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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

EDITORIAL 29.03.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month march 29, edition 000792, 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. SHED OPPORTUNISM
  2. NO FAKING IT
  3. LET'S TAKE FRESH GUARD - SHASHI THAROOR&SASIDHARAN
  4. FACILITATES COMMUNICATION
  5. CORRUPTS AND DISTORTS LANGUAGE - AJAY VAISHNAV
  6. HEY, BEAUTIFUL - RUPA SENGUPTA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TRACK THOSE PUGMARKS
  2. JAITLEY DOES IT
  3. A DREAM TICKET - AARISH CHHABRA
  4. FOLLOW THE SUN  - PRIYAMVADA NATARAJAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. CLOSING THE GAPS
  2. SIGN LANGUAGE
  3. DUMMY RUN
  4. PLAYING THE POLITICAL GAME - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. YIELDING VARIETY - YOGINERKALAGH
  6. 'WE HAVE ONE OF THE MOST CREATIVE AND VIBRANT MEDIA BUSINESS IN  - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  7. IT IS WRONG TO COPY

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. RACING FOR ENERGY SECURITY - BANK WITH ME
  2. TO PREDICT, OR NOT TO PREDICT - SURJIT S BHALLA
  3. DEFENCE, BEYOND ACTION-REACTION - DEBA R MOHANTY

THE HINDU

  1. PADDING UP FOR BETTER TIES
  2. UNINTENDED BOOSTERS
  3. FAMILY MEDICINE & MEDICAL EDUCATION REFORM  - P. ZACHARIAH
  4. INDIA HANGS UP ON HOTLINE TO PENTAGON  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  5. STATUS OF FORCES AGREEMENT, NOT SO NEAR  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  6. A COMMUNITY SCARED OF BOTH MUSLIM AND HINDU EXTREMISTS  - SURESH NAMBATH
  7. WHY INDIA STOPPED 2005 DHAKA SAARC SUMMIT - NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. TAMIL NADU RIVALS FACE REALITY CHECK
  2. BEYOND BOUNDARIES - ASHOK MALIK
  3. THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF SOARING OIL PRICES - PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA
  4. PUT SIACHEN ON TABLE LAST, NOT FIRST - VIKRAM SOOD
  5. HUNGRY KIS LIYE? - PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. GOODWILL GESTURES
  2. SEMINAR ON POK
  3. TRADE DEFICIT NOT IN NATIONAL INTEREST - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  4. THE BLOOMING INDUSTRY - BY DR. PRAGYA KHANNA
  5. NON-RESIDENT INDIANS CAN VOTE NOW - BY ASHOK B SHARMA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. HUMANITARIAN SPIRIT
  2. A PARTY IS BORN
  3. A WOMAN'S TOUCH
  4. CHINA'S GROWING MILITARY MIGHT - BY HARSH V. PANT
  5. CRICKET AS CLASSICAL DRAMA - BY RAJAN KASHYAP
  6. MIDDLE EAST UPHEAVAL OFFERS NEW OPPORTUNITIES - SHYAM BHATIA
  7. IT IS ALL ABOUT OIL - LT GEN VIJAY OBEROI (RETD)

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. NOTHING SELLS LIKE JINGOISM

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MANIFESTO MERCHANDISE
  2. THE MILK THAT CHEERS
  3. HOME REMEDIES FOR CAD - NAGESH KUMAR
  4. SELECTED STORIES FROM FICCI FRAMES... - VANITA KOHLI-KHANDEKAR
  5. WANTED - A DREAM TEAM - A K BHATTACHARYA
  6. UNIVERSAL LIBRARIES AND COPYWRONGS - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NOT BY LAW ALONE
  2. INVALID PROTEST
  3. THE BIG GAME
  4. PASSING ADAM SMITH'S MORALITY TEST
  5. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  6. A CASE FOR HOUSING REFORM  - JAIDEEP MISHRA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. TAMIL NADU RIVALS FACE REALITY CHECK
  2. BEYOND BOUNDARIES
  3. THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF SOARING OIL PRICES
  4. PUT SIACHEN ON TABLE LAST, NOT FIRST

THE STATESMAN

  1. GRACEFUL GESTURES
  2. NOBODY'S BABY
  3. LEAVE HEALTH ALONE
  4. MICRO-CREDIT, MACRO FIDDLE - BY ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYA
  5. RESOLVING CRIME AND CORRUPTION!  - RAJINDER PURI
  6. EARLY VS NEVER  - SUNIPA BASU

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. GRACE MARK
  2. DEADLY FLAWS
  3. TURN THE CORNER  - MALVIKA SINGH
  4. BALANCING RESOURCES  - COMMENTARAO S.L. RAO
  5. DIFFERENT SCORES OVER THE BOUNDARY

DECCAN HERALD

  1. DON'T RUSH IT
  2. HEARTENING FIGURES
  3. JAPAN CAN BOUNCE BACK  - ALOK RAY
  4. GERMANS VOTE AGAINST MERKEL'S NUCLEAR STANCE -  JUDY DEMPSEY,NYT
  5. POLICE AND THIEF KALPANA  - M NAGHNOOR

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. PRESIDENT OBAMA ON LIBYA
  2. LOOKS LIKE A DUOPOLY
  3. THAT'S WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT THE VOTERS
  4. IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN A FEW REGRETS
  5. TOOLS FOR THINKING - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. CAPITAL INJUSTICE - BY KATE MASUR
  7. A MARKET SOLUTION FOR MALPRACTICE - BY RONEN AVRAHAM

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON'T LIKE SNAKES
  2. LIBYA WAR STILL UNDECLARED
  3. DISASTER, RADIATION AND FRIENDSHIP
  4. HORROR UPON HORROR

HARARETZ

  1. WHOM DOES NETANYAHU OWE?
  2. THE MEN CRY AT NIGHT  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  3. PRESIDENT ASSAD IS THE FAVORITE  - BY SALMAN MASALHA
  4. WHEN DETERRENCE FAILS  - BY MOSHE ARENS
  5. DON'T BE IMPRESSED BY THE SEWAGE OF OFRA  - BY ZAFRIR RINAT

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS STRAIGHT - JUST WHAT WOULD IT TAKE?
  2. REGIONAL INEQUALITY - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  3. ITHAKI AND MALWARE PRACTICES - ARIANA FERENTINOU
  4. AKP'S MIDDLE EAST POLICIES IN TURMOIL - SEMİH İDİZ
  5. COULD CIVIL OBEDIENCE BE THE REAL ISSUE? - PINAR ÖĞÜNÇ
  6. THE BILL GOES TO THE AKP AND GÜLEN COMMUNITY - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. RUSSIA'S IMAGE AS ENERGY SUPERPOWER BENEFITTING FROM MIDDLE EAST CRISIS - GREGORY FEIFER
  8. CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST PUTS TURKEY IN THE EYE OF THE STORM - JAMES M. DORSEY
  9. PREEMPTIVE CENSOR - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. SPIRIT OF SPRING
  2. KURRAM BREAKDOWN
  3. FURIOUS FIRE
  4. DRONE ATTACKS - WHERE DO WE STAND?
  5. RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  6. 'NEW' GROWTH STRATEGY  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  7. BEYOND THE 'CRISIS STATE'  - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  8. EXTREMISM  - AHMED QURAISHI
  9. CRICKET DIPLOMACY  - DR QAISAR RASHID
  10. UNCERTAIN ENDGAME  - DR MALEEHA LODHI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. INDIA'S DIRTY HAND IN BALOCHISTAN
  2. DRONES: CROCODILE TEARS OF US ENVOY
  3. US DISREGARD TO PAKISTAN CONCERN - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  4. DESECRATION OF THE HOLY QUR'AN - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. EXTREMISM NEEDS TO BE REDEFINED - DR ASIF IQBAL
  6. FORSAKING INSTITUTIONAL SOVEREIGNTY - DR KHALIL AHMAD
  7. A TIME FOR INTROSPECTION - NAZIA NAZAR

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. AFTER A DAY OF RECKONING, WHAT NOW FOR LABOR?
  2. REPORT WORTH READING ANY TIME

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. ABBOTT'S AGENDA NEEDN'T RULE NSW
  2. LOTS OF PROBLEMS UNDER ONE ROOF
  3. CABS ON THE SCENIC ROUTE TO CHAOS
  4. AUSTRALIA LAGS AS THE REST OF THE WORLD ACTS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. LIBYA: NARROWING THE OPTIONS
  2. IN PRAISE OF… ROSEMARY SUTCLIFF

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. AKIHABARA RAMPAGE VERDICT
  2. UNREQUITED HOPE FOR KAN - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY
  3. THE FALSE PANACEA OF WORKFORCE FLEXIBILITY - BY HELEEN MEES

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. WHOSE INTERESTS TO SERVE?
  2. LEGAL UNCERTAINTY IS CAUSED BY ADVOCATES  - SEBASTIAAN POMPE
  3. INDONESIA'S TAINTED DEMOCRACY CALLS FOR CHANGES - RIZAL RAMLI
  4. DEPOLARIZING THE WATER DEBATE - MOHAMAD MOVA AL AFGHANI
  5. THE INTERNET AND REGIME SECURITY - BAMBANG HARTADI NUGROHO

DAILY MIRROR

  1. MOHALI: TRIVIALISATION OF AN IMPORTANT INITIATIVE
  2. BROKER PEACE IN LIBYA NOW
  3. 'THERE IS NO PERFECT OPTION IN A SITUATION LIKE IN LIBYA'
  4. THREE-WHEELER DRIVERS FORGET PASSENGER-SAFETY
  5. OPEN-ENDED WAR
  6. SHOWDOWN TIME FOR CRICKET'S BIGGEST SHOW

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. WHAT NEXT FOR THE LIBYANS..?    - BY PATRICK COCKBURN
  2. SECURITY, ACCOUNTABILITY ... AND THEN DIALOGUE    - BY ANWAR ABDULRAHMAN

 

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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

SHED OPPORTUNISM

 

Like the mythic gift that keeps giving, internet crusader WikiLeaks now brings to light a revealing conversation BJP leader Arun Jaitley had with American diplomat Robert Blake in 2005. Jaitley has been cited as saying the BJP uses Hindutva as an opportunistic issue; he denies the letter but not the spirit of it. From the WikiLeaks conversation Hindutva can be a tool strategically utilised in times and places of trouble, such as the northeast when disturbed over Bangladeshi migration.


Expectedly the Congress, facing a storm of questions on accountability after WikiLeaks turned the spotlight back onto UPA-I's 2008 cash-for-votes scandal, is delighted. The party insists the BJP, which used WikiLeaks as the cornerstone of truth against it, takes these reports with full credence. It demands answers over religion being cynically manipulated, costing the nation dearly. As the air between both parties again thickens with accusations, denials and quite possibly, couplets, it is important to look into the specificities of what might have been said.


Using Hindutva as 'an opportunistic tool' is no bad thing, since it gives BJP the opportunity to discard Hindutva when past its sell-by date, refashioning itself into a modern, right-wing party. And Hindutva has played out to be a violent, destructive force. Through pogroms, propaganda and moral policing, what Hindutva attacked was peace and progress between communities and individuals, embodied in an old mosque, in commercial relations, in the freedom of people to give each other Valentine's Day cards. All this is out of place in a rapidly modernising India. At a time of bewildering change, Hindutva played to a gallery riddled with anxiety and anger. Today's India is not supportive of an angry politics of religion insistent on hegemonies, condemning one kind of terrorist violence but supporting another, pushing for the women's reservation Bill while inspiring groups to attack women in pubs.


Shifting from Hindutva to a moderate right-wing position will help the party fill a vacuum in Indian politics. The 'fundamentalist' tag is a heavy cross BJP politicians bear, alienating coalition partners in an era of coalitions. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, otherwise known for glittering development, holds a blemished record owing to the 2002 pogroms, governance abdicating before communal furies. By contrast, BJP leaders and allies, like Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Nitish Kumar, enjoy public trust through delivering on development and governance. In WikiLeaks's wake, the BJP should grab the opportunity and shake off its Achilles heel, Hindutva. In an environment ripe for a politics of maturity, governance and transparency, this could be another gift WikiLeaks bestowed.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

NO FAKING IT

 

The rot in the civil aviation industry runs deeper than was thought earlier. As investigations proceed into the fake pilot scam, it is fast becoming clear that the issue isn't limited to a handful of pilots. An elaborate nexus exists between pilots, touts, flying schools and officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The recent arrest of DGCA officer Pradeep Kumar lends credence to this nexus. Kumar was instrumental in processing the applications of pilots who had forged the result cards of their qualifying exam. It has also been discovered that flying schools themselves were on the take, fudging logbooks to escalate the number of flying hours of pilots. As the DGCA scrutinises 4,500 airline pilot licences, it is anybody's guess how many unqualified pilots continue to fly commercial aircraft.


Opening up the aviation sector made air travel an affordable reality for the Indian middle class. However, oversight of this sector is poor. Each day the safety of thousands of passengers hangs in the balance. If sons and daughters of DGCA officials are able to obtain licences despite dubious flying records, it opens the door to large-scale fraud. Apart from an internal purge of the DGCA itself, it is imperative to undertake a thorough audit of the 40 flying schools in the country. A public DGCA database for result cards of candidates is a good idea. That corruption hasn't even spared a sensitive industry like aviation, jeopardising the lives of thousands, is a grave concern. Now that the rot lies exposed, civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi must undertake thorough and rapid action to cleanse the system and bring back credibility to civil aviation.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

LET'S TAKE FRESH GUARD

SHASHI THAROOR&SASIDHARAN

 

India's 21st century economic story has begun to resemble an ODI. If the era of economic growth began in 1991, with the great adventure of liberalisation (Manmohan Singh's economic "idea whose time has come"), then by 2011, we as a country are headed well into our "middle overs". Successful ODI cricket teams have middle-over specialists and all-rounders who approach the task at hand knowing they have to build on good starts, but also to accelerate as needed.


It doesn't take an economic genius to admit that in our current economic narrative, there lurks the great (and perhaps typically Indian) risk of squandering our good start. The time has come to approach the middle overs with a little more imagination and daring, and also with foresight and planning for the ultimate powerplay.


With 65% of our population under 35, India should have a youthful, dynamic and productive workforce for the next 30 years, while the rest of the world - including China - is ageing. But it would be dangerous if, like a batsman conscious that his team has plenty of wickets and overs to spare, we get complacent.


India's greatest strength is Indians themselves. In every corner of the world, we thrive, compete and often outperform the 'sons-of-the-soil'. In some sense our cultural DNA is pre-disposed to view material and intellectual success as important and worth striving for. The critical challenge, then, is to ensure that we can foster our human capital base and leverage our demographic advantages.


To get a sense of the challenges ahead of us, consider these estimated numbers. By 2020, according to Goldman Sachs, India will augment its labour force by another 110 million people. Most of these individuals will come from the transition from agriculture to industry. By 2020, the average Indian will be 29 years of age. At that time, the average Chinese will be 37 years old, the average European 49.


Each year, based on 2005 figures, we will add around five million young adults (between 15-24 years) per year. These are five million potentially productive workers. But if they are unemployed or unemployable, they are also potential revolutionaries, Naxalites or stone-pelters. The frustrations of jobless young men lie behind most of the violent protests in the world.


If we get it right - if, like a good batsman, we lay down the platform for a big innings - India can be the production and service capital of the world. Equally, given the size of the youth bulge, innovation could propel global products and research. But if we underestimate the importance of these middle overs, we could lose a lot of wickets very quickly, and collapse in a heap.


Education will be the key ladder on which Indians will move up in life. A great deal needs to be done to expand our capacity, multiplying the number of schools and colleges to accommodate our growing young population. The cut-throat competition we already see in our metros to find spots at good kindergarten schools is one symptom of this profound change.


Vocational training is also essential. Not every young person is going to be reading MRIs or designing the next iPad. We need plumbers, masons, electricians, auto mechanics. There are shortages of trained and qualified personnel in each of these areas. But high-school dropouts can be trained to excel in such fields. We need to set up vocational training institutions on a war footing.

Yet, our focus ought not to be solely on education and training today, but on what we need to do to make today's Indians employable tomorrow. A badly educated engineer from a second-rate technical college today will, in 15 years, be virtually unemployable, as the complexities of technology and demands of the marketplace increase. Already, many industry professionals bemoan the lack of skilled labour in our emerging technology-intensive economy. Senior executives speak of needing to offer remedial training to freshly-recruited graduates just to make them ready for the rigours of the workplace. Tomorrow, we will need to go beyond, to aggressively expand mid-career retraining programmes.


Upgrading skills mid-career will inescapably be an important part of any worker's professional life-cycle. Some have woken up to this already. The Singapore government runs a Workforce Development Agency (WDA) which aggressively pursues a "Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience" (SPUR) to retrain workers during economic crises. A telling claim that WDA makes is that 75% of companies that would have otherwise fired their employees have postponed doing so because their workers had undergone the SPUR programmes.

At the other end of the spectrum are those who have taken an innovative approach to re-educating our rural communities. Bunker Roy at the "Barefoot College" in Rajasthan's Tilonia has a "peer-to-peer" model of education to train villagers to be basic service providers. Instead of a top-down approach wherein outsiders come and train villagers, small community members train each other. Not only does this increase labour productivity, it also facilitates cost savings.


Our greatest asset is the Indian people. As a society, we need to aggressively experiment with mid-life or mid-career retraining. If we want to excel at the powerplay, we need to ensure during the middle overs that our children become equally adept at playing the fierce pace of innovation and the slow spin of economic downturns. In the last few years, our economy has hit a few sixes. The time to take a fresh guard is now.

( Tharoor is a Congress MP; Sasidharan is a banker and analyst. )

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

FACILITATES COMMUNICATION

 

Communications gaps - especially within speakers of the same language - often result in tedious debates about what's right and what's not. But now technology offers a far more constructive solution. A new phone application will translate slang used by teenagers for their parents and grandparents. In doing so the app will close, at least in terms of language, the generation gap. With ever-increasing lifespans, this divide has paradoxically been growing in a world that is constantly being rendered a village by communications technology.

For fuddy-duddies, the app raises the question of whether adults should cave into
teenage slang. Autocrats will condemn the app, invented by the over-50s group Saga, as sanctifying slang. In this view only a select few can speak English - which undoubtedly is limited to those who hold this point of view - and everyone else speaks something degenerate. This view ignores the fact that language is never static but changes with use. The app short-circuits this debate because its focus is on bridging a clear and present linguistic divide. Hopefully, the apps database of 100 words or phrases - such as 'peeps' for people and endz for neighbourhood - will be expanded to include many more. The demand for such a service is already there, as the online portal 'gotateenager.org.uk' demonstrates. Now the app will make a tiny portion of this reservoir portable and accessible to the elderly - and not so elderly - no matter where they are.


Modern society is complex, and certain groups may create their own linguistic styles in order to carve out a distinctive identity. A democratic society can hardly frown on this. Teenagers should be allowed to have their say among themselves in the way they want to - laying the foundation of linguistic creativity later on. That it isn't clear communication doesn't wash, as they do understand what their peers are saying. And for those who don't, there's the app.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

CORRUPTS AND DISTORTS LANGUAGE

 

It is unfortunate that a mobile phone application to translate teenagers' slang for their parents and grandparents is being heralded as a technological enabler to close the generation gap. What's even worse, under the guise of such counterintuitive logic, we are being fooled to indirectly sanctify slang as part and parcel of our language. Instead of being upbeat about such tech applications our primary focus should be addressing the real issue. In this case that happens to be the corruption of language, the abandonment of clarity and violation of standards of comprehensibility in speech, and the constant pandering to generation next and its whims.


Texting invariably involves the use of abbreviations and many other styles to craft messages sent through the cellphone. This form of writing does not always follow the standard rules of English grammar and spelling. The net effect of texting is a constricted imagination, and if learners are not able to use appropriate language in different contexts, their informal texts creep into academic writing and formal communication. In fact, many surveys point towards the ill effects of texting on teenagers especially in their formative years. Not surprisingly, texting has evoked strong negative reactions from teachers, parents and language experts. Agreed, language can never be static. But, does that mean throwing grammar and spelling to the winds? Let's not ignore the difference between the development of language and its perversion, which cannot be allowed at any cost.


As cellphones are going to stay, the focus of developers should be to create applications which develop and enhance teenagers' reading and writing. That could even be a more lucrative business proposition than portals and applications translating slang for a limited number of customers. Parents must also steer teenagers towards better linguistic usage, rather than trying to 'understand' distorted communication and thereby legitimising it.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

HEY, BEAUTIFUL

 

Be honest. When news of Liz Taylor's death came in, didn't everybody first recall her eight marriages more than they did her virtuoso performances? Not coincidentally, the Hollywood star was breathtakingly beautiful. Recent research could claim to explain that link. Down history, man has pursued beauty. But is beauty truly in the arms of the beholder? No, it's rather a case of to have and not to hold. So say Stirling, Chester and Liverpool University researchers in a British study reported in the journal, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Beware love stories where women beat men as eye candy: these dangerous liaisons won't last. The comelier the lady, the more she's "better placed to move on". So, it's not a question of "if looks could kill..." but when.


One researcher reminds us to tune in to Dr Hook. In retrospect, the pop band gave men good advice in a late-1970s' song: "When you're in love with a beautiful woman, you watch your friends". In practice, that means blokes who date women who resemble Pamela Anderson ought to (bay) watch their buddies. But doesn't jealousy itself create trouble in paradise? Shakespeare's Othello courts disaster by accusing the fair (and chaste) Desdemona of high infidelity. This tragic hero is reincarnated in Bollywood's Omkara, who delusionally punishes faithful - and aptly named? - Dolly. Call it blow hot, blow cuckold.


Might love for many modern-day beauties be short-lived because they refuse to play sacrificial victim to male insecurities? If Pretty Woman's calling the (parting) shots in partnerships, that'll help bust some gender stereotypes. Like the one linking man with power and money and a big car, and woman with looks and the desire to chase power and money and a big car through the man. Remember, Hollywood's Pretty Woman walks out on the powerful man. And his luxury hotel room. How suite can you get?


There's consolation for less beauteous women whose relationships, the study says, turn out to be far less precarious. Seemingly, love's less of a bungle in the romantic jungle when a handsome man partners a not-so-pretty woman. The winning couple? Me Tarzan, you plain Jane.


Only, who's to say who's plain, and who isn't? Symmetrically Apollonian or bizarrely gothic, bountiful or bulimic, Modesty Blaise or Big Ethel, beauty lies in the sighs of the beholder. Rotund Mona Lisa's no Marilyn Monroe. Yet she's the universal icon of feminine mystique. Women with dimpled derrieres in Rubens's canvases were once Europe's non-anorexic ideal. They can't walk fashion ramps today. Blondes have more fun on some continents. On others, dark Venus is fire at your desire. Besides, beauty also lies in the heart of the man who's beholden. In Guru Dutt's film, Pyaasa, who wins the hero? Not Meena the glamorous gold-digger, but Gulabo, sullied rose that's beautiful inside.


Some say beauty's a composite and so lies in average-ness, a sort of Aristotelian golden mean of physical and spiritual appeal. In the 19th century, Francis Galton - Darwin's kin - invented 'composite photography' to aid diagnostics and criminology. Studying whether appearances indicated 'types', he superimposed images of different faces on a photographic plate only to find that the average 'composite' image was better looking than those composing it. Incidentally, the faces were of criminals on one hand and vegetarians on the other!

One researcher uncharitably wagers that less alluring women "may have to make do with what they have", so they stick around. The counter lies in Confucius: "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it". Fortune's not just in the face. Nor in the in-your-face. It's also what's behind, what's hidden: cloud-covered sun, a garden in the mist, an absent guest at a table that's full. While veiled beauty won't get top ratings on the Hot Or Not site, its worth lies in the discovering of it. So watch out. Plain Jane could well be GI Jane, realising she's neither plain nor needs to "make do" with Tarzan the wonder cad. In happily ever after, the glass slipper shatters. And Cinderella tastes liberty.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

TRACK THOSE PUGMARKS

After continuing bad news on the environment front and pitched battles with different ministries and state governments, environment minister Jairam Ramesh can breathe easy for a while. Tigers have regained some lost ground even though many big cat watchers had given up all hope after the dismal count in 2007. The latest round of tiger census, which was released on Monday at an international seminar, shows that the population is now estimated at 1,706, up from 1,411 recorded in 2007. This figure includes 70 tigers in the Sunderbans that had not been counted the last time. In the latest round, the counting was done in 39 tiger reserves and unlike earlier tiger estimates when pugmarks of tigers were counted, this time hidden cameras and DNA tests were used to arrive at this figure.

Though some experts are sceptical of the methods used to arrive at this figure, since not much has been revealed by the ministry, these findings are important for two reasons: first, it shows that we are still in the game, and second, conservation methods, higher awareness and civil society pressure have borne fruit. Yet, this is just a small victory. There is no doubt that tiger habitats are under tremendous pressure from human as well as economic activities. In the years to come, this will only increase as India ferrets for more resources that lie below the ground of these tiger territories to feed the country's gigantic economic appetite. In fact, a government survey itself says that the degraded forests of India can only hold 1,000-1,200 tigers. The core tiger area has shrunk from 1 lakh sq kms in the 1970s when Project Tiger was launched to 31,207 sq kms. India, with more than 45,000 sq km of forest area under 39 designated tiger reserves, had 100,000 tigers at the turn of the last century. However, the threats are not only from the dwindling habitat: it is also from poachers and sophisticated international smuggling networks.

All these issues cannot be resolved in a day; they need to be tackled without interruption every single day. The tigers have done better in areas where they are groomed to grow in numbers like in Karnataka. But what about other areas and their long term 'genetic viability' (a realistic chance of avoiding the problems of inbreeding)?  While it is time to raise a toast to the fact that India is one of the lucky countries that can still proudly boast of a tiger population, this census is a powerful reminder that the work has just begun and there's a long way to go.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

JAITLEY DOES IT

The BJP was never as dumb as it looks. So why deny Hindutva being an 'opportunistic issue'?

Here's another editorial courtesy those fine folks of WikiLeaks. And once again, we shall feign shock for the benefit of all those television studio anchors. This time round, it's BJP Rajya Sabha MP Arun Jaitley who comes under Julian Assange's nerdo-anarchic war against the Establishment. Mr Jaitley apparently had told Robert Blake, the US charge d'affaires in New Delhi in 2005, that Hindutva was an "opportunistic issue" for the BJP. Everyone, barring the RSS, seems to be pouncing on the poor man — Jaitley not Blake — for this 'admission' which, strangely, Mr Jaitley has since the Wiki leaked, denied making. We say 'strangely' because one would have thought that by stating that Hindutva was an "opportunistic issue",  Mr Jaitley was confirming that the BJP wasn't really a nutty, paleolithic party that wanted a Hindu nation, but was a master of political branding.

If anyone needed to be upset, it should have been the foaming-at-the-mouth set from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and other sundry groups that believe parliamentary democracy to be a necessary digression before the coming of the revolution: Ram Rajya. Instead, liberal folks, who always found Hindutva's hard exclusivism abhorrent, are the ones getting het up. Mr Jaitley's 'admission', of course, doesn't mean much beyond confirming the established fact that politics and advertising are professions that demand some amount of tricking people with low IQ levels. But then, it doesn't really matter whether a mosque was torn down because those instigating the violence genuinely believed that the structure was obnoxious or just played along with the mob.

Being a hypocrite about a bad thing is better than being a hypocrite about a good thing. Imagine if the BJP was open about Hindutva being nothing more than a political tool and if Mr Jaitley was exposed as saying that he genuinely believed in it. So the BJP isn't really a ghoul but a chap who pranced about wearing a Halloween mask. Till the next WikiLeak then.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

A DREAM TICKET

AARISH CHHABRA

Journalists are not supermen. I am not being smug; it's just that the number of phone calls I have received since Yuvi's heroics set up the India-Pak semis tie is enormous. Everyone seems to think if I work for a newspaper, I must have 'links', and must put them to use to get them into PCA Mohali cricket stadium on March 30. And when I tell them it's impossible to get passes or tickets for the mini-final, they think I am lying. What was flattering at first became irritating eventually. But now it's finally settled at being 'mildly amusing'.

The variation in line, length and pace of the same demand can put Afridi to shame. Some called early morning, just so that I remember that my good deed for the day was to arrange free passes — even paid tickets would do, they added. Many called repeatedly, lest I forget that I had told them thrice that I was trying. And then there were some googlies — a friend of a friend's friend asked me if I could sell him a couple at whatever price I wanted. He probably thought I'd be offended and get him tickets at the MRP, or even for free, just to prove that I was not cashing in on the black-marketing potential.

The list so far includes dad's friends, their friends, ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend, current girlfriend's ex-boyfriends, their mothers, pretty girls I stalk on Facebook, a teacher I hated in school, one I had a crush on, ex-colleagues, their brothers, my maid, her husband, and even the guy who comes to collect garbage from my house every morning.

The fact remains that the 14,000-odd tickets that went on sale remained on the shelf for a good part of two days. And if you'd done your maths right, you could've known that the potential for an Indo-Pak face-off in Mohali was pretty high. But the lazy cricket fans waited until pretty boy Brett Lee failed and the tickets sold out. ("Don't waste time blaming me, just tell me if you love me enough to get me into the stadium," said the school-time sweetheart I never thought would call me. Let's just say, she will never call me again.)

Not that I didn't try. I tried the same variation in line and length on our sports reporters, even offered them money. But all they did was smile and take down my demand on a piece of paper they certainly would have tossed in a bin or burnt chanting voodoo incantations, given their frustration with people like me.

Let me suggest something. Why don't you buy an official India jersey, a decent projector and a crate of beer with the R25,000 you are willing to pay for a non-existent R250 ticket? Get some friends to pitch in. That's what I am going to do. I wasn't lying in jest when I told you that I haven't got a ticket myself, and that neither do I get the salary to buy one on the black market.

Believe me, journalists are not supermen.   

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

FOLLOW THE SUN

PRIYAMVADA NATARAJAN

India's IT revolution, built on its technology base of the 60s and 70s, has propelled the country to the front ranks of growing world economies. Yet, we have failed to develop as a powerhouse of innovation in science and technology (S&T). What do we need to do to build a stronger S&T research presence and establish ourselves as a formidable knowledge power?

A concerted push from the government, the corporate sector and some social shifts are required to set us up on that path. It's clear that to move up swiftly we need to improve existing research infrastructure, refocus on fostering research and build and sustain excellent centres of innovation. The government recently made a powerful intervention in this direction by setting up six Indian Institutes for Science Education and Research (IISERs).

These are envisioned as centres of excellence where undergraduate teaching and research are re-integrated. Since Independence, the model that has been followed has created elite science and technology research centres, removed from teaching colleges in universities. This thinking was, of course, driven in part by the general scarcity of available resources and fostered only a handful of world-class institutions. With the growing importance of S&T towards building a knowledge-based economy and increasing resources available from our blossoming economy, there is no excuse to not do more.

In this regard, the successful model of the top-class American research university, which combines teaching, research and innovation via the establishment of incubator science parks, is worth examining. Exposing undergraduates to research as part of their learning experience is critical to attract them to pursue future research careers in S&T. Besides, it offers one of the most efficient ways to young people to discover their passions.

I use the term 'research' to include both high technology areas and appropriate technologies, which will tackle specific challenges that must be addressed in India. We need our young to have role models to realise that research in S&T offers an exciting and satisfying career choice. Fortunately, we have excellent role models in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Role models, though, need to appear early in a student's life. This triggers dreams and ambitions by opening up one's mind to new possibilities. My personal trajectory is a case in point. I had the good fortune of getting a taste of research when still in high school. I did my first research project on tracking sunspots under the enthusiastic guidance of late Nirupama Raghavan, the then director of Nehru Planetarium in Delhi. It was a transformative experience for me, as it taught me a new way to learn and explore the world outside the classroom. I was fortunate to pursue my passion to study the universe in one of the most amazing universities in the world.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every child growing up in India had such opportunities? While not all children will necessarily become scientists, it will enable them to figure out for themselves how to learn and discover their passions.

During my recent trip to India, I visited an impressive institution, VidyaGyan — a rural school set up by the Shiv Nadar Foundation in Uttar Pradesh. It's the first of a network of rural schools it intends to operate in the state. Talented children from economically challenged backgrounds are selected, brought to this residential school and provided world-class facilities for academic learning, sports, music and general all-round development. It provides all the facilities currently  available to only a select few in the elite urban schools of our country. It was inspiring to talk to these children brimming with curiosity.

Besides providing access to excellent schooling, we also need to provide more flexibility in curricula at the university level and revamp the current syllabi to aid learning — not merely scoring well in examinations. I mention the VidyaGyan case as an example of potential industry and education partnerships that can be established right from school up to college. Stewardship from major industrial houses in India via regional partnerships with local schools and colleges could be transformative on short timescales.

We also need to recalibrate our understanding of research and innovation. Nobel prizes can't be the only metric to measure our country's prowess in S&T. We need to face our developmental challenges through simple innovation and change the nature of our industrial landscape. While Nobels bring us enormous pride, the inventor of a new way to purify water cheaply and cleanly, for instance, will have enormous impact not just in India but also globally. It's not a far dream to imagine that such innovation will arise from India.

An intellectual shift is also needed in the attitude of our current cadre of researchers — top class research takes time, dedication and doesn't yield quick results. We need to have a competitive research environment where colleagues push and inspire each other to be more creative and produce high quality work. Research practices need to transform to bring us on par with other countries.

One way of transforming research practices and providing role models, which China has adopted, might be worth emulating. China is pumping significant resources into developing its S&T infrastructure by establishing and funding state-of-the-art laboratories. This has in turn allowed it to successfully lure several top science leaders of Chinese origin, who are at the forefront in some of the cutting-edge fields like genetics in the US, to spend three summer months in China.

There is, of course, the possibility of opening up the education sector to foreign universities and allow them to set up new institutions in India. Perhaps the competition that this will generate is precisely what is needed to propel us into becoming a major knowledge economy.

Priyamvada Natarajan is professor, departments of Physics and Astronomy, Yale University 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

CLOSING THE GAPS

 

The committee set up under former Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Rakesh Mohan to figure out how to finance the development of India's infrastructure has quite a mountain to climb. The five years of the Twelfth Plan, starting from March 2012, are supposed to somehow drum up $1 trillion for infrastructure. The mid-term appraisal of the Eleventh Plan, which was released in March last year, made it quite clear that the big bottleneck to India's growth was infrastructure. Ports, water supply, and rail were particularly short of investment, getting little more than half of what was needed. It was also clear that the mind-boggling amounts of investment required to meet needs would not be made without substantial reform, and the involvement of the private sector. The Centre expects that about half the funds will come from the private sector, but given how tight the fiscal situation is, it should probably be looking for more.

The committee, it is reported, is likely to study several different possibilities to free up infrastructure financing. The most obvious may be reform and deepening of the corporate bond market. Infrastructure projects have a uniquely long-term pay-off, and financing through debt and bonds needs to be considered an option. In order to deepen the market, foreign investment in infrastructure companies' bonds should be liberalised. Other self-imposed constraints that must be got rid off are the norms that limit how much banks can invest in the infrastructure sector. For risk management reasons, all big investors are subject to what are called "sectoral caps". Yet, so large and investment-heavy are infrastructure projects that funding just one could take you to your cap; other available projects will thus go a-begging. Ensuring that investors are exposed to various different sectors might make sense in the West, where economies are not growing at 8 or 9 per cent and infrastructure is basically in place. Here, other standards are needed; what is more risky is not allowing people to diversify across projects, rather than across sectors. Exposure norms must be loosened to help projects get off the ground.

There remains, of course, the question of political will to get infrastructure built, without which much of this will be useless. As long as fear of the private sector or a slavish dedication to an outdated non-reformist mindset holds back the clearances of important projects, investment will not materialise. For the Twelfth Plan to succeed in mobilising the resources it must, that will, too, must be summoned.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SIGN LANGUAGE

 

Despite the March 2009 decision that tobacco products would come with grim pictorial warnings, India is yet to get going on the plan. Earlier pictures of scorpions and blackened lungs were rejected as being too vague, but the health ministry's sharper, hard-hitting images were shot down by a group of ministers as too harsh, even as tobacco manufacturers protested the "ambiguous" messaging. Now, the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity has drafted another set of warnings. The logic is, only images can chase out images, and it will take an onslaught of off-putting pictures to stamp out the associations of empowerment, nonchalance and grown-up glamour that cigarettes once evoked.

In 2008, 160 nations pledged to institute pictorial warnings after a WHO convention. They now have punishing strictures that lay down how much of the carton's surface should be covered with the warning, that forbids any deceptive word that suggests that the habit is "light", "mild" or "low-tar". These pictures of rotting teeth and suppurating tumours are meant to make it very clear that smoking is not badass, it's just bad. Of course, studies have questioned the efficacy of these visual campaigns, and there are clear limits to what cultural vilification can achieve. It's unlikely that they will make hardened smokers snap out of their denial — because they are physically addicted to nicotine, not just mentally in thrall to it. But these warnings can have a positive impact on casual smokers, and dissuade the undecided others.

In India, the more insidious danger is chewing tobacco, which has largely escaped the regulatory glare even though 163.7 million out of India's 274.9 million tobacco users are not smokers. Small sachets of fragrant gutka are sold as an inoffensive stimulant, and consumed by men and women, even children. The health ministry plans to extend these warnings to smokeless tobacco as well. Worldwide, a harsh regime of prohibitive taxes and a visual campaign of tobacco-deterrence have worked in tandem — Australia recently decided to drop all colour and branding logos from cigarette packs in future, and hiked taxes. Hopefully, India will take a cue.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DUMMY RUN

 

It's an election-time curiosity, the dummy candidate, that short-lived oddity who exists just for a few hectic weeks before the elections. The very phrase, unofficially murmured in party offices, hints at the duplicity of it all: the dummy isn't here to win. For such a peripheral character, it has many subspecies: there's the type who stays in the background, ready to step into the fray in case the real candidate's nomination paper gets rejected; there's the spoilsport, who has a name similar to a prominent candidate's and whose solitary function is to distract the electorate on the EVM and snatch the votes of a few undiscerning; and the ultra-deceptive third, fielded solely to conceal the electoral expenditure of a party and hoodwink the EC.

Tamil Nadu Congress chief K.V. Thangkabalu was clearly the first one, with a few important qualifiers — when the candidature of his wife Jayanthi, a non-entity in the party, drew widespread criticism, he was forced to become "the substitute candidate". The substitute, much to his surprise, eventually became the real one when Jayanthi's nomination papers got rejected on Monday. The Thangkabalu instance is peculiar in that instead of revealing the familiar, misleading tactics of a party to gain an electoral edge, it highlights the faultlines within it — the collisions and disengagement between the central command and the local rung — when the final list of candidates is made. The surprise element, though not the criticism, was similar to what K.T. Benny's candidature evoked in Kerala — the state Congress leaders were taken aback when this relatively little-known Youth Congress worker found a place on the list approved by Delhi.

While the third subspecies of the dummy candidate is clearly the EC's headache, the Thangkabalu variant is a party's problem: the lack of inner-party democracy leading to gross arbitrariness in choosing candidates. And that's something we can and should do without.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

PLAYING THE POLITICAL GAME

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's googly of an invitation to Pakistan's civilian leaders to come and join the party at Mohali tomorrow has evoked three broad Indian responses — impressionistic, technical and political.

The first is the proposition that "cricket diplomacy" has not worked before. This seemingly empirical affirmation misses the point. It is not the job of cricket diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir question or any other dispute between India and Pakistan.

Its purpose is to seize a major sporting moment and set up a high-level political engagement between heads of government that was not on the cards. Whether such unscheduled summits produce political breakthroughs is an entirely different matter.

With only two precedents to go by, the record of Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy is even. General Zia-ul-Haq's trip to Jaipur in 1987 was a manoeuvre at the height of military tensions between the two countries. Zia was signalling Pakistan's self-assurance by putting his newly acquired nuclear card on the table.

In contrast, Pervez Musharraf's visit to Delhi in April 2005 turned out to be hugely productive. Coming after a series of failed summits, the conversation between Dr Singh and General Musharraf was a game-changer, at least for a while.

The two leaders had agreed to resolve the conflicts over Siachen glacier and the Sir Creek. They also defined the broad principles of a potential settlement of the Kashmir question. More positive things happened between India and Pakistan in the two years after Musharraf's April 2005 visit than in the previous four decades. This included an unprecedented back channel negotiation on Kashmir.

Although Dr Singh and Musharraf declared that the peace process was irreversible, it did not survive Musharraf's loss of political control. Once Musharraf was replaced by General Ashfaq Kayani as army chief in 2007, the peace process went into a tailspin.

