wipe out the 2G Spectrum blot and the mounting evidence that former Telecom Minister A Raja manipulated norms and undersold the 2G licences?


Our electoral law is clear on the subject: If any candidate wins the election to the Lok Sabha/State Assembly by spending more than what is prescribed in the Representation of People's Act and rules made thereunder, he stands disqualified. It stands even if the victory is by a margin of several lakh votes. In the good old days, Congress Chief Minister DP Mishra was disqualified for six years despite the fact that his spending exceeded the limit by just six rupees. And so was Mrs Indira Gandhi.


The success of democracy and the rule of law lies not in extenuations and excuses. Mr Singh is a learned man; yet, it is a pity that he needs the riot act to be read out to him. In our system, the buck stops with the Prime Minister.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

UPRISING TURNS INTO IKHWAN RISING

BARRY RUBIN


While reporting on the 'revolution' in Egypt, journalists with little or no knowledge of the country's past and present had waxed eloquent on the secular and liberal credentials of the protesters at Tahrir Square. Subsequent events and the spectacular rise of the Muslim Brotherhood have shown how horribly wrong they were in presuming that Islamism had been put to rest in Egypt. The Ikhwanis are preparing to take charge of Cairo

It seems mere days ago that every reporter and expert on all television channels and newspapers, including in India, was preaching that Egypt's revolution was a great thing, run by Facebook-savvy liberals, inspired by US President Barack Obama and 'universal values'. Those silly, paranoid Israelis had nothing to worry about. Christians were backing the revolution and everyone was going to be brothers, but not Muslim Brothers because the Muslim Brotherhood was weak, moderate, opposed to violence, and full of great people.


Anyone who said anything different was screened out and vilified.


Now, with no soul-searching, apologies, or even examining what false assumptions misled them, places like The New York Times are starting to admit they were completely wrong.


You mean they helped foist a policy that is a disaster for US interests and regional stability? You mean the result might well be new repressive regimes, heightened terrorism, wars on Israel, and discrediting the United States as reliable ally or enemy worth fearing?


Oh well, what are a few hundred thousand lives lost, a whole region destabilised, and entire countries taken over by anti-American radicals who sponsor terrorism, and a couple of wars, more or less?

So now The New York Times tells us such things as "religion has emerged as a powerful political force." How do they cover their past mistakes? They erroneously add, "Following an uprising that was based on secular ideals." They have discovered that a lot of Army officers like the Muslim Brotherhood, which we knew about long before simply by watching how officers' wives were transformed from imitators of European fashions to being swathed in pious Islamic garb.


The newspaper explains, "It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the non-ideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment."


Note how they again cover their mistakes. First, the revolution is based on "secular ideals" but then it is "non-ideological". The Facebook kids are out but perhaps only for the "moment," meaning they might be back on top next week. But we warned from the start that this was ridiculous because there are no more than 1,00,000 Facebook kids and tens of millions of Brotherhood kids.


Last month the Brotherhood was weak and disorganised, now it is "the best organised and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence."

"We are all worried," said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. "The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone."

Funny, I didn't have any trouble finding plenty of people in Egypt worried during the revolution. Yet the Times and the other newspapers only wanted to quote people who said how great everything was, even as Christians sent out desperate messages about how scared they were.


Incidentally, the only person quoted as an expert in the article comes from the Left-wing International Crisis Group, headed by an anti-American who hangs out with US policymakers. The analyst tells us that the Muslim Brotherhood didn't want the revolution, despite the fact that every action and statement of the group said the exact opposite.


Whether or not the Times reporters are "useful idiots," they are certainly idiots. It isn't just political slant but the violation of the most basic concepts of politics and logic. Consider this passage:


"This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state. From the first days of the protests, Brotherhood leaders proclaimed their dedication to religious tolerance and a democratic and pluralist form of Government. They said they would not offer a candidate for President, that they would contest only a bit more than a third of the total seats in Parliament, and that Coptic Christians and women would be welcomed into the political party affiliated with the movement.


"None of that has changed, Mr Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. 'We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,' he said. 'We are not keen for power.'"


Now, why is this nonsense? Simple: First, political groups — especially revolutionary groups that want to impose ideological dictatorships — do not always speak the truth. They say what will benefit them. And the Brotherhood benefits by pretending to be moderate.


So statements about tolerance don't show us where a movement is going: Its ideology, record, and longer-term goals show us where it is going.


Second, seeking to create an Islamist state next Thursday does not have to be the Brotherhood's aim. What all this material shows is merely that they see the process as longer-term and that the basis must be prepared.


It's sort of like saying: The Communists aren't intent on creating a Communist state. Oh no, they only want to spread their ideas and values! They say they are happy to work with capitalists and would be happy with 33 per cent of the seats in Parliament. And anyone who wants can join their party. So there isn't any threat.


Reporters who write things like "Israeli authorities claim that the killing of its civilians are 'terrorist attacks'" are quite willing to take the Muslim Brotherhood at its word. They never recount the fact that this was a Nazi ally whose words for decades have stressed virulent hatred of America, democracy, Christians, and Jews. They never explain that it is a pro-terrorist group that endorsed killing Americans in Iraq and only last October called for jihad against the US.


Why go on? It's as if the most prized institutions of the Western world — universities and media — have forgotten their mission, lost track of their values, thrown away their principles, and dropped 100 points in IQ. And when they are proven to be terribly wrong, they merely shift to a slightly different position.


This farce has gone beyond embarrassing through disgraceful and has ended up being both deadly and ridiculous.

-- The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ADDRESS PEACEFUL POLITICAL PROCESS NEXT

RAJENDRA ABHYANKAR


It is time for the UN to lay down the political basis of the international community's action. This is as important for the divisive forces in Libya as for future developments in other countries

For the rebel group pushed back to their last stronghold in Benghazi ,UN Security Council Resolution 1973 approving the 'no-fly zone 'to restrict Gaddafi's ability to continue violent attacks on Libyan population came in the nick of time. UN's delayed action had given new wind to the autocrats in Bahrain and Yemen and may even have made Mubarak wonder if he left too soon. No doubt leaders in Yemen, Jordan and Syria will be keenly following the steps the UN will take in the days ahead.

 

It became obvious soon after the start of the aerial operations that degrading Gaddafi's offensive and defensive air capability was by itself insufficient. We have already seen the scaling up of operations to hit his ability on the ground as well. The future direction and time-frame of this mission creep remains uncertain. At the same time the UN is in a cleft-stick: Calling a halt to military operations too early will leave Gaddafi in control of the larger land area and governmental machinery; not doing so, will increase civilian casualties and turn Arab opinion against the aerial operations.


It is time for the UN to lay down the political basis of the international community's action. This is as important for the divisive forces in Libya as for future developments in other countries grappling with protests in the region. The lack of clarity regarding the ground situation, details of enforcement measures and their command and control led Brazil, China, Germany, India and Russia to abstain, but not block, the Resolution. Arab League's support to UN action, buttressed by decisions of the OIC and the African Union, were crucial in determining their decision in the context of widespread sympathy for protecting Libyan civilians from state-sponsored violence. Yet the questions raised by these countries are now in full play.


The Security Council must quickly follow up with a Resolution which will strengthen the legitimacy of the rebel grouping by increasing its capacity to quickly re-capture the other cities including Tripoli. Only when Gaddafi's forces are forced to give up control of the main political and economic structures that progress be made in fostering an alternative political structure. UNSG's Special Envoy, Abdul al-Khatib, has already visited Libya and the African Union is to send a High-level Ad-hoc Committee to Libya to make serious efforts for a peaceful end to the crisis. Both should be jointly tasked to work out the broad frame-work in consultation with the Transitional Council and other interested groups, including those supportive of Gaddafi. It is important to avoid US's pitfall in Iraq when sudden and blanket de-Ba'athification created new and enduring problems. Any such plan will have to cater for an exit clause for Gaddafi, his coterie and family who remain immobilised under the asset freeze and travel ban imposed by the UN Resolutions. Whether he should be tried by the International Criminal Court, as mandated by the UN Resolution, or by the Libyan justice system remains moot.


Failing in efforts to give a political content to on-going military action will play into Gaddafi's hands when he called military operations a "crusader invasion" to rally his supporters. His prophecy of giving the West 'a long war' could well come true. Furthermore, the refrain of 'protecting Libyan civilians' as continuing justification for military operations has diminishing returns. It inevitably raises the specter of similar intervention in other countries beset with civil strife. When Xavier Solana, then EU foreign policy chief, enunciated his doctrine of intervention to safeguard 'human security' there were no takers; now the UNSC has been forced to accept it in the Libyan case. Whether this constitutes a valid precedent is the subject of another debate.

In only three days, Amre Moussa, Arab League Secretary General, referring to civilian casualties from aerial bombardment on strategic targets, has said that action underway goes beyond terms of their support. So far no Arab country, with the exception of Qatar, has taken part in the military operations. As civilian casualties increase — and all it needs is a badly targeted Tomahawk missile — they will baulk at participating, leaving the West with another unwanted endless military engagement.


The Security Council relied heavily on the Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Conference and the African Union pronouncing that Gaddafi had lost legitimacy to go ahead with the Resolution and commence aerial operations. An exit strategy which emphasizes steps towards a domestically engendered political effort is now imperative. This strategy could have four strands: First, call upon all states to help strengthen the legitimacy of the rebel group in Benghazi — National Transitional Council — on the ground, and within the country; second, channel humanitarian aid and facilitation to those who are displaced or refugees; third, follow-up OIC's recommendation by asking UN members to open contact with the rebel council; fourth, initiate broad-based consultations with the widest section of Libyan interest groups, through the UN Special Envoy, for facilitating democratic transition in the country. The Egyptian example of a referendum on constitutional changes is a way forward. In the Libyan case it will be necessary to identify a cohesive force which could take the Army's place in fostering a peaceful change.


-- The writer, a former diplomat, is currently at the Center for American and Global Security, Indiana University, Bloomington.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

JOY OVER LIBYA INTERVENTION COULD END IN TEARS

DO ARABS WANT DEMOCRACY AS CONCEIVED BY THE WEST AND ENFORCED BY ITS ARMIES? YELENA SUPONINA WRITES ABOUT THE ONGOING DEBATE


The offer of Arab nations to participate in the military operation against the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi has taken many experts by surprise.


The United Arab Emirates is sending at least 24 fighter jets to help enforce the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya, while Qatar has pledged six. I've heard from sources that Egypt plans to supply Libyan rebel forces with small arms, and that Jordan and Saudi Arabia have offered logistical and intelligence support. There are also unconfirmed reports that elite fighting units from several more Arab countries have arrived in eastern Libya to assist the rebel forces.


Saudi Arabia, whose Air Force is among the strongest in the region, could play an even more active role if needed. During Desert Storm, General Khaled bin Sultan, the eldest son of the Saudi king, explained that it was easy to integrate his country's air units with the main coalition force as Saudi Arabia's military doctrine, training methods, weapons and combat capabilities are compatible with those of the United States and UK. He was also impressed by the coalition's "brilliant array of modern aircraft weapons, some of which have never been used in combat before."


Now Arab nations will have a chance to test the aircraft and weapons they purchased from the West in the skies over Libya.


The world has not seen this kind of grand East-West coalition since 1991, when about 40 countries, including a dozen Arab and African ones, closed ranks against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to liberate Kuwait. But most of the Arab world opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, seeing it as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and an example of US meddling in the internal affairs of another country.


Coincidentally, air strikes against Libya began on March 19, and the first large-scale attack was launched under the full moon on March 20, eight years to the day after the start of the Iraq war.


Why has the campaign against Col Gaddafi garnered Arab support in contrast to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?

A foe to kings

Col Gaddafi has always been an outcast in West Asia. His neighbours have cooperated with him at times, but mistrust and hostility have remained throughout. Col Gaddafi's unpredictability and flamboyant populism were viewed as threats.


It's not surprising that wealthy Arab monarchs would distrust Col Gaddafi, who came to power in 1969 after overthrowing King Idris. Col Gaddafi has never hid his contempt for royalty, which he has openly demonstrated to his Arab neighbours in his usual, eccentric way.


Saudi King Abdullah allegedly can't stand Col Gaddafi. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the Libyan ruler said at an Arab League summit in Egypt that the Saudi royal family was in the pocket of the Americans. Abdullah, then a crown prince, called the Libyan "brother," as Col Gaddafi liked to be addressed, a liar: "You are a liar and your grave awaits you." The exchange took place in front of other Arab leaders, ministers and aides.

Arab monarchs cannot forgive the Libyan regime for refusing to participate in Desert Storm, and instead continuing to provide both moral and humanitarian support to Saddam Hussein. And despite his alleged distaste for royalty, Col Gaddafi declared himself the "king of kings of Africa" after turning away from the Arab world that spurned him.


More than revenge

Kings were not Col Gaddafi's only detractors. He has also subjected his own people to his whims, stripping them of their private property only to return it later. And he sought to spread his wild ideas to neighbouring countries. In the early 1970s, he tried to join Libya, Egypt and Sudan in a loose federation. When Egypt refused, he organised a "march of thousands" against Egypt. Libyan demonstrators crossed the Egyptian border and marched for several hundred kilometers, creating a diplomatic rift with Egypt.


Col Gaddafi has threatened to pull out of the Arab League on several occasions, making its Secretary General, Amr Moussa, increasingly nervous. He called on his Arab brothers not to fear "Persian" Iran, but to cooperate with it in the spirit of Muslim brotherhood. Col Gaddafi warned Arab allies of the United States at the March 2008 summit in Damascus that they could meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein and Yassir Arafat (who Col Gaddafi and some Arabs believe was poisoned) if they do not unite. He closed his fiery address by saying, "The Arabs have nothing, not a single currency or an integrated economy. All they share is endless conflict."


The Arab League's support for a no-fly zone over Libya was instrumental. In its request to the UN Security Council, the League endorsed "all necessary measures" to protect civilians except "a foreign occupation force," though it essentially okayed that, too.


But the Arab leaders were not just seeking revenge against Col Gaddafi for his past offences. They also sensed the changing mood on the Arab streets.


From joy to tears

Support for the Libyan rebels flows partly from the revolutionary mood in the region. But this is not the only source of support. Muslim believers also hate Col Gaddafi for repressing Islamists, who can be found in the ranks of the rebel fighters. While the international community is distracted with Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are cracking down on their own opposition movements.


The Arab League has already expressed concern over the severity of the attacks on Libya. They claim that they had only endorsed targeted strikes on Government airfields, fighter jets and air defense systems as a way to guarantee a no-fly zone, which would protect rebel forces and civilians alike.


"The cruder actions the coalition takes and the longer it fights, the more it will lose the backing of the Arab public, including those who initially supported the operation," said Egyptian political analyst Mazen Abbas, a member of the Arab Press Club in Russia. This will certainly happen if the coalition introduces ground forces, he added.


Amr Moussa was savvy enough to understand this. "What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians," he said on Sunday.


The popular Arab-language newspaper Al Hayat wrote: "The joy over the collapse of Gaddafi's regime could quickly change to tears."


Political analyst Hassan Shami says this could spell the end of the Arab Spring: "Arabs don't want this kind of democracy. They don't want a foreign invasion. They don't want foreigners grabbing their oil." Shami warns his fellow Arabs to "get out (their) handkerchiefs, as bad news is bound to follow soon."

 

 The writer is a political analyst for Moscow News who specialises in West Asian affairs.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DON'T BURY IT

 

Winning the bid to host a major international sporting event is a welcome occasion in most parts of the world. But if many Indian citizens receive such news with trepidation, the Shunglu committee's investigation of the Delhi Commonwealth Games explains why. Contractors made Rs 254 crore in 'undue gains' and Rs 900 crore were lost through mismanagement if not outright corruption. What should have been the harbinger for urban renewal became a developmental fiasco.


Ready a year before the Olympics, London's Velodrome shows how things should've been done during Delhi's Commonwealth Games, where preparations continued even as athletes arrived. Finding it difficult to dismiss the public perception that there was 'method in the madness' , the report alleges that the tendering processes and long delays arose from a nexus between authorities and contractors. The report's stinging critique of public bodies – such as the DDA, MCD and PWD – extends to naming individual bureaucrats and public figures including Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and lieutenant-governor Tejendra Khanna.


Yet everybody – not least Suresh Kalmadi – has absolved himself of responsibility from the moment wrongdoings were uncovered. This culture of buck passing arises from dysfunctional management practices epitomised by the diffuse, scattered and uncoordinated planning for the games. Far more appropriate to mega-projects is a team organised along a clearly delineated hierarchy and with a clear mandate. Meanwhile, terminating the sense of impunity enjoyed by those in authority would foster a sense of accountability. At the very minimum, this and subsequent reports of the Shunglu committee must be tabled in Parliament and court proceedings initiated against those identified for wrongdoing.


Otherwise, the expense and effort of the committee will become just another footnote to the already colossal waste engendered by the games.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

BAT FOR AMITY

 

For cricket fans, an India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final is a dream come true. For the business of the game, a contest between these legendary sporting rivals is commercially as big as it gets. Above all, there's the sporting turn in the politics of Indo-Pak cricket, often a casualty of bilateral ties gone sour. The staging of an Indo-Pak match on Indian soil for the first time since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and for a prestigious tournament like the World Cup, provided an opportunity for equally high-profile cricket diplomacy. Inviting Pakistan's president and prime minister for the Mohali encounter, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did well to seize it.


This isn't the first time sport has spurred goodwill overtures. In 1987, Zia-ul Haq, then Pakistan's president, visited Jaipur during a Test match at Rajiv Gandhi's invite. This was called "cricket for peace". In 2004, the Indian squad toured Pakistan in an historic "Friendship series". In 2005, Pervez Musharraf famously watched an ODI at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla. Today, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani accepting Singh's invitation, the prospect of Indo-Pak trysts both on and off the field come March 30 fuels hopes that the two nations' leaders can bat for amity after prolonged acrimony post-26 /11. At a time calibrated dialogue – home secretary-level talks start today – has accompanied tamped down expectations, Singh's gesture will generate feelgood on both sides of the border.


Going by past experience, however, cricket diplomacy has sadly been about short-lived atmospherics. For things to be different now, they have to be done differently. Pragmatism guided resumption of formal talks post-Thimphu , both sides wisely conceding dialogue's the key to getting heard on issues from trade to terror. Even so, Pakistan continues to want India to treat terrorism as a side dish in a 'composite' talks menu even while expecting India not to do the same with Kashmir. Both sides know that, sooner or later, these issues need resolving. But holding ties hostage to single-point agendas can't help us get there.


India must pursue full-spectrum engagement with Pakistan while secretary and ministerial-level exchanges keep up the bilateral momentum. Such engagement means New Delhi must go beyond solely addressing Pakistan's government. Credible engagement with the military leadership and security apparatus can also help, given their all-too-apparent say in foreign policy. With talks repeatedly torpedoed in the past, India needs to realistically assess what's on Rawalpindi's mind as much as on Islamabad's. Indeed, negotiations with civilian authority can be reinforced, not weakened, by this approach. Finally, both sides must boost people-to-people contacts, which the World Cup semi-final offers a great opportunity for kick-starting.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY?

 

While other societies debate euthanasia in terms of moral and economic consequences, in India we worry about criminal intent. That is how low we have fallen in the ethical order of the world.


Sample what the learned judges of the Supreme Court said in their judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case: "Considering the low ethical levels prevailing in our society today and the rampant commercialisation and corruption, we cannot rule out the possibility that unscrupulous persons with the help of some unscrupulous doctors may fabricate material to show that it is a terminal case with no chance of recovery."


A damning indictment that raises the question of whether Indian society is ready for a meaningful debate on euthanasia ? But let us first acquaint ourselves with a few basic facts pertaining to Aruna Shanbaug and the demand that she be put to death, which set all of this in motion.


Fact number one: Aruna is, by all accounts, a happy, responsive person, though she is seriously physically incapacitated . Fact number two: Aruna has a loving group of friends and care-givers who feel strongly attached to her and would do everything to keep her alive, pain-free and happy. Fact number three: Aruna is not being kept alive through heroic measures . She is not on life support but rather on "love support" . This has ensured that during all these years, and even today, she does not have a single bed sore. This in itself is close to a medical miracle.


We need to ponder these facts before we ask for her death. We also need to think of palliative care and what it can achieve. By doing so, the vexing question of euthanasia will suddenly find a resolution on both moral and economic grounds.


First, the moral factor. Research studies have shown that unresolved personal conflicts , the attitude of the family, the feeling of having become a burden, and an inability to find meaning in suffering together cause greater anguish to patients than just physical discomfort . This is certainly true for many in India where a majority of patients with debilitating illnesses are so dependent on family members that they begin to see themselves better dead than alive.


Next, the economic factor. The cost of keeping someone alive over a long period can be prohibitive. This leads many to take a utilitarian view of a terminally ill patient, or of someone radically and permanently disabled. While it may be true that such people are no longer net contributors but only consumers of social and economic resources, is this a sufficient reason to ask for their death? This is where palliative care comes in as a corrective.

The focus of palliative care is on quality of life. It relieves pain and suffering and thereby preserves the dignity of a person right till the last. With this kind of specialised care, the urge to end life prematurely is negated. To add a further advantage, it is "low tech and high touch" care and therefore affordable.


Unfortunately, less than 2% of patients who presently need palliative care in India (for cancer alone the number is 16 lakh) benefit from it. It is delivered mainly by non-profit organisations with limited reach and funds. There is a strong case to be made for the government to support the development of palliative care through policy and education and make it part of general healthcare delivery. At the very least, it is hoped that it will become mandatory for every regional cancer centre in the country to have a palliative care clinic.

In testimony before the House of Lords select committee , studies done in the US were used to argue that 46%-50 % of those who might benefit from palliative care services do not receive them and would, if given the choice, opt for palliative care rather than physician assisted suicide.


This finding was supported by evidence presented by palliative care physicians from Britain, the Netherlands and Australia. The WHO too has endorsed this point of view: "Governments should not consider the legalisation of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia until they have demonstrated the full availability and practice of palliative care for all citizens."


Today, in many countries people are writing "living wills" and giving "Do Not Resuscitate" orders to their physicians . This is not yet the practice here, but the recent Supreme Court judgment has allowed for a patient in a persistent vegetative state to be taken off a lifesupporting ventilator, provided certain stipulated conditions are met.

Ironically, this has placed members of the medical fraternity in a peculiar bind. In the past they expressed frustration at not being able to comply with requests from relatives to take their loved ones off ventilators as it was against the law. But now, when it is possible to do this legally, they are uneasy with the verdict on the grounds that it has the potential of being misused.


Ultimately, it will be the Indian legislature that will take the final call by passing an Act in Parliament. It is to be hoped that before they do so they will take into account the efficacy of palliative care as well as ascertain the views of those involved in caring for the dying. Otherwise, we run the risk of being influenced by commercial interests in medicine.


(The writer is founder-president of a palliative care programme.)

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'YOU NEED TO REACH OUT TO THE COMMON PEOPLE'

 

Dipti S Tripathi is the director of the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), an organisation working for the conservation and preservation of Indian manuscripts. Their latest project – building a database of digitised manuscripts – has taken off with the successful digitisation of over 93 lakh folios. Tripathi, also a Sanskrit scholar, spoke to Kim Arora about the ongoing work of the NMM and the challenges it faced:

 

How are manuscripts relevant today?

No nation can prosper on borrowed money, technology, intellect and language. If India has to prosper, we will have to look for solutions to its problems within rather than without. Our ancient manuscripts have dealt with problems related to ecological issues, problems facing society, the education system – you name it. We have to give young people the opportunity to learn what is theirs, what is already timetested , proven to be efficacious and something which is as scientific as any other science.


Does your work involve buying manuscripts as well?

According to the Gazette Notification, one of the mandated areas of the NMM's functioning is purchase of manuscripts. Some scholars or holders might want to sell manuscripts in their possession. We haven't entered that area to date but have proposed it in our annual action plan that it be included. It is important because manuscripts or other heritage items if not taken care of can reach the custody of people who do not value it. I've been given to understand that there was an illustrated manuscript somewhere in Himachal Pradesh. A man bought it, threw away the text part and sold the pictures separately. Manuscripts need to be saved from landing up in such unscrupulous, uninformed hands. They also need to be protected from being sold abroad.

You have lately been very active in the northeast and have covered Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura in your surveys. How do you deal with a strife-torn state like Nagaland?

We haven't yet conducted a survey in Nagaland, but we will take it up shortly. Personally, i feel that you need to reach out to the common people to make them feel wanted and mainstream . I've found a very favourable and positive response in the northeast.


What are the challenges you face on the job?

While we're out on surveys going door to door, to catalogue available manuscripts, it is very difficult to even make people accept that they have manuscripts. There is a general fear among the people that something precious is being taken away from them. Even when we tell them that their manuscripts will be taken care of and returned, it can be very difficult to convince them.


What are your future plans for the NMM?

We'll continue with our earlier plans. We'll continue with the data collection, making that data available through publications, seminars and workshops. We'll train manpower that can edit and handle manuscripts. The digitisation process will also continue. Currently we store our data on DVDs. We have put up a proposal for storage of data on servers. It will be costlier, but much safer. We look forward to the day when we would have a national digital manuscript library.

 

What kind of outreach programmes do you have for young people?

Initially we had debates, exhibitions and interactions in schools and colleges. But lately, we've been focussing on making knowledge accessible to scholars and researchers. Awareness and accessibility need to go hand in hand. Conferences, publication of unpublished manuscripts has been given due importance. Last year, we did 24 lectures all over the country. In January this year, we had an exhibition in Bangalore.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

DIVA'S DAY OUT

SRIJANA MITRA DAS

 

As the world remembers Elizabeth Taylor for the glamour she personified, it becomes apparent that few divas of that league exist today. There was a time - Hollywood's 'glory years' , the 1940s to the 1970s - when cinema was dominated by a clutch of extraordinary women. The 'divas' personified the contradictions and possibilities of their times. Their acting - loud, understated, ironic, romantic or tragic - was just one part of their personas. With their sunglasses and pearls, parasols and cigarette holders, the divas also shaped style, provided grist to the gossip mills and nudged about notions of morality with smiling, light-footed elegance.


Despite blossoming at a time America discovered the thrills of standardisation and suburbia, there was nothing uniform about the divas. There was Katharine Hepburn whose cheekbones and intelligence became legend. Angularly stylish, Hepburn carried off wide-legged trousers and acerbic jokes with panache. There was Vivien Leigh, famed for her pert beauty and a mouth that smiled sweetly while making tart remarks. There was Liz Taylor whose roles were as gutsy as her looks. Alongside these ladies with their big hairdos, silken negligees and scarlet lips, there was Audrey Hepburn whose gamine charm was ethereal. There was Grace Kelly whose icy blondness (the only blonde on the block, in fact, until Marilyn Monroe broke the divas' brunette hegemony) caught the notice of the Prince of Monaco.


Their looks and talent aside, there were larger reasons why these divas enjoyed such space. Their careers took off with America's post-war boom, audiences eager to both celebrate life and probe its shadowy side. The divas had an extraordinary variety of roles, often based on novels, plays and legends. There was Leigh as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee William's disturbing work A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Taylor as Maggie in Williams's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Audrey Hepburn as the conflicted escort girl Holly Golightly in an adaptation of Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). Such scripts offered strong female parts, featuring heroines simultaneously calculating and charming, selfish and sweet, unsure and confident . Their contradictions endeared them to audiences ready for complexity . There was popular demand for divas, sufficient supply and large studios making films which stoked their public personas and kept the box office buzzing.

By the 1970s, all that changed. The grand old studios began coming apart, replaced by new corporate concerns less willing to put up with eccentric stars and massive budgets. Scripts began changing. As America entered a phase of intensive warring, action movies exploded, placing the spotlight firmly on muscular male protagonists. Youth movements with flowers and guitars proliferated, resonating in
Hollywood where the divas were replaced by a bunch of fresh-faced younger actresses whose USP was their ability to play 'everyday' women you might pass in the street, not stop to stare at.


And the street became important, Hollywood falling in love with New York, ending its affair with Paris. 'NYC' became the setting for Woody Allen's neurotic comedies, money-spinners about money, action flicks amidst subways and sky-scrapers . With the American city becoming diva, the others had to make way. And with feminism on the ascendant, it was harder to show female protagonists as calculating creatures, sizing up men over the rim of their cocktails , often ethically shaky. It seemed easier to depict women with increasing sameness, professionals or home-makers , all characterised by utter goodness. As colour deepened on Hollywood screens, black and white portrayals of women also dominated a space that earlier lent itself to shades of grey.


Henry Ford, who famously remarked that American consumers were welcome to all colours of cars as long as they bought black and white, would have appreciated the irony. As would the divas themselves, eternally present in the swish of a negligee, the mocking arch of an eyebrow, the quiver of lips caught between tears and a smile.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

LOOSE CHANGE MAY PAY OFF

The term 'anti-incumbency' hasn't cut much ice in West Bengal for the last three decades and its appeal in the coming assembly elections is highly debatable.

This isn't because the Trinamool Congress still lacks the political heft to knuckle down the Left Front government that has been ruling the state since 1977 but because, unlike in most other states in India, West Bengal's electorate has traditionally viewed 'change' with suspicion.

Mamata Banerjee's politics has been canny in that she was able to gauge early on that 'parivartan' (change) as a slogan could be retrofitted to a return to status quo.

The CPI(M) had short-circuited the Trinamool's earlier attempts to bring in a new face to a tiring electorate when it switched Jyoti Basu with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in 2000, ahead of the 2001 state polls.

For all the early promise of a Trinamool-Congress mahajot (grand alliance) elbowing out the Left, it was only in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, with the two parties bagging 26 of the 42 seats that the cracks in Castle CPI(M) became all too visible.

Last year's civic polls, dubbed as the 'semi-finals' to the assembly elections, saw the Trinamool not even requiring the ballast of the Congress as it trounced the ruling party convincingly.

But since the series of punishments meted out by the electorate for its harried land acquisition-industrialisation policy that exposed the remains of the Left's Stalinist past, the CPI(M)-led government has admitted an erosion of support.

That, by itself, is a radical departure for the Left. However, what could be more dire for the government, used to its patented form of conflating party and government, is the departure of cadre support in rural Bengal, especially in erstwhile strongholds like Bardhaman, East and West Midnapur.

The question now is whether Trinamool partymen will be able to rush in where entrenched CPI(M) cadres now fear to tread.

West Bengal looks set for a regime change. But whether that spells a desire for any real change itself is something that the Trinamool shows little enthusiasm in testing.

Fielding candidates from both reformist and Luddite ends of the spectrum, Ms Banerjee hopes to keep everyone moderately happy, while the Left has already learnt that straying from the moderate position costs dearly.

In the end, the possible - and best - outcome for a state that has made a habit of keeping aspirations rock bottom is a new government that does not have an absolute majority in the assembly.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

A GENTLEMAN'S GAMBLE

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken to the field himself ahead of the Mohali maha-match between India and Pakistan by inviting both the Pakistani president and prime minister to drop by for a nibble of palak pakora and a dekko at the game.

Now, Asif may just don his flannels and nip right across, anything to get away from the Kalashnikov kooks in Karachi.

And even poor Yousuf Raza Gilani, pinned down to the nets as he is at home, may welcome a bit of butter chicken and bhangra.

But we are certain this is not going to happen, if killjoy Kayani, the dour army chief has his way.

Just imagine if they actually do come. This would put the ball firmly in the court of the leaders of the two countries. They could then improvise on locations where matches between the two countries can be held.

We could recommend a friendly joust on the Siachen glacier, a right royal scrummage in PoK, why we could even open an inning or two in Waziristan.

Just imagine the consternation among the jihadis when our team turns up in, say the Swat Valley.

"Ahmed, why does that round object fascinate our recruits when we have round objects which can explode as soon as batting begins?"

To which the sidekick would answer, "Sheikh, they are demanding cucumber sandwiches and flannels on earth, they don't want wine and houris in heaven. They also want membership of the Dennis Lillee academy of bowling."

This could well defuse militancy in ways that no interlocutors or army can. Soon we could see fatigues replaced by flannels and the Bengal Lancers take on the Rawalpindi Rifles.

It will certainly have the militants and naysayers on both sides running for extra cover.

To mangle the redoubtable Ms Sushma Swaraj, let's move on from Mohali.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

LINK LABS TO THE FIELDS

B ASHOK

The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) is one of the oldest scientific institutes in India and perhaps the most outstanding contributor to our grain security. Its research stations play a pivotal role in improving farm productivity which is facing tremendous pressure from climate change and disruptive technological changes.

This premier organisation along with the state agricultural education universities (SAUs) plays a critical role in determining the quality of agricultural higher education in the country.

However, the ICAR and the SAUs are in deep crisis and questions are being raised over their abilities to cope with the new challenges.

The higher education goals in agriculture and its allied disciplines do not reflect the potential it enjoys in an agricultural country like India. At present, there are only 30,000 students in the 50-odd university-level agricultural institutions and there are hardly any institutes that offer courses on agri-entrepreneurship.

The ICAR should leverage its countrywide presence through its Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) to offer diplomas for self-trained farmers.

In the absence of such induction courses conducted in regional languages, agricultural higher education has become a refuge for medical school rejects. Once they get into the system, they prefer office jobs to farm and laboratory assignments.

There is also a scarcity of specialists important to agricultural development like veterinarians, dairy technologists, food technologists and fisheries technologists. The country is short of 35,000 veterinarians, 20,000 dairy technologists, 10,000 fisheries graduates and nearly two lakh food technology professionals.

To overcome this hurdle, there should be a three-fold increase in student intake in central and state universities. A total enrolment of 200,000 in graduate courses and a web, ICT and FM radio-based countrywide classroom for training 10 million farmers per year should not be very difficult.

Agricultural experts are also worried about the quality of staff in these varsities. Since most of the states are cash-strapped, they starve agricultural universities of funds and keep their bench strength below acceptable levels. Often, contractual teachers take classes while practical training is ignored.

Even certain ICAR institutes, the bench-setters, are short-staffed and though it accredits state universities, many of its institutes will find it hard to qualify for such certificates.

The government-centric approach of handling agricultural higher education through states cannot tackle this quality and quantity challenge. In the absence of scale initiatives, agencies like Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) have come out with courses on agriculture.

First, the policy to restrict agricultural higher education to state agencies must be revamped and capital investment by private educators must be incentivised.

Second, ICAR must slowly divest its education portfolio and become a regulator rather than a service provider. Its research stations must get involved in research training for doctoral and post-doctoral students.

The ICAR committee is unduly wary of what it calls "fragmentation of agricultural education". They want to stop the states from forming separate veterinary or fisheries universities. This is wrong since the ICAR institutions are themselves differentiated along functional lines.

Third, ICAR must try to impress the Planning Commission that out of the 1,000 new universities being planned, at least 200 should be for agriculture and its allied sectors.

Today, the question before the ICAR and all those passionate about agricultural higher education is whether its status and current pace-setting would cater to the dynamic growth the country needs in this sector.

B Ashok is vice-chancellor, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, Pookot, Wayanad. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ONCE THERE WAS A CITY

ABHIJIT BANERJEE

I was in Kolkata for Holi, pondering the fact that even if I wanted to join the merriment, I simply did not have enough close friends in the city to make it worth the while. This would not be true in Delhi, or Bangalore, but sadly, in the city where I grew up, the number of close friends I have could be counted on a single finger.

An excellent recent book by Ed Glaeser, modestly titled Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, offers an explanation for why my friends are all elsewhere. Ed is an urban economist at Harvard and a Boston friend (though not someone who, I think, will join me in playing Holi). Ed starts from a puzzle - the improvements in information technology were supposed to have made physical proximity irrelevant (as I write I am chatting online with my son, who is upstairs), but somehow that has not spelt the death of the city.

Urbanisation is going apace, especially in the developing world, but even in the United States. Why are people paying all the costs of urban living (expensive housing, polluted air, crowded streets) if closeness is moot? Ed's answer to this is that the value of face time goes up when you are doing things that are more complex - the relevant ideas and concepts are that much harder to transmit in any other form.

The reason cities are still growing is because our ideas are constantly getting more sophisticated and that is making bright people want to come together to talk and argue about them. This is reinforced by the fact that able and ambitious people like winning the big game, and the big game is where other able and ambitious people are: if you are a young musician who wants to make his mark, you want to be where all the great musicians are and it helps a lot to be actually seen and heard by them.

Ed probably does not know this. He describes Kolkata as one of the worst cities in the world, but then he spent only a day there, touring the slums, and knows nothing of the pleasures of ilish maachh or adda, but 60 years ago, this is what made Kolkata one of the great centres of Indian - dare I say, world? - culture. There was a time in the 1940s and 50s when almost every great in Indian classical music, wherever they were originally from, maintained a home in Kolkata.

The great instrumentalists Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Vilayat Khan and Nikhil Banerjee, and the great vocalists Amir Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali, and the senior Dagar brothers would spend months there every year. They came to Kolkata not because of the (muggy) weather, but because everyone else to challenge and to learn from was there.

Famously, Bhimsen Joshi as a young man came to Kolkata in the 1940s and worked as a servant at the house of the movie star Pahari Sanyal, so that he would get a chance to immerse himself in the musical culture of the city and learn.

Music was probably the place where this phenomenon was the clearest, in part because it is the least parochial of all the cultural forms. But painting had its own unique flowering in the same period (think Jamini Roy, Ramkinker Baij, Ganesh Pyne), as did film, theatre and the literary arts.

The problem is that if talent brings talent, the exodus of talent leads to more exodus. My cohort grew up in the immediate aftermath of the Naxalite years, when communist rule was first on the horizon and then the status quo, when industry was constantly looking at the way out, like a woman on a date that has gone wrong.

Our parents told us there was no hope in Bengal, and since we believed them, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. We all left in part because we knew that everyone else like us - ambitious, well-educated, middle-class children - was also planning to leave and - this is where Ed is exactly right - we wanted to be where we would get to work and play with people like us.

But there were other forces as well. The 1970s was also the period where the joint family really starts coming apart, at least among urban middle Bengalis. Young people wanted their own apartments but nice affordable apartments were not easy to find in Kolkata.

This was, as Ed emphasises, a direct consequence of the kind of land-use regulation that we inherited from the British - regulation that is aimed at keeping buildings short. Ed argues in the book, and I wholly agree, this is both against the common man and anti-environment, because it reduces the supply of apartments in centre city and forces most people to live in distant suburbs and spend the whole day in buses or trains, commuting, which is, of course, also why it is anti-environment.

To make matters worse, this was in the days before the city started building quality infrastructure on its margins, so most places a young couple could move to were far and poorly served. No wonder many of them preferred to leave the city altogether.

Kolkata is an easier place to live now, at least if you are young and affluent, partly because of a lot of new construction, though most of it is unfortunately outside the centre city. But it may be too late. Industry left when talent left and it is not easy to get it back. Something similar, I fear, could happen to Mumbai, another city afflicted by an irrational fear of heights.

As Gurgaon grows and becomes less of a bedroom and more of a community, would young people still be willing to pay Mumbai's absurd prices or bear its punishing commutes? Paradoxical as it might sound, the best way to secure Mumbai's future may be to pack more people into south and central Mumbai.

Abhijit Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

HOW TO KEEP OUR VOTES SAFE

JAGDEEP S CHHOKAR

The editorial, Not a wealth of information (Our Take, March 19), was a correct description of what WikiLeaks has revealed about how India's foreign affairs and political establishments work.

However, one sentence needs to be commented on, and that is its recommendation for setting up "a commission to look into the idea of public funding of political campaigns". This reveals how short our public memory is.

Three learned groups have laboured over this issue.

In 1998, "all parties, without exception, felt seriously concerned [about] the mounting role of money power, particularly black money, in the electoral field."

The outcome was the Committee of State Funding of Elections (the Indrajit Gupta Committee), 1998. Soon after, in 1999, the Law Commission of India submitted its report on electoral reforms that had a separate section on 'Control of election expenses' including a chapter on 'State funding'.

Subsequently, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) set up in 2000, also, in its report in 2002, made significant observations on State funding. With the wealth of knowledge, analysis and recommendations available in these reports, it is now time for action and not for setting up yet another commission.

What do these reports recommend?

The Indrajit Gupta committee report is often quoted in support of State funding. What is overlooked is the opening paragraph of the 'Conclusion' that says, "Before concluding, the Committee cannot help expressing its considered view that its recommendations being limited in nature and confined to only one of the aspects of the electoral reforms may bring about only some cosmetic changes in the electoral sphere. What is needed, however, is an immediate overhauling of the electoral process whereby elections are freed from evil influence of all vitiating factors, particularly, criminalisation of politics… money power and muscle power go together to vitiate the electoral process and it is their combined effect which is sullying the purity of electoral contests and effecting free and fair elections."

The Law Commission specifies what these reforms are, particularly in the context of State funding: "… State funding, even if partial, should never be resorted to unless the other provisions mentioned aforesaid are implemented lest the very idea may prove counter-productive and may defeat the very object underlying the idea of State funding of elections."

Among "the other provisions" are those "ensuring internal democracy, internal structures, and maintenance of accounts, their auditing and submission to Election Commission."

The NCRWC reiterates the above: "Any system of State funding of elections bears a close nexus to the regulation of working of political parties by law and to the creation of a foolproof mechanism under law with a view to implementing the financial limits strictly.

Therefore, proposal for State funding should be deferred till these regulator mechanisms are firmly in position."

It is, therefore, clear that while State funding may be helpful in improving our democracy, resorting to it before ensuring deeper electoral and political reforms such as internal democracy and financial transparency in political parties, will be counterproductive.

The recent joint initiative of the law ministry and the Election Commission is a historic opportunity for 'overhauling of the electoral process' and for putting democracy on a sound path.

Jagdeep S Chhokar is former director in-charge, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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

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

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

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO-CLEARANCE CM

 

Prithviraj Chavan, till last November the dynamic, reformist minister of state at the prime minister's office, took over as chief minister of Maharashtra under tough circumstances. His predecessor, Ashok Chavan, was forced out under a cloud, and the Maharashtra Congress seemed enveloped in a cloud of double-dealing and incompetence. The new CM, it was expected, would clear the air, end the extractive politics of the state Congress and try to give Maharashtra a government that worked effectively, something that under-performing state has been denied for quite some time now. It is very distressing, therefore, that it does not seem to be working out that way. As a report in this newspaper on Saturday makes sadly clear, work on Mumbai's redevelopment has ground to a halt, with clearance after clearance waiting to be given. And this cannot be blamed on a dilatory institutional structure alone; these are decisions that require the CM's own nod, and his is the office that has been holding them up.

What sort of projects is Chavan delaying? A large number of them are to create affordable housing in Mumbai, which is that city's greatest need. Its explosive growth and the aspirations of those who want a place of their own, have combined with archaic land, rental and building regulations to keep real estate expensive, turning Mumbai into a city of the underhoused, of slum-dwellers and exhausted commuters. Redevelopment of older buildings should be a priority, as should the development of complexes of cheaper housing on the margins, and the provision of infrastructure and upgrading of its slums. Yet these are precisely the projects that the CM is delaying: for example, a panel set up to examine the redevelopment of pre-1960s "cessed" buildings cleared more than two dozen projects, none of which have been processed under Chavan. Nor has a local authority plan to move ahead on 43 affordable-housing projects in the suburbs met with approval yet.

Chavan cannot blame another ministry: he holds the housing and urban development portfolios, too. His reasons are telling: he feels that it is "necessary to see", in each case, "whether the concerns of the city or of some private person are involved". This might be an understandable concern, given today's political climate, and its random mudslinging. Yet Chavan was sent to Mumbai to get the city and the state it leads moving. That cannot happen if he persists in clearing everything himself. Good governance will need the restoration of independent, transparent institutions. Decentralising project-sanctioning powers would be a good start.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FEVER PITCH

 

There's nothing as simultaneously exhilarating and painful as a solid sporting rivalry, and India-Pakistan cricket matches are among the most charged events anywhere in the world, these days not least because of their very rarity. As the two national teams face off in Mohali for the World Cup semi-final, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has seized the diplomatic chance by inviting Pakistan's civilian leadership, both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, to watch the match.

Sports and international relations have a long and tangled history. Cricket diplomacy has been effectively deployed in the past, to take the edge off political tension, even military confrontation, as when Zia ul-Haq attended a match in Jaipur. After downgrading of diplomatic ties, and military mobilisation on the border after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, Pakistan cricket tours were revived in 2004 as part of a diplomatic effort to improve ties. Visa regulations were eased on both sides to allow fans to travel across for matches. In 2005, General Musharraf came to India for a cricket match, and the visit was overlaid with deeper diplomatic significance, as it provided the ballast for talks on Jammu and Kashmir. By the same logic, a rough patch in the relationship often means that cricketing ties too get strained. Of course, audience is everything, and certain venues have traditionally carried greater chances of outreach. Mohali is a heartening site for this interaction, given Punjab's sentimental, almost intuitive investment in people-to-people.

It's a magnanimous gesture — Singh has built on former PM A.B. Vajpayee's example, and demonstrated his commitment to making inroads in this vexed relationship. Singh does so now after a particularly fraught period, when Indo-Pak relations have hit a new low after the Indian embassy bombing in Kabul and the Mumbai attack in 2008. Singh's readiness to make diplomatic overtures is a signal that he has not given up on Pakistan, especially the civilian leadership that can be worked with.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SPOT THE TIGER

 

There could finally be a glimmer in what has so far been a rather disheartening story of tiger conservation in India. The latest tiger census, to be officially released today, shows a marginal increase from the appallingly low figure of 1,411 of 2004-05 — which caused uproar both within and without the conservation community. In many ways, this is a small, reassuring sign: that maybe we have succeeded in containing poaching to an extent, that maybe the renewed efforts on conservation have yielded some results ever since the alarm sounded six years ago when the so-called tiger havens of Sariska and Ranthambore fell unnaturally silent. Organised poaching, encroachment, deforestation and ineffective management had whittled down the number of tigers. Maybe things are on the mend.

It is not easy to count the elusive tiger. This time, however, it has been a massive tallying exercise that involved elaborate methods like camera-trapping (photographing the animal using automated cameras), instead of the traditional pugmark and waterhole techniques. But toting up numbers, howsoever essential and encouraging, is by itself not enough. It should become a pointer to better policy formulation and bigger push for more allocation and better absorption of resources for the conservation of the big cat — armed guards, stricter implementation of anti-poaching laws, transparent monitoring of conservation efforts, improved, inviolate habitat for the animal by relocating people in core areas in protected areas and increased awareness about wildlife conservation. There should also be an equally concerted effort to look at tiger population in non-protected areas, which the census leaves out. Enthusiasm should not, also, lead to foolhardiness as we saw in the way tigers were relocated in Sariska.

For, when it comes to the tiger, evasive as it is, counting is by far easier than conserving.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A PLATTER OF CHOICES

ABHIJIT BANERJEE

 

One of the more charming aspects of being in India is the seeming obsession that everyone has with feeding people: the stewardess on Jet Airways seemed genuinely concerned that I did not finish my murg methiwala. In my half-an-hour at the Planning Commission at least four people asked me if I would like some tea; and the guy who cuts my hair was baffled, as always, by my refusal to take him up on his offer of a cold drink.

It is when it turns into public policy that this fixation with feeding starts to be a problem. I have nothing against the government guaranteeing a minimum standard of living for its citizens — quite the contrary. But why does that necessarily have to take the form of the government delivering food at people's doorsteps? On current evidence, the Indian state has shown little aptitude for getting food to the right people. The government's own Programme Evaluation Organisation's recent report on the Targeted Public Distribution System tells us that 36 per cent of the grains intended for the poor somehow vanish along the way. Of this 20 per cent is just somehow lost in transit, while the other 16 per cent is given out against "ghost" BPL (Below Poverty Line) cards. Not all of the remaining 64 per cent of the grains reach the poor, either. This is because the BPL cards, which entitle one to be "targeted", are only slightly more likely to end up in the hands of the non-poor. In 2007, a team from Harvard University and the University of Chicago surveyed 21 households in each of 173 villages in Raichur district in the state of Karnataka. In each of these households they collected the data used for BPL classification by the government and based on that data they constructed their own BPL list. They concluded that only 57 per cent of BPL card-holders would qualify if the official criteria were properly applied. This would imply that only slightly more than a third (57 per cent of 64 per cent) actually reach the eligible. The government's own assessment is only slightly less negative: the same report that already came up puts the fraction reaching the eligible at 42 per cent.

One might be willing to overlook all of this waste, if at least all the poor got reached. In fact the government's report claims that only 57 per cent of the poor have BPL cards, a number confirmed by an eight-village study in Rajasthan by Ritika Khera.

So why does the government insist on feeding everyone? And why are we discussing an expanded PDS under the new Right to Food (RTF) legislation? Why not give people money, so they can buy themselves the food?

One answer that we hear from the RTF supporters is that a lot of the problems will disappear if we stop trying to target. The BPL will all get cards, simply because everyone will get a card. Equally importantly, the middle classes will use their political capital to make the system work better — the ration shop owner will not be able to get away with saying that the food somehow didn't show up.

I agree. But what does this have to do with the government doling out food? Wouldn't the same apply to a universal cash transfer, which would relieve the government of the responsibility of moving millions of tonnes of grain around, storing them and fighting off a variety of potential intruders, both small and furry but also of the more biped variety?

Moreover, my sense is that the politically influential middle classes these days may be more willing to fight for their right to cash, than for some grain that is unlikely to be of the highest quality. This was already true when I was a child and we had universal PDS — a lot of households would either not pick up their grain or sell them to the poor — and now the middle classes are just much richer.

But don't we want people to eat more? Isn't South Asia the malnutrition capital of the world? Absolutely, but we know from the work of Angus Deaton and Jean Dreze (and many others) that this is not primarily because people cannot afford enough nutritious food. Even the children of families that are in the middle of the wealth distribution (based on the admittedly imprecise measures of wealth in the National Family Health Survey) have malnutrition rates that are twice what we find in sub-Saharan Africa. It has something to do with diet, with disease, micronutrients and, unfortunately, the fact that proper nutrition is not enough of a priority for families. For that reason dumping food in the hands of families who would rather have a cellphone may not get us very much further — if they don't want the food, they will sell it. And in any case, we could presumably achieve the same goal by giving people food-stamps, which is cash that can only be spent on food (or food and education and healthcare).

The final argument against cash is the one that does worry me. Because everyone likes cash, wouldn't the incentive to defraud the system be that much stronger? With a universal transfer, we avoid the targeting issues, but how about many more ghost BPL cards? This is where tying the whole thing to the UID makes a lot of sense: that would be an obvious way to avoid duplication. Unfortunately the supporters of the RTF don't want that, for the most part it seems, because the UID will take time (though I have heard other, more purely ideological arguments) and they are in a hurry. Given how costly it is to undo a system (especially a system of subsidies) once it has been set up, this seems extraordinarily cavalier.

The writer is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT IS WRONG TO COPY

RAHUL MATTHAN

 

Google's ambition of building the largest library the world has known since Alexandria suffered a serious setback last week when a New York circuit judge refused to approve the agreement arrived at in 2009.

Google's library project is perhaps the most ambitious library project ever attempted. It is, without doubt, also one of Google's most controversial projects. The objective was to digitise and index all the books ever written, to allow them to be searchable online and accessible everywhere. However, shortly after Google announced its intentions, authors, publishers and rights holders around the world were quick to challenge the search giant's right to copy their works. Court proceedings moved rapidly towards a settlement as all parties sought to avoid the uncertainty of a full trial. The settlement agreement was made public in 2009 and almost immediately received widespread criticism from as many as 7,000 objectors on grounds that ranged from copyright to privacy and anti-trust. In New York recently, District Circuit Judge Denny Chin refused to allow the settlement, stating succinctly that while the objective of creating a digital library was laudable, the method Google had adopted to get there was not.

Much of the controversy centred around the approach outlined in the settlement. Google had negotiated an agreement with the Authors Guild of America that allowed it the right to scan and digitise books unless the author of the book opted out of the settlement. This meant that Google had a right to digitise unless the author objected. This "opt-out" approach to copyright is not only unprecedented, but it also strikes at the very root of copyright philosophy — that the author is the "first owner" of the copyright in a book and that s/he has the exclusive right to grant a licence to its use by anyone else. If the settlement had been affirmed, Google would have obtained an automatic right to all literary works unless the author objected to it. This would not only have taken the rights away from the author, but it would have also placed him in the unique position of having to request Google to stop doing something which by law it was not permitted to do in the first place.

The single largest class of copyright works that would have been affected was the category known as "orphan works", a sub-class of books whose authors are unknown even though the works themselves remain in copyright. Under the terms of the settlement Google would have had an almost unfettered right to scan these books as the authors were all unknown and unable to register their protest. The judge took objection to this approach. He held that a matter of such significance could not be determined by private parties through a settlement that, from all appearances, did not represent the interests of all stakeholders. If there was a need to do something to allow the general public greater access to orphan works, then it was up to the legislature to decide what was to be done.

The controversy around the Google library project is strangely reminiscent of another tumultuous time in the history of the internet — when a young college student decided to change the way in which music was distributed by creating a technology that allowed students to make digital recordings of their favourite music and exchange it over the internet. That project came to a very quick and public end as Napster was shut down and declared fundamentally violative of copyright.

Google appears to be doing very much the same thing — copying books without permission and distributing them over the internet. The difference between Napster and Google is that where Napster had to capitulate and die, Google has managed to wrestle, from an indeterminate population of authors, a negotiated settlement with which it has managed to garb its project in the mantle of propriety. This settlement would have allowed Google to assume complete control over all digital books, regardless of whether or not their authors had assented.

Yet, one cannot but help wonder whether this is the real future of books. Napster demonstrated to the world that the future of music was digital. Today more music is sold online than was ever sold on recorded media.

It seems inevitable that books are headed down that same path. If Google failed to win the day with its settlement agreement, it appears quite likely that it will take the battle to the US Congress, arguing for a more liberal copyright regime that will allow digital publishers greater freedom to publish out-of-print books for the greater good. Should they win there, copyright law as we know it will probably change completely — an outcome I am not sure is entirely undesirable.

The writer is a Bangalore-based lawyer express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE LEAST BAD OPTION?

BAIJAYANT 'JAY' PANDA

 

The government's draft mining bill requiring 26 per cent of mining profits to be shared with displaced local residents has finally provoked a long overdue national debate on the fair and equitable use of mineral resources. This became inevitable after the events of the last decade, which saw significant developments on three related fronts.

First, spiralling commodity prices have led to windfall profits for mining companies while, at the same time, affording other legitimate stakeholders a vastly unequal share of the pie. These disgruntled stakeholders include state governments and local residents, both of whom have been increasingly incensed and vocal. In the interest of full disclosure, I am from a business family with interests in the production of metallic alloys, including the operation of captive mines.

Second, the sharp rise in mining sector profit margins has induced illegitimate stakeholders to muscle in. These include illegal mining mafias that operate unlicensed mines, licensed operators who raise ores in excess of their permits or beyond their demarcated boundaries, officials and politicians who extract bribes to look the other way, and local toughs and even Maoists who run extortion rackets.

Third, increased environmental concerns have led to a sharp rise in the number of NGOs that mobilise opinion and litigation against mining. Most such activists treat mining as inherently unlawful, despite the continued existence of the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act. But they are at least partly justified by the MMDR Act's provisions being occasionally contradicted by other acts, such as the Forest Rights Act.

The inequitable sharing of the mining pie has its roots in the over-centralised command economy of the '50s, '60s and '70s, some vestiges of which refuse to die out. Despite minerals being constitutionally the property of the states in which they are located, the heavy hand of the Centre has repeatedly foiled the equitable levying of royalties since independence.

Mismanagement by the Centre is not conjecture, it is amply borne out by hard facts. Starting in 1957 with the MMDR Act, the Central government took unto itself the task of fixing mineral royalties, and then persisted with what can be kindly described as spectacular ineptitude. The unkind would of course attribute other motives in keeping royalties absurdly low for six decades!