The second response is a technical one. It points to the fact that the two foreign secretaries had announced last month a step-by-step plan to revive the peace process and argues that the prime minister has needlessly short-circuited it.

A series of official meetings at the bureaucratic level — the first between the home secretaries is on this week — would be followed by a review of the developments by the two foreign secretaries and the foreign ministers.

Right or wrong, India's Pakistan policy has always been driven by the gut instincts of the prime ministers rather than the carefully crafted approaches by the diplomatists. If the mood at Mohali turns out to be good, Dr Singh and Gilani might help give the dialogue at the bureaucratic level a much needed boost.

In any case, they cannot do much harm to a process that has been in the doldrums ever since the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and the terror outrage in Mumbai in November 2008.

The civilian leaders — PM Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari — were neither responsible for these attacks nor can they make amends. By insisting on what they cannot deliver, India has put itself in a no-win situation.

The third response is that Dr Singh is simply playing politics at Mohali. We fervently hope this is true. For far too long, the prime minister has treated foreign policy as a technical issue, while his opponents mounted motivated political attacks against his diplomatic initiatives.

Take, for example, the historic civil nuclear initiative. The prime minister's attempt to liberate India from three-and-a-half-decades of high technology sanctions was painted as a sell-out to the United States. Despite losing the argument in 2008, the opportunistic BJP and the ideologically blinkered Left continue to present one of India's greatest diplomatic triumphs as some kind of treason.

Dr Singh is partly responsible for this pitiful state of affairs. He allowed opponents define the foreign policy of his government as having a single-point agenda — doing the nuclear deal with the US.

For whatever reason, Dr Singh did not publicise the bolder moves he made towards Pakistan and China in his first term as prime minister. The nuclear deal was indeed important, but it is no comparison to the courageous territorial settlements he was trying to negotiate with Islamabad and Beijing. These talks involved rethinking many of India's traditional assumptions about its frontiers. Taken to their logical conclusion, they would have positively transformed India's security condition and the regional order in and around the subcontinent.

Unwilling to take the nation into political confidence on the negotiations with Pakistan and China, Dr Singh allowed the BJP and CPM to join forces in their attacks on his government's foreign policy.

If Dr Singh had missed the opportunity to triangulate the opposition on foreign policy, he can do it now. If he returns to making bold moves on Pakistan and China, he can bet that the radicals on the left will rally behind him and the hawks on the right will attack him.

If he takes a political perspective of the dialogue with Gilani, Dr Singh might find he has some room to play in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The political arrangements that came into being after Musharraf's departure are now shaky and any political moves by India at this stage might have some influence on the evolution of the internal situation across the western border.

After Mohali, Dr Singh must now offer to visit Pakistan soon and sign off on some of the agreements he had already negotiated with Musharraf's army. Given the deep divisions in Pakistan, there is no guarantee that he will succeed. But the very demonstration of the will to act politically on foreign policy and national security might let Dr Singh regain the initiative at home, in the region and beyond.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

YIELDING VARIETY

YOGINERKALAGH

 

The seed economy is critical to India's development. The reasons are many. Apart from a few projects, canal irrigation is expanding slowly and is concentrated only in select areas. Ground-water use is under stress. Cropped area is at best constant. A slowly growing agriculture, at 3 per cent a year at the outside, is constraining the sustainability of the economy's level 8 per cent growth. In such a situation, seeds, nutrients and crop protection are the main sources of growth.

The 3 per cent growth economy is facing a very slow growth of grain demand, but there is a 5-8 per cent growth in the annual demand for commercial crops, fruits and horticulture. A fast growth in animal husbandry will also mean requirement of fodder — maize or corn for poultry and lucerne and other green fodder for cattle.

Our seed systems are honed for cereals and we are particularly good in self-pollinated crops — first wheat and now paddy. But, here, the next round of technology needs the spread of super seeds, hybrid paddy and so on since the land under cultivation of grains should come down to release land for crops where demand elasticity is more — like fruits, vegetables and feed for animal husbandry products. It is quite a tall order and we are only now dimly understanding it.

India is too big for the world to feed its growth and we can only use trade to adjust at the margin. The department of agriculture has on its website and pulses portal given some details of an excellent pulses development programme, to raise yield to, say, 12 to 15 quintals per hectare. I am glad that William Dar, the director-general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), has recently endorsed this — for the development, in different agro-climatic regions where pulses are grown, of seeds with the highest yields in the world, which are above two tonnes per hectare. If we get on the drawing board now, it would take four to five years. We need such strategies for many crops in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

To meet such needs, both money and mobilisation of scarce technical talent are required. We also need great management and organisational abilities to cover the last mile in a long-haul problem. Sometimes I despair but we have to constantly remind ourselves that when we set clear goals, commit resources and persevere, our systems perform. Since entry costs are high, this is probably not a highly competitive industry. Since product obsolescence too is high, the PPP mould is probably very effective. The hybrid paddy project was being developed two decades ago, but it failed because of lack of perseverance once the technology was jointly developed by public-sector groups like the seed corporations and companies like Indo American Hybrid Seeds, Lever and so on. Recently, the Sadguru Foundation has reported that tribal farmers are taking to hybrid maize that gives yields up to two-and-a-half tonnes per hectare. Under Project Sunshine in Gujarat, seeds developed by an MNC were distributed at subsidised rates to tribal farmers.

Given the long-term nature of the problem and the fact that large investment is needed to develop new molecules, a degree of regulation will be needed. Investors need a reasonable assurance of returns or they will not commit financial and, more importantly, experienced managerial and technical resources. For pulses itself, I expect the research plan to cost hundreds of crores of rupees, if the experience of hybrid paddy is any indication. Such PPP projects will need public-resource commitments in terms of meeting the so-called viability gaps. Also, public-sector involvement is essential for sustainability and environmental-safety aspects. A Central organisation working on what are called long-range, marginal cost principles, which have been advocated for power projects, for example, could work out fair pricing solutions. Anybody doing better than the average efficiency cost estimates, giving a fair rate of return, would keep the profits. It has been demonstrated time and again that the nation gains in such strategies. For example, pricing strategies which rely on group efficiency cost norms have given very powerful returns in terms of energy savings in the nitrogenous fertiliser industry and after eight years of discussion, it is reported that a committee under a planning commission member is suggesting this approach, which was the basis of pricing which a committee that I chaired had recommended many years ago.

It is important that the approach of a national regulator suggested in the proposed Seeds Bill is properly designed and implemented by law. Instead, we are going through an extremely destructive regulation of states like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, through state price control acts. This is short-sighted. By cutting down normal profits in the industry after R&D has been done, this will discourage investment in the sector. Then, there are, of course, the Luddites who don't want any research in this area at all. The stand that the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, has taken on hybrids and GM seeds and the plea for state autonomy which will kill the goose that lays the golden egg is not very well advised.

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'WE HAVE ONE OF THE MOST CREATIVE AND VIBRANT MEDIA BUSINESS IN INDIA, BUT IT'S ONLY A FRACTION OF THE SIZE IT SHOULD BE'

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

I'm sure somebody in your family has today seen something on TV, in a movie hall, or some place in the media for which James Murdoch is responsible. The Murdochs love the media. And the media sometimes loves you, sometimes loves to hate you. How do you deal with it? Because you're also, at the end of the day, running a business.

At the end of the day, it's a business that we're hugely passionate about. My father started a business in the '50s. And we've always come up against, preferred to come up against, established players. Sometimes, when you upset the status quo, then people love to hate you. And they get worked up about it. But for us, as long as we can just look at a marketplace and see if there's something that we can do a little bit better, focus on our customer a little bit more, create a choice where there wasn't one before, then obviously that's a good opportunity. As long as we stay focused on that, we can deal with all the noise around it.

Murdochs are pilloried for changing the rules of the game, sort of negatively, for destroying journalism, etc. Your father is truly passionate about journalism. He's actually a journalist in the garb of a businessman, a publisher.

Our family and this whole company fundamentally believes in journalism. We believe in bringing stories from around the world in a way that is straightforward and adds something. We started as one small newspaper in Adelaide in Australia and everywhere we went, it was always about investing in our products, investing in journalism, in particular the newspaper business or the television news business, and trying to create new things out of that. So for us, journalism is at the very foundation of the whole company and really the foundation of what we're trying to do, which is provide something of real utility to our viewers and our readers everywhere.

That question sometimes comes up in India now. People who build the media, then try to build other businesses. What I call mixing...'fourth estate with real estate'. It's funny that the Murdochs haven't quite got seduced by that idea. Because you'd rather make your money from the media instead of oil refineries.

Maybe we're just not clever enough at doing all those other things, but we've always found that actually having an independent media, where all you do is the media business...it keeps you very, very accountable to your customer, and also your customer understands that you're not part of some other faction. And one of the big problems we have in the business is that you have a media springing up that is factionalised, that's part of an industrial or political faction and seeks those out. So for us, as an independent company, this is one of our great strengths.

The faction you seem to hate, detest most of all, is the BBC. To sort of question the BBC in the context of trust is both audacious and creative, I would say.

Oh no. First of all, the BBC has done some incredible stuff. The output of the BBC is often very inspiring, of extraordinary quality. But I do think that in a free marketplace, and particularly in a democratic marketplace, we have to be very, very careful when we think about state intervention in the media sector, subsidy and things like that. And I think it is worth raising those things.

That lecture (the MacTaggart lecture he delivered at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2009) was an inspired piece of writing and speaking. The line that you used there, you said that "profit is the only durable, permanent, verifiable guarantor of independence."

The issue is of being self-sustaining. It's about being self-sufficient. That really is a guarantor of independence. Because the absence of being beholden to a faction is something we should all strive to create.

Elaborate on that a little more—the lack of profit, lack of self-sustaining ability becoming an impediment to freedom.

I think a good example is when you have a huge rush for people to get into the news business. Today in India, we have what...80 plus television news channels, right? All of them are not going to be able to run a viable, profitable enterprise. And you do sometimes have to question: what are the motivations? And who's rushing into this space?

Many of these now are a case of real estate to fourth estate. Not the other way round.

Exactly and there's risk in that. Now, you don't begrudge anyone investing, and trying to create jobs. But you also have to think it through...what that means to the sector and how important it is to have a few self-sustaining, large-scale broadcasters or enterprises. In our sector, here in India as well, one of the key issues is how do you free up the environment for investment, that's rational investment, around making independent and self-sustaining businesses as opposed to the example that you cited.

That, if I read correctly, is also the theme of your address at FICCI. You talk about hurdles...this great creative boom that's ready to happen but is not allowed to happen.

It's incredible. We have one of the most creative and vibrant sectors here, entertainment and news business in India. But it's only a fraction of the size it should be. If you look at Canada, for example, it has a sort of media and digital media sector that is three times the size of India's today.

What does India have to do to make that happen? What is blocking the growth of the sector in India?

I think it's probably true in a lot of industries. It's really about removing a lot of the friction in the system. I think also you have a lot of interests who protect themselves from foreign competition and domestic competition. And I think we have to remove some of the blockages, be they investment restrictions or structural restrictions. In media, we have cross-media ownership rules. Ultimately, it's a barrier to structural innovation. And ultimately, it creates barriers to infrastructure competition. When you have infrastructure competition, things happen very, very rapidly. Thirty million Indian families now choose to take proper, 21st century digital television, with all of the choice and quality as well as transparency that comes with it. And that transparency brings tax receipts, brings jobs, brings other things. In a very short amount of time, in a decade of trying to digitise, for example, the cable industry in this country, hardly any of it has happened, less than one per cent. You have lessons there.

You're really fretting about the domination of the cable industry.

No, I think where you have infrastructure competition, it's making a huge impact. But we need to accelerate. Moving it beyond just thinking about the media sector. But really, it's the sectors where we have global competition here, in software and services, for example, hospitality and other things, where we created Indian powerhouses that can really go and compete outside, globally.

What's been your most frustrating moment in India?

There have been a few, but they have been so outweighed by the positives. There are very few markets that have welcomed us the way that India has, the way that Indian customers have.

People say that all your problems get solved in Delhi. Every bureaucrat has somebody—a mother, mother-in-law, a wife, a daughter, a daughter-in-law—who's watching one of your serials.

I hope so. I'm thankful for them if it's true. Probably, the frustrations are when you see a lack of predictability in the environment, so that means new tax regimes, or ownership restrictions like in the television news business—what happened with Star News a number of years ago when they put an FDI cap-in. But these things are only frustrations. At the end of the day, we've actually been able to build a business here that has a lot of great people in it.

Have you ever thought of print in India? Or are you still worried about the 26 per cent limitation? Your father always says "I want majority".

It's really a question of how much we can take on and what we can do. Right now, the opportunity is so great in digital television. To continue to drive the digital television agenda and the creative agenda in our entertainment and television news business, that's where we really are focused on. Everybody likes to talk about "what are they going to do about print in India" and what not, etc. We have some associations and licencing and we'll continue with that. We publish books here, we have a joint venture with HarperCollins. The bigger point is that for us, India is one of our integrated kind of markets. It's something that stands on its own two feet, relative to our European business, relative to our Latin-American and some of our American businesses. India for us is a global priority because the business, for us as an investor, has started to show so much promise.

Is this a very different country from the one you came to the first time in your life in '98? In fact, you mentioned it in your FICCI speech. You came to ski.

It was wonderful, we went up to Kulu valley, flying in helicopters to the high mountains. I had no inkling of how much time I would spend in India in the future and what a big impact it was going to have. But that first experience, going into Delhi and then waiting because the planes were cancelled, going up north and then getting up there. It is only 13 years ago. But looking at what's changed in the country, it's like a miracle has happened.

That wasn't much after your...sort of crazy days at Harvard? Your bleached hair and your eyebrow...

I think it's important to get your youthful indiscretions out of the way very early. To put them behind us.

And dropping out of Harvard...because that completes the classical global businessman's CV.

Yes, well, I have a lot to live up to there in future, given the other dropouts.

You also drew cartoons at Harvard. Is there any that you remember?

They're all a little risque for television. I always drew cartoons...and I still draw and paint as much as I can, with my children now.

You draw and paint, you do karate, you do competitive cycling. Tell me about cartooning.

I think the cartooning business was really fun. But the thing about the cartooning business is that you lay it out on the page and then you're immediately accountable for what happened. So now I think about my old cartoons, there was one about World War I, there were others about basketball, there were all sorts of vague things and I'm only grateful that they all seem to have disappeared. They were pre-digital, you see. So they're gone now. My favourite was about a quiet Hun named Albright who didn't want to fight. And it was about his resistance to all of the peer pressure, of butchery and so on and so forth. And I got into a lot of trouble for that later on.

I was reading a profile, a piece that Emily Bell wrote on you in The Guardian. She said, "What is more dangerous than Rupert Murdoch? A 30-year-old Rupert Murdoch with a 12-billion dollar company." That's when you came to Sky. You proved her wrong.

I'm very proud of what the company did at Sky over the years, actually. To take a business from scratch 20 years ago and create something like it is today was something that has very rarely been done in the world. The Sky business is one that has delivered an enormous amount of choice, of quality to the customers.

In another profile, a writer says, "Rupert Murdoch's idea was to make journalism sell. And James's idea is to make journalism pay. " Do you remember that line?

I do remember that line. My father has been an innovator in the business of journalism his whole life. And he's built a business that—be it electronic journalism, print journalism, or the convergence of the two now with new digital products—is something we feel is in much, much better health than a lot of people think. And I think there are a lot of people in the journalism business who are worried about it. We look at our titles and our franchises and our channels and these are very healthy franchises. The key thing is, you have to be willing to make big moves. We have to be willing to say we're going to do things that the establishment says can't be done. Like charging for our news online, which, we think, is fundamental.

The New York Times has decided to do it.

I know they did. They have ignored the fact that they denied that they were going to do it for so long. But the fact of the matter is, there's nothing wrong with charging a fair price for your product. Your customers will tell you if it's unfair.

Do you think that problem is now cracked? Of making people pay for content?

I don't think it's cracked. It's not really about making them pay, it's about what they choose to pay for. If we look at television, if we look at the Indian marketplace again, 120 million families pay for television from either their cable operator or their DTH operator and most of the successful channels in the business get affiliate income as well, much like the US cable system.

Another thing that's said is, "Ink doesn't run in James Murdoch's veins." You've heard that before.

In this business, across the company, there's a lot of ink running around. We've been investing in the quality of our products, we've been innovating with respect to how we actually sell our products. For example, the pay products online and things like that. And the newspapers in the UK, where I'm based, are actually having some of their best years. The Sun newspaper, for example, just had a record year. I think journalism business is really at the core of our company. But more importantly, the journalism business and the newspaper businesses are really under-appreciated in terms of their future promise. I don't ascribe to this idea that it's a dying business, it's old media.

But tell me, do Rupert and James have an argument once in a while? Tell me about one. Doesn't matter whether you won it or lost it.

I usually lose them. He's the boss, after all, right? For me, the important thing is that our discussions around decisions that the company makes and how we move things forward, usually end up in trying to get the benefit of all of the experience the company has.

What's the most interesting thing he said to you? That's close to your heart?

One of the things that really stuck with me was, someone was asking him if he could sum things up in one word. And he didn't hesitate at all. He simply said, "choice". And for me, that was so powerful. It's really the culture that we tried to inculcate in our whole company. How do you provide additional choice for your customers? How do you provide choice that wasn't there? And that's about trusting a customer. And that's a very powerful emotion.

James, we know you now to be the India specialist in the Murdoch family. It's wonderful to have this conversation with you. It's taken a long time happening. But I hope we have many more.

Transcribed by Rajkrishnan Menon. For full text, visit www.indianexpress.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

RACING FOR ENERGY SECURITY

It is difficult to envisage business rivals to bid jointly for any projects but the huge rise in energy prices has apparently brought together three Indian companies to bid for stakes in two coal mines in Australia. The bid comes after they realised none of them on their own could hope to make the purchase. The race for energy security in the globe is now so intense that valuations are racing to unprecedented heights. For steel and power companies, the advantage of setting up short-term contracts for raw materials, especially coal, has all but disappeared after international mining companies cartelised prices, so bidding for coal blocks makes enormous sense.

Closer home, an indication of how close the race has become in the energy sector is evident in the number of bids received on Monday for the 33 oil and gas blocks, the petroleum ministry had put up for exploration as part of the ninth New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). The bids have come through despite the government having withdrawn the seven-year income-tax holiday for earnings from the production of oil from the NELP blocks. The initial protests from companies have all died out as they scurry instead for pole position. The rising interest is also powered by the game-changing alliances in the global mineral sweepstakes. Rio Tinto, for instance, hopes to buy a majority share in the Australian coal producer, Riversdale Mining, although it has run into short-term problems as its revised offer price had not attracted enough shares till Monday. A large percentage of the chase is fuelled by the rising demand for energy from India and China to meet their growth needs. But while companies like PetroChina have sewn up a large supply chain, the record of the Indian companies so far has been patchy. The latest report of the CAG on ONGC Videsh, India's flagship vehicle for buying hydrocarbon assets abroad, shows that in the past six years the company has made profits mainly due to the rise in the price of crude. Of the 36 assets acquired at a cost of R6,206.83 crore, OVL has achieved success in only five projects, of which only one has reached production stage. But the solutions suggested by the report to develop a policy on investment opportunities and guidelines on joint ventures will only cripple the efforts further. If the CAG wanted proof, it is available in the record of Coal Videsh, where the five sponsor public sector companies delayed a decision for so long they could not even put in an initial bid for Riversdale. Nearly two years after its formation, Coal Videsh has not even a single asset it can show for its labour.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BANK WITH ME

The intense competition developing in the Indian corporate sector to acquire bank licences is proving very salutary. As Reliance Industries' announcement of a joint venture with global private equity and hedge-fund DE Shaw shows, companies are exploring new models to make their applications pass the expected RBI scrutiny. Chances are the new joint venture will also pitch for an NBFC status initially. Other industrial houses like the Tatas and the Aditya Birla group, and NBFCs like Shriram Finance, IL&FS, IFCI and L&T Finance are already in the field. The race to stand out from a me-too syndrome is intense. This is good, as it means the new licence holders will push for financial innovation that the Indian banking space sorely needs. While some things will not change, like the competition to mobilise CASA for a cheaper source of funds, the new private banks will have to innovate on differentiated business models that profitably bring the unreached banking area into the fold. There is enough room for positive innovation, like the telecom-based banking correspondent model. In the urbanscape, a similar example is that of life insurance companies piggybacking on mall visitors (mallassurance), apparently in a cost-effective manner. The need for differentiated models has been spelt out in the Survey, which has proposed two types of licences—one for basic banking and another for full-fledged banking.

There are concerns about possible concentration of capital, but as RBI spells out norms for corporate governance and group and individual borrowing limits, the competition can be expected to do the rest. It will hinge on the outreach created by the new banks. The opportunities include tapping opportunities in credit cards, consumer finance and wealth management on the retail side and fee-based income and investment banking on the wholesale side. These will require new skill sets in sales and marketing, credit and operations. As banks no longer enjoy the windfall treasury gains that the decade-long secular decline in interest rates provided, they will have to cater to the needs of consumers who are demanding enhanced institutional capabilities and services. PSBs have been stymied by their highly similar pattern of operations that has left little room for local banking. With total banking credit being less than even 50% of the GDP, there is a lot of space for new banks to develop robust models.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TO PREDICT, OR NOT TO PREDICT
SURJIT S BHALLA

First things first. The Congress party and the PM Manmohan Singh were not able to set a single foot right (okay maybe a couple of feet, but that is all) for the last several months. Now, after the BJP has shot itself, again, with the cash-for-votes scam of its own creation (how many lives can BJP afford to have?), the Congress has got renewed energy, and purpose, and vision. Manmohan Singh's invitation to PM Gilani was a genuine gesture for peace. However, I have been shockingly amazed at the criticism he has received for just a natural, spontaneous and gracious invitation. Can we just end this petty politics and enjoy the cricket? And if neighbours are helped towards being brotherly neighbours again, who loses? No one, except those who would want to spread terror.

So, onwards towards cricket and forecasts. In my last article, Pretending to be Paul (FE, March 23), I had alluded to the statistical fun one can have with cricket. In particular, on the basis of a mathematical model developed by CricketX*, I made some forecasts for the evolving World Cup differing from the model only for the too-close-to-call India vs Australia match where I had postulated that home advantage would give India the needed edge over Australia. Three out of four forecasts turned out to be right—the only wrong 'un being the New Zealand win over South Africa—a genuine upset. Now if you are one of those who feel, as the Bard might have put it, that it is better to have forecast and lost (some) than to have never forecast at all, then let us see what one can predict, and get some right, and not have our ego, or our model, bruised. The very reason cricket has glorious uncertainties attached to it is, well, because of uncertainty, i.e., you cannot get it all right, because if you could you would be an octopus, and like Paul, probably dead by now.

There are some cricket analysis and forecast Websites—however, none of them attempts to predict the score of the team

batting first. There are good reasons why this is not attempted—one does not know how the pitch will turn out to be during the course of the game, which is a large determinant of whether the score would be 245 (the average ODI score in the subcontinent for the last 100 matches) or 150 or 350. So many unknowns, so many uncertainties, what to do?

Well, build a model to forecast the first innings score. The accompanying table shows all the score forecasts, warts and all, made before the match, obviously, and available at CricketX. A caveat—the attempt is to do a difficult forecast, perhaps even an impossible one. What's the fun, or analysis, in making a safe forecast? Getting back to the results or the errors! There are some spectacular boo-boos—not "expecting" Tornado Taylor's pyrotechnics, New Zealand was supposed to have scored only 257 in the match against Pakistan—the actual score, 302. Two more back to back failures, and perhaps not only co-incidentally, both matches involved, again, Pakistan. Australia should have scored 295 but achieved only 176; West Indies were crippled for 112, when 240-plus was for the asking in "normal" circumstances or against teams other than Pakistan. Warning before the

Mohali match on Wednesday?

Now to the more accurate predictions. Let us examine what CricketX did get right. There are 5 out of 9 spot-on first innings forecasts! The median absolute error for the last 9 matches is just 5%, a margin even allowed by measurements in physics—the most accurate science. Is it any better than predicting the average? Yes. If one just went about predicting the score as 245, one would end up with a median absolute error of 11%—twice as much. And in the last three quarter-final matches, CricketX has been on a roll. Australia against India—predicted score 250, scored 260. New Zealand vs South Africa—predicted score 210, achieved 221. And the best for last—England were predicted to score 225, and they achieved just a boundary over that.

Perhaps the model is due for a shellacking, what statisticians call a reversal to the mean. But our luck could be the reverse of Dhoni's with the toss. So without further suspense, here is our prediction for tomorrow's semi-final clash between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. If the shock winners bat first, CricketX expects them to score 230. If it is Sri Lanka, then the expected score is 270. And the probability of winning—63-37 in favour of the home team.

And notwithstanding the result, right or wrong, we will be back tomorrow with the prediction for the mega-match at Mohali. Motto of the forecasts—may the best team win and may CricketX be right!

*Please visit http://cricketx2011.wordpress.com for behind the scenes enjoyment of the great game of cricket

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

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

DEFENCE, BEYOND ACTION-REACTION
DEBA R MOHANTY

Yet again, India's defence budget has escaped larger national attention this year. The defence component of the national budget accounts for 14% of central government expenditure but gets less than 5% of media space, the bulk of which goes towards data released by the government with sporadic analyses by experts. Virtually no discussion on the issue takes place in Parliament either. A call for increased resources for national defence usually only goes out when defence spending by Pakistan and China makes headlines.

The world has seen such an action-reaction syndrome play out at the highest levels during the Cold War period. Both the US and the USSR devoted so many resources to their military capabilities that the world military expenditure had already touched $1.26 trillion by 1987. The following decade saw the biggest slump in military expenditure, which plummeted to $704 billion by 1996. Global military expenditure actually started looking up again even before 9/11 and it stood at $1.56 trillion in 2009. No country (or even the top 15 countries put together) comes close to the US military spend, which accounts for nearly 55% of the global expenditure. So it does not matter much when the US announces military spending cuts to the tune of $80 billion in the next five years. A corresponding increase in military expenditure by countries like China and India may just compensate for marginal cuts by the US or the UK. Significant cuts in military spending, however, are highly unlikely in the near future.

Three assumptions typify the current security scenario and generally determine the course of defence spending by states. First, receding nuclear and conventional threats in the West account for a drastic reduction in military budgets, especially seen in Europe. Second, global responsibilities coupled with the emergence of newer threats determine the course of American military spending, which is staying well ahead of others. Third, a combination of security dynamics and larger global power ambitions determine the military spending trends in countries like China and India. Somewhere in between are the countries of West Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa, whose military expenditure trends show different patterns. The increase in Russia's military expenditure in recent times is compensatory in nature rather than reflecting a quantum jump in military might.

Justifying military expenditure on the grounds of action-reaction is often found to be an easy way for the interest groups to demand more allocations. This is true of most countries, including the US. Even though some attribute the increase in US military spending to its global commitments and others to China's increasing importance, the huge gap between the respective military budgets of the two countries will take decades to be reduced, to say the least. Similarly, a China-India parity will certainly not happen in the immediate future.

A meaningful comparison between states' military capabilities is not easy, either from quantitative or qualitative prisms. It also does not matter beyond a point, as history teaches us that even a mighty state can be made vulnerable from unexpected quarters. Resources allocations for the military hence become a national choice, mainly revolving around a country's perceived or real threats, spending capacity and strategic ambitions. India's spending on defence should be examined from these angles.

A set of pointers are placed here for further debate on the subject. First, security conditions necessitate that India enhance its military capacity, hence a rise in allocations in the last few years. Second, spending capability is now directly linked to India's growing economic might, a trend likely to stay for at least a couple of decades. Third, striking a right balance is becoming more evident as the Indian MoD is striving to reduce revenue expenditure, pegged at R95,216 crore and accounting for nearly 58% of the allocations. Fourth, what is visible in the last ten years is a definite inclination towards equipment modernisation efforts as the capital expenditure has increased close to 600%, from R12,100 crore in 2001-02 to R69,200 crore this year. Fifth, allocations for R&D at R10,253 crore constitute about 6% of the budget, which is grossly insufficient.

India is now bragging itself as a ranking power, but a look at its spending patterns in defence says it all. Except for massive capital outlays, there is no other evidence to suggest reasons for India's hard power ascendancy in real terms, which should be equally complemented by a competent institutional mechanism, a robust force structure and a will to think beyond the action-reaction (read Pakistan and China). A country that sees itself as a self-reliant power with an arsenal of imported weapons is a contradiction in itself, which requires massive R&D allocations, up to the tune of 15% of defence expenditure for an indefinite period. In sum, as noted scholars Barry Buzan and Eric Herring point out, the state must prioritise its resources keeping its larger strategic goals in mind. In the case of India, this translates into being a well-organised (beyond regional) military power backed up by a formidable scientific and industrial defence base.

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

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PADDING UP FOR BETTER TIES

Irrespective of whether 'cricket diplomacy' between New Delhi and Islamabad gets third-time lucky — Zia-ul Haq tried it in 1987 and Pervez Musharraf in 2005 — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must be commended for sticking his neck out and inviting Pakistan's President and Prime Minister to Mohali to share in an event that will be watched by hundreds of millions of people in the subcontinent and around the world on Wednesday. Since the high-excitement World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan coincides with the resumption of full spectrum dialogue after a hiatus of 27 months, much is being read into the invitation, which has been received in Pakistan with guarded optimism amid talk of a possible high-level interaction on non-cricketing issues as well. But even if nothing tangible comes out of it, the sight of the two premiers sitting side-by-side cheering their teams and applauding good efforts from either side makes for powerful imagery. Cynics on both sides of the border have sought to dismiss this latest edition of cricket diplomacy as a non-starter, given the general impression that neither Prime Minister carries much weight within the government he heads. In Pakistan, Dr. Singh is viewed as a man isolated in his advocacy of better relations with Islamabad and some have interpreted the invitation as an attempt by the telecom-scam-cum-WikiLeaks-bruised premier to deflect attention from the damage caused to his image.

Whatever happens on the cricket field on Wednesday, there can be no denying the feel-good factor Dr. Singh's invitation and the Pakistan President's reciprocal gesture of pardoning a long-incarcerated Indian prisoner have generated. The Facebook generation seems to have caught on to the spirit; creating a 'Together We Shall Win' link that is already celebrating the subcontinent's half-a-chance at winning the cup and deciding to cheer together irrespective of which team goes on to Mumbai for the final. Since this is the generation for whom today's policymakers are supposed to be making decisions, the sentiment ought to be celebrated even if history is replete with instances of bilateral relations souring on one pretext or another, including non-inclusion of Pakistani players in the IPL teams last season. A U.S. Embassy cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaKs and published on March 15, reported former National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan's embarrassingly frank observation that the Prime Minister was isolated within his own inner circle on the question of how to deal with Pakistan. On this crucial issue, it is Dr. Singh who is right and he must be supported in staying the course. Non-engagement with Pakistan is not a real option for India; and engagement, if it is to be meaningful, must necessarily encompass dialogue on outstanding issues.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

UNINTENDED BOOSTERS

The Economic Survey 2010-11 makes the fairly obvious point that it is necessary to get the micro-foundations of the economy right for macroeconomic development. Among the key economic problems affecting the micro or unit level is of course inflation, which has remained persistently high for the greater part of this year. The RBI has recently raised its inflation target for 2010-11 by one percentage point to eight per cent. Food inflation, after showing signs of moderating, has climbed back to double digits. One of the key tasks is to understand how inflation, especially food inflation, affects the poor particularly severely. Not all segments are partaking of the fruits of economic growth in the same measure. While the average Indian may be better off — per capita incomes have risen by about 7 per cent — some sections of the people are worse off because their nominal incomes have hardly grown and inflation has negated whatever growth there has been. Moreover, despite the high real GDP growth, many in the bottom quintile of India's rural population, whose expenditure on food accounts for 67 per cent of their spending, are bound to be worse off.

The case for comprehensive policies to support inclusive growth and providing safety nets to the poor has never been stronger. It is certain that the relatively high inflation will accompany the expected high economic growth well into the medium term. In an insightful analysis the Survey points out that some undoubtedly beneficial developments have the unintended consequence of stoking inflation. Financial inclusion is on top of the agenda because it aims at encouraging particularly rural households that hold their savings in cash to deposit them with banks. Once the previously dormant money gets into a bank or a mutual fund, it automatically gets lent to other people, increasing the total money supply in the system. There is evidence from around the world that monetisation of the economy and the roping in of more and more people into formal financial systems add to the pressure on prices. Integration with the global economy can also create inflationary pressures. In India and other emerging economies the purchasing power parity (PPP) is low to begin with, but once industrialisation gathers pace, the PPP correction has to become smaller. This happens partly because of exchange rate changes but more substantially because the prices of basic non-traded goods and unskilled labour that ruled low catch up with the prices in the developed world.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

FAMILY MEDICINE & MEDICAL EDUCATION REFORM

THIS WEEK COULD SEE FAR-REACHING BENEFICIAL CONSEQUENCES FOR HEALTH CARE IN INDIA. BUT WE NEED TO ENSURE THAT THE EMERGING PARADIGM SHIFT DOES NOT MISS OUT ON WHAT MEDICAL EDUCATION CAN AND SHOULD DO TO OVERCOME THE INADEQUACIES.

P. ZACHARIAH

Recent events in our country have been full of sound and fury, which have disillusioned the public with their futility. But this week has the potential for promising developments in Indian medical education which, in turn, could have far-reaching beneficial consequences for health care in India. The Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI) has been continuously refining its proposals for major reforms in undergraduate medical education. These are to be discussed today with the State Directors of Medical Education and the Vice-Chancellors of universities, who together are the CEOs in this field of education.

The Board has been hard at work on these proposals for some months, with the aid of a designated Working Group for Undergraduate Medical Education. This Working Group, in turn, has been holding wide and sustained consultations with scores of expert groups, which have resulted in a general consensus that major changes are overdue and must occur expeditiously. Thus this week could be a rare, opportune and pregnant moment in the troubled history of regulation of medical education in India. The nation has a vital stake in ensuring that the emerging paradigm shift does not miss out on what medical education can and should do to overcome the inadequacies and inequities in our health care system. And to take our country to the happy consummation of quality assured and universal health care. There should not be a slip between the cup and the lip.

It is important to recognise the special potential and limitations of the present Board of Governors of the MCI, inherent in its origins. The long simmering discontent with the inefficiency and improprieties of the MCI finally erupted when, in April last year, its president was arrested on charges of corruption. The government moved quickly, in May 2011, to issue an ordinance entrusting the considerable powers of the elephantine Council to a small group of six nominated Governors. They were chosen with commendable care, both for their eminence in the profession and their reputation for integrity. In August, Parliament gave its assent to the provisions of the ordinance, but only for a one-year term ending in May 2011.

Thus, on the one hand, for the first time, a small body of reputed experts has the power and, indeed, the mandate to rectify the perceived wrongs of the MCI. They have recognised the need to move quickly on many other fronts as well such as shortage of medical manpower, quality of medical education, shortage of faculty in medical colleges, deficiencies in postgraduate training and so on. The issue of the short period of their trusteeship has now been resolved by extending their term to May 2012.

New medical graduate

Thus the MCI and the Health Ministry together are in a position to consummate this long process of gestation and produce a new Indian medical graduate. And hence the need and urgency to raise in the public domain one crucial aspect of reform of medical education which may not receive the priority it deserves. In spite of the danger of over simplification, the argument here can be stated briefly.

(1) It is generally agreed that the major challenge in health care is in ensuring sound and competent basic health care to the disadvantaged communities, both rural and urban. Indeed, it is an every day experience that even for those who can afford it, dependable and quality assured basic care is a very rare commodity.

(2) This type of care is non-specialised, has to address all common and urgent medical conditions, with limited laboratory and other facilities. It should ensure continuity of care for all members of the family, of all ages. It is mainly ambulatory. And it must include disease prevention and promotion of health, in the family and the community.

(3) Obviously this is not the kind of care that medical students are now exposed to in the so-called teaching hospitals. It is a different kind of clinical practice, usually referred to as Family Medicine (or family practice, though the former is a better term). This can be taught only through a significant exposure to secondary and primary levels of care, the lack of which is the foremost deficiency in Indian medical education today.

(4) Unless and until this component is introduced as a required part of the undergraduate course, India will never be able to solve the lack of competent, well trained, basic doctors in our primary and secondary level health clinics and hospitals. Without this, the proposed new medical graduate will not be the basic doctor who forms the backbone of a sound health care system all over the world and which India sorely needs.

The logic of this is such that a high powered "Retreat" of the Health Ministry on September 28 and 29, 2010 expressed its approval as follows: "Request the MCI to address the issue of curriculum change to make doctors more sensitive to primary health care. Subjects such as Family Medicine need to be given importance."

But there are many difficulties in this proposal which might result in its being put aside for the present. Health issues have never been a powerful element in our political discourse. They have never been a decisive factor in the elections, unlike in Britain or the U.S. So there is no great incentive for political parties to reflect on or act decisively on the societal responsibilities of medical education.

Electorate easily pacified

In the public perception, sound medical care is equal to access to particular medical interventions and publicised advances in medical care. The electorate is more easily pacified by the offer of medical insurance of the type instituted recently in the southern States. The move suggested above requires the creation of a speciality which hardly exists now. This discipline has to work in close coordination for the State health care system whereas the MCI works at a national level.

Family Medicine is not a field of medical practice that readily attracts the private sector or professionals who make their career decisions based on socio-economic rewards. And, therefore, at this moment in the formulation of the reforms in medical education, there is a special need for all the custodians of Indian medical education, especially the Ministry of Health, to act on behalf of the public to ensure the following:

About 20 to 25 per cent of clinical training, during the "clinical" phase of MBBS, should occur outside the teaching hospitals, at the primary/secondary levels.

Since this is quite different from tertiary care, new departments of Family Medicine should be established in all medical colleges to implement the above.

Either by arrangement with the State health care system or on their own, medical colleges must have sufficient clinical services at the primary/secondary levels to implement the above two. The outlay required for these, in faculty and infrastructure, is minor compared to the prevailing requirements for medical colleges.

There is a tide in the affairs of men. This week has the possibility of a tide which, taken at the flood, could lead to better health for all of us. "Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries."

(Dr. P. Zachariah was formerly a Professor of Physiology and continues to engage in issues in medical education.)

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THE HINDU

OPED

INDIA HANGS UP ON HOTLINE TO PENTAGON

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN


NEW DELHI: One metric in the Pentagon's quest for a deeper military-to-military engagement with countries is their willingness to post permanent "liaison officers" at the headquarters of specified U.S. command centres. India is "covered" by the American military's Pacific Command (PACOM) based in Hawaii. Pakistan and points west fall under the "jurisdiction" of the Florida-based Central Command (CENTCOM).

Since 2002, the U.S. has been suggesting that India station an officer at PACOM to facilitate better communication. While not rejecting the idea, the National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee suggested that India would rather work with CENTCOM. The Hawaii offer was repeated by PACOM commander William Fallon during his visit to India in April 2005 and followed up within days by Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca and the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in a meeting with Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar in New Delhi. "In response to Charge's reminder of CINCPAC ADM Fallon's invitation for an Indian liaison officer (LNO) to PACOM, Jaishankar asked if the US would also host an LNO at CENTCOM. He argued that many areas of Indian concern are west of the PACOM/CENTCOM divide, and that a relationship with CENTCOM would be helpful if India is to provide training in Iraq in the future. If both are possible, he added, it would be good to seek approval from the Indian system at one go."

The Americans, who had heard this argument before, were not buying it. "A/S Rocca reiterated her recommendation that relevant CENTCOM visitors to the region should consider visiting Delhi as well, but urged Jaishankar to focus first on getting an LNO to PACOM first, and not tie it to a similar request to CENTCOM," a cable dated April 19, 2005, quotes her as saying ( 31045: confidential).

Six years on, India has yet to post an LNO to PACOM or CENTCOM, with senior officials saying the country is not really looking at a military relationship of the kind where an officer needs to liaise directly with U.S. commands.

Another U.S. proposal India was lukewarm about was a hotline between the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence. The offer was first made when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met Defence Minister A.K. Antony in New Delhi in February 2008. During a follow-up meeting with Mr. Antony in May 2008, Ambassador David C. Mulford handed over a draft Memorandum of Understanding for "a dedicated Defense Telephone Line (DTL) between the U.S. and India. "Antony took the MOU … suggesting he would consider it and offer a substantive response once he has had the opportunity to review it," a cable dated May 16, 2008, notes ( 154212: secret).

In the same meeting, Mr. Mulford sought clarity on what India really thought about the bilateral and multilateral naval exercises held in recent years. The Ambassador "explained that lately the USG has received mixed signals from the GOI on India's willingness to be seen with us, such as when Antony expressed surprise at the USS Cole being involved in a recent port visit, and the media not being allowed to cover the Cole's community relations events."

The Raksha Mantri responded: "India is a complex democracy, with various parliamentary committees and political parties with competing interests. So while the Ministry of Defense welcomes the exercises themselves, political tensions can dictate that the events receive less visibility than we may want. 'We don't want to create a political controversy by proceeding in a high profile manner,' he reasoned, adding 'we have no problem with the exercises as such, but how to highlight them can be a problem.'"

The Ambassador's conclusion on this: "Exercises welcomed, publicity may be not."

As for the hotline to the Pentagon, senior Indian officials told The Hindu the offer was eventually turned down. "It's one thing to have a dedicated phone link as a confidence building measure with a country that one has a difficult relationship with. But this kind of hotline would be different. We are not looking at [a] relationship where the two Ministers need to constantly be in touch."

(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


STATUS OF FORCES AGREEMENT, NOT SO NEAR

'DON'T PUSH FOR IMMUNITY FOR U.S. PERSONNEL RIGHT NOW,' INDIA TOLD U.S.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN


NEW DELHI: In August 2005, the Defence Attache at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi wrote to the Ministry of External Affairs asking for the reiteration of an earlier "verbal understanding" it had received granting protections equivalent to that contained in a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to American military personnel present in India for exercises.

"In September 2001, your predecessor, Jayant Prasad, gave us verbal assurances that the US could count on SOFA legal coverage even without a formal agreement," he wrote to MEA Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar. "What we seek at this time, in essence, are MEA's re-assurances that all US DoD personnel deploying to India for purposes of exercises are still afforded diplomatic protections equivalent to the administrative and technical staff of the U.S. Embassy."

This was needed, the letter said, because the formal exchange of diplomatic notes might take time and might not get completed before upcoming military exercises. "However, as our exercise programs grow in scope and complexity...it is very important that India and US consider the legal status implications in case of accidents, or unfortunate incidents."

A confidential U.S. Embassy cable accessed by TheHindu through WikiLeaks reports Mr. Jaishankar informing the Deputy Chief of Mission soon after that he had consulted the MEA files upon receiving the attache's letter and "found no indication of any verbal assurances by then Joint Secretary Prasad. Jaishankar noted that to the contrary, the MEA record of a September 25, 2001 meeting with the Embassy ODC Chief and DCM showed that Prasad specifically told the embassy representatives not to seek any kind of SOFA with India" ( cable 38759: confidential, dated August 16, 2005).

Mr. Jaishankar also discouraged "any effort by the USG to pursue at this stage a SOFA with India."

The DCM repeated the attache's argument about the growing complexity of ongoing exercises. "The Exercise Malabar in late September, for example, would involve carrier battle groups for the first time, and include shore leave for hundreds of US sailors. DCM also noted that the US has SOFA with all of its major military partners around the world and that every aspect of the agreement is reciprocal."

Mr. Jaishankar, the cable says, took the point, but said that if the U.S. were to table a SOFA agreement at this stage, it could complicate efforts to conclude the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA).

"Specifically, he noted that the left parties would stoutly resist immunity provisions for American service people on Indian soil, despite the reciprocal nature of the provisions. He again urged that the USG not 'overload the Indian system' by pursuing a SOFA at this stage."

(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

A COMMUNITY SCARED OF BOTH MUSLIM AND HINDU EXTREMISTS

A 2006 CABLE TALKS ABOUT THE MUSLIMS OF NORTH INDIA BEING NERVOUS AND FEARFUL AFTER THE SERIAL TRAIN BLASTS IN MUMBAI

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: In a cable sent after the 2006 Mumbai attacks, the United States Embassy reported that its contacts had little faith in the ability of Islamic leaders, political parties, security agencies or the Indian government to prevent a terrorist attack and the anti-Muslim backlash that could follow. "Extremists in Uttar Pradesh barely conceal their activities and seem to operate with impunity," Charge d'Affaires Geoffrey Pyatt quoted the Embassy contacts as saying in a report on the situation of north Indian Muslims after the serial train blasts in Mumbai.

Mr. Pyatt, in the cable sent on July 13, 2006 ( 71263: confidential) said the Mumbai attacks had focussed attention on the fragile communal situation in the North Indian Hindi belt, most particularly in Uttar Pradesh. "While Indians are grateful that the Mumbai attacks have not yet set off a communal conflagration, North Indian Muslims remain nervous and fearful."

Noting that Uttar Pradesh, with a 17 per cent Muslim population and a large concentration of Shias, has endured a string of terrorist attacks since 2001, including multiple bombings on moving trains similar to the Mumbai blasts, he pointed out that the Students Islamic Movement of India and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the two principal suspects in the Mumbai attacks, are both active in the State.

Maulana Arshad Madani, the president of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, which is the political wing of the Deobandi sect, decried the Mumbai bombings as "barbaric acts calculated to disturb communal harmony." But there were no similar statements from other prominent Muslim organisations or leaders, especially Wahhabi organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami.

"Less prominent Muslim organizations came forward, with generally anodyne statements, including the Muslim Political Council of India, whose President, Tasleem Rehmani rhetorically urged the GOI to declare all victims of the bombings as martyrs to national integrity," he said.

Embassy's survey

The Embassy conducted an informal survey of Muslim contacts from Lucknow and other cities. "Respondents included several Maulvis (both Sunni and Shia), Urdu language journalists, political and community leaders, scholars and academics. Their responses revealed a remarkable unanimity on 'Islamic terrorism.' All expressed disdain for what they characterized as the 'weak response' of India's Muslim leadership to the Mumbai attacks, accusing such leaders of taking a 'head in the sand' approach and denying stark realities. They pointed out that after a string of terrorist assaults by Muslim extremists throughout India, it is now common knowledge within the Muslim community that the terrorists have established a support system and sympathizers' network among Indian Muslims to help carry out attacks conceived and orchestrated by foreign Muslims."

In his analysis, Mr. Pyatt wrote: "The Mumbai attacks cannot help but increase unease amongst North Indian Muslims, who have witnessed politically-engineered communal riots in several UP cities over the past six months. Muslim fears are compounded by the lack of governance in UP and Bihar."

The police force in Uttar Pradesh, the Charge said, had been suborned and corrupted by the Samajwadi Party [the ruling party]: "We doubt that it would be able to maintain security if communal rioting gets out of hand."

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, had begun to stage "anti-terrorism" rallies at various locations in the Hindi belt, including communal flashpoints with large Muslim populations. "In the Hindutva lexicon, 'terrorism' is synonymous with Islam and most Muslims will see the BJP rallies and statements for a war against terrorism as provocative calls for a war against Islam," the diplomat wrote.

"North India, and particularly UP remain stressful and the Mumbai attacks have exacerbated an already fragile communal situation. Our Muslim contacts have reported over the past six months that SIMI and other Islamic extremists, (including mysterious individuals they claim are 'members of al Qaeda') have been active in the Muslim community, recruiting disaffected young men with offers of physical training, study of the Qu'ran, job opportunities and easy money. They are worried that these are nascent terrorist cells that could be activated to carry out attacks at the behest of foreign-based organizations," he added in the cable.

A community besieged

Painting a picture of a community besieged by both Muslim and Hindu extremists, he said: "Muslims see signs that militant Hindutva organizations are also reviving and could use a terrorist attack as an excuse to mount reprisals. The silence of most North Indian Muslims is most telling, as it indicates a community scared of both Muslim and Hindu extremists and determined to keep a low profile at all costs."

(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

WHY INDIA STOPPED 2005 DHAKA SAARC SUMMIT

"SUSTAINED ANTI-INDIA SENTIMENT": MEA COMPLAINT TO U.S. OFFICIALS

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

CHENNAI: India cancelled its participation in the 2005 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Dhaka in order to encourage Bangladesh "to be introspective," an official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) told a U.S. diplomat.

A U.S. Embassy cable sent on February 10, 2005 ( 26786: confidential) from New Delhi, reporting a February 9, 2005 conversation between Embassy officials and MEA Director Taranjit Sandhu on the decision, reveals much about India's Big Brother attitude towards Bangladesh.

Consequent to New Delhi's decision, the summit that was scheduled for February 6-7, 2005 was postponed. A SAARC summit cannot be held if any member-state declines to attend.

India gave two reasons for non-participation — the imposition of a state of Emergency by the King of Nepal, and the law and order situation in Bangladesh, which had faced several terror attacks in 2004. Another attack targeting a public rally of the opposition Awami League occurred on January 27, 2005, days before the originally scheduled summit.

Was held months later

The summit was eventually held in November 2005. But the February cancellation led to bad blood between India and Bangladesh and resentment within SAARC in general.

The cable reported: "GoI remains unapologetic about the last minute cancellation and the resulting unhappiness in Dhaka…With no apparent sense of urgency to make things right with Dhaka, the MEA explained that the GoI's decision was intended to send a message to BDG [Bangladesh government]."

Mr. Sandhu told the U.S. officials that "in light of increasing intolerance in Bangladesh and 'sustained anti-India sentiment' there, India needed to bring pressure to bear on Dhaka."

He urged the Americans not to "lessen the importance" of the events in Bangladesh in New Delhi's decision not to attend the summit. "The Director added to his list of Bangladeshi offenses that 'sitting ministers' and senior politicians have made statements against India recently, with the intention of raising passions, and concluded that this is not the 'SAARC spirit'," according to the cable.

He said it was time New Delhi "sent a message to Dhaka," although the signal was not necessarily a negative one. Rather, "it was meant to encourage Bangladesh to be 'introspective'," Mr. Sandhu said. He added that India wanted Bangladesh to "realize the danger to themselves from leaving certain issues unchecked."

Right through Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's tenure in office, India was concerned that the free hand the Bangladesh government seemed to have given Islamist groups would have an impact on India's own security. There was also suspicion of a Pakistani helping hand to these groups, and New Delhi used every opportunity to rope in the U.S. to put pressure on the Bangladesh government.

Mr. Sandhu said "even a layman could see what has been going on." The U.S. Embassy cable noted that he was "somewhat incredulous" that the U.S. government continued to ask for evidence to support India's claims of "creeping Talibanisation" when even media outlets such as The New York Times had written about it.

When the U.S. diplomats pointed out that a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent from the New Delhi office was on his way to Dhaka to help with the investigation of the January 27 attack, Mr. Sandhu was sceptical of U.S. investigators' ability to get results in Bangladesh.

He disagreed with the U.S. officials' assessment that relations with Bangladesh were at a dead end. The economic interaction between the two countries would not stop, he said, pointing to continuing discussions on a gas pipeline. But "India needs to see the BDG pay attention to New Delhi's political and security concerns."

Mr. Sandhu rejected the criticism that India had acted in favour of the Awami League (which was then in the Opposition), and said the decision not to attend the summit "had nothing to do" with political parties. "He added that India should not be seen as a bully, emphasizing that someone needed to call attention to what was going on in Bangladesh," the cable noted.

The cable reported Bangladeshi anger over the Indian decision. During a lunch with the U.S. Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission, the Bangladesh High Commissioner to India, Hemayet Uddin, "vented his frustration and anger at the way India quashed the SAARC summit."

The High Commissioner said the Indian government had made its announcement on February 2 without first notifying the Bangladesh government; he was "especially stung that in his statement, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran singled out Bangladesh as a culprit."

The cable noted that "despite his vitriol," the High Commissioner pointed to positive developments in relations with India, including the Tata Group's plan for $2 billion investment in a steel venture in Bangladesh that would include the use of local gas supplies and "smooth the way" for fuel sales to India. The project was given up in 2006 because of Bangladesh's failure to take a decision on it.

Another cable, sent on February 3, 2005, from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka around the same time ( 26366: confidential), reported Bangladeshi anger at the Indian action that led to the cancellation of the summit. Cabinet Ministers pointed out during conversations with the Ambassador that previous summits in Nepal and Pakistan went ahead despite violence that prevailed there.

The Indian effort to get the U.S. involved paid off to some extent. According to an Embassy cable of April 13, 2005, a visiting State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary John Gastright, told MEA Joint Secretary Neelam Deo ( 30697: confidential) that "due in part to New Delhi's prodding, Washington has taken a careful look at the situation in Bangladesh and has developed a strategy of working cooperatively with the BDG and letting them know we are paying attention."

Mr. Gastright said Dhaka had noticed "Washington's stepped up attention to issues of governance" and had lately taken some steps recommended by donor countries. He suggested that during a forthcoming visit by Assistant Secretary Christina Rocca, "we offer a playbook of carrots and sticks that we can offer the BDG to encourage it to improve its governance."

He suggested that New Delhi should think about offering the summit as an "inducement." Ms. Deo noted that it was not just the blasts that had led to the cancellation, but the "real build-up in unfriendly attitude." She expressed concern that the Bangladesh Industries Minister, who represented the Jamaat-i-Islami, was overseeing the Tata project.

She reiterated New Delhi's assertion that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence was active in Bangladesh.

(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 ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

TAMIL NADU RIVALS FACE REALITY CHECK

In the normal course, analysts in Tamil Nadu might have made bold to suggest that Jayalalithaa's AIADMK would be preparing to slip into the driver's seat after next month's Assembly election. Although MGR did buck the trend once, the broad rule in the state has been for the electorate to put the political front led by the state's two Dravidian parties into the saddle by turn. Anti-incumbency is, thus, a significant consideration. Ms Jayalalithaa should thus have had grounds to think that she is home and dry.

She could have been overtly sanguine for another reason. The aftertaste of the 2G spectrum affair appears to have sapped morale in the DMK camp. Its stalwarts have left their traditional urban constituencies and sought refuge in the rural hinterland. In spite of these positives for the AIADMK, however, observers appear wary of sticking their necks out on calling this election. The AIADMK's combative and formidable leader too appears to be going about her poll campaign with a degree of caution.
There is a reason. In Tamil Nadu, there is no one party that would typically sweep the polls, fighting single-handedly. Electoral fronts are judged to be of the utmost importance. These are generally made up of several parties. In the AIADMK-led combine, there has appeared a gap in the shape of Vaiko's MDMK, which pulled out because Ms Jayalalithaa could not accommodate it on the number of seats to contest. Mr Vaiko has not joined the rival DMK-led camp, or hinted at seeking to upset Ms Jayalalithaa's calculations in other ways. Yet it is unlikely that the AIADMK leadership will breathe easy until the polls are done. The AIADMK's other prospective allies — the DMDK and the Left parties — also appeared unhappy with Ms Jayalalithaa's approach to ticket distribution. Apparently, so sure was the AIADMK chief initially of her confident return to power that she thought nothing of riding roughshod over the aspirations of potential allies. The MDMK's departure from her front seems to have helped restore balance to her approach, and the AIADMK's ties with alliance partners now reflect a dose of realism. Not taking chances, however, Ms Jayalalithaa has matched chief minister M. Karunanidhi stride for stride in promising freebies to the electorate to be paid for from the state exchequer. Apparently, the AIADMK brass could not be sure of the voters' affections in spite of many predicting that the 2G spectrum case would seriously prejudice the DMK's comeback bid.
With the 2G matter sticking out like a sore thumb in urban Tamil Nadu by all accounts, the Congress has succeeded in wresting more than 60 seats to contest from its ally, the DMK. The DMK climbed down after initially appearing to be haughty. But it is by no means clear how the Congress would fare. The party badly needs to transcend its numerous organisational weaknesses and the factionalism within even in the southern parts of the state where it is a recognisable presence. Regardless of what transpires in the end, the DMK's dealings with its allies in different parts of the state appear to be informed by pragmatism. But it will be interesting to see how the party fends off the spectrum allegations in its campaign. At the level of anti-incumbency, there are other local issues to be considered as well — such as difficulties on the power front.
With rivals DMK and AIADMK, the state's two leading players, being common heirs to the idea of Dravidian politics and thought, electoral outcomes in the state have generally owed less to questions of ideology — such as those espoused by BJP or the Communists — than to the health of an election front and the charisma of top leaders. In that respect, events up till now do not presage significant change.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

BEYOND BOUNDARIES

ASHOK MALIK

Cricket encounters between India and Pakistan come with the inevitable mix of passion, paranoia, politics and propaganda. Like the central event in Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, a match between these two countries is interpreted differently by a variety of stakeholders and spectators. Often we take away from such a match only what we want to take away.

Take the iconic Australasia Cup final of 1986. For an entire generation it is remembered just in terms of the "victory or death" last ball — Chetan Sharma's full-toss and Javed Miandad's massive six. A quarter-century on everybody talks of, exults at or agonises over that final delivery. Nobody recalls the compelling 99 overs and five balls that preceded it.

This should not surprise us. An India-Pakistan clash is much more than sport. There are extreme emotions at play: great hostility interrupted by irrational affection and a contemplation of history's ifs and buts. This was most apparent, for example, during the Indian tour of Pakistan in 2004, perhaps the happiest cricket series of all.
My favourite story from then is of a strait-laced Maharashtrian cricket journalist walking around the bazaars of Peshawar. He was accosted by a burly shopkeeper who enquired if he was from India. Our man nodded; his interlocutor jumped and pushed him into an inner room. The sports writer was decidedly in panic, seeing visions of a long innings in a Taliban camp. It turned out the shopkeeper was a cricket fan and wanted to give his Indian guest a gift. He put something in his visitor's hands and informed him it was the best cocaine in Peshawar, and it was his for free!

There are other moments when an India-Pakistan cricket match can seem nothing but the latest skirmish in a primal conflict. A rampaging Pathan takes on a seasoned Maratha campaigner, or perhaps a devil-may-care Jat Sikh. Could this be Panipat 1761, Jamrud 1837 or Saragarhi 1897? Maybe it's only Shahid Afridi plotting the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh.

Can one trace Indo-Pakistani diplomacy through cricket matches? Between 1952 and 1961, the two teams played each other three times. The cricket was tepid: two successive series ended 0-0. Nevertheless, cricket tourists crossed the Wagah, old friends met again. Lala Amarnath was only team manager in 1954-55, but was welcomed as Lahore's prodigal son. Nostalgia was still fresh; the Cold War hadn't consumed both nations yet, hadn't forced them into irreconcilable camps.

As for the cricket, it did serve up its delicious ironies. The first India-Pakistan series was decided when the hosts won at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay in November 1952. India took a 2-1 lead, which it retained by drawing the remaining tests. Two centuries were scored for India at the Brabourne, the first hundreds for a predominantly Hindu nation playing against one crafted by Muslim secessionists. The century makers were Vijay Hazare, a Christian, and Polly Umrigar, a Parsi. Somebody in the Great Pavilion in the Sky had a sense of humour.
In 1978, it took new regimes in Islamabad and New Delhi — General Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship and the Janata Party government respectively — to accede to the first test series since 1961. The testy Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-Indira Gandhi relationship, with the Bangladesh War and the Shimla Conference as its baggage, was sidestepped.

In 2004, it was Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf promising a new start. That sentiment extended to the Manmohan Singh era: to Pakistan's arrival in India in 2005, and India's return visit the following season. Soon enough, the diplomacy began to taper. When 26/11 crippled it, cricket could only fall by the wayside.
The intensity of India-Pakistan cricket needs to be distinguished from its frequency. For India, the hyper-nationalism probably peaked in the 12-15 years between the mid-1980s and the end of the 20th century. In the 1980s, India and Pakistan began to play each other more and more, in home and away series and in biannual tournaments in Sharjah. By the 1990s, television had converted limited-overs cricket games to gladiatorial contests, with Imran Khan infamously likening playing India to jihad. Every India-Pakistan match — wherever it was played, Toronto to Singapore — began with war bugles being sounded.
Gradually there was simply so much cricket between the two countries — partly a result of their greedy administrators, allies in global cricket politics, milking the hyped-up rivalry — that the crowds began to pick and choose. You couldn't rev up emotions every week, could you?

India has played (and beaten) Pakistan four times in the 50-50 World Cup. Only once has it really mattered, in 2003, when Sourav Ganguly's XI smashed Pakistan and almost everybody on its way to the final. In 1992 and 1999, victories in a sub-continental sideshow were small consolation as India crumbled overall and Pakistan marched to the final. In 1999, the World Cup match was played during the Kargil war, with Manchester police worried about a spill-over effect. The game itself was pointless. India was all but out of the tournament.
Three years earlier, on the other hand, the World Cup quarter-final in Bengaluru captured the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry at its most intense and pulsating — or at its ugliest. There was a context to this frenzy. By 1996, India had lost its way after the initial surge of economic reform. Cheered by the generals in Rawalpindi, the Taliban was at the gates of Kabul; Kashmir had become India's bleeding wound; a war with Pakistan seemed imminent.

By 2003, in contrast, it was a more confident India (and Indian team) that took on Pakistan in a fine game in Centurion, South Africa. As it grew as an economy, middle India developed other priorities. It still wanted its cricket team to beat Pakistan, as it does this week, but there were (and are) also other things it wanted in life. Today, the ability to shrug shoulders and move on — and the opportunity cost to not doing so — is greater than at any time earlier.

May this essential equanimity (easy to miss while watching over-the-top news television shows) come through this Wednesday night. Admittedly it would be nice if it were preceded by an Indian victory.

Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF SOARING OIL PRICES

PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA

The turmoil in north Africa and West Asia will render awry the budget arithmetic of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee even if global prices of crude oil stabilise at around $100 per barrel. An increase in the administered price of diesel is expected in the second week of May — which may be accompanied by hikes in the prices of subsidised kerosene and cooking gas. All of which is certain to ensure that inflation will remain high despite government claims to the contrary.

On March 24, Mr Mukherjee expressed concern in the Rajya Sabha about the instability in the area from where India sources two-thirds of its imports of crude oil. Two facts are important to underline: India currently imports around 80 per cent of its total annual requirement of crude oil; and oil imports comprise one-third of the value of the country's total imports.
In the recent past, international oil prices have been extremely volatile. During 2008, crude oil prices jumped from $40 a barrel to $147 a barrel before collapsing again to $40 a barrel. Though in 2009 and 2010, prices rose steadily to around $90 a barrel before spiking to a 30-month high of $120 a barrel in February, after the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. Mr Mukherjee says high global prices are a reality we have to live with. But the situation could deteriorate if the civil war in Libya escalates, exacerbating short-term supply-demand imbalances despite higher output from countries like Saudi Arabia.
Returning to India, what the FM has done is inexplicable. In his Budget for 2011-12 presented on the last day of February, by which time prices of crude oil were on the boil, he curiously assumed that there would be no extra outgo on oil subsidies. In fact, he actually pared the Union government's total subsidy bill by `20,583 crores, which is clearly unrealistic.
Whereas the government deregulated petrol prices in 2010, the prices of diesel as well as kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas continue to be administered.
Will the neoliberal hawks now decide that the best way ahead would be to not allow "under-recoveries" of public sector oil refining and marketing companies to go up substantially while also not increasing the government's deficit too much? This would clearly imply higher prices to consumers.
Diesel is the largest selling petroleum product in India in terms of tonnage as well as value, accounting for roughly 40 per cent of the total value and around 60 per cent of the total volume of all petroleum products sold. Importantly, diesel is the main fuel used for transportation. Higher diesel prices have a cascading impact on the prices of a very wide range of articles of mass consumption, especially food items. Since retailers tend to increase the prices of goods transported by a higher proportion than the rise in transport costs, a cascading impact occurs.
Petrol, unlike diesel, is consumed primarily by the rich for personalised transport. But the same is not true for LPG which is used by the middle classes and kerosene which is supposed to be used by the poor for cooking and lighting but which is illegally diverted in large quantities (to adulterate petrol and diesel) and smuggled out of India.
Targeting of subsidies is easier said than done. Oil companies have tried to ensure that commercial users of LPG use cylinders that are not red in colour with limited success. The price of a cooking gas cylinder would be `150 higher than around `350 at present if subsidies were removed.
The administered price of kerosene went up from `9.30 a litre in January 1998 to around `12.50 a litre in June 2010 — still, the government subsidy on each litre of kerosene is `18.
All sorts of measures have been unsuccessfully tried to curb diversion of kerosene — from colouring it blue to putting chemical markers in the liquid. But the incentive to adulterate continues because of the yawning gap between kerosene prices and those of diesel and petrol.
What the government does not publicise is that total taxes on petrol are more than half its selling price and over 30 per cent of the price paid by a consumer of diesel is in the form of taxes. Roughly 37 per cent of the selling price of petrol comprises excise and customs duties, which accrue to the Union government. Excise duties on petroleum products contribute over 40 per cent of the Indian government's total excise collections.
Importantly, customs and excise duties on crude oil and petroleum products are ad valorem or a percentage of value which implies that tax revenues go up as prices rise, which is good for the government but bad for the consumer.
Since the government seems keen on protecting the health of the fisc by not cutting taxes, not the health of the aam aadmi, there is a strong possibility that after the Assembly elections get over, even before the poll results are announced on May 13, the prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene could go up. As for controlling inflation, forget it.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

PUT SIACHEN ON TABLE LAST, NOT FIRST

VIKRAM SOOD

As the United States gets into an Arab quagmire without extricating itself from the AfPak theatre there must also be pressure to find a foreign policy success in Washington D.C., with election year approaching. Consequently, the discourse on AfPak has begun to change. The good and necessary war has become unnecessary and futile as it drains the US treasury and America suffers 500 casualties annually.

Western experts and media now describe how unstable the situation in Pakistan has become and how radicalised that country is today. There is also grudging admission that Pakistan's rulers have been following a dual if not a multilayered policy on hunting with the US in the effort in Afghanistan and supping with the terrorists of various hues simultaneously both on the western and eastern frontiers. Simultaneously, the subscript is getting more pronounced.

This subscript says that Pakistan is unable to fully cooperate because of its apprehension about Indian designs on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Almost all of the recent writings from the US or the UK end up with the same final recommendation. India and Pakistan must sort themselves out on issues like Kashmir to enable Pakistan to stabilise and become a true ally of the US. The kind of gentle persuasion that was alluded to in the Wikileaks cables must surely be continuing. India-Pakistan talks have recommenced: another dramatic but eventually pointless gesture to inconsequential entities has been made.

Recent writings from Pakistan suggest that among the issues that are considered easily solvable is the Saltoro Ridge (commonly referred to as the Siachen Glacier) and the UN is being inveigled into this. This is not so and anyone who sees the map of the region will understand this. Undoubtedly peace with Pakistan is desirable. However, to try and attain it through magnanimity will only trump realism.

The reality is that the India-Pakistan level of distrust remains very high despite the efforts of some dream merchants. Pakistan has not called an unequivocal and permanent end to using its jihadist weapon in India and it never will; its prevarication on issues related to investigation in the Mumbai 2008 terrorist attack is the sum and substance of this attitude.

The Indian Army climbed to the Saltoro Ridge in 1984 to cut off Pakistan's plans to access beyond Saltoro to the Karakoram pass. This would have enabled Pakistan access to Tibet and also threaten Ladakh. Pakistan and China would have access to each other through the Khunjerab pass on the Karakoram highway via Xinjiang and to Tibet through the Karakoram pass. The Saltoro Ridge provided Indian forces with strategic heights looking into Pak-occupied Gilgit and Baltistan. Such an advantage must not be given up for some obscure short-term political gain without a document to establish one's credentials.

Pakistan's unwillingness to sign any document that authenticates the Agreed Ground Position Line (AGPL) could only mean that it would seek to break it at first dawn. There is neither a change of heart nor intentions. Kargil 1999 was the latest, and probably not the last, military attempt to alter the ground position in Kashmir in an effort to negate the advantage India had in Saltoro.

In recent years the geopolitical situation has changed. There is greater Chinese presence in Gilgit and Baltistan where apart from building other facilities the Chinese have been upgrading the Karakoram highway since 2005. It is estimated that last August about 11,000 Chinese were involved in infrastructure projects like the construction of dams, roads and bridges, dozens of tunnels and a high-speed rail link. This would ultimately link with the Chinese-aided port project at Gwadar shortening China's route to the Persian Gulf from four weeks to 48 hours Simultaneously, the Chinese have been upgrading their own infrastructure in Xinjiang and Tibet north of the Himalayas.

India has repeatedly given up strategic advantages and conceded on the negotiating table what was won on the battlefield. In 1948, when the Pakistani forces were retreating, we did not secure Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Kotli or Skardu. In 1966, we gave up Haji Pir, through which infiltrators keep coming into the Kashmir Valley even today. In 1972, we gave up territory and 93,000 prisoners of war for an agreement that Pakistan never intended to observe. And now Pakistan continues to drag its feet on the Mumbai 2008 issue.

The only way it would not be perceived as a retreat would be if the Pakistanis first agreed to delineate the AGPL in the Siachen sector, which is a part of the large Saltoro Ridge, authenticate this on maps that would then be signed and exchanged by commanders of the two countries. Pakistan would then project the AGPL in all its maps, making the AGPL an extension of the line of control from Point NJ-9842 that does not go towards the Karakoram pass but due north along the Saltoro Ridge. After this, the two countries would work out the ground rules for demilitarisation. Only after this has been worked out should there be discussion on redeployment and demilitarisation of this sector. Anything short of this will be a sellout.

The issue is far too important to be decided furtively or in a hurry. It is only fair that if we are to retreat, the people should know that this pullback is in the national interest. Siachen has to be last issue on the table and not the first one.

Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

HUNGRY KIS LIYE?

PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

"Hungry kya?" asked a memorable advertisement from Domino's Pizza some 10 years ago. Young Hinglish-speaking urban India responded heartily. But the trouble is, not enough people ask "Hungry kaun?" and "Hungry kis liye?" This question of what we, and especially our children, are actually eating and not eating is becoming more and more critical.
Last week, it popped up at a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-supported event, billed as the "TEDxChange@TEDxDelhi".

One of the panelists at this star-studded gathering, which included Melinda Gates, was Manoj Kumar, chief executive officer of the Hyderabad-based Naandi Foundation, a non-governmental organisation working on poverty, child rights and related issues. Mr Kumar plans to stir up "hungama" on an issue which he believes is critical to the future of this country.
Naandi Foundation will soon release its first Citizen's Hunger and Malnutrition Report. Catchily called the "HUNGaMA", a word play on hunger and malnutrition, the report focuses on how children are faring nutritionally in 100 districts ranked worst on child-related indicators. These are in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Altogether, some 160 million people including about one-fifth of India's children have been covered. The report will focus on some of the key indicators of hunger and malnutrition, drawing particular attention to the condition of children under the age of five, given the critical impact of nutrition early in life. For many mothers, who have been interviewed by the foundation's team of researchers, it was a novel experience as they are not used to being asked so many questions. Many refused to believe that their child was malnourished because there were "so many others" like him or her in the neighbourhood and because the child had not stopped playing.
Why should this be of interest to us when there are already masses of information and insights about malnutrition? The short answer is that while most of us know some things about malnutrition, we don't know many other things that are absolutely vital. India still has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of malnourished children in the world. Some states fare worse than sub-Saharan Africa. The most recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS) tells us that 43 per cent of Indian children under five years are underweight; 48 per cent (i.e. 61 million children) are stunted due to chronic undernutrition; India accounts for more than three out of every 10 stunted children in the world; the percentage of children who are severely underweight is almost five times higher among children whose mothers have no education than among children whose mothers have 12 or more years of schooling. And so on.
But this data is five to six years old. At this point, when India is making an ambitious plan for food security, we don't have real-time data on the nutritional status of children.
One of the biggest concerns is the chilling lack of awareness in this country about the impact of malnourishment on brain development.
The maximum brain development takes place during the first five years of a person's life and proper nutrition is critical to the process. Far too many people otherwise educated, however, do not know what this proper nutrition should be. One of the big myths is that only poor, rural women do not know that lack of proper nutrition can impair the mental as well as physical development of a child.
Everyone recognises the importance of "food" in the growth of a child, but far fewer are aware of micronutrient deficiencies, the importance of the right amount of iron, iodine, vitamins and so on in the diet of a child. Iron-deficient diet is a common problem that starts, in many cases, even before birth. Women not getting enough iron in their diet give birth to infants who are anaemic and stay anaemic. This takes a toll on physical growth, mental development and school performance. At the other end of the spectrum are the rising problems of child obesity and child diabetes, again often a result of poor diets. New research suggests that type 1 diabetes may be responsible for problems in attention, concentration and problem solving found in some children.
Many among the educated middle class in towns and cities typically think of malnutrition as something to do with only hunger and starvation — issues that do not affect them. "The middle class is not worried about malnutrition because it is not contagious. I wish it was like SAARS or HI1N1. Then everyone will sit up and take notice. But malnutrition affects the middle class and rich as well because many among the educated don't know how to feed their young. Many children survive but they suffer from the ill effects of child malnutrition in the form of cognitive and physical deficiencies which affect their whole life. So, while we are talking about food security, we should also talk about nutrition security", points out Mr Kumar.
A telling example: very few know the crucial importance of colostrum, the highly nutritious milk a mother produces right after giving birth. Far too often, it is thrown away instead of being given to the child, due to what Mr Kumar calls the "firewall of cultural taboos" which prevails not only in rural communities but also among the urban and the rich in this country. Many families that Mr Kumar's team interviewed admitted that they did not know the value of colostrum to the newborn. Often, the "right time" for a mother to start breastfeeding her child is decided by the local priest and is dependent on astrological rather than medical factors. The really interesting thing I learnt from Mr Kumar is that even many of Mumbai's über-rich celebrities did not know about colostrum's vital role in providing protective antibodies, essential nutrients, strengthening the child's immune system and helping in brain development and bone and muscle strength.
So, "Hungry kis liye?" is a question we need to ask loudly. Hopefully, the report will illuminate not only the reality in the 100 targeted districts but also trigger a debate in middle-class urban India, which also needs to know about what and how much to feed our very young and vulnerable.

Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@gmail.com

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

GOODWILL GESTURES

 

Overcoming deep bitterness caused in their bilateral relations following Mumbai carnage, India and Pakistan are taking small and cautious steps to restore normalcy and build the elusive trust. Trying to translate the theory of resolving mutual differences through dialogue, India has taken several steps in this direction and Pakistan is expected to reciprocate on an even keel. Frequency of bus service across the border has been increased. Only recently New Delhi announced that PoK citizens visiting Indian part of Kashmir can extend their stay up to six months. Previously they could stay only for four weeks extendable by another two weeks in very special cases like medical assistance. Bus service was flagged off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 and despite intermittent hiccups the process has not broken down. The day is not far away when phenomenal improvement in transit will take place. India has reduced the otherwise complicated permit and permission system and checks through which passengers have to move. Hopefully on Pakistan side, this will be replicated. On the top of all this, there is an invitation from the Indian Prime Minister to his counterpart in Pakistan and the President of Pakistan as well to witness cricket match at Mohali. Islamabad has said that the invitation is under consideration, which indicates that Pakistan Prime Minister would be availing the opportunity of meeting with the Indian Prime Minister informally.


These are positive confidence building mechanisms and hence are welcome. If mutual trust is restored, it is just possible better and more objective thinking may prevail. With a pragmatic vision of the role of trade and commerce in bridging the gap, there should be scope for approach to the solution of Kashmir issue in an environment of cordiality. Pakistan is suffering at the hands of terrorists and religious extremists, the outfits of its own creation. India had been warning her time and again that aiding and facilitating anti-India terrorism on her soil would boomerang on her. That has happened and hundreds of innocent lives have been wasted. This willful destruction of human life should be put an end to. No civilized society will accept to work for self destruction. Entire world is exhorting Pakistan to tighten the noose round the terrorists and deny religious extremists unleashing terror under the façade of religion. Uprising in the Arab world is an eye opener for Pakistan. She has a democratic government, and her effort should be to strengthen that structure. She can look to India for technical and logistical support in the matter of consolidation of democratic dispensation. It is in the interests of Pakistan itself to deny Kashmiri militants training, arms and ammunition for waging war in Kashmir. Hopefully summit meeting in Mohali could help two sides to make considerable progress in tackling cross border terrorism. There are many sensible and responsible observers in Pakistan who have been speaking about change in the pattern of relationship and establishment of cordial relations. It is good that the two home secretaries will be discussing a variety of subjects for discussion. Of these some are not difficult to address without much hassle like visa issue. India has believes that step by step resolution methodology need to be adopted in normalizing bilateral relations. Hopefully, the talks between the two Home Secretaries will pave the way for further understanding and cooperation at Prime Ministerial level since the two Prime Ministers will be meeting on 30 March, the day when India-Pakistan cricket teams meet at the semi final.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SEMINAR ON POK

 

The first ever comprehensive seminar on PoK organized by the Department of Strategic and Regional Studies of Jammu University unfolded a variety of aspects--- geography, history, politics, society, ethnicity and economy---- of a region that formed part of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir prior to the tribal incursion of October 1947. Given the democratic culture of our educational institutions, a lively debate on some contentious issues pertaining to the history of PoK took place in the course of deliberations. It is intriguing to know that while Pakistan has always been speaking of extending moral, political and diplomatic support to the "azaadi movement' in Kashmir valley, New Delhi has seldom told Pakistan publicly that the first thing to be talked about Kashmir is of Pakistan withdrawing her troops and militias from PoK and Gilgit and Baltistan in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations. It will also be noted that though most of the territory occupied by Pakistan and renamed as "Azad Jammu and Kashmir" is from Jammu region yet the Indians call it just "Pakistan Occupied Kashmir", which is factually not correct. This anomaly needs to be corrected. Why New Delhi has adopted unrealistic attitude in setting the record straight? These questions are to the amusement of young scholars desirous of conducting study and research on the contemporary history of the state. Jammu University deserves kudos for initiating very open and frank academic discussion of current situation in the region. The significance of the seminar is revealed by the fact that apart from experts and specialists in the field, the GOC-in-C Northern Command, Lt. General Parnaik was the Guest of Honour and spoke on the subject in the inaugural session besides the Vice Chancellor of the university. It was a treat to listen to compact yet comprehensive presentation of the Army Commander particularly his assessment of security scenario in the background of significant Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan region and the implications of militarizing the Karakorum Highway. What the audience appreciated most in General's presentation was the confidence and determination he reflected in the Indian nation wanting implementation of the 1994 unanimous resolution of the parliament in regard to the parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan. The fact is that while there has been a lot of fuss about inclusive talks between the two countries and Pakistan's oft repeated cliché of talks including Kashmir, New Delhi never felt it necessary to speak about Pakistan vacating the parts of the State she has illegally occupied in 1947. The Vice Chancellor of Jammu University was very right in envisioning the expansion of the Department of Strategic and Regional Studies in the light of great importance the entire Central and South Asian region is assuming in geo-strategic scenario. He is right in realizing the importance of language-based expertise as catalyst to objective and balanced research and analysis of current situation in the entire region.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

TRADE DEFICIT NOT IN NATIONAL INTEREST

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN

 

Recently, the Reserve Bank had warned the Government that Balance of Payment position is worsening and may turn out to be a crisis. Sometime back Finance Minister made a statement that the Country needs continued heavy dose of foreign investment to fill its Balance of Payment deficit. These statements from the policy makers are in a way alarm bells for the nation, which is passing through a difficult phase, so far as the balance of payments is concerned. No doubt, in the last decade and a half the Country has emerged as one of the most favourite destinations for investors from overseas and India has come to the position of top 10 most favourite nations.


During this period the country has been able to achieve an unprecedented growth in receipts from exports of invisibles, resulting in significant surplus on invisibles. This surplus turned out to overwhelm the deficit in Balance of Trade, between 2001-02 and 2003-04, resulting in surplus in balance of payment. But in later years not only this surplus turned out to be insufficient, a major chunk of foreign direct investment and foreign institutional investment also had to be used to fill ever rising trade deficit.
Though our imports of goods have always been more than our exports, but this problem has multiplied in the last five years. Amount of trade deficit in 2004-05 was US$28 billion dollars which reached US$108 billion in 2009-10. Trade deficit, which was 4.8 percent of GDP in 2004-05, became 8.7 percent of GDP in 2009-10. Courtesy our services exports, our balance of payment did not get much worse.


Our growing trade deficit is indicative of future crisis. Although booming exports of our services could be able to keep our balance of payments in limits, which also includes import and export of services. But as the trade deficit is about to reach 10 percent of GDP, surplus on invisibles is proving to be insufficient and Balance of Payment deficit in 2009-10 has now reached 3.1 percent of GDP, which was 2.4 percent in 2008-09 and 1.3 percent in 2007-08. To somehow meet this shortfall, FDI and FII have now become a compulsion rather than a choice


Why is trade deficit growing?