In sharp contrast with mining laws in the rest of the world, the Indian government just did not implement ad valorem royalties, that is a percentage of the prevailing market rates. That, despite repeatedly setting up committees over the years, every one of which recommended a switchover to ad valorem rates. Instead, it persisted with administratively determining flat rates of royalty, which were infrequently revised and remained shockingly low.

This blatant form of crony capitalism and pseudo-socialism (since many mines were in the public sector) cost state governments lakhs of crores of rupees in revenue loss over these years. This ensured that there were inadequate funds to properly rehabilitate displaced residents, let alone invest in the future of mining areas. Thus, while it is true that some mines have been run professionally and in conformance with environmental laws, all standalone mining operations in India have two common features: disgruntled former residents, and a boomtown trading mentality without the investments in local infrastructure that could provide a sustainable economy when the mines run dry.

By contrast, those mining areas that also had downstream value-addition operations -— like steel plants in Jamshedpur or Rourkela — have seen far more of such investment, and in fact now have the potential to grow their economies in new directions. The main distinction is that downstream manufacturing operations, unlike standalone mining, are adequately taxed and are less susceptible to simple rent seeking.

The resistance to appropriately taxing mining has also continued into the 21st century. Since 2000, when ad valorem royalties began to be applied to selected minerals, the raison d'etre has been undermined by linking them to government-issued indicative prices of minerals instead of their actual prevailing market rates. Most shocking of all, even the 2009 revisions in the royalties on many major minerals -— like most categories of iron ore — continue to be at a government-determined flat rate that is a tiny fraction of what it would be under a market-price-linked ad valorem regime.

The latest round of expert study groups commissioned by the government have yet again recommended a move to ad valorem rates for all minerals. They have also recommended linking them to true market indices like the London Metal Exchange, and suggested that the royalty rates be modelled on successful mining economies like those in Western Australia. But the cynics can hardly be faulted: they have seen this movie many times before, with several earlier committee recommendations being smothered by mining lobbies.

In the meantime, while India is finally considering moving to the ad valorem royalty regime followed in the rest of the world, many countries like Australia, Canada, and South Africa are experimenting with profit-sharing regimes. This is expected to spur investment by lowering the initial burden on miners, but also ensure a fair apportioning of gains when markets surge. But unlike the Indian proposal, those experiments are a replacement for, and not in addition to, ad valorem royalties.

The irony is that making the mining sector transparent and win-win for all stakeholders is not rocket science. Three key elements are necessary for this: first, replace discretionary powers with rules, most importantly in leasing out mines by bidding rather than MoUs. Second, benchmark royalties to true market rates, not government fiats. Third, devolve powers to state governments, along with simple but strict rules on environment approvals and expenditure of royalties on building infrastructure and rehabilitating displaced people.

Unless India is truly serious this time in implementing these fundamental reforms in mining, the 26 per cent profit share proposal is the least bad option under serious consideration. While it has several flaws — including the potential for being manipulated like the royalty regime has been so far — it has caught the popular imagination and cannot be blocked by mining lobbies without credible alternatives in its place. Either way, it will have served the nation well in finally forcing action after six decades of foot-dragging.

The writer is a BJD MP in the Lok Sabha

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BECAUSE WALLS HAVE EARS

INDER MALHOTRA

 

In the recent past, WikiLeaks has virtually changed the world of diplomacy by making public millions of top-secret cables of the United States sent to the state department in Washington by its embassies across the world. That this has also made Julian Assange, Wikileaks' editor-in-chief, the bete noire of several governments is a different matter. The huge excitement, including some high-octane controversies and heated parliamentary debates, caused by the current avalanche of India-related classified telegrams of the US embassy in Delhi's Chanakyapuri is no surprise.

However, my purpose here is not to discuss the mini-tsunami in this country touched off by the detailed telegram about the 2008 cash-for-votes scandal. Nor is it to detract in any way from the grandeur of the service WikiLeaks is rendering. It is only to make a limited point: even in an age when few could even dream of today's cutting-edge cyber technology, there were regular leakages of the most closely guarded American secrets. More often than not, dissidents within the administration were the source of these. The most celebrated case was that of the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War during the Nixon years, for which Daniel Ellsberg had to pay a heavy price. No wonder he remains Assange's hero. Enterprising journalists and scholars also usually dig up a great many secrets. Recall Jack Anderson's impressive ability, during the 1971 Bangladesh war, to scoop every machination of the Richard Nixon-Henry Kissinger duo to "tilt" on the side that was morally in the wrong and militarily doomed to defeat. Today, no classified American document seems beyond Bob Woodward's reach.

Interestingly, the US establishment's commendable practice to regularly declassify secret documents (something that is anathema to Indian governments) is also useful. But given the humungous number of declassified documents every year, the contents of many of them seldom find their way into print or the ether. During frequent visits and a year-long stay in the US over the last 30 years I have read a few thousand such files, mostly with a bearing on South Asia, in the US national archives and presidential libraries. Only a few of them were of immediate professional use. The others had to be filed away in memory. None of the secrets they reveal is of the same voltage as WikiLeaks' disclosures. Even so, this seems an appropriate time to recall and record some of them.

Fat files in the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, on Indira Gandhi's first visit to Washington as prime minister in 1966 are filled with all secret telegrams from the US embassy in Delhi and even "eyes only" briefs for President Lyndon Johnson written by his advisers. But these are now dated. However, a somewhat earlier document with the highest classification, dated December 1964, is a gem. It records the conversation between Homi Bhabha, the legendary founder-chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Spurgeon Keeney, scientific adviser to the then US president. Bhabha is quoted as having said, among other things, that while making a detailed presentation to the Indian cabinet in the immediate aftermath of China's first nuclear test, he suddenly realised that most ministers "seemed not to understand what I was talking about".

No less enlightening and entertaining is a sheaf of telegrams, marked confidential, that the then US ambassador in Delhi, George Allen, had sent to Washington in the early '50s, concerning the visit to the US of Frank Moraes, then editor of The Times of India and later editor-in-chief of The Indian Express. One of these recounts the conversation Moraes had with prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru after returning home: "Moraes reported to the prime minister that every single of his interlocutors in America spent the bulk of the time in complaining that Krishna Menon (who had by then ceased to be high commissioner in London but hadn't yet become minister without portfolio, and therefore had to be content with the leadership of the Indian delegation to the UN General Assembly) was doing incalculable damage to Indo-US relations because of his anti-American vituperations".

"At one stage," adds the telegram, "Moraes noted that the prime minister's face was getting redder and redder, so he asked, 'Sir, should I stop?' 'No, no, tell me everything. Who said what?' replied Nehru. At the end the prime minister thanked Moraes but made no comment."

Before leaving for Washington, Moraes had also spoken to Morarji Desai, then chief minister of the composite state of Bombay, as it was then called. According to the telegram, Desai had said to the editor to "tell the Americans that I am the man of the future".

Another cable that deserves mentioning is one I read many, many years ago. It is dated 1961 and emanated from the US consul-general in Madras (as it was then called). This diplomat, whose name I forget, reported that he had gone to see G. Kasturi, then editor of The Hindu, to check on rumours that Vijayalakshmi Pandit would be vice-president when S. Radhakrishnan moved to Rashtrapati Bhavan. He quotes Kasturi as having replied that this would never happen. The diplomat asked why. The reply, as quoted in the cable: "Because even Nehru cannot carry nepotism that far."

Let me wind up this account with something that, far from being amusing, is deeply distressing. In 2005, the US state department published a volume called South Asia Crisis, 1971. A document in it records a conversation between Nixon and Kissinger in the Oval Office on November 5, 1971, while waiting for the Indian prime minister's arrival for a second meeting. It is shocking beyond words. For after remarking: "The Indians are bastards. They are starting a war there ... East Pakistan is no longer the issue," Kissinger gloated: "We clobbered the old witch (at previous day's meeting)." Not content with this, he also used about Indira Gandhi another expletive rhyming with witch that no gentleman ever employs for any lady, leave alone a foreign head of government on an official visit.

An American dignitary I remonstrated with for this unhesitatingly said: "Henry's manners were inexcusable, but you should give us credit that we do not distort or fudge the record."

The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE FUTURE OF FREEDOM

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

With Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria now all embroiled in rebellions, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the authoritarian lid that has smothered freedom in the Arab world for centuries may be coming off all 350 million Arab peoples at once. Personally, I think that is exactly what is going to happen over time. Warm up the bus for all the Arab autocrats — and for you, too, Ahmadinejad. As one who has long believed in the democracy potential for this part of the world, colour me both hopeful and worried.

I am hopeful because the Arab peoples are struggling for more representative and honest government, which is what they will need to overcome their huge deficits in education, freedom and women's empowerment. But getting from here to there requires crossing a minefield of tribal, sectarian and governance issues.

The best way to understand the potential and pitfalls of this transition is to think about Iraq. I know that the Iraq war and the democracy-building effort that followed have been so bitterly divisive in America that no one wants to talk about Iraq. Well, today we're going to talk about Iraq because that experience offers hugely important lessons for how to manage the transition to democratic governance of a multisectarian Arab state when the iron lid is removed.

Democracy requires three things: citizens — that is, people who see themselves as part of an undifferentiated national community where anyone can be ruler or ruled. It requires self-determination — that is, voting. And it requires what Michael Mandelbaum, author of Democracy's Good Name, calls "liberty".

"While voting determines who governs," he explained, "liberty determines what governments can and cannot do. Liberty encompasses all the rules and limits that govern politics, justice, economics and religion."

And building liberty is hard. It will be hard enough in Middle East states with big, homogenous majorities, like Egypt, Tunisia and Iran, where there is already a powerful sense of citizenship and where national unity is more or less assumed. It will be doubly hard in all the other states divided by tribal, ethnic and sectarian identities and where the threat of civil war is ever present.

Not one was more divided in that way than Iraq. What did we learn there? First, we learned that when you removed the authoritarian lid the tensions between Iraqi Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis erupted as each faction tested the other's power in a low-grade civil war. But we also learned that alongside that war many Iraqis expressed an equally powerful yearning to live together as citizens. For all of the murderous efforts by Al Qaeda to trigger a full-scale civil war in Iraq, it never happened. Lesson: While these tribal identities are deeply embedded and can blow up at anytime, there are also powerful countertrends in today's more urbanised, connected, Facebooked Middle East.

"There is a problem of citizenship in the Arab world," said Michael Young, the Lebanese author of The Ghosts of Martyr's Square, "but that is partly because these regimes never allowed their people to be citizens. But despite that, you can see how much the demonstrators in Syria have been trying to stay nonviolent and speak about freedom for the whole nation."

Lesson two: What was crucial in keeping the low-grade civil war in Iraq from exploding, what was crucial in their writing of their own constitution for how to live together, and what was crucial in helping Iraqis manage fair elections was that they had a credible neutral arbiter throughout this transition: the US.

America played that role at a staggering cost, and not always perfectly, but played it we did. In Egypt, the army is playing that arbiter role. Somebody has to play it in all these countries in revolt, so they can lay the foundations of both democracy and liberty. Who will play that role in Libya? In Syria? In Yemen?

The final thing Iraq teaches us is that external arbiters may be necessary, but are not sufficient. The US is leaving Iraq at the end of the year. Only Iraqis can sustain their democracy after that. The same will be true for all the other Arab peoples hoping to make this transition to self-rule. They need to grow their own arbiters: their Arab Nelson Mandelas. That is, Shiite, Sunni and tribal leaders who stand up and say to each other what Mandela's character said about South African whites in Invictus: "We have to surprise them with restraint and generosity."

This is what the new leaders of these Arab rebellions will have to do — surprise themselves and each other with a sustained will for unity, mutual respect and democracy. The more Arab Mandelas who emerge, the more they will be able to manage their own transitions, without army generals or outsiders. Will they emerge? Let's watch and hope. We have no other choice. The lids are coming off.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

COVERED, BUT NEVER UNCOVERED

DAVID CARR

No one could have been surprised by the flurry of headlines surrounding Elizabeth Taylor's death. Taylor certainly would not have been. She sailed through life on a sea of ink and never seemed in danger of drowning.

Ceaselessly covered, but never truly uncovered, Elizabeth Taylor was her own damn thing no matter what anybody said or did. In a feat that would be hard to replicate in the transparent age of today, she seemed completely open but mysterious, too. Unlike Lady Gaga, or Madonna before her, she did not maintain custody of her image and her fans by mutating to give them what they wanted before they even knew they wanted it. Taylor was convinced from a very young age that what they wanted was her as she already was and always would be.

Given that she began living out loud at the age of 12, she was easy pickings for a culture that has come to snack on those it adores, but unlike Britney or Lindsay, Liz did not end up as public property. She may have been robbed of her privacy, but her soul never seemed as if it were up for grabs. Taylor, who found her own public image "revolting", did not confuse what was said about her for what she thought of herself. She always seemed to be having a very wonderful time of it, and for all the paparazzi shots of her, there are few in which she seems hunted or haunted.

We could chalk up her ability to wear fame as a loose garment to the relatively benign media ecosystem of her time. And while Taylor chafed against the studio system of Old Hollywood, which kept her under the thumb of MGM, the relationship went both ways: The studio looked after her as if she were a rare jewel because she was.

Speaking of which, the fact that she maintained dignity in death as well as in life seems to have little to do with her lifestyle choices. She married seven men, bought hundreds of carats of diamonds and during certain times in her life, ate and drank like a sailor on leave. "I know I'm vulgar," she once said, "but would you have me any other way?"

But that is not the same as saying that she was not a lady. She was every inch a lady. It's trite to say, but think of the biggest-wattage stars, like, say, Angelina Jolie. Jolie is remarkably beautiful and very talented, and, like Taylor, in control of her own career. But there is certain masculinity to Jolie's appeal, a willingness to kick some tail on screen and go after whatever she wants off-screen. And before you dismiss the argument as the product of a diseased, sexist mind, a little thought experiment: Before there was Brangelina, there was Dickenliz. In the instance of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who is the alpha? It's not really even much of a question. Yet even though Taylor's fans adored her with far more ferocity than Richard Burton's talents ever engendered, she deferred to him. That may be why, apart from her manifest beauty, she remained, as director George Stevens said, the girl every American boy "thinks he can marry".

Many did, of course, none with much success. In that way, as well as others, she was something of a traditionalist. She chose to marry the men whom she wanted to sleep with, and if she didn't have a knack for making marriage work, well, you can't blame a girl for trying. She found real satisfaction in other parts of life. The current crop of celebrities pick up and drop causes like a dinner napkin, but Taylor decided early on that AIDS was her calling.

Even as she went through what has become the crucible of modern fame for talented women — she had affairs, dropped and gained weight, went through treatment for drug and alcohol addiction — she never seemed imprisoned by her own celebrity. Early on, schooled and protected by the studio system, she mastered the art of being famous, and as a result built a career that seems almost comical in its longevity in the current context: 50 films, 70 years and we are still talking about Elizabeth Taylor.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SLR TROUBLE

A temporary adjustment facility opened by RBI in the wake of the global financial crisis to provide additional cash to banks is still continuing. The second liquidity adjustment facility (LAF), run by RBI, attracts banks to borrow an average of R25,000 crore daily. Including the first LAF, the daily borrowing at repo rate by the scheduled commercial banks often runs close to R50,000 crore. This obviously means there is a big squeeze on liquidity in the markets. Given the RBI estimate that bank lending will rise by about 22% in next financial year, the squeeze is unlikely to disappear and will instead aggravate in the near future. This is inescapable, given the projected growth rate of the economy, which will naturally have to be financed by the banks. But, in the middle of this squeeze, why then does RBI insist on perpetuating the sequestering of 24% of the incremental deposits of the banks as statutory liquidity ratio (SLR). It is a strange case that the banks park this money, estimated to be about R75,000 crore with RBI and then go around the corner to the other window of RBI to borrow cash to finance lending. The transaction loss for the economy for this scenario, by itself, would have been massive.

But if one factors in the distortion this game creates for the interest rate signals for the economy, it is a serious trouble. If one were to say that part of the reason why the interest rates in the Indian economy are so out of sync with the rest of the world—causing enormous problem for industry to raise credit at competitive rates from domestic sources—it would be this peculiar double-way transaction at the SLR and the repo window. The reason for the establishment of the SLR, early in our banking history, was to ensure banks did not lend recklessly; basically check them from a runaway leverage and also provide a liquidity support on a dry day. The time for giving that liquidity support is upon us as it has been dry day for the banking system for the past two years. Recently, RBI has talked about the need to set a single short-term interest rate for the economy to give a clear picture of which way it wants the interest rate to move. This, it has said, should be the repo rate. Experts are agreed that this is indeed the correct way for RBI to move. But if the SLR window is not drastically wound down simultaneously, the plan for a single rate will go nowhere. The cost the economy will bear, for carrying this relic would be enormous.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S KYOTO

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh's market-friendly Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is aimed at, as he puts it, convincing 'marketwallahs' his ministry is not anti-industry. He is trying to replicate, on a smaller scale, the EU's carbon-trading initiative which helped Europe reduce emissions by around 14% up to 2010, in line with its 20% target for 2020. The two-year pilot project will cover 1,000 industries near metro areas in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and will begin with pollutants like SOx and NOx.

As an idea, it is a good one, but industry must understand it does not mean a smaller role for pollution control authorities; indeed, successful working is contingent on the authorities doing a better job. It does, though, mean there will be a lot less harassment of individual units. Let's say Gujarat's current level of NOx pollution is 100 units and needs to fall to 75 after three years. Gujarat may choose to now issue 95 emission certificates of one-year validity to industry in the first year (it makes no difference if they're given free or auctioned), 87 in the second year and 75 in the third year. Each firm has to surrender one emission certificate for each unit of NOx it generates. In year 1, all firms in Gujarat can emit only 95 units (or they pay a penalty if they have emitted more), this is non-negotiable. If, in year 1, Firm X has only 5 certificates but emits 7 units of NOx, the ETS gives it some flexibility in that it can buy 2 certificates from Firm Y that has emitted two units less of NOx as compared to the certificates it has. But at the end of the trading period, if the same firm has neither reduced its emissions nor bought enough permits against its emissions, it will pay a penalty. Pollution authorities will continue to monitor firms' NOx emissions rigorously but will not harass Firm X once it shows its emission certificates.

The design of the incentive-penalty scheme is critical. If Firm X does not cut emissions from 7 to 5 in the non-ETS phase, let's say it pays a fine of R100. This also means the cost of reducing emissions from 7 to 5 is more than R100, else Firm X would have cut emissions. In which case, for ETS to work, the fine has to be many multiples of R100; only then will Firm X want to buy credits from Firm Y. If the monitoring isn't top-class and bribing inspectors is an option, the maximum that X will pay for Y's permits will be the cost of bribing the inspectors! It is equally vital the targets not be set arbitrarily—if the steel industry, for example, cannot cut emissions by more than 17-18%, there's little point fixing targets of 30%. For ETS to work, heavy-polluters should find themselves steered towards making technological changes in order to survive and less-polluting ones will have an incentive to grow—but if the industrial laws make it difficult for units to close, ETS won't work. The two-year trial phase gives us enough time to work on the answers and for industry to understand how to use the new system.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHOM DO YOU BANK UPON?
SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN


The reported differences of opinion between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the finance ministry, over the norms for the entry of new players into the banking sector, make for a lively debate. To begin with, the finance ministry believes that RBI's suggestion of restricting foreign direct investment in new banks to 49% would send out the wrong signals to investors and has asked the regulator to clearly enunciate in the guidelines that new banks would be exempt from Press notes 2, 3 and 4. RBI, for its part, wants the limit rolled back from 74% to 49%; its discomfort stems from the fact that it's hard to figure out who the ultimate beneficial owners of a foreign stake could be, given that our intelligence agencies are not always up to the task. The central bank is, therefore, right in not wanting such a large chunk of the shareholding to be in foreign hands.

RBI is also right in saying the promoter's holding should be brought down to 15% and not 20%, as the ministry has reportedly suggested. If the bank is listed on the exchanges in a couple of years, the dilution of the initial 40% holding could happen over the next three or four years, ensuring that the lock-in period would be at least 5 years. If the finance ministry has its way, no other shareholder can hold more than 10% of the equity, which is perfectly fine. Since voting rights for private sector banks are going to be aligned with their shareholding, investors should not have any concerns on that front.

RBI's suggestion of R500 crore as start-up capital is perfectly reasonable as is the finance ministry's take that it be upped to R1,000 crore in 5 years; the first ensures that too high a capital base doesn't become an entry barrier for sound candidates while the second would make sure that the bank is able to grow.

Where the regulator and the government seem to concur is with respect to the holding company structure, which RBI has said is a must for new entrants. It's hard to disagree with the structure because there's no other way the regulator can block out risks to the core banking entity from other businesses like insurance or broking. However, the government seems to be more conservative than the central bank when it comes to giving banking licences to business groups that have a presence in real estate; it has reportedly said they can't be part of the banking sector. RBI had been a tad more lenient, saying those firms that derived 10% or more income or assets from real estate should be asked to stay away but the finance ministry is perhaps acknowledging the Indian promoter's talent for fudging numbers. If the finance ministry's views prevail, business houses like those of the Tatas or the Mahindras—which have among the best track records in Indian industry—would be left out, which would be a pity, especially if other industrial groups are given banking licences. RBI would have given the matter of a presence in the real estate business some serious thought and so it's better to go with what it says.

When it comes to the broking business, though, the ghost of Harshad Mehta, it seems, still haunts RBI. The central bank doesn't want any group that earns 10% or more of its revenues from broking to enter the banking space. While this would dash the hopes of the several brokerages aspiring to become banks, it would be in the best interests of the banking sector. While it is not our intent to preach to the learned, we do hope the central bank will also keep in mind the track record of financial services companies with regard to their activity in the capital markets space. The capital market regulator has been fairly efficient in bringing to book those that may have violated the rules, but there have been several instances where the cases have been resolved through consent orders or plea bargains. The new guidelines for banking licences must, in some manner, take note of the history that business groups have with regulators, whether it is Sebi or Irda; after all, it is the small saver's money that will be at stake. And the initiative for this will have to be taken by the central bank.

The ministry and RBI also seem to hold different views on how much of a financial inclusion agenda should be pursued by the new banks. While RBI had suggested that the new banks should set up at least a fourth of their branches in rural towns with a population of less than 10,000, the finance ministry is happy with them putting up a fourth of their branches in tier-3 to tier-6 cities, with a population of up to 50,000. In all fairness, it would be unfair to ask new players to shoulder too much responsibility while making banking accessible to the unbanked and, to that extent, the finance ministry's conditions seem reasonable. More than the nitty-gritty of branches and so on, what's important are the credentials of the promoters who are going to be running the banks and, without belabouring the point, it would be nice to have a crop of new bankers with credibility. The discussion paper reflected how uncomfortable the central bank was about giving licences to large industrial houses. "The complex web of relationships of commercial firms, with their customers or suppliers, and proper monitoring of preferential access to credit would be very difficult," RBI had noted. Since it will be RBI's reputation that will be at risk, it should fight for what it believes in.

shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HIGH NOON IN EU
MEGHNAD DESAI

The euro was launched at the dawn of the 21st century with great fanfare. There was hope for the new currency both as a harbinger of the future for the European experiment as also the expectation that the euro may replace the dollar as the global currency.

Now, 11 years later, the euro has been in a perpetual crisis for at least 12 months and there is no respite in sight. Originally, the euro had inherited the good reputation of the European Monetary System (EMS), which was a plan to substitute the fixed exchange arrangements of the Bretton Woods shattered by the unilateral American withdrawal in August 1971. A fixed

exchange rate system demands fiscal discipline from its members, something that the British always had difficulty managing and the Germans did with ease. The Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), which was the effective scheme under the EMS, allowed for a 2.5% band within which currencies could fluctuate against each other but, in effect, treating the Deutschmark as the key currency.

The next phase was launched in the Maastricht Treaty even as the ERM was going through difficulties, with the UK withdrawing in September 1992. The plan was to commit the members of the European community to a single currency along with a single market. The long-term goal was to fashion a single European economy, if not a single European Union. To do this effectively, fiscal discipline had to be formalised and the applicant members had to have a reasonably low debt-GDP ratio to show that they had repented their past fiscal sins. Germany was the model, with its Bundesbank the model for the future central bank of the single currency.

The fiscal limits were placed at 3% maximum deficit and the debt-GDP ratio was fixed at 60%. The attraction of single simple numbers was too great to worry as to whether 3% was sensible under all circumstances or should it be defined in terms of a full employment fiscal balance. The European Central Bank (ECB) was launched with an inflation mandate of 2%. Many countries managed convergence to the qualifying criteria, some like Greece and Italy, as it turned out later, by window dressing their national statistics.

The euro had good times while the credit boom of the first seven years of the 21st century lasted. Peripheral economies such as Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain were able to borrow at low rates and prosper. But the fiscal discipline was lost at the first whiff of a recession by Germany and France themselves. After the Lehman Brothers collapse, when credit froze, markets began to ask tough questions of the quality of debt of euro members. The ECB stayed a hawk on inflation and did not accept any old sovereign bonds. There began to be wide spreads in the bond yields of Germany and peripheral countries, sometimes as high as 800 basis points.

Fiscal crisis in the Eurozone was embedded in the notion that all the member countries could borrow from a common pool and yet the fundamental differences among them demanded a very asymmetric response. The peripheral countries should have followed a tough fiscal regime through the good times, which they did not. When the good times ended, the debt burden on the weaker countries became enormous. Bail-out schemes had to be devised but they all had to be unforgiving of past or future fiscal misbehaviour. The sovereign debt of the weaker countries had been bought by Eurozone banks, especially German banks, and they faced a meltdown of their assets.

The solution of the crisis thus proved to be politically as difficult as economically challenging. Budget cuts have been piled during a recession and for Greece there is no respite in sight for 10 to 15 years. Ireland had good fiscal numbers but incurred bad bank debt. Spain had similar problems but mainly of FDI inflows, which went into real estate and were withdrawn when the boom collapsed.

The temporary palliative has been to install a stabilisation fund that can be used for borrowing. But the fund does not allow generous time for restructuring the debt (by giving creditors haircuts) or the economy. The solution has to be politically satisfying to German taxpayers, who feel they are paying for Greek indolence.

Meanwhile, Portugal and Ireland have changed their governments.

National politics would love to break out of the euro straitjacket but EU politics do not allow that. If you need to borrow money you cannot afford national sovereignty.

The euro is a political experiment with weak economic logic. Its members are too disparate to sustain a single currency zone. Yet politics will dictate its survival, since a breakup of the euro may presage a fragmentation of the EU, and Europe is not ready to give up the political gains of the EU to get the economics right.

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

GREEN REFORM

Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh must be commended for his frank comments on the state of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process. Many well-regarded scientists have been making the point that the EIA, a mechanism instituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the early phase of India's economic liberalisation and amended in later years, has been turned into a joke because it is left to the project proponent to arrange for the EIA report. This dyfunctional system has produced only a thriving industry of consultants. Many of them without the requisite qualifications; some are nothing more than paid pipers. It is no surprise that several reports submitted by these consultants have been exposed as plain cut-and-paste reproductions of other publications. Among the prominent examples of ill-advised shortcuts leading to flawed conclusions is the Kudremukh iron ore mining project in Karnataka, which was eventually ordered closed. In that case, only rigorous assessment by the Indian Institute of Science and other agencies produced evidence of harm to fragile ecology; comprehensive study by the Centre for Wildlife Studies documented environmental damage on account of the sediment load in the Bhadra river. Evidently, the earlier EIA reports based on rapid assessments provided little insight. This experience is not unique and there is a strong case to introduce stringent checks now. Reform should begin with the choice of agency to conduct the impact assessment, and include the setting of wide terms of reference.

The task of reforming the EIA process is a challenging one for Mr. Ramesh, who has initiated welcome steps to introduce transparency in his Ministry. State-level authorities must also be made partners in the effort because some categories of environmental clearances come within their ambit. Independent studies of the working of expert appraisal committees formed under the EIA Notification of 2006 show that the rejection rate for projects in sensitive sectors such as construction, industry, thermal power plants, and mining is suspiciously low. The Union Ministry's discovery that some consultants submitted wrong reports, resulting in penal action, is proof positive of systemic rot. The cure lies in genuine, science-based EIA. All this is not to say that fresh barriers must be erected to development. What needs to be emphasised is the importance of assessing externalities associated with individual projects and consider them in perspective. The loss of ecology has irreversible, inter-generational consequences. The protection of air, water, soil health, and biodiversity should be primary environmental imperatives.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

OPEN-ENDED WAR

The announcement by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) that it is to enforce the United Nations no-fly zone over Libya confirms the extent of confusion over western policy on Libya. The alliance's Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says it will command only the no-fly zone, and admits that there will be two operations, one run by NATO and the other, comprising the arms embargo and air strikes — which Turkey says go beyond the United Nations resolution on intervention — by a "coalition." There may be yet more squabbling to come, not least because the decision on the transfer of command was preceded by a week of angry disputes among NATO's 28 members. Turkey, in particular, objects strongly to what it sees as French plans to control the scope and nature of the current U.N.-backed action. It has also accused President Nicolas Sarkozy of using the confrontation with Tripoli as a launching pad for his own re-election campaign.

Such issues, however, only form a subset of wider problems. One of those is domestic public support. In the United Kingdom, backing — usually high at the start of such military adventurism — is 45 per cent, with 35 per cent against; that is even worse than the 53-39 per cent reported when the illegal 2003 Iraq invasion began. In the United States, 74 per cent favour multilateral action to protect Libyans against their current dictatorship; but 79 per cent express concern over the continuing violence in Libya. In North Africa and West Asia, public feeling against the intervention is hardening rapidly, not least because of French Interior Minister Claude Guéant's foolish comment that his country was leading a "crusade" to stop President Muammar Qadhafi killing fellow-Libyans. Secondly, President Obama, whose administration refuses to call the Libya mission a war, is under pressure to explain the policy and to specify an exit strategy. His attempt to transfer command to NATO and his European allies will achieve neither; the U.S. will remain the major participant, but involving NATO will reduce the accountability of the warmongers to their electorates. The absence of clear aims, furthermore, heightens the risk of an open-ended conflict, into which the foreign participants will almost certainly be drawn more and more deeply — with the additional risk that the main aim becomes regime change and not civilian protection. In view of the vagueness of the U.N. Security Council resolution on the no-fly zone, it is regrettable that Russia and China abstained instead of vetoing the resolution that has enabled this military aggression and expanding war in an already tormented region.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE GARDENS OF THE NIGHT AT MOHALI

THE MOHALI INVITATION IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHORE UP A RELATIONSHIP WHICH HAS A CURIOUS HISTORY WHERE ITS SUSPENDED ANIMATION TURNS OUT TO BE A DANGEROUS STAGNATION.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

The India-Pakistan summit meeting at Mohali promises to be as expectant as its immediate setting. As the Old Testament says, "There is joy in the presence of the angels," no matter whether there is an electrifying century by the unassuming Virender Sehwag or the masterly Sachin Tendulkar, or a mesmerising spell by the mercurial Shahid Afridi or the incisive Umar Gul, which can make all the difference as Wednesday night wears on between heaven and hell for 1.32 billion people on the planet [ World Bank figures]. And some of it is bound to rub off on the two Prime Ministers in the gardens of the night at Mohali.

The important thing is to decipher the hieroglyphics of the joy — at least, fragments of it. Evidently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh weighed the pros and cons of it, held a thought experiment over it with the national security policy establishment, and kept his thought ready for launching it the moment he heard that India had sent Ricky Ponting and his men home. Conventional wisdom suggests that Dr. Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Gilani, lead "weak" governments that got unnaturally aged in mid-life. Yet, international diplomacy does have historic parallels — such as when a hopelessly embattled Richard Nixon travelled to China to meet Mao Tse Zedong, who was caught up in the maelstrom of the Cultural Revolution. In a manner of speaking, therefore, it is all in the timing, isn't it?

Dr. Singh indeed has a queer sense of timing. The WikiLeaks disclosures appearing in The Hindu revealed only very recently that in the American assessment, Dr. Singh is quintessentially "a beautiful ineffectual angel beating in the void his luminous wings in vain" — to quote Matthew Arnold's explication of the poetry of Shelly — confronted up until a year ago by a national security czar, who insisted he knew best what Pakistan was or shall ever be and how ties with it would remain the tale of a frozen conflict. If so, Dr. Singh banished the doubting Thomas from New Delhi and resumed his odyssey. He is fully justified in taking the Mohali summit initiative.

Two full years and four months have passed since the horrendous Mumbai attacks and the interlude in cross-border violence instigated from Pakistan is becoming a good "talking point." So, of course, the fact that a few indiscreet words aside, Pakistan hasn't shown any inclination to exploit the huge bedrock of popular alienation in Jammu and Kashmir and inflict a few cuts on India, which, in turn, allows New Delhi the political space to finesse its handling of a situation that threatened to explode just a few months ago into an ugly "Intifada" in a matter of time. Again, the unnoticed geopolitical reality is that neither New Delhi nor Islamabad seems interested in adding the unsolvable Afghan problem to the already-overflowing cauldron of differences between the two countries. Finally, New Delhi has shown the least interest in having a finger in the pie of complex U.S.-Pakistan tango, subtle American invitations notwithstanding.

As a matter of fact, funnily enough, the U.S.' "strategic dialogues" with both Pakistan and India are also under a bit of a cloud at the moment, and there is no knowing when they will resume. This precludes any scope for Washington claiming, as is traditional, that it has been the "facilitator" of the dialogue at Mohali. In fact, the moral of the entire Raymond Davis saga, from an Indian perspective, is that there are inherent limits to any "positive role" the U.S. can play in arm-twisting Pakistan. The Davis case reminded India that the best way to engage Pakistan would be on the bilateral track.

These are all encouraging signs but, more important, Dr. Singh would have estimated that these good things need to be shored up since India-Pakistan relationship has a curious history where its suspended animation turns out to be a dangerous stagnation and slide-back. The point is, an air of studious indifference may have lately been prevailing between the two capitals. But it is deceptive and is merely characteristic of any intense relationship that has nonetheless been and is deeply troubled.

Dr. Singh's main objective at Mohali would conceivably be three-fold. First, to underscore that India and he personally remain committed to building a relationship with Pakistan imbued with good neighbourliness. This reiteration was called for, given the eddies of domestic politics in India — and in Pakistan. Again, WikiLeaks cables from the American Embassy in Islamabad have shown that Dr. Singh commands much respect in Pakistan as a statesman who sincerely wishes for friendly relations. The paradox is that a steadily diminishing tribe of "hardliners" in both countries aside, the groundswell of popular opinion always favoured a predictable, normal relationship. Second, Dr. Singh would have factored in that only through a "hands-on" approach can India-Pakistan relationship be turned around. Modern history is replete with instances that show there is no alternative to top-level diplomacy if inter-state relationships that are hopelessly bogged down with past burdens are to be rescued. Ultimately, it needed Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev to sit by the fireside at Geneva. The then Secretary of State, George Shultz, wrote in his memoirs Turmoil & Triumph:

"Ronald Reagan greeted Mikhail Gorbachev at 10:00 a.m. with an engaging smile. Flashbulbs lit the landscape. The image was dramatic: the hatless, coatless seventy-four-year-old who had bounded out energetically in the bitter cold to greet the leader twenty years his junior. In the photos, Gorbachev — in topcoat and brown fedora — looked older than the president. President Reagan steered his guest into a side room for what was planned to be a meeting of about twenty minutes. Thirty went by, then forty. Jim Kuhn, the president's personal assistant and keeper of the schedule, approached me asking whether he should go in and give the president an opening to break up the meeting… The rest of us, Americans and Soviets, sat around the large table that had been set up in the villa's dining room, engaged in casual conversation, and stared through the high windows at the frozen scene outside… After about an hour and a quarter, the leaders emerged smiling."

"Ah," you might say, "Dr. Singh is not Reagan or Mr. Gilani a Gorbachev". Of course, they aren't, and no analogies hold good in politics and diplomacy. Nonetheless, great moments in diplomacy were born out of summitry — be it Turkey-Greece normalisation or the Good Friday Agreement on Northern Ireland. But summitries need to be businesslike. Mohali needs to be followed up with one in Lahore soon enough. If the Geneva summit was a "thaw" in the Cold War, no one quite understood it to be so at that point in time, and in Reykjavik 11 months later in October 1986, the talks seemed to collapse but then, a year and two months later in December 1987 in Washington, D.C. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev signed the historic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Seventeen years later on a Sunday Mr. Gorbachev said in Moscow as he took it "very hard" when he heard about the death of Reagan: "In terms of human qualities, he and I had, you would say, communicativeness and this helped us carry on normally… But when you talk about friendly relations in politics, it's not the friendship of schoolmates, of the Arbat. [Moscow's main street of promenades and relaxation.] I deem Ronald Reagan a great president, with whom the Soviet leadership was able to launch a very difficult but important dialogue… a statesman who, despite all disagreements that existed between our countries at the time, displayed foresight and determination to meet our proposals halfway and change our relations for the better."

"Meeting proposals halfway" with "foresight and determination" — that's the key phrase. One is tired of hearing there are "doables" in India-Pakistan relations. Of course, there are. I sat in the talks in the winter of 1992 in the cavernous Ministry of Defence conference room in South Block as part of the four-member Indian delegation negotiating Siachen. Honestly, my conviction is that the agreement we negotiated and would have been initialled and the press release we had drawn up and would have handed down to the media in a few minutes' time about that great moment under the flashbulbs in India-Pakistan relationship cannot be substantially improved upon. Yes, it is an eminently "doable" issue over a problem which many mistake it to be about the cost at which the Indian Army supplies chapatis to the jawans stationed in those horrible heights but is actually about healing a wound that India opened by altering the Line of Control by force — after which things were never the same again.

The Mohali summit should draw up a programmatic approach to bilateral relations, which in a near future Dr. Singh can carry forward during a long-overdue visit to Pakistan.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

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THE HINDU

OPED

U.S. CABLES SHOW GRAND CALCULATIONS UNDERLYING 2005 DEFENCE FRAMEWORK (PART - II)

FROM ARMS SALES TO INTEROPERABILITY, A GLIMPSE INTO THE POLITICS, ECONOMICS AND MILITARY ASPECTS OF A WORK IN PROGRESS.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN


In a secret cable on "Challenges and Opportunities in 2005" sent shortly after, Ambassador David C. Mulford noted how the largest-ever naval exercises held in 2004 had laid the groundwork for the unprecedented post-tsunami cooperation between the two militaries ( cable 26463 dated February 4, 2005: secret). He told Washington that the Indian Air Force had extended the deadline for the U.S. to submit a bid for the 126 MRCAs and advised the Pentagon to leverage the engagement that had gone on so far in to commercial gain: "This represents the best opportunity we have had in years to cap three years of successful exercises and other military engagement with a decision to seriously compete in India's annual $14 billion defense market...."

Strategic allies

A month later, a New Delhi Embassy cable sent under the name of Mr. Mulford provided Washington with the crucial insight that its military sales pitch would only work if it were connected to the wider economic and technology benefits the Indian side hoped to harvest. "At this juncture, it is critical that we devise a strategy to strengthen appreciation in the Indian bureaucracy of the economic benefits derived from a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S. Our strongest advocates will be the economists who are running the government, not the traditional military establishment" ( cable 29616 dated March 28, 2005: confidential).

The U.S. message had to be simple, he suggested: "That [it] is a reliable strategic partner for defense co-production, technology sharing, and joint research. Using military sales as the platform for cooperation will catalyze development of India's defense sector, spin off new industries, catalyze economic growth, and create jobs." In addition to breaking bureaucratic mindsets on both sides and involving the private sector, Mr. Mulford proposed the establishment of a 'Defense Production Cooperation Group' that would "lay the foundation for direct interaction among Indian and U.S. business leaders aimed at creating corporate structures as the basis for defense cooperation, beginning with a few discreet projects."

In stressing the need to emphasise co-production and technology sharing, Ambassador Mulford showed he understood India well. Three days later, Pranab Mukherjee, who was Defence Minister at the time, told him that "defense equipment sales while important, do not carry the same strategic significance as co-production/technology transfer and that this type of arrangement will establish a long-term sturdy relationship" ( cable 29834 dated March 31, 2005; confidential). The Ambassador agreed. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had just been to Delhi and announced the American desire to help India realise its goal of becoming a world power in the coming years. "Energy, military cooperation, space and defense sales were the key areas where the US seeks to assist India in assuming its place as a world power in the 21st century," Mr. Mulford told the second-ranking Minister in the Cabinet.

A U.S. Embassy cable sent a few days later as a "scenesetter" for PACOM commander William Fallon's visit to India tried to tie the various strands that had emerged so far on the Indo-U.S. defence front. Dr. Rice had told the Indians the U.S. government would authorise American aircraft like the F-16 and F-18 to take part in the MRCA bid. Her visit, the secret cable said, "has produced the most substantial agenda for US-India cooperation ever" ( cable 30136 dated April 5, 2005: secret). Noting that "military ties have developed into one of the most important and robust aspects of the US-India bilateral relationship and have often led the dramatic improvements in relations that we have witnessed since the end of the Cold War," the cable flags the need for the two countries to establish a new framework for defence engagement that could transcend the limitations of the 1995 Agreed Minute on defence cooperation and take the security relationship to a new level.

Apart from flagging the usual thrust areas — arms sales, exercises, cooperation in the Indian Ocean – the cable says "one key administrative goal we need to complete to further advance our defense cooperation programs is completing the ACSA which [U.S. Pacific Command] PACOM has been trying to get signed for close to three years... Recommend you stress with Mukherjee and other officials the importance of getting this signed."

Wary of 'political dynamite'

That the Pentagon had been pushing for an Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with India is well known but the Fallon cable also reveals that the Pentagon had, at some point, toyed with the idea of going a step further and seeking 'Cooperative Security Locations," or CSLs, in India. A CSL is a military facility located in a "host nation" with prepositioned U.S. equipment and little or no permanent U.S. presence that can be used at short notice for counter-terrorism, interdiction, and other American security tasks.

As far as the New Delhi Embassy was concerned, however, India was simply not ready to embrace such a proposal: "DoD is looking to extend its air transportation fleet reach to world regions that to a great extent were previously unconsidered. Indian airfields and ports hold tremendous potential for CSLs. However, we have not broached this idea with the GOI, nor do we think it can soon be deployed during this divided political climate in Delhi. We believe the ACSA with India has remained hung up within the Indian system because of concern that ACSA implies granting basing rights. We spend a great deal of energy disabusing them of this misconception. We are close to resolution on ACSA, but the idea of CSLs would be political dynamite here as the opposition parties and Left would exploit this against the ruling party. We still have a difficult time gaining approvals for PACAF TERPS to access airbases because of Indian security sensitivities" ( cable 30136 dated April 5, 2005: secret).

What was feasible, the Embassy believed, was Indian membership of the Proliferation Security Initiative, the U.S.-led counter-proliferation campaign to interdict ships on the high seas suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction or their components. India had already expressed interest in joining the PSI, provided it was made a part of the "core group" and the coalition's activities were consistent with international law. Getting India into the PSI would help bring it "into the global counter-proliferation community and [change] India's historic role as a regime outsider," the revealing cable noted, adding that Indian membership was a priority as far as military cooperation is concerned "since it has unique assets it can bring to bear in this region."

Countering the sceptics

In the run-up to Mr. Mukherjee's crucial visit to Washington in June 2005, American diplomats eager to assess the extent to which India might be willing to enter into a closer military embrace were unnerved by the generally sceptical tenor of Indian media coverage.

In a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca, MEA Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar, who is currently India's Ambassador to China, commented that since Dr. Rice's meetings in New Delhi on March 16, "the actual changes (in the bilateral relationship) are more profound than the optics of change" ( cable 31045 dated April 19, 2005: confidential). "He urged a greater focus on changing the 'Indian optics,' which he described as being ' more entrenched in skepticism' than in the US". In particular, Mr. Jaishankar described "defense correspondents as the most dubious of change in the Indo-US relationship" and suggested a top U.S. general speak to them during his forthcoming visit in order to "make in-roads into this constituency."

Shifting the burden

The American diplomats saw this as a ploy to shift the burden on to them, and suggested instead that the problem was scepticism within the Indian establishment. They expressed concern about "public comments from some GOI sources that reinforce doubts about US reliability that may negatively impact the IAF decision," recalling a recent meeting between the head of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta "where the HAL chief made harsh comments about US unreliability."

There was "scepticism in the system," Mr. Jaishankar acknowledged, but said doubts about the U.S. were aired only by an "articulate minority." The "silent majority" in government "is neutral or positive," he asserted. "He also pointed to 'conversions' such as Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash who had been doubtful about the US as a partner only a few months ago, but had ' turned around' as a result of his visit to the US in March."

'Once in a decade opportunity'

On the eve of the Defence Minister's visit to Washington, the U.S. Embassy sent a "scenesetter" cable to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. It wrote up Mr. Mukherjee, who was "in effect, the Deputy Prime Minister, and we believe he aspires to the top job. By demonstrating our understanding of his influence beyond the military realm, it may be easier to advance our defense-related objectives." Signing the "Framework for US-India Strategic Defense Relationship" was one deliverable it identified upfront.

The Minister's visit was taking place "at a time when the goal of establishing a key strategic relationship...with one of Asia's rising giants...is becoming reality," the cable noted, laying out specific objectives "we can advance during his visit...in light of Mr. Mukherjee's position as de facto deputy PM" ( cable 35111 dated June 21, 2005: secret). These included the "strategic" objective of getting India into the PSI as a full member and emphasising "the importance of a deeper defense relationship in the context of our broader strategic relationship with India, highlighting the opportunities presented by a larger FMS [military sales] relationship while addressing concerns about US reliability as an arms supplier [and] pressing for negotiation of an Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA)...."

Crucial, too, was the pursuit of a "breakthrough arms sale." The "pending obsolescence of much of India's Soviet-origin equipment," the New Delhi Embassy asserted, "will create once-in-a-decade opportunities for foreign suppliers" and if the U.S. could address Indian concerns about its reliability as a supplier, this would "lay the foundation for a breakthrough arms sale."

Such a sale was "key to deepening our mil-mil relationship and to developing the military interoperability that will help our strategic partnership realize its potential." But "despite the US lifting of sanctions in 2001," the cable lamented, "we have not yet achieved a breakthrough sale of a major platform."

Defence Framework

The new Defence Framework by the U.S. was signed on June 28, 2005, though in its final avatar, the word 'strategic' was removed from the title along with language from the draft text that the Indian side felt was too sweeping. As Ambassador Mulford had recommended, a Defence Production and Procurement Group (DPPG) was set up to address Indian concerns about the need for a link between arms sales and technology transfer. The two sides undertook to "work to conclude defence transactions, not solely as ends in and of themselves, but as a means to...reinforce our strategic partnership." Ambitious language was also used to envisage collaboration in "multinational operations," a concept elastic enough to include humanitarian operations like tsunami relief as well as more muscular actions like PSI-style interdictions.

'Don't even talk to us about SOFA'

Independent of the high expectations the agreement aroused within the U.S. defence and political establishment, the Indian side returned to Delhi with what they considered to be a singular achievement: " US acceptance of India's desire for co-production and technology transfer." The American priorities, of course, lay elsewhere – on effecting actual big-ticket sales and pushing the mil-mil agenda of interoperability. The U.S. Embassy took heart from the robust defence both Mr. Mukherjee and Prime Minister Singh mounted of the new framework agreement in Parliament in the face of criticism from their Left coalition partners. "PM and DEFMIN scoff at Leftist criticism of U.S. defense ties; we should, too," was the title of a triumphalist post-mortem cable ( 36415 dated July 12, 2005: confidential). Again, it was left to Indian officials to sound a word of caution. Mr. Jaishankar of the MEA warned the Charge D'Affaires that "the Left attack on Mukherjee had been more furious than expected, and cautioned us not to underestimate the challenge the UPA will face in accelerating defense ties."

The point was driven home less than a month later when U.S. officials tried to raise the possibility of India signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) granting protection and immunity to U.S. military personnel present in India for exercises and other mutually agreed activities. The MEA strongly discouraged them from doing so ( cable 38759 dated August 18, 2005: confidential).

Since 2005, the proposal to sign ACSA has been dropped in favour of the LSA. But India is not yet ready to commit to that agreement or the CISMOA or the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA), which the U.S. says are essential for any transfer of sensitive electronics and avionics. On all of these agreements, a senior Indian official told The Hindu, New Delhi has told Washington "Don't call us, we'll call you." Moreover, despite demonstrating a willingness to take part in "PSI-like actions," India refuses to join the Initiative, citing legal difficulties.

The MRCA tender is still being evaluated but what has moved ahead is arms sales. Through standalone FMS purchases of a landing dock ship and maritime reconnaissance heavy lift aircraft, India has already spent (or committed to spend) more than $10 billion on American hardware.

The End Use Monitoring (EUM) obstacle was also overcome in July 2009 with the initialing of agreed language on inspections and permissible use of U.S.-supplied equipment. Nevertheless, a secret "scenesetter" cable sent by the U.S. Embassy to Under Secretary for Defence Michelle Flournoy at the end of October 2009 — the most recent cable in the WikiLeaks archive to deal with defence matters in detail – paints a cautious picture of the state of play with India on the defence front.

Even if the U.S. was dissatisfied with the current level of interaction with India, it should take comfort from the fact that this was making a difference and that "our relationship with India is more robust than that of any other country India partners with," the scenesetter cable notes ( 232002: secret, October 29, 2009). The way forward lies in "nudging India to expand their commitments by signing the foundational agreements and by moving forward with military sales [which] will provide opportunities for a sustained relationship far more robust than exercises and exchanges. If we can continue our trend of major military sales, we will cement a relationship for the next several decades with the most stable country in South Asia."

Khaki good, khadi bad?

In an interesting twist, the Flournoy scenesetter and another 2009 Embassy cable addressed to Hillary Clinton blamed India's civilian leadership and bureaucracy for slowing down a relationship that the military brass was keen to accelerate: "India's bureaucracy remains stove piped and slow-moving, and in many instances populated by senior officials who came of age during the Cold War, steeped in the ' non-aligned' rhetoric of the 60s and 70s, and perhaps afraid to take forward leaning stances…While the Indian uniformed leadership of all three Services, and in particular the Indian Navy, appreciate their improving ties with the United States military, bureaucratic inertia and recalcitrant officials in the Ministries of External Affairs and Defense continue to complicate attempts to improve the partnership" ( 216716 dated July 15, 2009: secret/noforn).

As for politicians, the Flournoy cable was blunt: "All of the PACOM theater security cooperation objectives can be implemented only with the acquiescence of the civilian leadership which, at times, appears to be at odds with the services' mil-to-mil desires. Specific examples include Minister of Defense Antony's rejection of the multilateral Malabar exercises despite the Indian Navy's preference for them." It also complained about the 2008 decision by India to cancel the 'Morning Dew' military intelligence exchange agreement and the MEA's delay in authorizing the Indian military to take part in a joint US-Indian response to the 2008 disaster in Myanmar "until it became moot."

This secret cable sent under the name of Ambassador Timothy Roemer, noted that the "civilian leadership continues to defer on key foundational documents necessary to move the US-India mil-to-mil relationship closer." This, the ambassador noted, was "for fear that the political opposition would seize on it to further their often repeated claims that India is sub-serving its foreign policy to that of the US."

'Unreliable supplier'

Even if it chose to see a civilian versus military split in attitudes with the former painted as the bad guys, the New Delhi Embassy acknowledged that Washington's ability to seize opportunities in the military field was limited by the belief that the U.S. would not prove to be a reliable supplier. This was because, as rival suppliers had put out, it imposed sanctions in the past and had a close defence relationship with Pakistan. "Although, as our overall relationship improves, the GOI seems increasingly less concerned on this point, one source told us the Indian Army will never put US equipment in Divisions facing Pakistan because they expect the US will stop military supplies in the event of Indo-Pak hostilities."

This observation, which suggests residual suspicions even within the military, underlines the obstacles the U.S. knows it needs to surmount in order to realize its goal of a close defence relationship with India. As Washington looks to harvest major gains, Mr. Mulford's insight conveyed in his confidential cable ( 29616) of March 28, 2005 may well prove prophetic: "Our strongest advocates will be the economists who are running the government, not the traditional military establish ment."

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

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THE HINDU


THE PENTAGON'S $27 BILLION 'NEAR TERM' INDIAN WISH LIST

A U.S. Embassy cable titled 'Scenesetter For USD(P) Flournoy's Visit To India' sent on October 29, 2009 to the State Department under the name of Ambassador Tim Roemer presents a list of military equipment that the United States should try and sell India. Against each item, a dollar value is mentioned.

Near term sales opportunities include:

Indian Air Force

Sensor Fuzed Weapons (SFW) — LOA expected shortly for 510 SFW for the IAF. LOA had been on hold pending EUM resolution (FMS, 379M USD)*.

Harpoon Missiles — LOA for 20 air-launched Harpoons passed to the IAF who requested the paragraph containing EEUM requirements be contained in a classified annex similar to EUM text. DSCA has accommodated the change and we expect a revised LOA shortly (FMS, 74M USD).

C-130J — We expect the IAF to amend the existing FMS contract for C-130Js to add six additional aircraft in 2010 (FMS, 800M USD)*.

C-17-USAF/IA is actively working with the IAF to develop an LOR for 10 C-17s. We expect the LOA to be signed in 2010 (FMS, 4B USD)*.

F-125IN Jet Engines — Honeywell is offering the F125IN engine as an upgrade for the IAF Jaguars. This competition for 306 engines is expected to take place in 2010 (DCS, 4.3B USD).

GE-414 Engines — GE is offering to provide 148 engines for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Competition in 2010 (DCS, 800M USD)*.

Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft — The Boeing F-18IN and the Lockheed F-16IN are among the six competitors to produce 126 IAF fighter aircraft. Flight trials have begun and the IAF technical evaluation is due to MOD in the summer of 2010 (FMS, 10B USD).

Heavy Lift Helicopter — The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is competing to provide the IAF 15 helicopters (DCS, 1B USD).

Attack Helicopter — The Boeing AH-64 Apache is competing for a contract for 22 helicopters (DCS/FMS, 1B USD).

Indian Navy

Network Centric Operations Prototype — Raytheon was the low bidder for this system, but Israeli competitors have requested a review of Raytheon's bid. Although Raytheon was some 20M USD below the next lowest bid, Raytheon is concerned the Indian Navy will be forced to reissue the RFP (DCS, 29M

USD).

Multi-Role Helicopter — Sikorsky (S-70B) and Lockheed (MH-60R) are competing to provide 16 helicopters for the Indian Navy. The announcement of competitors moving forward to flight trials is expected momentarily (FMS, 1B USD).

Indian Army

M-777 Light Weight 155MM Howitzer — LOA in development for 145 M-777 155MM Howitzers (FMS, 900M USD).

Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missiles — The Indian Army is actively developing an LOR for 9,000 Javelin missiles. We demonstrated these missiles during exercise YUDH ABHYAS (FMS, 1.4B USD)*.

Patriot PAC3 — In 2008 the Indian Army sent the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) an RFP for a Medium Range Surface to Air Missile modeled on the Patriot. The USG did not respond and the Indian Army cancelled the RFP because they wanted the Patriot. Currently the ENDP process is ongoing for a classified briefing requested by the Indian Army. We believe an offer to sell Patriot would be well received by the Indian Army and taken as a sign that the US has made a political decision to offer India advanced military technology (FMS, 2B USD).

[NB: FMS stands for foreign military sales, a system of sale in which negotiations are handled directly between the US government and the purchasing country. Asterisked items have since been finalized or are actively in the process]

[ Extract from cable 232002: secret, sent by U.S. Embassy on October 29, 2009]

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

 

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THE HINDU

SPEAKING OF THE INDIA CABLES


THE scores of letters the office of the Readers' Editor and the "Letters" column of this newspaper have been receiving over the past ten days in appreciation of the flood of articles based on the "The India Cables," accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, stand testimony to the immeasurable confidence and goodwill this 132-year-old publication has been enjoying from its discerning, knowledgeable readers.

Readers may recall that the first instalment of classified United States documents related to the American military campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, was brought to the public domain by WikiLeaks in July 2010. Then, in November 2010, came ' Cablegate,' five major western newspapers dipping into a mind-boggling database of 251, 187 U.S. diplomatic cables estimated to aggregate 300 million words made available to them by WikiLeaks.

Major scoop

The latest development is The Hindu's major scoop in getting the 'India Cables,' 5,100 of them comprising six million words, accessed through an arrangement with WikiLeaks. Today is Day 14 in the series and already the impact of the revelations on public opinion, on Parliament, on the polity, and on the rest of the media has been immense. The India Cables cover a big range: India's relations with the U.S., with neighbours, with Russia, the European Union, East Asia, Israel, Palestine and Iran, besides Cuba and the United Nations. There is a lot of material on domestic affairs, nuclear energy, defence, intelligence sharing, the economic sectors, and so on.

The well-structured and contextualised stories, with meticulous references to the numbered cables, have been published in print and online, with beautiful supporting cartoons and illustrations. The cables themselves have been published online. The stories and cables have been followed very widely, in India and abroad. On the day of the launch of the India Cables series, the Editor-in-Chief wrote a perspective piece titled "Fascinating insights." It introduced the India Cables, their range and significance, and gave readers an idea of how the newspaper engaged with WikiLeaks to get its hands on the cables through a congenial arrangement that "involves no financial transaction and no financial obligations on either side."

The most noteworthy and encouraging part of 'Indiagate' is the way readers and the general public have welcomed and indeed taken to the revelations in this mass of diplomatic communication conducted over many years.

The Hindu's Page 1 lead story on the opening day, March 15, 2011, was headlined: "PM isolated on Pakistan." It was interesting news for Ambassador Timothy Roemer who got it in the course of a meeting he had with National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan. Mr. Roemer also learnt more about Mr. Narayanan and the others he met.

A couple of articles highlighted the differences between India and the U.S. over sharing information related to the Mumbai terror attacks with Pakistan. There have been revealing articles about Indo-Nepal, India-Sri Lanka, and India-Myanmar relations. Another story showed how the Manmohan Singh minority government bowed to U.S. pressure to vote against Iran in September 2005, despite resistance from some Indian officials. Another instance of the United Progressive Alliance regime succumbing to external pressure was a 2006 Cabinet reshuffle in which "contentious and outspoken Iran pipeline advocate" Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar was replaced by Murli Deora, perceived by the U.S. Embassy to be pro-U.S. and close to a big business house.

Confidence vote issue

A front page article, "Cash for votes a way of political life in South India," drawn from a remarkably detailed report of the practice in a Chennai Consulate cable, caught the attention of politically aware readers during election season. But it was the story, "Satish Sharma aide showed U.S. Embassy employee cash to be used as 'pay-offs' in [July 2008] confidence vote," ( The Hindu, March 17, 2011) that fired the political imagination, rocked Parliament, and set the public agenda for the next several days.

The India Cables series goes on, with the latest stories and cables revealing the "double talk" of the BJP in respect of its stand on external policy and Indo-U.S. relations in particular, and also featuring an admission by one of the party's prominent leaders that the BJP's advocacy of Hindu nationalism was "opportunistic." There have also been interesting cables and stories on perceptions of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and a host of India's political leaders.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat has published a hard-hitting analysis of what the series based on the India Cables, accessed by TheHindu through WikiLeaks, signifies. In his view, "the expose laid bare the nature of India-U.S. relationship during the UPA and NDA regimes and revealed a disturbing picture."

As Readers' Editor, I have no access to the India Cables; like the hundreds of thousands of the newspaper's politically aware readers, I too read the stories only when they appear in print. Interestingly so far, nothing connected with this series has had to figure in the daily 'Corrections & Clarifications' column. My impression is that the India Cables stock with The Hindu is far from exhausted and there is plenty more to come.

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

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THE HINDU

OUR ASSESSMENT NOW IS THAT WE'LL WIN: KARAT

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat speaks on his party's prospects in the coming elections, and on the WikiLeaks revelations. These are excerpts from an interview with Karan Thapar telecast over CNN-IBN on March 27.

How does the Left view its prospects in the coming elections? There's a widespread expectation that the Left will lose in West Bengal and Kerala

No, I think these expectations will be belied. In the case of West Bengal we've seen this in the last two elections, in 2001 and 2006, also. They said we're facing a very difficult fight, and we proved that we could win quite comfortably.

In [West Bengal] in 2010 you lost the provincial polls; in 2009 you lost the national polls as well as State byelections; in 2008 you lost the panchayat elections. Isn't there a clear trend against you?

No. In the Lok Sabha and municipal elections we lost ground. We've taken note of that, and in the last one year we've made efforts to recover the ground.

The ground you've to make up is huge.

We've made up ground, and the response we're getting in the last few months in particular show that we've recovered ground quite a lot compared to the situation in 2009… Our assessment now is that we will win. We know there's a very strong combination against us. There's an anti-Left combination which stretches from the right to the extreme left. But we're confident. At the party level, at the government level, we've taken steps. We've reached out to these people, we've forged links again with people who may have turned away.

So you're going to win in Bengal?

Whatever reverses we suffered, we've learnt the lessons... Our Chief Minister has said we've learnt from those mistakes, and we're confident the people will support us.

In Kerala, for over 40 years since 1970 at each election a new government has been formed. Are you going to buck the trend?

I think this is overrated, this five-year cyclical change. There have been instances [where] elections have been won by the same party again.

Your party is torn between Pinarayi Vijayan and Achuthanandan.

This is what they said in 2006, [that] our party is riven by factionalism. And we won the highest number of seats ever...

Look at the flip-flop over Achuthanandan's candidature.

Our party held consultations at all levels before finalising the candidates… The final list was announced on March 18. There was no change.

The State Committee announced that Achuthanandan would not be a candidate.

We expected that in the media it would come in this way. That's why the final list was not finalised till the State Committee sent it down for opinion… to the party committees, and then they finalised it.

So you're going to win in Kerala?

We're hopeful, we're expecting a good result in Kerala too.

Let's come to WikiLeaks, about allegations that MPs were bought in 2008. Do you believe Congress MPs would boast to unknown, unnamed junior employees of the American Embassy, that they had not only bribed four RLD MPs but that they had a stash of Rs. 50 crores to bribe more?

First of all, I think it should be clear that these are cables sent by the U.S. Embassy in India to the State Department, and they're reporting something which is confidential. It was not meant to be made public. So I don't see any reason why U.S. Embassy officials should fabricate something which is not there. Secondly, we don't see this as the first proof available of such bribery or votes-for-cash having happened… On the day before the vote of confidence, the days preceding that, every party got reports of MPs being approached by ruling party persons offering money, or other forms of intimidation, etc… We all held press conferences saying this is what is happening.

Are you prepared to believe the word of an unnamed employee of the Embassy over the word of the Prime Minister?

We believe this is additional confirmation of what we already know, and the case is not only of three MPs inside the Parliament producing cash. There were innumerable instances of money being offered to MPs, and I can give you a whole list of them because we compiled them at that time… And this was done by the Congress leadership and I don't see how the Prime Minister was ignorant of this.

American Ambassador David Mulford says he believes the Cabinet reshuffle in 2006 where Mani Shankar Aiyar was replaced by Murli Deora as Petroleum Minister was done to enhance Indo-U.S. relations. Your party was supporting the government. Is this true?

It's 100 per cent true, and that same cable says the Left is going to be infuriated by this reshuffle.

If you were aware at that time, why didn't you protest… in public?

We're protesting all the time. Why should we protest in public? We conveyed our displeasure to the Prime Minister on the Iran policy, on the IAEA vote, we cannot interfere in the Cabinet-making but we made public responses… On policy matters we went on record from July 2005 when the Prime Minister went to Washington. On every issue which concerned policy. But individual Cabinet [issues] we don't comment [on] publicly because we are not in the government...

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

TO STOP THE ROT, WE NEED BASIC CHANGES

The V.K. Shungulu Committee, which has been looking into malfeasance in various Commonwealth Games contracts, has submitted three reports to the government so far, and is working overtime to submit its final report. Headed by a former comptroller and auditor-general, the committee made several very perceptive and far-reaching recommendations with regard to the Delhi Development Authority, and the findings of one of its reports have also been handed over to the CBI. But even if action is taken against those responsible for specific wrongdoings in this instance, one wonders how far the government is willing to go to implement its wider recommendations. The panel has, for instance, suggested a system that would make such malfeasance in the award of contracts — by the DDA or any other public body in India — extremely difficult to repeat. But the problem is that committees like Mr Shunglu's lack statutory powers and, however admirable its work might be, if the government chooses to sit on its recommendations or implement them selectively, there is nothing really it can do. Hence the public scepticism about such committees — not just on inquiries into scams, corruption or financial bungling, but also matters ranging from terrorism and security, to communal riots. The reports of umpteen judicial commissions suffer from the same infirmity: the action that should follow cannot be taken for granted, and depends largely on the wishes of the government of the day. Not very long ago we had top police officials examine the response of the force during the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. The two-member panel made far-reaching recommendations; its report has not been made public. One does not know if any of its recommendations have been implemented.

It has been seen that only when an inquiry or investigation is being actively monitored by a court that there is any assurance of a logical conclusion to what the police or the CBI is pursuing; that at least some of the guilty will be brought to book. It has been pointed out by some people familiar with the way investigations are conducted that the appointment of probe committees in a matter already being looked into, say, by the CBI could cause immense confusion if the findings of the two are different. This happened in the case of the Godhra incident, where the special court came to one conclusion while the committee set up by the railways reached a different one.

One way out could be to develop a strong Lok Pal institution — something that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has long advocated. Civil society groups would do well to intensively lobby for this across the country with all major players in public life much in the way they did to bring about our landmark Right to Information Act. The Lok Pal should be an independent institution — working separately from the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the government. Another suggestion is to borrow an American model — and create an ombudsman for each department of the government, which would have statutory powers and operate like an inspectorate-general for the department under its charge, reporting directly to the President or Parliament. We do have vigilance officials even now, but they operate under the executive heads of their departments, which make them totally ineffective when it is the people at the top that need investigation. Till some basic systemic changes are brought about in the way we run the affairs of this country, we will have to wait and see what action the government is willing to take on the Shungulu Committee's recommendations.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

CHARITABLE THOUGHTS

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

The Indian media has been recently awash with reports regarding the visits of Warren Buffett, and Bill and Melinda Gates and their campaign for The Giving Pledge. As the whole world knows, this is a campaign to persuade the richest people in the world to pledge half their profits to charity and to make the world a better place to live for millions of disadvantaged people. A noble cause, no doubt, and a very praiseworthy effort indeed. Yet, by and large, the visit of Mr Buffett and Mr and Mrs Gates has not left a great impact on the hearts and minds of the Indian people (and, of course, the Indian billionaires). This is not because charity is not popular in India. Far from it. The Indian society has always wholeheartedly believed in the concept of charity — be it business corporations, feudal families or individual homes, our people have never been reluctant to give to the less privileged. In any home in India, which is even reasonably wealthy, it is an article of faith that those who work as domestic staff are taken care of, their families looked after, their children educated, and all aspects of their life provided for. Those who are not so wealthy as to have retainers, have proved to be amazingly generous with their time, money and effort to help their fellow citizens in times of need. Whether it was the tsunami that hit Chennai, or the earthquake in Latur, Indians from all over the world contributed to help the victims. I found ordinary housewives in Chennai cooking food in their homes and then going out to feed a few victims when the ravage of the tsunami was at its worst.

Many well-known and established names in the corporate sector have contributed in larger ways — building schools, hospitals and entire townships, not just for their employees but for all people living in the region. In Coimbatore, when one drives down the main road, one notices that almost every building is either a school, a college, or a hospital, run for the disadvantaged sections of society by large companies in the area — strictly as charity or on a non-profit basis. India is, therefore, no stranger to the joys of giving. The question, hence, is, how relevant is Mr Buffett's campaign in the Indian context.

My own reactions are mixed. I had occasion to meet Mr Buffett, and I mentioned this to him, and he was quick to concede that it was never his belief that one size or model could fit all. In other words, we in India have our own model and that need not necessarily be the model of The Giving Pledge. The essence of my concern was that, on a very personal level, I like to see where my contribution to "charity" (for want of a better word) goes. I would be far more happy to see the recipients of my contribution, whether orphans in a local school or children in need, than to donate my money to a large charitable institution and then worry about how much of my contribution would actually reach the intended beneficiary and how much would be eaten up by the administrative costs of that charity. In short, rather than arms length philanthropy, I like to see where my contribution goes, and assume responsibility for it.

Obviously, large corporations are not the same as individuals, and this brings us to the ongoing discussion on corporate social responsibility (CSR) or how large companies can give back to society. Under discussion at present is the possibility of legislation which will mandate that companies give two per cent of their profits towards CSR, a proposal that is naturally viewed with extreme disfavour by the corporate world who say (rightly) that this will become yet another tax.

Well, why not? Some believe that The Giving Pledge, proposed by Mr Buffett and others, is no more than tax write offs, a harsh criticism to which I certainly do not subscribe. However, the issue remains that at the end of the day, notwithstanding all the concomitant drawbacks of delivery systems, the state or the government is the best possible agency to provide for the welfare of disadvantaged sections of society and to decide where and how those funds are to be utilised. Private corporations who pledge money to their own foundations, howsoever well intentioned, can never be as non-partisan or as effective as the government in implementing welfare schemes.

The argument that while giving charity it is the right of the individual or the company to decide where that money should go is indisputable and inviolable. However, the fact is that if the choice is between high net worth individuals and companies paying slightly larger taxes to fund government welfare schemes, and setting up their own private charity institutions, there can be no denying that slightly higher taxes, with the government supervising delivery of welfare schemes, would be far more effective than private charitable institutions.
Peter Kramer, a Hamburg-based shipping magnate and billionaire, has the following to say about The Giving Pledge: "I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write off donations in your taxes to a large degree in the US. So the rich make a choice. Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state and that is unacceptable. It is just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires, so it is not the state that decides where the money should go, but rather the rich… That runs counter to the democratically-elected state". Very strong words, but thought-provoking, particularly when one reflects that The Giving Pledge has mostly been signed by billionaires (including Mr Buffett and Mr Gates) who had already pledged or given their money away to their charitable foundations before signing the pledge. In other words, the money had already been committed, it was not an increase in charity.

In the ultimate analysis, the concept of giving and sharing is at the foundation of our social fabric and, as a society, it is our duty to encourage every genuine initiative that takes the idea forward and strengthens it.

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.

The views expressed in this column are her own.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

FUMES OF FUKUSHIMA

T.P. SREENIVASAN

The fiery fumes of Fukushima have not reached our shores, but they have entered our souls.
Indeed, a soul searching is imperative even by those who have so far believed that nuclear energy is the panacea for power shortage and underdevelopment.

Those who have watched the helplessness of humanity, even its most scientifically advanced and disciplined part, will be devastated by the human suffering and the looming danger. Those who fight the fire in Japan, braving the deadly fumes, have been characterised as a suicide squad.

Is humanity itself turning into a suicide squad, with the increased risks that nuclear reactors have engendered?
The world has not been unaware of these risks, demonstrated at Chernobyl and Three Miles Island, but hope has prevailed over experience. The new awareness of global warming, resulting from the use of fossil fuels, has contributed to a virtual nuclear renaissance.

Fukushima's wake-up call has come at a crucial time. For India, the situation is particularly critical as it is on the threshold of a resurgence in nuclear power generation.

We cannot but rethink India's half-a-century old decision to develop its energy mix with nuclear power as an essential component.

In today's conditions, India simply cannot afford to shut down its nuclear reactors or freeze our nuclear power development, which was energised by the nuclear deal. The thought that five hundred million people of India still have no access to electricity is frightening.

Equally worrying is the prospect of having to abandon the new opportunity we have of obtaining fuel and equipment on account of the end of nuclear apartheid against India.

India's minimum nuclear deterrent also needs to be preserved as long as nuclear weapons are part of the security doctrine of any country, friend or foe. We have to live with the dangers and risks for the sake of security on the one hand and development on the other.

As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, we are committed to their elimination at least in the distant future.
In 1988, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave the world an action plan for nuclear disarmament, which outlined a plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons by 2010. The world largely ignored it then, but rediscovered it recently, not to embrace it unconditionally, but as one noble thought which should prepare the world for the long and arduous journey up the high mountain of disarmament and non-proliferation, from the summit of which one can see a world free of nuclear weapons.

India's dream once again became a part of the search for the Global Zero. After all, India gave the zero to the world and it may well lead it to Global Zero. Likewise, India should now give the world an "action plan for denuclearisation of energy" within a 20-year framework. We should, of course, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, look at every nuclear reactor from the safety angle and take all the corrective measures necessary. We should also pull out the dusty files which have reports of past accidents and make them public for the whole world to see.

Suspicions of sabotage by insiders should be thoroughly investigated. These are essential steps even to maintain nuclear power generation for 20 years.

Our action plan should seek to get the entire world to commit itself to denuclearisation of energy. Like in the disarmament plan, realistic steps must be indicated at every stage of the plan, without disrupting life in countries which are already dependent on nuclear energy.

It should not create impediments to essential nuclear research for disease prevention and control, food safety and security, natural resource management etc, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should continue to pursue.

Accompanying the plan will be a massive programme for developing renewable energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.

The ideal place for India to present the action plan is the United Nations General Assembly, which, in turn, can ask the IAEA to examine the plan, together with other proposals, to adopt a universally acceptable convention.
Such a measure will deprive the IAEA of part of its empire as it has been envisaging a nuclear renaissance by 2020. Several countries are waiting in line for designing and installing power projects and the only constraint is the lack of financial and technical resources.

But Fukushima may have already had an impact on the aspirants and the line may have shrunk in the last one week.

The action plan has a chance of succeeding if it is put forward before the fires of Fukushima die down and the nuclear lobbies bounce back into action.

Apart from the traditional nuclear sceptics like Austria, there will be new takers for the idea like Germany, which has decided to take a measured exit from nuclear power and reach the age of renewable energy as soon as possible. Switzerland also has taken similar measures. The vast majority of nations in the world, which has no nuclear programme for generation of electricity, will embrace the plan.

No doubt, a section of opinion makers in India will be reluctant to support such an initiative. The practicality of the idea will be called into question.

But Rajiv Gandhi had no hesitation in presenting the action plan for disarmament at a time when the world was not ready for it. Likewise, this is a historic opportunity for Dr Manmohan Singh to present a plan to save future generations of mankind from catastrophe.

T.P. Sreenivasan is a former ambassador of India and governor in the IAEA

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DNA

WHO CARES FOR THE STATE BUDGET?

DEEPAK LOKHANDE

 

Not many care to look at the state budget these days. After all, it doesn't affect our lives so much, that's what we think. I will write about that some other day. Let's talk about this year's budget. Did you get to see the live television coverage? Finance minister Ajit Pawar tried to raise his already high-pitched voice, but his effort was drowned out by shouting Opposition members who were upset that the state government was sidelining them in the appointment of committee heads.

 

Nine MLAs have been suspended for disruption and the opposition has decided to boycott the proceedings till the suspension of their legislators is revoked. So this means that when they have an opportunity to make their presence felt in the legislature by raising people's issues, they disrupt the house. And when they are suspended, they want to allowed back in. Why? So, that they could disrupt the house yet again?

 

In November 2009, I did a story with help from my colleague Aneesh Phadnis on how theMaharashtra legislature had witnessed 27 incidents where MLAs were suspended for unruly behaviour. I had found that while in the initial years, MLAs were most vociferous on people's issues, the agitations turned uglier and over trivial issues post-1990.

 

Interestingly, this also coincided with the Shiv Sena's increased presence in the legislature. Touchy-feely Sainiks could go on a rampage inside the sanctum sanctorum of democracy as if they were forcing a bandh on streets. The house witnessed its worst violence in 2000 when Chhagan Bhujbal tried to arrest Bal Thackeray. In unprecedented mayhem, property worth Rs2 crore was destroyed. As many as 11 members were suspended, only to be reinstated after a few months.

 

Compare this to 1964, when pro-Vidarbha leader Jambuvantrao Dhote was banned for life for breaking one microphone! Or senior-most member of the house Ganpatrao Deshmukh was suspended for merely shouting slogans against rising prices and non-availability of essential commodities. The people who sat on the Speaker's chair then were made of steel and wouldn't even allow the unfurling of a banner as Bhujbal found out in the 1980s. As action against the erring MLAs softened, they became prima donnas. This time, they didn't allow the smooth tabling of the budget. We can't predict what they will next. And mind you, all this is in your name — the public interest.

 

Tail piece: In my last column, I had praised Thane doctor Mahesh Gosavi for filing a case against Chandrakant Dhawale, daughter of then CM Shivajirao Nilangekar-Patil, after he failed in his MD exams while she was declared passed (in January 1986).

 

Since then, I have been informed that it was my former boss, Abhay Mokashi, who was then a reporter on the Indian Express, who had exposed the examination scam. Gosavi had filed his petition after the story was out in the press. The credit thus belongs to Abhay Mokashi.

 

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DNA

WHAT'S THE LINK BETWEEN AIDES AND AEDES?

PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

 

While the nation awaits the next round of spellbinding exchanges between our Urdu couplet-loving prime minister Manmohan Singh and opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, we must not forget the pivotal character in the drama - the political aide. Without this modern-day action hero, there would be no spectacle, no TV-worthy scam nor thunder accompanying the WikiLeaks storm in India.

 

In Delhi's corridors of power, such aides are feted when their bosses are in favour, and run the risk of being named and shamed the moment the bosses fall from grace. Sadly, in their hour of crisis, few aides get the chance to recite from Allama Iqbal or Mirza Ghalib.

 

But political aides are a hardy species. Men of mettle like Nachiketa Kapur and Sanjeev Saxena don't just wine and dine, preen and pose, and bask in the reflected glory of their masters. It is they who allegedly do the hard work of transporting wads of cash from point to point. Nor are they easily daunted. In the life of the aide, what counts is staying power and the ability to adapt to the stint in the doghouse.

 

Eradicating such aides from Delhi's political landscape is as hard as eradicating aedes, the infamous mosquito, which causes dengue. Like the city's political aides, Delhi's aedes mosquitoes are fond of stinging in high places, and grab headlines every other year by strategically heralding their arrival at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country's premier public sector hospital.

 

Last week, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi confirmed this season's first case of dengue in the city after a post-graduate student at AIIMS who was living in the campus, tested positive.

 

The incident spurred VK Monga, chairman of the corporation's public health committee, to acerbically observe that almost every year, the first and the last positive case of dengue fever are reported from the AIIMS campus. Once again, he called for cleanliness in and around the hostels where junior doctors and medical students live.

 

This is not the first time that AIIMS finds itself in the list of favourite breeding grounds of dengue-causing aedes mosquitoes. In 2010, the 25-year-old son of an AIIMS staffer died of dengue. In 2006, the AIIMS campus reeled from it. Many students left their hostels after one of them died of the disease. Each time, following such incidents, there is a flurry of activity. But typically, it is a short-lived phase. The following year, the institute again hits the headlines with a dengue story.

 

Dengue mosquitoes bite during the daylight hours. They like clean, stagnant water. Their favoured breeding places are barrels, drums, jars, pots, buckets, flower vases, overhead tanks, discarded bottles, tins, tyres, water coolers, and every other place where water can collect. All this is drummed into every school child and adult every time there is a dengue outbreak in the city.

 

Why then is an institution with world-class doctors and where, incidentally, prime minister Singh had his coronary bypass surgery in 2009, unable to heed this simple message? Is it so difficult to keep water coolers and residential quarters of doctors on the campus clean?

 

By now, AIIMS and dengue have become twinned in the public imagination. But it is not fair to pick on one institution. Diseases like dengue stalk Delhi's affluent colonies and glitzy Gurgaon as well. Inside marble-tiled homes, there is much sweeping and swabbing. But clean water stagnates in overhead tanks and flower vases and in trays kept below air conditioners.The dengue-causing aedes mosquito could not have asked for more.

 

What's the connection between aides and aedes? Neither feels threatened by lofty statements about clean surroundings. Neither is deterred by committees and contingency plans or the personal cleanliness of a few people. The aide knows that as long as the political environment remains muddy, his or her career prospects are bright - there will always be a need for dirty tricks.

 

Delhi's clever aedes mosquitoes have drawn the same lessons as their political cousins. AIIMS may have the most capable doctors but if the support staff of the institute is not able to do the simple things that need to be done to maintain hygiene in the campus hostels, its residents are not safe. There is a moral lurking somewhere in this connection. We need a new Urdu couplet for it.

 

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DNA

NATURE'S TIMELY WARNING

CHANDRIKA

 

As one sees heart-numbing scenes of the tsunami that rocked Japan and sent the world scurrying for safety, one thing is clear - nature's fury is relentless not senseless, ruthless, not mindless. For it only returns what it receives. Exploited and abused it will squash continents under its gigantic foot. It is a lesson Lord Krishna taught his people, 5,000 years ago…

 

One day, Krishna sees that the entire village at his door. It is time for the festival of Lord Indra. Krishna interrupts, "Should we continue an ancient practice, or do what is right?" Amid the confusion Krishna explains, "What is our means of livelihood? The cows! "And what do we feed our cows?" "Grass of course!" "And where does that grass grow?" "On Mount Govardhan." "Should we not then worship Mount Govardhan? And with it the rivers, the cows and the trees as well?" Then, in lyrical beauty, Krishna, speaks of the significance of trees.

 

"No one returns disappointed from a tree — Its leaves are a canopy of shade for the weary, it provides food for the hungry.Wood, bark, flower, fruit, ash, gum, coal, root — It gives in complete generosity. No one returns empty from a tree.Of all events on earth, the most auspicious, certainly, is the birth of a tree!"— The Bhagavad Purana

 

And so the people are convinced. They pay obeisance to the mountain that has served them silently, these many years. The result is a devastating storm sent by Lord Indra in vengeance, carrying in its wake, people, cattle, homes - snuffing out life, everywhere. In utter helplessness, the people appeal to him. Krishna emerges, walking blithely over the roaring waters. He reaches the foot of the Govardhan and before their stunned eyes he holds the mighty mountain aloft on his little finger. Under its protective canopy, his people are sheltered, by Krishna's grace, but also by a respect for the awesome design of nature, wherein all things, great, small and seemingly insignificant have their unique and irreplaceable place. It is a lesson we sorely need today. Is anyone listening?

 

Source: Krishna, A Joyful Celebration of the Divine, released on March 27th

 

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DNA

IT'S BETTER TO BOW THAN TO BREAK

SHUBHANGI KHAPRE

 

Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar appears to have become a headache not only for the opposition but also the ruling combine. Cutting across party lines, politicians have joined hands against him.

 

His decision not to accommodate opposition members in the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, coupled with greater allocation of funds to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) members, led to an ugly confrontation in the budget session. What aggravated the situation was his insistence to suspend five MLAs from the Sena and four from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the entire year. Such developments in the past week have resulted in a covert realignment of political forces against Pawar.

 

The opposition has already labelled him a "thagya (rogue)". Moreover, senior leaders within the ruling alliance, too, have grievances about Pawar's way of functioning. There are 53 of the total 63 NCP MLAs steadfastly behind Pawar, but several senior leaders complain about him privately. They support his decision to suspend MLAs for disrupting the budget speech but also hold him responsible for the acrimony.

 

What nobody wants to discuss, though, is why the coordination system within the ruling alliance has broken down. Going further, a section of senior NCP leaders groomed by party president Sharad Pawar cannot see eye to eye with Pawar junior. The crux of the problem lies in the deep-rooted power tussle within the NCP and Pawar's inability to compromise.

 

NCP political managers maintain that Dada doesn't listen to anybody. Home minister RR Patil and public works department minister Chhagan Bhujbal warned him against opposition backlash, but he did not pay any heed. Senior leaders in the government used to work towards building bridges with the opposition, but this was not seen in this session.

 

Cabinet ministers, most importantly the chief minister and his deputy, need to open channels to exchange pleasantries with the opposition to create a working atmosphere. Political emissaries need to exploit their personal equations with opposition leaders to ensure smooth functioning of the assembly.

 

But right from the beginning of the session, it was apparent that a section within the Congress was waiting to see chief minister Prithviraj Chavan bat on a slippery wicket. Similarly, there were some wolves in sheep' clothing in the NCP, waiting for Pawar to land himself in trouble. Led by his ego, Pawar walked into the opposition's trap.

 

Not withstanding the beating he has taken in his first budget presentation, one hopes he will display better sense in the coming days. After all, in politics, it is better to bow down a little to avoid a total breakdown of the democratic system.

 

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DNA

NEW LEASE OF LIFE FOR TOTTERING INSTITUTION

MANOJ R NAIR

 

Last month, DNA reported that the Maharashtra State Urdu Academy has not distributed its annual literature awards for seven years. An award function scheduled in the last week of February had to be cancelled because an apathetic government did not approve the award list given to them more than a year ago.

 

The award ceremony finally took place on March 14. After giving away 114 awards, including five major prizes, the academy has cleared the backlog till 2009. A function has been planned later this year to distribute honours for the remaining awards.

 

The academy was set up in the 1970s by the then chief minister Shankarrao Chavan and, apart from giving away literature awards, the institution supports study and research of the language. Many of these activities came to a standstill during the last few years as the institution lost staff and government funding shrank. Once, the academy had distinguished members, such as Ali Sardar Jafri, Krishen Chander, Ismat Chugtai, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Sethu Madhavrao Pagdi.

 

Its managing board, as former members complain, is now filled with appointees of political parties.

 

According to Urdu lovers, the decline of the institution began when political parties appointed their workers to the academy's board. This happened after the academy was transferred from the cultural ministry to the minority affairs department. "This is like saying that Urdu is the language of one religious community. Ever since the academy was transferred to the minority affairs department, it has done little work," said journalist Sajid Rashid and a former member of the academy.

 

According to Dr Abdul Sattar Dalvi, director of Anjuman-i-Islam's Urdu Research Institute and former chairperson of the academy, Urdu is the language of composite Indian culture. "Like other Indian languages, it has Sanskrit roots. It is wrong to brand it as the language of one particular group. Language is culture and the right place for the academy is in the culture department," said Dalvi.

 

With the award function finally taking place, there are hopes that the academy will get a fresh lease of life. The academy has asked the government for space at Mumbai university's Kalina campus to set up a 'Urdu Ghar'. This year, the academy plans to hold a competition for Urdu plays in Mumbai and Solapur, a hub for Urdu theatre with its numerous drama groups.

 

New budget grants will be used to restock the academy's library with Urdu magazines. There are also talks that the politician-dominated board will be dissolved and a new 21-member managing committee will take over the academy's functioning.

 

All this looks like a revival for a tottering institution that was beset with resignations and allegations of political interference just some months back. Dr Qasam Imam, member-secretary of the academy has been threatening to leave for some time. Imam, head of Urdu department at Burhani College said he will stay back only if the existing board is dissolved.

 

"The current board is filled with political appointees who do not know the language. We are constantly harassed by the bureaucrats. We want a new autonomous board with professors and writers," said Imam.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

OF DISCRIMINATION AND WALKOUTS

 

Uproars, sit down strikes, pandemonium and walk outs have become an everyday scene in the legislative organs of the country be it the parliament or state legislative assemblies. Peoples' representatives are gradually adopting street politics tactics inside the assemblies to bring home their point of interests. Is it unavoidable for our legislators to run the affairs of the state by creating mutual mistrust and by trading accusations and counter accusations? There are occasions and instances when our parliament turns into a fish market and MPs clash and even come to blows inside the parliament leaving the speaker puzzled and amused what he or she should do.
The state assembly, too, has accepted inspiration from the parliament and is going along same lines. Assembly is a place of decent debate carried out with full and conscientious responsibility and in the interests of the people of the state. These debates are not meant to score personal victories or float vendettas. More often than not, speeches delivered in the assembly on important issues are exemplary in terms of wisdom, eloquence and style; Great speeches inspire great hopes and confidence and raise nation's stature in the eyes of the people and the world at large. But alas apart from demonstrating mean mentality and scurvy mindset, many of our legislators shamefully betray communal, narrow-minded and parochial tendencies that deepen the social divide. What kind of democratic culture is emerging from the law making organ of the state is the question everybody asks. The opposition is reported to have created a scene and walked out of the house charging the government of diverting funds to Jammu region while these were initially meant for Kashmir. The issue of diversion of funds from one region to another is a long standing complaint of Jammu. The complaint has been going on from year to year and from regime to regime. But no government ever tried to address the issue with all seriousness and find a permanent solution to the complaint. Many a time, Jammu region legislators have raised slogans in assemblies and staged walkouts demanding redress of their grievance of discrimination. It is a fact that the three regions of the state present a heterogeneous picture in terms of geography, topography, language, culture and life style. Obviously their needs, too, vary in many ways. Accepting that allocation of funds is made on the basis of a rational formula keeping in mind the requirements and capabilities of all the three regions, yet the complaint of Jammu region has been persisting from year to year. At a number of times, Jammu legislators sitting on opposition benches have produced documentary and factual evidence as well. There must be a reason why successive governments did not agree to introduce a mechanism in consultation with Jammu and Ladakh legislators that would regulate proper allotment and utilization of funds to all the three regions. Unless the government has to hide something from the people, there seems no reason to let the issue hang fire all these decades of recent history. If the PDP wants clarification in the case of diversion to Jammu of thirty crores of rupees provided by the CRF for Kashmir, it has a case to pursue. But then let all complaints of discrimination against Jammu be investigated into and disposed off properly. Who knows how many skeletons will tumble out of the cupboard. The fact of the matter is that the accusation of diversion of funds and discrimination against Kashmir should have been responded to by Jammu legislators. It is they who are equipped with authentic information on the subject. But why did not Jammu legislators now partners in power-sharing respond to the oppositions accusations? The answer is simple. Either they are incapable of understanding the niceties of the issue or they are party to the policy of discrimination. We would like to tell the legislators frankly that sitting on dharna or walking out of the assembly hall are all gimmicks and will not carry us anywhere. They must impress upon the government to initiate a mechanism in the state which will monitor proper allocation of plan funds and their utilization.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CRICKET DIPLOMACY

 

Cricket is the legacy of colonial rule to the sub-continent. Now its phenomenal popularity has helped decolonized countries evolve a friendship of sorts notwithstanding what the pattern of foreign policy of respective member countries is. At the same time, cricket has the potential of promoting good relations among member countries particularly if they have been at loggerheads for one or the other reason. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has invited Pakistan President and Prime Minister to come to India for watching the Indo-Pak semi final in Mohali. This is a grand goodwill gesture and has been received with appreciation. Commentators consider it a big step towards confidence building mechanism. Indeed it could be so if Pakistani leaders were really free to make their decision. Many years ago General Zia-ul-Huq came to Jaipur to witness Indo-Pak cricket match. His trip was also termed a goodwill visit that would build mutual confidence. Soon after that visit, Pakistan abetted armed insurgency surfaced in Kashmir that has by now taken fairly large toll of human life. Both countries of the sub-region are under tremendous pressure from the US to iron out their differences and help stabilize peace in the region. America wants Pakistan to fight her war on terror in Af-Pak region and Pakistan wants to capitalize on the discomfiture of the US on Afghan war front. India, on the other hand, is in a serious dilemma of how she would manage balancing her secular democratic credentials against her national interests. Even if Pakistan makes commitment of not allowing anti-India terrorist activities on her soil and also gives assurance that she will not integrate Gilgit and Baltistan into Pakistan, will the UPA coalition government have the competence to make unthinkable concessions to Pakistan and to Kashmir separatists? One feels skeptic about any real positive result emerging from the visit of Pakistani authorities.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INFLATION AND PRICE RISE

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

The most pressing issue in minds of the people is that of price rise. First reason for the price rise is increase in government expenditures during the last three years. Expenditures had been rightly increased to shield the economy from the global economic slowdown. These expenditures must now be scaled back because the global economy is somewhat stable. But the economy has gotten accustomed to the stimulus just as the athlete gets accustomed to steroids. However, withdrawal of the stimulus is likely to slow down our growth rate. Challenge is to reduce the expenditures so that inflation can be contained but do it in a way that growth rate is not affected. This can be done by improving the quality of government expenditures. Leakages must be reduced, not the productive component of expenditures.


The Reserve Bank has recently warned that the revenue deficit of the government is reaching dangerous proportions. The receipts of the government have been buoyant in the past years, in part, because of one time capital receipts from Spectrum auctions. These receipts have been used to increase salary payments and other facilities of government employees. It is seen that a person who has won a lottery often quickly increases his expenditures. He buys an air-conditioner and other equipment. The income from the lottery does not last and the poor fellow is unable to pay the electricity bills. Similar has happened with government expenditures. These have been increased on the strength of one time capital receipts. Now revenue expenditures have increased but receipts are lagging behind. This problem too has to be dealt by improving the quality of revenue expenditures. An external audit by independent auditors can be got done of the Government Departments. Confidential surveys can be got done regarding the efficiency and integrity of the officials.


Historically the Government has cut capital expenditures to contain the fiscal deficit. The fiscal deficit is total of revenue and capital accounts. The Reserve Bank has to print notes and provide to the Government to meet expenditures that are in excess of income. Circulation of these excess notes puts pressure on the prices. Too many notes begin chasing the few goods that are available in the market. Control of inflation requires that the Reserve Bank prints fewer notes. This, in turn, requires that the Government expenditures are cut. But it is difficult to cut revenue expenditures that consist of salaries, interest payments and the like. In consequence, the Government cuts capital expenditures like investments in roads. This cut is partly compensated by increase in private investments in infrastructure. However, private investment is mainly concentrated in the metros. There is a need, therefore, for maintaining government investment in infrastructure of small towns and rural areas. So here is the problem: Control of inflation requires that government capital expenditures be cut; but long term growth requires that capital expenditures in small towns be maintained. This, again, can be done by improving the quality of government expenditures.


The second cause of increase in prices is the increase in global prices of fuel oil. The impact of this is widespread due its use in transport. Moreover, power plants such as Dabhol are based on fossil fuels. Factories burn much oil in diesel generators. The oil prices are likely to move up in the coming years. The only way to deal with this is to reduce consumption of oil. Solution is to increase import tax so as to make it even more costly and reduce its consumption. The resulting increase in prices can be nullified by a reduction in taxes on other commodities. For example, an increase in import tax of Rs 100 crores on oil can be made along with a reduction of Rs 200 crores in taxes on textiles. This will bring down the overall prices while safeguarding us against future increases in prices by securing a reduction in consumption of oil.


The third source of price rise is from agricultural produce. It is necessary to increase production to bring these prices down. The government policies, unfortunately, are in the opposite direction. The government bans exports of agricultural items when global prices are high in order to prevent an increase in domestic prices. This deprives the farmers of profiting from the high global prices. On the other hand, the government imports agricultural items when global prices are low and domestic prices are high. This, again, prevents the farmers from profiting from the high domestic prices. This policy is beneficial in the short run. Spikes in prices are controlled. But this is wholly harmful in the long run. The farmers have little incentive to increase production in absence of high prices. This leads to the long term increase in prices that we are witnessing lately. This policy is like putting the crying hungry child to sleep by giving him opium. The Government must either wholly integrate the domestic market with global markets or wholly delink them. In both cases the farmers will benefit and try to increase production. Of course, it will be better to delink domestic markets so that our food security is safeguarded.


The fourth source of price rise is increase in foreign investment. Foreign investors have made large purchases in our share markets in the last two years. The Sensex has risen from 8k to 20k. Foreign investors have brought in huge amounts of money into the country to make these purchases. The pressure is increasing in the domestic economy just as in the pressure cooker. This increase in pressure is good because it helps in economic growth. However, this also leads to an increase in prices. The solution is to bleed out the incoming money by increasing imports. Say, foreign investors have brought in Rs 100 crores. This money can be used to import fertilizers, steel, computers and other materials. The money coming in will go out smoothly without creating unnecessary disturbance in our economy. The puncture maker leaks out the excess air from the tyre. Similarly, the Government must remove excess money from the economy. The Finance Minister must reduce import duties in this direction.


The Government is trying to simplify the tax regime. Most State Governments have adopted similar VAT rates. Central Sales Tax has been reduced and is likely to be abolished. A new Direct Tax Code is in the making to simplify income tax. These steps are in the right direction as far as efficiency of the economy is concerned. But this policy is iniquitous. It is incorrect to tax an air-conditioner costing Rs 50,000 and ceiling fan costing Rs 700 at the same rate. It is incorrect to impose tax on cloth made from automatic power looms and handlooms at the same rate. It is necessary to simplify the tax regime while maintaining lower rates of taxes on items of general consumption and on items made with labour-intensive methods of production. The reader may assess the budget on the above parameters.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CLIMATE CHANGE

BY JEET DOGRA

 

Human induced climate change is confronting our planet with its gravest peril ever, threatening widespread extinction of species and destruction of habitats. Our insatiable hunger for development, fueled by the extensive consumption of natural resources such as forests, fossil fuels, rivers and land has discharged enormous quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing a progressive rise in temperatures after the industrial period. The impacts of climate change are already being witnessed everywhere and will gradually begin to worsen. Ironically, despite bearing witness to the various indications of climate change such as rising sea levels, increase in frequency of extreme weather events and change in precipitation patterns, the world is still a fair distance away from mitigating climate change. The scientific evidence now clearly indicates that climate change is a serious and urgent issue. It is a very complex issue with numerous social, environmental and economic parameters and implications and is thus often difficult to comprehend fully. To understand the climate system and ultimately predict changes in global climate, greater collaboration is required between modelers, empiricists and policy makers. Greater emphasis on impact scenarios at the regional level is also needed, if society is truly to "think globally" and "act locally".


During the past 150 years, the global average surface temperatures have increased by about 0.76°C. In addition to warming up of the Earth's surface, there have been increased incidences of heat waves; accelerated melting of continental glaciers and polar ice caps; rise in sea level of up to 20 cm; heavy rainfall in some regions, resulting in frequent floods; reduced rains in other regions of the world, resulting in severe drought. The greenhouse gases act like a blanket, preventing much of the heat reflected by the earth's surface from escaping directly into space. By slowing the release of cooling radiation, these gases warm the Earth's surface. While this is a natural process that is essential to life on Earth, the trouble starts when the concentration of these Greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere increases. The result is an increase in the Earth's temperature, also known as - Global Warming.


Global Warming is the gradual increase of the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming could have disastrous effects on the environment like polar ice melts, changes in amount and pattern of rainfall, sea level rise, frequent floods and droughts, hurricanes and typhoons. It would cause large-scale species extinction and have serious impacts on human lives such as freshwater availability, agricultural yields and increases in the spatial and quantitative ranges of disease vectors as well as on economic infrastructure such as energy, transport and industry. Global warming can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and human induced. Volcanic eruptions, changes in the earth's orbit and earth's orientation toward the sun are some of the natural causes of Global Warming.
Some of the major impacts of climate change are impact on agriculture, glacial retreat, melting of polar ice, sea level rise, scarcity of water resources, sea level rise, dry river bed, threats to human life and ecosystems and species in peril. Species endangered by global warming are sea turtles, the North Atlantic right whale, the giant panda's, Asia's only ape the orangutan, African elephants, many of Australia's Frog species, Indian Tigers, the African Tawny Eagle, breeding failure of seabirds such as Common Guillemots, Arctic Skuas, Great Scubas, kittiwakes and Arctic terns, the Siberian Crane, Galápagos Penguins, Tufted Puffins, and the southeastern Australian habitat of the endangered Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo.


Since climate change is a worldwide problem, it is imperative to have binding international agreements between the key contributors to this problem. The phenomenon of human induced climate change was formally recognized as a global concern by the United Nations at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the climate change arm of United Nations, emerged as a consequence of the Earth Summit in 1992. It was the first agreement between countries across the world to tackle the climate change problem. To achieve quantifiable emission reductions, the signatory countries of the UNFCCC, adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 at Kyoto, Japan. The Protocol finally entered into force in Montreal, on 16th February 2005 with the ratification of Russia accounting for 55% of GHG emissions. Secondary to the Kyoto and UNFCCC process, are G8 and other initiatives. While the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol are responsible for administration and implementation of GHG (Green House Gasses) emission reduction processes, the United Nations also evaluates the risk of climate change, attempts to ascertain its impacts and explores mechanisms for mitigation and adaptation through its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988. The IPCC is a collection of 2,500 leading scientists and scholars that operates under the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and WMO (World Meteorological Organization) and bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed scientific research. The IPCC produces technical and special reports on climate and the First Assessment Report of the IPCC in 1991 was significant in establishing the UNFCCC in 1992. Since then, the IPCC has been publishing an assessment report every 5-6 years, the latest published in April 2007.
In the conclusion segment, following are the things we can do in your daily life to reduce the stress on environment:


* Switching to public transportation or resorting to carpooling, walking or using a bicycle when we can.
* Always purchase energy efficient household appliances.
* Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot water and drying them outside in the fresh air and sunlight.
* Maintain our refrigerator and freezer at the right temperature.
* Avoid the unnecessary use of air conditioning systems.
* Unplug electrical appliances when not in use.
* Switch over to energy saver bulbs and keep bulbs dust-free.
* Use natural lighting features to reduce the need for artificial lights and turn off all unneeded lights.
* Use vessels of suitable size while cooking.
* Shading our east and west windows with overhangs or trellises or by planting shade trees.
* Reduce the hot water consumption in our home by installing efficient showerheads, faucets and other fixtures.
* An effective system of waste management involves the use of the "3 R's" Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. While 'reduce' means to use less, 'reuse' means to put the article back to use without changing and 'recycle' means to put back into service after changing the article slightly or completely.
We have got everything that is required to get started to protect the earth with the possible exception of the "will to act". Let us all make a conscious attempt and a genuine effort to combat climate change crisis. Let's live up the logo of climate change "i count" as a savior of our mother earth..!!

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WIKILEAKS EXPOSURES GOOD FOR DEMOCRATIC POLITY

BY NANTOO BANERJEE

 

Why should anyone, leave alone the Prime Minister or for that matter the head of the government of a country, resign from the job on the basis of some private and confidential third-party wire-chats, involving foreign governments, diplomats, military brass or secret agents and their local recruits? Such cable-talks are not only unauthorized, but also officially unclaimed. They can't be easily substantiated before a court of law. Some of the correspondences tracked are dated as well referring to not-so-recent events or situations. This makes WikiLeaks appear more like interesting gossips or sometimes as 'weak leaks' for those involved. To those embarrassed, WikiLeaks exposures are seen as a big nuisance. To others, they provide a rare glimpse to the thoughts and behavior of so-called responsible top officials and operatives on highly sensitive issues and secret information gathering about which the public or even the concerned government or governments may never have any specific knowledge.


There is little untruthful about those private and confidential exchanges through high security-enabled mails and chats, tapped by WikiLeaks by hacking into the otherwise fire-walled communication network and their subsequent public exposure by the website which have embarrassed some of the world's most powerful governments, institutions and personalities. It has battered the image of the United States. Also, it has shattered the 'unshakable' Swiss law protection shield around secret bank account holders. WikiLeaks exposures have covered wide range of areas from defence to diplomacy, finance to drug running, and commercial intelligence to political espionage. They are like modern chemical warfare targeted at the general public to psyche them or to ignite their sense of distrust against institutions and establishments and those at the helm. They give a mental shock to those who still have faith in public institutions.


Whatever such leaks may be worth, it is simply unfair to demand Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation just on the basis of WikiLeaks exposure of 'cash-for-MPs' to save his government from the no-confidence motion raised by the Opposition in Parliament way back in July, 2008, following the withdrawal of Left support to the ruling Congress-led alliance (UPA) on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal. This is notwithstanding the fact that the exposure has badly and undeniably bruised the image of the Congress party and the prime minister. But, more than that, the exposure establishes the presence of an under-cover US intelligence network deep into the Indian administration and the political system constantly supplying politically and strategically sensitive information to the American administration. This is certainly a matter of great concern for the country's both internal and external security and economic stability. The matter certainly justifies a debate in Parliament and institution of a high-level probe into the conduct of those politicians and bureaucrats and also of their mentors and patrons in the government or outside involved in such deplorable acts.


One of the most disturbing information which became public knowledge is the latest round of Wikileaks' expose concerning the high-profile government economist, policy maker and bureaucrat, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and seasoned Congress party satrap, Pranab Mukherjee. The Wiki cable clearly 'exposed' Ahluwalia, the Planning Commission deputy chairman and a close confidant of Prime Minister Singh, as a preferred American candidate for the union finance minister's post over Pranab Mukherjee. Given Ahluwalia's official background, such a suggestion is rather disturbing, if not scary. It also exposes the level of US interference in India's domestic politics, apart from indirectly projecting Ahluwalia as an American agent or one who would serve the US interest better than a more conservative Pranab Mukherjee on matters such as economic policy formulation and execution.


Ahluwalia has been at the helm of the country's economic affairs management for almost a quarter of a century since he first occupied a cabin in the South Block in the office of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. His cozy equation with the successive Indian and US governments and his pro-Western views on reform are well known. No economist had ever survived this long in the government and enjoyed so much power and authority as Ahluwalia does despite the fact that other more eminent and internationally acclaimed economists such as V K R V Rao, Sukhamoy Chakraborty, I G Patel, Suresh Tendulkar, Amiya Bagchi, Prabhat Patnaik, D T Lakhdawala, P. Brahmananda, Amaresh Tripathi , K N Raj and Arjun Sengupta, managed only limited association with the administration. This unshakable image of Ahluwalia makes him vulnerable to pressure from those external entities always aiming at effective networking to carry through their political, diplomatic and economic agenda in India.


The denial of WikiLeaks exposures by the persons or institutions involved or named does not necessarily establish their uselessness. The US envoy in Mexico, Carlos Pascual, resigned after a WikiLeaks cable divulged his critical remarks against the host country administration's handling of the drug mafia. Pascual did not deny those remarks. Instead, he showed the guts to admit his private and confidential communication and resigned. Few Indian politicians and bureaucrats have courage to emulate Pascual. To be honest, WikiLeaks exposures are doing more good than harm to our democratic society, which puts too much faith in institutions, bureaucracy and the political system to serve its cause, ethically and uncompromisingly, and ensure good governance in the best interest of the nation. WikiLeaks exposures are not inventive. They are factual. It is for the actors to admit or deny them. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BATTING FOR PEACE

PM'S CRICKET DIPLOMACY CHANGES INDO-PAK CLIMATE 

 

WITH Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to watch the World Cup cricket semifinal match between India and Pakistan at Mohali, the political environment in the subcontinent is showing signs of a change for the better. Though the players of the two countries will display their cricketing prowess on March 30 when the scheduled talks between their Home Secretaries would have already been held, Dr Singh's gesture has given a new and happy setting to the coming negotiations. One can easily expect a better result when the dialogue, snapped by the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, is held under the shadow of cricket diplomacy. Dr Singh surely deserves appreciation for his brilliant initiative.

 

That his gesture has struck a right chord on the other side of the border has been proved by the reaction in the Pakistani media. Perhaps, the most appropriate comment has come from The News, an English daily of the Jang group of publications — "Aman ka Chhakka" or a Sixer for Peace by Dr Manmohan Singh. The Jang group is involved in a peace initiative called "Aman ki Aasha" with the Times of India group. Most other newspapers, too, including Dawn, have expressed the belief that the "smart diplomatic initiative through cricket" will provide a "fillip to real-time diplomacy". The great enthusiasm among cricket buffs may change the character of the event from a cricket war to cricket for peace.

 

However, this is not for the first time that cricket is being used to boost the efforts for improving relations between the two neighbours. Gen Zia-ul-Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf, too, indulged in cricket diplomacy. But it had a limited impact because very little was done to change the mindset of the masses in Pakistan. In India, too, there are diehard critics of any move for Indo-Pak peace. But the situation today is different with a huge constituency for peace that exists on both sides of the border. Every available opportunity must be utilised to expand this constituency so that the people in the subcontinent develop a stake in peace. Then all the issues involving India and Pakistan will be easier to resolve.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SHUNGLU INDICTMENT

KHANNA, DIKSHIT IN LINE OF FIRE

 

THE stench of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) corruption has become all the more overpowering, with the V.K. Shunglu committee, appointed by the government in October, indicting Delhi's Lt-Governor Tejender Khanna and Chief Minister Sheila Dixit for delays and losses in infrastructure projects for the Games. According to the report, the cumulative loss due to delays was Rs 900 crore while undue gains worth Rs 254.10 crore were handed over to contractors in 19 of the 25 CWG projects that the committee studied. Not only that, it reveals in sordid details how tendering rules were changed to favour a select few, quality of work was compromised and tainted officers appointed in key positions in the Games Organising Committee.

 

For obvious reasons, the government has avoided tabling the report in the budget session of Parliament and would do so only in the monsoon session. But after some parts made their way into the media, the committee has itself been uploading its reports immediately after submitting them to the PMO. That has provided enough ammunition to the Opposition, which will be further armed when the committee makes public the remaining three reports by March 30, a day before its term expires. These are likely to be even more explosive, considering that these are on matters relating to the Suresh Kalmadi-led CWG Organising Committee, problems and excessive expenditure at the Games venues and governance issues arising out of the conduct of the Games with recommendations on how similar events should be organised in future.

 

While evaluating many "out of the box" decisions that were taken, one will have to take into account the economic slowdown that had prevailed in the runup to the Games and the need to finish all work in time. The government's grouse is that unlike the CAG, the Shunglu panel did not seek written responses from indicted departments and officials. While it did send several queries to top officials of the DDA, it did not do so in the case of Mr Khanna and Mrs Dikshit. It is not certain if that technicality would be enough to blunt the edge of the knives that are currently being sharpened. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

HARDLY A MISSION

RURAL HEALTHCARE IS 'A JOKE'

 

Ambitious projects launched with fanfare often flounder at the implementation stage. The National Rural Health Mission is a case in point. The Centre launched it in 2005 and has spent Rs 30,000 crore since. But the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, headed by Murli Manohar Joshi of the BJP, has dubbed it a fiasco and a joke, and asked the Health Ministry to restructure the project. The project has not flopped in a state or two, but in most of the 18 states where it is being implemented. Health centres in villages, says the PAC, are used as cow sheds, foodgrain godowns or community halls.

 

Still worse, expired medicines are given which can do more harm than good to patients. It is widely known that medicines banned in advanced countries for negative side-effects are available over-the-counter in India. The PAC auditing finds out that in Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand medicines were purchased without quality checks. There is a shortage of not just doctors and specialists but even nurses and mid-wives in the rural areas. Diagnostic services and laboratories are woefully inadequate. Expensive medical machines and equipment, wherever available, even in city hospitals, remain in disuse for long periods due to lack of repairs and funds.

 

These are some of the harsh facts of India's ailing health sector which might dismay the city-bred intelligentsia, but the rural health staff and villagers know it well. These facts re-emphasise the obvious, which is, India is growing fast, while change is very slow in Bharat. How can the result be otherwise when the government spends just 1.1 per cent of the GDP on health against the recommended 3 per cent? A large part of the poor spending is grabbed by vested interests well-entrenched in the system. A badly funded and governed healthcare system is unlikely to meet the challenge of providing an ordinary citizen a basic need: access to quality and affordable healthcare.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

LOOMING URBAN CHALLENGE

NEED FOR POLICY INTERVENTIONS

BY N.S. SISODIA

 

THE global percentage of urban population grew from 13 in 1900 to 29 in 1950, and 49 in 2005. If the present trends continue, by 2030 nearly 60 per cent of the global population will be living in cities. In 2015, the world will have 58 cities with 5 million people each; and by 2025, 27 mega cities with more than 10 million people each.

 

A Harvard economist, Edward Glaeser, in his recent book, "Triumph of the City: How our Greatest Invention Makes us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier", argues that cities are "our species' greatest invention", as they make people more inventive, productive and kinder to the planet. But are the cities indeed such an unmixed blessing, particularly in the global south?