For quite some time our trade deficit has been growing for several reasons. Figures show that the major cause of our growing trade deficit has been fast increasing consumption and ever rising oil prices of petroleum products in international markets. In 1999-2000, a total import of petroleum products was US$ 12.6 billion and by 2009-10 it reached US$87 billion. In the first six months of current fiscal year oil bill was US$ 48.5 billion. Due to rising oil prices in international market by the end of this year is likely to exceed US$ 100 billion. As international price movements are beyond control of policy makers, reducing dependence on oil by conservation of oil and development of alternative sources of energy in the medium term and long term respectively are perhaps the only alternatives left.


Presence of Chinese goods in the Indian markets in a big way indicates growing imports from China. Whereas in 1987-88 imports from China, constituted less than 1 percent, have now reached 32 percent of total imports. Total deficit from trade with China is now about US$20 billion. Cause of concern here is that most of the imports from China are of the products, which the nation is able to produce most efficiently domestically.
Importance of infrastructural development cannot be denied. For infrastructure building if imports are necessary, we should readily do that. But it is regretted that despite warnings from security agencies and despite sufficient domestic capabilities to produce telecom equipments, we have been allowing imports of these equipments from overseas, especially China. If we continue to import these equipments at the present speed, import bill of telecom equipments may become even another big source of trade deficit.

How desirable is foreign investment?

It is true that in the past several years Country has been getting heavy dose of foreign investment. Between the years 1991-92 and 2009-10 Country received US$180 billion in the form of FDI (net) and US$110 billion in the form of portfolio investment. In the meantime our foreign exchange reserves increased from negligible to US$ 279 billion during the same period. FDI comes to India in a variety of ways. Foreign companies acquiring Indian companies and mining rights, foreigners investing in infrastructure and expanding their penetration in manufacturing and services in a variety of ways. Foreign Institutional Investors enter into Indian share and bond markets to make quick money. They make quick buck and are free to leave at any time without any hindrance. So far a large chunk of shares of big Indian companies have gone into the hands of foreign institutional investors. We understand that India has emerged as the second fast developing country after China and third most powerful country economically next to USA and China. Fast growth of India and its corporate sector and fast expanding Indian middle class has prompted foreigners to invest in India. So far as FDI is concerned it is generally more stable, while the institutional investment is more volatile and temporary and may disappear suddenly. During the 2008-09 as a result of recession, institutional investors flew out with US$15 billion and as a result of the same foreign investment declined to only 21 billion. People lost heavily as stock markets crashed due to flight of foreign exchange. This proves that volatility of portfolio investment may cause havoc for investors' confidence and investment atmosphere in the country.


Today in almost all sectors of the economy, ownership of Indian companies is going into the hands of foreigners. We find significant presence of foreign companies in many sectors of the economy such as automobiles, information technology, communication, BPO, cement, mining, infrastructure sector - like Metro, airports, roads, etc. In some cases this presence of foreign companies has even got converted into monopoly. In addition, shares of most of India's listed companies have been cornered by foreign institutional investors. This means that the valuable resources of the nation are being cornered by foreigners due to the obsession of the policy makers with foreign investment. Perhaps this aspect of foreign investment has never been given any thought by our policy makers.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

THE BLOOMING INDUSTRY

BY DR. PRAGYA KHANNA

 

Flowers bring delight to the sick, quiet to a squabble, and color to a winter day. A deep purple, bright red or brilliant orange can uplift the soul upon a gaze. People present flowers to the loved ones on special occasions, like wedding, ceremonies, festivals, funerals, to the sick and ailing etc. because flowers strengthen the feelings of compassion, love, affection and decrease nervousness and worry. Flowers also express thoughts of cheerfulness, thankfulness, apology, encouragement. There are many things that can be said with flowers.
Sitting pretty on the heavy buns on women's heads may be the best decorative use of flowers, but not the only one. They are an integral part of any home, apartment or office, except the decorative properties flowers bear esthetic pleasure and curative effect. Floral offerings are common to almost all religious celebrations. In Hinduism there are even specific flowers for various gods and goddesses: lotus for Lakshmi, red hibiscus for Kali, dhatura for Shiva, etc. People in every civilization have gained pleasure in weaving flowers into garlands and crowns and in gathering them in bouquets. It would seem safe, therefore, to conclude that the culture of flowers is universal.


Today we witness numerous flower shops in different cities vying with one another with impressive blooms and flamboyant presentation of electric blue orchids, hot pink roses and virgin white lilies all in dramatic agreement in their glitzy appearance. Some flower boutiques proudly display many imported spectacular species. They come in strange shapes, sizes and colors; and are priced between Rs. 20 to Rs. 2000 per stem especially in metros depending on factors such as quality, supply and its carbon footprint. The appeal of a flower boutique is its ability to deliver unique flowers and floral creations at any time asked for; but at a price.
This blooming industry of flowers called Floriculture offers excellent careers in production, marketing, export and research. Jobs range from cultivation or growing flowers, to seed production, dry seed production, marketing and decoration.


The important floricultural crops in the international cut flower trade are rose, carnation, chrysanthemum, gerbera, gladiolus, gypsophila, orchids, archilea, anthuriu, tulip and lilies.


The world cut flower industry is a highly dynamic industry. Product varieties, the origin of production, production techniques, markets and retailing arrangements are all undergoing continuous change, challenging the adaptive capacity of the workers involved. In a slowly but steadily growing world market new developing countries are trying hard to make their mark to stay ahead by raising productivity and through diversification and innovation.


Flowers are very sensitive to every kind of treatment that they receive once they have been cut. Strict control of humidity, temperature and air quality are essential for delivering an attractive product to the market. Growers rely heavily on an efficient post-harvest chain of handlers, storage and transport. Indeed, in the absence of a 'cold-chain' it is practically impossible for even the most efficient producers to sell their produce on the main markets. Organization is thus the key to success in this industry.


India has a prosperous potential as far as floriculture is concerned. Massive genetic diversity, varied agro climatic conditions, versatile human resources etc. offer India a unique capacity for judicious employment of existing resources and exploration of avenues yet untouched.


In the trade of flowers quality benchmarking is important. For instance, flowers should be free from plagues and diseases and they should be undamaged. Other quality aspects, however, are more difficult to judge. For instance, it is hard to see whether flowers have been correctly handled once cut. Yet this is an important determinant of vase life and whether or not the bud will open. While a majority of Indian flowers blooming in the fields are certainly at par in quality to the ones grown in developed countries, the problem begins the moment they're cut and initiate their journey to the market. Improper handling after harvest, unavailability of optimum temperature and moisture conditions during storage and transportation, under or over-packaging leading to damage and wiltering are a few factors which have an adverse impact on the quality of Indian flowers reaching the consumer both domestic and international.


Even our own state Jammu & Kashmir has ideal climatic conditions for floriculture and a number of flower shops are also coming up. One can find employment in the floriculture industry as a farm/ estate manager, plantation expert, supervisor, or project coordinator. Research and teaching are some other avenues of employment in the field. Marketing of floriculture products for different ventures is emerging as a potential segment in the field. Besides, one can work as consultant or landscape architect with proper training. To prepare for a career in floriculture, the best option is to acquire a four-year B.Sc. (Horticulture) degree or to study horticulture as a subject in a B.Sc. (Agriculture) degree programme. Subsequently, an M.Sc. in horticulture, followed by a Ph.D and postdoctoral fellowship is ideal.


A career in floriculture or being an entrepreneur/a florist is a quite promising occupation in India as also in our state as the Govt. has initiated some finest plans for this potential industry. In the last few Five Year Plans, the government has consistently shown some commitment towards improving marketing infrastructures for both traditional and commercial cut flowers. Auction houses have been set up in Bangalore, Chandigarh and Trivandrum. Similar auction houses are planned for other parts of the country, while export orientated auction houses have been proposed for Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Auction houses are platforms for growers to sell their flowers directly to wholesale traders aiming at domestic or international market. Growers typically benefit from the competitive prices through the bidding process and traders get to choose from a wide range in terms of both quantity and quality.


The most promising area is the dry flower industry. Dried flower and plants have been exported for the last 30 years and today, India is one of the leading countries in the field. In Rajasthan, more than 7,000 tonnes of rose are produced. About 75% of this is exported to West Asian countries in the form of dry petals. Not just flowers, but other plant parts like leaves, stems and pods are also used in the dry flower industry.


Another important aspect of this trade if not discussed would leave this write up incomplete. Flowers are symbolic of beauty, grace and elegance but what people don't realize these days is that they are as toxic as automobile fumes or factory waste. The innocent petals are sprayed with toxic pesticides and from seed planting to blooming and marketing, flower cultivation leaves a poisonous trail in the form of deadly insecticides and other chemicals sprayed on them. Many of the pesticides used can cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive illnesses, as well as neurological disease in humans, some show visible symptoms of headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, skin eruptions, and fainting.


It is only when workers, consumers, and nature are sufficiently protected can we enjoy the romance of cut flowers. We are all aware of the pesticides used in fruits and vegetables, and because of this many of us buy organic produce. Eco Flora and Eco Stems are both great concepts for a 21st century flower shop. Our hats go off to both of these green businesses for not only making the world a better place, but for making it appear a little more beautiful too.


Flowers are the music of the groundFrom earth's lips spoken without sound!

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NON-RESIDENT INDIANS CAN VOTE NOW

BY ASHOK B SHARMA

 

There is something about which the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) may have to cheer. They now have the right to vote and those hailing from five poll-bound states will be voting for the first time.
But they will have to spend a little more on their visit to India. The recent Union Budget has raised the air travel tax and they have to pay more for coming to India and flying back and for air travel within India. Their stay in luxury hotels and food at good restaurants will be costlier due to hikes in service tax.


The Budget 2011-12 has augmented avenues for investments by NRIs in mutual funds, stock market, housing and infrastructure projects.


Polls are round the corner in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The NRIs haling from these states will have to come to India to cast their votes. They will have to be physically present in their place of origin to exercise their franchise as per the guideline recently issued by the Election Commission of India.
These guidelines for enrolment of names of NRIs in the electoral rolls were issued by the ECI after holding several rounds of discussions with the Ministries of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs. The Parliament had passed an Amendment to the Representation of People Act in 2010 allowing NRIs to cast their franchise in the country.


Earlier an NRI's name used to be deleted from the voters' list if he or she stays outside the country for over six months at a stretch. Now with the new law an NRI cast his or her vote in the polls.


Indians living abroad, who have not acquired the citizenship of any other country, can make an application in Form 6A directly to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) of the constituency within which the place of residence of the applicant as mentioned in his or her passport falls.


An NRI can go to an ERO in person or send by post his application to the ERO concerned. A postal application must be accompanied by copies of the passport and some other documents duly attested by an officer of the Indian Mission in the country concerned.


After enrolment, an NRI will be able to cast his vote in an election in the constituency, in person, at the polling station where he is registered as an overseas elector.


"The decision of the ERO on application of an overseas voter will be communicated to the applicant by post on his address in the foreign country stated by him in the application and also by SMS on the mobile number given by him. The eligible NRIs will be able to vote in the upcoming Assembly polls in five States," said an Election Commission official.


However some NRIs are not happy at the government giving NRIs the right to vote. They say this will not make much a difference. The President of International Traders (ME) Ltd, UAE, Ram Buxani said "we want reservation of four seats in the Lok Sabha for NRIs - one seat for Gulf NRIs, one seat for European NRIs, one seat for American NRIs and one seat for South-East Asian NRIs. If this is done we can raise our voice in the Indian Parliament."


But investment avenue is the one which is most prospective to the NRIs. According to top financial analysts the highest returns for NRIs can come from the investment in mutual funds (MFs) as compared to investing in fixed deposits or in the stock market. The initial paperwork for getting a Permanent Account Number ( PAN) Card and getting Know Your Customer (KYC) takes a lot of time and effort and the budget has not addressed this problem, but the high returns make it worthwhile. Investment in MFs can yield quicker results than that in infrastructure bonds where the lock-in period is more. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HUMANITARIAN SPIRIT

GOPAL DAS BENEFITS; WHAT ABOUT OTHERS?

 

Thanks to an appeal by the Supreme Court of India, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to remit the remaining jail term of Indian convict Gopal Das who has been imprisoned there for 27 years on spying charges. Although only a few months were left for his term to come to an end, it is a welcome humanitarian gesture in sync with the cricket diplomacy that is currently in the air. One hopes that similar sympathetic attitude will also be adopted in the case of other prisoners who are languishing in Pakistani as well as Indian jails. Unfortunately, many of them are no more than just pawns in the ugly game of animosity that the two countries tend to play ruthlessly.

 

There is no dearth of those who are held at times on trumped up charges. Even those who cross the border inadvertently get branded as spies. The worst is the fate of fishermen in the Arabian Sea who get arrested because the maritime boundary is not clearly defined. Even those who are arrested for smuggling, overstaying their visa or crossing the border illegally may end up being behind bars for two decades or more.

 

What is most unfortunate is that at times the parent country is not even informed about the arrest of a person. One can well imagine the plight of the families of such persons who vanish without trace. According to official figures, there are some 182 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails. Many of them are in a pitiable mental condition. The actual number may be much more. Many of them are not released even when their jail term is complete. Last year, 442 Indian prisoners were let off by the Pakistan Supreme Court on a plea by a committee of retired judges and senior advocates. India also reciprocated the gesture. It is high time the governments presented a humane face to such victims of circumstances. That will be the best confidence-building measure.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A PARTY IS BORN

MANPREET GETS GOING

 

With his People's Party of Punjab, Manpreet Singh Badal has formally emerged on the state political scene as a force which is hard to ignore. Whether he has a future will be known after the poll verdict 11 months from now. He has begun well. After his high-profile breakaway from the ruling Badals, he has held his own. He has raised issues which make sense. Be it the soaring debt, targeted subsidies, spending on VIPs, political retirement at 70, drug abuse or unemployment, he has his finger on the pulse of the people. Manpreet does not stoop to conquer. He scores over rivals by avoiding personality-based politics and mud-throwing so common with Punjab leaders.

 

The seasoned leaders of the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal may be dismissive of Manpreet Badal, but they followed him to Khatkar Kalan in a desperate bid to cash in on Shaheed Bhagat Singh's martyrdom. Sensing the mad scramble, Manpreet opted out of the messy political arena. He cleverly postponed the launch of his political party to March 27. He would not have got as much media attention then. A skilful communicator and operator, Manpreet knows how to manage the media. His focus on youth, women and NRIs may be politically rewarding. His decision to avoid big rallies is sound. While he has made it known that he is sensitive to inconvenience caused by political rallies to travellers, he is also aware that people may soon tire of him and his message — no matter how well delivered— and that he lacks money power his opponents have.

 

Manpreet definitely has something to say, something that holds out hope for Punjab. He knows what is wrong and what should be done though he did little of what he professed when he was Finance Minister. He may say he needs a free hand, but will he get a chance to play the saviour he projects himself to be? If the crowds that follow Manpreet vote for him and get him some Vidhan Sabha seats, he would be able to play the king-maker, if not the king himself, and take a shot at changing the political fortunes of top leaders. The next elections will decide his, and in some ways Punjab's, destiny.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A WOMAN'S TOUCH

MANAGING VILLAGES, FIGHTING PREJUDICE

 

When this village sarpanch from Rajasthan speaks, the world listens. Chhavi Rajawat has indeed made an impact on the international stage by participating in the 11th Info-Poverty World Conference held at the United Nations, where she spoke about the need to rethink various strategies to achieve Millennium Development Goals even when resources are limited. She also struck a note that will resound among many others of her ilk when she sought to harness technology to provide better facilities, including governance to rural India.

 

A new face of rural India, Rajawat has an impressive academic and corporate background, which she is now harnessing to provide leadership and deliver better facilities to the villagers who are under her charge. The sarpanch of Soda village has a delicate balancing act to perform; both her age and gender challenge the traditional feudal order. Yet, by electing her, the villagers have shown that they are willing to be part of a change that takes them on to the path of development.

 

Since 33 per cent of the seats for the position of panch are reserved for women, it would be logical to expect many sarpanches to be women. But this is not so, and in fact many women candidates for the reserved panch seats too are seen as proxy candidates for their husbands. During the freedom struggle, women participated in large numbers to ensure that the nation was freed from the foreign yoke. Women who had never stepped outside their houses exposed themselves to the coercive power of the state, and even faced imprisonment because of their political activities. However, in the decades that followed, women's participation in politics decreased. Today, women must be a part of the political process, especially at the grassroots level, to shake off the feudal mindset that limits their grown and thus makes the country truly free.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

CHINA'S GROWING MILITARY MIGHT

A MAJOR CHALLENGE FOR INDIA

BY HARSH V. PANT

 

After announcing a mere 7.5 per cent jump in its defence budget, the first time since the 1980s when its defence spending increased in single-digit percentage, China is back to its double-digit defence budget. Beijing has announced that its official defence budget for 2011 will rise by 12.7 per cent from the previous year.

 

China's largely secretive military modernisation programme is producing results faster than expected. Beijing is gearing up to challenge the US military prowess in the Pacific. It is refitting a Soviet-era Ukrainian aircraft carrier for deployment next year and more carriers are under construction in Shanghai. China's submarine fleet is the largest in Asia and is undergoing refurbishment involving nuclear-powered vessels and ballistic missile-equipped subs. Its anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system, developed specifically to target US carrier strike groups, has reached initial operational capability much earlier than expected. And earlier this year, photographs appeared on Chinese Internet sites of what is apparently China's first stealth fighter during a runway test in western China.

 

China has already shown its prowess in anti-satellite warfare and has redeployed its nuclear warheads onto mobile launchers and advanced submarines. In a marked shift in China's no-first-use policy, Chinese leaders have indicated that they would consider launching pre-emptive strikes if they found the country in a "critical situation", thereby lowering the threshold of nuclear threats. There is a growing debate in the PLA about whether to discard conditionalities on China's commitments to no-first use.

 

China is a rising power with the world's second largest economy and a growing global footprint. It would like to have a military ready and willing to defend these interests. But it is the opaqueness surrounding China's military upgradation that is the real source of concern. China does not believe in transparency. In fact, the PLA follows Sun Tzu who argues that "the essence of warfare is creating ambiguity in the perceptions of the enemy."

 

China continues to defend its military upgradation by claiming that it needs offensive capability for Taiwan-related emergencies. But clearly its sights are now focused on the US. China wants to limit American ability to project power into the Western Pacific. It wants to prevent a repeat of its humiliation in 1996 when the US aircraft carriers could move around unmolested in the Taiwan Strait and deter Chinese provocations. Not surprisingly, the steady build up of a force with offensive capabilities well beyond Chinese territory is causing consternation in Washington and among China's neighbours. This comes at a time of Chinese assertiveness on territorial disputes with Japan, India and Southeast Asian countries.

 

Beijing has started claiming that the bulk of South China Sea constitutes Chinese territorial waters, defining it as a "core national interest," a phrase previously used in reference to Tibet and Taiwan. This has come as a shock to regional states such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan who also have territorial claims in the sea. This sea passage is too important to be controlled by a single country and that too by one that is located far away from these waters. China would like to extend its territorial waters, which usually run to 12 miles, to include the entire exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 miles. China is challenging the fundamental principle of free navigation. All maritime powers, including India, have a national interest in the freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea.

 

American technological prowess and war-fighting experience will ensure that China will not be able to catch up very easily. China is still at least a generation behind the US militarily. But the Pentagon's most recent assessment of China's military strategy argues that despite persistent efforts, the US understanding of how much China's government spends on defence "has not improved measurably." It is clear now that Beijing is configuring its military to fight the US. China's focus on anti-access and area denial weapons is designed to prevent the US from operating without fear in the Western Pacific.

 

At a time when the US is increasingly looking inwards, China's military rise has the potential to change the regional balance of power to India's disadvantage. It is not entirely clear that China has well-defined external policy objectives though its means, both economic and military, to pursue policies are greater than at any time in the recent past. Yet, there is no need for India to counter China by matching weapon for weapon or bluster for bluster. India will have to look inwards to prepare for the China challenge. After all, China has not prevented India from pursuing economic reforms and decisive governance, developing its infrastructure and border areas, and from intelligently investing in military capabilities. If India could deal with stoicism the Chinese challenge in 1987, when there was a real border stand-off between the two, there should be less need for alarm today when India is a much stronger nation, economically and militarily. A resurgent India of 2011 needs new reference points to manage its complex relationship with the super power-in-waiting — China.

 

China's Global Times had warned last year that "India needs to consider whether or not it can afford the consequences of a potential confrontation with China." India's challenge is to raise the stakes high enough so that instead of New Delhi it is Beijing that is forced to consider seriously the consequences of a potential confrontation with India. But it is not clear if the political leadership in New Delhi has the farsightedness to rise to this challenge.

 

The writer, who teaches at King's College, London, is the author of "The China Syndrome".

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CRICKET AS CLASSICAL DRAMA

BY RAJAN KASHYAP

 

In our country cricket has become an elixir for the masses. Young or old, wealthy or insolvent, celebrity or unknown, all Indians are addicted. Forgotten are distinctions of class, community, region and language. No matter which the opponent, the day Team India plays is an occasion to shut shop, office and school. Forgotten are personal rivalries and differences. The country is united in anticipation of a triumph to come. Few are privileged to witness the event in person, but millions are spectators on the television screen.

 

What explains this amazing fixation?

 

An answer can be found in a text from ancient Greece, written in the year 330 BC by the father of philosophy, political thought and literary criticism, Aristotle himself. His treatise on poetry and drama, titled The Poetics, explains why drama, especially tragedy, has universal appeal. Astoundingly, all the elements of great classical drama predicated 2500 years in the past are the ingredients of a cricket match of today. A sensational plot, dramatic suspense, brave deeds, heartbreak and euphoria, all these features embellish a one-day international cricket encounter.

 

As in the theatre, so too on the cricket field. Colourful characters move from success to misfortune, or from misfortune to happiness. The personages are noble, but not perfect. In Greek drama, the hero falls from grace on account of a single flaw in personality, 'hamartia'. On the green field, a missed catch, an unforced error of judgment, turns the game on its head. Within a moment hero worship turns into ridicule.

 

In Aristotle's words, 'a likely impossibility' often results in the denouement, or resolution of conflict in a play. In cricket parlance this corresponds to the glorious uncertainty that spells doom for favoured teams, and triumph for the minnows. India's sole World Cup victory in 1983 falls in the same category.

 

By chance or design, one-day cricket adheres to the classical unities of time, place and action. The drama unfolds in a single day, closely observing Aristotle's injunction of continuity, moving through the stages of a beginning, a middle, and an end. In ancient Greek plays a Chorus prophesied, and commented on the events on stage. This role is performed loudly by today's print and electronic media.

 

The audience of a powerful play waits with bated breath for the outcome of a clash of the protagonists in the arena. So is it for us today. Suspense builds. We identify totally with the fortunes of our hero. A turn of events, resulting in his downfall, rouses in us passions similar to those that Aristotle observed on the Greek stage. Defeat in a prestigious match creates a 'catharsis' of these emotions of pity and fear. A strange emptiness, a void, fills the despondent fans of the losing team, even as feelings of elation and triumph rule the followers of the winner.

 

Classical drama had for its subject monumental events that impacted the destiny of states. In our region, the game is seen even as a diplomatic interlocutor in international relations. Aristotle would be thrilled with this modern adaptation of Greek drama.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MIDDLE EAST UPHEAVAL OFFERS NEW OPPORTUNITIES

AN INTRIGUING MIXTURE OF TRADITION, OIL, POLITICS, DESPOTS AND DICTATORS CLASHING WITH MODERN AND AVOWEDLY DEMOCRATIC FORCES, THE MIDDLE EAST IS IN A FLUX. POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS HAVE UPSET MANY AN ESTABLISHMENT EVEN AS THE WORLD SEEKS TO KEEP PACE WITH NEW DISPENSATIONS THAT ARE CHALLENGING, AND AT TIMES, REPLACING, THE OLD REGIMES.

SHYAM BHATIA

 

The unrest that continues to sweep through the Arab world is as wayward and unpredictable as the tsunami that hit Japan.

 

Many Arab analysts now admit that the popular 'intifadas' (uprisings) caught them by surprise and they, like the rest of the world, are still trying to work out the long—term consequences.

 

When the Tunisians first took to the streets, most Arabs saw their outpouring of popular anger as a purely local phenomenon that had nothing to do with the rest of the Arab world. The common refrain at the time was that this so—called Tunisian revolution would never spread to neighbouring Arab countries.

 

Within days, however, Tahrir Square in the centre of Cairo was filled with hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding regime change. In the end the sheer scale of the unrest in Cairo, as well as the number of casualties, dwarfed the Tunisian upheaval. The Egyptian regime was older and better entrenched than its Tunisian counterpart, so Mubarak's downfall was an even bigger event.

 

Right to the bitter end, Mubarak's closest advisers kept insisting that their man was not like Tunisia's ousted dictator, Zine al-Abidine Bin Ali, who escaped with his personal hoard of gold bars to Saudi Arabia.

 

Mubarak himself was until the last minute quoted as saying he would never leave, although in the end he and his family members were helicoptered from their lavish Cairo palace to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

 

As they face the wrath of their people, Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh argued that they were not like Tunisia and Egypt. But if analysts are willing to put their reputations on line and make any predictions, the vast majority would today predict that it is only a matter of time before these three do minos also fall.

 

It does not need an analyst or a soothsayer to predict that this political tsunami can only grow and spread still further. The other regimes at risk include the many sheikhdoms of the Gulf, such as Bahrein, as well as Oman and Saudi Arabia.

 

Five million Indians, as well as other foreigners working in the Gulf, have good reason to worry for their future. All indications are that the uprisings due to hit their countries of residence will not be as 'peaceful' as the ones in Tunisia and Egypt. As events in Libya have shown, violence on city streets may easily turn into armed confrontation between pro—and anti—government forces. Tens of thousands of foreign workers, including many Indians, fled Libya, losing their livelihoods in the process.

 

It took many years for stability to return to America, following the war of independence, and France was unstable for a long period of time after the revolution. The Arab world faces a similar prospect. Civil war, anarchy and prolonged political instability are all on the cards where the Arabs are concerned.

 

In the short term, however, Arab families can lie back and enjoy the kickbacks that are being offered to them by their ever more desperate and collapsing regimes.

 

Weeks after Ben Ali and Mubarak stepped down, political uncertainty and fear of civil war are twin prospects that still growl on the street corners of their capital cities. Protests continue because, as far as the revolutionaries are concerned, their presidents have been brought down but the regimes till survive.

 

Some of the fault lies in the hands of the revolutionaries themselves. They have successfully ridden the crest of their respective tsunamis, but have been unable to produce their own leaders for the post revolutionary era. Those few candidates who tried to ride the next wave have been shouted down and dismissed as opportunists.

 

Egypt's Nobel Prize winning Mohammed El-Baradei is a case in point. He had the guts to challenge Mubarak when the former President was still in office, and some saw in him an alternative to the 82-year-old ousted dictator. Yet, when Baradei arrived at a Cairo polling station to cast his vote in the recent national referendum, he was booed and pelted with shoes by a crowd that shouted, "Go home, American agent."

 

Optimists underline how regime change has been facilitated by enthusiastic, largely Western educated, Internet users who belong to the so-called Tweet and Facebook generation. It is they who continue to lead and successfully expose the atrocities and human rights violations in their respective countries.

 

Similarly Internet users in Egypt played a parallel role in bringing to public attention the case of a young Egyptian, Khaled Saeed, who was tortured to death while in police custody in Alexandria.

 

Yet, for all the optimism generated by a combination of youth, high technology and liberal Western values, there is another side to the emerging new republics. They are not necessarily pro-West and they are certainly anti-Israel. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited Cairo, she was shunned by the 'leaders of Tahrir Square' who accused her administration of supporting for decades the discredited Mubarak regime.

 

The same sentiments are being echoed on the streets of other Arab capitals where anti-government demonstrators have been also chanting anti-Israel and anti-US slogans.

 

For New Delhi the regional uncertainty presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is linked to the upward trajectory of fuel prices. The opportunity arises from the popular perception of India as an independent country and not as the handmaiden of Washington, the so-called big 'Satan' interested only in supporting Israel at all costs and preserving privileged access to the region's oil fields.

 

When India voted to abstain the recent United Nations Security Council authorising a 'no-fly zone' over Libya, this was seen on the Arab street as further evidence that New Delhi follows its own instincts where West Asia is concerned. The old cliché that one man's misfortune could be another man's blessing may well apply when it comes to assessing how India's regional interests could be affected.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

IT IS ALL ABOUT OIL

LT GEN VIJAY OBEROI (RETD)

 

In the last few days there has been a dramatic and explosive change in the events in Libya. The events, which have held centre—stage in the media and in most capitals of the world, have suddenly gained urgency on account of two reasons. The first is the UN Security Council resolution permitting the establishment of a 'no fly zone', so as to restrain the Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi from using military measures to subdue what the western media and the western governments are calling peaceful protests by a section of the populace of Libya. The second is the unleashing of massive military force to tame if not permanently neutralise both Gaddafi and his army. The two are obviously not compatible.

 

Let me rewind to place the events in Libya in the correct perspective. Following the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the peoples of many countries in the Arab world commenced popular uprisings against the current authoritarian / monarchical governments demanding an end to rampant corruption, authoritarian / dynastic rule, human rights violations, curbs on civil liberties and ushering in the rule of law.

 

The countries that faced this unrest have responded differently to the emerging situation, with Egypt accepting the change after initial posturing by President Mubarak. However, the portents are that while the Egyptian people will eventually get a different regime, the Egyptian military will continue to call the shots!

 

In Libya, Colonel Gaddafi summarily rejected the uprising, obviously with the confidence of the support of his army, his tribal compatriots and a fairly large part of the population that he had apparently nurtured.

 

When the Libyan uprising, later called rebellion, commenced, everyone thought it was part of the domino effect that was sweeping that part of the world. However, it soon became apparent that there was more to it than what was projected by the Western media. Unlike Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and other Arab countries, the rebels in Libya were acting in accordance with a plan. What was projected as a spontaneous movement of angry people, securing town after town while moving from the eastern part of Libya towards Tripoli to oust Gaddafi, was actually a well-planned move by an opposition group, with covert support from external powers. The façade was lifted when the Western nations saw the Libyan army rolling back all the gains made by the rebels and pushing them back to Benghazi.

 

A resolution of the UNSC was quickly moved and despite lack of consensus, as displayed by the abstentions by five important countries — India, China, Russia, Germany and Brazil — the military intervention was now well underway.

 

Many thought that having intervened in at least three countries in recent years — Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan — and having largely failed in achieving the aims they had set to achieve, the Western countries led by the US would refrain from getting involved militarily in yet another similar escapade. However, the three ingredients that have propelled them to do so once again are 'oil', 'ego' and the culture of dominating a country of the third world.

 

In this exercise, the UN was a convenient fig leaf and it has been used once again. Whether they are able to effect a regime change and foist a pliable alternative is at present a moot point, but they would certainly devastate a nation where the standard of living has been as high as any nation of the first world, including the sole super power!

 

Let me now briefly turn to the military aspects. The UN mandate, relating to the imposition of a no-fly zone, was ostensibly to prevent Gaddafi from using the Libyan Air Force to winkle out the rebels from Benghazi and areas around it. However, even in the operations so far, the superior Western air forces are bombing all types of targets, to include ammunition dumps, command posts, air defence units, tanks and artillery pieces, as well as what they perceive as Libyan troops.

 

It does not need a rocket scientist to understand that once again another third world nation will be devastated, large number of people will get killed or maimed, infrastructure will be destroyed and yet another prosperous country will join the ranks of the poor countries, despite its oil wealth.

 

The final outcome is hard to predict, especially when the Libyan military as well as important tribes continue to be loyal to Gaddafi. His personal wealth abroad may have been made inaccessible, but the dictators of his ilk always have numerous methods of keeping substantial amounts in places that may be inaccessible to the Western countries. Gaddafi is unlikely to succumb easily and hence a prolonged struggle is likely.

 

There is also a need to take a close look at oil that has brought wealth to the people of Libya and which the Western countries covet and usurp. Nearly all of Libya's oil and natural gas are produced onshore. Libya's 1.8 million barrels per day of oil output comes from two basins. The two are under the control of separate factions — Gaddafi and the rebels, backed by the Western powers. Libyan oil is largely exported to European countries; hence their unduly high interest in supporting the rebels! In terms of oil, which is the mainstay of Libyan economy, the battle lines seem to be set, but no one knows who will eventually prevail.

 

India has once again chosen to sit on the fence, even though the fence in this case is a barbed wire; it will poke us at every turn, but that is the way our diplomatic and security honchos are — follow the Buddha and adopt the 'Middle Path'! The learned Buddha could manage it, but can our pundits?

 

The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

NOTHING SELLS LIKE JINGOISM

WHY INDIA CAN'T KEEP AWAY THE WAR IMAGES EVERY TIME A CRICKET MATCH AGAINST PAKISTAN COMES ALONG


"WWIII: India vs Pakistan."


"After the kangaroos, the terrorists."

 

These are two random messages from Twitter and Facebook. There are tens of thousands just like them floating around the Internet – posted either by 'proud' Indians, or 'patriotic' NRIs spread across the world.
    At a time when we like to talk about maturing as a nation, emerging as a large global market, and eventually becoming a super power, a chance sporting encounter between India and Pakistan has exposed our basest mettle. If stories from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya highlighted the emergence of social networking as a tool of socio-political change, the last four days have exposed its dangers.

 

The World Cup semi-final, tomorrow in Mohali, is on the one hand a diplomatic missive – the prime minister has invited his Pakistani counterpart – and on the other "war minus nuclear weapons" (another hackneyed masterpiece from Twitter). So paint your faces, practice your 'hai, hai' slogans, load your weapons, and descend en masse on Chandigarh.

 

At some level, every sport pretends to be literature, lending itself to glorious, sweeping comparisons across sectors, issues, and ages. Granted that matches between India and Pakistan have never been only about cricket. All through the 50s, 60s and 70s, they were an extension of the hatred propagated in the two countries; not necessarily by the state, but by a generation of people who had suffered directly during the horrors of partition. There was a clear sentiment running through two young nations still coming to terms with the fact that they existed independent of each other.

 

One expected that over the years, when those born after 1947 formed the majority on both sides, this anger would diminish. That it would eventually lead to a state of equilibrium, where India and Pakistan would no longer be obsessed with one another, and would be able to differentiate between the obligations of politics and the simplicity of sport.

 

But in the last two decades the animosity has only deepened. Cricket has been used as a pawn not just by governments but also by the business houses desperate to fan passions for their own profit. Nothing sells like jingoism. It will always suit the media and advertisers, for example, if an India vs Pakistan match is portrayed as a symbol of conflict, rather than test of skill to be appreciated irrespective of national allegiance.

To add to this jumble of personal agendas, India's economic growth has created a breed of people who celebrate every success as a sign of our eventual global domination. By extension, the reaction to every failure is an expression of their insecurity that the premise may not be true. They often cross the line between criticism and abuse; sometimes they resort to violence, like when Mohammad Kaif's house in Allahabad was attacked midway through the 2003 World Cup.

 

Before a World Cup match against Pakistan, when prejudiced India meets immodest India, public opinion is hijacked by rabble-rousers who do not know better.

 

Yuvraj Singh's mother, Shabnam, had made a desperate appeal before the start of the tournament, expressing concern for the safety of her son if India did not go on to win. "I have seen Yuvi suffer each time he has failed and all sorts of hurtful motives have been attributed to it. I get this uneasy feeling each time I see the media build-up a crescendo, like this time, when it almost is being taken for granted that we will win the World Cup," she had written in the Hindustan Times.

 

"Unpredictability is the essence of sport and no one understands this better than those who play it. What worries the players is not the fear of failure alone, but of media and public backlash that can make their life miserable."

 

Before you let your nationalism run away with you tomorrow, spare a thought for the players. Out in the middle, their hands shaking, their every action scrutinised, every mistake chastised. Assigned roles larger than they signed up for; confused whether they are sportsmen, warriors locked in battle, or ambassadors of peace.

 

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

EDITORIAL

MANIFESTO MERCHANDISE

TAMIL NADU'S VOTERS NEED BETTER GOVERNANCE, NOT GIFTS

Time was when Tamil Nadu's voters would handsomely reward their political leaders for getting rice at one rupee a kilo. That simple promise swept the patriarch of the undivided Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Anna Durai, to power less than half a century ago, ending the Congress Party's two decade reign. It is, perhaps, a measure of the level of Tamil Nadu's development, of the changing needs or the growing greed of its voters that in place of 'rice-for-one-rupee-a-kilo' promise, Tamil Nadu's contending factions of the original DMK are now vying with one another to offer a variety of gifts to voters rather than focus on governance. Admittedly, Tamil Nadu is one of India's better administered and more developed states, even if its politics is anachronistic. Moreover, when it comes to corruption and democratic despotism, there isn't much to choose for the state's voters between an ageing DMK leader K Karunanidhi and the All India Anna DMK's (AIADMK) whimsical leader J Jayalalitha. In the absence of a clear cut choice between good and bad, and in the absence of any major voter grievance in a generally well administered state, it appears enticing voters with the promise of more goodies is the only game in town. That the tax-payer will eventually have to cough up the cash has not yet become an issue and does not seem to discourage anyone from making more promises.

The AIADMK's manifesto promises, among other things, free mixies, grinders and a fan to every woman voter, free laptops for senior school and engineering students and, four sets of uniforms and shoes for school children, 20 kg of free rice every month for all ration card holders, four gm of gold "mangalyam" for brides from poor families and free cable connections to all. There are some sensible promises like providing 20 litres of water daily for all families living below poverty line, three phase connection across the state in four years, free housing of 300 sq. ft, each costing Rs 1.8 lakh to Rs 3 lakh, for families below the poverty line, four free sheep to poor families, 60,000 cows supplied to 6,000 families to develop milk production, loans of up to Rs 10 lakh for women self help groups, four months maternity leave for pregnant women with benefits of Rs 12,000, and Rs 25,000 to poor women as marriage assistance. Not to be left behind, the DMK too has made similar promises, including 35 kg of rice free along with grinder for nearly 16 lakh poor families and laptops to dalit engineering students. The DMK has also promised an increase in old age pension, a free insurance scheme for fishermen, and an increase in the loan limit for SHG (self help group) for women.

 

 Neither party has promised a corruption free government. Is it because no one would take the promise seriously, or because it would not make much of a difference, given the corruption of the voter with such freebies? Clearly, what Tamil Nadu needs is better governance and not more gifts for voters. Unfortunately, a marginalised Congress Party is still unable to make an impact in the state's political marketplace.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE MILK THAT CHEERS

SPREAD THE WHITE REVOLUTION FAR AND WIDE

The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), which owns the Amul brand, is likely to do more of something that it has initiated in recent months, procure raw milk from states other than the home turf of Gujarat to meet burgeoning demand in recent years with rise in incomes. This is resulting in milk cooperatives in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar finding more of organised buying for their produce. Such buying takes care of marketing that is often a crucial missing link in the farm-to-fork cycle for many food items from cereals to onions. When farmers sell milk through their cooperatives they invariably get a good price and the coming months, when the lean season for milk production sets in, are likely to see a further rise in the procurement prices on top of the recent rises.

The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has already indicted its plans to do so, particularly to meet the sharply growing demand in the national capital region, which it supplies through procurement from adjoining Uttar Pradesh. GCMMF, for its part, has raised procurement prices by a compound annual rate of 14 per cent over the past three years. While higher procurement price will mean more fuel for food price inflation — milk wholesale prices have gone up by around 18-20 per cent in the past two years — the great plus for the overall system is that for his milk the farmer gets most of what the consumer pays — around 70 per cent — unlike say in the case of tomatoes or onions. Thus, one of the best ways in which inclusive growth can be promoted and living off the farm made more remunerative is by ensuring that the farmer gets a decent price for his milk, which can account for a good fourth of his overall income.

 

 Despite the foregoing, the macro picture right now is none too good. While overall milk demand is growing by around 6-7 per cent per annum, output is going up by no more than 4 per cent. At this rate, the country will have to go in for regular imports of milk power and other constituents of milk in a decade or so as was the case before the white revolution came. The national dairy plan prepared by NDDB has to be implemented, but even before that nothing works better than price incentives to farmers, which is what the rise in procurement and selling prices foreseen will do. The other requirement is to ensure that the Anand type dairy cooperatives get a leg up as they make up the more efficient part of the cooperative sector. There should be more of the likes of GCMMF and its counterparts in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and not handicap the successful models by political interference. This was the case when B M Vyas was ousted from his position at the head of GCMMF last year. Fortunately, his successor, R S Sodhi, himself an old timer in the organisation, appears to have settled down well with GCMMF expecting to raise turnover by a hefty 25 per cent in the current year. In future, luck should not have to be depended upon to move in the right direction.