 

Cities do offer advantages of agglomeration, better infrastructure and economic and social opportunities. They serve as cultural melting pots, centres of knowledge and innovation; fora of political engagement; and sites of investment.  Cities thus become magnets that attract people from less developed regions. But particularly in the global south, cities are also home to acute congestion, slums, deprivation and poverty. Their large ungoverned spaces are conducive to organised crime, drug and human-trafficking and urban warfare.

 

Cities expand due to natural growth, migration, greater employment and economic opportunities, declining labour-intensity of agriculture and globalisation. Instability and civil strife in parts of the global south, coupled with weak governance, also contribute to rural-urban migration.

 

For the first time in history, most of the world's population will be concentrated in cities located in the world's poorest countries, where policing, sanitation and medical facilities are scanty. The World Bank estimates that between now and 2050 over 70 per cent of population growth will take place in 24 low and lower-middle income countries that have an average per capita earning of less than $3855 (2008).  Asia's urban population is currently 37 per cent.  Over the next two decades, it is projected at 55 per cent.  By 2030, India's urban population will be 500 million.  The mega cities of South Asia are expanding even more because of rural poverty and high fertility rates rather than economic dynamism. Mumbai, where at least half the population lacks adequate shelter, is projected to have a population of 22.6 million in 2015. Karachi, already trapped in chronic political turbulence, will have 16.2 million people by 2015. Dhaka, one of the world's poorest cities, is likely to have 17.9 million inhabitants by 2015.

 

Cities in the developed world grew at a more leisurely pace than those in Asia's developing countries. For example, between 1950 and 2015, New York's population will have grown by just 30 per cent, whereas Karachi's will have grown by 2000 per cent and Dhaka's by 5400 per cent. In the developed West, moreover, growth took place after   nation-states and governments were firmly established.   The developed world's urbanisation also predated the information revolution, which has led to rising expectations and a heightened sense of deprivation among the less affluent.

 

The cities of the global south are unlikely to be what Edward Glaeser calls the mankind's "greatest invention". Their pattern of growth will pose a serious challenge to human security in diverse ways. Firstly, deprivation, poverty and social exclusion will have a predominantly urban face. Between 1993 and 2002, the number of poor living on US $1 a day declined by 150 million in villages, but increased by 50 million in cities. Deprivation and disparities are particularly acute in slums and shanty towns, which lack basic amenities like water. Slum-dwellers sometimes pay 50 times more for clean water than those living in serviced colonies.

 

Secondly, in many urban spaces, and particularly in poorer neighbourhoods, effective governance is non-existent or is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges. In such pockets, violence becomes the basis for alternative "parallel" forms of order, control, identity, legitimacy and resource distribution. The poor in such areas survive in chronic insecurity and face the risk of urban warfare.

 

Thirdly, haphazard and rapid urbanisation leads to severe environmental degradation. Crowded cities become centres of disease and epidemics. Inhabitants of congested cities are highly vulnerable to devastation in the wake of extreme weather events. Cities close to low-lying coastal zones will be prone to flooding and consequent economic loss.

 

Fourth, cities marked by religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity can accentuate tensions arising from other factors like competition for the limited number of jobs and resources. Rapidly urbanising centres affected by a youth bulge can foster violence in an environment of deprivation and denial.

 

Cities are also becoming both the sources and targets of urban terror. They offer tempting opportunities for shock and publicity, which are greatly valued by terrorists. It is hardly surprising that recent terror attacks have targeted iconic symbols in cities like New York and Mumbai.

 

The urban challenge looms large in India. A UN-HABITAT report notes that 63 per cent of South Asia's slum-dwellers are Indian. The largest number of slum-dwellers in the country live in four mega cities: Mumbai (6.5 million, which is more than the entire population of Norway); Delhi (1.9 million), Kolkata (1.5 million) and Chennai (0.8 million).

 

If governments continue to adopt a business-as-usual attitude towards the urban challenge, chronic chaos in most mega cities of Asia is the most likely scenario. While cities like Karachi already present a picture of unending disorder, other mega cities like Dhaka, Lahore, Mumbai, Kolkata and Jakarta could well face a similar fate.

 

Densely populated urban centres will be particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and these in turn will challenge governments' capacities to address them. Climate change scientists forecast extreme weather events and disasters like the Asian tsunami of December 2004.  The recent earthquake and the tsunami in its wake have been termed by the Japanese Prime Minister as the country's greatest crisis since World War II. Massive damage caused by natural events, epidemics or other disasters may overwhelm city and national governments.

Chronic neglect and exclusion make people particularly prone to embracing radical ideologies. Left-wing extremism, which presently afflicts 196 districts in 20 states of India, is making systematic inroads in several cities. This is likely to grow unless the urbanisation process can be managed more imaginatively and efficiently.

 

The urbanisation phenomenon, therefore, needs to be viewed from a strategic perspective. Policy interventions to tackle the challenge may include sound planning for urban growth and effective implementation of such plans; giving due emphasis to environmental protection; vigorous efforts to provide basic amenities; slum improvement, pro-poor policies and inclusive growth. Appropriate measures are also needed to prevent disasters if possible, and mitigate and manage them when they cannot be prevented.

 

The writer is the Director-General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE CHANGING CONTOURS 

BY B. K. KARKRA

 

I had developed somewhat curly hair naturally, as I grew into my teens. My father, however, was unprepared to believe that it was a natural growth. He thought that I had managed the curls by pressing and pulling my hair with the back of my comb and was getting too much of a 'shokeen' (fashionable) for his comfort. So, he decided to take the things in his own hands to put an end to my churlishness. One day he was ready with a comb in hand to take on me, as I came out of the bathroom.

 

He made me sit in front of him and started running the comb into my hair. These were then wet, soft and yielding. He was thus able to have his way with them for a while. He parted these in the middle and pasted these on the sides neatly to give me, what he thought, was a 'beeba' (gentle) boy look. I, however, felt depressed to find myself having the appearance of a sophisticated dancing girl like 'Umrao Jan'.

 

Mercifully, as the hair dried up, these started curling like the suddenly broken strings of a sitar to the great exasperation of my father. All the good work done by him came to a naught. He soon left me as a bad job and never bothered me again for my hair.

 

After some sixty-five years my story repeated itself on my little grandson, Aryan. Just a few days back, we had a function in our family— the golden jubilee celebration of our own marriage, in fact. All our close relations had congregated at Gurgaon and were getting ready to go to a banquet hall. The gathering included another grandson of ours from London, Karan. He is a strapping young man on whom anything would look nice. In keeping with the times, he had done up his hair by lifting the jelly-applied tufts like the pyramids of Egypt. He saw young Aryan around and took him away to dress up his hair in all fondness. Aryan emerged from the room in real high spirits with his hair lifted from the sides in to a crocodile type of hump on the top.

 

However, just as he was about to leave for the ceremony, his Naniji (mother`s mother) accosted him with the words, 'Be tu ne abhi bal bhi nahi banay' (O You, you have not yet even combed your hair)? She got hold of him and combed his hair tidily to the sides. The generous amount of jelly ensured that these stayed there. Aryan now appeared to be having no hair on the head. It just seemed to have been painted shiny black. The poor little fellow looked visibly bewildered and appeared asking what he had done to deserve this.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED


THE WAY THE TRIBAL SEE IT

EXHIBITIONS OF CONTEMPORARY INDIAN TRIBAL ART ARE HELD IN ART CAPITALS OF THE WORLD LIKE PARIS, NEW YORK, BOSTON, TOKYO AND MUMBAI. THEIR WORKS ARE AUCTIONED AT SOTHEBY'S. THE GLOBAL ASPIRATION FOR HARMONY REFLECTED IN THEIR WORKS TAKES THE ART OF THE TRIBAL MASTERS TO A NEW PLANE, VYING FOR PARITY WITH MAINSTREAM MODERN ART
ASHOK VAJPEYI

 

THE idea germinated with J Swaminathan joining us when we were trying to envisage the kind of museum we should have for Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal, in 1982. We have had many imposing institutions of colonial legacy where folk art has been relegated to craft. This allowed only the urban art to occupy the entire space of modern contemporary art. The art activity taking place in the rural and tribal areas of India was not given the place it deserved. This notion of modern Indian art needed to be questioned because these so- called museums of art had excluded a lot of vibrant, exiting art stamped as craft. To redefine contemporary art and to override this dichotomy we acquired works of S H Raza, M F Husain, Krishen Khanna, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, N S Bendre, V S Gaitonde, Manjit Bawa and Satish Gujral for Roopankar Museum of Fine Arts, and placed them along with the works of Bhuri Bai, Mitti Bai, Ram Singh Urveti and Ladoo Bai, known in general parlance as tribal artists.

 

Then something magical happened. On his usual tours to the interiors of Bastar, Swaminathan chanced upon a stone-breaker boy from Pradhan Gond community of singers and story tellers in Pattangarh. The boy had an uncanny gift for singing ancestral memories and an extraordinary sense of form and style which he used for decorating village huts. Swaminathan brought him to Bharat Bhawan where he worked on a giant mural in the Charles Correa-designed arts complex. He flowered and the world of art came to know of Jangarh Singh Shyam's tribal art which eventually came to be known as Jangarh school of art.

 

Jangarh had an amazing gift for translating ancestral musical memories into visual images. He brought with him new materials and metaphors. At Bharat Bhawan he learnt to take native art on to canvas and paper, using water colours and acrylic paints to create works that would circulate in galleries not just in India, but in France, the US and Japan. These images were mediated by references from the new art world he had entered. The images born of this cross-over were transient: birds morphing into airplanes; or a stag's horns turning into a vast forest. He made a beginning which would offer a new field of art to the world.

 

More and more artists joined in with their unique sensibility. Mitti Bai came from Bilaspur, she had never boarded a train, but, after workshops with artists from other continents, vocabulary of these artists changed, it acquired an exclusive contemporary idiom. Mitti Bai made a mural of mud and clay juxtaposing aero planes with elephants, horses and lizards - domesticating technology.

 

This new idiom in art was very contemporary. Udyan Vajpeyi wrote a book 'Jangarh Kalam', on the school of art that came with Jangarh Singh Shyam's brilliant creative sensibility. To call it tribal art would be relegating it to some form of primordial activity.

 

Unfortunately, Jangarh committed suicide at Mithila Museum (outside Tokyo) in July 2001. It was also a frightening reminder of the trend of exploitation of folk artists at the hands of commercial agents. Since the unfortunate incident, about 30 to 40 families from Pattangrah, mostly his relatives, have been carrying the tradition of Jangarh art, or, what is commonly known as Gond art.

 

The transformation and transition- from tribal to contemporary art could happen due to changes taking place at three different layers. After setting up of Roopankar Museum, we invited the former director of NSD ( National School of Drama), B V Karanth to set up a repertory company of theatre at Bharat Bhawan. Folk theatre artistes from different genres; pandavani, ramleela, tamasha , swang etc were encouraged to perform modern plays in their own language and style. For the first time Bertolt Brecht's 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle' was staged in Bundelkhandi, Shakespeare was played in Malwi. These artists had their own take on things, and it was no less sophisticated than any urban production. Along with this, the artists were constantly sharing and exchanging experiences through workshops with other folk artists- like the Aborigines of Australia and tribal artists from Africa, along with the urban artists. This created a new field of creativity, which was neither urban nor tribal-rural. This new field created wonders.

 

Today this art has created its own buyers and collectors. There is a growing interest in these artists-globally. And, there are reasons for this. One, there is a lurking ethnic element in fashion and whatever is glamorous and stylish. Two, this art is much more affordable, compared to the urban-modern art. And, there is a lot of variety in styles. About thirty different forms- from the North East to Kerala have established their own niche. And, most importantly, it proves that poverty doesn't come in the way of art. There is no co- relation between art and affluence.

 

Poet, writer and critic, Ashok Vajpeyi heads Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi ( as told to Vandana Shukla) 

 

Booking the tribal

 

Mark Tully's 'No Full Stops in India' has a chapter devoted to Jangarh Singh Shyam's life and works. The anti-caste publisher Navayana has just published a graphic novel chronicling the life of B R Ambedkar illustrated by Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE OTHER MASTERS

VANDANA SHUKLA

 

IF the ultimate stamp of having arrived in the art world- an auction by Sotheby's- is something to go by, Indian contemporary tribal art has arrived, even though in its infancy. Warli artist Jivya Soma Mashe's painting on canvas was sold for $13,600 last year. Jangarh Singh Shyam's works auctioned for the first time in its March, 2010 auction, where a 2001 work estimated for $5,000-7,000 was sold for $13,750. Two large paper works executed in 1988 and 1989 were sold in July for $15,000 and $18,000. In September the auction house expected Jangarh's canvas to fetch somewhere between $30,000-50,000. Though these are far removed from the record price of $2.4 million achieved by the Aboriginal artist Clifford Possum, in the same auction, global recognition to the other masters of the Indian art is a recent phenomenon.

 

For the artists who have been used to expressing their art on the cow-dung plastered walls of their hutments or with materials like straws, clay and mud, working with pencil and paper or canvas and colour is a new reality they are coming to terms with . But, this new reality is paving way for possibilities never before explored for artists of over two dozen ethnic Indian idioms like Worli, Godna, Madhubani, Patachitra, Manjusha, Kantha and Gond, which has aroused interest among international curators and buyers for their vibrant idiom.

 

That a small incident that began with Jangarh Shyam's arrival at Bharat Bhawan and ended with his tragic suicide because his agent in Japan refused to return his passport ( the privately owned museum was paying him a monthly salary of Rs12,000 for creating works in residence at a time when each of his works was already selling for close to lakh), has now developed into a movement that reveals both the prejudices and challenges of modernity faced by contemporary tribal artists. Their art reveals their resilience and capacity for masterful innovation. Their creative adaptability in keeping themselves and their traditional culture relevant in a globalizing India and the post-modern international art world is one of its kind. The conflict of these two worlds creates a new world of artistic beauty.

 

Theorists and curators are busy mapping this new field of art which is neither metropolitan nor rural. Neither is it post- modernist nor traditionalist. It has not evolved in an art institution, nor is it inherited, without changes. Experts call it the art activity of the third field of contemporary Indian culture. In simple terms the tribal approach of reverence to life and its celebration is something the so- called developed world is now beginning to fathom, if not to emulate it. Essentially, tribal art depicts life in its entirety. Extremely simplified forms characterise tribal paintings, something that abstract artists strive to achieve. Perhaps, this explains a growing interest in tribal art across the globe.

 

In their world animals and plants are treated with same sensitivity as one treats a child. The curiosity and enthusiasm for life is the same on the face of a tree, tiger and horse as that of a child. Life and everything that revolves around life like trees, mountains, rivers, animals are treated as sacred. Even the machines- symbols of modernity encroaching upon their space, are treated with an affectionate hand as are animals and humans. There is an underlying acceptance for all that life renders.

 

The popularity of this art can be gauged by the number of exhibitions held on tribal art- globally. In April last year, Paris hosted an exhibition of contemporary tribal art at the Pres du Muse Branly, which was curated by art historian Dr Jyotindra Jain. The exhibition showcased the challenge of keeping a 3000 year old tradition of art by infusing it with new idioms to help it survive along the very dynamic urban, modern contemporary art. Artists like Jivya Soma Mashe, 65, one of the first to break away from traditional Worli art, by transporting the art of the walls to a more saleable cowdung-coated cotton paper. Sonabai, 67, another artist from Madhya Pradesh, who works in clay, by making little figurines and using them on wall installations to recount a story and Thangaiya R, who has given his monumental terracotta horses and elephants a global character by painting them in vibrant colours, lend an appeal to viewers of all classes by incorporating innovations in a tradition. Wellesley College, Massachusetts, organised a month long exhibition of Pradhan Gond Art at David Museum and Cultural Centre, titled Painted Songs and Stories in September. The show had on display private collection of John H Bowles, a collector of Gond art.

 

If J Swaninathan and Dr Jyotindra Jain, reinvented tribal art in India, a lot of credit would go to Paris-based Hervé Perdriolle who started his pursuit as a collector in 1996 and carried his curatorial re-look of Indian tribal art, to take it to a global level. Now, as a gallerist, he is an active agent in promoting artists like Jangrah Singh Shyam, Jivya Soma Mashe and the Mithila painter Chano Devi. John Bowles, who has been tracing growth of Gond art since 1981, and has written a book on their art has been instrumental in turning Jangarh Shyam's art into a kind of internationally recognised tribal art movement. Perhaps, what is being narrated at the tribal level, is, quintessentially an expression of global aspiration for harmony. 

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

THE MYTH OF AMERICAN DISPENSABILITY

WHY THE WORLD WILL CONTINUE TO BANK ON US FOR LARGE-SCALE MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE NAME OF HUMANITARIANISM

 

The last time the British and French indulged together in a military adventure in the Middle East, they were humiliated and their noses rubbed in the dust by the Americans. In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower was so incensed at the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt over Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal that he threatened economic Armageddon: the selling of US government Sterling bonds that would have crashed the pound and sent the British economy into a tailspin. The British Prime Minister Anthony Eden felt so threatened, that he immediately ordered a ceasefire - without even telling France and Israel, whose troops were fighting alongside - and ultimately had to resign in disgrace over the fiasco.


The Suez misadventure was a stark demonstration of the changed global power equations. London and Paris had acted with imperial arrogance, still thinking of themselves as great powers, but were brutally put in their place by Washington. A British prime minister lost his job and it arguably speeded up the process of decolonisation as both the British and French realised the limits of their power.



Five decades after their predecessors learnt a bitter lesson in diminishment, another generation of French and British leaders has led the world into yet another military campaign in the region. Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron led the push for intervention in Libya, in the face of tremendous reluctance from Obama. Mired already in Afghanistan and Iraq and with its economy in a mess, Washington has been facing the stark reality of its own limitations and decline.

 

In March this year, Time magazine carried a cover story headlined 'Yes, America is in decline.' It followed the theme of a similar cover story earlier in the year by Foreign Policy magazine, titled 'American decline, this time it's real'. Can anyone blame Obama then for not wanting to get embroiled in another energy-sapping war?

The reluctance on Libya initially looked like US vindicating this growing discourse on its decline as a global supercop. The reality of the military campaign though has shown up a different picture.

 

Till Wednesday, the coalition on Libya had flown 175 air sorties, of which US planes flew 113. Of the 112 cruise missiles fired on day one of the campaign, only three were fired by the British, and one of them reportedly got stuck in the launch tube of HMS Triumph, the only British submarine in action. The British only have about a dozen or so fighters and bombers, two frigates and a submarine. The French have more hardware, including an aircraft carrier, but there's no doubt that it's only the Americans who're providing the real firepower.

 

Sarkozy may puff and strut in the UN and at home to shore up falling popularity ratings, David Cameron may try his best to look like a statesman at war while his government is sacking thousands of government workers and NATO is formally taking over command of combat operations but the military reality over Libya's skies is clear. Even as Obama was bullied into joining the Libyan fight – including by those in his own administration who believed in it – his message has evolved into a simple one to the Europeans: you wanted us to start, we did. But now it's your fight, and you run it.

 

In fact, Obama has been looking to his allies to do some heavy lifting long before Libya. Last year, the Pentagon in its Quadrennial Defence Review, formally announced that the military burden of global security should be shared more by its allies.

 

The reality though is that among the old powers, everyone except the US has been dramatically cutting defence forces for over a decade. According to NATO Secy General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Washington accounted for a little less than half of total NATO defence spending a decade ago. Today it accounts for close to 75%, even after the recent defence cuts announced by US Secy of Defence Robert Gates. The Europeans can talk, but can do little else on their own.

 

Among the others, Russia has little motive to intervene abroad for universal principles, unless it is challenged in its own backyard. China and India are the only other big powers who've been increasing defence spending but have absolutely zero appetite to get involved in any kind of a foreign fight as they focus on their own growth.

 

Is it any surprise then that when the UN Security Council voted to authorise the Libyan bombing, the countries who abstained included all the major emerging powers: Brazil, China, Germany, India and the Russian Federation?

 

In the 1990s, Madeline Albright propagated the notion of the United States as the "indispensable nation". It was the kind of hyperbolic claim that always irritates and riles those have long been fed up with American overbearing. The lesson of Libya though is clear: even though US is now in a period of unquestionable decline, the fact is that probably for another decade or so in real terms, American muscle will remain the only viable and practical recourse for largescale military interventions in the name of humanitarianism of the kind we are now seeing.

 

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

EDITORIAL

SPRING IN SUMMER

MANMOHAN SINGH PROMISES A SEASON OF CHANGE

 

Speaking at the annual Business Standard Awards function last Friday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ended on a reassuring and hopeful note when he said, "Let me assure you that I do have my finger on the pulse of India today. I sense a mood for renewal, as I did 20 years ago. We did not disappoint India in the summer of 1991. We will grasp the nettle once again, in the summer of 2011." Dr Singh was referring to the economic reforms of 1991, whose 20th anniversary was celebrated at the function with a panel discussion involving some of the key players, like P Chidambaram, C Rangarajan, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Shankar Acharya. Why does the PM hope he can do more in the summer of 2011 than he has been able to till now? At least one reason would be the boost to Congress Party and United Progressive Alliance morale from the widely forecast historic defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal, after 30 years of uninterrupted rule.

 

Signs of policy activism on the part of the government were noticed when Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee tabled a variety of economic legislation in Parliament and made a firm commitment to go ahead with the unveiling of a goods and services tax. The PM added his voice to that pledge. Hopefully, a revitalised ruling coalition will focus on both governance reform and more economic liberalisation. India still lags behind countries like China and Brazil on indices for doing business, and governance reform is key. For the PM to be able to deliver on his promise, however, he will need to effect the promised cabinet reshuffle, placing some energetic and efficient persons in key ministries, sacking a few more of the laggards and obstructionists and getting himself a more effective office.

 

 That the PM means business was partly evident from the fact that minutes before he spoke at the function, he signed two letters to the president and prime minister of Pakistan, inviting them to join him in watching the Mohali world cup cricket match this week. It was an entirely prime ministerial initiative, on the contentious issue of relations with a difficult neighbour. The fact that Dr Singh has chosen to bite the bullet, so to speak, suggests that he is willing to once again assert himself on policy issues. This he must. At his meeting with the leaders of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) next month, he has the opportunity to work for a more stable global, economic and political order that India needs to sustain its growth process. While the PM's key and senior colleagues like Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal have been active on a variety of fronts, it is his leadership, at home and abroad, that will have to re-energise the government once assembly elections are over. Dr Singh's promise of action must be followed up by credible action.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

BANNING PLASTIC BAGS

MANY COUNTRIES DOING IT SUCCESSFULLY, INDIA ALSO CAN

There are limits to what even the Supreme Court of India can do to discipline Indians into more socially acceptable behaviour. The SC's order imposing a ban on the use of plastic bags has met with as much success, or failure, as earlier attempts by the civic authorities in Mumbai and Delhi.

Even a month after the apex court's decree to this effect, both plastic bags and a variety of products in non-biodegradable plastic sachets are still available around the country. Non-biodegradable plastic poses a threat, both to the environment, and to civic infrastructure management. In the absence of adequate scientific recycling or disposal facilities, the bulk of plastic bags end up either in landfills, where they tend to last practically forever, or on city roads, where they pose a traffic hazard, and in drains, where they end up clogging sewage systems. Mumbai's unprecedented flooding, in July 2005, following a monsoon deluge was caused more by the blocking of drains by plastic bags than the rainfall itself. Flooding of roads, especially during the monsoon season, is quite common in other urban centres as well, the national capital being no exception. Civic bodies spend huge amounts annually to combat this menace. Yet, regrettably, result-oriented action is not forthcoming to enforce ban on plastic bags.

 

The main argument of plastic bag manufacturers and of the traders who use them, is that there is no equally inexpensive and convenient alternative. This is factually correct. But the argument is based on private costing rather than the social cost of plastic bags. This draws attention to the contradiction between private benefit and social cost. The social and environmental costs of using plastics bags far outweighs the very obvious private benefit. The incentive to look for ecologically acceptable alternatives would go up if the manufacture of plastic bags is effectively prohibited and the ban on their use effectively policed.

There was life before plastic bags came into mass use. Most shoppers, especially those buying vegetables and other consumables of daily use carried their own cloth, jute and paper bags and cane baskets from home to bring groceries. Reusable bags made from other kinds of non-plastic environment-friendly fabrics can also replace these bags. If necessary, to facilitate transition, the use of alternatives to plastic bags can also be subsidised or incentivised in a variety of ways. Such subsidies can be financed through carbon credits that would be earned from a ban on burning of plastics, quite common in India, that emits environmentally-dangerous gases into the atmosphere.

India can learn from the experience of countries that have managed to sharply reduce the use of plastic bags. Ireland levied a tax on the use of plastic bags in 2002. This led to an over 90 per cent reduction in the use of plastic shopping bags. China imposed a ban in 2008 on free plastic bags, making their sale compulsory. This is estimated to have curbed demand by two-thirds. Several other countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, Thailand and some states in the US, have taken similar measures with varying degrees of success. Back home, some of the hilly states, notably Himachal Pradesh and more recently Uttarakhand, have shown some success in restricting the use of plastics. What, however, is really needed is the will to act. Success would follow.

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

MANMOHAN SINGH BATS AGAIN

THE FEROZESHAH KOTLA SPIRIT OF 2005 MUST RETURN TO MOHALI THIS WEEK.

SANJAYA BARU

Six years ago, in early March 2005, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf let it be known to the media in Islamabad that he wished to travel to India to watch one of the India-Pakistan cricket matches that spring. New Delhi was stumped into silence for several days. The instinctual response of many was to view this as a typical Musharraf googly.

India's ministry of external affairs was still licking its wounds from the Agra summit fiasco. The budget session of Parliament was still in progress, and was being repeatedly disrupted by a contentious opposition. The United Progressive Alliance government was not being allowed to settle down, still being treated as a usurper by a sulking Bharatiya Janata Party.

 

 In the prime minister's office, a new national security advisor was just settling down into his job, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's own mind was on a major initiative he was pursuing with US President George Bush.

Clearly, Mr Musharraf was not coming just to watch a cricket match. He wanted to come for a summit meeting. Why create further complications with a Musharraf visit? The ghost of Agra haunted the minds of every Pakistan watcher and few were willing to push the PM into troubled waters. A risk averse system suggested ignoring Mr Musharraf's remarks.

As the PM's media advisor my worry was the headlines we would get around the world: "Musharraf wants to go to India to watch a cricket match, India says no!"

If the Agra summit's media circus and fiasco was what was worrying the foreign ministry, then one should be able to deal with that and work out a strategy. A media plan was suggested to the PM and he felt reassured. He decided that he must invite Mr Musharraf.

The naysayers were still urging caution, and seeking time to work on logistics. One suggestion was that Mr Musharraf be invited to the match at Kochi, rather than Delhi. It was pointed out that even if the match was in Port Blair the international and national media would land up there.

Finally, after waiting for several days for his officials to come up with a practical response to Mr Musharraf's spin, the PM chose to bat for himself. At the end of his long speech in Parliament, replying to the debate on the motion of thanks on the President's address to parliament, Dr Singh said: "Mr Speaker Sir, there is one matter that I do wish to refer to and that is our relations with Pakistan… After my meeting with General Musharraf on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, all items of composite dialogue are under discussion. We are moving forward and I must say that nothing brings the people of our sub-continent more together than our love for cricket and Bollywood cinema. I am equally conscious of the fact today that even as I speak in this House, I am competing for the nation's attention with young men like (Virendar) Sehwag and (Asim) Kamal. Perhaps that is how it should be. Indeed, how nice it would be if we conduct our affairs in this august House with the same spirit of sportsmanship that our cricketers exhibit on the playing fields of the sub-continent."

"Sir, when our citizens went to Pakistan for the last series, they returned with tales of bonhomie and warm hospitality. I am delighted to say that our people have returned this hospitality to the thousands of visitors from Pakistan. Relations between nations are after all nothing more than relations between their people. I am sure that time will work to heal our wounds and create an environment of shared prosperity and peace in this sub-continent…"

"Sir, I am happy to inform the honourable members of the House that I have decided to invite President Musharraf to come to India to watch the cricket match between our two teams. It is my earnest desire that the people in our neighbouring countries and their leaders should feel free to visit us whenever they wish to do so. Be it to watch a cricket match; be it to do some shopping; or be it to meet friends and families — India is proud to be an open society and an open economy. I do hope that President Musharraf and his family will enjoy their visit to our country."

The House cheered him. Officials who heard him speak, finally drafted an invitation letter. Mr Musharraf came, watched the match Pakistan won at Ferozeshah Kotla grounds, was charmed by his favourite Bollywood star Rani Mukherjee and held a purposeful meeting that opened a new chapter in the bilateral relationship.

Much has happened since in both countries. The past two years have seen ups and downs and moments of frustration as well as shared optimism, as in Thimpu last April when the two prime ministers met on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit.

Dr Singh has once again stepped forward to bat and has invited President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani to join him at Mohali for the India-Pakistan semi-finals in the World Cup series. The initiative has been widely welcomed. This need not be a 'summit' masquerading as a visit.

To quote Dr Singh, India's neighbours and their leaders "should feel free to visit whenever they wish to do so. Be it to watch a cricket match; be it to do some shopping; or be it to meet friends and families..."

Each time they meet there need be no joint statement, no one-upmanship, no point scoring. Meeting and talking, regularly, even about serious differences, is good in itself. Hopefully, this will be followed by a visit to Pakistan by Dr Singh. After seven years in office, it is time he visited his friends in the village of his birth.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CLIMATE GAMES AND AMERICA

SUNITA NARAIN

Last fortnight, the final nail was driven into the action on climate-change coffin. In the US, a crucial vote in the house sub-committee decided that the country's Environment Protection Agency (EPA) would no longer have the power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The committee voted we say that the threat from climate change was not real, urgent or even serious. They said that any steps to curtail emissions would impact manufacturing and energy industry in the US. This was not negotiable. In other words, the world is back to square one — where it started in 1992, at the Rio Conference and where US president George Bush said that his country's lifestyle was not negotiable.

 

But this is also not surprising. Over the past many years, each forward shift in the position of the emerging world to resolve the climate change deadlock has only meant a backward slide and hardening of position in the rich countries. Worse, in this period, there has been aggressive and often clandestine movement to shift the very nature of the global climate agreement to suit the US. But even with all this done and the framework changed to suit the US, the country has walked away. Let us understand this climate chess game:

2007 Bali: The draft resolution asked for deep emission reduction cuts from the industrialised world — up to 20 per cent cuts by 2020. The US was hung up that it would not do anything within a legal framework and that it would not do anything unless China and India were similarly committed. There was much at stake as the world climate was clearly heating up. There was pressure to act. By now also, the global (western media) had successfully painted China and India as the villains in the climate pack. They had shifted public opinion away from the historical and increasing pollution of the US to the chimneys of Beijing. Growth in our world was black and bad.

The developing world made a huge shift in its position to bring the US on board. One, it agreed that there would be a separate regime for the US, which would be based on its domestic actions and these would not be legally binding. Two, it agreed to take on national actions to mitigate emissions. But underlined that these would have to be enabled by technology and funding. It also agreed that the supported actions would be subject to an international regime for monitoring and verification. The world was given two years to firm up this action plan.

2009: By now it was clear that the democratic government of Barack Obama was not different from its predecessor, Bush. It was only more visible and more determined to have its way in the negotiations. All at once, the bar of compromise was shifted again. The concession made by the developing world at Bali was brushed aside as too little. The shrill call went out: China and India and all the other renegade polluters in our part of the world should state their emission reduction targets. Nobody asked what was the target the US was willing to put on the table and if this would be anywhere close to its global contribution to the problem of climate change. The pressure was on us to respond. It was also said and repeated that we were the deal breakers. India and China were not doing their bit to cut emissions. They wanted growth at all costs. This line was fed and swallowed by many Indian commentators and politicians alike.

So, we caved in and complied once again. We put out our energy intensity reduction target; we put out a national action plan on climate change. China went aggressive in building a renewable energy portfolio. Brazil went on to cut its rates of deforestation. All this was done without any matching or even similar commitments from the US. The US continued to commission and build new coal-based power stations; increase its gas guzzling vehicle fleet and everything else.

2009 Copenhagen: By now, the goal posts had been shifted again. Now, the Obama administration made it clear: nothing or all. It also stitched up a coalition of the willing with the Bush-like moto: with us or against us.

2010 Cancun: The world capitulated to bring the US on board. The Cancun agreement is based on the US demand that there will be no legally-binding global agreements on the rich countries. Instead, there would be one agreement for all. This would be based on domestic actions, based not on historical emissions but on what each country was willing to do. But all these actions would be measured, reported and verified to ensure that countries were doing what they had agreed in their to domestic plans. There would be no promise of money or technology.

In other words, a weak, ineffective deal designed by, and for, polluters. The justification was that this regime change was needed to bring the US on board. But now the US has rejected even this weak agreement. How low will the world have to "sink"to bring the world's largest historical polluters to book?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CERTAINTY AT STAKE

HOW WILL THE GLOBAL ECONOMY SURVIVE MULTIPLE CRISES?

A V RAJWADE

The earthquake in Japan, the third-largest economy in the world, has come at an awkward time for the global economy. It adds to the uncertainties and volatilities on the back of the extremely tense situation in West Asia and North Africa. The conflict in Libya remains unresolved at the time of writing, but Arab support for the Nato action seems to be waning since the move will surely hit the civilian population, however carefully the missile and bombing attacks are targeted. Incidentally, analysts are arguing that a disruption of oil supplies from Libya may not matter too much since it accounts for just about 2 per cent of the global consumption. It is, however, worth recalling that there is little proportionality to changes in demand-supply gaps and price changes, the latter generally being far more volatile than the former. To add to uncertainties, terrorist attacks in Jerusalem have started again after a long gap. And, could the preoccupation of the West with Arab countries tempt Israel to take the opportunity to destroy Iran's suspected nuclear capabilities? So, do not rule out the possibility of oil going up to, say, $150 (or even more) a barrel (the latest Brent crude price is $115.30).

Nor is the overall economic picture any more stable in the West. The US seems politically too divided to put in place any definite plan to curb its twin deficits: fiscal and external. In Europe, the Portuguese government fell last week and the election uncertainties will surely add to the country's already serious sovereign debt problem. At the time of writing, there is no news of whether the European Union Weekend Summit has succeeded in hammering out an agreed solution to Europe's problems. Chances are that, in typical Euro style, some compromise may well have been hammered out in the early hours of Sunday.

 

The world's second-largest economy, namely China, recently came out with its latest five-year plan. The twin objectives seem to be to bring inflation down and simultaneously boost wages to increase consumption, as long demanded by the G7. The plan aims at a lower growth to achieve this but, unlike our experience at home, the Chinese economy always seems to achieve growth well above the planned target, just as projects often get completed before their scheduled time.

The Japanese triple tragedy – earthquake, tsunami and the very dangerous situation in the nuclear power plants – has also brought into sharp focus how the effectiveness of complex supply chains, which are at the heart of globalisation of output, is crippled if there is a crisis in a large manufacturing or high-technology economy. Though Japan has outsourced a lot of manufacturing, critical components continue to be made within the country. A disruption of supplies will affect manufacturing output in other countries.

The post-earthquake yen-dollar movement reminded many people of what happened in the wake of the Kobe earthquake in 1995: the yen had surged from around ¥100 to less than ¥80 against the US dollar in the following four months. (One incidental consequence was the tsunami which hit Barings Bank: Mr Leeson's naked bets on the Nikkei index suffered so much loss as to make the 300-year old bank worthless.) Just before the recent earthquake, the yen was trading at around ¥83. Immediately after the scale of the earthquake became known, the currency started strengthening sharply and at one stage had hit an all-time high of ¥76.25 against the dollar. The expectation that drove the market was that the loss claims would force Japanese insurance companies to liquidate their foreign investments and repatriate the money to their home country. Given that the Japanese market had fallen sharply, liquidating foreign investments was probably better than selling domestic assets. Inasmuch as markets work on expectations, this logic led to traders/speculators buying yen. The yen's rise surely hit stop losses of any short yen players, which forced them to buy the Japanese currency, in a text book example of feedback loops. It is interesting that the yen surged less than a week after Japan reported an all-too-rare deficit on trade account for January, and a halving of the current account surplus. The G7 intervened heavily, selling yen on a massive enough scale ($25 billion?) to take it close to its pre-earthquake level. Since then it has risen a bit in dollar terms, to ¥81.30 at the time of writing. And the euro has risen to $1.4158, despite the problems in Portugal. The third domino in the eurozone could well fall, with Portugal joining Greece and Ireland, sooner rather than later.

So far, the Japanese tragedy and the probable loss of output for at least a few months have not impacted commodity prices. Also, chances are that the economic impact of the natural disaster may be short-lived. As the World Bank says, "If history is any guide, real GDP growth will be negatively affected through mid-2011. Growth should pick up in subsequent quarters as reconstruction efforts … accelerate."

avrajwade@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

RENAME AND RENEW

RE-CHRISTENING FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS THAT WERE NAMED IN THE BRITISH ERA WILL HELP PROFESSIONALS IN INDIA COMPETE BETTER GLOBALLY.

BALA V BALACHANDRAN

The name of a person is her identity. The name of an organisation is what it represents. The name of a person does not change in her lifetime. But that of an organisation changes as it evolves, to reflect the new environment and the evolutionary process it undergoes. We have seen such changes being reflected in many organisations in India. The metamorphosis of the Confederation of Indian Industry from the Confederation of Engineering Industry is a classic example. We can see a reflection of the new realities in the change of name of federal states or even countries. A feature common to all such changes is that the old names were coined in the British era, when our rulers perceived names as they thought fit.

The changes were designed to get ourselves out of the British mentality, reflecting the earthly realities that we face on a day-to-day basis. The ministry of corporate affairs, appropriately enough, recommended the name of The Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) be changed to The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of India, when it introduced the Bill No. XXVI of 2010. This reflects the need to get rid of the British mentality; the words "works" and "costs" are products of the British legacy and are frozen in terms of concept in the first-half of the previous century. Though we freed ourselves from the British Raj, part of its legacy has remained. Let us stay independent as we have since 1947 in letter and spirit. The terms are condescending and demeaning and this is what we need to change.

 

The ministry that recommended the name change itself has undergone a metamorphosis. As an advisor to the ministry of corporate affairs, I was firmly of the view that the existing term "company" was condescending and was a British term, which did not reflect modern thought and action. All over the world, the word "corporate" is in vogue. So Mr Premchand Gupta, the then minister in charge of the companies and his successor, Mr Salman Khurshid, welcomed the new term "ministry of corporate affairs" wholeheartedly. Mr Anurag Goel, Secretary in the ministry at the time, also welcomed it and made the appropriate change.

Along the same lines, a think tank was set up and we created The Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, another milestone in the ministry's history. Mr Goel and his team, which consisted of me and other internationally renowned experts, created the charter document with the minister championing the Proactive and Visionary model. The Cabinet approved the new approach.

The accounting profession the world over is undergoing a major change reflecting the current realities. The chartered accountants or certified public accountants, as they are known in different parts of the world, are looking at the past and present and give the public a "Seal of Approval", emphasising the role of auditing and tax as independent accountants.

Let me quote from the submission made to the standing committee on the issue of name change differentiating public accountants from management accountants.

From the 25th Report of the standing committee:

"Coming to the fundamental differences between cost and management accounting and financial accounting, financial accounting is all about recording the historical transactions, applying certain standards, compiling the financial statement of profit and loss account and balance sheet out of it and any interpretation arising out of it. It is more of historic in nature whereas the cost and management accounting does not focus that much on the historical areas, but it is more predictive. If you take the case of business, it relates that business whether it is competitive; what steps we need to take in terms of future strategy to sustain; how one should be seeking profit goals; and how one should be seeking goals of satisfying the society. So, all these futuristic ways of sustaining oneself with a business strategy with the governance requirements of what has been laid down in the law, that is, a futuristic approach is a part of the management accounting process. This is, in simple terms, the fundamental difference between financial accounting in which the chartered accountants are supposed to specialise and the cost and management accounting in which our body is supposed to specialise. This is the basic difference."

The cadre of management accountants, thus, works as internal consultants, looks at the future, factors in uncertainties and provides as an internal consultant the advisory role for corporations, boards and stockholders at large. Why not change the name, like the US' Institute of Management Accountants, giving the fair name that they deserve and in line with the rest of the world? We can have the National Management Association and a regulatory exam for Chartered Management Accountants (CMA). Thus, the two organisations complement and supplement both the attestation function and the advocacy function diligently and independently. Let India take the lead for the entire world, both developing and developed. Instead of being an "emerging" economy, we should be inclusive and become a "merging" economy leveraging the "E" where "E" stands for Excellence through Electronics and IT.

For the last 30 years, the ICWAI has been appealing to the government to change its name from the "Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India" to the "Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of India". This institute has been making this appeal so that its members may be known by the functions that they perform. This is also in line with the changing role of the professionals who were earlier known as cost and works accountants of similar institutes in developed and developing countries such as the UK, US, Canada, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and so on. The appeal was also considered by the standing committee on finance, which strongly recommended the name change in 2004-05 in spite of objections. In the current environment, in which professionals are seeking to become global, it is beyond doubt that they should use titles that are in harmony with the ones used by their counterparts in the world. This will significantly enhance the brand value of such titles in a global economy where considerable outsourcing is taking place based on similarity of brand names and their global recognition. India will be lagging behind if its professionals continue to adopt titles purely based on political compulsions that inherently and permanently diminish the market values of Indian professionals and finally become defunct.

The writer is the J L Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting & Information Management, Northwestern University, Illinois, USA. He also serves as Founder & Dean, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PENSION PRAGMATISM

THREE ISSUES IN THE PENSION BILL REQUIRE THE STANDING COMMITTEE'S ATTENTION


We welcome the introduction of the Pension Fund Regulatory & Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill to give statutory powers to an already well-functioning interim regulator. Three issues deserve the attention of the standing committee on finance, to which the Bill has been referred. One, subscribers to the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) must have the freedom to voluntarily move to the New Pension System (NPS), so that their mandated saving and their employers' contribution would go to their NPS account rather than to the EPFO. During the current phase of India's high growth, riding on a demographic dividend that comes with an expiry date, the workers who build this growth should be able to establish varied claims to the economy's production base, so as to maximise their future income and minimise risk. The NPS' organisational structure with electronic accounts portable across jobs and geography, maintained by a single record keeper at a low cost, asset management flexibility as to both assets and managers, ultra-low asset management costs and regulatory oversight make the NPS far superior to the EPFO. Those who do not appreciate this must have the option to stay with the EPFO, its dodgy accounting and meagre returns. The second issue is taxation, which must be on par with that of other longterm savings. If the government does not have the guts to apply Exempt-Exempt-Taxed — which describes the tax treatment of savings at the stages of contribution, accumulation and withdrawal — to other saving products, there is no reason to penalise NPS alone with a flash of bravado. The third matter is distribution. The current model leaves no money on the table for those who do distribution, so there are virtually no distributors either. Till the NPS enrolls 5% of the workforce, the government can pay for distribution while the NPS asset managers can pick up the tab afterwards.


The main Opposition party, BJP, supported the introduction of the Bill. This is welcome. The same good sense should be extended to other reform bills, including the ones on a unified goods and services tax in the country.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CRICKET, QUITE

SYMBOLS MATTER, WHETHER INDO-PAK CRICKET OR MEETING OF HOME SECRETARIES

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to Pakistan's President and Prime Minister to watch the World Cup semi-final between the two countries along with him is a gracious and welcome gesture. Cricketing events between the two neighbours can be used for either entrenching hatreds or buttressing commonalities and larger diplomatic aims. Detractors might point out that such bouts of cricket diplomacy have not yielded much in the past, that such occasions are mere photo-op exercises which can't dispel the fog of mutual mistrust. True, India has much to be sceptical about, particularly when it comes to terrorism emanating from within Pakistan. The outstanding issues between the two nations, too, are so deep-rooted that it will require enormous political will to address them meaningfully. The problem is compounded by the fact of the military establishment in Pakistan, the de facto final arbiter on a host of issues, largely maintaining hostility towards India. But then, there is no recourse except for India to engage with Pakistan, using the right measure of prodding and dialogue with the main power centres in that country. Thus, the meeting of the countries' home secretaries on Monday seems to have had the right build-up, with reported agreements on avoiding rhetoric and high expectations even while discussing a host of issues — from progress in the Mumbai attack trial to Kashmir. This resumption of high-level talks should not be expected to deliver any breakthroughs, but rather outline the contours of a necessary, and perhaps long-drawn, dialogue.


The meeting, then, has a certain symbolism, which can be augmented by that of the premiers and fans of both nations revelling in a high-octane cricket match. That a terror attack on the World Cup tournament was reportedly averted (with Pakistan's help, it seems), or the fact that the Shiv Sena issuing threats to the Pakistani team in case they reach the final, to be played in Mumbai, underscores the fact that some sections seek to attack that symbolism. That intent must be thwarted; and diplomacy, cricketing or otherwise, must play its role.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

HAUTE PROLETARIAT

NO BLING IN BEIJING AS CHINA TRIES TO ENFORCE A HARMONIOUS SOCIETY

 

The Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce has banned outdoor advertising that promotes the high life. The word "luxury" cannot be used, nor can "high class." Similarly, "supreme" is ruled out and "royal" is banned. The government says it wants to build a "harmonious society," and fears that outrageous displays of bling could upset the social order. In its desire to promote a society where nobody is upset enough to rock any boats, the government has also banned advertising that "promotes hedonism" and the "worship of foreign-made products." It'll be interesting to see which way this experiment goes. With its breakneck growth, China is throwing up many, many millionaires whose first instinct is to flaunt new money. If the rich can't be seen to be rich, they'll figure out other ways to differentiate themselves from the proles, maybe by creating a uniquely Chinese class of Haute Proletariat.


So, as Beijing goes about enforcing social harmony, the Haute Proletariat is going about doing exactly what it likes, with or without outdoor advertising. China is the third largest market for Mercedes after Germany and the US, but the biggest buyer of its luxury S Class vehicles. Mercedes recently took well-heeled Chinese customers to its plants overseas to understand how rear seats should be designed and made. Audi has built temperaturecontrolled cup holders at the rear seating area after realising that rich Chinese prefer to ride with their tea. And appreciative Chinese customers call their BMWs "bao ma" in Mandarin, which translates as "treasure horse." The bling might have gone off Beijing's outdoor advertising, but it's still ruling the streets. And redefining what would-be revolutionaries in other countries understand by socialism with Chinese characteristics.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE RISK OF WANING INVESTMENT

A VIGOROUS POLICY PUSH FOR INVESTMENT ALONE CAN HELP INDIA ACHIEVE THE TARGET 9% GROWTH RATE


Over the past few months, India's growth outlook has been affected by adverse macro developments. The two key factors that are making us nervous on the growth outlook are: (a) inflation persistently staying above the policymakers' comfort zone; and (b) the weak investment trend. Indeed, we have recently cut our GDP growth estimates for FY2012 to 7.7% from 8.7% estimated in December 2010 compared with the government's forecast of 9%. Immediately post the credit crisis, while the policymakers took support of loose fiscal and monetary policy to revive growth, a delay in policy exit has brought the inflation challenge. Higher inflation is now forcing them to take away this support of fiscal and monetary policy. High inflation expectations have already begun to push the cost of capital higher. Given the tightness in interbank liquidity, banks have had to hike deposit rates aggressively. State Bank of India, the largest bank, has increased its deposit rates for the one to twoyear period to 9.25%, up 325 bps since July 2010. With global commodity prices continuing to rise, the cost of capital is likely to remain high for longer than we had expected, adversely affecting growth. Persistent higher inflation, we believe, will hurt private consumption growth with a lag. Moreover, we expect the government to cut its expenditure growth in FY2012 to reduce the fiscal deficit. In FY2012, the central government's fiscal deficit is likely to be lower at 5.2% of GDP compared with 6.4% of GDP (excluding revenue from telecom licence fees) in FY2011. In the absence of support from one-off revenues, we believe the government's expenditure growth will decelerate to 7.5% year-on-year (y-o-y) in FY2012 from 18.7% y-o-y in FY2011. Indeed, the central government's expenditure has been growing at an average rate of 19.2% y-o-y over the last five years. We believe this rising government expenditure to GDP over the last five years played a key role in boosting private consumption. Hence, a slowdown in government expenditure will be another factor resulting in moderation in private consumption.


In the context of potential moderation in consumption growth, acceleration in investments becomes crucial in sustaining growth. As the policymakers withdraw the support of fiscal and monetary policy, the private sector needs to takes over the mantle of sustaining growth. It is critical that the government initiates a "campaign style" effort to revive corporate sector investments to lift sustainable GDP growth higher. Inflation in a country like India, which enjoys favourable demographics, will largely be a function of the government's effort to create an environment that encourages the private sector to invest and generate the employment opportunities for working-age population.


In other words, a rise in private sector investments to GDP and production capacity is the key to achieve higher growth without a rise in inflation. The investments are important to accelerate a virtuous cycle of faster growth in productive job creation, income growth, savings, investments and higher growth.


Unfortunately, the pace of recovery in investment appears to have suffered in the last quarter of 2010, based on the order book trends for engineering and construction companies. The credit crisis had resulted in a big decline in investment to GDP (excluding investments in gold by households) to 33.2% of GDP in FY2009 from 37.1% of GDP in FY2008. More importantly, private corporate capex declined from the peak of 17.3% of GDP to 11.5% of GDP in the same period. While there has been some rise over the last two years, the pace of increase in investments has been slower than warranted. Total investments (excluding investments in gold by households) and private corporate capex has improved to 34.7% of GDP and 13.5% of GDP, respectively, in F2011, according to our estimates.

 

Post the credit crisis, the recovery in corporate confidence to push for higher investments has been slow and is much lower than the levels seen in 2006 and 2007. In 2009, companies were focused on repairing their balance sheets. In 2010, corporate confidence recovered only gradually as the global macro environment was still not comfortable enough. Right up to August 2010, the sovereign debt concerns in the EU had meant that the companies were not ready for an aggressive capex plan. Just as the global macro environment improved, domestic factors such as graft-related investigations, rise in inflation and the cost of capital have held back the investment cycle. Indeed, we did see a recovery in order book for engineering and construction companies in the first half of 2010. Order book again decelerated during the quarter ended December 2010 (see the chart). In this context, the further rise in crude oil and other global commodity prices has only increased the risk of inflation and the cost of capital, both remaining high for long, delaying the recovery of private investments.
If the government manages to implement an aggressive "campaign-style" effort to transparently clear investment projects with coordination from all ministries to revive corporate capex, it can revive the capex cycle quickly even as interest rates are high. One option could be that the government showcases 10 large infrastructure investment projects of $3-4 billion each and ensures that bidding for the projects is done in a transparent manner.


The Prime Minister's office could coordinate the process of obtaining clearances from key ministries in a transparent manner but in a short time such that the investment spending begins in the next four-five months. In the near-term, the effort to push investment growth, if accompanied with large divestments of state-owned enterprises of $15-20 billion, it can help reduce domestic liquidity constraints.
Any delay in reviving the investment cycle can risk a shift to lower range of non-inflationary GDP growth of 7% to 7.5% instead of the government's target of 9%.

 

CHETAN AHYA

ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIST & MD, MORGAN STANLEY, SINGAPORE

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

'OUR FOCUS IS INNOVATION, NOT LOW COST'

SHELLEY SINGH


STM has grown, largely organically, to become one of the largest semiconductor companies in Europe, with net revenues exceeding $10 billion in 2010. Its semiconductors are in products such as smartphones, laptops, TV set-top boxes, medical devices and cars. The Genevabased company has R&D centres in 10 countries, including India. Carlo Bozotti, president & CEO, STM, who was in India recently, says his company is focused on building scale and forging strategic alliances with customers. These include STM's joint venture with Ericsson to develop semiconductors for mobile applications.


The company has been present in India since 1987. Bozotti, 58, is a chip industry veteran and views India as a high-growth market for STM. "We are contributing in driving the growth of local businesses in segments such as set-top boxes, electronic metering, lighting, automotive applications and solar power in India. To support this market, we are also developing local partnerships with customers like Dish TV. We have a large distribution network in India with an end-customer base of over 1,000 companies.'' The company counts Philips, TataSky, Reliance and Videocon among its partners.


STM has been slow to expand despite being present here for over two decades. However, Bozotti is on the defensive, saying the company is expanding its R&D here. STM in India has filed around 370 original patent inventions, of which over 170 have been granted. Revenue from the India market is $370 million. But why is the company not setting up a chip-making facility in India? "We have gone through a restructuring to streamline manufacturing facilities worldwide. We have shut down facilities in the US, France and Morocco. We are going asset-light and in three years, STM will outsource close to 24% of its manufacturing, from about 14% at present,'' says Bozotti.


So, what will be the focus areas in India? "In the near term, we don't have any plans to set up manufacturing units. We have two focus areas in India. The first is to expand our R&D, which is our largest outside Europe. Over the last three years, we have increased manpower by 50%, moving from 1,500 to 2,200 employees. We expect this to grow further. The second is the Indian market. We want to support local customers, establish partnership with local customers and grow with them.''


GE, Texas Instruments, Intel and others focus on lowcost innovation when they develop products for the Indian market. How does STM approach innovation here? "Low cost is important but not a primary driver for the company. It has developed applications in the area of power, lighting and micro-controllers that are complete solutions. The main motivation is to innovate and not necessarily focus on low cost," says Bozotti.
Among the company's priorities are nanotechnology and micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) —machines with the size of about a millionth of a metre. Bozatti is upbeat on its prospects. "MEMS is the future. This is micro-machining technology and we build things like accelerometers (to sense motion), gyroscopes (top detect rotation), compasses, motion sensors and active microphones. Outside the automotive sector, we are the world leader in MEMS,'' he claims.


STM has miniaturised MEMS accelerometers from the size of a button to the size of a grain of rice and lowered the cost per device. This has led to their wide adoption in consumer devices such as gaming, mobile phone, GPS and photographic applications. For instance, they are in the Nintendo Wii game console, healthcare products and computers. According to market analyst firm iSuppli, STM's consumer MEMS sales grew 63% in 2010 to reach $353 million.

Bozotti says that MEMS will revolutionise sales. "For example, we have a `Lab on Chip', used to run DNA analysis and this is a good device to detect viruses. Another product we have developed is a pressure sensor for glaucoma, a serious eye disorder. The challenge is tracking the eye pressure. We have invented a very small sensor that can be put inside contact lenses, with which one can track eye pressure. We have products to track cardiac diseases, body temperature, movement of the body and information is transmitted from a sensor to a phone that can be connected to a medical institution. We have another example of glucose sensor, a system which can detect glucose levels and accordingly activate an insulin micro pump to control diabetics. We see a great opportunity to make healthcare more accessible.''


"MEMS can overcome the limitations of silicon and the Moore's law. Today we are able to manipulate silicon, like using silicon carbide, and we call it 'More than Moore'. By this, we try to put more things on silicon, thus driving up miniaturisation, efficiency and the power of chips."

 

CARLO BOZOTTI

PRESIDENT & CEO

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

DEAD PARROT TRADE TALKS

JAGDISH BHAGWATI


The Doha Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (MTN) is the first negotiation to take place under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), founded in 1995. The eight previous rounds of global trade talks were conducted under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), following its creation in 1947.


The previous MTN, the Uruguay Round, took nearly eight years to complete, causing some to quip that GATT stood for the General Agreement to Talk and Talk. But the jokes about the Doha Round, which is in its tenth year, are far worse — akin to the classic Monty Python sketch in which a customer holds up a dead parrot in a cage while the shopkeeper insists that the parrot is only "resting". When the parrot drops off its perch in the cage, the customer insists that it is now clear that the parrot is dead. The shopkeeper, however, insists that the bird is only "stunned" by the fall.


Increasingly, political leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who spoke eloquently for the Round at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, are emphasising that the Doha Round's failure would cost the world significant gains in prosperity, halt progress for the poor in developing countries and reduce workers' real incomes in developed countries.


A Doha failure would also deal a lethal blow to the credibility and future of the WTO, which has been an almost unique example of effective and democratic multilateralism. Just as the economist Lester Thurow famously declared at Davos in 1988 that "GATT is dead," the current refrain is that the WTO is Monty Python's parrot.
Given the stakes for the global economy, the Doha Round must be saved. The High-level Trade Group, cochaired by myself and Peter Sutherland, argued at Davos that this can best be achieved through a highstakes gamble of announcing a date — such as the end of 2011 — by which the negotiations are declared completed or the parrot is knocked off its perch.


But the next question is this: how do pro-trade and pro-Doha leaders such as Cameron and Merkel bring the foot-draggers on board? While many players, including Brazil, China, and the European Union, must make marginal concessions to close Doha, the focus will have to be on the principal naysayers.
The talks broke down in mid-2008, owing to the United States' refusal to reduce agricultural subsidies further and India's refusal to ask its subsistence farmers to compete with subsidised US farmers. But the main problem since then has come from the US.


President Barack Obama is presumably sympathetic to openness in trade. He cannot have spent a decade teaching at the University of Chicago without being persuaded that trade is beneficial. Even during his campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, when his main rival, Hillary Clinton, was pushing to suspend trade negotiations and had embraced the protectionist narrative, Obama kept his cool and promised instead to reopen NAFTA — a tactic designed to amount to nothing, as it has. But the Democrats in Congress who won in 2008 were financed by labour unions, which are fearful of trade, chiefly with developing countries. They have constrained Obama's willingness to embrace trade deals. Obama's loss of support from his party's left wing, which has been alienated by his compromises over Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even healthcare reform, has also played a part.


Few of these officials are willing to battle for trade, having reconciled their supposed concern for the poor with a deplorable willingness to deny developing countries access to the US and other rich markets that can help them earn their way out of poverty. Indeed, they now claim, astonishingly, that trade actually harms the poor in poor countries! Last November's elections changed for the better the politics of trade, as the Republican party is now in the majority in the US House of Representatives. Trade negotiations are supposedly acceptable again.
Obama has already offered a pre-emptive concession on a free-trade agreement with South Korea. With this FTA practically in the bag, the Republicans now want to see FTAs with Colombia and Panama put into that bag. Regrettably, neither they nor the President have asked that Doha also be put into the bag.
At long last, this is surely the opportunity for pro-Doha statesmen worldwide to pressure both Obama and the Republican leadership into doing so. To neglect this window of opportunity would be tragic.


(The author is University Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University)
© Project Syndicate, 2011

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TO STOP THE ROT, WE NEED BASIC CHANGES

 

The V.K. Shungulu Committee, which has been looking into malfeasance in various Commonwealth Games contracts, has submitted three reports to the government so far, and is working overtime to submit its final report. Headed by a former comptroller and auditor-general, the committee made several very perceptive and far-reaching recommendations with regard to the Delhi Development Authority, and the findings of one of its reports have also been handed over to the CBI. But even if action is taken against those responsible for specific wrongdoings in this instance, one wonders how far the government is willing to go to implement its wider recommendations. The panel has, for instance, suggested a system that would make such malfeasance in the award of contracts — by the DDA or any other public body in India — extremely difficult to repeat. But the problem is that committees like Mr Shunglu's lack statutory powers and, however admirable its work might be, if the government chooses to sit on its recommendations or implement them selectively, there is nothing really it can do. Hence the public scepticism about such committees — not just on inquiries into scams, corruption or financial bungling, but also matters ranging from terrorism and security, to communal riots. The reports of umpteen judicial commissions suffer from the same infirmity: the action that should follow cannot be taken for granted, and depends largely on the wishes of the government of the day. Not very long ago we had top police officials examine the response of the force during the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. The two-member panel made far-reaching recommendations; its report has not been made public. One does not know if any of its recommendations have been implemented. It has been seen that only when an inquiry or investigation is being actively monitored by a court that there is any assurance of a logical conclusion to what the police or the CBI is pursuing; that at least some of the guilty will be brought to book. It has been pointed out by some people familiar with the way investigations are conducted that the appointment of probe committees in a matter already being looked into, say, by the CBI could cause immense confusion if the findings of the two are different. This happened in the case of the Godhra incident, where the special court came to one conclusion while the committee set up by the railways reached a different one. One way out could be to develop a strong Lok Pal institution — something that the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, has long advocated. Civil society groups would do well to intensively lobby for this across the country with all major players in public life much in the way they did to bring about our landmark Right to Information Act. The Lok Pal should be an independent institution — working separately from the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the government. Another suggestion is to borrow an American model — and create an ombudsman for each department of the government. Till some basic systemic changes are brought about in the way we run the affairs of this country, we will have to wait and see what action the government is willing to take on the Shungulu Committee's recommendations.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CHARITABLE THOUGHTS

 

The Indian media has been recently awash with reports regarding the visits of Warren Buffett, and Bill and Melinda Gates and their campaign for The Giving Pledge. As the whole world knows, this is a campaign to persuade the richest people in the world to pledge half their profits to charity and to make the world a better place to live for millions of disadvantaged people. A noble cause, no doubt, and a very praiseworthy effort indeed. Yet, by and large, the visit of Mr Buffett and Mr and Mrs Gates has not left a great impact on the hearts and minds of the Indian people (and, of course, the Indian billionaires). This is not because charity is not popular in India. Far from it. The Indian society has always wholeheartedly believed in the concept of charity — be it business corporations, feudal families or individual homes, our people have never been reluctant to give to the less privileged. In any home in India, which is even reasonably wealthy, it is an article of faith that those who work as domestic staff are taken care of, their families looked after, their children educated, and all aspects of their life provided for. Those who are not so wealthy as to have retainers, have proved to be amazingly generous with their time, money and effort to help their fellow citizens in times of need. Whether it was the tsunami that hit Chennai, or the earthquake in Latur, Indians from all over the world contributed to help the victims. I found ordinary housewives in Chennai cooking food in their homes and then going out to feed a few victims when the ravage of the tsunami was at its worst. Many well-known and established names in the corporate sector have contributed in larger ways — building schools, hospitals and entire townships, not just for their employees but for all people living in the region. In Coimbatore, when one drives down the main road, one notices that almost every building is either a school, a college, or a hospital, run for the disadvantaged sections of society by large companies in the area — strictly as charity or on a non-profit basis. India is, therefore, no stranger to the joys of giving. The question, hence, is, how relevant is Mr Buffett's campaign in the Indian context. My own reactions are mixed. I had occasion to meet Mr Buffett, and I mentioned this to him, and he was quick to concede that it was never his belief that one size or model could fit all. In other words, we in India have our own model and that need not necessarily be the model of The Giving Pledge. The essence of my concern was that, on a very personal level, I like to see where my contribution to "charity" (for want of a better word) goes. I would be far more happy to see the recipients of my contribution, whether orphans in a local school or children in need, than to donate my money to a large charitable institution and then worry about how much of my contribution would actually reach the intended beneficiary and how much would be eaten up by the administrative costs of that charity. In short, rather than arms length philanthropy, I like to see where my contribution goes, and assume responsibility for it. Obviously, large corporations are not the same as individuals, and this brings us to the ongoing discussion on corporate social responsibility (CSR) or how large companies can give back to society. Under discussion at present is the possibility of legislation which will mandate that companies give two per cent of their profits towards CSR, a proposal that is naturally viewed with extreme disfavour by the corporate world who say (rightly) that this will become yet another tax. Well, why not? Some believe that The Giving Pledge, proposed by Mr Buffett and others, is no more than tax write offs, a harsh criticism to which I certainly do not subscribe. However, the issue remains that at the end of the day, notwithstanding all the concomitant drawbacks of delivery systems, the state or the government is the best possible agency to provide for the welfare of disadvantaged sections of society and to decide where and how those funds are to be utilised. Private corporations who pledge money to their own foundations, howsoever well intentioned, can never be as non-partisan or as effective as the government in implementing welfare schemes. The argument that while giving charity it is the right of the individual or the company to decide where that money should go is indisputable and inviolable. However, the fact is that if the choice is between high net worth individuals and companies paying slightly larger taxes to fund government welfare schemes, and setting up their own private charity institutions, there can be no denying that slightly higher taxes, with the government supervising delivery of welfare schemes, would be far more effective than private charitable institutions. Peter Kramer, a Hamburg-based shipping magnate and billionaire, has the following to say about The Giving Pledge: "I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write off donations in your taxes to a large degree in the US. So the rich make a choice. Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state and that is unacceptable. It is just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires, so it is not the state that decides where the money should go, but rather the rich… That runs counter to the democratically-elected state". Very strong words, but thought-provoking, particularly when one reflects that The Giving Pledge has mostly been signed by billionaires (including Mr Buffett and Mr Gates) who had already pledged or given their money away to their charitable foundations before signing the pledge. In other words, the money had already been committed, it was not an increase in charity. In the ultimate analysis, the concept of giving and sharing is at the foundation of our social fabric and, as a society, it is our duty to encourage every genuine initiative that takes the idea forward and strengthens it. * Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this column are her own.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CRICKET DIPLOMACY IS A WELCOME MOVE

 

India-Pakistan relations would have had a great past if diplomatic initiatives were the key thing. Alas, it takes a lot to translate good intentions into good deeds when it comes to ties between these two countries that speak the same language with the same accent, eat the same food, and hum the same tunes. What's more, the people of India and Pakistan appear to bear each other no visceral animosity, although much has happened in the past that is terrible. Perhaps this is why political leaders from both sides occasionally say or do things that are pleasing to the ear on the other side. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's invitation to Pakistan President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, and the Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani, to join him at Mohali on March 30 to see their respective countries play each other in the semi-final of the cricket World Cup can be said to fall in this category. There is no trickery here, no googly, no reverse swing. This much will be appreciated in Islamabad as well. The good thing about Dr Singh's invitation is that it cannot cause a setback, especially since expectations are seldom high in India-Pakistan relations. It has been reported that Dr Singh did not consult the ministry of external affairs in extending the invitation. Bureaucracies on both sides tend to be conservative, and are also short on ideas that may have a potential to break the logjam. Indeed, the history of ties between the two countries shows that new moves — or new ideas — have come from high political levels. This was so at Thimphu last May — to go back no further — when the bilateral meeting between the two PMs on the sidelines of the Saarc summit ended up becoming the high point of the gathering. The Mumbai attack by Pakistan-trained terrorists had deepened the trust deficit between New Delhi and Islamabad and had also led to inflamed feelings at the people level in India. Yet, the Indian leader took courage in both hands in an effort to break the ice, and virtually set the tone for a resumption of dialogue, ruptured in the aftermath of Mumbai. Alas, not much has happened since then although the home ministers, foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two countries have met. These transactions led to some more airing of bitterness, but also produced further exchanges at the level of senior bureaucrats. Pakistan has made the right noises but done little to give India satisfaction on the count of punishing the men behind the Mumbai outrage. Yet Dr Singh has pushed ahead in the hope that the neighbours must never cease talking. This is a sort of doctrine that sometimes amazes the world. But this is exactly what the Western world desires (they theatrically say they fear a nuclear Armageddon if dialogue is not maintained) although Westerners would never be caught adopting such a stance themselves. The home secretaries of the two countries would have met in New Delhi just before the Mohali match. With the Prime Minister's invitation out, it is unlikely that this meeting would be short on the right words.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THIS HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA

 

Shaadi ya barbadi! Man, they say, is a social animal, but the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) obviously does not think so. During this year's first wedding season, BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has issued a unique diktat to her party leaders — she has told them not to attend any weddings or social functions where any Opposition leader is present. Else, they will face action. This has miffed BSP leaders, particularly those who have come in from other parties and who have a sizeable social circle. "Imagine? The world is attending Shaadi 3 crore Ki and we are being asked to stay away", said a BSP member of the legislative Assembly (MLA). "Attending weddings and functions is an important part of public life. How can we expect people to support us in elections if we refuse to grace their functions?" Some clever ones, however, have found a way out. They now visit the groom or bride's residence — depending on the invitation — in the afternoon with the right excuses and gifts. And they make sure that they do not get photographed. This way, they do not break Ms Mayawati's laws and also fulfil their social obligations. * * * Dog Day Budget Even the great epic Mahabharata extols the dog-human friendship through the story of a stray dog who travelled with Yudhishthira up to the Himalayas. But in the Rajasthan Assembly, a reference to a "dog" literally led to a mahabharat recently. It all began when Opposition leader Vasundhara Raje raised the issue of live cartridges found in the bag of home minister Shanti Dhariwal. Mr Dhariwal immediately stood up and made rude remarks against Ms Raje, who was involved in the shooting of a dog. That's when all hell broke loose. Though it was the state Assembly's Budget Session and the MLAs had gathered to discuss issues related to public welfare, everything turned topsy turvy over the "dog". * * * One for my 'baby', too It is election time in Kerala, and when the possible list of Congress candidates was initially drawn up, surprises were many. The list had to have the stamp of the high command, so the exercise of trimming it began in real earnest. The state leaders found it hard to identify some of the names and spent hours investigating one candidate after another. But one name baffled all. A woman aspirant who was "unknown" to the state leaders had found her way into the list. The search began and it soon became clear that a staff member at the high command office had added his daughter's name to the list. He probably thought that with so many names, familiar and unfamiliar, his daughter's name, would just slip through. After all, one can't say when lady luck will smile. Unfortunately for him, luck looked the other way and Congress leaders angrily deleted the name. * * * Saare jahaan se acha India's uniqueness lies in its philosophy of unity in diversity and tolerance for all religions. Shashi Tharoor, former minister of state for external affairs and Lok Sabha member of Parliament (MP) from Thiruvananthapuram, recently cited a concrete instance to illustrate this uniqueness. While participating in a Lok Sabha debate last week, Mr Tharoor referred to the swearing-in of Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister in the first United Progressive Alliance government. "Look at the swearing-in of Dr Singh, who is a Sikh, in 2004", said Mr Tharoor. "He was nominated by Sonia Gandhi, who is a Catholic, and was administered oath of office by a Muslim President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, in a country where the majority population is Hindu." This could be possible only in India, he said. * * * 'D' in BJP's DNA stands for 'doublespeak' The doublespeak by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the India-US civil nuclear deal is not surprising. In one of the cables released by WikiLeaks, BJP supremo L.K. Advani is quoted as telling US charge d'affairs Peter Burleigh to not take seriously his party's move to reopen the nuclear deal and that the BJP "does not take international agreements lightly". Doublespeak seems to be a part of the BJP's DNA. In the 1990s, when there was widespread opposition to the Enron power plant coming up at Dabhol, BJP leader in Maharashtra Gopinath Munde had repeatedly announced in his electoral campaigns that when the BJP comes to power it will throw the Enron project into the Arabian Sea. Well, the BJP did come to power and Mr Munde led the team to renegotiate the power project.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MORALITY OF MEAT

 

It was a day of the solar eclipse. Crowds had gathered at Kurukshetra, a famous pilgrim spot in Haryana. Visitors were busy giving charity to the Brahmins who were reciting passages from the puranas informing them that a monster has gripped the sun and prayers and charities by the faithful would liberate it. Guru Nanak and Mardana happened to be there. They were sitting under a tree that was giving dense shade. The two were deeply absorbed singing praises of God and were almost oblivious of what was happening around. At that time, a queen and her prince son, who had been hunted out of their land, arrived. Both were taken in by the song of Guru Nanak. The prince had hunted down a deer on the way; that he placed before the holy man as offering and sat down to hear his song. After a while, Guru Nanak noticed the queen and the prince sitting in attendance. He asked them what had made them come to him. The prince narrated the story of his misfortune and sought the Guru's blessings for restoration of his dispossessed estate. The Guru bade the prince's retinue to put the deer to roast on fire. As the deer was being roasted, some Brahmins and sadhus noticed the smoke that was rising and got furious about a fire having been lit on the day of eclipse. As they came close to the fire, they became doubly furious when they saw that meat was being roasted. They indicted the Guru for having desecrated the atmosphere. They asked him if he was a Hindu or some kind of an apostate? The Guru smiled and began to sing: "They are simple fools who wrangle about eating or not eating meat. What is meat and what is salad, and eating which causes sin? You know, the Gods were habituated to slaughtering a rhinoceros and making a feast thereof. They who shun meat and pretend to dislike even its smell are often seen eating it at night. They are hypocrites who only want to make a show before other people. Do they know what has really been ordained eatable and what forbidden? Weren't these pretenders themselves produced from parental flesh and blood? When a man and his woman meet at night doesn't one's flesh meet that of the other? Why does meat horrify you so much that you decline to eat flesh? O dears! The domestic flesh seems savoury to you, and flesh from outside looks abhorrent. Conceived by flesh and born in flesh, aren't we ourselves vessels of flesh? Don't you know that even the soul takes its home in flesh? The blind ones eat forbidden sinfully earned food, but shun edible one. Eating meat is permitted in the puranas as also in the Semitic scriptures. It has been eaten throughout the four Great Ages. In sacred feasts and marriage festivities, isn't meat welcome? If meat eaters are destined to hell, why do you accept gifts and charities from them? The giver goes to hell and the receiver to heaven, isn't that justice funny? O pundit, what you preach to others, you do not seem to practice yourself." This song of Guru Nanak is recorded in Guru Granth Sahib. When I read it, a thought flashed: The lion is a meat eater; cannot eat vegetation because he has not been endowed with enzymes that can break the cellulose of vegetation to make it digestible. The elephant, which is constituted by tons of flesh, cannot eat any flesh. He has no enzymes for digesting and assimilating meat. Man, however, has been endowed with both kinds of enzymes. Hence, according to the Divine Will, neither meat nor salad is forbidden to him. He has a choice. — J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist of international repute, was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

FUMES OF FUKUSHIMA

 

The fiery fumes of Fukushima have not reached our shores, but they have entered our souls. Indeed, a soul searching is imperative even by those who have so far believed that nuclear energy is the panacea for power shortage and underdevelopment. Those who have watched the helplessness of humanity, even its most scientifically advanced and disciplined part, will be devastated by the human suffering and the looming danger. Those who fight the fire in Japan, braving the deadly fumes, have been characterised as a suicide squad. Is humanity itself turning into a suicide squad, with the increased risks that nuclear reactors have engendered? The world has not been unaware of these risks, demonstrated at Chernobyl and Three Miles Island, but hope has prevailed over experience. The new awareness of global warming, resulting from the use of fossil fuels, has contributed to a virtual nuclear renaissance. Fukushima's wake-up call has come at a crucial time. For India, the situation is particularly critical as it is on the threshold of a resurgence in nuclear power generation. We cannot but rethink India's half-a-century old decision to develop its energy mix with nuclear power as an essential component. In today's conditions, India simply cannot afford to shut down its nuclear reactors or freeze our nuclear power development, which was energised by the nuclear deal. The thought that five hundred million people of India still have no access to electricity is frightening. Equally worrying is the prospect of having to abandon the new opportunity we have of obtaining fuel and equipment on account of the end of nuclear apartheid against India. India's minimum nuclear deterrent also needs to be preserved as long as nuclear weapons are part of the security doctrine of any country, friend or foe. We have to live with the dangers and risks for the sake of security on the one hand and development on the other. As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, we are committed to their elimination at least in the distant future. In 1988, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave the world an action plan for nuclear disarmament, which outlined a plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons by 2010. The world largely ignored it then, but rediscovered it recently, not to embrace it unconditionally, but as one noble thought which should prepare the world for the long and arduous journey up the high mountain of disarmament and non-proliferation, from the summit of which one can see a world free of nuclear weapons. India's dream once again became a part of the search for the Global Zero. After all, India gave the zero to the world and it may well lead it to Global Zero. Likewise, India should now give the world an "action plan for denuclearisation of energy" within a 20-year framework. We should, of course, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, look at every nuclear reactor from the safety angle and take all the corrective measures necessary. We should also pull out the dusty files which have reports of past accidents and make them public for the whole world to see. Suspicions of sabotage by insiders should be thoroughly investigated. These are essential steps even to maintain nuclear power generation for 20 years. Our action plan should seek to get the entire world to commit itself to denuclearisation of energy. Like in the disarmament plan, realistic steps must be indicated at every stage of the plan, without disrupting life in countries which are already dependent on nuclear energy. It should not create impediments to essential nuclear research for disease prevention and control, food safety and security, natural resource management etc, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should continue to pursue. Accompanying the plan will be a massive programme for developing renewable energy sources that do not contribute to climate change. The ideal place for India to present the action plan is the United Nations General Assembly, which, in turn, can ask the IAEA to examine the plan, together with other proposals, to adopt a universally acceptable convention. Such a measure will deprive the IAEA of part of its empire as it has been envisaging a nuclear renaissance by 2020. Several countries are waiting in line for designing and installing power projects and the only constraint is the lack of financial and technical resources. But Fukushima may have already had an impact on the aspirants and the line may have shrunk in the last one week. The action plan has a chance of succeeding if it is put forward before the fires of Fukushima die down and the nuclear lobbies bounce back into action. Apart from the traditional nuclear sceptics like Austria, there will be new takers for the idea like Germany, which has decided to take a measured exit from nuclear power and reach the age of renewable energy as soon as possible. Switzerland also has taken similar measures. The vast majority of nations in the world, which has no nuclear programme for generation of electricity, will embrace the plan. No doubt, a section of opinion makers in India will be reluctant to support such an initiative. The practicality of the idea will be called into question. But Rajiv Gandhi had no hesitation in presenting the action plan for disarmament at a time when the world was not ready for it. Likewise, this is a historic opportunity for Dr Manmohan Singh to present a plan to save future generations of mankind from catastrophe. * T.P. Sreenivasan is a former ambassador of India and governor in the IAEA

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GROUPS TO FEED

ABOVE THE UNDERBELLY OF GOVERNANCE


CONSIDERING the feet-dragging and indecision that for the past two years have hobbled confabulations on the food security bill, it would be premature to imagine that the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has scored a victory over the Group of Ministers. Last Thursday's identification of eight "highly vulnerable" groups by the NAC doubtless lends a sharper focus to the priority segment.  It may just be an ironical  coincidence that the identification has been announced in parallel with the food inflation ballooning once again to the double-digit figure of 10.5 per cent. The groups have been named on the basis of the Saxena committee report of August 2009. And the finding has been buttressed by the Planning Commission survey that revealed that more than 50 per cent of the poor don't possess the food-entitlement card or have deliberately been provided with APL cards to exclude them from the BPL segment.


   It is cause for alarm if the NAC ~ pre-eminently social activists ~ has to conclude that methods of identifying the poor have unabashedly been distorted. The government cannot possibly be unaware of the "vulnerable" sections of the populace and the contrived reasons for their vulnerability. It may not be overly cynical to suggest that the NAC findings may spark another bout of discourse, if not discord, between the Food ministry and the council. Its functioning has as often as not been impeded by varying perceptions of the government on the size of the target group and the quantity and pricing of the subsidised foodgrain, indeed the volume of the subsidy.
An administration that can't firm up its mind on the quantity the poor are supposed to eat to guard themselves against malnutrition cannot be expected to register a forward movement on the food security bill.  As a matter of form, the Group of Ministers will almost certainly take a call on the NAC's latest report and the legislation may remain in the stage of present-indefinite for some time yet. It deals with one of life's essentials and ought not to be confused with a populist welfare handout. As one of the first commitments of UPA-II, it has been in gestation for close to two years.  More the pity, therefore, that it has been overshadowed by a string of scams, leaks and/or hearsay and electoral compulsions. Food must transcend the underbelly of governance.

POSITIVE EFFORT

EVEN IF NO 'SPECIFICS' GAINED

A STALEMATE may have been the "result" of the recent meeting between fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Jaffna who are locked in confrontation that often turns violent, but it did take the issue beyond the normal official interaction that has also failed to solve a tricky issue. At least some "understanding" has been injected into the equation, and that could have a bearing when the Joint Working Group on fisheries meets later this month. It was important that a Sri Lanka minister who fostered the meeting chose to let the fishermen talk directly to each other, it helped bring a new focus to the normal discussions. What was significant was that the Tamil Nadu fishermen virtually admitted they frequently crossed into Sri Lankan waters: that should lower the political rhetoric, though with election fever rising in Tamil Nadu the emotive issue could yet again be exploited by politicians who cannot see beyond the ballot box. Both New Delhi and Chennai would do well to note the Tamil Nadu fishermen hoping that they would steadily move on to deep-sea trawling for tuna ~ they were receiving training, financial assistance and other support to make that major change in their lifestyle. It is now critical that those schemes progress efficiently and expeditiously. In the interim, the measures taken to advise the fishermen from Tamil Nadu that they are entering troubled waters must continue, and the Coast Guard has to sustain its protective operations.

On paper, the fishing "industry" does get some attention but it is obvious that Krishi Bhawan in insular New Delhi accords limited priority to the modernisation of a source of livelihood to a large, vulnerable section of society. The fact that so many foreign trawlers "poach" Indian waters is another manifestation of under-exploitation of a natural resource. There is urgent need for a comprehensive review of fisheries policy, which in addition to upgrading "post-harvest" operations must reflect greater sensitivity to regional/local complications. The fishermen of north Gujarat have a set of difficulties that are quite different from what are faced by those putting out from fishing harbours in the deep South. Sadly fisherfolk have no powerful political lobbies like cotton or sugarcane growers.


OUTRAGE IN JERUSALEM

BOTH SIDES MUST HOLD THEIR FIRE

AS international attention gets increasingly rivetted on the Arab world, last Wednesday's bomb attack in Jerusalem has set the clock back on the peace process. It may not signal the renewal of hostilities just yet, but there has been an escalation of tension in the Gaza Strip over the past few days. The peace  talks have foundered and the crisis could be building up towards another conflict. The  latest outrage is the first of its kind in seven years, and the conflict in the Middle East ~ festering for six decades ~ becomes still more intractable. From the Israeli perspective, the bombing of the bus terminal reinforces Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stand that effective talks are not possible unless the Palestinians end the extremist violence. The upsurge in the Arab world has rendered the geo-political scenario still more uncertain, indeed diverting the focus of the Big Powers, pre-eminently Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy. The stakeholders are faced with a grim choice ~ between a peace agreement involving Israel and Palestine and a movement for democracy in the Arab world. Arguably, the parameters for negotiations are bound to change if the whiff of democracy and social reforms can transform the Arab nations.


The Jerusalem bombing is reminiscent of the Second Intifada. Though no group has thus far claimed responsibility, the Israeli authorities have predictably blamed the Palestinian militants, a charge that has been couched with the threat of retaliation. As much is clear from Mr Netanyahu's response: "We will react aggressively, responsibly and wisely." At another remove, his counterpart, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, has condemned the attack. Considering that this is the reaction of a moderate, it could be argued that the Palestinian authorities have little or no control over the perpetrators. The outrage on the ground has sparked another bout of furious shadow-boxing. A vast swathe is in ferment; both Israel and Palestine must hold their fire; this isn't the moment to precipitate a conflict.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

PRESIDENCY'S TRAVAILS

NAXALITE MOVEMENT SPARKED THE DISRUPTION AND DECLINE

DIPAK BASU


THE articles by Nirupom Som, "First Presidency gherao" (15 February), and Arunabha Bagchi, "The turning point" (6 January), have recounted the disturbances in the college in the late Sixties. Both have mentioned big names, notably Justice AN Roy, Jyoti Basu, Biman Bose and others. But they have not examined the major reason for the gradual decline of a great institution.


Presidency's troubles didn't originate in the college, but at Hindu Hostel where the one-time Left radical, Asim Chatterjee (Kaka) and at least 10 of his friends used to stay without paying the charges. He would frequently change his Honours subject. In 1966-67, they had ceased to be students of the college. His close and brilliant friend, Dipanjan Ray Chaudhuri (mentioned by VS Naipaul in the book A Million Mutinies Now) had already cleared his MSc and had applied for admission to universities in the UK and the USA.


The superintendent of  Hindu Hostel, Dr Haraprasad Mitra, a noted poet and professor of Bengali, had tried to prevent these outsiders from entering the hostel. The students were instigated by these outsiders to go on hunger-strike and demand the removal of Prof Mitra. The complaint was that the hostel superintendent had not replaced very old cups and plates in the dining hall. However, we the students were very proud of the crockery that was once used by Rajendra Prasad or even Netaji Subhas Bose. The latter, though not a boarder, would visit Hindu Hostel frequently.


Accompanied by Dr SN Bose, the college principal, Prof Mitra, appealed to the students to resume dining in the hostel. But to no avail. He resigned in disgust. Regrettably, the opinion of the silent majority of the hostel inmates was never taken into consideration. A group of 10 to 15 students, who sympathised with the Naxalite movement, appeared to control the affairs of the college.


These students had allegedly insulted and abused Dr SN Bose. Some were even expelled. In protest, a handful of students managed to close the college. There were frequent clashes between this group and members of the Presidency College Students Organisation (PCSO), an apolitical entity whose members belonged to upper class families and had studied in English medium schools. Amit Mitra, secretary-general of FICCI, was at that point in time a PCSO leader.  He is now contesting the West Bengal Assembly election as a Trinamul candidate.
For Presidency, it was the beginning of a disturbed phase, one that coincided with the dismissal of the first United Front ministry by Dharma Vira, then the Governor of West Bengal. The Naxalite students of the college  joined the general protest against Raj Bhavan's decision by burning trams on College Street. A series of violent clashes with the police followed over the next few weeks. On one occasion, the police fired from the roof of the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, but fortunately no one was injured. The Left radical students burnt the car of the institute's director. Every room of Hindu Hostel was raided after this incident. The college was closed. President's rule was imposed on Bengal in the aftermath of the dismissal of the first UF ministry, headed by Ajoy Mukherjee. In course of time, the Naxalite students were subdued and Presidency reopened.


It turned out to be a fragile peace. Suddenly one day in the summer of 1969, the Naxalites deviated from their daily sessions at the Calcutta Coffee House, and attacked the Chemistry laboratory of the college and the library of Calcutta University. Mr Nirupom Som has mentioned that he had noticed both Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose among the agitating students. However, in the late Sixties, the relationship between the SFI and Naxalite students was hostile. In 1968, SFI students of another college in central Kolkata  had tried to kidnap a Naxalite student leader from the Hindu Hostel gate.


Another extremist student was stabbed in Surya Sen Street. Before long, anti-socials and lumpens joined the bandwagon, masquerading as Naxalite students. Both Presidency College and West Bengal as a whole were ruined in the wave of violence unleashed by these fake Naxalites since 1970.


The Naxalite students of Presidency were somewhat hypocritical. I had come across some of them in England a few years later when I went there for higher studies and research. After completing their studies in the UK, these one-time Naxalite students have joined British or American multinational companies perhaps to satisfy their revolutionary zeal. However, their actions have ruined Presidency College.


In retrospect, it appears that the relative inaction of the Presidency College authorities and Calcutta Police was also responsible for the decline of the institution. There was no call to close the college during 1967-68; the authorities should have acted strictly according to rules. Neither Dr SN Bose nor Dr Haraprasad Mitra should have resigned. They should have taken strong action against the minority of disruptive students. With the help of the police, they could have prevented the intrusion of outsiders like Asim Chatterjee and his gang from entering the college and the hostel.


This is the lesson that the present administration of  Presidency University must learn. Rather than surrender to the outsiders, who are determined to foment trouble just to demonstrate their existence, the authorities must not allow them to enter the college and the hostel. It would, of course, be better to ban student unions as they do not help the students in any way, but are a constant source of trouble and tension. In a sense, both Mr Som and Mr Bagchi have tried to glorify the Naxalite students. They were nothing but a menace to that generation of Presidency College students who suffered on account of the violence and disruption of the academic schedule in the late Sixties.

The writer is Professor in International Economics, Nagasaki University, Japan

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THE TELEGRAPH

ACROSS THE SEA

The end of the colonial era was heralded by India's independence in 1947; in another decade and a half, virtually all colonies became independent. But decolonization was managed differently by Britain and France. Repelled by the ingratitude of its colonials, Britain turned away from its empire and moved closer to the United States of America and its white ex-colonies. France, on the other hand, continued to give generous aid to its ex-colonies, especially in Africa, and maintained close economic, political and cultural ties with them.

When it entered the European Union, it persuaded its fellow members to extend to its ex-colonies the same privileges it had earlier given them. Geographically, however, its link with them was broken by the Arab states. Tunisia and Morocco became independent without much rancour, but the presence of French settlers led to a long, sanguinary conflict in Algeria. Egypt and Libya fell under nationalist leaders. Thus, the southern edge of the Mediterranean was not friendly towards Europe. Whether the current series of insurrections along the coast will change this is not yet clear; the rebels on the streets are more concerned with removing their dictators than with forging new external alliances. But they have given hope to the Europeans that a closer, warmer relationship with the southern littoral might emerge. The Europeans, however, face a hurdle in Libya; Muammar Gaddafi is not known to have smiled at anyone, not even in his harem. Hence their haste in going to the assistance of Libyan rebels. Their rationale — that they would let Gaddafi shoot his rebels but not bomb them — is not very comprehensible; it probably has more to do with their superiority in the air than with any high principles.

But the heads of European states are dreaming; it is important to understand those dreams. The coming scarcity of oil is much in the news; but it is not the only exhaustible resource. Resources will approach exhaustion at varying rates in the coming decades; and countries will compete for access to them. In that competition, the US will continue to have privileged access to resources across the Americas. Russia is likely to retain control of its own. Africa happens to be the closest resource-rich continent; Europe would be very tempted to secure access to its resources. French and British assistance to Libyan rebels may seem to be an understandable reaction to an unattractive dictator. But it is not necessarily devoid of geopolitical calculations. The calculations may seem remote to insular and inward-looking India. But whether it wants it or not, India is emerging to be a superpower, and will face the same need for access to resources from outside its borders as other superpowers. Hence, the moves being made in Africa are not irrelevant to India. Indian pressmen are already active in the trouble spots of Maghreb. It is to be hoped that Indian statesmen are not far behind.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PEOPLE'S TURN

In Syria, it is mandatory for the people to break into applause each time the name of their president is mentioned in public speeches. Such draconian rituals of paying obeisance to authority could only lead to downright rebellion, though it took close to half a century for Syrians to finally lose all patience. Since 1963, the Baath Party has a firm grip on Syrian politics, largely because of its towering stature as a pan-Arab nationalist body in the Middle East. Together with Lebanon, it has offered a decisive challenge to Israeli oppression in the region, even at the expense of alienating itself from Saudi Arabia and the United States of America. However, as is often the case with socialist regimes, Baath supremacy started losing its sheen once the exigencies of dynastic politics began to overwhelm greater common good. From the president down to petty bureaucrats, corruption became all-pervasive, human rights went for a toss, and power became the exclusive privilege of the al-Assad family. The Syrian revolt follows the predictable pattern of idealism poisoned by greed that is being played out in a series of autocratic regimes across the Arab world since early this year.

There is, however, no reason to assume that the US and its Western allies will unleash an attack on Syria in a way they are carrying out military operations in Libya. For one, Syria is a far too powerful force to reckon with compared to Libya. Further, Syria's ties with the Hizbollah are also cause for alarm and caution. So, instead of plunging headlong into action, the West is likely to show prudence and tread softly on Syria. While such a strategy may help avoid another clash of the East and the West, it will certainly not provide a lasting solution to the people of Syria. The latter will still be vulnerable to the atrocities of their own rulers.

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THE TELEGRAPH

THOUGHT CONTROL

THE US HAS GIVEN NEW DELHI AN ALIBI REGARDING FOOD PRICES ASHOK MITRA

It was George W. Bush, then occupant of the White House, who authored the fascinating falsehood: global food prices were ruling high because the Chinese and the Indians were getting prosperous and, blast them, consuming more food. The relevant data are at variance with this extraordinary thesis. As far as, for instance, India goes, per capita grain consumption is today significantly lower than what it was at the time of Independence. Despite growth in overall national income and such frivolities as hosting the World Cup cricket tournament, the majority of Indians remain horrendously poor and the proportion of population below the poverty level refuses to come down to any appreciable extent.

But, then, George W. Bush and the utterance of inexactitudes went together. He wanted to destroy Saddam Hussein and Iraq. A pretext had to be found. Saddam was stockpiling, the world was told, dangerous weaponry. There was not a shred of concrete evidence then supportive of the accusation; not a shred of evidence has been unearthed since. So what, Bush, ably assisted by his comrade-in-crime, the then British prime minister, Tony Blair, proceeded to finish off Iraq.

Domestic consumers in the United States of America were getting increasingly unhappy because of rising food prices despite the huge surplus of grains the country was accumulating year after year. To pacify the consumers, Bush needed to profess some explanation for the puzzle. Speculation plays a part, but the more basic reason for the persistence of food inflation in the US was, and continues to be, political. It is, however, not possible for American politicians to be candid in the matter. The US constitution accords immensely greater power to the upper legislation chamber — the Senate — than to the House of Representatives. In addition, each state comprising the Union elects two senators, size and population are no consideration. This provision was inserted in the constitution with a view to ensuring that problems and concerns of relatively small entities receive adequate attention. In course of time, it has, however, led to one unforeseen development: senators from states like Nevada, Nebraska or Idaho, tiny in size but yielding huge farm surpluses, have come to wield inordinately excessive political influence. On their insistence, subsidies in various forms are paid to the farm sector which has at most 3 per cent of the national electorate. This allows farmers to hold back stocks and avert any fall in prices. Such subsidies at the same time aggravate the fiscal deficit. The US produces each year foodgrains far beyond the requirements of the entire nation. The resulting surplus is sought to be sent out of the country by clandestine subsidies, further straining the budget. The culture of subsidies is in fact built into the American system.

That in turn poses a dilemma. Urban resentment caused by food inflation while the economy is in deep depression has to be somehow coped with. Politicians in administration shop around for alibis that could explain away the phenomenon. George W. Bush found it convenient to lay the blame at the door of distant China and India.

That outrageous statement was made half a dozen years ago during Bush's second term. He was not accountable to the people of either China or India and could afford to be irresponsible. Difficulty arises with copycats in our neighbourhood. Continuously rising food prices are an immensely graver issue here in India. Following the onset of liberalization, investment in the farm sector has dried up. Neo-liberal dogma insists on shrinkage of budgetary outlays. Irrigation and land reclamation projects have accordingly been drastically curtailed. Private capital is reluctant to move in and fill the gap, since the return from investment in agricultural infrastructure is low. Sluggish rate of growth in farm output and generous credit policy which encourages hoarding alongside unchecked speculative activities have combined to queer the pitch for food inflation. Intermittent talk continues on the need to have a second 'green revolution'. But the first 'revolution' leaned on the very active role of the government. With the virtual embargo on public outlays in the farm sector, a resurrection of the zeal and intensity of intent that was evident during the 1960s is most improbable. Once more on account of doctrinaire belief, the public distribution system built with great meticulousness all over the country in the earlier decades has been largely dismantled in the recent period. Efforts are simultaneously on to sabotage the food security bill which promises a slightly better regime than at present for reaching food to the poverty-stricken. The authorities mulishly oppose suggestions for a universal public distribution blanketing the country. They happen to be adamant in another respect too. A most effective way to quieten the rise in food prices is to give short shrift to traders indulging in speculation. The obvious step to take is to ban futures trading in foodgrains. This the government will not do; class interests have to be taken care of.

Ministers and top civil servants ensconced in New Delhi are seemingly unconcerned about food inflation. They have other important things for consideration. Earnest debate takes place within the fold over whether the rate of gross domestic product growth was going to be 9 per cent or 8.75 per cent or 9.15 per cent, as if this was a matter of life and death. For common people, it is the rate of food inflation which is a matter of life and death. The neglect of the farm sector over the past couple of decades is coming home to roost. The rate of growth of farm products, including of foodgrains, has, in quite a few years, fallen behind the rate of growth in population. The authorities will nonetheless not agree to any meaningful increase in the outlay for agriculture and irrigation. It will also not revive the public distribution system, will not review credit policy, will not prohibit speculation in foodgrains trade.

Not that they are not aware of the underlying issues. They still want to brazen it out. A breathtaking instance of conditioned reflex, they have rushed to delve into the stockpile of George W. Bush's sage sayings in search of a defending shield against complaints of the unconscionable increase in food prices. It does not call for a WikiLeak to establish the point: not just foreign policy, the overall structure of decision-making in New Delhi is currently determined by signals coming from Washington, D.C. The poor in India and China, Bush had the cheek to suggest, were eating more and pushing up world food prices. What an American president thought yesterday the natural allies of the US in New Delhi think today. Ministers and their minions over here echo Bush and claim food inflation to have been caused by rising consumption on the part of peasants, workers and members of the lower middle class supposedly rolling in luxury in heavenly post-liberalized India.

If facts and obiter dictum by a US president — past or incumbent — do not match, reject the facts and follow the precepts of the noble American. Does not this attitude goad us into remembering Orwell's parable of an imaginary state where thought control defines existence? The US-India relationship at the official level at this moment is a perfect example of international thought control. The discipline enforced by the so-called Washington Consensus has been learnt to perfection: in the Indian capital, one must, always, strive to be in consensus with whatever Washington preaches, even if it is atrociously silly and slanderous.

Nota bene: The ministry of external affairs in New Delhi has "regretted" the Iraq-type intrusion into Libya by the US and its closest cronies and "condemned" their use of force. One embarrassed swallow does not make the summer though.

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THE TELEGRAPH

PICK AND CHOOSE

GWYNNE DYER

March 18 saw the first nationwide protests against the Baath regime in Syria. If these protests develop into a full-scale revolt, the regime's response may dwarf that of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The last time Syrians rebelled, in Hama in 1982, President Hafez al-Assad sent in the army to smash the insurrection. Hama's centre was destroyed by artillery fire, and at least 17,000 people were killed.

The current Syrian ruler, Bashar al-Assad, is allegedly a gentler person than his father, Hafez, but the Baath Party still rules Syria, and it is just as ruthless as ever. So what happens if the Syrian revolution gets under way, and the Baath Party starts slaughtering people again? Do the same forces now intervening in Libya get sent to Syria as well?

Syria has four times Libya's population and serious armed forces. The Baath Party is as centralized and intolerant of dissent as the old communist parties of Eastern Europe. It is also controlled internally by a sectarian minority, the Alawis, who fear that they would suffer terrible vengeance if they ever lost power. The United Nations security council was absolutely right to order the use of "all necessary measures" to stop Gaddafi's regime from attacking Libyans. But it does move us all into unknown territory: today Libya, tomorrow Syria?

The "responsibility to protect" concept that underpins the UN decision on Libya was first proposed in 2001 by Lloyd Axworthy, then Canada's foreign minister. He was frustrated by the UN's inability to stop the genocides in Kosovo and Rwanda in the 1990s, and concluded that the problem was the UN's own rules. So he set out to change them. It was purely a Canadian government initiative. "You can't allow dictators to use the façade of national sovereignty to justify ethnic cleansing," Axworthy explained. So he launched a head-on attack on sovereignty.

The commission he set up concluded, unsurprisingly, that the UN should have an obligation to protect people from mass killing at the hands of their own government. Since that could only be accomplished, in practice, by military force, it was suggesting that the UNSC should have the right to order attacks on countries that indulged in such behaviour.

Crude calculations

This recommendation then languished for some years. The most determined opponents of "responsibility to protect" were the great powers — Russian and China in particular — who feared that the new doctrine might one day be used against them. But in 2005, the new African Union included the concept in its founding charter, and after that things moved quite fast.

In 2006, the UNSC agreed to "take collective action... should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity".

Ten out of 15 security council members voted in favour of the action, and the rest, including the Bric nations abstained. But Russia and China didn't veto the action, because they figured out that the new principle will never be used against them. Nobody will ever attack Russia to make it be nicer to the Chechens, or invade China to make it change its behaviour towards the Tibetans. Great powers are effectively exempt from all the rules if they choose to be, precisely because they are so powerful. That's no argument for also exempting less powerful, but nastier, regimes from the obligation not to murder their own people.

So what about the Syrian regime? The same calculation applies. If it's not too powerful to take on, it will not be allowed to murder its own people. And if it is too big and dangerous, then all the UN members will express their disapproval, but they won't actually do anything. Consistency is an overrated virtue.

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EDITORIAL

DIPLOMATIC PITCH

SPORT IS SOMETIMES CALLED WAR BY OTHER MEANS BUT IT HAS ALSO SERVED AS DIPLOMACY BY OTHER MEANS. COUNTRIES

 

have used sports diplomacy to mend broken international relations, most tellingly when the US and China reached out to each other across the ping pong table in the 1970s.


Cricket, which is a passion in both India and Pakistan, is a platform where the two countries could engage each other at the levels of sportsmen, lovers of the game and the people. The tours of cricket teams in each other's territory have even been political events. The invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the World Cup semifinal between the two countries at Mohali on Wednesday is therefore welcome. Gilani has accepted the invitation, though Zardari may not accept it for reasons of protocol.


Two Pakistan presidents, Gen Zia-ul-Huq and Gen Prevez Musharraf, have visited India to witness India-Pakistan cricket matches but these visits cannot be said to have made any substantial impact on the relations between the two countries. Gilani's visit and any talks he may have with Singh at Mohali may also not make any big difference. But in relations between countries gestures of good will and symbolic statements of friendship are also important. India-Pakistan relations have broken out of a logjam after the meeting in Thimphu between foreign secretaries last month. They are ready to engage themselves again. The home secretaries are meeting in Delhi from Monday to Wednesday as part of that process. The meeting between the heads of government on Wednesday is therefore timely and appropriate.


The top leadership of both countries has been politically weakened in the recent past for different reasons. So it will be too optimistic to think that the outcome of the Singh-Gilani meeting will be more exciting than the engagement between M S Dhoni and Shahid Afridi on the ground. But the presence of the two leaders at the venue will give a new dimension to the match and raise it from the level of a pure sporting event. It can place it in a bigger framework of confidence-building which the two countries direly need. It can also drive home the message that rivalry is not enmity. One team might lose and the other win, but both countries have the chance to emerge winners.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

HELP MYANMAR

A FORTNIGHT AFTER JAPAN WAS CONVULSED BY MULTIPLE DISASTERS, MYANMAR HAS BEEN SHAKEN BY A POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE, 6.8 ON THE RICHTER SCALE.


The quake's epicentre was along the Myanmar-Thailand border. Since it was inland, there is no threat of a tsunami. Official estimates peg the death toll at 75 but this could be higher as the damage in interior parts of the country is yet to be assessed. More importantly, Myanmar's government is known to diminish the magnitude of its people's sufferings. Comparisons between the quakes in Japan and Myanmar are inevitable and these will prompt many to quickly conclude that the devastation from the latter is not that serious. Indeed, the Myanmar quake is of far less intensity to the 8.9 tremor that rocked Japan. Besides, the horror in Japan was wrought not so much by the earthquake as by the tsunami and then the nuclear crisis that followed. Fortunately, Myanmar has escaped both.


However, this must not lead the international community to conclude that Myanmar does not need help. It does. Its capacity for rescue and relief is minimal as will be its ability to rebuild and reconstruct. Myanmar is among the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is in a shambles thanks to the flawed policies of its military rulers and the impact of ill-conceived economic sanctions imposed by the West. Besides, the country is yet to recover from the devastation unleashed by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. Around 1,38,000 people were killed in that disaster, the worst ever to hit Myanmar. It is believed that much of the aid that poured into Myanmar in the aftermath of Nargis did not reach the victims but went into the personal pockets of the generals. With this, Myanmar's junta reaffirmed that they cared little for the people. A similar response from the government now could amplify the damage done by the quake.


Myanmar's new government takes charge later this week. Although a supposedly 'elected' government, it is dominated by the military. How it responds to the quake disaster will be closely watched now. It has a chance to show that it is a responsive and responsible government. Several countries including India have promised humanitarian and other help. The government must ensure that these reach the intended beneficiaries. Inept handling of a natural disaster could prove catastrophic.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

COOL DOMESTIC HAPPINESS

 M J AKBAR


The British existed in India for over two centuries. They should have co-existed

 


They would not have needed a prime minister in 2011, David Cameron, to fiddle around with ideas like gross domestic happiness, his latest barometer to gauge the welfare of society. Indians have long preferred GDS to GDP: Gross domestic self-satisfaction. A 19th century Cameron would have caught on to the fact that life is something more than a mere industrial revolution.


GDS cannot be either measured or implemented by governments, whose only obsession is to boss around or pocket paybacks whenever possible. Indians do like a bit of authority, but, alas, only in areas where they don't get any, like municipal services. When it comes to pleasure, they don't hang around waiting for permission.

On Thursday, March 24, when India defeated Australia in the quarter finals of the World Cup, an estimated 50 per cent of the country's cricket fans took a half-holiday. This estimate is mine, based on empirical evidence collected from morning traffic in Delhi.


There was no snarl on the roads, just a grudging smile. On Wednesday, March 30, when India plays Pakistan in the semifinals, the roads will be beaming with joy, since 90 per cent of the fans will stay at home. Most of them will begin their half-holiday at 10 am, arguing, quite correctly, that it is anti-national to waste as precious a national resource as petrol at post-Libya prices just to show your face for a few minutes in office. I can proudly lay claim to the proposition that the half-holiday is an Indian invention, particularly one that begins at 10 am. A full holiday to watch cricket on TV is for wimps.


Strong men stick to half-holidays.


Prayers will be offered, and emotions invested in victory, because we Indians take our cricket-nationalism very seriously indeed. But that is not the only spirit that will consume fans, or many fans will consume, on Wednesday. The moment the last ball is bowled, there will be a frenzy of conversation since India is a nation of analysts. Emotional Pakistan will be elated or depressed, but India will analyse whatever the result, whether over tea or something more sensational.


The good news, however, is that India and Pakistan no longer treat cricket as an existential conflict. One of the most moving moments of my life came in Lahore in 2004, when the joy of an Indian victory in a one-dayer soared at the sight of young Pakistani fans waving the Indian flag as a gesture of friendship. May God ensure that on Wednesday Pakistan succumb for less than a hundred runs, and Sachin Tendulkar alone scores that many to win and get his 100th 100 simultaneously, but just in case God is in a different mood, I hope Mohali and Chandigarh will display the sportsman's spirit that turned Lahore into a magic city in 2004. It would be too depressing if the culture of our subcontinent became hostage to political conflict.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has seized the moment by inviting Asif Zardari and his technical counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani to Mohali. 'Cricket diplomacy' is a bit of a misnomer since nothing actually moves on the diplomatic front as a consequence. Rajiv Gandhi invited General Zia ul Haq to Jaipur in 1987; and Singh was host to General Pervez Musharraf in 2005. Later, Singh declined a reciprocal gesture. The first did not lead to a breakthrough, and the second did instigate collapse. But governments are only one part of the India-Pakistan equation. Friendship between the people is far more important than friendship between two governments. Cricket builds relations at the broad, popular base, even if the apex of the pyramid is withering.


Cricket-chemistry is such alchemy on the subcontinent precisely because India and Pakistan have equal tubs of talent. Their individual and collective behaviour is visibly different. India is a professionally inter-woven unit; while Pakistan gives the impression of being a collection of temperamental mavericks. But environment, and opportunity, could make Pakistan's seeming weakness into an asset; when such talent is watered by passion, it can blossom. You can never tell on which day who will become the genie in the Pakistan bottle.


India, on the other hand, revolves around four batsmen and one bowler: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan. Yuvraj is on song, but the defining difference is Sachin, who, after two decades at the crease, has become the coolest, most disciplined genius in the history of the game. We will not be privileged to see his like again. Sachin Tendulkar has nothing left to prove, but he does have something left to say: that when the history of the game is written victory at Mohali on March 30, 2011, will be among his laurels.


That would be the ultimate in Cool Domestic Satisfaction.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

RADIATION'S ENDURING AFTERGLOW

 GEORGE JOHNSON, NYT


Explosive power comes and goes in an instant. It is something the brain can process.


Becquerels, sieverts, curies, roentgens, rads and rems. For all the esoteric nomenclature scientists have devised to parse the effects of nuclear emanations, the unit they so often fall back on is the old-fashioned chest X-ray.


Early in the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, neighbours were informed with absurd precision that the radioactivity in a litre of their drinking water had risen to the equivalent of 1/88th of a chest X-ray. One day last week the air in Tokyo registered 0.155 of a microsievert an hour. Though stretched to the point of meaninglessness, the analogy is meant to soothe.


Measured by sheer fury, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that damaged the reactors was mightier than millions of Hiroshima bombs. It shoved the northeastern coast of Japan eastward and unleashed a tsunami that wiped civilisation from the coast. But explosive power comes and goes in an instant. It is something the brain can process. With radiation, the terror lies in the abstraction. It kills incrementally.


Nuclear scientists speak in terms of half-life, the time it takes for random disintegrations to reduce a radioactive sample to half its size. Then a quarter, an eighth, a 16th...


Bottled water


When traces of radioactive iodine were found last week in the drinking water in Tokyo, officials expressed the danger in becquerels, the number of nuclear disintegrations per second: 210 per litre, safe for adults but high enough to warn that infants should not drink it. As the government began distributing bottled water, the level fell significantly but not the fear. As far away as California there was a run on fallout detectors.


As these hypothetical microthreats ate at the mind, rescue workers were piling up real bodies killed by crushing waves or their aftereffects, deaths caused by gravity, not nuclear forces. These dead will be tabulated, mourned and eventually forgotten. The toll will converge on a finite number.


In Chernobyl, the site of the world's previous big nuclear accident, the counting continues, like languid ticks from a Geiger counter. A United Nations study in 2005 concluded that about 50 people had been killed by the meltdown but that 4,000 would ultimately die from radiation-caused cancer. The most debilitating effect, one investigator said, has been 'a paralysing fatalism', a malaise brought on by an alien presence that almost seems alive.

Radiation, before we had a hand in it, was just another phenomenon. Life evolved unknowingly in its presence, with rays from the sky and earth jostling chromosomes and helping to shuffle the genetic deck. When our brains evolved to the point where we could measure and summon the effect, the first reaction was not fear but fascination. The discoverers were revered as heroes. Then their names were converted into mathematical units.

William Roentgen produced the first artificial X-rays in 1895, tantalising the world with see-through images of his wife's hand, then Henri Becquerel found similar emissions coming unbidden from uranium. Isolating the first minuscule specks of radium, Marie Curie, the greatest of the pioneers, marveled that its eerie blue glow "looked like faint, fairy lights." Eager to see this new world for themselves, people purchased small brass eyepieces called spinthariscopes, named for the Greek word for spark. Mounted inside was a bit of radium bombarding a scintillating screen. Hold it to your eye and behold the tiny explosions. Spinthariscopes sat on parlour shelves next to stereoscopic postcard viewers and kaleidoscopes, items in a cabinet of curiosities.


Radiation was even supposed to be good for you. Vacationers soaked in radium hot springs. Magazines carried advertisements for radium suppositories, radium toothpaste and radium bread. As more bona fide uses led to a medical revolution hints of danger gradually accumulated. In the 1920s, women who had painted glow-in-the-dark radium watch dials began to sicken and die. Around the same time, scientists experimenting with fruit flies showed that radiation causes genetic mutations.


With Hiroshima, Nagasaki and above-ground testing, everything nuclear began to take on a more sinister air. But the threat still seemed distant and surreal. For all the dread evoked by the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, it was the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island that marked an abrupt turn. The average dose to people living within 10 miles of the accident was 0.8 of a chest X-ray. But the name Three Mile Island never lost its afterglow.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

 

WHY NATURE IS KIND TO INDIA

BHARATHI PRABHU


If obeying laws is written in the DNA of the Japanese, disobeying is written in ours.


Japan's tsunami and earthquake have been in the headlines for days now. Reports of people's stoicism, orderly queues at rehab centers and workers at the nuclear plant not abandoning their jobs despite the grave danger once again proved the nature of the Japanese. Buildings that swayed but didn't crash and the death toll limited to the current figures showed the world how prepared these people are for calamities. These reports leave the rest of the world in disbelief. These Japanese are a different breed, aren't they?


We in India don't need earthquakes for chaos to reign, the disappearance of a traffic policeman at a junction will do. No tsunami necessary to plunge us into panic. Reports of one baby's death after pulse polio administration would do. Not even a rumble of the earth needed to bring buildings down, the first monsoon does the job neatly.