 

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

HOME REMEDIES FOR CAD

DOMESTIC MARKET, LOCAL INNOVATIONS AND RETAIL CAN BE LEVERAGED TO CURB CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT

NAGESH KUMAR

Indian economy weathered the impact of global financial crisis quite well and continued to grow robustly while some of the most advanced economies were actually contracting. It is now widely seen to be moving back to its pre-crisis growth trajectory with most of its macroeconomic fundamentals in good shape.

One respect in which the emerging trend is not healthy is the balance of trade. The balance of India's trade has steadily deteriorated and become unfavourable with a deficit of US$ 118 billion in 2009-10. The surplus in invisibles and services trade absorbed some of this deficit to result in a current account deficit (CAD) of $38 billion or 2.8 per cent of GDP. This represents more than doubling of CAD from 1.3 per cent of GDP in just two years since 2007-08. In 2010-11, it may widen further especially with rising fuel prices even though exports have recorded robust growth rate in recent months. In other words, the CAD is moving beyond the healthy limits.

 

One should hasten to add that the present situation is quite different from the one that existed in 1991 when India's CAD had breached the 3 per cent level pushing the country into a liquidity crisis. It did not have the comfort of large foreign exchange reserves of nearly $300 billion then as now. Secondly, there is now a much more healthy inflow of FDI and portfolio capital than was there in 1991. To some extent, CAD helps the country absorb net foreign savings such as FDI. Nonetheless, a current account deficit of the order of 3 per cent is not sustainable.

The standard prescription for addressing the challenge of deteriorating CAD would be to promote India's exports more vigorously. In the present scenario of an uncertain and anaemic recovery of the advanced economies and given the compulsions of unwinding global imbalances and debt-fuelled excessive consumption, however, a major thrust on export promotion has its limitations. The appreciating rupee is also making it even more challenging. While export promotion should be done as much as possible, a somewhat unconventional way out would be to focus on developing new industries leveraging its large and expanding market to substitute and imports while also generating jobs and raising the proportion of manufacturing in the GDP. A few strategic priorities for strengthening India's BOP situation would include the following:

Leveraging large domestic market for new industries

In 2009-10, India imported nearly $75-80 billion of capital goods-non-electrical machinery and electronic equipment, much of which can be competitively produced in the country now that there is a large domestic demand. In products such as personal computers, LCD panels, solar panels, telecommunication and power generation equipment, but even in commercial aircrafts, ship building and rigs, domestic market size is now able to support world-scale competitive manufacturing units.

Encouraging exporters of equipment to start local manufacturing units by offering pioneer industry incentives and offset programmes is one way out as done by the East Asian countries to generate local value-added and jobs while saving foreign exchange. One lesson from the industrialisation experiences of all major developed and newly industrialising countries is that infant industry protection is critical and has been extensively used by them in the early stages of development. Short-term investment incentives and other protection offered to new industries can prove fruitful as is demonstrated by the rise of mobile handset manufacturing base in the country in recent years.

Exploiting the potential of FDI in retail for export promotion

Another option is to exploit the potential of retail FDI for export expansion. A number of global retailers are interested in exploiting the enormous Indian market and are waiting for the liberalisation of government policy for multi-brand retail. The retail chains, given their global reach and captive marketing networks could be important vehicles for promotion of exports, especially products of SMEs. The government could consider their entry subject to accepting an export obligation rising progressively from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of turnover over five years could push them to mobilise their marketing prowess for promoting exports from India.

Foreign retail giants can assist the Indian SMEs build export capability by providing them product specifications, packaging requirements, and other necessary know how and arranging their logistical and marketing networks. Walmart alone apparently exported over $26 billion worth of merchandise from China to the US. They can also help in India's evolution as a export hub for SME products generating millions of jobs in that process and thus mitigating the possible loss of jobs in unorganised retailers. Such export obligations are perfectly consistent with the TRIMs and GATS obligations and can be imposed without any complications with WTO rules. They prompt foreign companies to pay attention to exploit their host country's potential for sourcing, which they otherwise may not exploit.

Frugal innovations for developing new exportable products

India should also identify a few products for developing revolutionary designs giving great value for money, using our globally-recognised "frugal engineering" skills that have led to development of cheapest generic medicines, satellites and their launch vehicles, and indeed the Nano car. These products will have major markets in developing countries around the world besides in India. They could be produced in large volumes and exported to developing countries.

In other words, the time has come for realising the manufacturing potential of India's manufacturing potential in a big manner for domestic market as well as for exports for finding job opportunities for its teeming millions besides taking care of the vulnerabilities on the balance of payments.

The author is Chief Economist of UN-ESCAP (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific), Bangkok. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN. Comments are welcome at nkumar@un.org  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SELECTED STORIES FROM FICCI FRAMES...

VANITA KOHLI-KHANDEKAR

A tame James Murdoch, an aggressive Aroon Purie and a funny Shekhar Gupta — here are some quick snippets from FICCI Frames, the annual media and entertainment (M&E) industry jamboree held over three days in Mumbai last week.

1. At the FICCI Frames in March 2002, James Murdoch spoke aggressively about how Indian cable operators were "siphoning off money." The thousand odd delegates included the then minister for information and broadcasting, Sushma Swaraj. The speech, to put it mildly, did not go down well with the Indian authorities.

 

 So, when he was touted as a keynote speaker for Frames this year, everyone in the business was looking forward to some fireworks from the CEO of Europe and Asia for the $32.8 billion News Corporation.

James, however, was "toned down" as one observer put it. He's just spent over ten years playing on the global media stage. Everything from dealing with the intractable Chinese market, the chaotic Indian one and the tough European one has probably forced him to change his style. He started off in 2000 as a genial, enthusiastic and intelligent man who called a spade a spade. With time he has grown into his role as "heir apparent" to the News Corp empire and become more circumspect. What a pity; the younger James, a fresh Harvard dropout was more fun.

2. Aroon Purie, however, had no qualms about stating the truth. The chairman of the India Today Group was scathing in his analysis of what ails the television broadcasting industry — a "deaf, dumb and blind" government and a short-sighted industry, which is incapable of speaking in one voice. His solution; lock all television industry CEOs in the Big Boss house and force them to come to some agreement.

3. Shekhar Gupta's talk made every self-respecting journalist in the room cringe. The editor-in-chief of The Indian Express Group simply used his own experiences as a reporter and popular media perceptions of journalists to comment on "The changing face of Indian journalism." While I couldn't help laughing and nodding through the whole talk, the fact remains that journalists don't operate in isolation. Publishers, editors and media owners are equally to blame for the joke that Indian journalism has become. Ask any journalist how they are trained or any senior editor how often they take a sabbatical to refresh their knowledge and you will get the answer.

4. All the sessions on television were uniformly boring and repetitive. My sense of déjà vu was strong. Even younger analysts, investment bankers and industry guys said the same thing — the television industry is stuck in a time warp. Sure digitisation is not delivering and price control is killing pay revenues and content innovation. But what stops the industry from juicing ad revenues better by charging on a cost-per-thousand basis?

5. Most of the sessions and workshops on films, whether on the business, technology or even script-writing, were good. In segments such as film, animation and special effects, Frames is doing the job it is meant to. It is getting the right people involved, taking the discussion forward and translating these into papers that usually find their way into policy discussions. In fact, one observer said (rightly) that Frames is an "entertainment industry forum, not a media industry forum." Except for the talk by Gupta, there was nothing on print, on media buying or advertising. There was one session on radio.

6. "Tell me why should I attend this?" asked the head of one foreign consulting firm pointing to the melee coming out of a session. That stumped me. For more than ten years now, I have been attending Frames. Every year I think I will give it a miss, but rarely do. This year I finally figured out the answer. The imperfections of Frames, on content, timing and the chaos on opening and closing days, is just a reflection of the stage of evolution we are at. FICCI Frames, warts and all, is what the Indian media and entertainment industry is all about. And if you want to connect with the eco-system of the Indian M&E business, it remains the only forum to do that at.

vanitakohli@hotmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

WANTED - A DREAM TEAM

PUTTING TOGETHER A TEAM OF ENTERPRISING AND COMPETENT OFFICIALS IS CRUCIAL TO THE EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF ECONOMIC REFORMS

A K BHATTACHARYA

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh committing his government to ushering a new wave of economic reforms – akin to what he had unveiled as finance minister 20 years ago – the spotlight ought to be on the team he now has at his disposal to realise his latest dream. For, it is the quality and the effectiveness of his team of senior officials that will largely determine the degree of success in implementing the new reforms programme.

Manmohan Singh's success in reforming the economy with a slew of measures in 1991 was possible for three reasons. One, his commitment to the idea of reforms and his ability to empathise with a political system that could withstand only a slow and steady pace of change. Two, he had the unqualified backing of then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao while bringing about the major changes, though with some compromises. And three, he had a team of top-class civil servants in the finance ministry, and even in other economic ministries, who were not only competent, but were ideologically in complete agreement with the need for reforms.

 

Today, the first two factors that helped Singh achieve success in 1991 remain. His commitment to a second round of reforms seems as strong as it was 20 years ago. Since he is now the prime minister, he does not have to worry about the backing of his boss, though many political analysts believe that he may not always enjoy the kind of support he needs for reforms from Congress president Sonia Gandhi. However, the equations are different today and Gandhi needs Singh as much as the latter needs the former. Moreover, there is now greater political support for reforms.

In 1991, the Union Cabinet was said to have only two-and-a-half reform-minded ministers. The reference was to Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram, who was then the commerce minister. Nobody really knew who the half-reformer minister was or whether it was a way of suggesting the limited support reforms enjoyed at the ministerial level. Today, by consensus, the Union Cabinet has many more ministers who would swear by economic reforms, reflecting a major change in the mindset of the ruling party politicians. Even the opposition parties have veered round to the view that they may quibble over the pace of reforms, but on the broad direction of reforms, they have no difference of opinion.

Yet, it's ironic that in spite of greater political support to reforms, the Manmohan Singh government's record on this front, particularly in its second tenure, is average. Even as a series of corruption charges against the government has bogged down Singh, the visible lack of reforms has created many more hurdles in the Indian economy's march towards achieving sustained high growth in the coming years. Apart from Chidambaram, who was one of the original reformers in 1991, Singh now has reform-minded ministers in Pranab Mukherjee, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal, Jairam Ramesh, to name only a few.

However, as 1991 showed it so clearly, the presence of more reform-minded ministers is not the only necessary element to ensure the success of reforms. What is equally critical for giving the economy a big reforms push is to have in place a team of able, enterprising and reform-minded top bureaucrats in charge of key ministries at the Centre. The finance ministry under Singh had the good fortune of having several senior and even middle-rung officers, who made all the difference.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Shankar N Acharya, Ashok V Desai (though for a short period), K P Geethakrishnan and M R Sivaraman were there to give shape to the idea of early economic reforms initiated by Manmohan Singh. At a step or two below, there were R Venugopal Reddy, N K Singh and Duvvuri Subbarao. Reddy later moved to the commerce ministry before joining the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as deputy governor and then, after a short stint at the International Monetary Fund, became the head of the central bank. Singh later became the revenue secretary. Subbarao became the finance secretary and is now the RBI governor. Manmohan Singh's personal secretary at the time, Rahul Khullar, is now around and heads the commerce ministry.

The point is that most officials who made a difference then by making a success of reforms have proved to be durable assets over the last two decades in different capacities and under different governments. They are still the ones who make their contributions to better governance through either being part of the government or from outside. That is proof of how good the team of reforms Manmohan Singh had put together in the 1990s.

The big challenge that Singh faces today is whether he can put together a similarly qualified, competent and committed team of senior officials who can take charge of the situation. That must be a big concern. It is a not just a comment on the quality of officers that the Indian Administrative Services system has been churning out of late, but also on Singh's own failure in revamping the civil services.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

UNIVERSAL LIBRARIES AND COPYWRONGS

NILANJANA S ROY

As dreams go, this was supersized. All that Google wanted to do was to build the world's largest digital library. Back in 2004, before the Kindle and ebooks, the dream appealed to many—especially Google's focus on making out-of-print books available to anyone who wanted them.

The big issue wasn't whether the world needed a digital library. It was whether that library should be owned by any one company, even a company that enjoyed the trust and goodwill Google did at the time; and what the building of the new Alexandria would do to copyright.

 

 Over the next six years, Google's battle became an increasingly arcane legal one, with publishers, authors and other "shareholders" taking positions in the legal war that followed. Last week, a US federal judge passed a landmark judgement, negating an agreement between a coalition of publishers and authors and Google that would have given the company the right to continue with the Google Library Project.

If the agreement had been found legal, Google would have been able to continue the work it does on Google Books — where it shares snippets from works in and out of copyright — and would, more significantly, have been able to stake claim to owning the copyright of thousands of "orphan" works: books where the author or other copyright holders are untraceable.

As it stands, the status of the roughly 15 million volumes already scanned by Google is in question and the company will need to work out a new agreement with publishers and authors.

Beyond the legal battles, there are two major questions raised by the Google Library Project. Those who believe that information should be free, and that knowledge should be available to all are right when they argue that the construction of a digital, free library is a good thing.

Currently, physical books and physical libraries reach only a relatively privileged few; the building and maintaining of libraries is not an easy task, and large parts of the world live in conditions of what has been described as book hunger, or book famine.

The existence of a common digital library, from which books could be downloaded, printed freely and distributed, is light years away from the idea that knowledge should be available only for a few initiates, that books and manuscripts are the preserve of the Brahmins. If we don't trust Google — and there is no good reason to hand over the keys to the digital kingdom to any one company, no matter how well-intentioned — there has to be another way to build a library the world can use.

At present, university libraries and some countries have taken the initiative, and are attempting to replicate Google's initiative. (India is not yet one of them — we believe, by and large, in keeping books under lock and key, sadly.)

The other question is a large and difficult one: what happens to copyright? A system of rights invented in 1709 and based on the principle of territory — an author/publisher holds and sells rights to their work across a certain geographically-defined locale — is unlikely to survive the digital age, no matter how hard publishers work on digital rights management. Often, the copyright debate has been reduced to banalities.

Those who want a world where books are freely and easily available often ignore the rights of the author to profit from his or her work. Those who want to protect territorial copyright ignore the technological advances that would allow books to be instantly available, at cheaper prices, anywhere in the world — and ignore the growing public demand to break down the geographical system of copyright.

As the Chinese search engine behemoth Baidu discovered this week, you cannot dismantle copyright without the consent of the original copyright holders. Baidu has had to apologise and promise to remove books that were made available without the consent of the authors/ publishers on its Wenku platform after Chinese authors accused them of gross copyright infringement.

We are at an impasse — you cannot protect author's rights without protecting territorial copyright under the present system, and you cannot give readers what they want without dismantling territorial copyright. In essence, we are trying to use a bullock cart on a Formula One track, and it isn't working.

The lawyers on both sides will probably spend the next few years going back and forth trying to work out a settlement that satisfies both sides. But until we accept that a system designed for the realities of the 18th century marketplace isn't going to work in the increasingly digitally fluid world of the 21st century, readers and authors alike will lose out. We need, as they said in the film Jaws many years ago, a bigger boat.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT BY LAW ALONE

WITHOUT FINALISING POLICY IN FINANCE, CAN A COMMITTEE DRAFT FINANCIAL LEGISLATION?


This newspaper's interview with the chairman of the newly-appointed Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission, Justice Srikrishna (ET, March 28) serves to highlight a vital question: can financial law be rewritten even as financial policy is still being formulated? The Raghuram Rajan committee, the report on making Mumbai an international financial centre, etc, have accumulated, only to spawn yet more reports even as more than half of India's populace remains outside the framework of formal finance and India's financial sector remains stunted by global standards. A Jalan Committee has come up with an archaic vision of natural monopoly in stock exchanges, the government has pushed through legislation that makes the finance minister the chairman of an overarching regulatory body. Loan waivers play havoc with credit discipline even as politicians make that a tool to promote their own chosen brand of microfinance. And since India was relatively insulated from the global financial sector meltdown, many in authority believe that India has little to learn from the rest of the world when it comes to financial regulation. A more plausible alternate explanation for India's relative immunity from the global mess would compare the global financial sector crisis to an adult disease and India's financial sector to a repressed child, capable only of infantile disorders.


This being the state of the financial sector, the urgent need is to chalk out a clear strategy for financial sector development with, one, institutions that promote competition, inclusion and fair play, two, regulation that clearly allocates responsibility for effective macroprudential and microprudential behaviour, three, openness to deployment of technology as it evolves, four, financial innovation subject to prudent regulation, and, five, calibrated integration with global flows. Once such a strategy and its detailed policy implications have been worked out, then a committee can usefully get to work clothing the policy in coherent laws. Till then, should the good justice rush down the trail in the dust left by the government dragging its feet over a series of financial sector reports?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INVALID PROTEST

THE GARMENT INDUSTRY STANDS ONLY TO GAIN FROM THE PROPOSED EXCISE DUTY REGIME


The reported move of garment manufacturers to protest against the levy of 10% excise duty on branded apparel is wholly unwarranted. The price on which the excise duty would be levied is 45% of the retail price, now that the abatement rate has been enhanced to 55%. Readymade garments and made-ups have already been under an optional excise duty regime. Manufacturers are required to pay excise if they wish to avail of Cenvat credit on inputs in production. And now that the Centre plans to bring in an integrated, pan-India goods and services tax regime soon, continuing with an optional levy really makes no sense. A system of regular duty in the apparel sector would provide seamless tax setoffs for levies already paid in the production process. Besides, the apparel industry can expect sustained domestic demand growth, in the medium term and beyond. As for demand abroad, a CII-McKinsey study projects a seven-fold increase in apparel exports over the decade. So, the suggestion that the 10% duty on branded apparel would unduly affect demand appears to be without basis. The higher abatement included in the Finance Act seems arbitrary, but it is valid to exclude distribution-related expenses. The figures show that overall demand for apparel remains strong, with the trend growth rate in the heady double-digits. With a large cotton and synthetics output base, the garment industry in India can source its requirements locally. The way ahead is to maintain and indeed rev up quality offerings of apparel and made-ups, and step up style and design innovation so as to attract the attention of finicky, demanding buyers. Today, about 45% of our total textile exports involve readymade garments. But there's also the need to go upmarket with renewed focus on design skills, dedicated textile parks to remove bottlenecks and raise value addition levels. With the Indian garments market pegged at . 90,000 crore, and branded apparel making up about . 20,000 crore of the total, the upside is huge. For apparel manufacturers here, building and sustaining international brands of garments is an idea whose time has come.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE BIG GAME

THE WORLD CUP JUST GOT MORE EXCITING WITH INDIA PLAYING PAKISTAN

 

In the post-match presentation ceremony after India beat Australia, Yuvraj Singh said he expected Indian cricket fans to keep pointing out that what mattered was not the finals but the semi-finals against Pakistan. It is unfortunate that cricket should evoke that kind of jingoism. "War is a continuation of politics by other means," the military strategist Clausewitz famously observed. Sports, however, need not be a continuation of hostility by other means. Even in purely cricketing terms, an Indo-Pak match can generate genuine excitement. India is the best batting side in this World Cup. And Pakistan, which started off as underdogs after its two best opening bowlers were disqualified for spot-fixing, has suddenly found a new lease of life under the captaincy of all-rounder Shahid Afridi who has become the most successful bowler in this World Cup. Pakistan appears to have a far more balanced attack than India which is relying heavily on Zaheer for pace.


Traditionally, the Mohali pitch is fast and bouncy and should favour Pakistan, which has Shoaib Akhtar and Wahab Riaz to back Umar Gul. However, as the temperature rises towards the end of March, the wicket could slow down. The Mohali match has even catalysed cricket diplomacy, with India's PM inviting his Pakistani counterpart for the semi-finals. Hopefully, the presence of the VVIPs will not require enhanced security of the kind that inconveniences the paying spectators or pressurises the players. This, after all, is a World Cup semi-final and not a bilateral Indo-Pak series. Just two decades ago, British PM John Major would stroll into the Lord's cricket ground even at a time of terrorist threats by the Provisional IRA. Major was interested in cricket and never saw it as a theatre to stage bilateral bonhomie.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

PASSING ADAM SMITH'S MORALITY TEST

WE NEED TO RE-READ HIS TREATISE ON MORAL SENTIMENTS TO APPRECIATE THE TRUE CAUSES OF THE FINANCIAL CRISIS


As the world economy recovers from the global financial crisis, questions related to causes of the crisis and the inability of economists to forecast it have gained significance. The recent report of the Financial Inquiry Commission set up by the US government provides an exhaustive narrative of the crisis and its proximate causes, but stops short of identifying the critical factor that led to the all-round crisis across economies. This article argues that while the wealth and economies of nations have been built on Adam Smith's free market approach, it is an inadequate understanding of the foundations on which Adam Smith intended the free markets to rest, that can perhaps be held responsible for periodic economic crises, including the most recent one.
The Financial Inquiry Commission found that just prior to the crisis, there was an explosion in risky subprime lending and securitisation, an unsustainable rise in housing prices, widespread reports of egregious lending practices, a dramatic increase in household mortgage debt and an exponential growth in unregulated derivatives, among many other red flags. The commission also identified widespread failures in financial regulation, corporate governance and risk management, lack of transparency, and a systematic breakdown in accountability and ethics as key causes of the crisis.


These factors are undoubtedly relevant, but the question that requires in-depth thought is, what is it that caused a breakdown or failure in each of the agencies and institutions, leading to not just systemic failure of those institutions, but systemic failure of economies as a whole? Identification of this underlying cause behind the causes is critical because remedial action at that level can prevent a recurrence of such crises.
The report mentions that there was a systemic failure across several agencies including, among others, financial institutions, governmentsponsored enterprises, regulatory bodies and credit rating agencies. Institutions pushed lending, risk taking and other activities beyond the dictates of normal prudence to maximise profits, at individual and institutional levels. There was an underlying psychology emphasising profit-making as the only relevant goal to be pursued relentlessly. Classical and neo-classical economic theory, justifying pursuit of self-interest as the socially optimal course of action, provided the licence to rationalise the pursuit of self-interest to ridiculous lengths. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which brought in its wake the concept of wage labour, the concept of "self" most often extended to interest of the tribe or community as a whole. However, the concept of "self" has progressively narrowed. The economic philosophy underlying faith in the invisible hand behind free markets has supported the practice of pursuing one's limited self-interest as the rational course of action, even when the same has been in conflict with stability of the larger whole. However, it appears that when Adam Smith referred to the advantages of an economic system based on self-interest of individuals, he had in mind individuals who had a moral fibre akin to that described in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, the opening words of which are: "Howsoever selfish a man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it."


    The Theory of Moral Sentiments discussed concepts like propriety, the foundation of judgements concerning our sentiments and conduct, the sense of duty, character of virtue and systems of moral philosophy. Since this profound intellectual treatise was written prior to The Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, it is more than likely that Adam Smith's concept of the individual self rested on foundations described in this earlier work, and should, therefore, have formed the building blocks of the real wealth of nations. Unfortunately, this did not happen, and these attributes did not find place in the economic framework as it has evolved thus far.


Why did The Wealth of Nations become a crucial part of the economic literature, while the Theory of Moral Sentiments, described by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as an "outstanding book in the intellectual history of the world", remain relatively obscure? The Wealth of Nations acquired popularity as an economic text because it dealt at length with economic issues. In contrast, The Theory of Moral Sentiments was relegated to the field of philosophy as knowledge became compartmentalised. Also, the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying material progress led to apreoccupation with the material aspects of life and a relative neglect of matters relating to moral sentiment and virtue, which were no less worthy contenders for the "mental space" available to human beings. The last three decades, which reemphasised free market economics and the Washington Consensus as the basis of economic progress, reinforced the earlier trend and finally led to the recent financial crisis.
Fresh thinking on economic issues and integrating it more closely to the knowledge from philosophy, sociology, psychology and even neuro-science is needed to strengthen the foundations of economic theory. As aresult, public policy and practice will improve and society rescued from the present mess. Daunting though the challenge may seem, it is not impossible, nevertheless. A beginning needs to be made, starting with the right thought emphasising the need to reverse the flow and stem the tide of blatant and uninhibited promotion of self-interest.

 

SUMATI MEHTA CIVIL SERVANT

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE


Embassy Singers

Just one blast from Wiki-Leaks might have prompted Arun Jaitley's rethink on the objectivity and veracity of the cables. Jaitley fans in the BJP, however, are trying to put things in perspective. And they call it the 'tale of two embassy singers'. It was 16 long years ago that the BJP's thenreigning ideologue-cumstrategist-cum-dial-a-quote superstar Govindacharya had a memorable tell-it-all session with his British High Commission hosts in New Delhi. That too had resulted in an explosion of sorts through a media leak which revealed that Govindacharya, at his intellectual best, had told his British listeners that the BJP's projected leader A B Vajpayee was a mere mukhauta (mask). Govindacharya, too, vehemently denied making such an articulation bordering on saffron blasphemy. What happened to Govindacharya thereafter is part of the parivar's folklore. With a Chennai-based big-time parivar insider now reportedly writing to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, urging him to clarify whether Hindutva is mere 'electoral gas' for the saffron camp, the mood in the parivar is heavy with hope and apprehension. But then, we know that for the strategist in Jaitley, this might just be kid's play.

 

Loaded Reminder

Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari is known as a stickler for rules. He insists that members conduct themselves strictly according to the rule-book. So, it surprised many when he evoked a rarely used clause to stop MPs from asking clarifications from the PM after Manmohan Singh's statement on the WikiLeaks issue. Since RS members are entitled to ask clarifications after ministers' statements, Ansari's flashing a forgotten 'silencer rule' has surprised many. Though Left members — on whose choice Ansari made it as vice-president and RS chairman during the UPA-Left days — usually display much understanding for Ansari, his surprise decision has evidently irritated even the Left benches. No wonder, Sitaram Yechury reminded Ansari that the last time such a rule was evoked to prevent MPs from asking clarifications was when the then-PM Rajiv Gandhi made a statement on the Bofors scandal in an extremely surcharged atmosphere.


Hopefully Lost

Remember Mahua Moitra? It seems accidental misfortunes are chasing this young and ambitious ex-vice president of J P Morgan in London who left it all and returned to India after being inspired by Rahul Gandhi's vision for youth. Though she became incharge of Rahul's 'aam aadmi ka sipahi' programme in West Bengal, a combination of ambition and in-house power-play left her in a spot. So, she chose to walk out of the Congress camp to give Mamata Banerjee a bear hug in front of the cameras. To be fair to Didi, she tried to reciprocate by making Moitra a Trinamool candidate from the Jalangi constituency. But when the Trinamool and the Congress finally clinched their alliance post-Mamata's take-it-or-leave threat, Moitra lost out. In their last round of seat adjustments, Didi gave the Canning (East) sitting seat of the Trinamool to the Congress and shifted her sitting MLA Idris Ali to Jalangi by politely asking Moitra to pull out. So, where does that leave the young lady? Perhaps she could scout for a London publisher for an autobiographical account or just stay back hoping for beter prospects in case Didi makes it to Writers' Building.

 

Fortune Seekers

Some of the electoral fortune seekers whom the Kerala CPM had promoted out of turn are proving to be experts in opportunistic migration. After ex-Lok Sabha MPs Abdullah Kutty and K S Manoj deserted the party to join the Congress, it was the turn of outgoing party-backed independent MLA Alphons Kannanthanam and former SFI state chief Sindhu Joy to show their true colours. While Kannanthanam, a Christian, joined the BJP to quench his developmental thirst by keeping mum on the Ayodhya and Gujarat episodes, Sindhu Joy, like Abdullah Kutty and K S Manoj, has suddenly found the communist ideology not conducive for pursuing her religious faith! A case of being at home with dialectical materialism during good electoral tidings and seeking religious salvation when the political going gets complicated, clearly.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NOW&THEN

A CASE FOR HOUSING REFORM

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, a tall political leader is said to have rationalised, which seemed to suggest that give-and-take of the domestic variety was generally par for the course and nothing really to be worked up about. That was then, in the sclerotic seventies characterised by intransigent non-reform in policymaking and a panoply of rigidities. Fast-forward to the here and now and the latest WikiLeaks disclosures seem to even point at monetary inducements being readily offered to buy votes in Parliament during the crucial non-confidence vote against the government over the Indo-US nuclear deal.


The allegations have been denied outright; the charges are unproven and not provable either, goes the official explanation, as the dispatches of representatives of sovereign states in foreign lands enjoy diplomatic immunity. But such a position is based on mere technicalities. It cannot be gainsaid that the scope for corruption is widespread here and the degeneration appears all pervasive in public life. And there seems perverse incentive to cut corners and resort to corrupt practices, including reportedly forgery of commercial pilot licences. But to express disgust about malpractices and corruption within and beyond legislative halls would hardly herald change and reform.


The way ahead to tackle corruption is to thoroughly reform the root causes for opacity and give-and-take, such as continuing non-reform in the funding of elections by political parties and routine lack of transparency in real estate and housing transactions. We need to plug the institutional lacunae and drawbacks that seem to prevent good governance, including in electoral funding and routine incompliance in the housing market. Now, when it comes to reform of political funding, the tallest in the land say it requires political consensus (which presumably is absent at present). But we surely do need proactive policy to plan and follow through with reform of the housing sector, to bring about the much-needed transparency in buy-and-sell initiatives across the board. Now, the growing economic power of cities is a worldwide phenomenon. But the point is that the urban housing market here is wholly distorted with glaring rigidities, gross anomalies and sheer anachronisms. The mavens estimates that India is likely to have about 45% of its population living in urban areas within the next two decades —up from just about 30% now —and the projections suggest major shortfalls in access to potable water, affordable housing and public transportation in our cities sans sound policy design in the medium term and beyond. What's required is substantial increase in housing stock and infrastructural services, so as to discourage rent-seeking.


It is notable that the recent High-Powered Expert Committee has been estimating the investment requirement for urban infrastructure services in the next couple of decades. The committee pegs the investment requirement for urban infrastructure services for the next 20 years at . 39.2 lakh crore at 2009-10 prices, with the bulk of it — 44% — proposed to be earmarked for urban roads. The expert take is that there is a huge investment backlog in the segment pan-India. Next, infrastructural services like water supply, sewerage and storm water drainage would require another 20% of the funds, or . 8 lakh crore. A smaller corpus, . 4 lakh crore, is allocated for urban renewal including redevelopment of slums. The figure appears to be a gross underestimate, given that over half the population in Mumbai, for instance, already resides in slum-category housing. Note that funds requirement for sectors like power distribution have been excluded, as they are beyond the very scope of the report. The expert panel vouches for a switch to a mayoral system in our cities to rev up accountability, and incentivise proactive policy to shore up muchneeded investments. The present system of state government bureaucrats directly in charge of urban renewal seems sub-optimal, the report avers. The objective of policy ought to be to step up funds flow with innovative mechanisms and actualise investment in trunk infrastructure to boost the housing stock and, so, considerably reduce the massive gap in supply.

In parallel, what is essential is to liberalise and increase the floor area ratio (FAR) in our cities, and not just in the city centres, to increase supply of affordable housing. A McKinsey report last year estimated that with reform of FAR norms and attendant policy and governance reform such as a national mortgage guarantee fund, it should be possible to increase the supply of affordable housing 10-fold, or 20 lakh dwelling units ayear. In tandem, the latter report also suggests that 30% of all affordable housing be available to rent. The bottom line is the need to improve transparency in real estate investment and put paid to the high-cost regime in housing, high stamp duties and the like, to purposefully improve living conditions, networks and foster innovation as well.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TAMIL NADU RIVALS FACE REALITY CHECK

 

In the normal course, analysts in Tamil Nadu might have made bold to suggest that Jayalalithaa's AIADMK would be preparing to slip into the driver's seat after next month's Assembly election. Although MGR did buck the trend once, the broad rule in the state has been for the electorate to put the political front led by the state's two Dravidian parties into the saddle by turn. Anti-incumbency is, thus, a significant consideration. Ms Jayalalithaa should thus have had grounds to think that she is home and dry. She could have been overtly sanguine for another reason. The aftertaste of the 2G spectrum affair appears to have sapped morale in the DMK camp. Its stalwarts have left their traditional urban constituencies and sought refuge in the rural hinterland. In spite of these positives for the AIADMK, however, observers appear wary of sticking their necks out on calling this election. The AIADMK's combative and formidable leader too appears to be going about her poll campaign with a degree of caution. There is a reason. In Tamil Nadu, there is no one party that would typically sweep the polls, fighting single-handedly. Electoral fronts are judged to be of the utmost importance. These are generally made up of several parties. In the AIADMK-led combine, there has appeared a gap in the shape of Vaiko's MDMK, which pulled out because Ms Jayalalithaa could not accommodate it on the number of seats to contest. Mr Vaiko has not joined the rival DMK-led camp, or hinted at seeking to upset Ms Jayalalithaa's calculations in other ways. Yet it is unlikely that the AIADMK leadership will breathe easy until the polls are done. The AIADMK's other prospective allies — the DMDK and the Left parties — also appeared unhappy with Ms Jayalalithaa's approach to ticket distribution. Apparently, so sure was the AIADMK chief initially of her confident return to power that she thought nothing of riding roughshod over the aspirations of potential allies. The MDMK's departure from her front seems to have helped restore balance to her approach, and the AIADMK's ties with alliance partners now reflect a dose of realism. Not taking chances, however, Ms Jayalalithaa has matched the Chief Minister, Dr M. Karunanidhi, stride for stride in promising freebies to the electorate to be paid for from the state exchequer. Apparently, the AIADMK brass could not be sure of the voters' affections in spite of many predicting that the 2G spectrum case would seriously prejudice the DMK's comeback bid. With the 2G matter sticking out like a sore thumb in urban Tamil Nadu by all accounts, the Congress has succeeded in wresting more than 60 seats to contest from its ally, the DMK. The DMK climbed down after initially appearing to be haughty. But it is by no means clear how the Congress would fare. The party badly needs to transcend its numerous organisational weaknesses and the factionalism within even in the southern parts of the state where it is a recognisable presence. Regardless of what transpires in the end, the DMK's dealings with its allies in different parts of the state appear to be informed by pragmatism. But it will be interesting to see how the party fends off the spectrum allegations in its campaign. At the level of anti-incumbency, there are other local issues to be considered as well — such as difficulties on the power front.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BEYOND BOUNDARIES

 

Cricket encounters between India and Pakistan come with the inevitable mix of passion, paranoia, politics and propaganda. Like the central event in Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, a match between these two countries is interpreted differently by a variety of stakeholders and spectators. Often we take away from such a match only what we want to take away. Take the iconic Australasia Cup final of 1986. For an entire generation it is remembered just in terms of the "victory or death" last ball — Chetan Sharma's full-toss and Javed Miandad's massive six. A quarter-century on everybody talks of, exults at or agonises over that final delivery. Nobody recalls the compelling 99 overs and five balls that preceded it. This should not surprise us. An India-Pakistan clash is much more than sport. There are extreme emotions at play: great hostility interrupted by irrational affection and a contemplation of history's ifs and buts. This was most apparent, for example, during the Indian tour of Pakistan in 2004, perhaps the happiest cricket series of all. My favourite story from then is of a strait-laced Maharashtrian cricket journalist walking around the bazaars of Peshawar. He was accosted by a burly shopkeeper who enquired if he was from India. Our man nodded; his interlocutor jumped and pushed him into an inner room. The sports writer was decidedly in panic, seeing visions of a long innings in a Taliban camp. It turned out the shopkeeper was a cricket fan and wanted to give his Indian guest a gift. He put something in his visitor's hands and informed him it was the best cocaine in Peshawar, and it was his for free! There are other moments when an India-Pakistan cricket match can seem nothing but the latest skirmish in a primal conflict. A rampaging Pathan takes on a seasoned Maratha campaigner, or perhaps a devil-may-care Jat Sikh. Could this be Panipat 1761, Jamrud 1837 or Saragarhi 1897? Maybe it's only Shahid Afridi plotting the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh. Can one trace Indo-Pakistani diplomacy through cricket matches? Between 1952 and 1961, the two teams played each other three times. The cricket was tepid: two successive series ended 0-0. Nevertheless, cricket tourists crossed the Wagah, old friends met again. Lala Amarnath was only team manager in 1954-55, but was welcomed as Lahore's prodigal son. Nostalgia was still fresh; the Cold War hadn't consumed both nations yet, hadn't forced them into irreconcilable camps. As for the cricket, it did serve up its delicious ironies. The first India-Pakistan series was decided when the hosts won at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay in November 1952. India took a 2-1 lead, which it retained by drawing the remaining tests. Two centuries were scored for India at the Brabourne, the first hundreds for a predominantly Hindu nation playing against one crafted by Muslim secessionists. The century makers were Vijay Hazare, a Christian, and Polly Umrigar, a Parsi. Somebody in the Great Pavilion in the Sky had a sense of humour. In 1978, it took new regimes in Islamabad and New Delhi — General Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship and the Janata Party government respectively — to accede to the first test series since 1961. The testy Zulfikar Ali Bhutto-Indira Gandhi relationship, with the Bangladesh War and the Shimla Conference as its baggage, was sidestepped. In 2004, it was Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf promising a new start. That sentiment extended to the Manmohan Singh era: to Pakistan's arrival in India in 2005, and India's return visit the following season. Soon enough, the diplomacy began to taper. When 26/11 crippled it, cricket could only fall by the wayside. The intensity of India-Pakistan cricket needs to be distinguished from its frequency. For India, the hyper-nationalism probably peaked in the 12-15 years between the mid-1980s and the end of the 20th century. In the 1980s, India and Pakistan began to play each other more and more, in home and away series and in biannual tournaments in Sharjah. By the 1990s, television had converted limited-overs cricket games to gladiatorial contests, with Imran Khan infamously likening playing India to jihad. Every India-Pakistan match — wherever it was played, Toronto to Singapore — began with war bugles being sounded. Gradually there was simply so much cricket between the two countries — partly a result of their greedy administrators, allies in global cricket politics, milking the hyped-up rivalry — that the crowds began to pick and choose. You couldn't rev up emotions every week, could you? India has played (and beaten) Pakistan four times in the 50-50 World Cup. Only once has it really mattered, in 2003, when Sourav Ganguly's XI smashed Pakistan and almost everybody on its way to the final. In 1992 and 1999, victories in a sub-continental sideshow were small consolation as India crumbled overall and Pakistan marched to the final. In 1999, the World Cup match was played during the Kargil war, with Manchester police worried about a spill-over effect. The game itself was pointless. India was all but out of the tournament. Three years earlier, on the other hand, the World Cup quarter-final in Bengaluru captured the India-Pakistan cricket rivalry at its most intense and pulsating — or at its ugliest. There was a context to this frenzy. By 1996, India had lost its way after the initial surge of economic reform. Cheered by the generals in Rawalpindi, the Taliban was at the gates of Kabul; Kashmir had become India's bleeding wound; a war with Pakistan seemed imminent. By 2003, in contrast, it was a more confident India (and Indian team) that took on Pakistan in a fine game in Centurion, South Africa. As it grew as an economy, middle India developed other priorities. It still wanted its cricket team to beat Pakistan, as it does this week, but there were (and are) also other things it wanted in life. Today, the ability to shrug shoulders and move on — and the opportunity cost to not doing so — is greater than at any time earlier. May this essential equanimity (easy to miss while watching over-the-top news television shows) come through this Wednesday night. Admittedly it would be nice if it were preceded by an Indian victory. * Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF SOARING OIL PRICES

 