There was a power outage at a convenience store a few days after the quake and Japanese shoppers quietly kept their purchases back in the shelves and walked out!


Even in ordinary times our people can be expected to "make the best use" of such a scenario. People evacuating from the radiation affected areas got out without stampede.


Contrast this with the regular reports of deaths due to lack of crowd control in our places. Even crowds to collect admission forms for kindergarten turn violent. This is to show our future citizens that might is right!

If obeying laws is written in the DNA of the Japanese, disobeying is written in ours. You can plead, warn and threaten but people will use mobiles, unfasten seat belts, spit, pluck flowers and urinate when specifically asked not to do so. Like it is done with children, should we tell people to do the things that we don't want them to do? Imagine these notices, "Please do not bother to buy tickets" in buses or "Please carve out your names on this ancient structure" at an ASI site. No that won't work either, because people won't care to read the signs anyway.

Japan is expected to make a slow but steady comeback. The proud people are not too keen to accept foreign aid. Far lesser tragedies will wipe out many more people here and the donations to the victims will be swept away by the tsunami of politicians' greed and inefficiency. That is perhaps why we don't have calamities of the Japanese magnitude.

 

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

EDITORIAL

WHO WILL RESCUE FINANCIAL REFORM?

In what passes for self-restraint these days, House Republicans have been insisting that they do not intend to repeal last year's Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Not in one fell swoop, anyway.

A direct assault on Dodd-Frank would be so blatantly biased toward banks that it would be sure to provoke a public backlash. So the Republican plan is to delay and disrupt reform. The effort is partly ideological — an insistence that regulation is unnecessary, no matter the evidence to the contrary. It is also a campaign fund-raising ploy, because Wall Street will reward the opponents of reform. Of course, Democrats are themselves not indifferent to Wall Street campaign cash, which raises the question of how effectively they will counter the Republicans' aims. Here are areas to watch.

DERIVATIVES Budget cuts could cripple the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — which share the vital task of regulating the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market. The budget impasse in Washington has already frozen the agencies' budgets, even as their rule-writing duties have exploded. Worse, prevailing Republican rhetoric, adopted in part by Democrats, portends more budget cuts, which would leave the agencies unable to enforce current rules, let alone new ones. Settling for less than President Obama's requested amounts for the agencies would be acquiescing in the derailment of Dodd-Frank.

CONSUMER PROTECTION The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arguably the most innovative of the reforms, has been under constant attack by banks — and Republicans. Most recently, a House hearing on the bureau that was billed as an oversight session was instead a hazing of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor and consumer advocate chosen by Mr. Obama to set up the agency. Republican objections boiled down to charges that the agency — and Ms. Warren — have too much power. Ms. Warren's rebuttals were clear and persuasive. Mr. Obama could define the debate further — and demonstrate his professed support for the bureau — by going on the offensive and nominating Ms. Warren as its official director. Senate Republicans have said that they would object, but it is their own credibility that would be at risk in opposing so qualified a candidate.

REPEAL BY ANOTHER NAME House Republicans have unveiled several bills to undo Dodd-Frank piece by piece. One would rewrite the law so that the C.F.P.B would be run by a five-member bipartisan board, rather than one director, a recipe for delay and division. Another would exempt an array of derivatives users from the new rules, perpetuating the deregulated market.

Yet another bill would repeal a requirement for private equity firms to register with the S.E.C, in effect ignoring the systemic risks in leveraged pools of private capital. And one would repeal a requirement that publicly traded companies disclose the ratio of a chief executive's pay to that of a typical employee, a move that would deprive analysts of data to detect bubbles that correlate to skewed pay. The list goes on.

Dodd-Frank is no cure-all, but properly implemented and enforced, it would close dangerous regulatory gaps. That won't happen if Republicans get their way — and they will, unless the fight is engaged in no uncertain terms. Democrats in Congress need to unite behind the law and Obama officials should denounce the antireform effort for what it is: an attempt to weaken Dodd-Frank on behalf of those who brought us the financial crisis.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW JERSEY STUDENTS, SHORTCHANGED

The New Jersey Legislature acted in the best interest of the state's most vulnerable children in 2008 when it adopted a school financing formula that guaranteed districts enough money to give needy and disabled students a chance at a decent education. The state declared that it had found a way to quantify and subsidize the costs of the extra services — tutoring, counseling and after-school programs — that high-risk students needed to succeed at school. The plan won court approval.

The state has changed its tune under Gov. Chris Christie. Mr. Christie first vetoed a bill that would have raised revenue by taxing some of the state's richest citizens. He used the economy as an excuse to savage the school budget, shortchanging the school financing formula by $1.6 billion, a cut of nearly 20 percent.

Not surprisingly, crucial services for high-risk students began to disappear. Not surprisingly, lawyers representing the state's poorest districts returned to court. Last week, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter Doyne found that the budget cuts had deprived the high-risk students of important programs and pushed them further away from success in the classroom.

According to the ruling, the state tried to allocate the cuts in a way that did less harm to the poor, but it clearly failed to do so. As the court record shows, the cuts were disproportionately larger — in terms of per-pupil reductions — for those poorer districts that have anemic local tax bases and that depend most heavily on state aid.

For example, the Clifton City school district, where more than 42 percent of students are high-risk, received a staggering financing reduction of about 38 percent. The Clifton superintendant testified that the system had lost teaching staff, increased class size and cut academic support for struggling students, putting them at even greater disadvantage in meeting state standards than they were at the outset.

Judge Doyne rightly refused to buy the state's claim that there was little or no relationship between financing and student achievement. Instead, he ruled that the current financing levels do not meeting the constitutional standard that has been reaffirmed several times by state courts over the last several decades. The case now returns to New Jersey's Supreme Court, which has repeatedly ruled that the state has a clear responsibility to adequately finance its schools — and should do so again.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HE DREAMED HE SAW JONG-IL

As Republican governors vie to become the most anti-union executive in the land, Gov. Paul LePage of Maine has stooped to behavior worthy of the pharaohs' chiseling historic truth from Egyptian monuments. Mr. LePage has ordered that a 36-foot-wide mural depicting workers' history in Maine be removed from the lobby of the state's Labor Department.

The reason? His office cited some complaints from offended business leaders and an anonymous fax declaring that the mural smacked of official brainwashing by North Korea's dictator.

This is what's passing for democratic governance in a state with a noble workers' history. The mural honors such groups as the state's shoemakers and the women riveters who kept the ironworks going in World War II. Key workplace moments depicted include a paper mill strike against harsh working conditions and a tribute to pioneer lumberjacks.

All too "one-sided," decreed the governor, who also ordered that the agency's seven meeting rooms no longer be named after figures from workers' history. The nation's first woman cabinet member — Labor Secretary Frances Perkins — is buried in her beloved Maine, but her room name won't survive. Nor will state residents be reminded of William Looney, a 19th-century Republican legislator who fought for state child labor reforms.

Mr. LePage's acting labor commissioner suggests replacing the mural with neutral paint and naming the conference rooms after Maine mountains.

To be fair, Mr. LePage does retain a sense of workplace opportunity. After his election last November, he named Lauren, his 22-year-old, fresh-from-college daughter, to what was termed an entry-level job as assistant to the governor's chief of staff.

At $41,000 a year, the post offers $10,000 more than the pay for workers who pass the teacher and police tests. That's on top of Ms. LePage's free room and board at the governor's mansion.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A WAR BY ANY NAME

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

Tonight, in a speech that probably should have been delivered before American planes began flying missions over North Africa, Barack Obama will try to explain to a puzzled nation why we are at war with Libya.

Not that the word "war" will pass his lips, most likely. In press briefings last week, our Libyan campaign was euphemized into a "kinetic military action" and a "time-limited, scope-limited military action." (The online parodies were merciless: "Make love, not time-limited, scope-limited military actions!" "Let slip the muzzled canine unit of kinetic military action!") Advertising tonight's address, the White House opted for "the situation in Libya," which sounds less like a military intervention than a spin-off vehicle for the famous musclehead from MTV's "Jersey Shore."

But by any name or euphemism, the United States has gone to war, and there are questions that the president must answer. Here are the four biggest ones:

What are our military objectives? The strict letter of the United Nations resolution we're enforcing only authorizes the use of air power to protect civilian populations "under threat of attack" from Qaddafi's forces. But we're interpreting that mandate as liberally as possible: our strikes have cleared the way for a rebel counteroffensive, whose success is contingent on our continued air support.

If the rebels stall out short of Tripoli, though, how will we respond? With a permanent no-fly zone, effectively establishing a NATO protectorate in eastern Libya? With arms for the anti-Qaddafi forces, so they can finish the job? Either way, the logic of this conflict suggests a more open-ended commitment than the White House has been willing to admit.

Who exactly are the rebels? According to our ambassador to Libya, they have issued policy statements that include "all the right elements" — support for democracy, economic development, women's rights, etc. According to The Los Angeles Times, they have filled what used to be Qaddafi's prisons with "enemies of the revolution" — mostly black Africans, rounded up under suspicion of being mercenaries and awaiting revolutionary justice. According to The Daily Telegraph in London, their front-line forces include what one rebel commander calls the "patriots and good Muslims" who fought American forces in Iraq.

Perhaps Obama can clarify this picture. The rebels don't need to be saints to represent an improvement on Qaddafi. But given that we're dropping bombs on their behalf, it would be nice if they didn't turn out to be Jacobins or Islamists.

Can we really hand off this mission? Officially, this is a far more multilateral venture than was, say, the invasion of Iraq. But as Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin points out, when it comes to direct military support, this war's coalition is "smaller than any major multilateral operation since the end of the Cold War." Officially, too, the United States is already stepping back into a supporting role, as NATO takes over the command. But as Wired's Spencer Ackerman argues, the difference between a "high" United States involvement and a "low" military commitment may prove more semantic than meaningful.

Obama has said our involvement will be measured in "days, not weeks." With one week down already, is this really plausible? And anyway, how responsible is it to commit American forces to a mission and then suggest, as a senior administration official did last week, that "how it turns out is not on our shoulders"?

Is Libya distracting us from more pressing American interests? While we've been making war on Qaddafi's tin-pot regime, our enemies in Syria have been shooting protesters, our allies in Saudi Arabia have been crushing dissidents, Yemen's government is teetering, there's been an upsurge of violence in Israel, and the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be moving smoothly into an alliance with the Egyptian military. Oh, and we're still occupying Iraq and fighting a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and trying to contain Iran.

Last week, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg rank-ordered Mideast trouble spots that "demand more American attention than Libya." He came up with six: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen's Qaeda havens, post-Mubarak Egypt and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One can quibble with Goldberg's ordering but not his broader point. While we intervene in Libya, what is our Egypt policy? Our Yemen policy? Our Syria policy? With the entire Middle East in turmoil, does it make sense that Washington is focused so intently on who controls the highway between Ajdabiya and Surt?

It's clear that not everyone in this White House thinks so. Defending the intervention on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Robert Gates let slip that he believes that Libya is not a "vital interest" of the United States.

President Obama's most pressing task tonight will be to explain why his secretary of defense is wrong — and why, appearances to the contrary, the potential payoff from our Libyan war more than justifies the risks.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

AMERICAN THOUGHT POLICE

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state's political turmoil. He started a blog, "Scholar as Citizen," devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin's Republican governor has turned his back on the state's long tradition of "neighborliness, decency and mutual respect."

So what was the G.O.P.'s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon's university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word "Republican" and the names of a number of Republican politicians.

If this action strikes you as no big deal, you're missing the point. The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become.

The demand for Mr. Cronon's correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.

Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.

But that didn't stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered "Climategate," a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.

After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you're bound to find a few. In fact, it's surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the "Climategate" trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a "trick" to "hide the decline" in a particular series. In context, it's clear that he's talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won't take no for an answer.

Is there any doubt that Wisconsin Republicans are hoping for a similar "success" against Mr. Cronon?

Now, in this case they'll probably come up dry. Mr. Cronon writes on his blog that he has been careful never to use his university e-mail for personal business, exhibiting a scrupulousness that's neither common nor expected in the academic world. (Full disclosure: I have, at times, used my university e-mail to remind my wife to feed the cats, confirm dinner plans with friends, etc.)

Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent "Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West" is the best work of economic and business history I've ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing.

So we don't need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he's facing.

Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin's open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there's a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn't like.

Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won't just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they'll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.

What's at stake here, in other words, is whether we're going to have an open national discourse in which scholars feel free to go wherever the evidence takes them, and to contribute to public understanding. Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, are trying to shut that kind of discourse down. It's up to the rest of us to see that they don't succeed.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE DISSIDENT'S WIFE

BY GENG HE

San Francisco

WITH the world's attention on the uprisings in the Middle East, repressive regimes elsewhere are taking the opportunity to tighten their grip on power. In China, human rights activists have been disappearing since a call went out last month for a Tunisian-style "Jasmine Revolution." I know what their families are going through. Almost a year ago, the Chinese government seized my husband and since then, we have had no news of him. I don't know where he is, or even if he is alive.

In 2001, the Ministry of Justice listed my husband, Gao Zhisheng, as one of the top 10 lawyers in China. But when he began representing members of religious groups persecuted by the government, he became a target himself. His law license was revoked, and our family placed under constant surveillance. In 2006, he was convicted of inciting subversion based on a confession he made after his interrogators threatened our two children. He received a suspended sentence, but was briefly detained again a year later for writing an open letter to the United States Congress documenting human rights abuses in China.

Zhisheng wouldn't give up his work, and yet he was frightened for me and our children, so I fled with them to asylum in the United States. Soon after we left, in February 2009, he was seized by security officials, and that time held without charges for more than a year. International pressure persuaded the government to release him. But two weeks later, as soon as the world's attention moved elsewhere, he was abducted again. That was last April. No one has heard from him since.

We have good cause to fear that he is suffering. My husband has been tortured many times. In 2007, officials subjected him to electric shocks, held lighted cigarettes up to his eyes and pierced his genitals with toothpicks. In 2009, the police beat him with handguns for two days. He has been tied up and forced to sit motionless for hours, threatened with death and told that our children were having nervous breakdowns.

Though his treatment has been especially harsh, my husband is only one of many political prisoners in China. Among them are Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion, and his wife, Liu Xia, who is under house arrest. A human rights group reports that more than a hundred bloggers and rights advocates have been interrogated or detained in connection to the "Jasmine Revolution." And especially ominous have been the disappearances of other prominent human rights lawyers, like Jiang Tianyong, Teng Biao and Tang Jitian.

In President Obama's speech to the United Nations last year, he said that "freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings." The Chinese government must not be allowed to claim that China is a nation operating under the rule of law while persecuting those who try to ensure that it respects the law. And when the government silences dissent, the international community must speak up.

Indeed, I am excited to have just learned that the United Nations has demanded that my husband be released, and hopeful that it will take a stand for the other prisoners as well. I appeal to Mr. Obama — a father, lawyer and leader of the country that has become my family's new home — to make sure it does so. At the very least, he should ask President Hu Jintao to let Zhisheng contact us.

If he has been killed, we should be allowed the dignity of laying him to rest.

Geng He is the wife of a human rights lawyer missing in China. This essay was translated from the Chinese.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE NEW GRAVE ROBBERS

BY RAY D. MADOFF

Newton, Mass.

CAN a wild wig and a bushy mustache be packaged and called an Albert Einstein costume? According to Hebrew University of Jerusalem and its American marketing agent, the answer is no — at least not without permission. The university says that when it inherited Einstein's estate, the bequest included ownership of Einstein's very identity, giving it exclusive legal control over who could use Einstein's name and image, and at what cost.

Einstein is not the only example. While we might think of people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., George Patton, Rosa Parks, Frank Lloyd Wright and Babe Ruth as part of our cultural heritage, available for all to use, the identities of each of them, and thousands more, are claimed as private property, usable only with permission and for a fee.

This phenomenon is fairly recent — and it's getting out of control. For most of this country's history, a person's identity was not something that could be owned. While the unauthorized use of someone's name or image was sometimes barred as an invasion of privacy, the right belonged to that person alone and could not be assigned to others. It was not until 1953, in a case involving baseball players licensing their images for use on baseball cards, that American law first constructed identity as a property interest that could be sold or licensed. This interest became known as the right of publicity.

Today the right of publicity clearly allows people to control the commercial use of their names and images during their lives. What happens after death is much murkier.

Throughout much of the world, the right of publicity ends at death, after which a person's identity becomes generally available for public use. In the United States, however, this issue is governed by state laws, which have taken a remarkably varied approach. In New York, the right of publicity terminates at death; other states provide that the right of publicity survives death for limited terms. But in Tennessee (whose laws govern the use of Elvis Presley's image, since he died there), Washington (home of a company that purports to own Jimi Hendrix's right of publicity) and Indiana (where CMG Worldwide, which manages the identities of hundreds of dead people, is based), control over the identities of the dead has been secured for terms ranging from 100 years to, potentially, eternity.

In a case involving Marilyn Monroe, the California Legislature even created a retroactive right of publicity, establishing new private property interests in the identities of the long dead. (It didn't work, because a court later found that Monroe was a resident of New York when she died. Her identity remains in the public domain.) This so-called descendible right of publicity has created a new kind of business: corporations that acquire and market dead people. So Rosa Parks sells Chevy trucks and Albert Einstein peddles everything from baby products to Apple computers. (And who knows how Elizabeth Taylor might be put to work now that she has gone to the other side?)

But say you wanted to write a play about a chance meeting between these two historic figures. Could you? While the play itself may be protected by the First Amendment, that doesn't mean that the companies that manage Parks and Einstein might not attempt to assert control. Hebrew University has aggressively defended Einstein's image, even blocking its use on a book called "Everything's Relative." And don't expect to sell programs, posters, T-shirts or the other paraphernalia that might support your play without getting approval and paying whatever fee the owners of Parks's and Einstein's rights of publicity demand.

Contrary to what the owners of these identities claim, a right of publicity that continues after death does little to protect the reputations of the deceased. American law, unlike that in much of Europe, explicitly and uniformly provides that reputational protections — including libel and slander and the right of privacy — all end at death. The expansion of the right of publicity does nothing to change this.

Instead, it has afforded riches to the heirs of the dead and the companies that represent them. Einstein's estate has generated $76 million in the last five years. But the dead themselves — particularly those who would have preferred to avoid being marketed as a commodity — may not be so well served.

While people can provide for the postmortem exploitation of their identities, there is no legal mechanism by which they can prevent it. It is a basic tenet of wills law that a person cannot order the destruction of a valuable property interest. Therefore, if Parks had written in her will that she did not want her identity to be marketed, there is a good chance that a court would not enforce those wishes.

The economic value of a dead celebrity's image imposes another cost as well. Namely, rights of publicity, like all other property interests, are subject to estate taxes at their highest market value. This means that even if heirs choose not to market a person's identity (perhaps to protect their loved one's dignity), they nonetheless must pay taxes on the right. In some cases, that could compel heirs to market their loved ones' identity in order to pay the taxes associated with it. Paradoxically, the values would likely be highest for those individuals who most coveted their privacy while alive (think J. D. Salinger).

The patchwork approach of state laws has resulted in uncertainty regarding what is, and isn't, privately owned under the right of publicity. There has been considerable litigation in recent years over such questions as these: What happens when the right of publicity bumps up against First Amendment rights? How do we determine which state's law applies to a particular decedent? And how far can states go in creating and controlling these rights? (Just last month, Washington State's right of publicity was found by a federal court to be unconstitutionally broad.) Yet, because these are issues of state law, the litigation has not brought clarity on a national level.

Congress should step in and enact a federal right of publicity. In doing so, it should establish clear First Amendment protections and set forth a relatively short term for the right of publicity to survive death (perhaps 10 years). Most important, the law should provide a mechanism that allows people to opt out of marketing their identities after death. After all, sometimes the dead should be allowed to simply rest in peace.

Ray D. Madoff, a professor at Boston College Law School, is the author of "Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead."

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

ELK, OWLS, 'GLOBAL WARMING'

 

How many big environmental schemes must lead to terrible results before we realize that nature is complex and that mankind's power to control it is limited? There's a long history of man assuming he can readily manipulate complicated natural phenomena. Not all such attempts result in disaster, but some do.

 

Do you remember the 1990s spotted owl scare in the Pacific Northwest? Environmental activists feared that logging was destroying the habitat of the owls, whose numbers were dropping. They felt certain that if logging were banned in the region, the spotted owl would enjoy a comeback. So the federal government halted logging on millions of acres, killing thousands of jobs in the timber industry.

 

But it didn't work. The Seattle Times reported in 2008 that the spotted owl was "closer than ever to extinction." But man wasn't the cause. The trouble is that an aggressive cousin of the spotted owl, the barred owl, moved into the region, killing some spotted owls and competing with others for limited supplies of rodents. The effort to save owls may have been noble, but it didn't help the owls, and it cost a lot of people jobs.

 

In a separate but similar case, residents of Kentucky are battling the ill effects of a scheme that reintroduced elk to their state. Starting in 1997, 1,500 elk were hauled to Kentucky and set free. Elk had existed in Kentucky prior to the War Between the States, so some people thought they should again roam Kentucky's hills. The plan was "heralded as an important ecology and tourism program," The Associated Press reported.

 

But the elk did what animals do: They multiplied. There are more than 10,000 elk in Kentucky today, and they are damaging yards and gardens and causing serious crashes on the state's roads. Just since 2005, more than 100 elk have died in car collisions — and that doesn't include the far greater number of collisions that are believed to have occurred but that were not reported to law enforcement. If you've ever had the misfortune of striking an ordinary deer in your vehicle, you know how harrowing that is. Imagine hitting a 700-pound elk instead! In frustration, Kentucky has had to resort to allowing residents to hunt the elk and thin the destructive herd.

 

It's not that the motives of those who brought elk back to the state were bad. Who, after all, wouldn't marvel to see a majestic elk on a rural hill? But it just wasn't possible to predict exactly how the elk would behave when they returned.

 

This was a relatively narrow experiment in nature that quickly got out of hand. So shouldn't we be skeptical of environmentalists who feel certain that man not only can accurately predict but can control "global warming" — a far more complex subject than managing an elk herd — by doing things such as harshly clamping down on manufacturing and energy production?

 

Isn't it wiser to acknowledge that there are things about nature that mankind can't easily control — and that real harm may be done by costly, dubious attempts to control those things?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

AN INVESTMENT — AND A CHALLENGE

 

It is exciting that Chattanooga State Community College has undertaken a $5 million project to get future workers ready for the big Wacker polysilicon production plant in Bradley County. The project, called the Wacker Institute, will provide fast-track degrees in areas of study such as chemical and mechanical technology.

 

In the words of Chattanooga State President James Catanzaro, the Germany-based company will need "a very sophisticated work force on board, ready, trained and fully functional" when it begins producing materials for the solar power industry.

 

But Catanzaro candidly pointed out that many local high school graduates may not be academically ready for the training and additional education that will equip them for rewarding jobs at places such as Wacker and Volkswagen.

 

For that matter, not all college graduates have applied themselves in such a way as to boost their chances of success, he said during a visit with the Times Free Press editorial board.

 

That is a challenge both to high schoolers and college students.

 

Chattanooga is poised for vast economic growth. But those who are most capable of benefiting from it will be those who prepare now by taking rigorous course work. It would be a shame not to take advantage of the professional opportunities that are sprouting in this area.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

THE PRICE OF PORK

 

The best reason to oppose pork-barrel projects that benefit a member of Congress' home state or district is that

 

such projects are often unconstitutional. And even pork that may be constitutional is often unwise or wasteful.

 

But when discussions of ending pork-barrel projects come up, someone always argues that compared with the entire federal budget, that spending is quite small.

 

They're correct so far as they go: Misguided federal spending on strictly local things such as a city's sidewalks or an entertainment venue clearly does not equal what our nation spends on back-breaking entitlements or on national defense.

 

But economist and syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell observes that the real price of pork can be much higher than just the cumulative cost of the projects in question.

 

Here is what he wrote recently: "An e-mail from a perceptive reader points out that, although congressional 'earmarks' represent a very small part of federal spending, they can be used as bribes to buy the votes of members of Congress on bills involving the spending of vastly larger sums of the taxpayers' money."

 

For instance, an unethical lawmaker may seek an earmark for a bit of spending to please a special interest, and in turn the special interest may "reward" the lawmaker with a campaign donation in expectation of a vote for some other legislation that is far more expensive — and not necessarily in the national interest.

 

So pork-barrel spending is wrong not only in principle but in practical economics.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

UNDESERVED U.N. LEGITIMACY

 

There is something deeply wrong — even ridiculous — about the United States government's recent pledge to the U.N. "Human Rights Council" that our country will improve its human rights record.

 

In 2009, the Obama administration unwisely made our nation a member of that U.N. panel, which is filled with nations that grossly violate the rights of their own citizens. Appallingly oppressive nations such as Communist China, Communist Cuba and Saudi Arabia are on the council — sitting in judgment of the human rights records of far freer nations.

 

So it is beyond absurd for the United States to have submitted its human rights record for review and condemnation by such a "council."

 

That certainly does not mean that human rights abuses cannot occur in this country. They can and, sadly, sometimes do. When that occurs, the offenses should be punished swiftly and firmly, in accordance with U.S. law. But such violations are not standard government procedure here, as they are in all too many oppressed nations.

 

There will always be room for improvement in the treatment that any nation affords to its people. But the U.N. Human Rights Council is in no position to judge whether a country's record on protecting rights is good or bad.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

LET SYRIA TAKE CARE OF ITSELF

ISRAEL NEEDS TO AVOID ANY OPEN OR COVERT INVOLVEMENT IN THESE EVENTS TO THE NORTH, WHETHER VERBAL OR IN TERMS OF ACTION.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is fighting for the survival of his regime against a wave of protests that began in Daraa, and on the weekend reached the outskirts of Damascus and Latakia. On the one hand, Assad is using force against the protesters - dozens have been killed by security forces - but on the other hand, he is scattering promises of reforms that are supposed to calm people down and save his regime.

The uprising in Syria presents a challenge for Israel. For the first time since the revolutionary awakening began in the Arab world, the protests have reached a neighboring party to the Arab-Israeli conflict that has tense deterrent relations with Israel and a substantial military force. Both the current Syrian president and his father, Hafez Assad, sought a "strategic balance" with Israel during their rule. In the past 20 years they conducted sporadic peace talks with Israel, intended to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and to establish new security-related and civilian relations between the two countries.

The weakening of the regime in Damascus illustrates how an opportunity was squandered because of the failure of talks with Syria. Israel now has no direct channel of communication with that country, as it has with Egypt and Jordan. There is also no peace treaty which Israel can demand to have honored, as it did after the uprising in Cairo.

The crisis in Syria will have important implications for Israel's strategic situation. There will be risks, for example, if Syria's store of chemical weapons falls into dangerous hands, if the collapsing regime tries to survive by ratcheting up the conflict with Israel, or if Assad's successors exploit the conflict to gain domestic legitimacy. There also could be opportunities, however, if instead of Assad, a democratic regime arises that distances itself from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel needs to avoid any open or covert involvement in these events to the north, whether verbal or in terms of action. It must ensure observance of the separation of forces agreement that has kept things quiet along the border with the Golan Heights, and demand that any future Syrian leader maintain that agreement. Moreover, Israel should also declare that it will enter into negotiations with any Syrian government that achieves legitimacy and recognition.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE SYRIAN POSSIBILITY

THE POLITICAL TURMOIL IN SYRIA WILL NOT SPARE ISRAEL THE NEED TO EMBARK ON A LAND-FOR-PEACE DEAL. IT MIGHT DELAY IT, BUT IT WILL ALSO INCREASE THE PROBABILITY OF U.S. PRESSURE TO CARRY IT OUT.

BY AMIR OREN

James and Shay Clapper are not related, as far as can be established. James Clapper, a retired lieutenant general, is currently the director of U.S. National Intelligence. Shay Clapper, a lieutenant colonel, is commander of the 51st battalion of the Golani Brigade. When he travels to Washington, Defense Minister Ehud Barak sometimes meets with General Clapper. Two weeks ago, during a military exercise in the Golan, Barak spoke briefly to Lt. Col. Clapper. The exercise involved simulating events in a war with Syria: The Syrians attack, Israeli forces repel them, and the Northern Command launches a counter-attack. U.S. President Barack Obama expects General Clapper to tell him when this might happen, so that diplomatic intervention would spare Israel the need to send Lt. Col. Clapper to conduct these exercises in a real-life situation.

Those opposed to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in exchange for peace have been too quick to rejoice over the downfall of the regime in Damascus. The political turmoil in Syria will not spare Israel the need to embark on a land-for-peace deal. It might delay it, but it will also increase the probability of U.S. pressure to carry it out. Washington never recognized Israel's de-facto annexation of the Golan. It is quite likely that had the decision to impose Israeli rule on the Golan been made today rather than 30 years ago, under Obama rather than Reagan, Israel would have paid a heavy price for this opportunistic move, and especially for forcing the Syrian Druze of the Golan to assume Israeli citizenship. At the time, Reagan merely canceled a strategic cooperation agreement with Begin. The full payment was postponed, not canceled.

Clapper has appeared before committees in the Senate and House of Representative over the past month to brief them on the annual assessments of the intelligence community. Accompanying him was his Pentagon counterpart, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA ) chief Ronald Burgess. Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa were described by them as a sort of epidemic of "contagious popular uprisings." The well-known excuse for mistakes in previous assessments was whipped out: Intelligence officials had indeed analyzed the instability in the region and the fragility of the regimes in question but were unable to locate the detonators that would bring the building down. It was economic uncertainty, demographic change and regime intransigence that fueled recent events.

In the Israeli context, Clapper and Burgess warned, Hamas and Hezbollah are applying the lessons learned from the conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza, and although neither is interested in escalation, escalation could result from a hasty response to an incident or provocation. They believe Hamas is preoccupied with internal Palestinian affairs, that it continues to rebuild and rearm in the aftermath of Cast Lead, and that it prefers to avoid provocations that could spark a bigger confrontation with Israel. Another round of Cast Lead is likely in "two-three years," U.S. intelligence believes - meaning not in "two-three weeks." An increase in the supply of Iranian weapons and know-how to Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad could erode Israel's traditional military advantage and its deterrence capabilities, sparking war.

On the Lebanese front, considering the strengthening of both sides over the past four years, Washington believes that in the next confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah, a larger Israeli ground force will go in earlier and deeper into Lebanon than it did in the summer of 2006.

Syria is also busy applying lessons from 2006. Its army, American intelligence believes, is still inferior to the IDF, but it continues upgrading the missiles, rockets, anti-tank and ground-to-air weapons at its disposal. Special efforts have been made to develop small infantry units armed with anti-tank weapons. In the context of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah strategic partnership, Syria sees Hezbollah as a branch of its defense against Israel. This assessment contains a great temptation for Washington - to court the rejuvenating Syria, extricate it from its alliance with Iran, and pull it over to the West, using economic and maybe military incentives. If the Assad family, which has been more preoccupied with preserving its regime than with retrieving the Golan, disappears from the scene, then so will those factors inhibiting progress in the peace process. And so, contrary to popular opinion, the overthrow of Assad by a popular movement, rather than a palace coup, may, in fact, speed up the bargaining over a peace-for-land deal.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

 

ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO MISS AN OPPORTUNITY

BY AKIVA ELDAR

Once again, Jerusalem is "closely monitoring" the squabble at the neighbors' - this time, in the form of the bloody clashes in Syria. Is the fall of President Bashar Assad good for the Jews? Could religious extremists replace the minority Alawite regime? What will happen to the separation of forces agreement on the Golan Heights? What will be the new regime's policy concerning a negotiated end to the Arab-Israeli conflict? How will the political furor affect Syria's intimate relations with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah?

It's hard to find a respected analyst willing to take the risk of tackling these questions. On the other hand, six weeks after the fall of the Mubarak regime, even dyed-in-the-wool pessimists aren't suggesting the possibility of a renewed conflict with Egypt. The domestic shockwaves there have not crossed the border with Israel. The provisional government in Cairo responded with restraint to the Israel Air Force strikes in the Gaza Strip. And in an interview last week with a senior correspondent from the London-based Al Hayat newspaper, which appeared in The New York Times, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa - who is considered a front-runner in the Egyptian presidential election - stressed that if he takes office, he will honor the peace treaty with Israel.

Were it not for the narrow-mindedness and perhaps cowardice of those who call themselves leaders, Israel might have been able to be calmer also in regard to developments in the north.

Today is the ninth anniversary of the approval of the Arab League Peace Initiative. Back then, all the Arab states, including Syria, followed by all member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, offered Israel the best deal the Jewish state has received since the Balfour Declaration: an end to the hostile relationship with the Muslim world, the establishment of normalized relations with Arab states, a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just, negotiated solution to the refugee issue, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194. The initiative also left an opening for territorial exchange, under which Israel could annex Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and some of the settlements, and for special arrangements for sacred sites.

Recently published Al Jazeera documents disclosed the pragmatic approach taken by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in talks with then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with respect to the issue of the return of refugees to Israel. At that same time, Assad tried to restart negotiations with Israel on various channels, and meekly swallowed the humiliation of the bombing of his nuclear facilities that foreign media reports have attributed to the long arm of Israel.

Instead of making peace with all the Arab states, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched a war against the Palestinians the day after the March 2002 Arab League summit: In response to the murder of 30 Israelis in the Hamas suicide attack at a Passover seder in Netanya's Park Hotel, he ordered the army to reoccupy the territories (Operation Defensive Shield ). The Arabs offered Sharon a mile, but in fact he didn't even consider giving them an inch. Actually, he was playing around with the idea, recently recycled by Netanyahu and Lieberman, of a "long-term interim plan."

Like the other Arab League members, Syria responded mildly to the Israeli cabinet resolution of 2003 to append 14 reservations, or areas of concern, to the road map for peace. Also like other Arab states, since March 28, 2007, Syria has voted eight times in favor of ratifying the initiative. And like its three predecessors, the Netanyahu government has ignored it.

Had the Arab League summit scheduled to convene in Baghdad next week not been postponed due to domestic unrest in a number of member states, the Arab leaders would almost certainly have declared the death of their peace plan. It's obvious that negotiations based on that initiative are not in line with the proposal to declare at the United Nations the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

The leaders of Hamas, who are feeling their way toward a moderate unity government, are adjusting to the new situation being created in the Middle East. They know that representatives of Big Brother - i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood - will soon be in the Egyptian government, which will honor the peace treaty with Israel. And it's possible that Damascus will no longer serve as a refuge for terrorists. Meanwhile, the Arab League initiative is still sitting on the shelf.

If Israel had a prime minister who wasn't busy doing an advanced degree in survival studies, he would not have lent a hand to the criminal act of missing the Arab peace initiative - an initiative that might not be offered again.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE MODERN SLAVERY LAW

BY MERAV MICHAELI

Today the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee will consider a government proposal for legislation that would yoke foreign nursing-care workers to a specific employer and area of the country. According to the Interior and Finance Ministries, this restriction will solve the problem of workers "abandoning" their employers, and will reduce the number of illegal workers and labor migrants in Israel.

But in fact this is yet another law that will circumvent the High Court of Justice, which has already ruled in this matter that such limitation is in effect modern slavery and violates basic rights. The proposed legislation also ignores Industry, Trade and Ministry studies and an examination by the High Court, which show that such an arrangement has only served to increase the numbers of labor migrants and workers without permits.

There is symbolism in the government trying to pass this law now, precisely at a time when it is avoiding negotiations with the social workers, who have been on strike for 40 days. Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and Bank of Israel studies have also shown that the low wages received by foreign workers under such restricted conditions have also had repercussions for Israeli workers, who are forced to make do with very low pay or get pushed out into the circle of unemployment. Indeed, before the import of foreign caregivers, there were many more Israeli caregivers, both men and women, employed under much better working conditions.

It is not farfetched to claim that the social workers - to whose workload has been added an even greater amount of supervisory work, due to the rise in the number of elderly and disabled being tended at home by one main caregiver - have suffered from this process.

The law designates care by a private worker at home "care in the community," but in fact there is no community in sight.

For the most part what happens is that a person with a physical disability, and sometimes mental difficulties as well, and a person who has no rights or other options are "stuck" together at home, for 24 hours a day. Each is dependent on the other: the one for helping to carry out the most basic, daily tasks; the other for providing lodging, food and a salary. The verbal communication between them is often limited; thus they spend much time together in real isolation. This is a situation of dreadful helplessness - for both sides. Often the work is very difficult and the loneliness is truly terrible.

Such a situation is fertile ground for violence, and indeed caregivers sometimes suffer violence at the hands of their employers and their families, and the elderly and disabled are also subjected to violence at the hands of their main caregiver, on whom they are dependent.

Elderly and disabled people in this country have only one choice today: a single foreign caregiver 24 hours a day, or hospitalization involving nursing care. Care by a private worker at home is the default choice: Thanks to the exploitation of the foreigner workers, this is cheaper than hospitalization.

There should be assisted-living arrangements for those who need it, as there are for those who can afford it, only subsidized. Then it would be possible to accept the social workers' plan, whereby in every neighborhood or area there would be chief Israeli caregivers, on a shift basis, and a social worker who would be responsible for taking care of all of the specific individual's or family's problems. However, the government does not listen to the social workers, and is working to transform them into a weakened population just like the elderly and the foreigners, for whom they care.

The Health Ministry is preparing a reform that would include nursing-care services in the health basket, make them universally available and add some "care in the community" hours. This is not a solution to the distorted mechanism of nursing-care services existing today. Then again, a government whose defense minister and attorney general enjoy status and wealth that allow them not to be categorized as "elderly," and who themselves employ illegal slaves - does not see any problem in exploiting weakened, aging citizens for subjugating these even weaker individuals.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

 

THE PRICE OF THE PRICE TAG

BY ALEXANDER YAKOBSON

How many people are sitting in prison today for "price tag" acts? I don't know the precise number, but the general picture is clear - and bleak: The state is not fulfilling its obligation to protect those living under its jurisdiction from this kind of violent crime, which has become systematic. Clearly, there are many difficulties in enforcing the law, but it is also clear that this is fundamentally a question of priorities.

The security establishment has a lot on its plate. It is not obvious that a few Arabs beaten up here and there, and a few West Bank mosques set on fire, are high on its list of priorities. The upshot is that shamefully, these incidents have become routine.

The term "price tag" refers to harm inflicted on Palestinians in response to government actions deemed hazardous to the settlement project. For the most part, this is not revenge for Arab terror, which might be considered legitimate by people who embrace the barbaric principle of taking revenge on innocent bystanders.

After the terrible murder of the Fogel family in Itamar, there were those who must have breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear that for the meantime, the "price tag" people had sufficed with an attack by eight bullies on an Arab worker at the settlement of Shiloh, spraying him with tear gas and beating him up with bats and bricks. Responding to this attack, the commander of the Judea and Samaria Regional Division said the following: "The price tag incidents do not embody values, contrary to our values as Israelis and Jews. The settlement heads . . . understand full well that the extremist margins are damaging the settlements. [But] I am not always satisfied with the level of condemnation."

The officer undoubtedly had good intentions. But there is something problematic in the didactic tone of his remarks - as though he were leading an activity in a Scouts troop. The authorities do not usually define incidents of rape, bank robbery or attacks on old women as "events that do not embody values." Rather, they call them crimes. The "price tag" acts are crimes. Moreover, they jeopardize Israel's security. These are not ordinary acts of bullying, however ugly they may be. Directed and organized violence against Palestinians in the territories threatens to ignite a huge conflagration and cause escalation which will claim many lives. Preventing violence of this sort - violence for which Jewish extremists are to blame - is clearly an Israeli diplomatic and security interest. The "price tag" people are knowingly playing with matches next to a barrel of explosives in order to threaten the government. They are not only criminals - they are a threat to Israel's security and must be treated as such.

The government must act against this phenomenon with the legal tools at its disposal in order to protect the well-being of the public and the security of the state. I am not among those who turn up their noses every time the phrase "security considerations" is cited. We must not discount real threats because that ultimately means discounting human lives. By the same token, we must not "discriminate" among threats on the basis of the religion and nationality of the perpetrator or victim.

Of course there is always a risk because far-reaching security powers, such as administrative detention, can be abused. To prevent that, there is judicial review when such powers are exercised, and that is a good thing. The courts have proved they are not rubber stamps in this context. This does not mean the danger of abuse is eliminated. But sometimes a point is reached when not using drastic means to protect the victims of violence violates human rights more than using them would.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS STRAIGHT - TURNING INTO A DYSTOPIAN SOCIETY

We at the Hürriyet Daily News have many friends and colleagues working for the daily Radikal, with whom we are sharing the same premises. Not only do we share the premises, we also sometimes exchange news, contribute to each other and share the common goal of a fully democratic Turkey.

Last week, when the policed raided the daily Radikal to confiscate digital copies of Ahmet Şık's draft book, "İmam'ın Ordusu" (The Imam's Army), we have also shared their anger, frustration and feelings of suppression. The police also visited Şık's publisher's office, twice, and announced that whoever keeps the draft book or parts of it would be prosecuted for helping a terrorist organization. The other day we learned that wardens stormed in on another raid on Şık's cell at Silivri Prison to be sure that he is not keeping drafts of his book. 

The book, as we have already reported, is based on Şık's assumption that followers of Fethullah Gülen, a religious leader residing in the United States since the late 1990s, have seized power in the Police Department and that it stands as the center of the Gülen community's operations in the country. A similar idea was diffused by former police chief Hanefi Avcı, who was arrested for alleged links to an outlawed organization after publishing his book last year.

As was the case on Avcı's book, the pro-government media have already rolled up the sleeves to show evidence to prove Şık's links with the alleged Ergenekon gang.

Judiciary orders, police operations and the (pro-government) media try to justify the move. A scene we have been getting familiar with since the beginning of this case. Yet there are dissidents as well.

The mainstream media, almost all political parties except for the ruling party, the civil society organizations, international press and human rights organizations, institutions like the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, some ally countries like the United States, etc. have already voiced their concerns with regard to the latest developments. They have condemned the arrest of investigative journalists, harshly criticized the seizure of a draft book and in general the creating of such an undemocratic environment in an EU candidate country.

Comments, columns and statements compare what happened last week to the content of Ray Bradbury's book "Fahrenheit 451," one of the best examples of dystopian fiction.

We also are of the opinion that today's Turkey does not offer a much different picture. An authoritarian government at the peak of intolerance to any criticism is dragging Turkey into a dystopian era with no right to live for dissents.

The rulers of this country should not forget that the uniqueness of this country is derived from its choice of democracy. This is the choice that made them so powerful today. This is the choice that has allowed a democratic, secular, rule-of-law country to flourish in a region where leaders of neighboring countries are yet to learn this and their countries are suffering through tumultuous times.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE (HI)KING'S SPEECH

EMRE DELİVELİ

emre.deliveli@gmail.com

 

If you were to believe the papers and analyst reports, the Central Bank of Turkey's, or CBT's, required reserve ratio, or RRR, hikes at last Wednesday's rate-setting meeting were a complete surprise.

That may as well be the case, but it would reflect markets' herd behavior more than anything else. For some reason, markets took CBT Governor Durmuş Yılmaz's March 15 speech to, or rather interview with, the Wall Street Journal as irrefutable evidence that the Bank would stay on hold this month.

It is true that the Governor had noted that the Bank would "wait until the end of the month to assess whether its policy aimed at deterring hot money flows was working." But those remarks refer to the policy rate part of the Bank's two-pronged strategy, and the Bank did not change its one-week repo rate at last week's meeting.

As for whether the RRR hikes were successful in taming credit growth, Yılmaz highlighted that "economists [would] need to wait until at least the end of March to judge whether his policy was working, because much of the impact from the increased reserve requirements had yet to feed through."

The WSJ took all this, correctly I might add, to mean that the policy rate would be left on hold, but that RRRs could be increased again. So it seems that something was lost in translation. Moreover, at the one-pager after the previous meeting, the CBT was saying it would "monitor the tightening impact of the implemented policy mix until the next meeting, and take additional measures along the same line, if needed."

In the same WSJ interview, the Governor also clarified the mysterious $10 billion of hot money that had left Turkey according to the Bank. Economists had been complaining that they could not find data to support the CBT's claim, which I had found very odd: The numbers add up once you add banks' off-balance sheet positions, which are mainly swaps, to the regular capital flows.

Interestingly enough, all the statistics, which were summarized in a short note by the CBT right before the Yılmaz interview was published, are in the Bank's weekly press bulletin. I would argue that the off-balance sheet items should not be a measure of the effectiveness of the CBT's goal of taming the current account deficit, as they are not directly linked to the deficit, but the numbers were always there.

In fact, it is the least-quoted part of the Governor's interview that disturbed me most. Answering a question on fiscal policy, Yılmaz responded that he had asked the government to use the increase in tax revenues to pay down debt, and that the government had complied. While revenues were 17 billion Turkish Liras over the original target last year, the primary surplus was only 2 billion liras higher than planned. This hardly seems like "paying down debt."

To sum up, I have been more critical than many on the Central Bank's unconventional monetary policy mix. And while 4 percentage points seems like a big increase in RRRs, I don't think it will be effective in curbing credit significantly: After all, it is more or less equivalent to a 25 to 50 basis points hike in the policy rate. I am also extremely dissatisfied, like the folks on 19th Street N.W. in D.C., with the Bank's complacency regarding fiscal policy.

But I did not find any part of the Governor's interview that could be misleading on the direction of monetary policy. Economists and markets have fooled themselves and are now blaming the Central Bank. As Yanks would say, a good listener would only need half a word, but even drums and clarions would not be sufficient for a bad listener, as a well-known Turkish proverb goes.

It seems that for some folks following the Turkish economy, the CBT needs to call on the whole orchestra.

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LIBYA AND ALTRUISM

GWYNNE DYER

They have committed themselves to a war, but they have no plans for what happens after tomorrow night. They swear that they will never put ground troops into Libya, so their strategy consists solely of hoping that airstrikes on Col. Gadhafi's air-defense systems (and on his ground forces when they can be targeted without killing civilians) will persuade his troops to abandon him. They don't even have an agreed command structure.

So why is this "coalition of the willing" (which has yet to find a proper name for itself) doing this? Don't say, "it's all about oil." That's just lazy thinking: All the Western oil majors are already back in Libya. They have been back ever since the great reconciliation between their governments and Gadhafi in 2003.

That deal was indeed driven partly by oil, although also in part by Western concerns about Libya's alleged nuclear ambitions. (Gadhafi played his cards well there, because he never really had a viable nuclear weapons program.) But do you seriously think that Western governments have now launched this major military operation merely to improve the contractual terms for a few of their oil companies?

Maybe it's just about local political advantage, then. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was the driving force behind this intervention, and he faces a re-election battle next year. Is he seeking credit with French voters for this "humanitarian" intervention? Implausible, since it's the right-wing vote he must capture to win, and saving the lives of Arab foreigners does not rank high in the priorities of the French right.

Prime Minister David Cameron in Britain was the other prime mover in the Libyan intervention. Unless the coalition government he leads collapses (which is quite unlikely), he won't even have to face the electorate again until 2014. So what would be the point in seeking political popularity with a military intervention now? Even if that were a sure route to popularity in Britain, which it is not.

As for Barack Obama, he spent weeks trying to avoid an American military commitment in Libya, and his secretary of defense, Robert Gates, was outspoken in denouncing the idea. Yet there they all are, intervening: France, Britain, the United States, and half a dozen other Western countries. Strikingly unaccompanied by Arab military forces, or indeed by anybody else's.

There is no profit in this for the West, and there is a high probability (of which the interveners are well aware) that it will all end in tears. There is the danger of "mission creep," there is the risk that the bombing will kill Libyan civilians, and there is the fact that many of the countries that voted for Security Council Resolution 1973, or at least abstained from voting against it, are already peeling away from the commitment it implied.

They willed the end: to stop Gaddafy from committing more massacres. They even supported or did not oppose the means: the use of "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians, which in diplomatic-speak means force. But they cannot stomach the reality of Western aircraft bombing another third-world country, however decent the motives and however deserving the targets.

So why have the Western countries embarked on this quixotic venture? Indians feel no need to intervene, nor do Chinese or Japanese. Russians and South Africans and Brazilians can watch the killing in Libya on their televisions and deplore Gadhafi's behavior without wanting to do something about it.

Even Egyptians, who are fellow Arabs, Libya's next-door neighbors, and the beneficiaries of a similar but successful democratic revolution just last month, haven't lifted a finger to help the Libyan revolutionaries. They don't lack the means – only a small fraction of their army could put an end to Gadhafi's regime in days – but they lack the will. Indeed, they lack any sense of responsibility for what happens to people beyond their own borders.

That's normal. What is abnormal is a domestic politics in which the failure to intervene in Rwanda to stop the genocide is still remembered and debated 15 years later. African countries don't hold that debate; only Western countries do. Western countries also feel guilty about their slow and timorous response to the slaughter in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Nobody else does.

Cynicism is a necessary tool when dealing with international affairs, but sometimes you have to admit that countries are acting from genuinely selfless and humanitarian motives. Yes, I know, Vietnam and Iraq and a hundred years of US meddling in Latin America and 500 years of European imperial plunder all around the world. I did say "sometimes." But I think this is one of those times.

Why is it only Western countries that believe they have a duty to intervene militarily, even in places where they have no interests at stake, merely to save lives? My guess is that it's a heritage of the great wars they fought in the 20th century, and particularly of the war against Hitler, in which they told themselves (with some justification) that they were fighting pure evil – and eventually discovered that they were also fighting a terrible genocide. 

This does not mean that all or most of their military adventures overseas are altruistic, nor does it mean that their current venture will end well. In fact, it probably won't. No good deed goes unpunished.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHANGES IN TCK: CITIZENS UNPROTECTED AGAINST WIRETAPPING

SEDAT ERGİN

The bill on amendments in the Turkish Penal Code, or TCK, which the government wants to pass in advance of the elections, regulates two problematic areas.

Crimes of wiretapping and audio surveillance are evaluated in the first group. Regulations about secrecy of inquiries and about crimes of influencing justice fall into the second group. Let's talk about crimes of wiretapping today. The legislative intention in the area is explained as "necessity of protecting secrecy of private lives against scientific and technical developments."

Making a distinction between "private life" and "social life" in the reasoning reflects an interesting approach. Protective approach in the matter of private life is replaced by a more flexible approach when it comes to social life.

The important thing here is that it is stated in the reasoning that although there are provisions in the current law with regard to "protection of secrecy of private lives and freedom of communication," in practice "punishments are insufficient for the protection of these rights." It could be said that the government advances with an accurate determination here. Now let's see if the bill really serves this purpose.

Penalties increase but…

The new bill increases fines at varying rates concerning "violators of privacy of communication among individuals" (TCK 132); "Anyone who monitors private conversations between persons, without the consent of either of the parties, by means of a tapping device, or who records such conversations by means of a sound recording device" (TCK 133); and "violators of privacy of others" (TCK 134).

Besides, in the current law following up similar offences is contingent upon complaint. If the aggrieved does not apply in person, prosecutors cannot launch an inquiry. With the new regulation though, prosecutors will ask the aggrieved whether or not the right to complain will be exercised and only if prosecutors are given affirmative answers, they will make a query. The bill assigns prosecutors but still the final say rests with the aggrieved.

Increasing impositions and granting authorities to prosecutors match with the government's commitment to the public opinion.

The fourth clause in Article 132 in the current law should be removed. The clause reads, "If the contents of communication between persons are published via press and publications, the sentence will be increased by one half."

With this, not only individuals monitoring conversations but also individuals publishing the records were being punished.

In the new bill the clause has been removed completely. Therefore, the most critical legal obstacle in front of publishing records obtained illegally is eliminated.

A second article supports this freedom in the bill. The following paragraph is appended to Article 139 in the blueprint:

"Disclosure of information subject to offenses regulated in Articles 132, 133 and 134, to the press for news purposes does not constitute a crime unless communication limits are not violated. For that, however, the aforementioned offenses must not be participated."

Might cause systematic violations

The meaning is quite clear. The law limits the offense only with individuals who are involved in wiretapping and audio surveillance as well as press organs disclosing information. But in the next step, use of excerpts from the disclosed material is allowed.

In the frame of systematic examples that we have come across more often in recent years, the regulations above might pave the way for the following:

Records on an individual's conversation with others obtained through wiretapping without the consent of the person will be published on a website abroad and known by very few people. These acts will constitute crime according to the law. The source of such a website and visitors who listened to the said records will probably not be found, but publication or broadcast of these records on TVs addressing millions of people will be free.

The draft law, as is, becomes susceptible to any kind of violations of secrecy of private life and freedom of communication, which is one of the fundamental rights. In the end, the regulation leaves citizens unprotected in the subject area.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKEY, ITS NEIGHBORS AND EUROPE

DAVID HOWELL

At this time of regional turmoil – indeed global crisis – I want to share some thoughts with you about the way we in Britain see Turkey, its neighbors and Europe. There can be no doubt Turkey is already a key global power. Turkey is an important force and an influential actor with a multi-dimensional foreign policy and immense "soft power" in the region – and beyond. One of Turkey's great strengths is its position as a strategic hub for both Europe and Asia. In North Africa, Turkey has clearly demonstrated the value of its geo-strategic position, which I suggest is never more important than now.

Turkey's role in Libya and North Africa

Turkey has been deeply involved in the international effort to address the Libya crisis, and a key NATO ally. Turkey's crucial contribution to the NATO arms embargo mission is deeply valued. Working together, with a broad and strong coalition, towards implementing U.N. Resolution 1973, we are undertaking a necessary international responsibility to protect the Libyan people from being brutalized by Gadhafi and his forces. The U.N. resolution is necessary, legal and right. That is why there is such backing for the resolution. And it is not only our obvious duty to intervene, but also for the collective region's national interest. An unstable Libya, on the fringes of the Mediterranean, is a risk for us all. Not just for us in Europe, in Turkey but also in Asia and Africa.

And we are extremely grateful that Turkey has agreed to represent the U.K.'s interests in Libya whilst our Embassy in Tripoli has suspended its operations.

At a time of such momentous change in the surrounding neighborhood, it is impossible not to remark on the central role that Turkey can provide as an example of an Islamic country working within a democratic framework. The recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have demonstrated to all the need of every country to respond to the political and economic aspirations of their people; the natural human right desire for freedom and democracy and fundamental human rights is universal. Turkey, as a predominantly Muslim country, in which democracy and political pluralism operate, is increasingly becoming a source of inspiration, and an example of good governance for states throughout the region and the world. Turkey could share invaluable advice and form practical partnerships with its Arab neighbors to modernize and reform political systems. Although we need to remember that each country is individual and different.

Turkey and its neighbors in the wider region

Away from vital co-operation in North Africa, Turkey has significant economic and political interests and influence throughout its wider region. It has used this growing power proactively, including with its flagship "zero problems with the neighbors" policy. For example, Turkey is important both politically and economically in Iraq and has made an important contribution to stabilization there. Turkey is an integral part of NATO's effort to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan, running two Provincial Reconstruction Teams and committing $200 million in development support over the last three years, which is highly significant and much valued. Turkey also plays a particularly valuable role in developing the Afghan National Police Force, working closely with the U.K., and the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan.

In the world of house sales we often hear the phrase location, location, location. Turkey's location also means that it faces particular factors, different from those elsewhere in Europe, in handling relationships with its neighbors. I know that Turkey, like everyone else, is deeply concerned about any prospect of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Turkey is implementing U.N. sanctions designed to encourage Iran to provide the international community with reassurance about its nuclear program. But at the same time, we recognize Turkey must coexist with a geographical neighbor and is keen to develop other aspects of the relationship. We do understand that. But of course we, in turn also understandably, are keen that Turkey should use its special influence and access to encourage the Iranian regime to cooperate with the international community on Iran's nuclear program.

Turkey also has the potential to build understanding between Israel and the Arab world. As we all know, the relationship between Turkey and Israel has faced difficulties. I hope very much that the two governments will be able to find an honorable and mutually acceptable way forward. If they do the region as a whole will benefit.

Turkey can also play a useful role in fostering dialogue and encouraging stability in the Caucasus, with its close relationships with Azerbaijan and Georgia. And despite the current challenges, I hope that the governments of both Turkey and Armenia can work to take the normalization process forward this year for the benefit of both countries and the wider Caucasus region.

For all these geo-political reason, the U.K. regards Turkey as a friend and partner of increasing significance in the new global order. That is the geo-politics. But there are also powerful economic forces at work that are binding us increasingly together.

Turkey's economic strength

It is not just Turkey's engagement with its neighbors that has driven the country's emergence as a global power.

Turkey is the world's 15th and Europe's 7th largest economy. It is the EU's fifth largest export and seventh largest import partner. Turkey's potential is vast: The OECD predicts that Turkey will overtake India as the second fastest growing economy by 2017 and will be the second-largest economy in Europe by 2050. With her good demographics, entrepreneurial spirit and increasing openness to international partnerships and investment, Turkey is Europe's BRIC, as Prime Minister Cameron said when he was here last July, as well as stating the U.K.'s ambitions to grow our commercial relationship – what we see is doubling the value of our trade within five years.

Turkey: Europe's energy hub

Turkey occupies a key position as not only a hub, but also indeed a central player in ensuring the energy security of the whole of the EU. That will matter to all of us. Turkey will be the transit route for the proposed southern energy corridor, bringing new Caspian gas, and potentially Iraqi gas, to the EU while Turkey will gain transit revenue and improve its own security of supply. We are moving into an age of predominance of gas, especially given present uncertainties on other sources of energy.

A first step for the southern corridor is to secure gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field. The Memorandum of Understanding that Turkey and Azerbaijan signed last year, agreeing the supply and transit of Azeri gas across Turkey to Europe, was an important first step.

It is now equally important that all parties keep the momentum going forward by establishing commercial and governmental agreements and choosing a commercially viable pipeline option.

Britain's commercial interest in Turkey's energy sector is strong, and we will continue to encourage investment. Energy is included in our new strategic partnership that was signed by both prime ministers here last July. The U.K. values its joint work with Turkey on energy and work together through the annual U.K.-Turkey Energy Dialogue, which I have already mentioned Energy Minister Yıldız and I will attend next week in London.

EU Accession

Let me turn to EU accession and development. On the EU, my message is simple: It is the U.K.'s strong view that Turkey's EU accession will be good for Turkey, good for Europe and good for the region. The case for Turkey's accession into the European Union can only get stronger. The U.K. believes Turkey's accession into the EU is in the clear interest of both parties. And I emphasize for both parties. Now there is a need for Turkey to reform. There is also a need for the EU to reform. And our committed support for Turkey's goal is backed by a number of factors. The geopolitical reasons I have already set out, make it clear why EU-Turkey co-operation on foreign policy is so important.

Economically, Turkish membership of the EU is in our mutual interest as we trade and invest our way out of the global economic crisis. Turkish business already employs half a million people across Europe. Turkey in the EU would create opportunities for exporters and investors as well as linking us to markets in Central Asia, the Near East and other areas where Turkish businesses are active. The EU is the world's largest trading block, and Europe accounts for two-thirds of Turkey's Foreign Direct investment and more than half of Turkey's exports.

Energy is another vital area of co-operation. We would like to see increased engagement between the EU and Turkey on energy that will be of mutual benefit, both in terms of energy security, and effective harmonization of energy markets. Turkey would have a more secure supply of energy, including through countries that are interested in selling hydrocarbons to EU markets, and would benefit from a more stable and liberalized energy market that is more closely aligned with the EU's market, which itself needs to become much more competitive and we are working hard to try and do that.

And finally, it is our view that Turkey's accession into the EU and the benefits that it brings are not just geopolitical or economic. One of the EU's great strength alongside its economic cohesion and common political institutions is its shared values. Turkish accession is already generating a healthy debate within the EU about what our values mean in practice. Preaching and sermonizing is one thing – practical application of our values is another. Turkey is a secular and democratic state, and the EU is a secular organization that welcomes people of any faith or none. Turkish membership would increase the EU's diversity and we should welcome that with open arms.

Turkey's accession will also be a turning point in the history of the EU. If Turkey were not finally to accede, it would be a historic mistake on the part of the EU, which I believe would damage and limit the capacities of the EU in the eyes of the world.

Challenges to Turkey's accession process

But of course in spite of all the benefits to both the EU and Turkey of her accession, there are obstacles and challenges that must be addressed.

One of them is public opinion in the EU. Some of those who oppose Turkish accession may be largely unaware of the significant reforms that Turkey has already made. But there is no doubt that there is still work to be done, whether on freedom of expression, the rights of minorities or judicial reform. It is up to Turkey – with the support of its close friends in the EU – to keep up the pace of reform and persuade the skeptics that it can meet EU standards across the range of issues that the Accession process addresses.

Cyprus

I know that Turkey remains committed to supporting efforts to find a solution to the continued problem of Cyprus. We need to turn this goal into a reality, so that the 36-year division of the island can be brought to an end. It needs leaders on both sides in Cyprus to show statesmanship and courage in taking the next steps. But the reward will be great: a settlement will bring enormous economic and security benefits not only to everyone on the island, but also to Turkey, the rest of the EU and the whole eastern Mediterranean region.

Turkey does not have to make a choice

Some commentators have pointed to Turkey's renewed ties with its neighbors as evidence for Turkey turning away from its traditional alliances with the West.

As our prime minister said when he was in Ankara last year, Turkey doesn't have to choose between East and West. It would be a mistake to think that Turkey engaging more closely with other neighbors means that it is not focused on the EU, or traditional alliances. It's precisely because Turkey has chosen both, precisely because of Turkey's unique position that it has such influence in the world far beyond its borders.

Conclusion

In London we, like you, have been thinking hard about how we adjust and position our nation in this new international landscape. Like you we have old links to maintain, and new links to build up. Turkey is a NATO ally, member of the OSCE and Council of Europe, recent U.N. Security Council member, an important trade and energy partner, and has significant cultural and diaspora links to Europe. It is playing a vital role in North Africa and the Middle East as events unfold there, one that we greatly appreciate and is another example of the model role Turkey can play in this fast changing scene.

In our view, a confident, democratic and stable Turkey is good for Europe and the region in the 21st century. Turkey's improving ties with its neighbors, its influential foreign policy, its economic strength, and its energy hub role benefit Europe, just as its ties to Europe benefit the region. We salute and encourage Turkish commitment to the goal of EU accession and you should remember that Turkey has many friends in Europe, none more so than the U.K. who support that goal. But we also salute and seek to work ever more closely with Turkey as it adapts to new world conditions and takes its full place as a great and responsible nation. In facing the many tasks ahead we, the U.K. and Turkey, look forward to working as partners side by side.

* Lord David Howell is minister of state for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is a part of the speech he made during the Wilton Park Conference entitled 'Turkey's policies for engagement in the contemporary world,' in Istanbul on Friday, March 25.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NOTHING LIKE A GOOD WAR

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

Princess Reem al-Faisal, granddaughter of the legendary Saudi King Faisal bin Abdulaziz, may be an unknown commodity for the world beyond the Middle East. But her fame as an artist and photographer par excellence has traveled far beyond the borders of the Saudi kingdom. The magic of her exquisite black-and-white images celebrating the stark simplicity of life in Arabia, including the great spiritual journey of the Hajj, has to be truly experienced to be believed.

But it wasn't her amazing skills with her old Contax camera or her ability to see the extraordinary in an ordinary world that first got my attention; instead, it was her fiery opinion pieces used rare courage and honesty to say things like they are. Like her ascetic grandfather, who paid with his life for his defiance and independence of spirit, Reem is forever driven by a concern for her people, and the oppressed and voiceless everywhere.

Despite her delicate position, this unusual royal has repeatedly censured the Arab leaders for their failure to confront big powers on continuing injustice and oppression in the region. At the height of Israel's murderous offensive on Gaza two years ago and during the recent popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, she came up with some of the best and boldest writings in recent times, prodding the sleeping conscience of Arab elites.

Her strong beliefs and convictions come across in everything Reem does, such as in her passion for photography, in her incisive writings and even in the kind of art, artists and themes she chooses to present and promote at her unique gallery, the Empty Quarter, in the heart of Dubai's glamorous financial district. Since its inauguration two years ago, the Empty Quarter has covered unusual themes, from violence and identity and cultural issues to the exploitation of the marginalized and dispossessed lot of the region.

These days the Empty Quarter is hosting another unusual exhibition, "The Spectacle of War," for which Reem herself turned up, once again talking about an issue that has been close to her heart: The exploitation of the Middle East and how it has ended up becoming a battleground for big powers and their little games.

Featuring some of the finest photographers and artists of our time, "The Spectacle of War" offers a rarely seen perspective on the obscenity of the Iraq war. However, it isn't just about Uncle Sam's with-us-or-against-us mission in Mesopotamia. This is the story of a whole civilization and its abuse.

Pointing to the images of Saddam Hussein's grand, opulent palace, now occupied and trampled by the U.S. Marines with obscene graffiti defacing its walls, Reem says, "They come and just take over everything!"

In her traditional abaya and earnestly explaining each picture to her guests, which incidentally included former Pakistan premier Shaukat Aziz, his wife and Emirati dignitaries, Reem looks more like an activist than a princess.

But spectacularly nightmarish as the Iraq campaign has been, described as a "war by Disney" by Paul Rutherford, the author of the "Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing the War Against Iraq," it is merely another chapter in the history of business of war.

Those images, some of them captured from inside the smug safety of an American tank or Humvee, tell the story of centuries of exploitation of the vast region that stretches from North Africa to the Gulf to Central Asia.

While much of the known world has suffered at the hands of colonial powers, the Middle East remains the real big bazaar and virtual laboratory of the global arms industry.

Of course, one has been familiar with the history of the Middle East and the clever, petty games Western colonial powers have played over the past couple of centuries to exploit it in every possible way. Nonetheless, it was a sobering experience to see it all brilliantly illustrated, explaining how the global war machine thrives on the conflict in the Middle East.

Indeed, there's nothing like a good war for politicians and businessmen. Wars help failed politicians reinvent and empower themselves as they turn their insecurities and delusions of grandeur into a national cause. And for those who make its instruments, nothing beats the war business. The world economy may be tanking and ordinary mortals like me and you may be driven up the wall by spiraling inflation. However, things that go "bang" and kill in ever-new ways are on a roll.

The ineffectual angels of the United Nations and the big boys who run the whole circus may make a great deal of promoting peace and stability around the world, but no one really wants peace. Especially not in the Middle East. Peace is the last thing the arms industry and their friends in high places want in the region, or anywhere else for that matter.

Indeed, the greater the unrest and instability, the better it is for people in the business.

This may be why while the rest of the world has moved on at a mindboggling pace over the past five or six decades, particularly after the World War II, time has stood still for much of the Middle East. The region is stuck in a time warp that is centuries old. The more things change in our part of the world, the more they have remained the same for the Arab world.

This is perhaps why most conflicts since the World War II have taken place in the Middle East. Having drawn its lessons from the two great wars, Europe has managed to avoid major military conflicts and keep the continent safe. However, war remains a big industry and vital source of revenue for the industry that deals in trillions of dollars.

Only it's now staged elsewhere – away from the continent and in distant Arabia or Africa and Asia.

This is why the Arab-Israel conflict continues to fester even after seven decades. If the Middle East finds lasting peace, what will happen to all those fancy weapons the U.S. and European war machine has been churning out year on year?

Why would you want peace in the Middle East, or for that matter anywhere else on the planet, if you are Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or even Dick Cheney's Halliburton that has been making billions by building those military bases all across the Middle East and Central Asia?

And it's not just the awesome arms and ammo that are an endless source of income for the merchants of death. Decades after its ostensible exit from the region, the empire continues to control all levers of power and economic interests in the Middle East. Using an ancient regime of licenses and monopoly, the U.S., U.K., France and others in the West still call the shots by controlling virtually everything, from the oil industry to the supply of essentials like military uniforms and jackboots. Nearly 85 percent of Saudi imports, for instance, are neatly divided between the U.S. and U.K. and uniforms for Bahraini troops are by the U.K. at a premium under a special license.

No wonder for all their protestations and pretensions to champion freedom and democracy around the world, our colonial masters are cowering in their pants as the tsunami of change sinks one subservient satrap after another.

Change is the last thing the West wants now. Status quo is the name of the game. But who can stop an idea whose time has come? And beware. The current churning doesn't merely target an old, corrupt order. It also seeks an end to the injustice, exploitation and open loot that the empire has presided over all these years.

*Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf-based writer. He can be reached at aijaz.syed@hotmail.com.

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 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NEW SYKES-PICOT DEAL?

YUSUF KANLI

Aside from hundreds of intellectuals expressing perhaps more loudly these days that we might be witnessing a historical redrawing of the maps in the Middle East, interestingly three intellectuals representing different cultural backgrounds came about separately last week with a shared conviction.

Eminent academic at the London School of Economics Robert Lowe, talking to CNN, Alug Benn, a writer of the prestigious Haaretz newspaper of Israel, in an article and Obeyda Nahas from the London-based Levant Institute, separately said that with the current wave of popular uprisings sweeping across the Middle East geography, the borders will perhaps change, almost 100 years after they were established more or less with the so-called secret Sykes-Picot agreement.

Almost 100 years ago, after an initial similar effort a year ago faltered, in May 1916, Georges Picot, a specially authorized French diplomat who had served as consul of his country in Beirut, and Sir Mark Sykes, a top British diplomat, were assigned by their governments to discuss an agreement pertaining to the partition of the Ottoman Empire among the Allied Powers. At those times there was no "coalition of the willing" but in the war, countries who camped in two groups, the "Entente" or "Allied Powers" and the "Central Powers," were fighting each other.

Russia, the third major power of the "Allied Powers," was as well aware of the secret talks between Britain and France and it also consented to the terms of it. Through the exchange of notes among the three key countries of the Allied Powers it became official, although still a secret document, in May 1916. A year later, in September 1917, Italy joined as the fourth party to the agreement on sharing Ottoman territory. That is, it was basically a secret understanding between the governments of Britain and France defining their respective spheres of post-World War I influence and control in the Middle East but consequently Italy and Russia joined in getting a share from the war booty, the Ottoman lands. If perhaps halfway through the war Russia did not undergo the Bolshevik Revolution and unilaterally withdraw from the war; Russia's allies would not have attempted to deny Moscow "its share" of the Ottoman territory under the confidential Sykes-Picot deal; and if the Moscow of Lenin hadn't decided to release a set of agreements and secret deals between the Tsarist Russia and the Allied Powers, including the confidential Sykes-Picot Agreement – a development that helped Ottoman military and intellectuals wake up and see the designs of the Allied Powers regarding their country – the arrangement would have the chance to be implemented in full. Yet, while it constituted the basis for many hostile developments regarding Turkey – the same mentality unfortunately persists even today – the Turkish War of Liberation doomed that cooperation in conspiracy accord. Still, that document more or less helped the victors of World War I draw the maps of most parts of the Middle East, except Turkey. For example, the present Syria-Iraq border is almost exactly what was foreseen in that document.

Under that confidential conspiracy, Britain was allocated control of areas roughly comprising Jordan, Iraq and a small area around Haifa while France was allocated control of most parts of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Palestine would be placed under international administration, pending consultations with Russia and other powers, while the Turkish straits, including Gallipoli, would come under Russian control. Russia was also to receive a very large area in eastern Turkey. Italians, on the other hand, would get certain Aegean islands and a sphere of influence around Izmir in southwest Anatolia. Italians did get control of the Aegean islands and later handed them over to Greece.

This "how to share the Ottoman booty" conspiracy accord later also constituted the backbone of the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, which, as is known, carved out an Armenian state in eastern Turkey – allocated in the original plan to be under the control of Russia – and a Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey – comprised of territories placed under Russian and French control.

Almost 100 years later, now the Middle East is burning again and strangely enough it was the French and the British who led the affectionate aerial bombing of Libya effort, of course out of their love for the Bedouins of North Africa… Russia is not participating in the bombardments, indeed expressing concern – together with China – regarding the developments – as if by abstaining from the relevant Security Council resolution the two countries have indeed given their go-ahead to what has been happening. The new element, of course, is the United States… But, was it not a party to the 1916 deal also? Why, for example, did the U.S. endorse in a way the 1916 conspiracy with the Wilson Doctrine and has it not to this day officially accepted the Lausanne Treaty?

Confused ere you not? No need for confusion, it appears that the same old game is being put on stage again… We will learn this fresh conspiracy only if one of the parties of this booty sharing team is discarded by the others.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE LANGUAGE OF VIOLENCE

 

Karachi is riddled with fresh wounds and is bleeding profusely. The loss of life is on so enormous a scale it is frightening even by the city's own standards where violent deaths are common. According to a tally based on reports this newspaper carried, at least 140 people have lost their lives in the ongoing wave of political and ethnic violence over the past fortnight. The victims include activists of various political parties. What is more worrisome is that the city is witnessing new cycles of violence reflective of reluctance on the part of the coalition partners – the MQM, the ANP and the PPP – to accept and adapt themselves to changes that are quietly taking place and are bound to change the political landscape of this home to around 18 million people. This explains why the understanding reached between the MQM and the PPP that was announced with much fanfare at a press conference at the Governor House earlier this month, has failed to prevent targeted killings in Karachi. We have yet to see a four-member committee – comprising two members each of the Muttahida and the People's Party and formed at the behest of President Zardari after days of reconciliatory talks - take any concrete measures in this respect. This has allowed murder with impunity.


The implications of the government's failure to stop the bloodshed have already started showing. Large neighbourhoods are beginning to turn into ethnic ghettos as common citizens with no political affiliations whatsoever are targeted by rival groups. Attacks on buses carrying passengers apparently belonging to the Urdu-speaking community have grown increasingly frequent in Pakhtun-dominated areas. Likewise, ordinary Pakhtuns, including labourers, fruit and vegetable vendors and drivers have been targeted in areas populated mostly by Urdu-speaking people. A newspaper report recently quoted an unidentified senior health official of the Sindh government as saying that victims of targeted killings and patients from a certain ethnic background are not taken to hospitals whose staff are believed to be from the rival ethnic group. That people now prefer dying to being taken to such hospitals indicates the degree to which ethnic hatred has been allowed to permeate what was once the 'melting pot' of the country. If this terrible trend is not arrested soon, it has the potential to paralyse commercial activity that makes Karachi the financial lifeline of the country. Also, counter hand grenade attacks on offices of the MQM and the now banned People's Aman Committee prove there are criminals out there who have more lethal weapons than Kalashnikovs and TTs.


Can we expect an early end to this madness? Things on the ground suggest that citizens are likely to suffer more of the same in the coming months. Unable to share in a civilised manner the biggest financial pie that this city is, the coalition partners cannot afford to sever links between their politics and the extortion, land and drug mafias. Consider this: the MQM is busy mainstreaming itself in other parts of the country, especially Punjab, and cannot lose sight of the 'bigger picture' ahead of the next general election (it has lost around 65 activists since January this year but continues to cling to power despite threatening several times to quit the government); the PPP spearheaded by its home minister in Sindh is trying to venture out of Lyari and gain ground in Bin Qasim and Malir towns with the help of the banned People's Aman Committee; and the ANP is striving hard to learn to speak the language of violence so it does not lag behind its rivals.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POWER SOLUTIONS

 

With a conference on alternative power solutions and Prime Minister Gilani looking at purchasing surplus power from the Central Asian Republics (CARs), it looks like at last a more holistic approach to the power problem is emerging. Alternative energy - solar, wind, wave – has long been discussed as a way out of some of our power provision problems. A problem has been that local skills in remote areas have not matched the maintenance needs of, for instance, the solar scheme introduced in Hunza about 15 years ago. The project quickly fell into ruin. Cost then as now was another factor – the startup costs of alternative energy schemes of all types are very high compared to conventional power. A decade and a half later, and staring a major power crisis in the eye, we are going to have to re-visit alternative energy. As the Pakistan Alternative Power Expo 2011 was told by a speaker on Thursday, solar energy is probably our best bet in terms of achievability. Technologies have moved on, as have communities, and we need to consider a 'mixed economy' of power – with solar and biomass working alongside conventional power producers. Currently about 40 percent of our power is produced using expensive imported oil – and with instability in the oil-producing nations pushing the price of crude oil ever higher, the hunt for an alternative gains urgency.

Power provision in the short term, augmenting our existing and wholly inadequate supply, is proving ever more problematical. There is a curious silence about the two 'power ships' that are tied up in Karachi, and no word as to when either or preferably both, are going to be putting volts down the wires. We heard the president in his recent speech to the joint session of parliament refer to two large dam projects, but these may be a decade off completion. Thus, the news that the PM has offered to buy surplus electricity from the CARs deserves a cautious welcome. The CARs are something of an unexploited opportunity for ourselves hitherto, and it is timely that we are looking at expanding our trading links with Uzbekistan – with energy purchase being an area where if not a quick fix then a fix in the foreseeable future, is a possibility. Summer is upon us and the power-cuts are already being felt. What is needed is a unified power strategy that both manages the short-term and plans for the medium and the long in ways that transcend party politics and provincial rivalry. The alternative power providers and the conventional providers need to be looking at complementarity – there is going to be no single solution to our power crisis.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

QUEST FOR AN ELUSIVE MUTUAL INTEREST

ASIF EZDIA

 

The press release issued by the foreign ministry on March 18 on the "strong protest" made by the foreign secretary with the US ambassador at the massacre of civilians in drone attacks a day earlier is remarkable for several reasons.


First, it starts by saying that the protest was made under the prime minister's orders and concludes that this was not a pro forma demarche. The clarification that the protest was not a formality was probably considered necessary, in view of Gilani's advice to the US ambassador in August 2008 to ignore Pakistan's public protests at drone attacks and Zardari's assurance to the CIA director in November 2008 that, though it might worry the Americans, "collateral damage" did not worry him.


Second, only a week earlier, the general who commands the army's Seventh Division in North Waziristan had defended the drone attacks in a rare briefing given at Miran Shah to Pakistani journalists. He asked them not to believe "myths and rumours" about the strikes. The reality, he said, was that many of those killed in these strikes were hardcore elements and that a sizable number of them were foreigners.


Third, the foreign secretary told the US ambassador that it was for the White House and the State Department to "hold back those who have been trying to veer Pakistan-US relationship away from the track." The implication that there are some in the US (the CIA?) who are working at odds with the administration's policy towards Pakistan is quite bizarre. Could it be that this part of the press release was added at the wish of the ISI, which is still smarting at having been outwitted by the CIA in the Davis affair in the eyes of the Pakistani public? Contrary to claims made by the ISI, US officials have said quite categorically that there was "absolutely no quid pro quo" from their side for Davis's release and that there will be no curtailment of the CIA personnel or activities in Pakistan.


Fourth, the foreign ministry's statement pleads that "Pakistan should not be taken for granted, nor treated as a client state." This pious wish, needless to say, is not going to be fulfilled as long as our leaders continue to act as though Pakistan were a US dependency.

 

Fifth, the foreign ministry called for revisiting "the fundamentals of (Pakistan-US) relations." Here the ministry is right – or half-right – because the US has already carried out a reassessment of its policy towards Pakistan in the wake of geopolitical changes of the last two decades. It is Pakistan that has not carried out this review. It is high time it did so. And not just because of the drone attack in Datta Khel. In fact, Marc Grossman suggested as much in a roundtable with Pakistani journalists on March 7 when he let slip an elementary truth for Pakistani policymakers to chew over. "US-Pakistan relationship must be based on mutual interest," said the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, "the challenge is to find that mutual interest."


It is not an easy task, because Pakistan's place in the US policy calculus has been slipping while the importance of India has grown as a result of geopolitical developments in recent years. The end of the Cold War meant that Pakistan was not needed by Washington any longer as an ally to contain the influence of its main global adversary and rival. On the contrary, it is India's partnership that Washington seeks now, to counter two of the main challenges it faces in the new global configuration: the resurgence of China, seen by the US as the main threat to its global hegemony, and the perceived threat posed to Western societies by Islamic militancy from its breeding ground in Afghanistan, and lately also from Pakistan's tribal areas.

The reorientation of US policy to take account of these developments resulted in the decision of the Bush administration in 2005 to "make India a global power" in Condoleezza Rice's unforgettable words, and the accompanying "de-hyphenation" of relations with Pakistan and India. The key to the new policy was the India-US nuclear deal. Obama has continued this policy and taken it forward. On his visit to India last November, he declared support for the Indian aspiration to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a practical end to restrictions on the export of dual-use technology to India.


Last month, a Pakistani was indicted in the US for allegedly exporting "nuclear-related materials" to Suparco and the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant. Such exports to Indian defence agencies like ISRO and DRDO would, however, be completely legal after their deletion from the US "entities list" earlier this year. Even technology for enhancing the safety of the Chashma 3 and 4 nuclear plants which China will be supplying to Pakistan falls under the US embargo.


That is not all. The US is also pushing aggressively to sell advanced conventional military hardware to India (which is already the biggest arms importer in the world) and is encouraging it to assume a bigger military and political role in East Asia, the Indian Ocean region and in Central Asia.


Clearly, there is a wide divergence between the strategic goals that the US is pursuing and Pakistan's security interests. The famous "trust deficit" between the two is not the cause but the consequence of this fraught relationship. Even on the question of Afghanistan, where Islamabad and Washington share certain common interests, like the stabilisation of that country, there are marked differences over the future role of the Taliban and the approach to be adopted in order to promote a negotiated political settlement. The American pledge that it is not walking away from the region is both reassuring and disturbing.


Our present government, like the Musharraf regime before it, has chosen to disregard or play down the full impact on Pakistan's security of the US policy of making India a global power. Instead, our leaders have been mainly focused on getting Washington's backing to prolong their unpopular rule. The government might occasionally make loud noises at American actions, as it did over the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the Raymond Davis case, but that is only to soothe domestic public opinion, and the Americans know it.


It is therefore little wonder that Washington ignores Pakistan's protests. Our condemnation of the drone attack on Datta Khel, the decision not to attend a trilateral meeting with Afghanistan and the US and the call for a review of bilateral relations have been treated in Washington as another storm in a teacup that Pakistani leaders occasionally have to kick up for reasons of domestic politics. American officials have indicated that, despite all the commotion, they expect business to continue as usual. Zardari's visit to Washington, earlier planned for April, is being rescheduled and preparations are in hand for the next round of the "strategic dialogue" to be held shortly in Islamabad.


Pakistan will continue to be taken for granted, as the foreign ministry complained it is being, as long as our leaders remain in the supplicant's mode that they are so comfortable with. After Shah Mahmood Quraishi was sacked last month, he spoke passionately about holding our head high in our dealings with the US. But this thought does not seem to have occurred to him while he was in office.


He too went through the charade of a "strategic dialogue" in which the US even refuses to include what should be the most important strategic issue – Pakistan's access to civilian nuclear technology – on the bilateral agenda. If we are serious about this matter, we should refuse to schedule the next round of this dialogue unless this question is seriously discussed. Besides, we should tell Washington that unless Pakistan is assured of parity of treatment with India in nuclear matters, Pakistan's logistic and intelligence support to the US war in Afghanistan should not be taken for granted.

The writer is a former member of the Foreign Service. Email: asif ezdi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OUR BURDEN OF LIES

AYAZ WAZIR

 

 "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." We seem to have followed, in letter and spirit, those "golden" words of an infamous Nazi leader. However, Germany was lucky to have sincere and farsighted leaders after World War II. In spite of stiff opposition from the US, West German leaders like Willy Brandt followed a policy of "Realpolitik," with the aim of an eventual reunification of the two halves of Germany. We in Pakistan have been extremely unlucky in terms of our leaderships all along. Even after having lost East Pakistan, our leaders, instead of learning any lessons from the loss of half the country, continue to tell blatant lies to us, as if nothing had happened and keep acting against the interests of the country and the people's aspirations.


In 1971, the nation was lied to as others were blamed for our problems in East Pakistan. We were in a state of war with our own people there, whose province we were treating as our colony, thereby opening the door to outside interference. The nation was not entirely naive, so many persons knew where the fault actually lay. But those who spoke up were penalised for being truthful. Obviously, without local popular support, the armed forces alone could not defend the eastern wing. The rest is unpleasant history which does not bear repetition.

The nation was lied to in 1977. When the elected government was removed, the man who dismissed it swore publicly that it was only a "90-days operation." Instead, the most charismatic and popular leader of the overthrown government was sent to the gallows. The nation is still paying for the many misdeeds of the dictator who did all this.


We were lied to during the 40 years of turmoil in Afghanistan. Our leaders kept our policies secret from the public and vehemently denied that Pakistan was playing any role in the conflict. After the Soviet invasion we tried to make everyone believe that we were not a party to the war, whereas we were extending all help and assistance to the Mujahideen across the border against Afgnaistan. Our western border hardly existed. It was thrown open to adventurers of many nations who wanted to come over for jihad. CIA agents must have crisscrossed that border more frequently than their Pakistani counterparts.


We were lied to again in 1999 when a popularly elected government was dismissed on flimsy charges. The country was run like a fiefdom and the armed forces were used for the prolongation of one man's rule. It was with great difficulty that the trust deficit that so widely existed between the people and the armed forces somewhat narrowed after the last dictator's removal.


We were lied to yet again in 2001. The government took a U-turn on our Afghan policy after one telephone call from Washington. Contrary to public sentiment, it provided facilities all over the country to the US for use against Afghanistan. We thereby became a frontline ally and owned a war which was not ours, and are paying the price for that ever since.


The leadership lied in 2003 to deploy troops in Fata against the wishes of the people of that area. The troops are now deeply entrenched and are finding it difficult to get out of that area even if they want to do so.

Our leaders continued with their lies and kept denouncing our own people as militants when they were killed in drone attacks – until recently when the army chief reacted, though not so strongly, against the killing of more than 50 members of a peace jirga in North Waziristan. Was it a shift in policy or a face-saving device for handling the Davis affairs is yet to be seen, but the general perception is that he should not have stopped at that but demanded a complete halt to drone attacks. Does it mean that the 50 who died in Waziristan were not as much Pakistani as the two young men shot by Raymond Davis in Lahore?


We lied for decades about the developments of Fata. Each government promised to bring it at par with the rest of the country. To say nothing of development, no one even bothered to remember the people of Fata when the new constitution for the country was framed in 1973 or when the 18th Amendment bill was drafted. The Frontier Crimes Regulations still hang like a sword over the heads of Fata's residents, with the result that, with every passing day, the area is turning into a fertile ground for militancy.


The present elected government that followed the dictator did not do any better. It followed his policies and gave nothing to the public except empty promises. It may have enabled some to fatten their accounts but the public in general is faced with hunger and starvation.


We cannot blame others for the mess that we made of this great country of ours. We are responsible for its dismemberment, we ruined the economy only to strengthen personal accounts. Today we are living on borrowed money and cannot survive without foreign assistance. Who was responsible for this? Who was ruling the country all this time? Who created all this mess? Was it a mullah, a peasant, a tribesman or the military-bureaucratic axis ruling the country?


A large number of downtrodden people have approached religious seminaries for fatwas justifying thefts and robberies to enable them to feed their families. Islam, they argue, permits eating haram when that becomes unavoidable. And for them it is a similar situation, because they are not able to look after their families in their meagre resources. This is a very alarming situation. Fear the day when such fatwas are issued indiscriminately.

We need to revisit the aims and objectives for which this country of ours was created by our forefathers. We need to make a fresh start by creating an egalitarian society and providing equal opportunities for all citizens. We have carried the burden of lies and deceit for too long and paid too heavily. We have sold our nationals for too long and for too little.


Let us wake up and guard the interest of the nation ourselves. Let us not leave it to outsiders to tell us how to steer the country out of this mess. We have enough talent at home to put the country on the right track. We do not lack talent, nor do we have dearth of willing workers to set the course right. Our young people are talented, capable and confident of taking the country to new heights provided they have an honest and sincere leader who can simply translate the collective wisdom of this nation into action, rather than imposing his personal wishes on us.


The writer is a former ambassador who hails from Fata. Email: waziruk@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PAINFUL EPISODES

DR A Q KHAN

 

At present, people are concerned about two issues – the Haj corruption scandal, and the Supreme Court orders to relieve retired superannuated bureaucrats, while the government blatantly refuses to obey these orders.

Those involved in the Haj scam will definitely be taken to task by the Almighty. It was reported that almost 250 cronies of the rulers were flown to Mecca by special PIA flight at government expense. The plane arrived after the permissible time limit and PIA was fined a huge sum of money (and paid from its own funds). This reminded me of a totally contrasting event that happened in 1904. The Begum of Bhopal, Nawab Sultan Jehan Begum, an extremely popular ruler and an excellent administrator, decided to perform Haj. The British political agent in Bhopal was informed and asked to make the necessary arrangements. He requested the governor in Bombay to hire a comfortable ship and also informed the Turkish governor in Jeddah to provide proper protocol and security to the Begum. Once all the arrangements had been made, the Begum invited the local people to join her entourage at her own expense. The invitation was duly published in local newspapers a number of times. But not a single person accepted the invitation. Everyone felt that Haj was to be performed at one's own expense and performance of Haj was not compulsory if you did not have the means to do so. The Begum later wrote the details of the whole journey. That is an interesting story I would like to write about at some other time. The most important part of her narrative was about the mischief played by the Sharif of Mecca and his attempt to cheat and blackmail her and extort money from her. The Turkish governor had to intervene to prevent unpleasantness.


After all the arrangements had been made and the Begum and all her family members left by train, but not a single person from the public accompanied them. Now compare those honest people who preferred not to perform Haj at state expense with our present-day dishonest, corrupt, rich people who find any excuse to create and utilise opportunities for free travel, even Haj.


The second matter is that of the rehiring of retired bureaucrats, most notably the the director general of the FIA, Wasim Ahmad. By defying specific court orders, the Gilani government indulged in blatant contempt of court. Those thick-skinned bureaucrats are causing a dangerous confrontation between the judiciary and the government. They should have had the moral integrity to send in their resignations and stop going to work. There is such a thing as sanctity of office but it seems to be non-existent in this country. Here is an eye-opening episode from Islamic history.


It was reported that the ninth Abbasi Caliph, Wasiq Billal, was holding court and his prime minister, Ammara Bin Hamzah, was present. The court was full of people voicing their complaints and conveying their needs to the caliph. One person complained that Ammara was illegally occupying his land. The caliph ordered the prime minister to go and sit next to the complainant and explain his position. Ammara, an upright person, said: "Amerul Momeneen, I don't want to become a party in this case and won't contest it. If the gentleman honestly thinks that it is his land, I withdraw my claim and will hand it over to him... Since the caliph has appointed me to the most respected post of prime minister, I don't want to harm and disgrace the sanctity of this post." The caliph, officials and public were highly impressed with the action of Ammara and he served with distinction for many years. (Nizam-ul-Mulk Tusi.) This is just one example of our golden traditions; now compare how the NAB and FIA officials behave and cause embarrassment to the government.


I usually avoid discussing day-to-day issues taking place in the country, but there are three things I would like to mention today. The first is the "fixed" bout between the MQM and the PPP. People have become wise enough to see through this game. As was to be expected, the MQM raised a hue and cry about Dr Zulfiqar Mirza's statements. The president, as usual, arranged his darbar in Karachi and, as is equally usual, Rehman Malik flew to London to see Altaf Hussain (and his own family). There followed the expected photo session in which a beaming Rehman Malik informed everyone of the settlement of all differences and Dr Farooq Sattar showed his acting skills.


The agreement was announced and in the same breath the government slapped on new taxes, raised the price of electricity, petroleum products, sugar, etc., and the MQM looked the other way with a smiling face. Neither Zulfiqar Mirza nor Siraj Durrani were ticked off.


The second highly condemnable episode is the drone attack on a peaceful jirga at Dattakhel in Waziristan a few days ago. It happened immediately after the shameless rulers buckled under US pressure and let that murderer and CIA spy Raymond Davis leave Pakistan. The drone attack killed 44 tribal elders who were trying to resolve a dispute between two parties regarding the mining of marble. As was to be expected, there was the usual "public relations" protest by the government. The former director general of the ISI, Lt Gen Asad Durrani, described these protests as being merely for cosmetic purposes.


The army chief also protested. Or was that only because some soldiers had also been killed? The fact is that these protests have never produced any positive results. It is the duty of the armed forces anywhere in the world to protect the lives of the citizens and to ensure the sanctity of national borders. A country of 180 million people, armed with nuclear weapons and missiles and having an army of almost one million, has become a banana republic and has no self-respect or pride, thanks to its spineless and corrupt rulers. This could never have happened during the times of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Gen Ziaul Haq, Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg and Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar.


The third disgraceful episode is that of the release of Raymond Davis. Starting from President Obama right down to junior officials in the US administration, all put pressure on Pakistan's rulers to let him go scot-free. As expected, our rulers gave in and found ways and means to let him go. What a contrast between this case and that of Dr Afia Siddiqui. That poor fragile lady was implicated in a false case, convicted and sent to jail for 86 years while our rulers could not even extract a pardon or deportation for her from the US administration. But making such a demand requires courage, guts, self-respect and power of conviction, which is simply not there in this nation. A nation that has no self-respect and national pride is doomed to ignobility and disgrace.


Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

HUSSAIN H ZAIDI

 

With the war of words between political adversaries heating up, Law Minister Babar Awan has taunted the opposition leader in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, as Gen Ziaul Haq's parliamentary secretary. Chaudhry Nisar did hold important positions when the late general was at the helm. However, if serving under a dictator is a disqualification and renders one open to criticism, the flamboyant minister needs to be more discreet in his remarks, for his own skipper was guilty of the same charge. Those who live in a glass house shouldn't throw stones.


Evidently, the story doesn't end with Yusuf Raza Gilani or Chaudhry Nisar Ali. Most of the men and women who have ruled the roost in the political arena, past and present, were brought up in the lap of despots. Subsequently, they renounced their past and denounced their mentors. For a start, Z A Bhutto, the first popularly elected prime minister and the pope of popular politics in Pakistan, started off as a minister in the cabinet of the country's foremost military ruler Gen Muhammad Ayub Khan. Subsequently, he fell out with his president and spearheaded the popular movement that forced Ayub Khan to step down. Mr Bhutto had also the dubious distinction of being the country's first, and to-date the only, civilian chief martial law administrator. Bhutto, no doubt, had many feathers in his cap: he gave the country its present constitution and infused tremendous political consciousness in the masses. Yet, one can hardly gainsay that his political career could not have taken off but for the tutelage of a martial law regime.


Gen Zia groomed and pampered more politicians—though none of the calibre of Mr Bhutto—than any other man in uniform before or after him. The majority of the political heavyweights of today owe their high position to the patronage extended to them by the Zia regime. Many of them were inducted into politics by the dictator. The non-party polls conducted by the military government in 1985 made deep imprint on political developments and manufactured the breed of politicians which since then has dominated politics. Both the N and Q factions of the Muslim League, the MQM, and in large measure the present PPP leadership, have their roots in the Zia period. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was, of course, the blue-eyed boy of Gen Zia and would pride himself on being the heir to his mentor's legacy. It was only after he had established himself as a leader in his own right that Mr Sharif began to distance himself from the late ruler and finally abjured his legacy.

Though the 18th Amendment has purged the Constitution of several of the distortions introduced by the late general, he left an indelible mark on the nation's political system as well as its collective psyche, which no amount of rewriting of the statute book would erase.


The next military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, took a leaf out of the book of his predecessors and created a political constituency of his own. A large number of members of that constituency were remnants of the Zia regime, who found it to their advantage to ditch Mr Sharif and join hands with his antagonist, Gen Musharraf. They helped Mr Musharraf call the shots for nearly a decade and were adequately rewarded for their loyalty. Sensing which way the wind was blowing, some of those members, including two women gracing the present federal cabinet, said goodbye to their mentor at the fag end of his career and entered the PPP fold. It's really amusing to see them now come hard on their former leader, without at the same time acknowledging their own roles, for upsetting the applecart of democracy, (allegedly) putting the country's sovereignty at peril and bringing the economy to the verge of collapse.


It's not that the people who started their political career as proteges of a dictator are condemned to remain so. Societies and civilisations undergo transition and transformation, and so do men and women. The wicked may recant and become virtuous, sinners may be transformed into saints and miscreants may turn into law-abiding citizens. By the same token, the staunchest of agents of despotism may change into the most vehement of advocates of democracy. Those who coalesced in the subversion of the Constitution may become its strongest defenders. Mr Bhutto shunned his past and laid down his life for the people. Mr Sharif is now the strongest defender of democracy and rule of law in Pakistan, and has consistently ruled out a tryst with the men in uniform.

Such changes need to be welcomed with open arms, rather than held in criticism. What's condemnable, however, is the holier-than-thou attitude: "We're born saints, you're sinners by nature; we're the scion of democracy, you're the child of dictatorship; you're a protege of the establishment, we have had nothing to do with that." Such comparisons make little sense. because all of them are birds of a feather.


The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MEMORIES OF MARDIN

S IFTIKHAR MURSHED

 

The writer is the publisher of Criterion quarterly


Paakistan, which is the world's foremost victim of terrorism, is not even in the periphery of the dialectic among reputed Muslim scholars to defeat the ideology of extremist violence. Despite its pretensions of being a leader of the Islamic world, Pakistan was conspicuous by its absence from one of the most important meetings on this issue last year in the ancient city of Mardin in south-eastern Turkey. Today it is exactly one year that the New Mardin Declaration was adopted by globally renowned theologians and academics from across the Islamic world including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India, Senegal, Kuwait, Yemen, Bosnia, Mauritania, Iran, Morocco and Indonesia.

The conference, which was held on March 27-28, 2010, at Mardin's Artuklu University, effectively deconstructed any religious justification for acts of terror. The focus of the meeting was the "Mardin fatwa" of Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328). Al Qaeda and its affiliated networks have repeatedly invoked the decree to justify mass murder in the name of Islam.


The scholars collectively examined what they described as "one of the most important classical juridical foundations of the relations between Muslims and fellow human beings, namely: the (classical juridical) classification of 'abodes' (diyar) as Islamically conceived, and related concepts such as jihad, loyalty and enmity, citizenship, and migration (to non-Muslim territories)."


Ibn Taymiyya was born in Haran, a sleepy little town in the Mardin region, and was only seven at the time of the Mongol conquest of the area. Though he was forced to flee along with his family, vivid memories of the atrocities haunted him for the rest of his life. Several years later he was asked whether Mardin was an abode of war (Dar al-Kufr) or of peace (Dar al-Islam). Little did he know that centuries later his response would be distorted to justify violence and insurrection.


More specifically, his opinion was sought whether the Muslims who did not emigrate after the Mongol occupation of Mardin were to be condemned as hypocrites and also whether the region continued to be a part of the Muslim world. His answer, which came to be known as the Mardin fatwa, was: (i) the lives and property of the Mardin Muslims were inviolable and they were not to be accused of hypocrisy; (ii) there was no obligation for them to emigrate as long as they were able to practice their religion; (iii) they should not provide assistance to those who fight against Muslims; and, (iv) Mardin was not wholly a part of the Muslim world because it was under Mongol rule but neither was it a non-Muslim territory for the reason that its people adhered to Islam.

The critically important part of the fatwa was: "The Muslims living therein should be treated according to their rights as Muslims, while the non-Muslims living there outside the authority of Islamic law should be treated according to their rights." This brilliantly nuanced formulation, which sought to avoid violence, was subsequently corrupted thereby completely reversing its peaceful intent.


The distorted text reads "...while the non-Muslims living there outside the authority of Islamic law should be fought as is their due." This was the outcome of the inadvertent substitution of two letters in a single word. The original decree contains the word yu'amal (should be treated) but was rendered as yuqatal (should be fought) and this minor error was to have disastrous consequences in the contemporary era.

According to Sheikh 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Turayri, former professor at Riyadh's al-Imam University, the only known copy of the original fatwa is archived at the Asad Library in Damascus and was correctly quoted by Ibn Taymiyya's student, Ibn Muflih, in his work Adab al-Shariah. The Syrian born reformer, Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865-1935) also used the uncorrupted version of the decree in the scholarly journal al-Manar which he published from Cairo in association with the famous Muhammad Abduh.


It was in the 1909 edition of Ibn Taymiyya's Fatawa published by Faraj Allah al Kirdi that the distorted text of the original decree made its first appearance. The error was not rectified and was not only repeated in several subsequent publications of Fatawa but also translated into English, French and other languages.


So widespread did the corrupted text become that even leading scholars did not question its veracity. For instance, the former rector of al-Azhar, Sheikh Jad al-Haqq and the chairman of the al-Azhar Fatwa Board, Sheikh Attiyyah Saqar, were constrained to painstakingly refute the al-Kirdi edition of the Fatawa by citing several passages of the Qur'an and the Traditions. At the Mardin Conference, Sheikh al-Wahhab al-Turayri observed: "Had they known the authentic wording of the text, it would have saved them a lot of trouble."

The distorted version of the Mardin fatwa provided the ideological justification for terrorist violence in the guise of religion. The Egyptian engineer turned revolutionary theorist, Muhammad abd al-Salam Faraj (1954-1982) used the corrupted text for his book Al Farida al Ghaiba which posits jihad as the sixth pillar of Islam and has become the handbook for terrorist groups. Faraj was inspired by Maulana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb of the Islamic Brotherhood and in particular their interpretations of Ibn Taymiyya's writings. He later broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood because it sought integration with the Egyptian political process on the ground that fighting Israel took precedence over toppling the regime.


Faraj also had sharp differences with the Takfir w'al Hijra, an extremist group led by Shukri Mustafa (1942-1978), which believed that the Muslims should separate from "infidel society" and refrain from fighting till they were strong enough to launch jihad. In contrast, Faraj wanted to attack "infidels and apostates" immediately. He established the Jama'at al-Jihad in 1981 which assassinated President Anwar Sadat on October 6 of that year. Faraj was executed six months later.


The policy adopted by Al Qaeda synthesises Shukri Mustafa's concept of migration to safe havens beyond the reach of domestic and foreign security forces and Faraj's call for immediate jihad. Thus Al Qaeda relocated to sanctuaries primarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan's tribal areas, north-eastern Iraq and Yemen from where terrorist attacks can be launched.


It was the distortion of Ibn Taymiyya's teachings emanating from the corrupted text of his fatwa that the Mardin Conference effectively exposed. Its final declaration, which was the collective endeavour of some of the most eminent theologians from different persuasions within Islam, clearly stated that only the lawful leader of the Muslim community, and not individuals or groups, could declare "combative jihad" solely for the purpose of repelling aggression.


This had an impact as was apparent from the reaction of extremist outfits who described the participants of the Mardin meeting as "the scholars of desertion". Al Qaeda denigrated the conference as a "contemporary surrender movement" which sought to advance the interests of the west which had embarked on the "fiercest crusade" against the Muslim world.


Pakistan continues to bleed from the wounds of extremist violence but the government is not even aware of the ideological battle Muslim scholars are waging to defeat terrorism. If President Zardari is at all serious about his pledge at the joint session of parliament on Tuesday to vanquish "the mindset that preaches violence and hatred," the first step should be the widest possible dissemination of the New Mardin Declaration.


Email: iftimurshed@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SHADES OF NIGHT

CHRIS CORK

 

Sitting waiting for our food at a café in Khosar market, Islamabad, last Friday night, it was difficult not to hear history tapping on the pavement. Mere feet from where we sat Salmaan Taseer was murdered. Even closer was the table that Sherry Rehman used as she sipped her coffee and pecked at her Blackberry, a customer like all the rest of us. Taseer is dead and Rehman very much alive and hopefully so for many years to come, but we fell to talking of security and our fears and the ways in which the city had changed since my last visit.


It has become quieter. Khosar was one of those places you could go that was always lively in the evening, but this time it was somber, shops shut early, some shops looked like they had not been open for a while. There was usually a coterie of younger people comparing shoes, handbags and mobile phones - absent. Tourists might drift by looking at the rugs and artefacts or buying shoes from the very expensive - but very good - cobbler. No cobbler and definitely no tourists. There was a man who had set up a little metal cabin from which he rented sheesha pipes, a new addition, let's hope he prospers but it was thin pickings on Friday.


Moving around the city earlier in the day, there seemed to be a remarkable diminution in the numbers of check posts, and a laxity at those which did exist that seemed not to chime with the tension that all and sundry claimed to feel. A friend said that they had started to disappear after the Taseer killing and were almost non-existent apart from the 'Red Zone' by the time Bhatti was murdered. Conspiracy theories were thick on the ground as might be imagined, and I will not add to their currency by repeating them. Suffice to say that for the ordinary folks of Islamabad that I met, they seemed to feel abandoned, as if 'the government' had given up on them and was leaving them to whatever their fate may be.


They may be collectively delusional, but the city did have a deserted feel to it even if it was not actually deserted. The Taseer and Bhatti killings have cast a shade of deadly night over the place that is a background murmur wherever you go and whoever you meet. It is not a feeling confined to minorities or the liberal elites, it goes across all strata of society and is, perhaps, a collective acceptance that a Rubicon has been crossed. That something fundamental has shifted.


Watching life as I normally do from the backwater of Bahawalpur and only occasionally venturing out to the fleshpots (I speak with irony, please note) of the metropolis; I think I miss some of the more subtle changes to the world around me. I rarely get to meet other writers or commentators, and have no anvil to beat out my ideas beyond what my household offers me and that is very little indeed. I may meet other foreigners two or three times a year, half a dozen at most. So no long reflective sessions with like-minded men and women by which I might set my compass.


But a few minutes in the darkness at Khosar market told me things that I might have suspected but never was sure of, with one of those things being that we have taken a turn down a path with our guide a fell wraith. His grip on our hand is cold, his breath reeks of decay. And he walks through checkposts like they never existed.


The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SALMAN BASHIR'S PRAGMATIC ASSESSMENT

 

It is perhaps for the first time that a senior government official directly concerned with foreign affairs has publicly acknowledged that the on-going unrest in the Arab region might affect Pakistan. The statement of Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir before Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs about the crisis and its possible impact on Pakistan should lead to deeper analysis of the situation so that the country adopts a strategy that suits its national interests and that of the Islamic Ummah.


The remarks of the Foreign Secretary were, however, somewhat vague and ambiguous, as he did not explain as to what impact these developments would have on Pakistan and how his ministry plans to respond. Similarly, though he described the UN Security Council resolution authorizing use of force against Libya as a sign of alarm but again he did not elaborate and failed to mention whether or not the Foreign Office has any plans to coordinate with Muslim and especially like-minded vulnerable countries to come out with a united stance on the emerging threat. Any how, we agree with Salman Bashir that the UN resolution on Libya is alarming, as this could serve as a precedent, and already French President Nicolas Sarkozi has hinted at that, for similar action against other small and weaker states. Though China and Russia abstained and in a way extended tacit support to the move to launch an aggression against a sovereign country but we are sure that they would not allow colonial Western countries to invade and occupy independent states to advance their nefarious economic and strategic interests and therefore, Islamic and Third World countries should do effective lobbying with Moscow and Beijing to stall such moves in future. As for impact on Pakistan, we are already experiencing the negative fallout in the shape of return of thousands of Overseas Pakistanis from troubled countries, who are sending valuable foreign exchange back home. Some politicians are expressing optimism that the wave of unrest that has engulfed the Arab and African region would not hit Pakistan as situation here is quite different. No doubt, instead of dictatorship or family rule, there is democracy in Pakistan and media and judiciary are independent, giving voice to the people and safeguarding their rights but they must not overlook the reality that the real factors leading towards unrest are almost similar – rising gap between haves and have-nots; lopsided development, sky-rocketing prices, growing unemployment, corruption and police abuse. Overall aspirations of the people remain the same and this growing realization could give impetus to calls for revolution. Unfortunately, apart from Foreign Office, we don't have think tanks and entities devoted exclusively for different regions to study various developments and analyse their impact on Pakistan and its interests. It is time we start doing so now as we cannot afford the luxury of responding to a situation at the spur of the moment.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN STANDS FIRMLY WITH KSA

 

At a time when foreign inspired crisis is spreading in the Arab world, the visit of Saudi Prince Bunder Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, Secretary-General of National Security Council of the Kingdom assumed great significance and relevance, as it has helped strengthen further mutual understanding between Pakistani and Saudi leadership. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has done well and spoken language of people of Pakistan by declaring that on all regional and international forums Pakistan has stood and will stand with Saudi Arabia in the interest of peace.


He also added that Pakistan understands and supports the Saudi stance in the Gulf and Middle East. There can be no two opinions that the political stability in some of the Middle East countries especially Saudi Arabia has contributed a lot towards socio-economic development of these states. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it is acknowledged the world over that its rulers used wealth of the nation for progress and prosperity of their people, mind-boggling expansion of Hajj and Ziarat facilities for visitors to the holy places, propagation of Islam in its true perspective and relief to the grief stricken people around the globe. It is because of their sagacious policies that Saudi rulers enjoy immense respect not only among Muslims but also other just minded members of the international community. This is particularly so in the case of Pakistan where Custodian of the Two Holy Places enjoys status of a family member in almost each and every home. Saudi Arabia always stood firmly with Pakistan during difficult periods and it bailed out economically whenever other friends turned their faces away for strategic reasons. Though the House of Saud commands popularity and respect among Saudi people and that is why barring stray demonstrations the Kingdom is immune from the unease prevailing in some other Arab countries but it is a matter of concern for people of Pakistan that attempts are being made to destabilize the Kingdom. In this backdrop, the expression of complete solidarity with Saudi Arabia has full backing of the entire Pakistani nation and we hope this would go a long way in bringing the two countries more closer in different fields.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WORLD CUP COMING CLOSER TO SOUTH ASIA

 

The dramatic victory of Sri Lanka over England in the quarter finalbrought Lankans to the Semi-Final stage where they will play against New Zealand on Tuesday. The 10-wicket fabulous win has further enhanced the stature of Sri Lanka, which lifted the World Cup in 1996. It is quite amusing that three of the four teams playing semi-finals are from South Asia.


Pakistan and India had already qualified for semi-final beating their rivals West Indies and Australia. Now the most interesting clash would take place between Pakistan and India at Mohali on 30th, meaning thereby that one of the two South Asian nation would definitely qualify for the final and in case Sri Lanka beats New Zealand in the match to be played a day earlier then the cup would be lifted by a South Asian team. The defeat of the defending champions Australia and England where cricket originated is itself a tribute to South Asian teams that have struggled hard to make their way in the game. In the emerging scenario, if countries of the region sustain their efforts and hard work then it is sure that they can keep the World Cup among them for longer time. The prominence achieved by Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka augurs well for popularity of the game and we wish Bangladesh too achieves the same distinction in due course of time.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

TECHNOLOGY DETERMINES POWER STATUS

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

In modern times there is a clash of civilizations- The world is divided not only into countries but also into civilizations and races. This is a hard fact of international community. The more the world is advancing in technology the more the place of civilizations of the Whites, the Yellows, the Browns and the Blacks is drastically undergoing change. Today technology is determinant of power-status of countries/peoples – this is a hard fact of life, since countries are part of certain civilizations . The propounder or discoverer of this Clash of Civilization had his own classification but in a more simplified manner one can say that peoples can be divided into four kinds on the basis of their colour describing the groups more or less in different categories of technology – which determine their inter- power equations. This is not being racist but realist in understanding the game of power players . Sorry I am a hard eyed diplomat who was for four decades in diplomatic career, and still tries to understand the game going on and not get deceived with superficial slogans or sugar quoting on sinister dirty power- games like one going on by NATO crusaders in Libya. It is for starry-eyed inexperienced persons to get swayed by slogans. Not for"chocolate diplomats" to borrow a terminology from Bernard Shaw. He spoke of chocolate soldiers. I will come to it later also .