The turmoil in north Africa and West Asia will render awry the budget arithmetic of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee even if global prices of crude oil stabilise at around $100 per barrel. An increase in the administered price of diesel is expected in the second week of May — which may be accompanied by hikes in the prices of subsidised kerosene and cooking gas. All of which is certain to ensure that inflation will remain high despite government claims to the contrary. On March 24, Mr Mukherjee expressed concern in the Rajya Sabha about the instability in the area from where India sources two-thirds of its imports of crude oil. Two facts are important to underline: India currently imports around 80 per cent of its total annual requirement of crude oil; and oil imports comprise one-third of the value of the country's total imports. In the recent past, international oil prices have been extremely volatile. During 2008, crude oil prices jumped from $40 a barrel to $147 a barrel before collapsing again to $40 a barrel. Though in 2009 and 2010, prices rose steadily to around $90 a barrel before spiking to a 30-month high of $120 a barrel in February, after the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. Mr Mukherjee says high global prices are a reality we have to live with. But the situation could deteriorate if the civil war in Libya escalates, exacerbating short-term supply-demand imbalances despite higher output from countries like Saudi Arabia. Returning to India, what the FM has done is inexplicable. In his Budget for 2011-12 presented on the last day of February, by which time prices of crude oil were on the boil, he curiously assumed that there would be no extra outgo on oil subsidies. In fact, he actually pared the Union government's total subsidy bill by `20,583 crore, which is clearly unrealistic. Whereas the government deregulated petrol prices in 2010, the prices of diesel as well as kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas continue to be administered. Will the neoliberal hawks now decide that the best way ahead would be to not allow "under-recoveries" of public sector oil refining and marketing companies to go up substantially while also not increasing the government's deficit too much? This would clearly imply higher prices to consumers. Diesel is the largest selling petroleum product in India in terms of tonnage as well as value, accounting for roughly 40 per cent of the total value and around 60 per cent of the total volume of all petroleum products sold. Importantly, diesel is the main fuel used for transportation. Higher diesel prices have a cascading impact on the prices of a very wide range of articles of mass consumption, especially food items. Since retailers tend to increase the prices of goods transported by a higher proportion than the rise in transport costs, a cascading impact occurs. Petrol, unlike diesel, is consumed primarily by the rich for personalised transport. But the same is not true for LPG which is used by the middle classes and kerosene which is supposed to be used by the poor for cooking and lighting but which is illegally diverted in large quantities (to adulterate petrol and diesel) and smuggled out of India. Targeting of subsidies is easier said than done. Oil companies have tried to ensure that commercial users of LPG use cylinders that are not red in colour with limited success. The price of a cooking gas cylinder would be Rs 150 higher than around Rs 350 at present if subsidies were removed. The administered price of kerosene went up from `9.30 a litre in January 1998 to around Rs 12.50 a litre in June 2010 — still, the government subsidy on each litre of kerosene is Rs 18. All sorts of measures have been unsuccessfully tried to curb diversion of kerosene — from colouring it blue to putting chemical markers in the liquid. But the incentive to adulterate continues because of the yawning gap between kerosene prices and those of diesel and petrol. What the government does not publicise is that total taxes on petrol are more than half its selling price and over 30 per cent of the price paid by a consumer of diesel is in the form of taxes. Roughly 37 per cent of the selling price of petrol comprises excise and customs duties, which accrue to the Union government. Excise duties on petroleum products contribute over 40 per cent of the Indian government's total excise collections. Importantly, customs and excise duties on crude oil and petroleum products are ad valorem or a percentage of value which implies that tax revenues go up as prices rise, which is good for the government but bad for the consumer. Since the government seems keen on protecting the health of the fisc by not cutting taxes, not the health of the aam aadmi, there is a strong possibility that after the Assembly elections get over, even before the poll results are announced on May 13, the prices of diesel, LPG and kerosene could go up. As for controlling inflation, forget it. * Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PUT SIACHEN ON TABLE LAST, NOT FIRST

 

As the United States gets into an Arab quagmire without extricating itself from the AfPak theatre there must also be pressure to find a foreign policy success in Washington D.C., with election year approaching. Consequently, the discourse on AfPak has begun to change. The good and necessary war has become unnecessary and futile as it drains the US treasury and America suffers 500 casualties annually. Western experts and media now describe how unstable the situation in Pakistan has become and how radicalised that country is today. There is also grudging admission that Pakistan's rulers have been following a dual if not a multilayered policy on hunting with the US in the effort in Afghanistan and supping with the terrorists of various hues simultaneously both on the western and eastern frontiers. Simultaneously, the subscript is getting more pronounced. This subscript says that Pakistan is unable to fully cooperate because of its apprehension about Indian designs on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Almost all of the recent writings from the US or the UK end up with the same final recommendation. India and Pakistan must sort themselves out on issues like Kashmir to enable Pakistan to stabilise. The kind of gentle persuasion that was alluded to in the Wikileaks cables must surely be continuing. India-Pakistan talks have recommenced: another dramatic but eventually pointless gesture to inconsequential entities has been made. Recent writings from Pakistan suggest that among the issues that are considered easily solvable is the Saltoro Ridge (commonly referred to as the Siachen Glacier) and the UN is being inveigled into this. This is not so and anyone who sees the map of the region will understand this. Undoubtedly peace with Pakistan is desirable. However, to try and attain it through magnanimity will only trump realism. The reality is that the India-Pakistan level of distrust. Pakistan has not called an unequivocal and permanent end to using its jihadist weapon in India and it never will; its prevarication on issues related to investigation in the Mumbai 2008 terrorist attack is the sum and substance of this attitude. The Indian Army climbed to the Saltoro Ridge in 1984 to cut off Pakistan's plans to access beyond Saltoro to the Karakoram pass. This would have enabled Pakistan access to Tibet and also threaten Ladakh. Pakistan and China would have access to each other through the Khunjerab pass on the Karakoram highway via Xinjiang and to Tibet through the Karakoram pass. The Saltoro Ridge provided Indian forces with strategic heights looking into Pak-occupied Gilgit and Baltistan. Such an advantage must not be given up for some obscure short-term political gain without a document to establish one's credentials. Pakistan's unwillingness to sign any document that authenticates the Agreed Ground Position Line (AGPL) could only mean that it would seek to break it at first dawn. There is neither a change of heart nor intentions. Kargil 1999 was the latest, and probably not the last, military attempt to alter the ground position in Kashmir in an effort to negate the advantage India had in Saltoro. In recent years the geopolitical situation has changed. There is greater Chinese presence in Gilgit and Baltistan where apart from building other facilities the Chinese have been upgrading the Karakoram highway since 2005. It is estimated that last August about 11,000 Chinese were involved in infrastructure projects. This would ultimately link with the Chinese-aided port project at Gwadar shortening China's route to the Persian Gulf from four weeks to 48 hours Simultaneously, the Chinese have been upgrading their own infrastructure in Xinjiang and Tibet north of the Himalayas. India has repeatedly given up strategic advantages and conceded on the negotiating table what was won on the battlefield. In 1948, when the Pakistani forces were retreating, we did not secure Muzaffarabad, Bagh, Kotli or Skardu. In 1966, we gave up Haji Pir, through which infiltrators keep coming into the Kashmir Valley even today. In 1972, we gave up territory and 93,000 prisoners of war for an agreement that Pakistan never intended to observe. The only way it would not be perceived as a retreat would be if the Pakistanis first agreed to delineate the AGPL in the Siachen sector, which is a part of the large Saltoro Ridge, authenticate this on maps that would then be signed and exchanged by commanders of the two countries. Pakistan would then project the AGPL in all its maps, making the AGPL an extension of the line of control from Point NJ-9842 that does not go towards the Karakoram pass but due north along the Saltoro Ridge. After this, the two countries would work out the ground rules for demilitarisation. Only after this has been worked out should there be discussion on redeployment and demilitarisation of this sector. Anything short of this will be a sellout. The issue is far too important to be decided furtively or in a hurry. It is only fair that if we are to retreat, the people should know that this pullback is in the national interest. Siachen has to be last issue on the table and not the first one. * Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GRACEFUL GESTURES

RETAIN PERSPECTIVE OVER MOHALI


THE applause is welcome, the attendant hype is not. It was typical of Dr Manmohan Singh's genteel way of doing things that he invited his Pakistan counterpart to witness probably the most "intense" match of the Cricket World Cup, and Yousuf Raza Gilani responded with fitting dignity. Obviously there is more to the move than savouring the passion that sweeps the subcontinent along waves of emotion and rivalry, yet all those sincere about de-escalating divisive tensions will plead against overdoing the expectations from tomorrow's interaction at Mohali. To hail this meeting as the first "bilateral" after years would not be quite accurate: if at Thimpu, Sharm-el-Seikh etc the leadership had met on the "sidelines" of multilateral meetings, at Mohali too it is "on the boundary" of the PCA stadium. A key change being that Pakistan has rid itself of a foreign minister who lost himself in bombastic verbosity. It could actually be of immense benefit if both Gilani and Singh used the meeting essentially to send out clear signals to their officials (the first of a series of meetings kicked off yesterday) that they expected them to come up with concrete building blocks upon which a genuine "summit" could be structured. The relaxing of visa limitations for visitors from across the LOC, the release of a prisoner in Pakistan in response to an appeal from the Supreme Court of India are moves that help create conditions in which things can move forward. There is enough material on record to indicate that on some of the "issues" there has been much narrowing of differences, both sides have officials competent enough to draft acceptable documents provided they get a political green light. If the Prime Ministerial talks can result in the red light switching to amber it will have done enough ~ peacemaking is a process, not an event. Neither a Tendulkar century nor an Umar Gul hat-trick can liberate the subcontinent from the baggage of history. A single terror-strike could "no ball" Mohali.


Spare a thought for Dhoni, Afridi and their squads. They have had their pinpricks and niggles en route to the semi-final: mental, physical, technical and tactical attributes will be put to test in a cauldron of frenzy laced with memories of how in a previous World Cup encounter every hit to the fence, every wicket that fell provoked artillery duels across the battle-lines at Kargil. Must they also be burdened with the goings-on in the boardroom at Mohali?


NOBODY'S BABY

DYING ON WAY TO OFFICE

THE horrendous accident on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass at dawn on Saturday once again exposes the mortal underbelly of policing in Kolkata's satellite areas. Four staffers, including three women, travelling in an office vehicle were killed on their way to the IT sector to attend the 5 a.m. shift. The two vehicles involved in the accident were said to have been running at break-neck speed. The tragedy is testament to the absence of late night police patrolling on the entire stretch of the Bypass ~ from the north-eastern fringe of the city to the far south. Both in terms of law and order and traffic control, the city's linkline is one of the most neglected areas. The Bypass connects two important districts via Kolkata, but has somehow been reduced to nobody's baby.  And central to the negligence is the overlapping jurisdiction of three police administrations ~ of North 24-Parganas, of Kolkata and of South 24-Parganas. The absence of coordination is in turn reflected in the absence of  patrolling at strategic points. Indeed, at inhospitable hours the stretch can be a death-trap or a crime corridor. For one thing, there is no regulation on speed after a certain hour except through unmanned barriers that are often the cause of mishap; for another, it is a convenient escape route for criminals operating in Salt Lake.
The raging controversy over jurisdiction has made confusion worse confounded. The administration remains undecided on the Kolkata Police proposal that traffic control be Lalbazar's prerogative. It has been vehemently opposed by the IPS Association as a move to further empower Kolkata Police and correspondingly clip the wings of two district police administrations. The matter may be in limbo for some time yet. In step with the IT sector, traffic on the Bypass needs to be regulated 24 x 7. The time to act is now, and a firm decision will not violate the model code of conduct. Another issue that calls for reflection is the graveyard schedule of drivers engaged by the IT sector. The one who was booked is said to have logged 300 km on Friday alone, prior to the accident! As often as not, the man at the steering wheel is half-asleep while conveying staffers at night. The risk is substantial with parts of the Bypass clogged with construction materials for the flyover and the East-West Metro. The standing threat needs to be countenanced with more seriousness than has been in evidence.


LEAVE HEALTH ALONE

BEYOND THE LOOP OF FOREIGN UNIVERSITIES

THE Bill on Foreign Educational Institutions (Entry and Operations) has apparently hit the bumps in the segment of medical education. The entry of foreign medical institutions has sparked a tussle between the Union health ministry and HRD, the latter ~ or pre-eminently minister Kapil Sibal ~ intent on extending the ambit of the legislation. The turmoil of ideas has overshadowed the fundamental concept. The Health ministry's objection is perfectly valid, specifically that a medical course is specialised and, therefore, calls for expertise. Ergo, it cannot academically be equated with the general streams. The Bill may result in pump-priming in terms of foreign direct investment in the academic segment, but it doesn't provide for a mechanism to monitor the operations of foreign medical colleges should they be permitted to set up campuses in India. The country boasts some of the finest medical colleges both for under-graduate and post-graduate studies. Beyond the economic spin-off, there is no other compelling reason to allow the unchecked entry of medical colleges from abroad. The Health ministry has applied the brakes and the proposal calls for reflection by the parliamentary standing committee.


The open-sesame policy needs to be regulated not least because Mr Sibal's scheme is inherently flawed. The Bill has not addressed the primary risk of campuses with spurious credentials in their home countries keen on opening shop here. The operations of one such institution in California recently led to the radio-collaring of 1,500 students from Andhra Pradesh for holding improper visas and bogus work permits on arrival.  The HRD ministry must ensure that the basic safeguards are in place before expanding the scope of the legislation with an invitation to foreign medical colleges. Whatever the eventual recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee, the Health ministry has initiated a logical course of action. The proposed National Commission for Human Resource in Health makes far greater sense than the HRD ministry's obsession with yet more embroideries. It is decidedly more professional than the haphazard and fanciful expansion through foreign campuses. Hopefully, the national commission will materialise... for the benefit of the medical student, the teacher-doctor and most profoundly the patient. The HRD ministry can leave Health alone.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

MICRO-CREDIT, MACRO FIDDLE

MOHAMMAD YUNUS AND HIS FRIENDS IN AMERICA

BY ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYA


Mohammad Yunus, the first Nobel laureate from Bangladesh, is now at the centre of a controversy. This is unfortunate not least because he is known to have helped the poor and the needy. He was awarded the 2006 Nobel peace prize for the micro-finance project to assist the poor in the countryside. In 2010, the government initiated an investigation into his activities. The country's celebrity was accused of diverting funds from international donors to his own companies. 


A huge loan was allegedly obtained from Grameen Bank by Grameen Udyog, a subsidiary of Grameen Bank and Ganaswasthya Grameen Textile Mills which jointly run a business enterprise called Textile Projects. Several companies operated by misusing the loan under wrong heads. The result was that the loans were never cleared. The Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka, that country's aid agency, Norad, and Bangladesh's finance ministry had detected this irregularity in the late Nineties. They  urged Yunus to clear the unpaid dues to  Grameen Bank. Yunus paid, but reportedly only 30 per cent of the total of $100 million. The balance ~ 70 per cent of the dues ~ still remain unpaid. The leaked documents related to the operations of Yunus, Oslo's Ambassador to Dhaka, Hans Frederick Lehne, and Norad. They revealed all. Yunus was further embarrassed with the disclosure of the correspondence between him, the Norwegian envoy and the head of Norad, Trove Strand. Yunus had allegedly violated the loan agreement.  


A deal between Grameen Bank and Grameen Kalyan (one of Yunus's own companies), involved the transfer of Bangladesh taka 3.9 billion. It was effective from 31 December 1996. However, it soon transpired that in December 1997 Grameen Bank had transferred the funds, donated as "revolving funds" through foreign grants to Grameen Kalyan. On the same date, the amount was re-transferred to Grameen Bank as a loan. Thus, the loan money of Grameen Bank, given to Grameen Kalyan, "came back to it as loan from the original borrower", the documents have revealed. 


This is not to suggest Yunus did nothing for the poor. Indeed, through the micro-credit system the rural poor,  who lacked capital, employment, collateral or credit history, were given loans to start self-employment projects. Those who obtained the loan were supposed to repay the money in instalments. Thus what began in 1976 with a modest loan advanced to Sufia Khatun of Jobra village in Chittagong eventually led to Grameen Bank's micro-credit revolution. In due course of time, the system was emulated abroad. And Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below."
Dhaka's non-government micro-finance sector gradually slipped into the hands of the big players such as Grameen Bank, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, the Association for Social Advancement and Proshika. Financial experts made adverse comments relating to the lack of accountability of lenders and the operations of loan sharks intent on making a profit.


Critics felt that the success of the micro-credit model has been judged from a lender's perspective (repayment rates, financial viability etc) rather than from that of the borrowers. Therefore, one can still question the quantum and quality of the success of the Grameen Bank scheme in assisting 73 per cent of its clients who are among the world's poorest. An estimated 84.2 per cent of them are women.


Critics have also questioned the utility of micro-finance especially in the event of natural calamities that destroy agriculture. The fact remains that when millions turn to micro-credit to salvage their crops, Grameen plays the role of saviour. Micro-finance offers small amounts to people who do not normally qualify for conventional banking credit. Yet the worst victims of the scheme are those who face a double whammy ~ crops destroyed and their failure to clear the loans. Grameen has been known to have used  force to recover its dues from those driven to absolute penury.


According to Dr Qazi Khaliquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a micro-finance monitor, the scheme is a "debt trap" for the poor who obtain loans thoughtlessly. "There is no understanding that it might take 10 to 20 years to repay their loan. Interest on repayments begin at 15 per cent, but it is a flat rate and can soon rise to anything between 40 per cent and 100 per cent".


The case of Joba Rani, a solvent farmer in Bangladesh's north-eastern village of Jamlabaj, is classic. She used her loan to buy six cows; but after the crops were destroyed she had to sell three of them at half the market price to repay the loan. Villagers across the country have sent their children to work and thereby help in making repayments. Even this drastic option has failed.


Grameen's record has not been very encouraging primarily because of its strong-arm tactics. Begum Hasina's government would appear to have cracked down on the micro-credit scheme. Yunus was asked to retire from Grameen Bank. He has moved the Supreme Court after the High Court turned down his appeal.  Clearly, he is in no mood to quit his business enterprise in rural Bangladesh.


Micro-finance may be the lender's baby, but the management of Grameen Bank has gone for the overkill with the recovery programme, essentially the borrower's liability.


The former US President, Bill Clinton, and his wife, the present Secretary of State, Hillary, have stepped in amidst this confrontation between the government of a sovereign country and the erstwhile governor of Grameen Bank. This has made the waters murkier. Both are personal friends of Yunus. They want him to remain the head of Grameen Bank. Indeed, Mrs Clinton has indicated that she will cancel her scheduled visit to Dhaka in April unless the Grameen Bank controversy is resolved. 


At another remove, the US Congressional Bangladesh Caucus has warned the Hasina government that the dismissal of Yunus could sour US-Bangladesh relations. A key Senator, Jesse Jackson, has said that the "Bangladesh government's action represents a direct attack on its civil society and could reverse its progress in achieving development goals."


The tussle between Yunus and the government is an internal affair of a sovereign country. The State seems to have legitimately intervened on the basis of specific charges and complaints against the governor of  Grameen Bank. Hence, it would be perfectly in order if Hasina's government advises the USA to steer clear of Bangladesh's domestic matters. The government has the right to effect a change of guard at Grameen Bank. The Yunus-US nexus is a grossly unethical  challenge to the democratically elected government of Bangladesh.


The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India and a Member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

 

RESOLVING CRIME AND CORRUPTION!

RAJINDER PURI


Once upon a time decades ago, there was a Bofors scandal. It was a corruption case involving an Indian prime minister, a foreign Prime Minister, foreign businessmen, Indian middlemen and government officials. The case was never solved. The Indian PM was killed. The foreign PM was killed. The foreign businessman fled India. The main Indian middleman died. The CBI got tired and closed the case. The media got bored and stopped reporting the case. So while the case could not be solved it got resolved.   


There followed the anti-Sikh genocide case. Decades passed. Many relatives of the genocide victims pursuing justice died. The media got bored. The case was never solved. It got resolved. The media and the nation moved on to more pressing cases. There was the Jain Hawala case. It involved illegal funding of politicians and terrorists alike by the same foreign sources. The case was never solved. The court gave it up for insufficient evidence. Later the Chief Justice of India who heard it wanted the case to revive but to no avail. There were other more pressing cases. The case was never solved. It got resolved.    


There was the Koda mining scam. Thousands of crores were looted and stashed abroad. Years passed. The case has not been solved. It is getting resolved. The media started to forget it. It focused instead on the 2G Spectrum scam. In the 2G Scam thousands of crores were looted and stashed in foreign banks. The media took it up. But years have passed. The case hasn't got solved. But it is getting resolved. Attention from it is beginning to fade away. There was another more pressing case to engage everybody's attention. It was the Commonwealth Games (CWG) Scam. 

  
In the CWG Scam crores were looted by state ministers, central ministers, CWG organisers and government officials. The case is still receiving some attention. But it is beginning to fade. No major person has been convicted. The media is beginning to show signs of boredom. And there is a more pressing case to engage its attention. It is the Hasan Ali money laundering case. In the Hasan Ali case billions of US dollars have been stashed by Indians in illegal foreign bank accounts. The case is still being pursued. Three years have passed since the criminal evidence surfaced. But the main accused has still not been convicted although he is in police custody. It is not certain that this case too will be solved. But most certainly it will one day be resolved. Another more pressing case is bound to engage the public's and media's attention. When that happens Hasan Ali may be forgotten. Already the fake pilot case has started to overtake it. There are other unsolved scams too numerous to mention.  


And all this while, the establishment is obsessed with promoting commerce through cricket. Interspersed with triviality is the debate between the ruling and opposition parties in which protagonists score cheap shots against each other. One would like to call the level of the debate third-rate. In all honesty one cannot. It is distinctly fifth-rate. 


Time is a great healer. It heals the agony of the people and of the national media. Time helps everyone to forget. That is what journalism is all about. It focuses on the news of the day. Today's news makes yesterday's news redundant. But history is unlike journalism. It freezes events in time. It does not forget. It will recall one day the marvel of how the Indian nation could resolve crime or corruption without solving it. And our children's children and their children will wonder and ask how our generation managed to achieve this. Let them ask. We will not have to answer. We will be dead and gone. Will democratic India remain alive? That is what all of us should start to seriously ponder.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

 

EARLY VS NEVER

NOW & AGAIN

SUNIPA BASU

 

The population of India can be divided into two categories ~ in one falls people who, when setting out on a journey, reach the station or airport well before time and in the other, who make a last-minute dash for the point of embarkation. I see it in my own family as much as in others.


My husband, who is otherwise a late latif, is up and about whenever he has to catch a train or plane. He will regale you with horror stories of friends and colleagues getting stuck in myriad road blocks, jams, dharnas, bandhs and what not. You would reach several hours before the departure time and end up sampling all beverages and snacks available on the railway platform or at the airport lounge. My younger son is in the other extreme. Despite tonnes of advice and adverse personal experience, he would always be late. His bride and he, on their first trip home from Mumbai, missed their flight and ended up coming to Kolkata via Bangalore after losing a lot of money in cancellations and two precious days of leave.


Those who are perennially late are the eternal optimists and their experiences are by far the more interesting than those who prefer waiting infinitely even before the journey has commenced. An uncle of mine was famous for always jumping onto the last compartment and once even had the opportunity of travelling with the guard in his rear van till the next junction. Only the other day, I heard about a friend in Bangalore, who, having missed the train at the city junction, got hold of a helpful cabbie who managed to drive him down to the next suburban stop just as the train chugged in. He said he had felt no less euphoric than the silver screen hero who unfailingly chases the villain whenever his beloved has been abducted!


Of course, the pessimists have all the justification for their pessimism given the notoriety of India's roads, its weather and its political climate. The local municipality may just decide to dig up key roads for purported repairs or it could be an accident which has prompted irate citizens to take law into their own hands or unseasonal showers resulting in knee deep water and even public rallies and unannounced bandhs ~ there is no end to what could interrupt and even altogether disrupt one's journey. But this is one adventure that I think the developed countries have missed out on. While in those countries adventure tourism is a separate genre altogether, we have adventure woven into the very web of journeys that we undertake in India.


Then there is a minority ~ I like to believe I belong to that ~ that is forever searching for that optimum time to set off ~ not too early and never too late. Once, while on an official trip, a colleague and myself had started for the airport at what we had deemed the optimum time. We had a smooth ride down EM Bypass, crossed Ultadanga and Baguiati seamlessly and reached the last traffic point a good one hour before the scheduled time.

 

In fact, we were debating as to how to kill time should the flight be delayed as it usually happens. After being stuck at the same point for 45 minutes, we started panicking and found out that a religious procession down the road was holding up traffic. Desperate, I whipped out the cellphone and shamelessly pulling rank, persuaded airport authorities to keep the check-in counter open beyond the usual window and the aircraft door ajar till the last minute for us to rush in. While I hate arriving too early and am not a pessimist, I wouldn't mind being categorised a "cautious optimist" than miss out on my journey altogether.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

BAN FOR STRONGER NUCLEAR SAFETY MEASURES

 

UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon has called for stronger international nuclear safety measures in light of the Japan nuclear reactor crisis triggered by an earthquake and tsunami which resulted in radiation leakage.
"The existing institutional arrangement, including the joint radiation emergency management plan of international organisations, with the IAEA as the main coordinating body, needs to be reviewed and strengthened," he said in a statement after a video conference with top UN agency officials. "I also encourage the states to consider lessons learnt and to adopt appropriate measures in an innovative way to strengthen the nuclear safety regime and ensure that the highest possible standards are implemented to safeguard health, food supply and the environment as well as in reviewing the disaster risk reduction framework."
The director-general of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr Yukiya Amano, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administrator Ms Helen Clark, executive secretary of Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization Mr Tibor Tóth and secretary-general of World Meteorological Organization Mr Michel Jarraud took part in the meeting. Senior representatives of World Health Organisation (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction also attended the video conference.


Mr Ban said that close collaboration between international agencies involved in support and relief efforts had played an important role in boosting the capacity of the government of Japan and providing vital information to the public. He said that international organisations responsible for coordinating action with governments and other agencies had pursued extraordinary information-sharing measures. He said the situation in Japan had nonetheless given rise to calls to reassess the international emergency response framework and the nuclear safety regime. "I support these calls," he stated.


He noted that states were primarily responsible for maintaining the safety of their nuclear installations and the IAEA had a central role to play in further development and universal application of the highest-possible safety standards. Mr Ban announced that the 5th Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety would be held in April and he said he expected it to lend itself as a useful forum in this regard.
UN deputy spokesman Mr Farhan Haq said the steps taken by Japan to reduce disaster risk may have helped reduce casualties. On the role of IAEA, he said the Secretary-General had said that the agency had a central role to play in the further development and universal application of the highest possible safety standards. A joint IAEA-FAO food safety mission is on its way to Japan where radioactivity from Fukushima has been detected in vegetables, milk and water, the UN spokesman said. He said radioactive iodine-131 was found to be present in concentrations above Japanese regulatory limits and caesium-137 showing up at lower concentrations. UN and media reports said that Japanese health authorities had revoked their earlier recommendation of not giving babies tap water in a Tokyo locality after radioactive levels in tap water there were found to be above those permissible.


IAEA special adviser on scientific and technical affairs Mr Graham Andrew said: "Some positive trends are continuing but there remain areas of uncertainty that are of serious concern." He said onsite readings showed that radiation dose rates had continued to decrease at Fukushima.


Killing of Palestinian children condemned

UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the Israeli tank shelling in Gaza Strip that resulted in the death of three Palestinian children and their uncle and injured 13 other civilians. According to a statement issued by UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky in New York, Mr Ban was very concerned at the escalating situation in Gaza and southern Israel. He reiterated the condemnation of rocket fire by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, including from populated areas, against civilian targets in southern Israel, the statement noted. The Secretary-General has called on all sides to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.


UN hails Tunisia's transition

UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon pledged full support for Tunisia's transition to democracy, as he hailed the country's revolution that heralded "profound and dramatic changes" sweeping the Arab world.
Quoting Mr Ban, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters: "The UN is ready to provide all support to the Tunisian government and people, particularly in the area of the electoral process and Constitution drafting and helping the Tunisian government to restore the rule of law and promote human rights and gender equality." After meeting Prime Minister Mr Beji Caid Essebsi in Tunis, Mr Ban told civil society leaders: "You, the brave people of Tunisia, have led the way. You are the vanguard of the most epic events of the new century ~ the revolutions of 2011." He recalled the spark that led to Tunisia's own revolution ~ the lone act of an ordinary young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, whose suicide out of despair for an affront to his sense of human dignity ~ that unleashed the events that toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. Bouazizi, a fruit vendor set himself on fire when police seized his cart, setting off a wave of protests against long-entrenched leaders that had ripples across the Arab world and beyond in north Africa. "His cry resonated so widely that Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world will never be the same. We must not forget the essential meaning of Mohamed Bouazizi's death. It reminds us of something essential ~ a moral absolute: individuals matter. Individual choices, individual commitment, individual worth, individual leadership," Mr Ban said.


anjali sharma

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THE TELEGRAPH

GRACE MARK

Cricket appears to be the new wings on which India-Pakistan diplomacy is riding. Of course, the establishments on either side would shoot down any suggestion of inter-state relations being made dependent on such flimsy appendages. But there can be little doubt that the impending battle in Mohali has provided the occasion to the highest authorities in both states to go back to certain notions of good-neighbourliness and civility that are forsaken each time there is a setback, be it on the cricket field or on the negotiation table. It is heartening that the cue struck by the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, through his invitation to both the president and the prime minister of Pakistan to watch the match in India, has been reciprocated. Pakistan, so obdurate over the acceptance of flood aid from India, has graciously accepted the invitation to its prime minister. It has also tried to top up the goodwill gesture on its part by responding to India's plea for the release of an Indian convict, Gopal Das. It is significant that the Pakistan president's consent to the release comes despite the awarding of a death sentence to Ajmal Kasab, the prime suspect of the Mumbai carnage. Given that the status of prisoners in either country is often decided on a tit-for-tat principle, the decision on Mr Das raises hopes for a more mature diplomacy that is responsive to the common concerns of the people on either side of the border.

India-Pakistan diplomacy can go in that direction only if it continues to build on the momentum that has been painstakingly created since Sharm-el-Sheikh. The cricket diplomacy that the world is witnessing would have been impossible had India withdrawn from the dialogue table after the provocation in Islamabad in July last year. Cricket, in that sense, is flying on the wings of diplomacy that continues to be shaped by the engagement of both India and Pakistan (at this moment through the ongoing home secretary level talks). The issues before the countries — terror, Kashmir, water, and so on — require prolonged engagement that often needs the right "atmospherics" to be sustained. A sincere give-and-take — be it over fishermen's rights, travel and trade concessions, exchange of prisoners, and even a cricket match played in the right spirit — will go a long way in keeping the partners at the table and clearing misgivings in the public mind.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

DEADLY FLAWS

The graveyard shift is a real nightmare for most professionals in Calcutta. The gruesome accident on Saturday that killed four call-centre employees is a testimony to the kind of danger that those working odd hours have to negotiate with in the city. Calcutta is notorious for its unruly traffic. Even by the day, people pay little heed to road safety norms. Jaywalking is a way of life for most pedestrians and drivers have a field day flouting every conceivable traffic rule. So it is hardly surprising that the streets turn into a proper jungle in the late hours, and only the luckiest manage to survive. The parts of the city that are supposed to be under constant vigilance are left unmanned owing to a scarcity of personnel. Errant drivers take full advantage of such lapses and speed recklessly. Saturday's crash was also caused by heedless driving by someone who claimed to have been exhausted after a punishing schedule. It is true that drivers in India, unlike chauffeurs in the West, are treated by their employers with the kind of brisk indifference that is reserved for automatons. They are not only inadequately paid for the long hours they have to be on duty, but are also given no proper place to rest between ferrying passengers. This leads to mishaps, big or small, spreading alarm among the people for a while before the prospect of real dangers recede once again into oblivion, and the dogged resilience of ordinary Calcuttans takes over. For decades, Calcuttans have managed to survive in conditions that would be considered subhuman in many other parts of the civilized world. From potholed roads that are like death traps to dilapidated buildings that are no better than tinderboxes, Calcuttans tend to put up with almost any amount of systemic callousness that is thrown at them.

To err is human, but then, human beings cannot be absolved of errors that could have been easily avoided. Tired as he may have been, the driver of the car did fail to fulfil his duty by the people whose safety was entrusted in his hands. But beyond individual flaws, what stands out in this incident is a kind of collective indifference — of the State, the civil society, and the entire administrative system — that has festered over the years. Unless the people proactively demand their right to a secure existence and also abide by civic rules on their own accord, daily life in Calcutta will continue to be a waking hell.

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THE TELEGRAPH

DEADLY FLAWS

The graveyard shift is a real nightmare for most professionals in Calcutta. The gruesome accident on Saturday that killed four call-centre employees is a testimony to the kind of danger that those working odd hours have to negotiate with in the city. Calcutta is notorious for its unruly traffic. Even by the day, people pay little heed to road safety norms. Jaywalking is a way of life for most pedestrians and drivers have a field day flouting every conceivable traffic rule. So it is hardly surprising that the streets turn into a proper jungle in the late hours, and only the luckiest manage to survive. The parts of the city that are supposed to be under constant vigilance are left unmanned owing to a scarcity of personnel. Errant drivers take full advantage of such lapses and speed recklessly. Saturday's crash was also caused by heedless driving by someone who claimed to have been exhausted after a punishing schedule. It is true that drivers in India, unlike chauffeurs in the West, are treated by their employers with the kind of brisk indifference that is reserved for automatons. They are not only inadequately paid for the long hours they have to be on duty, but are also given no proper place to rest between ferrying passengers. This leads to mishaps, big or small, spreading alarm among the people for a while before the prospect of real dangers recede once again into oblivion, and the dogged resilience of ordinary Calcuttans takes over. For decades, Calcuttans have managed to survive in conditions that would be considered subhuman in many other parts of the civilized world. From potholed roads that are like death traps to dilapidated buildings that are no better than tinderboxes, Calcuttans tend to put up with almost any amount of systemic callousness that is thrown at them.

To err is human, but then, human beings cannot be absolved of errors that could have been easily avoided. Tired as he may have been, the driver of the car did fail to fulfil his duty by the people whose safety was entrusted in his hands. But beyond individual flaws, what stands out in this incident is a kind of collective indifference — of the State, the civil society, and the entire administrative system — that has festered over the years. Unless the people proactively demand their right to a secure existence and also abide by civic rules on their own accord, daily life in Calcutta will continue to be a waking hell.

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THE TELEGRAPH

TURN THE CORNER

MALVIKA SINGH

It is now clear that the ministry of environment and forests must be divided into two — the ministry of environment and the ministry of forests and wildlife. Jairam Ramesh can go on harping about the growth in the number of tigers in the wild. Yet the truth is that the Sunderbans and tigers in those really wild jungles and swamps were never part of the census till this time. It is easy to fudge accounts. But the truth will prevail about the gross mismanagement of forests and wildlife in India. The bureaucracy at the Centre and in the states that governs and manages our natural treasures has no clue whatsoever as to how to do so — which is why forests have shrunk and animals have continued to head towards extinction. Lack of experience in the 'field' and no substantive expertise have led to the abject failure. The men in charge are in eternal denial. They come up with untenable explanations to accompany their limited knowledge. They manipulate their bosses and play politics in the worst possible fashion to cover up their faulty operations.

Archaic positions and regulations allow for corruption and malfunction. Misuse of power, sarcastic reactions to any intelligent and appropriate suggestion from civil society, complete lack of accountability and more have brought us down to our knees. It is shameful that India permits its bureaucracy to kill the great inheritance and legacy of this nation. Other countries have found solutions and worked wonders. India has only one response — close the area to the people. This is the commonplace, weak ploy of men and women who, because of insufficient brain-power, prefer dictatorial stances. It generates a kingdom of wholesale corruption where the doorkeeper is bureaucracy and where accountability remains in the hands of a class that is going the wrong way, behind closed doors. Thus, the destructive nexus of those mandated to enforce the laws and the lawbreakers has besieged modern India, weakening our civilization.

No use

The present breed of babus — ignorant about the larger issues of this world — recognizes its intellectual lacunae and so, in deep insecurity, manipulates and destroys the experts, only to survive and contort the truth. The bureaucrats always choose the 'average' to act as their 'advisors' and never the solid experts, because the experts will see through their veneer of scant know-how. This mediocrity throttles India and compels all quality people to stay away from the government and condone its shenanigans. Citizens see this and comprehend the reality. A new-generation leadership will, most definitely, change this 'management style'. A few years of waiting and India may begin to turn the corner with a fresh political mindset that will rejuvenate a moribund administrative service.

The minister of environment is overburdened with a plethora of 'environment' issues that are in combat with 'development' issues. He has abdicated his understanding of forests and environment issues in favour of his babus. Numbers and figures are of no use at all when faulty management is rampant across this sector. It is a 'rich' sector and, therefore, very vulnerable. Timber and land are a deadly combination for any mafia. There is no Indira Gandhi type politician around today who cares as profoundly as she did for the forests and their inmates, who is as willing to do what is required, with no questions asked and no limp explanations accepted from average functionaries. She saved the Silent Valley National Park. She created Project Tiger to protect the big cat. It is ironic that under the rule of the United Progressive Alliance, we have lost more tigers than ever in the short time span of six years. The ministry must be restructured and its commitment to forests and wildlife restored.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

BALANCING RESOURCES

COMMENTARAO S.L. RAO

There is the probably apocryphal story of Jawaharlal Nehru pointing out a spot on the edge of the Lodhi Gardens in Delhi as being best suited for the India International Centre, the iconic institution unique to India which has produced many intellectuals and ideas over 50 years. No prime minister today could do such a thing. Environmental groups, media and many other well-meaning people would be aghast, and would protest. Parliament would be in an uproar over the prime minister's unilateral decision to give away public land. Similar reactions could be expected to decisions that led to the building of the "temples of modern India", especially the great steel plants in the tribal areas of Rourkela, Bokaro and Bhilai, and many other such factories built in virgin forests, on mountains and good farmland, some of them spewing gases into housing colonies as the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers plant does in Chembur. These numerous government investments were the base for the subsequent development of India.

The rich countries of today just went ahead and killed native populations as in the Americas, cleared forests and destroyed the animals in it, polluted rivers and lakes in their zeal to develop their countries through industrialization. They also exploited labour with low wages, pitiful living conditions, poor access to health and education and so on. As they prospered, their governments were persuaded to improve living conditions and opportunities for their masses. No developed country of today can claim not to have gone through a period of environmental and human exploitation in its desire to grow. Some of us living today have witnessed the pollution in the Thames, in Japan, and the ruthless clearance in China of areas of human and animal habitation, and of virgin forests in Latin America, Indonesia, and so on in order to build cities, railway lines, roads and factories. All of us admire the economic development of the West, Japan and China.

India in the age of the internet, and with a democracy, cannot behave in the same way. We cannot put concerns about the environment and human habitations to one side as did the other countries, to be dealt with after reaching a certain level of economic development.

Global warming and climate change are now affecting almost everyone in the world. Climate change sceptics are falling silent in the face of the reality. Countries responsible for climate change (the developed countries) now want even the developing ones, innocent of past sins, to reduce their carbon emissions by burning less fossil fuel. These countries have, over centuries, emitted far less carbon than developed countries. Despite soaring demand for energy and no viable affordable alternatives, countries like India and China, for whom coal is the primary affordable fuel for generating electricity, have been asked to burn less coal. Coal is the major emitter of carbon, the main cause of global warming.

Global communications now enable ideas to flow instantaneously across borders. India's environmental groups are well informed and organized. They forcefully agitate against projects that take away traditional tribal rights on forests and lands, protect wetlands from being urbanized for factory development, protest against the extermination of fauna and flora, pollution of large water bodies, emission of noxious gases into the atmosphere, the construction of factories that can be dangerous to the health and lives of people in the neighbourhood, in short, any human action that significantly changes the natural habitat for all life. We also have a legislative democracy with opposition parties ready to oppose any government initiative that does not enjoy complete popular support.

The competitive media, especially television, ensure that the dire consequences of any tampering with nature are trumpeted to a public for whom the media is the only source of information. The judiciary is also responsive to complaints about the present or potential harm to people from various projects and quick to stay them. All this adds to the costs of new projects.

Political leaders sensitive to world opinion and to the need to protect India's natural habitat for its future citizens have legislated some laws that protect tribal rights, forests, natural hill and water formations, green cover and so on. Despite such legislation we have experienced major disasters. The Bhopal tragedy when the poisonous gas leakage from a Union Carbide plant killed and debilitated thousands of people is one. A careless local government knew of the dangerous nature of the plant's manufacture but allowed habitations within a dangerous distance of the plant. Union Carbide should have ensured that there was no gas leakage. People suffered. Mumbai's severe flooding was due to construction along a river bed that was the natural flow path of flood waters. Similarly, in Chennai in 1975, water was released from Chembarabakkam lake after heavy rains. The overflow path was built up with multi-storeyed buildings that were inundated.

Traders and businessmen have expropriated tribal lands in many parts of India (except, so far, perhaps in the Northeast). These have deprived tribal populations of livelihoods and of traditional ways of life, making them the most economically and socially deprived people in India (according to every socio-economic study). In recent years, urban youth have taken to organizing them and protecting their rights. They have had to use violence against the landlords and others who have stolen tribal lands and forests and been protected by governments. Organized violence has resulted in the killing of many innocent as well as murderous tribal persons and their organizers as also law enforcers. Naxalism will not go till tribal rights are better protected.

How much of our natural habitats are we willing to sacrifice and how many of our poor are we willing to impoverish further for overall economic growth? Is violent agitation by Naxalites a price we should pay for economic growth and development using natural resources? For this, forests must be denuded, tribal populations evicted, factories built on valuable agricultural lands — destroying rivers and lakes, flattening hills and hillocks, and emitting a pall of noxious gases and smoke into the air that we breathe. We have to make hard choices, and soon.

Meanwhile, the laws that in past years gave munificent opportunities to politicians and bureaucrats in state, Central and local administrations to make vast fortunes in bribes, as they gave permissions that violated the laws, must be enforced. Pollution control boards, forestation schemes, building and mining permissions, many such approvals were opportunities for the investor and the government official to make money. Intermediaries (agents, lobbyists, public relations specialists) facilitated such deals. New employment and wealth were created by transferring resources from the poor to the better off.

I am no Luddite arguing against industrialization and for the tranquillity of a never-existing pastoral India. But I am all for clarity on how India develops and who pays what price for growth. We need sensible laws that are enforced and do not let investors get away with violations by bribery. Foreign investment is scared of India because of this corruption. If we have no option but to extract coal or other mineral resources out of forests, or to build nuclear power plants, aluminum smelters and so on in holy tribal lands, let us do it with a full awareness of the implications and provide alternatives that minimize the damages.

That is why I cheer Jairam Ramesh, the first environment minister in independent India who understands the issues, enforces the law without corruption, is not against industrialization for development and economic growth, but is trying to take balanced decisions that recognize their full consequences.

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

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

DIFFERENT SCORES OVER THE BOUNDARY

OTHER BATTLES IS IT POSSIBLE TO BE COMMUNAL IN AN INDIA-PAKISTAN CRICKET MATCH AND SECULAR ELSEWHERE?

Three days before India were to play Pakistan in the world cup semi-finals, an outraged friend accused me of being a saint. I had happened to mention to her that while I would be very happy to see India go through, I wouldn't be shattered by a Pakistani victory. Both teams are evenly matched, and I hoped that the team that plays better on the day wins.

But my friend, who lives in Mumbai and had once told me that she found the notes of the azaan enchanting, would have none of it. She confessed that she wanted India to teach a lesson that "Pakis" and "Muslims" would never forget. Her antipathy towards Pakistan and Muslims, and her comfort with a depraved notion of nationalism, did not come as a surprise. As someone who grew up in the India of the 1990s, I was fairly acquainted with the chilling transformation of secular Indians into chest-thumping champions of a twisted version of patriotism. The template of such debased reasoning is usually premised on three fundamentals: that all Pakistanis are Islamic terrorists; that India should reaffirm its Hindu identity by shedding its pluralist-secular fabric; and that Hindu India should decimate Muslim Pakistan in cricket and in war.

But I was surprised by what my friend said next. Sensing my shock and anxiety, she assured me that she did not take her blatantly communal views seriously. Her father has many Muslim friends, she added. But like a favourite dress that is taken out of the closet for important events, she dons her Pak-bashing garb only before big occasions such as the match in Mohali.

Despite her solemn pledge, I wondered whether it is possible to seamlessly switch between such contradictory selves. Is her prejudice truly as flimsy as she would like to believe? The fact that she subscribes to such disturbing views unquestioningly opens up a rather disquieting line of enquiry: do the tools that we employ to interpret our relationships with nation and faith — formal education, texts, value systems — encourage passive consumption of, or carry, subtle communal tones?

My visit to Modi's Gujarat also opened my eyes to the pitfalls of complying unthinkingly with such poisonous beliefs. Many of the Hindus I spoke to — urbane, employed citizens, men and women living in cosmopolitan cities such as Ahmedabad and Baroda — confided that they had not been disturbed by their complicity with the violence of 2002. They had heeded the State's call as conscientious citizens.

The interviews as well as the memories of other exchanges in Gujarat make me wonder whether civil society has to demonstrate a stronger inclination to resist this dangerous contamination of unsuspecting minds. The prime minister's invitation to Pakistan's premier is heartening and may break the deadlock at the political level, but a lot more needs be done to make ordinary citizens like my friend confront their own delusions. For instance, it is imperative we acknowledge that rather than civilians, it is a section of Pakistan's political class that connives with the far Right forces as well as the military to jeopardize peace with India.

Why not then take the battle to the hawks through cogent, unceasing, and aggressive dialogue? Why not press for a greater sensitization of the laws towards devious attempts of indoctrination? Equally, is there a case for scrutinizing India's formal education structure as well as our cultural resources — fables, myths and other sources of received knowledge — to make people aware of such bias? The absence of political will to engage with the seepage of communalism in public consciousness has to be accounted for, and addressed.

I am not worried about India losing to Pakistan. My concern lies elsewhere: if Pakistan wins, would my friend — and many like her— still find the muezzin's call at dawn beautiful?

UDDALAK MUKHERJEE

 

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

EDITORIAL

DON'T RUSH IT

''SHOULD PEOPLE BE MADE TO RIDE AN UNSAFE METRO?''


The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) is reported to be in a tearing hurry to inaugurate the Bangalore Metro on Ugadi. This, even before the metro is ready.


Construction work on several stations is yet to be completed. Some stations might be ready to receive the train coaches but they are not yet equipped to handle commuters. Escalators, ticket counters, flooring — these are among several things that are half-done.


Of greatest concern is that the Metro is yet to be issued the safety certificate by the commissioner for railway safety. A war of words has erupted over whether BMRCL has even bothered to apply for a safety certificate. A BMRCL official's statement that "documents for fire, lift and escalator clearance will be provided in due course of time" to the CRS reveals that safety of commuters is not the priority of the government at this point. All that ministers and officials seem preoccupied with at the moment is in getting the chief minister to flag off the Metro on Ugadi.


Perhaps it is his shaky chair that is prompting Yeddyurappa to rush the inauguration.


Beset with political problems, the chief minister is desperate for a positive achievement to show off to the people. It is true that the BJP government provided the momentum to the long-delayed Metro work and the inauguration of the service will provide the beleaguered chief minister with a great photo-opportunity. However, should the people of Karnataka have to take the daily risk of riding an unsafe Metro so that the whims and insecurities of the chief minister can be pandered to?


The people of Bangalore have endured traffic jams on account of the construction work on the Metro for five years now. During that period, successive governments seemed to be in no hurry to meet deadlines and get the work done. But now the BJP  government wants the Metro to begin running on Ugadi to take due credit. Postponing the inauguration until the work is complete will mean putting it off by a couple of months. This is a wait that is certainly sensible and well worth it. Millions of rupees have been sunk into the project and rushing the inauguration at this juncture could compromise quality and safety standards, putting at risk the lives of millions of commuters. The Metro must be flagged off only when it is ready and safe to ride.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

HEARTENING FIGURES

''THERE'S REAS-ON TO BE HAPPY, BUT TOO EARLY TO CELEBRATE.''


India's efforts to save the tiger have met with some success. The latest tiger census indicates that the number of tigers in the wild has grown by 20 per cent since the last census in 2007. If one excludes the 20 tigers counted in the Sunderbans — the Sunderban tiger population was not included in the last head count — then the increase in the country's tiger population is 16 per cent. When the 2007 census yielded 1,411 tigers, it set off alarm bells ringing as the tiger population had declined by 1,089 in the preceding five years. It prompted India's conservation experts and activists to put in place a raft of measures aimed at arresting the decline. The latest figures indicate that they have succeeded somewhat. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala seem to have done a particularly good job in protecting the big cat. The census has revealed that the single largest concentration of tigers in the world is in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu-Karnataka trijunction. While there is reason for quiet satisfaction, it is far too early to celebrate. Hearing the roar of the tiger in the wild is still a rarity; seeing it even more so. There were 1,00,000 tigers in the country at the turn of the last century. We have a long way to go.


The tiger is one of the most hunted animals on the face of the earth. Tiger bones, claws and skin are hugely coveted as they are used in making traditional Chinese medicine. The high premium placed on tiger parts has encouraged a booming trade, one that is protected by powerful vested interests, especially in China. There are other threats too to tigers besides poaching. One is the shrinking habitat for tigers. The growing human population and haphazard development have resulted in shrinking forests. This has denied tigers and other wildlife of their traditional homes. They end up straying into villages where terrified people kill the tigers. That the country's tiger corridors are reducing rapidly is reason for serious concern.


The findings of the latest tiger census indicate that India is on the right path. However, efforts need to be intensified. Besides, it requires public participation. It is only if the general public joins hands with the government in ending poaching that India's magnificent tigers can rid themselves of the label of an endangered species.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

JAPAN CAN BOUNCE BACK

ALOK RAY


As Japan produces about 40 per cent of the world's supply of microchips their prices globally went up by 25-30 per cent.


Now that the totally unexpected nuclear disaster in Japan seems to be slowly coming under control, we can have a cold look at the economic after-effects of the devastation that Japan has suffered as a result of the 8.9 scale earthquake, followed by tsunami and then nuclear accidents at power plants. More than 20,000 people have been feared dead.


The World Bank estimates the damage to the economy (not counting the cost of lives lost and human sufferings) to be anywhere between $122 bn and $235 bn as against $100 bn cost of the January 1995 Kobe earthquake (6.8 scale) in Japan which killed more than 6,000 people. Kobe is a densely populated major port city which was economically more important than the more sparsely populated north-eastern costal areas where the recent tragedy struck.


Japan's industrial production fell 2.6 per cent in January 1995, rose 2.2 per cent in February, then by another 1.1 per cent in March 1995. GDP growth was 1.9 per cent in 1995 followed by 2.6 per cent in 1996 which was above the country's trend growth rate of 1.5 per cent at that time. So, going by past experience, though there would be an immediate negative impact, the recovery process would start soon. The full recovery where all the ravaged areas would be completely rebuilt may take longer — about 5 years — according to World Bank estimate.

As for immediate effects, Japanese exports and imports were affected as a result of disruption to transportation, distribution and other logistics. India sends only about 2 per cent of total export of goods to Japan — so the effect on Indian exports was not large.


India also does not depend on imports of any crucial raw materials from Japan. Japan produces about 40 per cent of the world's supply of lightweight microchips used in flat-screen monitors, digital music systems, smart phones, tablet computers, etc. Chip prices globally went up immediately by 25-30 per cent due to disruption of the supply chain.


Rather surprisingly, the price of yen moved up within a few days of the disaster. Analysts explain this to be the result of insurers buying yen to pay insurance claims, Japanese bringing back funds from abroad to rebuild their lost physical assets and speculative investors buying stocks of Japanese companies that would gain from the future reconstruction activities.


To halt the appreciation of yen which would have hurt Japanese exports and pushed back the recovery process (from prolonged recession) in Japan and consequently global recovery, both Bank of Japan and G-7 central banks immediately intervened to sell huge quantities of yen to meet the rising demand. As a result, yen fell against dollar to the lowest level since 2008.


Demand for oil &  natural gas

Price of oil and natural gas is surging and is expected to go further up as Japan, facing shortage of power from nuclear plants, will have to use more fossil fuel. This comes on top of the increasing political uncertainty in the major oil producing countries. As many countries (including India and China) will delay the construction and commissioning of new nuclear power plants as a result of additional safety precautions following the Japanese nuclear accident, the reliance on oil, gas and coal will increase in the medium term.


If the high price of fossil fuel persists, this will give a boost to alternative energy industries like solar, wind and bio-fuel. Rising energy costs would increase prices further and may also slow down growth in oil-importing countries (like India), though Japan would grow faster than before due to massive reconstruction investment.

Japan is a major source of ODA (official development aid). ODA funds of more than $2 bn per annum has been flowing from Japan into India in recent years. This flow (mostly in Indian infrastructure sector) may be delayed as funds get diverted to domestic rebuilding activities and charity at home. FDI from Japan into India (like in transportation, consumer electronics) may not be affected as these are based on longer term considerations. If Japanese growth rate picks up, a larger fraction of global portfolio funds may, however, move to Japan in search of quick returns from construction-related  sectors.


The public debt-GDP ratio in Japan is highest among the developed countries. This public debt burden would definitely increase as Japan will have to run a bigger deficit to finance the reconstruction activities. Yet, Japan should be able to borrow from the market, without a significant rise in interest rate, given the high private savings rate in Japan and the faith of the world in the resilience of the Japanese industrial machine.


The theory of economic growth says that if physical capital is destroyed by war or natural disaster while human capital (in the form of knowledge and skills) remains in tact, the productivity of remaining physical capital goes up. This, in turn, raises the growth rate of GDP till capital stock comes back to its old level through investment in physical capital.



The miracle growth of post-war Japan is often cited as evidence of this theory. The same may be the case for Japan in its post earthquake-tsunami reconstruction phase, as we watch, in admiration, the discipline of the Japanese people in its hour of massive national tragedy.


(The writer is a former professor of economics at IIM, Calcutta)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

GERMANS VOTE AGAINST MERKEL'S NUCLEAR STANCE

 JUDY DEMPSEY,NYT


As soon as Merkel shifted her stance, the Greens pounced on the change as a move to win votes.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats on Sunday seemed headed for a major defeat in a historic stronghold in southwestern Germany, where the Green Party appeared poised to head a state government for the first time.


The nuclear calamity in Japan and Merkel's subsequent reversal on nuclear power played a key role in the elections in Baden-Wurttemberg, where the Christian Democrats have governed since 1953, before Merkel, 56, was born.


Most Germans have a deep-seated aversion to nuclear power, and the damage at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan has galvanized opposition. On Saturday, more than 2,00,000 people took to the streets of four big cities to protest nuclear power.


After the catastrophe in Japan, Merkel reversed a pro-nuclear policy that she adopted just last year and temporarily shut down seven of Germany's 17 nuclear plants. She apparently did not convince voters that her change of policy was sincere. At Christian Democrat headquarters in Berlin, there was shock as the preliminary results were announced.


Jubilant Greens

The Greens were jubilant over their projected 25 per cent of the vote. Winfried Kretschmann, 62, who stands to head a Green-led coalition in Baden-Wurttemberg, spoke of 'a historic change'.


According to the preliminary results, the Christian Democrats won the most votes, about 39 per cent, down from 44.2 per cent in 2006. Yet the weak showing of the Free Democrats, the pro-business party with which Merkel governs nationally, left the conservatives no hope of forming the next state government.

 

Free Democrats looked likely to squeak into the state legislature with just 5.3 per cent of the vote, the minimum required. In 2006, they got 10.7 per cent.


If the polls are confirmed, the Greens are in a comfortable position to head a coalition with the Social Democrats in Baden-Wurttemberg, which has some 11 million residents and is among the most prosperous and successful of Germany's 16 states.


The Greens were projected to win 24.2 per cent of the vote, compared with 11.7 per cent in 2006. Social Democrats were forecast to take 23.5 per cent of the votes, little changed from 2006.


In neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate, where the Social Democrat premier Kurt Beck has governed with an absolute majority since 2006, the Social Democrats suffered sizable losses. Their share of the vote fell to 38 from 45.6 per cent in 2006.


The Green Party, which failed to get elected to the regional parliament in 2006, won 16.8 per cent of the vote. Beck is expected to ask the Greens to join a coalition with the Social Democrats.

The Free Democrats were voted out of the regional parliament in Rhineland-Palatinate, and, in a sign that Merkel's party is likely to see as hopeful, the Christian Democrats increased their share of the Rhineland-Palatinate vote to 36 from 32.8 per cent five years ago.


In Baden-Wurttemberg, by contrast, the Christian Democrats suffered not only from Merkel's reversal on nuclear power but also "from a lackluster and unfocused campaign."


Premier Stefan Mappus, 44, was an unknown local politician until Merkel chose him to replace Gunther Oettinger, who went to Brussels as European Union commissioner for energy. Last year, Mappus was slow to react to a groundswell of opposition to Stuttgart 21, a planned new railway station complex in the state capital that was billed as vital to speed up links between Germany and the rest of Europe. The Greens led part of the opposition to the project, gaining a larger profile while Mappus floundered.


But it was the combination of the crisis in Japan, and Merkel's reaction, that swung opinion polls from the conservatives to the Greens and the Social Democrats.


That decision was a U-turn for Merkel. Last year she decided to overturn a decision and a relevant law by a former government of Social Democrats and Greens that aimed to close all nuclear power plants by 2022. Merkel prolonged the plants' scheduled lifespan by an average of 12 years.


The change did not help Mappus, who was a staunch defender of nuclear power. He again seemed to flounder, saying at one point that one of the four nuclear plants in his state would be closed permanently. When that did not reverse the drifting polls, he reverted to support of nuclear power.


As soon as Merkel shifted her stance, the Greens pounced on the change as a move to win votes, and late last week, her economics minister, a Free Democrat, confirmed to a gathering of industry leaders that it was a tactical shift. That reinforced the impression of disarray in the national government.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

 

POLICE AND THIEF KALPANA

M NAGHNOOR


The fine hurts more my sensitivity than my purse


Set a thief to catch a thief, the dictum may seem redundant until the wily cop proves you wrong. Springing upon you from behind a tree, dead sure you've skipped the traffic lights, while he's been espying you out of sight! He pulls out his pad from the pockets of his pants with élan, the pen from between his ear and head. I can't help studying his outrageous belly. Plenty harrowed I look farouche with indignity for having been hauled.

I am amazed at the alacrity with which he fines upon baseless judgment on merely fathoming the change of lights and you being naughty. The fine hurts more my sensitivity rather than purse. It melts my faith in the law than reinforce my confidence in policing.


My house faces a park, which was once beautiful, verdant, and herbaceous, it played host to many varieties of birds. Then a corporator with sandalwood-bollywood thinking decided the park needed a face lift. A walker's path and artificial animals needed to be accommodated; felling of trees, which had harnessed and nestled many a fledglings was the end result. The natural beauty began to look like plastic surgery all gone wrong. But who cares! The bills speak for the work! Vendors adorn the park, while couples surreptitiously slip in, jaywalkers come to watch, mothers run behind their wards and indulge them with camel-rides, like they were in Rajasthan and horse-rides like they were on racing track. The mindless thing here is that these indulgences are perilous the children don't wear protective gear. A fall could be fatal! Like the park, they too are exposed to ravages of adult ideation.

I watch all these on goings and wonder at the innocence of Indians. Somewhere there's a young mind, believing that India is a player in the balance of world polity. Is that really true? Can you see that expertise in the dexterity of a chaat walah? Can you see social responsibility in a taxi driver as he inanely weaves through traffic? Is there responsibility at all in governance? What do the scams tell us? How do a few industrious carry the bucolic helpless populace? When we were young, we played police and thief. Naively we believed that good will prevail over all evil and the good will command the evil to punishment. Sometimes I wish life would continue childishly, and then perhaps I need not be apprehensive of complete mayhem, on the road that we are taking or the lack of collective responsibility.

 

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

EDITORIAL

PRESIDENT OBAMA ON LIBYA

President Obama made the right, albeit belated, decision to join with allies and try to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from slaughtering thousands of Libyans. But he has been far too slow to explain that decision, or his long-term strategy, to Congress and the American people.

On Monday night, the president spoke to the nation and made a strong case for why America needed to intervene in this fight — and why that did not always mean it should intervene in others.

Mr. Obama said that the United States had a moral responsibility to stop "violence on a horrific scale," as well as a unique international mandate and a broad coalition to act with. He said that failure to intervene could also have threatened the peaceful transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, as thousands of Libyan refugees poured across their borders, while other dictators would conclude that "violence is the best strategy to cling to power."

Mr. Obama could report encouraging early progress on the military and diplomatic fronts. Washington and its allies have crippled or destroyed Colonel Qaddafi's anti-aircraft defenses, peeled his troops back from the city of Benghazi — saving potentially thousands of lives — and allowed rebel forces to retake the offensive.

Just as encouragingly, this military effort that was galvanized internationally — the United Nations Security Council authorized "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya — will soon be run internationally. Last weekend, the United States handed over responsibility for enforcing the no-flight zone to NATO. And the alliance is now preparing to take command of the entire mission, with the support of (still too few) Arab nations.

To his credit, Mr. Obama did not sugarcoat the difficulties ahead. While he suggested that his goal, ultimately, is to see Colonel Qaddafi gone, he also said that the air war was unlikely to accomplish that by itself.

Most important, he vowed that there would be no American ground troops in this fight. "If we tried to overthrow Qaddafi by force," he said, "our coalition would splinter." He said "regime change" in Iraq took eight years and cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives. "That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya."

Instead, he said the United States and its allies would work to increase the diplomatic and military pressure on Colonel Qaddafi and his cronies. A meeting on Tuesday with allies and members of the Libyan opposition is supposed to develop that strategy along with ways to help the rebels build alternate, and we hope humane and competent, governing structures. That needs to start quickly.

To hold their ground and protect endangered civilians, let alone advance, the rebels will likely need air support for quite some time. Mr. Obama was right not to promise a swift end to the air campaign. At the same time, he should not overestimate the patience of the American people or the weariness of the overstretched military.

And as Washington reduces its military role, others, inside and outside NATO, will need to increase theirs. Within NATO, unenthusiastic partners like Germany and Turkey need to at least stay out of the way even if they continue to stand aside from the fighting.

The president made the right choice to act, but this is a war of choice, not necessity. Presidents should not commit the military to battle without consulting Congress and explaining their reasons to the American people.

Fortunately, initial coalition military operations have gone well. Unfortunately, it is the nature of war that they will not always go well. Mr. Obama needs to work with Congress and keep the public fully informed. On Monday, he made an overdue start on that.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOOKS LIKE A DUOPOLY

AT&T and Verizon Wireless have emerged from a 15-year consolidation spree with almost two-thirds of American cellphone subscribers. Now AT&T wants to take this a step further. It is proposing to gobble up the No. 4 carrier, T-Mobile, in a $39 billion deal. The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission must review the deal with much skepticism and block it if needed.

As proposed, the acquisition would leave two companies with nearly 80 percent of the market and a weak third national carrier, Sprint, without the scale to compete effectively. In an industry where lack of spectrum imposes an enormous barrier to entry, cellular telephony in the United States could become an anticompetitive duopoly.

AT&T argues that there is plenty of competition in most markets where national carriers compete with regional companies like MetroPCS or Leap Wireless. It says that falling prices are proof that competition is vibrant.

But these smaller rivals hardly represent significant competition. They can't provide a nationwide seamless network and must rely on costly roaming arrangements. They lack the scale to deploy extensive high-technology 3G and 4G networks. And as big carriers tie up the best smartphones in exclusive deals, the smaller carriers have been left out of the booming data market. Even Sprint and T-Mobile may have insufficient spectrum to challenge the leaders. In recent years, they have lost many subscribers.

As for the claim of falling prices, that is hard to measure because charges are often shrouded in bundles that tend to penalize all but the heaviest users. The government's index for wireless telephone services shows prices plummeting at double-digit annual rates from the late 1990s until 2001. But as consolidation gathered pace over the last decade, the price decline slowed dramatically.

This doesn't mean that AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile should be rejected. But the hurdle must be high: the F.C.C. and the Department of Justice must ascertain that the arrangement does not reduce competition any further. In fact, for the acquisition to be deemed in the public interest, it should ideally lead to more competition.

AT&T could be required to sell chunks of its network or divest swaths of spectrum. Regulators could impose conditions like mandatory data roaming on the AT&T network or a commitment to provide nondiscriminatory access to data from third parties on its wireless network.

It is uncertain whether regulators could write conditions that would ensure strong enough rivals emerged to stand up as competitors to the two wireless giants. If they can't, they should not let the deal go through.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THAT'S WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT THE VOTERS

Something strange and sleazy is going on in Suffolk County. But the two politicians at the center of it — County Executive Steve Levy and District Attorney Thomas Spota — have apparently decided that the public doesn't have a right to know what's happening.

On Thursday, Mr. Levy abruptly announced that he wasn't running for a third term, saying he wanted "to tackle other challenges." But then he said, almost as an aside, that "questions" had been raised about his campaign fund-raising and that he was surrendering his $4 million war chest to the authorities.

Then Mr. Spota had a statement. He said a 16-month investigation had uncovered "serious issues" with Mr. Levy's fund-raising, but he didn't say what they were. He assured everyone that Mr. Levy had not "personally" profited and claimed that the issue was now resolved because Mr. Levy had forfeited the cash. Mr. Spota also said that he could have sought Mr. Levy's resignation, but decided not to.

Is this really something for Mr. Levy and Mr. Spota to decide and then cover up between themselves?

These aren't the first questions raised about Mr. Levy's fund-raising. At a trial of a former county legislator, one witness — a convicted tax evader whom Mr. Levy (an old friend) had recommended for $85,000 in county title-insurance work — said Mr. Levy had traded contracts for campaign cash. Mr. Levy dismissed the charge, claiming that "desperate defendants often fabricate claims."

Mr. Levy still has nine months in office and Mr. Spota has two and a half years until he is up for re-election. The voters who gave them their jobs have a right to know what is going on. Mr. Spota needs to disclose what "serious issues" he found in Mr. Levy's fund-raising and explain why he decided not to indict him. Mr. Levy must explain his role in this mess from start to finish. That's a challenge he can't walk away from.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

IT WILL TAKE MORE THAN A FEW REGRETS

Sightings are reported of that rarest of Washington species — Republican moderates. If only.

The Republicans in question are Senators Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The four voted in lockstep with the rest of their caucus in support of the House Republicans' ludicrous and destructive budget-slashing bill. But then they put out word that they did not much like it that the bill had eliminated one popular and valuable government program: funds for family planning.

Mr. Brown, possibly remembering the voters back home, was the first to say that the family planning cut "goes too far." The other three then added their asterisks to their G.O.P. budget fealty.

Ms. Snowe and Ms. Collins once creatively worked the middle ground. In recent years all we've heard is how they'd like to reach across the aisle, but somehow the time or the deal or the we're not sure what else isn't right.

They, as well as Mr. Brown and Ms. Murkowski, certainly could have voted no in the first place and — who knows? — struck a spark for the art of compromise. Still, we would like to believe that this is the start of something big: a rejection of scorched-earth polarization and the beginning of a serious discussion of the role and responsibility of government in tough budget times.

The real test will come soon. Will they reject their leadership's calls for drastic cuts and draconian balanced-budget amendments so that the government can continue to operate? True moderates do not shut the government's doors for the sake of ideology or cynical political gain.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TOOLS FOR THINKING

BY DAVID BROOKS

A few months ago, Steven Pinker of Harvard asked a smart question: What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?

The good folks at Edge.org organized a symposium, and 164 thinkers contributed suggestions. John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, wrote that people should be more aware of path dependence. This refers to the notion that often "something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice."

For instance, typewriters used to jam if people typed too fast, so the manufacturers designed a keyboard that would slow typists. We no longer have typewriters, but we are stuck with the letter arrangements of the qwerty keyboard.

Path dependence explains many linguistic patterns and mental categories, McWhorter continues. Many people worry about the way e-mail seems to degrade writing skills. But there is nothing about e-mail that forbids people from using the literary style of 19th-century letter writers. In the 1960s, language became less formal, and now anybody who uses the old manner is regarded as an eccentric.

Evgeny Morozov, the author of "The Net Delusion," nominated the Einstellung Effect, the idea that we often try to solve problems by using solutions that worked in the past instead of looking at each situation on its own terms. This effect is especially powerful in foreign affairs, where each new conflict is viewed through the prism of Vietnam or Munich or the cold war or Iraq.

Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University writes about the Focusing Illusion, which holds that "nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it." He continues: "Education is an important determinant of income — one of the most important — but it is less important than most people think. If everyone had the same education, the inequality of income would be reduced by less than 10 percent. When you focus on education you neglect the myriad of other factors that determine income. The differences of income among people who have the same education are huge."

Joshua Greene, a philosopher and neuroscientist at Harvard University, has a brilliant entry on Supervenience. Imagine a picture on a computer screen of a dog sitting in a rowboat. It can be described as a picture of a dog, but at a different level it can be described as an arrangement of pixels and colors. The relationship between the two levels is asymmetric. The same image can be displayed at different sizes with different pixels. The high-level properties (dogness) supervene the low-level properties (pixels).

Supervenience, Greene continues, helps explain things like the relationship between science and the humanities. Humanists fear that scientists are taking over their territory and trying to explain everything. But new discoveries about the brain don't explain Macbeth. The products of the mind supervene the mechanisms of the brain. The humanities can be informed by the cognitive sciences even as they supervene them.

If I were presumptuous enough to nominate a few entries, I'd suggest the Fundamental Attribution Error: Don't try to explain by character traits behavior that is better explained by context.

I'd also nominate the distinction between emotion and arousal. There's a general assumption that emotional people are always flying off the handle. That's not true. We would also say that Emily Dickinson was emotionally astute. As far as I know, she did not go around screaming all the time. It would be useful if we could distinguish between the emotionality of Dickinson and the arousal of the talk-show jock.

Public life would be vastly improved if people relied more on the concept of emergence. Many contributors to the Edge symposium hit on this point.

We often try to understand problems by taking apart and studying their constituent parts. But emergent problems can't be understood this way. Emergent systems are ones in which many different elements interact. The pattern of interaction then produces a new element that is greater than the sum of the parts, which then exercises a top-down influence on the constituent elements.

Culture is an emergent system. A group of people establishes a pattern of interaction. And once that culture exists, it influences how the individuals in it behave. An economy is an emergent system. So is political polarization, rising health care costs and a bad marriage.

Emergent systems are bottom-up and top-down simultaneously. They have to be studied differently, as wholes and as nested networks of relationships. We still try to address problems like poverty and Islamic extremism by trying to tease out individual causes. We might make more headway if we thought emergently.

We'd certainly be better off if everyone sampled the fabulous Edge symposium, which, like the best in science, is modest and daring all at  once.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CAPITAL INJUSTICE

BY KATE MASUR

On March 29, 1961, the states completed ratification of the 23rd Amendment, which gave residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections. The anniversary is worth remembering, both because the amendment was an important step toward full political equality for citizens of the nation's capital and because it was frustratingly incomplete.

A half-century later, the District of Columbia's population, estimated in the new census at 601,723, is larger than Wyoming's and only slightly smaller than Vermont's. Yet Washingtonians still have no meaningful voice in Congress and lack full authority over their own affairs.

Washington is an undemocratic anomaly, despite the grand ideals of equal rights carved into the city's stone monuments. Its second-class citizenship is a legacy of racial injustice and, more recently, partisanship in Congress.

To preserve the capital's independence from politics in the states, the nation's founders provided in the Constitution for a federal district over which Congress would "exercise exclusive legislation." Nonetheless, Congress soon chartered a city government. By 1848, all of the capital's white male residents were entitled to vote for a mayor and city council.

Democracy continued to expand in the Civil War era. A Republican-led Congress ended slavery in the capital in 1862, and enfranchised black male residents in 1867.

Black men's suffrage transformed the local government. With white voters split between the parties, black Washingtonians — who made up a third of the population and were almost entirely Republicans — had significant influence in electoral politics. Soon, the city government outlawed or restricted racial discrimination in public accommodations and public works hiring. Black men were elected to local office. Public schools were established for black children.

But as African-American political power increased, so did challenges to home rule from local whites. Long-time conservative Democrats and pro-business Republicans in the district combined to persuade Congress to diminish the power of the newly biracial electorate. The result was a territorial form of government for the capital in which presidential appointees held the most powerful offices. It was only a few steps from there to complete disfranchisement. In 1874, at the behest of conservative businessmen, Congress again reorganized the government, this time placing three presidentially appointed commissioners at its helm. Supporters argued that the change was essential for efficient government; opponents called the end of local self-government un-American.

Washingtonians still had no vote as the capital became the nation's first majority-black large city in the late 1950s. As national civil rights leaders pressured Congress to eliminate the country's most glaring breaches of democracy, Washington activists pushed for representation in Congress and the return of home rule.

Five times from 1949 to 1960, the Senate passed home rule bills. Each time, the bills died in the House Committee on the District of Columbia, led imperiously for nearly three decades by John L. McMillan, a segregationist Democrat from South Carolina.

In fact, even the relatively uncontroversial 23rd Amendment could not be ratified in most of the South. The only former Confederate state to ratify was Tennessee. In North Carolina, a segregationist organization called the amendment "another effort to strengthen the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People."

But numerous Republican-led state legislatures in the North readily ratified the amendment, showing that racial politics were far more important than partisanship in influencing ratification.

Today, as the black population edges downward from a majority toward a plurality, the capital's residents remain at the mercy of Congress. They are represented by a lone House delegate with limited voting rights. Even their hold on home rule, granted at last in 1973, is tenuous. City budgets require approval by Congress, and Republican lawmakers have overruled or threatened local decisions on issues like needle exchange, gun control, same-sex marriage and abortion.

The 23rd Amendment is a reminder that support can be rallied for greater democracy for the district. And yet, in our polarized political climate, the powerful argument for voting representation in Congress seems perpetually stymied.

One problem is indifference; most Americans are unaware of the capital's anomalous status, the city's "Taxation Without Representation" license plates notwithstanding. A second is partisanship; to establish a vote in Congress for Washingtonians, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, Republicans would have to place a moral imperative ahead of partisan interests.

Another is race. A half-century after the dawn of the civil rights era, many Americans still have a hard time seeing African-Americans as citizens entitled to the rights that so many white people take for granted. For residents of a place once known as "Chocolate City," these attitudes are a sadly familiar obstacle to equality.

Kate Masur, an assistant professor of history at Northwestern, is the author of "An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A MARKET SOLUTION FOR MALPRACTICE

BY RONEN AVRAHAM

Austin, Tex.

IT'S been a year since health care reform was signed into law, and since then both Republicans and Democrats have been trying to address one item it left out: medical malpractice reform. In last month's budget proposal, the Obama administration offered a solution: a plan to encourage evidence-based medicine by limiting the malpractice liability of doctors who follow clinical practice guidelines — in effect, granting them immunity.

Doctors love this proposal, and patients should too: When doctors follow good guidelines they are less likely to order too many or too few tests or to prescribe the wrong treatment.

Unfortunately, the proposal will not achieve the noble goal of providing quality care at a reasonable cost because the current guidelines, written by nonprofit medical groups and for-profit insurance companies, are not good enough.

First, they often conflict with one another. Recommendations for when and how frequently to give women mammograms, for instance, notoriously vary depending on which group is giving them.

In addition, there are conflicts of interest. Guidelines produced by insurance companies sometimes put their interests first. Malpractice insurers, for example, may recommend yearly mammograms, even if they are not necessary, because they bear the costs of lawsuits for late diagnoses of breast cancer — and not the costs or health risks of the extra mammograms. Moreover, the nonprofit groups behind many other guidelines have traditionally depended on pharmaceutical and medical device companies to finance their work. Last year, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies issued a new code of conduct seeking to stop these industries from sponsoring the development of guidelines, but there are still too many loopholes, and thousands of guidelines produced before the reform are still in circulation.

Most troubling of all is that the groups behind the guidelines bear no liability for producing bad ones. No matter how poor the care they prescribe, it is the doctors who depend on them who are punished.

Mr. Obama's proposal to limit the liability of doctors who follow these flawed guidelines (included in a $250-million plan for overhauling states' malpractice systems) is clearly not the way to better care. Immunity is a good idea. It's just that we need to create the incentives necessary for the production of optimal guidelines first.

This is no secret — last week the Institute of Medicine put out a report listing new standards for promulgating guidelines. I was a consultant on the report, which goes a long way toward improving the system, but I worry about the extent to which these standards will be followed. I have a different proposal for improving the guidelines:

Instead of nonprofit groups producing free guidelines, or insurance companies producing ones that serve their own interests, the government should require health care providers to buy or license guidelines from what I call private regulators, for-profit companies with expertise in evidence-based medicine. Doctors would have immunity from malpractice cases if they followed the guidelines. However, the private regulators themselves would be liable if their guidelines were found to deviate from optimal care.

The profit-seeking forces of the market on the one hand and legal accountability on the other would help private regulators strike the right balance between patient safety and cost of care. Private regulators would discourage the overuse of expensive medical procedures because doctors, under pressure from insurance companies to keep costs low, would be unlikely to invest in guidelines recommending unnecessary procedures. But if the guideline-makers failed to recommend an appropriate procedure, they'd be held responsible for the patient's health.

Just as they can now, doctors could deviate from the guidelines when required. Their discretion and autonomy would be preserved. But in most cases, when guidelines apply, doctors could follow them without having to worry about being held liable, and more important, about getting bad advice.

Such a system may not be too far off: medicine is already moving toward for-profit guidelines. UpToDate, First Consult and eMedicine are just a few new databases compiled by for-profit companies in the business of making technical, evidence-based medicine more accessible to doctors. This is certainly exciting, but to provide doctors with the peace of mind they deserve, these companies need to be held accountable for the advice they give.

Almost every other product Americans encounter is subject to laws that guarantee that the producer suffers when its product is subpar. There's no reason medical guidelines should be any different. With the proper incentives, these private regulators could help President Obama carry out the health care reform he signed into law a year ago.

Ronen Avraham is a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

MOST PEOPLE JUST DON'T LIKE SNAKES

Most snakes are harmless. Some are even beneficial in nature. But some can be very dangerous. In any case, most people just don't like snakes of any kind — much less the thought of encountering one.

In a couple of recent cases, that fear was very understandable.

In the Bronx Zoo in New York, for example, a cobra just "disappeared" from its enclosure. Where did it go? How might it endanger any number of people?

Those were serious questions that nobody wanted to be answered tragically, so the reptile facility at the zoo was closed as the search went on.

On the other side of the world, at an airport in Indonesia, authorities arrested two men headed for Dubai who had tried to carry 40 pythons on board a flight. The nonpoisonous constrictors wrap around and suffocate their prey.

Our dangerous snakes in Tennessee are copperheads, cottonmouths and certain types of rattlesnakes. With the exception of a local death from a copperhead bite in January, snakebite fatalities are rare here.

Fortunately, most people do not often encounter one even in nature — and certainly not loose in zoos or airports.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

LIBYA WAR STILL UNDECLARED

Anytime the United States is involved in war, the American people should clearly understand "why."

Were we attacked? Are American citizens or our national interests threatened? How do we expect to win?

If we are convinced we should be at war, Congress should declare war — as our Constitution provides!

And yet, President Barack Obama has thrust the United States into war in Libya without a declaration by Congress.

We all know, of course, that Libya's despotic ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, has promoted terrorism and has oppressed his own people. (So have lots of other rulers throughout the world.) We surely would like to see Gadhafi out of power. But the American people don't really know much about the nature of the Libyan insurgents who are challenging Gadhafi. Would we like them better?

We are told that the United States has fired scores of Tomahawk missiles, at a cost of about $250 million, from U.S. ships and submarines, and dispatched three big B-2 bombers to destroy a Libyan air base. One U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft, which cost $55 million, crashed. (The crew fortunately survived.) And various U.S. vessels, complete with large crews, have been in action in the Mediterranean Sea — all in a war that Congress has not declared.

The total monetary cost? Estimates have run a wide range — but they are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The constitutional cost? Who can estimate the ultimate cost of ignoring our Constitution?

Should the United States engage in extensive military action without a declaration by Congress?

We don't think so. Not according to the Constitution by which our leaders are supposed to abide.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

DISASTER, RADIATION AND FRIENDSHIP

The Japanese surely are more acutely aware of the dangers of radiation than are most other people.

After all, the only nuclear bombs ever exploded in anger caused massive destruction and huge loss of human life in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945.

But those bombs brought the United States and our Allies victory in World War II. And they almost miraculously changed Japanese aggressors into American friends.

Since then, the atom fortunately has been "tamed" for valuable peaceful uses. While the huge nuclear weapons arsenal of the United States has helped prevent new major wars, nuclear-generated electricity at hundreds of plants throughout the world has been harnessed to provide light and heat, plus energy for other purposes.

But there are dangers even in peaceful uses of nuclear power. We became shockingly aware of that when a tsunami caused by an earthquake seriously damaged a nuclear plant in Japan. While the quake and tsunami directly killed thousands, emergency workers are still struggling to prevent deaths by radiation.

Meanwhile, as in countless other world tragedies, about 20,000 American troops have been mobilized in what Japan calls "Operation Tomodachi" — Japanese for "Friend" — for humanitarian service.

U.S. soldiers are providing many tons of supplies as well as emergency manpower. The Americans are helping literally hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, some of whom have had to evacuate certain areas for fear of radiation and others who are simply trying to cope with the destruction of the natural disasters.

U.S. troops have long been stationed in Japan. But as one Japanese told The Associated Press: "To be honest, I didn't think much about U.S. troops until now. But when I see them working at the airport every day, I'm really thankful. They are working really hard. I never imagined they could help us so much."

The danger of radioactivity will last for some uncertain period of time to come, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So will cleanup efforts from the earthquake and tsunami.

The Japanese surely will need all the help that may be offered.

It is typical of the United States, and the American people, that many helping hands will be extended for a long time to many people who are in great need.