The point being made is that, as is well known, education or technology is a matter of survival. There are various levels of education, the elementary, the advanced and the creative- which means contributing to existing knowledge by discoveries- those working on the higher frontiers of knowledge. The level of knowledge in science and technology is the higher stage of education. Pakistan is most backward in science and technology. We in Pakistan are borrowers and not creative in technology – except in some defence- technologies, nuclear and missiles. Which only shows that Pakistanis are not backward, capable of research and discoveries under pressure. In case some cynic says that these are destructive avenues of technology let it be said here right away that these acquisitions have caused relaxation in Pakistan's posture towards India. In pre-Nuclear days Pakistan was mortally afraid of India's military might and searching for a "balancer" with India's military might. The fear of Indian military power dominated our foreign policy planning, in our foreign policy phase upto 1998 ( when we in fact acquired N-capability) but after the nuclear explosion Pakistan has acquired confidence in its security related issues, and consequently changed its posture with India exploring co-existence through diplomacy and dialogue. This is why it wants to have its N-deterrence updated to keep its new self- confidence. This is a distinct land-mark in our second phase diplomacy in post N-explosion. There is little similarity in Japan and Pakistan in matter of dangers to the Nuclear installations. Japan is an islands country, Pakistan's nuclear assets are not open to risks by Tsunamis. Few people have noted why suddenly from India centered confrontationist diplomacy, we shifted to dialogue diplomacy with India. No one asked why? This N-capability has removed from our concern inability to face India. This was to show the relation between technology and national power. But there is a second element of technology as national power which is missing. Because as Ghazzali has said in his book Nasihat-ul-Muluk, people bring to the market the merchandise for which there is demand. In the new political system in Pakistan the learned and the scientists are not in demand. Pattaey baz politicians who are not even graduates of universities are reaping all favours and monopolizing national main stream. Their cronies have taken over all the institutions. This accounts for assassination of technology, learning etc. In the Subcontinent the eternal competition is between Muslims and Hindus, if I avoid the words such words as conflict, rivalry for power, hostility etc- Even if the situation of belligerency is ignored for the time being – in a way this is true for today's world – there is competitiveness between nations . Hindus are far superior to Muslims in every field except perhaps Nuclear capability There is not one single institute in Pakistan comparable to the five IIT ( Indian Institutes of Technologies); no universities like Calcutta, Allahabad, Madras, etc, My late friend General Ali Nawab an Engineer took a delegation of experts to India in early 90s to study their technical university education. He found the Indian professors far more dedicated to their profession than their Pakistani counterparts. Today go to any university, take a text book in any technology subject you will find that the text books used by our students were written by some Hindu expert. Where are Pakistani teachers? Do they not produce any work worthy of being taught in our universities. Go to any book exhibition in Pakistan. Whose text books in technical subjects are available for our universities, Indian.


We are very much backward compared to India in every branch of knowledge. We are going down, down, down. The question for Pakistan is what kind of existence it wants : equal or subordinate to India. This will continue to determine our relative position on global level. People who claim Pakistan has great respect in the world or even region are living in a make belief world.


Now look at the world . I will speak in a wider perspective. The Whites and Yellows are on the top of the ladder in higest technology. In US the technical industry is dominated by the Yellow and Indians experts . In UK even Indians are working at top positions in every technically field. Pakistani is far behind because he is far less equipped with technical knowledge. His degrees are no where equated with Indian universities' degrees. There is competition between nations and races as part of clash of civilization . Because Muslim is not competitive with the Yellow races and the Indians, he has been elbowed out. Darwin was right in explaining this as "Survival of the fittest " to described this situation. Muslims were not backward in education even in the days of decadence of their rule. William Darlymple n his book " the Last Mughal" says that at the advent of the 1857 Ghaddar " Delhi had the largest number of educational institutions in this side of Eastern World and " Delhi was in 1857 one of the largest, most beautiful and certainly the richest cities in Hindostan" ( p 311.) Muslms became perhaps backward after the British rule in post 1858 years.


Now look at the emerging scenario on the field of technology in the world. It is clear that the white monopoly is broken by the Yellow races, below them but quite up on the scale are the Hindus. The future seems to belong to them Down the ladder would be the Muslims and the Black lowest. White and Yellow will compete with each other followed by the Brown Hindus to speak in wider terms. They will compete with each other. The Black and the Brown Muslims are already marginalized. They will be at the lowest rung of the ladder of technical expertise. We will be sounding our trumpet that we are this and that and a great "democracy" as if the word was not coined in Greece but in South Pakistan..


It is time to clarify, since some readers have misconstrued my last column on Libya as a defence of Ghaddafi's rule. Certainly Pakistanis had good relations with him, but this is not a material point in condemning NATO barbarian and highly condemnable , most deplorable military action and igniting local armed rebellion. It is for the people of any country to decide the fate of its rulers not for foreign neo-colonialist crusading NATO coveting Libyan oil fields under absolutely bogus claim of humanitarian mission, . transparently bogus claim. It is naked imperialism and one wishes that the Arabs would see it as such. If Arab solidarity becomes a matter of the past, then today NATO's target is Libya, tomorrow whom. Arabs have only one shield , their solidarity. The Western sources have claimed that some Muslim countries are likely to join their slaughter of the Libyans. One hopes NATO does not find Muslim Quislings or neo Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq. Such agents of neo-imperialism will be remembered in history as traitors , if any join them, and as part of a conspiracy to break the OIC entity as well as Arab solidarity. One hopes this will not happen.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

SEE-SAW OF PAK-US RELATIONS!

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

Interstate relations with America are akin to living on a river bank that changes its course every four years, leaving the other party either flooded or in drought. However, in case of Pakistan these relations functions on day to day basis; each side issuing 'to do lists' too frequently with an urgency call of 'should have been done yesterday'. Stresses caused by this sort of perpetual 'breathing down the neck' approach causes frequent ruptures.

Pak-US relationship has generally remained transactional, marred by mistrust. This is indeed a strategic dysfunction undercutting the durability and maturity of these relations. America is quick to bailout Pakistan during its dire times, be they natural disasters or man made calamities, but then suddenly it decides to walk a couple of steps back, rather crudely, and loses the genuinely earned public good will. Soon the cycle restarts! The Davis affair has, yet once again, brought forth the prospect of fragility in this relationship and the pitfalls of not being on the same page, at all levels. According to the details of understanding reached between the two sides, after the release of Raymond Davis, the US will pullout as many as 331 Americans of Davis type, involved in espionage and subversive activities under diplomatic cover. It reinforces the perception that the US runs covert operations within Pakistan.


There were certainly better ways to resolve the Raymond Davis issue in a win-win setting. But the indecent haste has left a bad taste in the mouth, for all parties. Suspension and slowing down of American financial aid only hardened the popular anti-America sentiment cutting across the political divide. Likewise, washing of dirty linen with a fanfare corrodes the perspective in the United States as well; questions are asked about the futility of aid to a country whose people disapprove of America so emotionally. Though main stream political parties stay away from anti-America public demonstrations, yet the pitch of noise generated, in Pakistan, on the eve of every such row, is baffling to American public. Hence, the political space in the United States for supporting a strategic relationship with Pakistan has shrunk incrementally. There is a wide spread perception in America that Pakistan is supportive of the Afghan Taliban factions which attack foreign forces in Afghanistan, it takes-on only those Taliban which attack Pakistan, and Afghan Taliban elements operate from Pakistan's FATA against US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. America considers that Drone strikes against targets in Pakistan's FATA as legitimate use of force as these attacks are with Pakistani consent. The US is critical of governance and law enforcement inadequacies in Pakistan and frequently counsels it to augment revenue generation capacity and broaden the tax net. The US does not share Pakistani perception of a threat from India to its security.


Periodically the US media and think tanks churn out fearsome speculations about 'Pakistan's nukes' not being secure enough; they also portray the span and growth rate of Pakistani nuclear programme which is much larger than life size. Over projection of indicators to hint at rapid radicalization of society and meltdown of Pakistani economy are also a favourite past time for American intellectuals. Conversely, in Pakistan there are perceptions that the US does not trust Pakistan and operates unilaterally in Afghanistan. America uses drones to hit only those factions of Taliban who operate in Afghanistan and spares those who carry out terrorist activities in Pakistan. Covert American operations are a source of perpetual disturbance in Pakistan. America is encouraging separatist elements in Baluchistan. Pakistanis feel that US strategy in Afghanistan is essentially beyond the stated objectives and the intent is to stay in Afghanistan on permanent basis, though with diluted military presence. Another point of worry is American tolerance of strategic space for India in Afghanistan and turning its eyes away from clandestine Indian activities to destabilize Pakistan. Despite American claims to the contrary, professional assessments indicate that Afghanistan's military capacity will remain far below the minimum sufficiency level and southern Afghanistan and FATA would continue to be in turmoil for an indefinite period with dire implications for Pakistan.


Moreover, there is a feeling that cost paid by Pakistanis for siding with the US in the war in Afghanistan has never been fully appreciated; and that the pressures on Pakistan and suspicions about its policies are unfair and that the real target in American cross-hair is Pakistan's nukes. In all probability it does not suit the US to go beyond pinpricks and push Pakistan towards radicalization, destabilization or balkanization. Likewise, America is aware that in the wake of severe criticism on the issues of nuclear safety and security, Pakistan has strengthened the custodial control over its nuclear assets. Therefore, neutralization of Pakistani nuclear assets, either by taking over or taking out, may no longer be a viable option. Recent US drone attack with an unusually high death toll of over 40 drew a rare condemnation both from civilian and military leadership. Missiles were fired when a peaceful gathering of tribal elders was in progress in North Waziristan. Attack came just a day after Raymond Davis had been set free. It was an arrogant US response. It was another incident of use of disproportionate force while jumping the gun on faulty intelligence. US Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest was lodged. Munter was categorically conveyed that 'It was evident that the fundamentals of our relations need to be revisited…Pakistan should not be taken for granted nor treated as a client State,' the Foreign Office said. If the American action was harsh, Pakistan's reaction has also been interpreted as equally worrying for the state of Pak-US relations. Pakistani leadership must have weighed their response. The Raymond Davis release embarrassed the national leadership and it couldn't afford to look weak twice in succession. There has been a long-standing demand from the people of Pakistan to revisit relationship with the United States as it is merely based on unilateral Pakistani cooperation in war on terror, whereas Washington spares no opportunity of arms-twisting and squeezing the country; hence, it is time to tell the United States that you can't be our friend and foe at the same time.


However, overall relations between the United States and Pakistan are rather better than the apparent facade. Pakistan is keen to talk about the need for stability in Afghanistan. The United States has also moved closer towards meeting Pakistan's point of view for a political settlement in Afghanistan by holding direct talks with representatives of the Taliban. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a speech to the Asia Society last month, reinterpreted the longstanding preconditions for talks: 'that the insurgents lay down their arms, accept the Afghan Constitution and separate from Al Qaeda'. She described them as 'necessary outcomes'. This shift was suggested to President Obama by General Kayani during his last year's visit to America.


US-Pakistan relations have endured many storms in the past and have survived after every dip. Both sides need each other and both sides know it. Davis saga offers an opportunity to give the Pak-US relationship a lasting context, concrete substance and sustainable direction.


—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PCS-DMG STANDOFF

QUDRAT ULLAH

The protest of a group of Officers belonging to Provincial Civil Service in Lahore Civil Secretariat and subsequent strike call on March 21 is a stark reminder of falling standards of the apex institution of Civil Service in Pakistan. It's rather a shocking trend in the history of Civil Services in Sub-Continent that the very institution supposed to uphold the rule of law and public service is taking law in its hands to press for its demands, which prima-facie appears ultra-vires, and beyond the spirit of the 1973 constitution.


In the heydays of British colonial rule in India, there was a tradition of tendering resignation by the Civil Servant having some policy dissent with the government. Noted Islamic scholar and translator of Holy Quran, Allama Abdullah Yousaf Ali (1934) was an ICS Officer who resigned as like Akhtar Hameed Khan. The East India Company established the coveted Indian Civil Service. Consummate neutrality, intellect and public welfare were its hallmarks. It was above petty politics and it worked within a predetermined ambit of law. ICS worked really hard. They went everywhere to serve the British Raj and earned respect and alcove with their exemplary performance. They also earned respect in many other fields.


ICS was replaced with CSP and IAS in Pakistan and India respectively. According to the 1973 constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there are two types of Civil Services; one is federal while the other cadre is provincial. Both the services complement each other and are supposed to serve the people in their respective ambit of law. Three years record of the Punjab government shows that it has adopted very facilitating attitude towards the PCS demands. However, it's surprising that Punjab PCS cadre is demanding a number of new favors including repatriation of the DMGs to the federal government. This demand is detrimental to the spirit of federation and constitution. If all the provinces throw out the federal services from their territories, then who will solve inter-provincial matters and Centre-provinces relations.


According to a factsheet issued by the S&GAD department of the Punjab government, almost all the demands of the PCS/PMS/PSS cadres have been met and now PMS Officers are also being posted as Deputy District Officer (Revenue) in order of seniority as recommended by the Cabinet Committee formed by the Chief Minister Punjab. Like-wise, officers belonging to provincial services are also considered for posting as Provincial Secretary, Senior Member Board of Revenue, Commissioner and DCO. It is significant to note that nine meetings of PSB-I & nine meetings of PSB-II have been convened by the Punjab chief secretary since 2009 and a total of 320 provincial service officers have been cleared for promotion in different grades in these meetings. There are 5 ex-PCS/PSS officers in Grade 21, 37 in Grade 20, 105 in Grade 19 and 170 in Grade 18, against a share of 11, 53, 111 and 302 posts of the respective grades, as per the IPCC formula.


Similarly, for the posting of officers belonging to PCS/PSS in grade BS-18 and above, a total of 39 officers have been nominated for National Management Course since 2009, 95 officers have been nominated for Senior Management Course since 2008, 124 officers of grade BS-18 to BS-19 have been nominated for training in MPDD department during 2008-2010 and 191 other officers of grade BS-17 &18 were also nominated during 2009-11. It is worthwhile that Punjab government has regularized the services of as many as 82,562 officers and officials belonging to different departments during the last three years.


These included 70,004 officials from one to 15 grades and 12,558 officers of grade-16 and above. This shows strong commitment of the Punjab government towards the welfare of the provincial government machinery. However, Lahore Civil Secretariat protest shows the sad state of affairs of Punjab Civil Service which is supposed to behave in a way that doesn't belittle its immaculate social stature, competence and intellect. Unfortunately, it appears that some PCS officers are trying to hoodwink the people with their unlawful demands which are self-motivated, un-constitutional and against the spirit of federation and constitution of Pakistan 1973. If they have any disagreement with the Moeen Qureshi formula of division of federal services in provinces then they should adopt legal means for redressal and should avoid behaving like a political activist.

Their demand of removing 300 DMG officers working against different posts in Punjab is unlawful as if we dislocate the DMG then who will handle sensitive affairs between provinces and the Centre. Can PCS fill vacuum of DMGs competence? They want to enjoy the GOR-1 Bungalows but for that they should also be able to exhibit competence of the elite DMG. They should keep in mind that PCS and the DMG are two similar faces of the Civil Service in Pakistan who should learn to work in their respective domains. They should also try to prevent rampant corruption in government offices, especially in public dealing departments.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AKAZ-E-GHAZAL

BOOK REVIEW

DR A Q KHAN, NI & BAR, HI

BOOK REVIEW

Name of the book : Akaz-e-Ghazal

Author : Naeem Hamid Ali Al-Hamid

Reviewed by : Dr A Q Khan, NI & Bar, HI



Poet, writer and critic, Naeem Hamid Ali Al-Hamid from Madina does not need any introduction in literary circles. Though living thousands of kilometers from us, he is always on our mind and in our thoughts. Born in Muradabad (UP), India, the city of one of India's most famous poets, Jigar Muradabadi, and being his great grandson, Naeem has poetic genes in his blood. He first migrated to Pakistan and then later to Madina, where he has been living for more than 50 years. He is proficient in Urdu, Persian and Arabic and writes fluently in all these languages.

His line of interest is evident from the fact that he has translated the Persian poetry of the famous poet, Badil, into fluent Urdu poetry published under the title "Bahar Ijaadiey Bedil". Bedil was regarded as a great scholar and master of poetry and one not easily understood. Even a towering figure like Ghalib, who mastered both Urdu and Persian, had this to say about Bedil's poetry:

Tarze Bedil men rekhta kehna

Asadullah Khan qiamat hey

(It is very difficult to follow the style of Bedil)

The translation of Bedil's Persian poetry into Urdu in indeed a herculean task, but it has been done in a highly commendable manner by this great scholar, Naeem Hamid Ali Al-Hamid.

Another important and highly commendable work which I am honoured to review is "Akaz-e-Ghazal". The title itself demonstrates Naeem's depth of knowledge as the Sauq-e-Akaz was a literary gathering of all well-known poets of Arabia and the best piece was written in golden letters. This practice lasted until the advent of Islam and the recipient was honoured just like a Nobel Laureate. These gatherings have been described by French scholars as being equivalent to the French Academy of Letters.

The title also shows how much Naeem knows about Arabic, Persian and Urdu. Not only does he know Urdu poetry, but he can also compose in every mode of the language like ghazals, poems, dates of birth and death in poetic form according to the use of old numerical statistics, etc.

Unlike most other poets, Naeem admires the virtues of other contemporary poets like Faraz, Pirzada Qasim, Anwar Masood, Iftikhar Arif, Kashfi, etc. He does not hesitate to acknowledge the strengths of other personalities in our country and has been generous in showering praise on me for my services to Pakistan. In a tribute to me at a function in Madina he said:

Mili hey ilm ki daulat Qadeer Khan ko Naeem

Banat ha aish Tajammul Husain Khan ke liey

Qadeer Khan key zamane me hotey gar Iqbal

Qasidah kehte wo is marde ja widan ke liey

Naeem gave Iqbal's example here because Iqbal also avoided praising the rich and powerful. He praised only Nawab Hameedullah Khan of Bhopal, whom he called his dear friend and whose guest he used to be for long periods of time. I am proud to belong to that wonderful place – Bhopal State.

Naeem is a humble, unassuming person. He says he is conscious of his weaknesses and requests others to guide him in these. In his poem, "Shukr hey" he says:

Tera karam hey merey fan ko aitbaar dia

Merey kalam ko rifat, mujhey waqar dia

He has the distinction that, in two simple verses (talmihaat), he has described the two miracles of Hazrat Moosa(SAW) and Rasulallah(SAW)

Aasae Neel shikan men terey jalal ka rang

Kamaal meh shikan tarjuman bhi tera hey

In composing Naat (praise to Allah and His prophets), he reminds us of one of the famous poets, Amir Minai.

Ae Amir-e-Arab, ae Habib-e-Ajam, koe tujh sa nahin koe tujh sa nahin

Qaid-e-Ambia,ae Imam-e-Umam, koe tujh sa nahin, koe tujh sa nahin

Naeem has extensive knowledge of history and literature and can easily be compared with other towering figures in his field. He has put his finger on the pains of the nation, its grief and self-respect, which bring him near to Allama Iqbal. However, he has his own unique style. He expresses himself in simple words.

Yun to buhut hen sheher men diwar-o-dar baland

Dhun dey sey bhe magar na mila koe sar baland

And further:

Apney ehsaas khudi ko aur seqal kar Naeem

Zindagi bey naghma saaze ina kuch bhi nahin

He also mourns the plight of the Palestinians and is furious at the fact that the numerous rich Arabs do not take any action. Here is a reflection on the brutality of the Israelis and the weakness of the Arabs.

Abhi kia hey abhi tan aur tauheen-e-Arab hogi

Kabhi kamzaur ki izzat hue hey aur na ab hogi

Naeem still feels homesick for Muradabad and misses his native city. This city turned him into a poet, just as it did his great grandfather, Jigar. He has the same melody, simplicity, balance and fluency in all his poetic works, for example

Tumhen shayad ye andaza nahin hey

Zamana ek saa rehta nahin hey

And why should he not possess these qualities; he is the great grandson of Jigar after all. Naeem is also not oblivious to the sufferings of the people, but he taunts in a rather civilized manner.

Kabhi aazaad na they qaum key rehbar itney

Qaum paaband salasal kabhi aesi to na thi

There is a lot of variety in Naeem's poetry. After "Pekare Naaghma" and "Bahar Ijaadiey Bedil", the present work, "Akaz-e-Ghazal", is a masterpiece. There is an old Persian saying: "Qadr-e-gauhar Shah danad ya benayed Jauhari" (only a ruler or a jeweller knows the value of a precious stone). Appreciating and recognizing Naeem's talent, the prestigious Hamdard University of Karachi conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctorate in Social Sciences on him on 5th March, 2011 in an impressive convocation at the University campus. Naeem definitely deserved it. My special prayer for him is: Allah karey zaur qalam aur ziadah (may Allah enable him to produce more fine work)

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDO-PAK DIALOGUE PROCESS

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

Trust deficit has been the biggest problem facing Pak and India in their entire history of sity four years. Would this gulf would ever be bridged is an incredible question. Starting from the unjust border demarcation to inequitable distribution of assets upon the partion of the Sub-continent in 1947, to Indian invasion in Kashmir, the two neighbours could not reconcile their bilateral relationship. This unremitting distrust became the cause of three major wars and a limited conflict between India and Pakistan. Beside wars, never ever in their history there existed a pleasent decade of relationship between these neighbours.


Not that, they were nver on table, rather, there have many rounds of bi-lateral talks between India and Pakistan for the resolution of the out-standing issues in the last six decades. However, there has not been any substantive outcome from any of these. The result is that, today South Asia stands least integrated, compared to other regions like Southeast Asia or European Union. Owing to this mutual antagonistic approach, the worst sufferers have been the people of the region. Despite of Indian economic growth, today 72% Indian are below the poverty line, if universal standard of the poverty are applied to this world second most populous country. Somehow, the people in Pakistan are facing a similar situation in the poverty level.


One thing is for sure that confrontations and wars have not brought solutions to the issues, prevalent between two neighbours. Rather, conflicts and mutual suspecisions have given rise to many more differences. These qualms and bitternesses have brought both countries to the brink of nuclear confrontation. Apart from this, there have been huge sum spending by both countries for the procurement of conventional weapons, thus saving the war industries of the world's most advance countries from dying and giving way to an unending arms-race in South Asia.


The arm-race compelled both countries to neglect social development of their respective people, who are meeting the fate of worst poverty. Today, despite of its claims of enormous economic development and being the world biggest democracy with apparent secular face, India alone has 42% of the world poorest people. Interestingly, India has biggest number of world's richest and highest number of world's poorest. This indeed, bring a sharp contrast in Indian social setup, which otherwise has divided socities based on caste system, Dalit class being treated callously.


In it's so far history of over six-decades, the South Asian politics has been hostage of the Indo-Pak antagonism. Without any misgivings the onus of the responsibility lies on India, the successor state of the British India, otherwise biggest in the region. Rather facilitating the integration, it followed the discriminatory policies towards the newly state of Pakistan and other regional countries. From its very inception, it tried to prevail on the South Asian politics through political and economic domination and exploitation in its favour.


The process of the Composite Dialogue between India and Pakistan started in 1997. After passing through the unfortunate incidents of Kargil conflict-1999, and military mobilization-2002, both countries resumed the process in 2004. Thereafter, it was expected that, peace would prevail in the South Asian region. Nevertheless, the individual incident like Mumbai terror attack of November 2008, once again, brought both countries back to the confrontational path. Since the incident, India decided to bring an end to the dialogue process, knowing fully that it was a sporadic occurrence, has nothing do do with the Government of Pakistan. After all, amid a smooth dialogue process, started after its hectic pursuance, how Pakistan could have sabotaged these?


Now, it has been once again agreed to resume the dialogue process, during the Secretary level talks in Thimphu, Bhuton, it is the joint responosibility of the two nuclear neighbours to have a clariety of mind and sincerity for their subsequent success. The joint statement issued, after the meeting of the foreign secretaries in Thimphu, Bhutan in February, 2011, clearly says that, "[The foreign secretaries] agreed on the need for a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues. They affirmed the need to carry forward the dialogue process."


The first round of the talks between the Foreign Ministers of both countries is scheduled to be held in July 2011. As far as Pakistan is concern, we expect from this wholesome process, "a meaningful and sustained process of engagement to bridge the trust deficit, resolve all outstanding issues, notably the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and for creating an enabling environment for promoting peace and prosperity in the region as a whole."


The interior/ home secretary level talks would be held from March 28 to 29, 2011. As agreed, both sides would concentrate on issues like; counter terrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian problems during the dialogue. On the issue of terrorism, Pakistan feels that, owing to its global and regional scope, it requires an immediate attention. So far, Pakistan is the worst sufferer, because of the terrorism.


It has fallen prey of both the regional and global conspiracies in spreading this menace in its geographical boundaries. Pakistan would like that, all those countries and spying networks, associated with the spread of terrorism in Pakistan, should sincerely dismantle those. The menace has seriously damaged the most peace loving society of Pakistan. On its part, Pakistan would never like that its soil to be used against any other country. However, Pakistan would expect that, all those countries sponsoring the sub-nationalism and terrorism in Balochistan and FATA, must take effective steps to dismantle their spying/ terrorist networks and stop arming and funding the sub-nationalista and so-called religious militants. This indeed, would be in the best interest of those countries too, as eventually terrorist have no religion or a particular state to house in.


Pakistan has been driving a very focu campaign against the narcotics since 1970s. It has a well established and institutionalized setup (Aniti Narcotic Force) to fight against this menace. Over the years, Pakistan has gained marvellous success in controlling the narcotic from Pakistan. Pakistan expects that, neighbouring countries, especially Afghanistan should put a ban over this menace. The occupying powers and those involved there in any capacity should help that country to put an end to its production and trafficking over to Pakistani borders.

On humanitarian issues, Pakistan has a very principled stance that, all those languishing in the Indian jails for so many years for minor border violations, must be freed on priority. On its part, Pakistan has set free, people like Kashmir Singh, involved in heinous crimes of spying and terrorisist activities in Pakistan. It has released thousands of Indian fishermen deliberately or incidently entered Pakistani territory. Should not India, reciprocate to this Pakistani unconditional good will? In the so far history of the exchange of the prisoners, those incidently crossed over Indian border, India has released only a few. Remaing people have been put through tortures, killed or subsequently made spies, or else terrorists like Ajmal Kasab. Indeed, India needs to be more human on the humanitarian issues.


—The writer is an analyst of International Relations.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

PEOPLE POWER TRIUMPHS OVER LABOR SPIN DOCTORS

POWERFUL national message from NSW Coalition victory.

SHAMELESS as the spinmeisters of NSW Labor have been, there was no way to spin away the devastating message from the weekend election. People power in its purest form emphatically punished Labor after 16 years in power, reducing what's been the traditional party of government in the nation's most populous state to just 20 or so seats in a parliament of 93. This was a clear repudiation of the 24-hour spin model of government, where media cycles were more important than policy achievements, and spin doctors were more prevalent than competent ministers. The dual intent of voters was clear; they castigated Labor and embraced the Coalition's promise of honest, accountable and responsive government.

This is a tectonic shift in the national political geography that will unleash a tsunami of repercussions across NSW and federal politics. Just three years ago Canberra and all the states were governed by Labor. Since the demise of Kevin Rudd, the Coalition has won more seats than Labor federally, forcing Julia Gillard into minority government; won a surprise victory in Victoria; and now an overwhelming endorsement in NSW. For population, economic clout and political influence, the Coalition states of Western Australia, Victoria and NSW dwarf the Labor states of Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. The Gillard government's ability to broker national reforms through COAG will be severely dented, but that might be the least of the Prime Minister's worries.

Arguments that the NSW poll was simply the rejection of a mutant Labor government with a Coalition takeover by default and no wider implications, do not withstand scrutiny. Opportunities abounded for protest votes to flow to the Greens, independents and other minor parties, yet these groups were the other losers. Voters deliberately chose to switch their allegiance from Labor and independent MPs to the Coalition. The conservatives have held their base, consolidated aspirational suburbia and won solid endorsement from working families in the traditional Labor regions of the Hunter and Illawarra.

With blue-collar, coalmining areas dumping Labor for the Coalition, this was a shift of historic proportions. Along with resentment at being taken for granted by state Labor, part of this must be attributed to deep concern about the impact of federal Labor's carbon tax. One of the largest anti-Labor swings occurred in Bathurst, the birthplace of the train-driver turned prime minister Ben Chifley, who gave Labor its "light on the hill". This is a sign that once welded on ALP supporters have rusted off.

Premier-elect Barry O'Farrell deserves enormous credit for uniting what was often a fractious party, creating a sense of purpose where once was drift, sticking doggedly to a plan when others called for drama, and building a closely bonded Coalition with Nationals leader Andrew Stoner. Mr O'Farrell has been an obstinately moderate leader during a time of political polarisation. It is instructive for his federal counterparts that this style of inclusive and unabrasive conservatism has been warmly embraced by voters. The Australian particularly welcomes his rejection of the "little Australia" mantra embraced by both Ms Gillard and Tony Abbott in the depths of the federal campaign. Mr O'Farrell sensibly argues for NSW to develop its regions so that population growth can be encouraged but distributed more widely. He clearly understands he will need to govern for Bathurst as much as Bondi, for Maitland as much as Mosman, and he'll be able to do this with members on the ground in all corners of the state. He will need to be diligent about delivering projects because voters are heartily sick of governments talking about what they'll do, instead of doing it. NSW does not lack challenges, with the transport infrastructure deficit looming large. Mr O'Farrell is right to demand that Canberra reallocates funding from the Paramatta-to-Epping project to his preferred North West rail link. Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese needs to recognise the failures of his state colleagues and ensure that projects in the nation's largest metropolis are allocated a fair share of federal funds.

Mr O'Farrell also needs to enliven business in his state, tackle entrenched union power and commit to shrinking the relative size of the public sector if he is to contain costs and encourage economic growth. He inherits a budget apparently in surplus, although there is no doubt he will want his incoming treasurer Mike Baird to closely assess the books. Highly credentialled, Mr Baird will need to tackle the critical economic reforms to buttress the O'Farrell government, and Gladys Berejiklian will also be pivotal in transport. This trio, and their colleagues, will need to be bold, and while they might find they are short on cash, they are not short on political capital, given their massive mandate.

After flexing their muscles in Canberra, the Greens will be disappointed with their NSW showing. It demonstrates they remain a long way from the mainstream of Australian politics. Their extreme agenda quickly loses popularity when you move away from the inner city into areas where people are reliant on cars, aspire to personal improvement and often hold socially conservative values. Voters delivered a well-deserved rebuke to Marrickville Greens candidate Fiona Byrne who not only promoted an offensive anti-Israel push but also was dishonest about it. Her failure, along with Pauline Hanson's, is a reminder that voters value integrity and find extremism unsettling.

Ms Byrne's failure was about the only bright light for Labor because it enables the capable former minister Carmel Tebbutt to remain in parliament. The rest of the news for Labor is abysmal. As we have noted before, outgoing premier Kristina Keneally deserves credit for her pluck but she was rightly punished for failing to reform her party or confront the union and factional bosses who installed her. She was right to point out that the people of NSW had not left Labor but that Labor had left them. Perhaps if she had recognised this earlier and done something in office to repair the situation we would have more sympathy. Labor must now work to democratise itself and reconnect with its base. A shift to the Left cannot be the answer because the ALP was deserted by socially conservative voters in middle Australia. History shows the middle ground is where politics must always be contested in our nation. Labor must again become a party for mainstream Australians who strive for the "light on the hill" rather than a vehicle of the radical elite who want to lecture the population on issues from carbon taxes to border protection.

If Labor installs former Unions NSW boss John Robertson as opposition leader it will demonstrate it has learned nothing. Mr Robertson led the charge against former premier Morris Iemma's plan to privatise the state's electricity assets. Aided, it must be said, by the political opportunism of Mr O'Farrell at the time, Mr Robertson used the power of the unions and factions to vandalise the policy of an elected government, doing lasting economic damage and accelerating Labor's decline. For him now to be rewarded with the spoils of a humiliating loss, and charged with rebuilding the Labor movement, would be high farce. Former prime minister Paul Keating wrote a scarifying letter to Mr Robertson when he was sworn in to parliament in 2008, predicting that if Labor lost government, Mr Robertson would share much of the blame. Accusing him of "opportunism" and "reckless indifference" to the government, Mr Keating said he was ashamed to be a member of the same party. "Let me tell you," wrote the former prime minister, "if the Labor Party's stocks ever get so low as to require your services in its parliamentary leadership, it will itself have no future." Well, it seem Labor's stocks are now that low and with such matters of substance and personal animosity to be played out over coming months, the repercussions of Labor's electoral destruction in what has been its strongest state are immense.

Ms Gillard must ruminate on the implications carefully. There can be no doubt about the impact of cost of living issues in this campaign, exacerbated by her carbon tax, which will impact especially on commuters and people in mining areas. The electorate's shunning of the Greens is a warning about her cosy arrangement with them. Of most pressing concern, however, is the strong showing of the Nationals in the state's north where they defeated independents in Tamworth and Port Macquarie who were strongly aligned with federal independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, upon whom Ms Gillard relies for power. This is a clear indictment of the independents' decision to support the Gillard government and its carbon tax. The message about their own political mortality at the next federal poll is clear. Labor is left to ponder whether it will change their behaviour or cause them to reconsider their allegiances.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

IT'S THE ECONOMY IN QUEENSLAND

IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN IF CAMPBELL NEWMAN IS ABLE TO MAKE THE DIFFICULT TRANSITION FROM LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO STATE POLITICS.

But Brisbane's Lord Mayor is right about one point. Queensland's bureaucracy is overblown and business is struggling because of red tape and poor infrastructure, especially in the southeast, far from the state's booming mining regions. Tourism and service industries are in the doldrums in the state's two-speed economy and are under pressure after summer's natural disasters.

Mr Newman's elevation by the Liberal National Party to alternative premier has already had one positive effect. It has kicked off an important economic debate in what was once Australia's boom state, but which lost its AAA credit rating two years ago. Despite the mining boom it has also fallen short on growth, employment, non-residential construction and business investment. Mr Newman made a good start yesterday in an interview with The Weekend Australian, outlining his vision for economic change. But he must also address issues such as state taxes and charges, especially the burden of payroll tax and how he intends to pay for the transport and water infrastructure the state needs.

Premier Anna Bligh faces a major challenge overseeing reconstruction, but also needs to pay more attention to these issues. She would restore the state's AAA credit rating much faster if she reined in the public service, for example. But Ms Bligh has done well staring down union and public opposition to the sale of major assets such as Queensland Rail's coal freight business. If Queensland is to recover its former prosperity and avoid a long-term malaise like NSW, the economy must be the battle ground in the contest between two seasoned leaders.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LABOR SHOULD RETURN TO WORKERS

ON A DAY WHEN LABOR FACES A HUMILIATING DEFEAT IN NSW, THE HEIRS TO THE NATION'S SOCIALIST TRADITION MIGHT PAUSE AND REFLECT.

Whenever the party loses its way, it returns instinctively to the speech Ben Chifley delivered to the NSW branch of the ALP on June 12, 1949. It is commonly known as the Light on the Hill speech, but we prefer its original title -- For the Betterment of Mankind Anywhere. To assist new Labor leaders and young union leaders hazy on history, the speech has been posted on our website, www.theaustralian.com.au. (We also recommend Tom Dusevic's feature, "Who's in bed with Kristina Keneally?" on the nepotism and patronage that have destroyed NSW Labor.)

On this exceptional day, we quote from the concluding paragraphs of Chifley's speech: "When I sat at a Labour meeting in the country with only 10 or 15 men there, I found a man sitting beside me who had been working in the Labour movement for 54 years. I have no doubt that many of you have been doing the same, not hoping for any advantage from the movement, not hoping for any personal gain, but because you believe in a movement that has been built up to bring better conditions to the people. Therefore, the success of the Labour Party at the next elections depends entirely, as it always has done, on the people who work. I try to think of the labour movement, not as putting an extra sixpence into somebody's pocket, or making somebody prime minister or premier, but as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people . . . "

A few months later, Robert Menzies was elected prime minister, relegating Labor to 23 years in opposition. That should not deter today's leaders from returning to this speech, however. They should recall that under Chifley, Labor secured 42.2 per cent of first preference votes in the December 1949 election, but this week's Newspoll had NSW Labor at 23 per cent.

The world has changed since Chifley's day. The phrases "working man" and "the working class" are out of fashion, but the values of those they describe are not. They are Howard's battlers, Kevin Rudd's working families and Julia Gillard's hard-working Australians.

For Labor, as for Labour, success depends, as it always has done, on the people who work.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

O'FARRELL OPENS A NEW ERA IN NSW POLITICS

TO THE list of earthquakes and tsunamis which have devastated various countries in recent days can now be added another sweeping, shocking event - a metaphorical earthquake this time, which has brought destruction only to one side of politics. The extraordinary victory of Barry O'Farrell and the Coalition over Labor was long predicted, but that does not make it any the less impressive. Swings of more than 20 per cent have brought parts of the state which it had never expected to represent - particularly in western Sydney and the Hunter - into the Coalition fold.

O'Farrell has established a deep and solid basis for Coalition domination of NSW for four years and possibly many more, yet in his hour of triumph the Liberal leader did not let it go to his head. In claiming victory he was commendably measured and reasonable, promising to govern for all the state, not just Coalition supporters. He was wise to avoid a triumphal tone. There is too much to do to waste time gloating. The O'Farrell government comes to power with expectations of profound change. We publish today a poll of what the public wants - with better hospitals the top priority by far. O'Farrell has promised more medical staff; he may not have the wherewithal in a tight budget to do much more. He has given few details about changes he plans, other than innocuous proposals such as setting up Infrastructure NSW or funding capital works by selling government bonds to retail investors. He should move quickly on sensible measures which can be done relatively quickly, such as privatising Sydney Ferries as recommended by the Walker report.

As more difficult changes have to be made, though, he may find he is criticised for lacking a mandate. With his majority, that will not create problems early on, but as time passes it will increasingly do so. He will also find in time that the very size of his majority becomes a burden: his many backbenchers will have to be kept busy, away from the temptation to further unhelpful personal or factional agendas within a government which is imagined to be impregnable. As 2015 approaches, too, and the pendulum swings back towards the centre, electoral pressures will resurface. For now, though, O'Farrell dominates the political landscape and the agenda, and can contemplate with satisfaction an opposition in disarray.

The tsunamis which have swept away villages in Japan and around the Pacific at least left solid ground on which survivors can rebuild. After Saturday's political tsunami, Labor may not be so lucky. The party will struggle to win more than 20 seats in the lower house after Saturday's rout. Six ministers have lost their seats or, like, Kristina Keneally, have chosen to quit the frontbench. Four others are in doubt, including her deputy, Carmel Tebbutt. More ominous is the roll of seat names now in Liberal hands: in seats such as Charlestown, Swansea, Newcastle, Campbelltown and Parramatta voters have broken the tie which until Saturday had seemingly bound them to Labor for life. If Liberal members can encourage and exploit the aspirations of their new adherents, it may be that Labor has indeed lost its heartland. That is an epoch-making change, but it appears Labor has yet to realise it.

The favourite to lead Labor's battered parliamentary remnant in the wilderness is John Robertson, Keneally's transport minister and union leader. For a party desperate for renewal, it would be a baffling choice: Robertson, considerable though his talents may be, represents Labor's past, not its future; its problems, not their solution. The same applies to Keneally's concession-speech endorsement of her spin doctor, Walt Secord, for an upper house seat. Labor certainly needs talent, but if this result should have taught the party anything it would be that spin is not enough - that new recruits with experience, skill and empathy with the real world are vital if the party is to shape a future for itself.

The Nationals performed well, managing to win back regional seats they had lost to independents, as well as winning Bathurst from Labor with a huge swing. The return of the seat of Port Macquarie to the party has been attributed added significance because it was held by Rob Oakeshott before he stood for Federal Parliament. Oakeshott's role in supporting Labor there after the federal election has angered conservative voters and Saturday night's result has been interpreted therefore as a reaction. Perhaps it is. More broadly, though, the Gillard government will be concerned at the shadow this huge win casts over the its climate change agenda. O'Farrell has specifically promised to oppose the proposed tax on carbon emissions. He is wrong to do so, we believe, because a carbon tax will have to be imposed sooner or later, whether by Labor the Coalition. But as with his earlier opposition to electricity privatisation it is - for the short term - tactically astute.

The Greens did not do as well as they had hoped. At this stage they appear to have missed out on both inner-city seats they were targeting. They may have paid a price for their Marrickville candidate's indulgence in childish gesture politics as a local councillor. Fiona Byrne's support for an absurd ban on firms with links to Israel from doing business with Marrickville Council only cast doubt on her and her party's commonsense. Whether it harmed the Green candidate's chances next door in Balmain is yet to be determined - but it cannot have helped. The party should have been able to exploit the mood of disillusion with Labor, whose idealists have long despaired of the Right's domination in that party. That they tried but failed showed that the Greens are still an immature political force.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

NSW POLL HOLDS LESSON FOR LABOR EVERYWHERE

FORMER Labor prime minister Paul Keating liked to refer to Sydney as ''our town''. He meant that, whoever governed the nation, the ALP always remained the dominant political force in Australia's oldest and largest city, and usually in NSW as well. Labor has governed the state for 52 of the past 70 years, and for 28 of the past 35 years. NSW voters' emphatic repudiation of the party at the weekend, however, has dramatically shifted the political balance. For the powerbrokers of the ALP Right, Sydney is not ''our town'' any more. It may never be again.

The 16 per cent swing that demolished the Keneally government, leaving Labor with, at most, 22 seats in the 93-seat Legislative Assembly, and perhaps with as few as 19, swept through what was once considered ALP heartland: western Sydney and the industrial cities of Wollongong and Newcastle. It was a historic rout, the party's worst result in 107 years, and the swing was greater than any in modern Australian history, exceeding even the 14.6 per cent swing against Victoria's Cain government in the wake of the ALP split in 1955. It is not only by breaking political records, however, that this NSW election has national significance.

Incoming premier Barry O'Farrell has vowed to take a strong stance against the Gillard government's plans to set a carbon price, and future meetings of the Council of Australian Governments are likely to be much more combative. Barely three years ago, Labor governed federally and in every state and territory, but the Coalition now controls the two most populous states and the key resources state of Western Australia. That may mean the unravelling of the government's agreement with the premiers on healthcare reform, as well as an unwillingness to co-operate on reducing carbon emissions.

The deeper significance of the election result, however, is for the ALP itself. The NSW Right has long been the most powerful of its factions, and its consent has usually been required when someone not aligned with it, such as Prime Minister Julia Gillard, assumes the party's national leadership. The faction is noted for its ruthless and sometimes cynical pragmatism in the pursuit of power, and it is that style of politics, above all, that NSW voters rejected. There is no reason to think that voters in other states view it any more indulgently, and Labor everywhere must heed the lessons of this defeat.

Sixteen years is a long time for any government to hold office in a democracy, and with four premiers holding office in the past five years and a succession of scandals prompting the sacking or resignations of other ministers, NSW Labor showed less and less that it was capable of governing with integrity. The complexities of administering a state centred on the sprawling metropolis that is Sydney had also evidently grown too much for it: the inefficiency and unreliability of the city's public transport networks and the congestion on its roads are even worse than similar problems that contributed to the defeat of Victoria's Brumby government in November.

Nor did the party ever reconcile its bitter public divisions over proposals to sell the state's electricity assets, which led to the departure from politics of former treasurer and prominent Right figure Michael Costa.

All these discontents were elements in Labor's demise, and if the Coalition had been able to muster sufficient voter appeal at the previous state election it may be the ALP would then have gone into opposition chastened but without being reduced to the rump that its MPs will now be. Certainly, the debacle cannot be blamed solely, or even chiefly, on Premier Kristina Keneally, though she has accepted responsibility for it, as leaders must do. By the time Ms Keneally became premier, 15 months ago, the rot had already set in irreversibly, and voters were in a mood to punish.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

OFFICIOUS ACTS OFFEND COMMUNITY

IT'S often the little things that get people talking. Or at least they seem like little things, but the people talking about them know intuitively that they matter. Two recent instances that got online commentary going, talkback callers talking and even a visiting American rock star joining in involve seemingly trivial, albeit officious, acts. The first was the arrest by police of a Lilydale man who had engaged in the time-honoured tradition of helping himself to a vacuum cleaner put on the nature strip for a hard-rubbish collection. The second involved a Nunawading cafe that was warned by the council that it would be fined if it continued the year-old practice of letting patrons' toddlers draw in chalk on the footpath. In both cases, authorities failed the test of common sense.

In the case of the ''stolen'' vacuum cleaner, police at least 'fessed up to their folly not long after a police spokesman had insisted that all hard rubbish became the council's property once it was placed on the nature strip. Within a day, a police superintendent was dismissing as a fallacy the very idea that everyone who has ever found treasure in someone else's trash was technically a thief. Restoring welcome reality to the police view of the world, he said: ''I think there's a community expectation … that if you put something out on the footpath, it's anyone's.''

Over at the family-friendly cafe, Whitehorse Council stood firm: the children's chalk drawings of fish, rainbows and stick figures were a health hazard in breach of Local Law No.1 2006 and state graffiti laws. The council had not issued a fine and could possibly issue a permit, but this had to comply with multiple pieces of legislation and regulatory standards.

The issue united unlikely allies: conservative critics of ''nanny state'' officialdom and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder. He told his Palais Theatre audience he'd like to join the chalk-wielding toddlers on the footpath and teach them to write two words: ''Authority'', preceded by an easier one starting with ''F''.

The public scorn that these incidents inspired, however, suggests Melburnians don't need lessons in rock rebellion. Most people understand the give and take that makes for a healthy community. It's a poor sort of community that has no place for venues that let children be children. Sometimes the give and take is literal: you might not want that old couch, but you know someone else will. The ramifications are wider than recreation and recycling; communities are built around such activities. Authorities should stop and think about what makes communities tick before mindlessly enforcing dubious rules.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNIVERSITY FINANCE: RICHER BY DEGREES

THERE ARE FRESH PROBLEMS FOR A COALITION THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN BADLY STRAINED BY THE FEES ISSUE

If you have ever witnessed customers walking into a store and instinctively reaching for the most expensive goods, then you can grasp what is going awry in university finance. Under the new fee rules, institutions set a charge up to a cap of £9,000, and the theory is that the magic of competition will ensure value for money. And so it might, if prospective students were as concerned with penny-pinching as homo economicus. But universities fear many of them will turn up their noses at cut-price courses, and are rushing to levy the full whack. Colleges do not have to show their hands to the regulator until 19 April, but thus far only a handful have signalled they will buck the trend and saddle their students with smaller debts.

The moment customers stop shopping for bargains, and instead start inferring quality from price, the market melts down. Instead of going to the wall as they should, services that are both pricey and poor become profitable. In the end, students may become savvier, particularly if, as universities minister David Willetts hopes, new institutions set up and offer better value. In the meantime, the situation poses fresh problems for a coalition that has already been badly strained by the fees issue.

Ministers took the flak for raising the cap, because they believed there was no other way to sustain British scholarship. You might have thought club class fees would now be a problem for students, not Whitehall. But the Treasury has to stump up extra loans to finance higher fees, and only sees the money again if and when graduates earn decent pay. If average fees exceed the predicted £7,500, there will be a hole in the books. New Commons library figures show the shortfall could exceed £1bn over the spending round if the average fee even approaches the £9,000 cap. Desperate to avoid cutting a research budget to which he is personally committed, or a teaching budget that has already been slashed, Mr Willetts has been urging restraint. His difficulty is that fresh pain will be dished out sector-wide, with little regard to an institution's own price, so individual universities have little reason to hold back.

For the Liberal Democrats, in particular, there is an irony here. With uniform if high headline fees, there is less of a risk of the rich and poor sorting themselves into rich and poor institutions. The obligation on high charging colleges to improve the social mix of their students will further ameliorate the divisiveness of pay-as-you-learn. A silver lining of sorts for a party committed to social mobility. But the potentially desirable consequences of ubiquitously high university fees will not lend themselves to easy campaigning for a party which had committed to cut fees to zero.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

AFTER THE TUC MARCH: NOW FOR THE HARDER BIT

THE MARCH WAS A SUCCESS AND OPPOSITION TO SPENDING CUTS AND TAX INCREASES IS GROWING – BUT THERE IS STILL A LONG WAY TO GO

It is no more true to pretend that Saturday's TUC anti-cuts march changes everything than to pretend it changes nothing. The march through London was a very successful and impressive protest. A quarter of a million is a big turnout by any standards. There is also considerable polling evidence that it spoke, in general terms, for an increasingly large section of public opinion. To exaggerate the strength of the protest would be foolish – the public sector dominated TUC has not overnight become the voice of middle Britain. But it is even more foolish to dismiss the march as an event of no consequence. Opposition to the government's spending cuts and tax increases is rising, and is of growing importance in British politics. This cannot but have an increasing impact, whatever the denials. The real questions, however, are whether the government can keep the growth of opposition within bounds over the next two years and whether Labour can persuade those who are tempted to align themselves with it that the party has a credible alternative. Saturday's march does not answer either question.

The violence of a few hundred rioters on Saturday should be seen in this wider context. That's not to say the violence does not matter. The violence is wrong. It does no good. It should certainly not be romanticised. But it should not become an excuse for framing Saturday's march as a law and order issue rather than an issue of politics and economics. The overwhelming majority of marchers, Ed Miliband and the TUC included, had nothing whatever to do with smashing windows, throwing things at the police or behaving badly. They were there to make a peaceful protest. Most of them only learned about the rioting when they got home. The march was well stewarded and well policed. Unfortunately, there will always be a fringe who prefer to riot. It was ever thus. They irresistibly attract the attention of the police and the television cameras. They should probably have been factored into the planning better; on another occasion, some shops might be more sensible to close in advance. But the public are not stupid. They know the rioters are a minority. They can tell the difference between the grown-ups and the trouble-makers.

In the end, it is this wider public that matters most of all. The TUC campaign was, or should be, a campaign to win their support. At the moment, according to last weekend's Guardian-ICM poll, those who think the cuts go too far – the marchers' cause – have only 35% support, while 57% think the cuts strike the right balance or don't go far enough. Other polls, including yesterday's YouGov-Sunday Times survey, have findings that can be read more favourably to the TUC cause, though based on different questions. But these differences should not obscure the fact that public opinion on the deficit, the cuts, the alternatives and the blame has not yet reached a settled place. The public now sees the coalition and its economic policies negatively. But it still has more trust in the coalition than Labour on the deficit.

As the financial year begins, the public faces cuts and higher taxes on a scale not yet directly experienced. Opinion is likely to move around, probably initially against the government. But the anti-coalition anger of 2011 may be no more durable than the pro-coalition honeymoon of 2010. Labour cannot assume that it will be the lasting beneficiary until it is able to spell out a believable alternative that speaks to the undecided at the moment when it matters. But the government cannot simply pretend that there is nothing happening out in the country. It will have to respond. The TUC march was a success. Ed Miliband was right to address it. But the campaign remains rooted in the agenda of the public sector unions. The Labour leader faces a much bigger task now. He needs to reach out to those who think of themselves as much as taxpayers as consumers or producers of public services. A longer march now beckons.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … POOHSTICKS

It's a fair bet that thousands of spontaneous games rippled out from the World Poohsticks Championships in Little Wittenham

It may have been a sunny spring day, just like yesterday, when Winnie the Pooh first came to the bridge in Ashdown Forest, tripped over something and saw his fir cone fly out of his paw and into the river, thus inventing the game called Poohsticks. If so, it was appropriate, because yesterday produced exactly the right conditions for the resumption of the World Poohsticks Championships, postponed last year because of flooding, which were held once again on a bridge over the Thames at Little Wittenham in Oxfordshire. The championship is 28 years old now, and brings as many as 2,000 spectators and competitors to Little Wittenham to drop sticks into the river – throwing is strictly forbidden – with teams making the pilgrimage from as far away as Australia and the USA. Yet it's a fair bet, too, that yesterday's fine weather, by enticing families and the young of heart out of their homes and on to bridges all over Britain, also helped give birth to thousands of spontaneous games of Poohsticks, thus ensuring the good health of the game for fresh generations to come. The best thing of all about Poohsticks is that it can only be played in the open air and that, unlike almost every other child's game these days, it is completely free. Another joy is that it can be played from almost any bridge anywhere, even though special veneration will always rightly be reserved for the timber Posingford Bridge, near Tunbridge Wells, where Pooh first won 36 and lost 28 of his invention before he went home for tea.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE NEEDS OF WEAKER EVACUEES

As rescue and support operations for people hit by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami go on, every effort must be made to prevent the deaths of people who have survived the disaster. Elderly survivors, especially, find themselves in difficult straits. Timely support must be given to these weaker survivors.

Also some people may still be isolated in communities or spots where their presence have not been noticed by local government workers and other support personnel. The Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. armed forces must continue to utilize their equipment and abilities to find such people. Even if they have been located, ordinary land vehicles may have difficulty reaching them. SDF and U.S. military helicopters must continue to play an important role in transporting necessary goods and personnel to such inaccessible spots.

Elderly people in temporary evacuation shelters need special attention. Food delivered to such places often may not meet their taste. Some elderly people feel that they may be causing trouble to other evacuees because of their frequent use of toilets. Thus they stay in colder spots that are near temporary toilets outside. Others limit intake of water and risk dehydration. The disaster also deprived elderly evacuees afflicted with chronic diseases of prescribed medicines.

In the case of the 1995 great earthquake that devastated Kobe and its adjacent areas, some 1,000 elderly lost lives, suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, heart failure, etc., under conditions like those just described.

To wheelchair-bound evacuees, staircases, the differences in floor levels inside a temporary shelter or between a shelter and the ground as well as narrow temporary toilet closets cause great difficulty. Evacuees with mental illnesses also face problems.

It is necessary to move the weakest evacuees to safer places, including welfare facilities, that have enough support personnel and equipment. Setting up special shelters for elderly evacuees and moving them en masse to regions not affected by the disaster are also urgent tasks.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

PREPARATION BEGINS NOW

Even though the damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is only beginning to be cleaned up, people should take time to prepare for future disasters. It is unknown when another large quake will hit Japan, but the continued aftershocks are insistent reminders to get ready in sensible and reasonable ways for that possibility.

Scientific research and specialist opinion is inconclusive. Earthquakes can release pressure on fault lines, reducing the chances of a quake in one region, but can also shift pressure to other tectonic plates, thus increasing seismic activity elsewhere.

Though most scientists agree that another quake of the same magnitude is unlikely, even a smaller quake close to Tokyo's nearly 40 million people could have devastating effects.

Preparation, not panic, is the right response. Basic information on what to include in a survival kit can be easily found, but people must have those kits ready to go. The panic buying seen in some areas of the country (and as far away as China and California) is counterproductive, but stocking up on a few essentials makes good sense.

Corporations that sell food and water need to set up emergency supply routes. Local governments must work together with convenience stores, supermarkets and fresh produce sellers to ensure they will continue to function.

Those going to work need to ensure they have backup lines of contact and communication with family and friends. Cell-phone companies must be sure that their systems will not be overwhelmed again. Being able to call for help or check on people is extremely important in times of crisis.

Alternative housing and transportation should be ascertained in advance, including where to stay and how to walk home. All places of work need to establish backup accommodation and temporary supplies for their employees.

Though the scale of the disaster overwhelmed everyone, failures in warning systems and evacuation procedures were evident in some areas of Tohoku. The government needs to rectify these problems immediately by rechecking procedures, supplies and evacuation areas. In Tohoku, sensible preparations and careful planning lessened the damage and saved lives.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

FIRMS PREFER PUSHING TOBACCO TO THE POOREST

BY CESAR CHELALA

NEW YORK — Facing greater restriction in the United States and other industrialized countries, multinational tobacco companies are increasingly marketing their products in developing countries, particularly among women and adolescents.

While smoking rates in some industrialized countries are decreasing at about 1 percent a year, those in developing countries are increasing at around 3 percent.

It is estimated that, if current trends persist for the next 30 years, up to 7 million people from developing countries will die every year from diseases related to smoking.

For the past several years, corporations such as Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and British-American Tobacco have been expanding rapidly in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Tobacco-provoked deaths can only add to the inequities in health of ethnic and minority populations.

Jeanette Noltenius, an expert on tobacco and alcohol abuse issues, stated recently