We cannot really imagine the deprivation, hardship — and anxiety — that thousands of the Japanese people are suffering. But we commend those who are helping to alleviate that suffering.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

HORROR UPON HORROR

In a massacre that one might hope would be confined to horror movies, one or more individuals believed to be Palestinian terrorists recently invaded the home of a sleeping family in Israel and stabbed to death the mother, the father, their 11-year-old son, their 4-year-old son and their baby girl. Two other children in the home apparently escaped the killers' notice, and a 12-year-old daughter came home after the slaughter because she had been with her youth group.

Whatever enmity exists between Israelis and Palestinians, it is hard to fathom hatred so great that that it would drive anyone to murder in cold blood not only adults but even a toddler and an infant. What unspeakable viciousness!

But what took place after the murders was also appalling and cruel. As Jeff Jacoby notes in The Boston Globe, "As news of the massacre in Itamar spread, young men in Gaza distributed candy and pastries in celebration." That reminds us of the horrible fact that some — though certainly not all — Palestinians openly rejoiced after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by radical Muslims that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

In addition, just two days after the murder of the young Israeli family, members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement brazenly named a square in the city of Ramallah after a terrorist whose 1978 attack on a bus killed 37 Israelis, including more than a dozen children.

It can be extremely difficult to resolve disputes among peoples even if all sides are well-intended and have no desire to commit violence. But it is hard to see how any peaceful resolution between Israel and its neighbors is possible when so many haters refuse to accept the Israelis' basic right to exist.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

WHOM DOES NETANYAHU OWE?

An investigation of trips that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family have taken abroad has revealed problematic conduct on the prime minister's part during various periods in his political career. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is doing the right thing in looking into the legal and ethical aspects of the trips, which were revealed by Raviv Drucker on Channel 10's "Hamakor" program. The junkets were taken during periods when Netanyahu was a Knesset member and finance minister.

It is absolutely appropriate to look into how it happened that the Israel Bonds organization funded such a large number of trips of family members of an elected official, as well as their stays at luxury hotels and their leisure time.

It is also fitting to look into Netanyahu's acquiescence (apparently willingly ) in accepting generous funding to cover travel expenses, accommodations, side trips and entertainment (for himself and his family ) from wealthy individuals in Europe and the United States, some of whom have business interests in Israel.

An investigation should be carried out over whether this is consistent with the law and with ethical standards required of elected officials. This issue is especially important in light of the fact that Netanyahu was not always meticulous about requesting approval by the Knesset Ethics Committee before embarking on his trips.

If it is found that Netanyahu violated ethics rules and the law, the matter will be transferred to the attorney general to deal with the case.

The embarrassing accumulated nature of the trips presents an additional serious aspect, however. The Channel 10 investigation shows a pattern of wealthy acquaintances around the world seemingly assisting in funding items falling in a gray area between private expenditures and political and public ones.

This assistance by individuals whose identities have been disclosed, but whose loyalties and political connections remain obscured, must raise the question as to whom Netanyahu is more indebted, to them or to the Israeli public.

It appears that the prime minister and his family are big fans of a lifestyle of the type led by isolated rulers of oil emirates.

It is true that Netanyahu is not alone. The trips he tried to conceal are in addition to a broader dubious list that includes the luxury hotel suite Defense Minister Ehud Barak rented for the Paris Air Show and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's travels, but it seems Netanyahu went too far.

It is fair to expect that Israeli prime ministers would conduct themselves with a semblance of modesty. And he should absolutely be expected not to owe a thing to anyone.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

THE MEN CRY AT NIGHT

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

If you want to kill yourself, you don't have to work too hard, just write a critical article about any subject related to women, and immediately the women's organizations will attack you from all sides, declare you are a male chauvinistic pig and condemn you to the slaughter - metaphorically speaking.

What can you do when the subject is a burning issue that demands a response? The women's organizations are applying massive pressure to politicians to prevent the retirement age for women being raised to 64. As a result of the pressure a committee to discuss the issue has been set up.

Until 2004, the retirement age for women was 60 and for men 65. but it turned out that the Histradrut labor federation pension funds were on the verge of bankruptcy, and the state's pension obligations endangered the budget. A solution was found - nationalization of the pension funds and upping the retirement age for men and women. In July 2004, a process began in which the retirement age for women is gradually being raised to 64 and for men to 67.

The women's organizations aren't pleased. They agree to increasing the retirement age for women to 62 (the present retirement age ), but not to 64. Note that a woman is allowed to retire at the age of 62, but is not required to do so. If she so desires, she can go on working until the age of 67, a significant privilege that men do not enjoy.

Talia Livni, president of the women's organization Na'amat, says older women find themselves outside the job market. If they are forced to wait for their old-age allowance and their pension payment until the age of 64, she says, they will find themselves doomed to "a life of poverty."

What about the men? Who represents them? Don't men work at jobs that lead to burnout, such as construction and industry? Aren't they discriminated against in the job market because of age? Aren't they doomed to "a life of poverty"? Why do they have to work until the age of 67, thereby subsidizing the pension for women?

Natural justice says otherwise. The life expectancy for women in Israel is 83, while that for men is 79. In other words, women benefit from another four years with a pension, and therefore they have to work longer than men, to pay for those four years.

Since I'm afraid of the women's organizations, I won't claim that men should retire before women. I will say that the retirement age should be equalized. We can propose that both sexes retire at the age of 66. We should also work vigorously to equalize wages between men and women. If an employer knows that a certain woman is unwilling to work overtime, or that she will retire five years before a man, that will certainly reduce her chances of promotion to senior positions, and will therefore harm her salary.

A few days ago, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published its annual pension report. It recommends extending the work years of both men and women. The reason: increasing life expectancy. That is why France recently raised the retirement age by two years.

The OECD checked and found that due to early retirement and an increase in life expectancy, today the number of years during which men receive a pension (from retirement to death ) is 16.5 on average, whereas for women life expectancy with a pension reaches 21.6 years - a gap of five years in their favor. Why do they - and not the men - feel shortchanged?

The OECD recommends raising the retirement age for men to 66.6 and for women to 65. Here the recommendation is already being implemented for men; why not implement it for women, too?

Women's struggle to achieve equality is deserving of support. It was accelerated in the mid-19th century, with the social revolution that espoused the value of equality. Here it became significant in the 1970s, with the establishment of organizations that work to promote women's rights.

But equal rights go together with equal obligations. That is why we should take a cue from countries in which equality between men and women is greatest: Scandinavia. There the retirement age for women ranges from 64 to 66.

Although Na'amat is responsible for promoting women's issues, one doesn't have to be a male chauvinist pig to understand that in this case not only is there no negative discrimination against women, there is even reverse discrimination.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

PRESIDENT ASSAD IS THE FAVORITE

BY SALMAN MASALHA

As strange as it sounds, everyone in Israel loves Arab dictators. When I say everyone I mean both Jews and Arabs. The favorite dictator of all is president Assad. As Assad junior inherited the oppressive regime in Syria, so did both Jews and Arabs transfer their affection for the dictator from Damascus from Assad senior to his son.

Following the intifada in the Arab states, Bashar al-Assad maintained in an interview to the Wall Street Journal that the situation in Syria is different, adding that Syria is not like Egypt. He also emphasized that Syria was not susceptible to sliding into a similar situation, because it was in the "resistance" front and belongs to the anti-American, anti-Israeli axis.

Well, Assad is right. The situation in Syria is indeed different. The Syrian regime is more like Saddam's defunct regime. The Ba'ath Party that ruled Iraq and the one still ruling Syria both held aloft flags of pan-Arab national ideology. But slogans are one thing and reality is another. All the ideological sweet talk was only talk. For the Ba'ath Party, both in Iraq and in Syria, constituted a political platform to perpetuate tribal, ethnic oppression.

Indeed, the situation in Egypt is completely different. If we put aside the Coptic minority, then Egyptian society is homogenous religiously and not tribal at all. The demoted Egyptian president, Mubarak, never had a tribal-ethnic crutch to lean on. The Egyptian army is also different and not at all like the Syrian or Iraqi armies.

For example, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Iraqi army splintered into its tribal and ethnic fragments. The soldiers took off their uniforms and each joined his tribe and ethnic community. Saddam too adhered to those tribal codes. He did not flee Iraq but went to hide in the well-protected areas of his tribesmen. This is what happens in these societies. In the land of the cedars, as soon as the civil war broke out, the Lebanese army dissolved into its ethnic components and disappeared.

True, Syria is not Egypt. Syria is also different in terms of the price in blood inflicted by the tyrannical Syrian regime. The Syrian tribal government is based on the force exercised by the security branches ruled by the tribesmen and their interested allies.

Inherently, a tribal regime of this kind will always be seen as a foreign reign. This kind of reign can be called tribal imperialism, which rules by operating brutal terror and oppression. This is underscored when a minority tribe rules, like in Syria. Thus every undermining of the government is seen as a challenge to the tribal hegemony and a danger to the ruling tribe's survival. Such a regime by its very nature is totally immersed in a bloodbath.

Both Assad senior and Assad junior advocated resistance against Israel. This slogan was hollow, serving the regime merely as an insurance policy against any demand for freedom and democracy. The Syrian "resistance" government has not uttered a peep on the Golan front since 1973. Instead, the "resistance" regime was and still is ready to fight Israel to the last Lebanese, and if that doesn't do the trick - then to the last Palestinian.

As voices in Israel have recently spoken out in favor of Hamas' continued rule in Gaza, so many Israelis are worried these days over the Syrian regime's welfare. Astonishingly, not only Jews are praying secretly for the Damascus regime's survival, but many in the Arab parties as well. These parties' leaders have been dumbstruck, their voices have been muted and no outcry has been raised against the Syrian regime's massacre of civilians.

All the hypocrites, Jews and Arabs alike, have united. It seems Assad has wall-to-wall support here, as though he were king of Israel.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

WHEN DETERRENCE FAILS

BY MOSHE ARENS

No more war, no more bloodshed, let deterrence do the job of soldiers and weapons on the battlefield. A great doctrine when it works. It worked for the Soviet Union and America during the Cold War. And it has worked for Israel since the Yom Kippur War as far as our neighbors were concerned.

It was actually the foundation of the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. When the leaders of a nation contemplating an act of aggression realize that they are faced by almost certain defeat or vast destruction that may endanger their hold on power, they desist, they are deterred.

That is the reason Anwar Sadat, after the Egyptian defeat in the Yom Kippur War, concluded that the time had come to make peace with Israel. And that is the reason the Assads, father and son, have not attacked Israel in the thirty-eight years since the Yom Kippur War.

Of course, miscalculation can always send deterrence to the winds. The Japanese in World War II miscalculated and attacked Pearl Harbor, thinking they could defeat America. And Saddam Hussein miscalculated and believed the Bushs, father and son, would not go to war against him despite his provocations.

So the possibility of miscalculation by the other side must always be taken into account in solving the deterrence equation.

It is quite another story when it comes to terrorists. Usually they cannot be deterred. They are difficult to target, they are responsible only to themselves or their organizations, and they do not care if their surroundings suffer from the retribution brought down by their acts.

Not being deterrable, they must be defeated, as the Israel Defense Forces did after the Passover massacre in 2002.

And then there are the terrorists who assume political responsibility in their "home" base and thus become sensitive and vulnerable to punitive measures taken in the wake of their acts of terror.

That is Hezbollah today. Initially they had no political standing in Lebanon, and it was difficult to identify them with the government of Lebanon and hold the government of Lebanon responsible for their acts of terror. Beirut simply claiming they were incapable of controlling Hezbollah.

The Hezbollah model of the terrorist organization that was presumably uncontrollable by the government nominally in control of the area became a paradigm of terrorist operations soon copied elsewhere.

There was a time, over 10 years ago, when the Syrians controlled Lebanon and also Hezbollah, and they could be held accountable for the acts of terror committed by Hezbollah.

Then, the Israel Air Force, in response to rocket attacks on Israel's northern settlements, would attack infrastructure targets in Beirut and other locations in Lebanon, and Syrian pressure on Hezbollah would bring about a cessation of the rocket attacks.

The situation changed when Syria left Lebanon and Hezbollah again became an "uncontrollable" terrorist organization. It has changed again as Hezbollah over the years attained political power and became the dominant political actor on the Lebanese political scene.

In Gaza, a terrorist organization, Hamas, rules and is responsible, although here too we see a repeat of the earlier Hezbollah paradigm: Islamic Jihad assuming the role of the "uncontrollable" terrorist organization.

Why did Operation Cast Lead not establish a long-standing deterrent against rocket attacks on the south?

Leaving aside the question of why the IDF was not ordered to complete the job and put an end to the rocket capability of Hamas in Gaza, there is good reason to believe that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad believe that in the wake of the Goldstone report and the wholesale condemnations of Cast Lead, the Israeli government would hesitate to undertake another ground operation in Gaza.

And the rocket attacks can only be stopped by a ground operation.

Are we seeing a failure of deterrence or are Hamas and the Islamic Jihad miscalculating?

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

 

DON'T BE IMPRESSED BY THE SEWAGE OF OFRA

BY ZAFRIR RINAT

I would like to introduce you to the principle of relative cancellation - a legal rule that says that a defect in the activity of a government authority will not necessarily lead to the cancellation of this activity. And there is no region more suitable for implementing this wonderful principle, with the encouragement of the top legal echelon, than Judea and Samaria, an area in which the settlers' wishes almost totally cancel the rights and needs of others.

Recently the state presented to the High Court of Justice its reply to a petition submitted by Palestinian residents through attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharia, against the construction of a water purification plant for the settlement of Ofra on land that is privately owned by Palestinians.

The facts, according to the state's version, are quite clear. Ofra has no valid master plan or defined area of jurisdiction, and therefore cannot be granted building permits. But it has flourished and spread toward Palestinian-owned lands properly registered in the land registry.

A flourishing community needs a proper sewage purification plant and a place for it was in fact found: In the glorious tradition of Ofra, a sewage purification plant was constructed without building permits and without a master plan, and of course on privately-owned land. There even seems to be a suspicion that someone connected to the settlers issued a document that according to the State Prosecutor's Office "looks like a building permit."

But this entire chain of failures, distortions and violations of the law is relatively negligible compared to the profound concern of the state and the settlers for the environment. There is no other solution for sewage purification, says the state, and therefore the plant should be left in place and the area expropriated. It will also serve Palestinian villages, and that will be additional justification for its existence. One of the alternatives that was considered as a solution was using existing oxidation pools inside Ofra, but it was rejected, one reason being that the pools are next to settlers' homes.

It is hard not to be impressed by the closing of the circle, in the course of which the settlers improved their situation while continuing to pollute the environment, and then strengthened their hold on the land even further, in order to solve the environmental problem they created. First they built settlements without permits, and oxidation pools to provide a solution for sewage. These pools are too close to the houses and too small, so they built a new plant illegally outside the community, and now they're legalizing it, because otherwise the environment will continue to suffer.

So why should we complain about the settlers whose handiwork is drowning in sewage? The main responsibility remains that of the state, which came to their rescue after providing "a certain amount of funding," as the State Prosecutor's Office defined it, to build the plant. Now the Palestinian villagers who saw Ofra take over their lands are supposed to rely on the settlement to solve their sewage problem, by means of an additional piece of land it stole from them. If they don't accept the solution, they will be forced to continue to deal with the sewage problem that makes their lives difficult too and endangers the environment. If they accept the solution, they will help to perpetuate the settlement enterprise and even grant it environmental approval.

As far as the settlers are concerned, they will certainly exploit the anticipated refusal of the villagers to use the purification plant, in order to continue with the environmental information campaign that they have recently been conducting. In its context they are urging the government to stop pollution from sewage from Palestinian communities, and reprimanding their neighbors for refusing to cooperate with the settlements in building purification facilities. They certainly will not forget to mention that their viewpoint is not related to any political solution, because after all, the only thing that interests them, as we know, is to keep the Land of Israel green and beautiful.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS STRAIGHT - JUST WHAT WOULD IT TAKE?

We would like to know what threshold might prompt the government's ire. Our concern is what threshold of the ever-expanding judicial activism practiced by Ergenekon prosecutor Zekeriya Öz must be crossed before Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his ministers, waver from the standard ruling party line. It is changeless with each wave of arrests, raids, the destruction of an unpublished book – seized from our sister newspaper – and now the publishing of evidence denied to defendants by an unabashedly pro-government newspaper.

This is unprecedented in any advanced democracy. But the response never varies: Turkey has an independent judiciary, commenting on an ongoing case would be inappropriate, let's all just be patient. Fair enough. We'll even overlook the fact this deference to the judiciary is something the ruling Justice and Development Party has discovered well into its reign. It was not there, for example, when a prosecutor was seeking to shut down the party two years ago – a case of which we were highly critical in this column.

But what would prompt a response in our system, predicated on checks and balances between the branches of governance?

Even the latest of the many rounds with which we are all so familiar, the raid Thursday on our sister newspaper Radikal and the deletion of a digital copy of a book supposedly on the Gülen religious movement, prompted no straying from the course. This was the book by journalist Ahmet Şık that the prosecutor had already said had no relation to the scribe's arrest but is now allegedly part of a plot to aid a "criminal organization." Rather it was "other evidence" that was said to be keeping Şık and colleague Nedim Şener behind bars. But nobody knows quite what this secret evidence is because the prosecutor has refused to disclose it. Until Sunday when the daily Bugün published it, following on the promise by the same daily and pro-government Zaman to publish excerpts from the book itself. Were not we told in the course of the raid days ago, in our own building, that failing to turn in any purloined copies of this manuscript would constitute "aiding a criminal organization?"

In Turkey and around the world, as we have reported, the AKP has been alone in its reticence to express any concern. Members of the European Parliament have lined up to demand to know what is going on. A score of Turkish lawyers, including the general counsel for the Turkish Press Council, has declared the moves violate "all of Ankara's international engagements in terms of freedom of expression." Every international media organization has condemned what is happening. The European Commission and the U.S. State Department have expressed their concerns.

But the threshold has not been crossed for the government. We wonder. Is there anything the prosecutor might do that would prompt a response?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

REGIONAL INEQUALITY

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

To talk, write and discuss frequently on the same topic, in this case poverty, might seem boring. However without providing a reasonably just income distribution among families it is impossible to reach social, national and, of course, international peace. To understand the degree of injustice, statistical information about income distribution is used to indicate the gap between the richest and the poorest groups. For example, according to the latest survey, the richest are more than eight times richer than the poorest in Turkey.

Another important issue is the disparity among regions in a country. The recent crisis has made this problem more serious even in wealthy countries. Not only economic consequences, but the social and political impacts of this situation are also very important. Unfortunately, the differences in income and wealth between regions in many developing countries are much bigger. This partly explains the past and recent political upheavals in those countries.

There were several attempts to balance regional income and wealth distribution, especially after World War II destroyed European economies. Also in the United States, similar policies were implemented to fight against poverty in various regions. However, after so many years, all these attempts seem fruitless. In some European countries, in spite of considerable increases in per capita income, the distribution of this income among families and regions is still not quite just.

The Turkish Statistics Institute, or TurkStat, recently released data on regional disparities in Turkey. According to a survey conducted by TurkStat, per capita income in the Istanbul region is nearly three times higher than the per capita income in the southeast. In some rich western countries, the situation is worse. For example, OECD surveys indicate that Londoners are nine times richer than the Welsh. Also in the U.S., people living in the Washington, D.C., area are five times richer than those who live in Mississippi. As everybody can easily guess, Germany has the smallest regional inequality among Western countries.

Regional income and wealth inequality also have negative impacts on domestic and even international politics, as seen recently. However, it is also an economic problem. The weaker economic contribution of poorer regions to the national economy creates a vicious circle. If an economy cannot reach its potential growth level because of the weak contributions of poorer regions, policies to balance regional disparities cannot be designed and implemented. Labor movements from poorer areas to richer districts as a result of regional inequalities partly solve the living conditions of some families, but this also creates additional social and economic problems.

Some studies suggest that the core of the problem is the difference in productivity. It means that it is necessary to improve education and skills in poorer areas. Easy to say, difficult to implement. The biggest problem is the insufficient volume of public funds, especially when many Western countries try to implement tight fiscal policies in order to narrow huge budget deficits and the volume of public debt.

So what will be the future of regional disparities? Obviously, the gap between richer and poorer regions will continue to widen; mega-metropolises in developing countries will become larger. People in the poorer regions in rich countries frequently change their political preferences according to promises made by political parties; all this means more national and international political turmoil.

The solution is full international cooperation. Looking at the present worldwide situation, is there any hope for this?

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ITHAKI AND MALWARE PRACTICES

ARIANA FERENTINOU

Ithaki is a small island in the Ionian Sea, the least known Greek sea for the Turks as it lies on the west of the Greek mainland and apart from a very brief period, it was never part of the Ottoman Empire. The influx of Turkish tourism to the Greek islands during the last few years was restricted mainly to the Aegean with only a limited spill over to the Eptanisa, the seven Greek islands whose political cultural affinity was historically more toward Venice, Napoleon and Queen Victoria rather than the Sultan.

Ithaki is an island I come from whose world claim to fame over the centuries lies in the assumption that it was the actual kingdom of the mythical Homeric hero Odysseus, who set out with the rest of the Mycenaean Kings to cross the Aegean and raid Troy some three thousand years ago. Thanks to the shrewdness of that king of Ithaki, namely the "Trojan Horse," Troy fell to the Hellenes. Since its poetic conception by Homer, the Trojan Horse became synonymous to any "trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space." 

Like most of its some 3,000 inhabitants and many more living abroad, I have lived with the conviction that where there is smoke there is fire, and behind all myths there is a real story. So against a long struggle for finite archaeological evidence we always thought in our hearts that our island was the island where that great mythical king lived and from where he sailed to Troy and to where he returned after a 10-year adventure. However, it is a conviction that has kept the population of this tiny island alive and united behind an idea that until scientifically and finitely proven by hard evidence, remains wishful thinking.

I do not know what the idea behind the founders of "İthaki Yayin Evi" in the Istanbul district of Kadıköy was in giving the name of our island to their publishing house in 1997. Was it the mythological hero, the Trojan link, the spirit of adventure? From their list of over 600 titles I can see as diverse books as translations of Jules Verne, Louis Althusser, Albert Camus, Nietzsche, Boris Vian, Alan Poe, Aldous Huxley but also Cengiz Kapmaz's "Öcalan's İmralı Days."

The "Imam's Army" by the investigative reporter and academic instructor Ahmet Şık was also in "İthaki's" coming publications. The last time I saw Ahmet, about a month ago, he was maniacally typing the last sentences of this book on his office computer, next to his young daughter's photograph. We were colleagues with Ahmet sometimes working from the same room. When I returned to our office after a short illness of mine and a trip to Greece, Ahmet's office was empty, his computer was missing and the digital copies of his-not-yet-published book had been removed from all recipients, including the İthaki Publishing House. The prosecutor had considered the draft of the book as "evidence" of his participation in a terrorist organization linked to the "Ergenekon" case. 

It needs good nerves to stomach a legal approach that stipulates that a book can be considered as punitive evidence before it reaches its intended form, i.e., publication. As far as I know, N. Kazantzakis's book "The Last Temptation" in the 1950s has been one of the very few cases worldwide where there was an attempt – by the religious authorities – to ban it before it was published. But I do not know of cases where a book can be regarded as legal evidence before it reaches booksellers' shelves.

The islanders of Ithaki – me among them – are known for their one-track mind and their obsession with their mythical ancestor. That ancestor is associated with the spirit of adventure, freedom of movement and openness of mind. Most Ithakian men are sailors and want to believe that they are carrying Odysseus' legacy. Of course, there is a lot of naiveté and romanticism in that but it is a way to carry on in living on a small island, but also in living on a bigger stretch of land. Like that of Turkey.

It is with this spirit of openness to knowledge and information that society can find its self-confidence and develop. The opposite would be a society – and its leaders – who are investing on closeness, self-censorship, caution and apathy.

It is this naïve thought of mine that makes me believe that İthaki Publishing House and my island Ithaki have got a lot in common, as does my colleague and friend, Ahmet Şık.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

AKP'S MIDDLE EAST POLICIES IN TURMOIL

SEMİH İDİZ

Turkey has had a very ambitious policy on the Middle East and North Africa under Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The underlying aim has been to try and increase Ankara's regional influence as a soft power. Ankara has also been taking aim at a certain degree of political and economic integration between the countries involved.

Joint Cabinet meetings, the lifting of visa requirements and overtures aimed at trying to establish some kind of a common market in the region have been the most apparent outward expressions of this effort.

Some have even seen this as Turkey's way of hitting back at those in Europe who have negative views on Ankara's potential EU accession.

Given the latest dramatic developments in both the Middle East and North Africa, however, it seems it will be difficult for Ankara to maintain this policy as it was originally drawn up by Davutoğlu.

It is true that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insists that Turkey supports change in the region, where, he says, the will of the people must be respected. It is unlikely, however, that what he meant by "change" in this context is the kind of revolutionary events that are taking place.

These events are aimed, after all, at toppling existing dictatorial regimes and destroying the entrenched status quo in order to replace it with a new and more representative order. Turkey's approach, on the other hand, has been based on encouraging the leaders of the existing status quo to change their countries by means of reforms.

In other words, Ankara has been exhorting "evolution," rather than "revolution." But faced with revolution instead, it seems Erdoğan and Davutoğlu will have to go back to the drawing board in order to revise their grand strategy for the Middle East.

Turkey can still try and work with representatives of the established order in the Middle East and North Africa, even if the position of this order appears very shaky now. But the Libya example has shown us that this could backfire on Ankara in unexpected ways given the new political realities that are emerging.

The Erdoğan government is trying to give the impression now that it was in contact with the Libyan opposition based in Benghazi from the very start.

This may very well be true, but for it to be significant today it would have had to have been seen at the time, and not "after the fact" following the international intervention in Libya.

Whatever may have taken place behind closed doors in the past, it is also evident that the government's wavering on Libya has spawned the impression that Ankara originally placed its bets on Moammar Gadhafi's ability to stay in power.

This also appears to be the impression among members of the Libyan opposition, who have not refrained from airing their views on the topic to reporters from various Turkish news channels reporting out of Libya.

It is also telling in this respect that Turkish flags or pro-Turkish banners are not to be seen at mass demonstrations against Gadhafi held in Benghazi, while French flags as well as banners praising French President Nicolas Sarkozy are waved.

Put another way, it is clear that Ankara can not expect "automatic sympathy" from the Libyan opposition given the contradictory approach it displayed concerning events in that country.

This means the Erdoğan government is going to have to work to gain the hearts and minds of the opposition once the war against Gadhafi's forces is won – a prospect that looks much more likely today than it did 10 days ago.

We have argued from the start that Erdoğan misread the political events taking place in Libya and came up with his confusing rhetoric on these events as a result. Part of his rhetoric has been angry anti-Western outbursts cautioning the United States and Europe not to send ground forces to Libya, following the resumption of the air operation against Gadhafi.

It seems now that he misread the military situation as well and did not factor in the possibility that the West would not send ground forces since the Libya opposition would suffice once the playing field was leveled with the intervention against Gadhafi's forces from the air.

The legality of this blatant involvement on behalf of the opposition by the international coalition is of course questionable since United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 only mandates the protection of civilians. But we are faced here with an inevitable "fait accompli" that Ankara is not in a position to complain about too vocally, mainly due to the behavior of Gadhafi.

Libya is only one example showing how the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has had to revise its policies vis-à-vis the region in the face of fast-moving developments. It is clear that the situation in Bahrain, which points increasingly to a regional cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia based on religious sectarian lines, will inevitably have the same effect on Ankara.

The rapidly emerging situation in Syria is another case in point, and one that is being followed with serious trepidation in Ankara given that this country borders Turkey. The fact that Ankara has been developing very warm ties with President Bashar al-Assad is of course fueling concerns since it is not clear who Ankara's interlocutor in Syria will be if al-Assad and his regime are to go.

There is also some irony in the fact that the much-lauded lifting of visa requirements between Turkey and Syria may end up making life easier for Syrian refugees fleeing that country if the situation gets really out of hand and violence spreads across the country.

The short of all this is that while Ankara's policies toward the countries presently in turmoil were predicated on cooperating with the status quo, the ground has now shifted seriously. In the meantime it has been seen that channeling the new social dynamics that have emerged in North Africa and the Middle East in a direction that Ankara desires is beyond Turkey's capabilities.

It is also clear when looked at from the present vantage point that it will take a long time for the necessary political and economic infrastructure in North Africa and the Middle East to emerge in a way that allows Davutoğlu's dream for the region to be reenergized.

This leaves Turkey little choice but to make sure it remains anchored in the West if it is to serve its strategic security and economic interests. This will also require the government to explain to a Turkish public that has gone off the European Union, that while there are many who oppose Turkey in Europe, there are also influential countries and leaders who do not, and believe instead that Turkey must remain in the European fold.

As historic developments continue apace in the Arab world, providing a lot of uncertainty for the future, more attention to Turkey's ties with the West may be one of the positive things to come out of all this.

The bottom line, however, is that it takes two to tango so there is some responsibility that befalls Europe here also, because it too faces uncertainties vis-à-vis developments in a geography of vital concern to it.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

COULD CIVIL OBEDIENCE BE THE REAL ISSUE?

PINAR ÖĞÜNÇ

Why does a civilian attempt to stir up disorder? Howard Zinn offers a definition and makes a determination.

Civil disobedience became the most frequently use expression last week. Sit-ins by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, continue as the Democratic Solution Tents mushroom around in various cities.

Former parliamentary deputy Mahmut Alnıak is the spokesman for the "No Dead Young, No Perished Home" initiative launched independently from the BDP. He announced a new civil disobedience action is on the way. For two weeks in all schools and public institutions after April 2, they will answer in Kurdish even if the other party insists on Turkish.

Elsewhere, the most preposterous incidents in the history of universal law takes place and we see that copies of a book draft by journalist Ahmet Şık, an Ergenekon crime gang suspect, are being confiscated by the police one by one. What happens in return? On social networks tens of thousands say they have a draft copy as well. Only on Facebook, about 55,000 account holders have confessed to a crime in this sense. Besides, publishers get united and announced that they could publish this book. These actions are all called civil disobedience…

With this expression, the first thinker that comes to mind is Howard Zinn, who described similar actions as "The deliberate violation of the law for a vital social purpose." Rightness and illegality are different concepts.

Acts of civil disobedience are peaceful and non-violent. If they are violent, then they are called something else. Civil obedience is illegitimate but doesn't mean defending illegality on the whole. Legitimacy of civil disobedience is based on its urgency. It is the voice of the civilian. It is a method of reminding the existence of civilians to civilian governments. And the periods in which the civilian eagerly wants to remind its existence have a name, too.

Let's wrap it up with an excerpt by Zinn again:

"Civil disobedience is not our problem... Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience… Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world, in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war and cruelty."

Message to the Collectives and Genç-Sen

The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, revealed a package for the youth last week. The CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu began to talk about a mentality that sees the young as a "potential suspect," and gave promises to the youth from different social sects. When he mentioned about the young "who are destined to tear gas," I asked if the CHP administration and the Youth Branch preparing this package got together with the Student Collectives or the Genç-Sen. For it is impossible to come up with projects and understand the university without having their opinions. "Good" students and leaders of student councils who are exposed to tear gas tell of a different reality.

Though they really wanted to, they couldn't meet, said Kılıçdaroğlu. He even said the doors are wide open and the party is waiting for them to come in. I don't know what this could lead to, but don't shoot the messenger.

* This article was published in daily Radikal on Monday. It was translated by Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE BILL GOES TO THE AKP AND GÜLEN COMMUNITY

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

What happened to the book "İmamın Ordusu" (The Imam's Army) made even those who defend the Ergenekon case furiouss. We may say, "This is none of our business. This only concerns the judiciary," all we want, but the bill goes to the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Gülen community. Almost everybody perceives Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen to be behind it. Both are very concerned but they are unable to disassociate themselves with these events.

The AKP is aware but shy about it.

The investigation with respect to the book "İmamın Ordusu" has created so much chaos that no one is able to solve it.

There is no understandable reasoning behind it.

When looked from the outside, the media says the police are in charge. It shares information with judges. And these judges behave as if they found a gold mine and create a first in history by starting an investigation for a book draft, collecting all hard copies and destroying computer files pertaining to this draft.

Each time I deem this behavior to be ridiculous.

As a journalist, I am ashamed and upset that I live in a country in which narrow-mindedness persists in approach and application, as well as in the judiciary.

Turkish society deserves better

So if the majority of this country thinks the way I do, how does the administration think?

Recently they, too, started to realize the severity of the situation.

As always, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who is considered to be the conscience of the society, was the one to take the first step. As time passes and no escape is in sight, this bill will accumulate.

The weakest link in the chain of reactions is Erdoğan. He leaves it up to the judiciary saying his administration is not involved. But he hesitates to say that such a practice is unacceptable. With great possibility, he tries to prevent the impression that he is criticizing the Ergenekon process. As long as he wants he can make use of his language in a very sharp way but in this case he does not want to. He seems to be protective of this process led by police, prosecutors and judges but we know of many examples in the past where he openly criticized and even slammed the judiciary.

Let's ignore general judgment in this country and assume that the administration party will not interfere in the judiciary.

But can't it interfere in the actions of the police either?

Can't they just tell the police that their practices violate the balance in this country and that the bill goes to the AKP?

For God's sake.

We all know in this country that if it is in its own interest, the administration will interfere in the practices of the police and judiciary. Even if this is not true, the belief still exists.

Let's see when the AKP will realize the truth and avoid further damage.

The Gülen community experienced much harm but they too keep silent.

If one bill goes to the AKP, the other goes to the Fethullah Gülen community.

We faced a similar situation when Hanefi Avcı was arrested for his book. And the Ahmet Şık event added insult to injury.

We've entered a phase in which everybody who touches the community "gets burned."  

Even conspiracy theories have increased their percentage of plausibility.

The perception is widespread that the "İmam" really has a presence everywhere and owns an untitled army that burns everybody who dares to touch him.

You may show reaction all you want.

You may also say all this stirs from judiciary-police boorishness, and one needs to wait until the investigation is over and all the data emerges to form an indictment.  

You may also say that the community has been extremely criticized in former publications and everybody ignored it. You may even say that this book includes a connection to terror.

But you won't be able to convince anyone.

 'Our minds are being insulted, we are not that simple-minded or hickish'  

This is the greatest concern of those who believe in Gülen and are close to him. Once you talk to them you notice how angry they are. 

Because they think part of the bill goes to them. They are aware that they appear to be a community that looks like a staff organized like masons or a gang. What they don't know is how to rid themselves of this perception. And that is why they classically withdraw and wait.

It is not for sure whether they are shy about explaining themselves. But as time goes by their bill keeps bloating too.

"Their perception really worries us. Such nonsense. To say that we have a share in this book event means insulting our minds. To participate in such event is something beyond stupidity," says someone close to Fethullah Gülen. "We are not a simple-minded or hickish community that would do such thing."

The community's reaction is brisk but it seems they don't know what to do about it. They hope that this storm will one day calm down and be forgotten like all the previous ones. But there is one thing to keep in mind, though, and that is that this type of event leaves good or bad residue in the memory of the society.

I don't believe that the Gülen movement is participating in such a dark conspiracy to govern Turkey from behind the curtains. But my perception and that of many others like me does not change the general perception in our society in this respect.

Which means that the community needs to do something about it.

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 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RUSSIA'S IMAGE AS ENERGY SUPERPOWER BENEFITTING FROM MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

GREGORY FEIFER

With U.S.-led fighter jets pounding military assets in oil-rich Libya, and Japan still struggling to contain radiation at its stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, concerns are rising around the world about the future of energy supplies. But not in Russia.

As the unrest in the Middle East bites into supplies, prices for crude approached $105 a barrel this week. That's helping drive windfall profits that are enabling the world's biggest energy exporter to finally emerge from recession triggered by the global financial crisis in 2008.

But while that's good news for Russia's economy, Kremlin critics say rising energy prices are again shoring up the country's authoritarian government – and that's bad for politics.

Russia is using the crises in the Middle East and Japan to burnish its image as the world's energy superpower. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – who has predicted that Russia's GDP will equal its pre-crisis level by next year – exchanged his usually stern demeanor for an uncharacteristically friendly manner last week and promised to help Japan, where the nuclear crisis has forced electricity blackouts. He predicted the effects of the earthquake and tsunami to energy supplies there will be long-term.

"In that regard, we have to think of accelerating our plans to develop hydrocarbon-extraction projects – particularly gas extraction – in the Far East," he said.

Putin offered to pump more gas to Europe by pipeline, freeing shipments of liquefied natural gas for Japan. He also proposed laying an electricity cable to Japan and offered Japanese companies stakes in Siberian gas fields. Moscow has issued more offers since, including encouragement for Japanese companies to invest in Russia's coal industry.

But some analysts are warning Russia's heightened focus on its global energy role is eroding any – already distant – hopes the government would enact economic reform. The Kremlin vowed to diversify the country's economy after plummeting oil prices dealt the economy a body blow during the global financial crisis.

Political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky says the latest events in the Middle East are instead helping speed a return to Russia's pre-crisis situation, when peak oil prices flooded the country with cash.

"We're returning to the golden era of 2006 and 2007, with official propaganda slogans extolling a 'great energy power'," Piontkovsky says. "It's very good for a very limited group of people for a very short time period, but certainly it's very bad for the country."

Piontkovsky says the developments are reinforcing the "general mentality" of Russia's leaders, reflected in a return to the kind of strident anti-Western rhetoric that was especially loud during the pre-crisis oil boom.

He points to President Dmitry Medvedev's comments this month in which he blamed Western countries for prompting the Middle East unrest, adding that "they have prepared such a scenario for us."

But it's Putin who's seen as Russia's supreme leader. He lashed out on March 22 in his strongest anti-Western comments in years, condemning the U.N. Security Council for authorizing force against Libya. He said last week's resolution enabled Western countries to take action against a sovereign state "under the guise of protecting the civilian population."

"It actually resembles medieval calls for crusades when someone called on others to go to a certain place and liberate it," Putin said.

But the atmosphere in Moscow is more nuanced then the rhetoric suggests. Medvedev rejected Putin's comments, calling them "unacceptable." And despite Putin's displeasure, Russia declined to veto the resolution when it came to a vote last week, instead choosing to abstain.

Fyodr Lukyanov, editor of the journal "Russia in Global Affairs," sees that decision as more significant than the tough talk. "It's not typical," he says. "Russia used to take stands for or against, particularly when it comes to issues such as intervention in other countries."

He says foreign policy isn't being driven by rising oil prices. "It's about the gradual refocusing of Russian interests and redefining of Russian foreign-policy identity from a global one to a more regional one."

That change, he says, reflects a "much more rational calculation of priorities."

"It doesn't mean Russia is more pro-Western," Lukyanov says. "Russia is becoming less global, which means that, for example, the idea to challenge Washington everywhere and over everything isn't relevant anymore."

Economist Clifford Gaddy of the Brookings Institution says the key question for Russia's future economic success will be how it responds to demand in resource-hungry China. Whatever the rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin, he says, Russia has little chance of competing in any other sector.

"You can dream all you want about diversification and blame Putin or whoever for not diversifying or praise them because they want to diversify," Gaddy says, "but it doesn't make very much sense. Russia's comparative, competitive advantage is not in anything except resources, so the smart thing to do is play that card."

This article was originally published by OilPrice.com, which offers free information and analysis on energy and commodities. To find out more, visit the website at www.oilprice.com.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE EAST PUTS TURKEY IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

JAMES M. DORSEY

A wave of anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa that has already toppled two longstanding, authoritarian Arab rulers, shines a spotlight on Turkey in both favorable and challenging ways.

This Arab display of street power puts Turkish aspirations of being a model of development for the Muslim world to the litmus test as Turkey is the region's most democratic state and largest, most diversified economy.

Turkish achievements in terms of democratization, putting its foot in the door of European Union membership, electing in more than one poll a political party with roots in Islamist politics in a dogmatically secular political structure, building infrastructure, and liberalizing the economy are not lost on those who draw inspiration from the descendants of the Ottomans who once ruled them. But so is the prolonged struggle that brought Turkey to where it is today as well as the warts – including efforts to restrain freedom of the Internet and the press as well as the adoption of more socially conservative mores in government-owned establishments and the still-unfulfilled recognition of minority rights – that have cast a shadow over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's tenure and the state of Turkish democracy.

Nonetheless, in a world where popular revolt is more likely to produce more populist rather than truly democratic rule, the very things about Turkish foreign policy that have conservative Western foreign policy analysts worried are the ones that resonate on Arab streets and that have substantially raised Turkey's profile in Middle Eastern public opinion, Israel excepted.

In a traditionally conservative, authoritarian ruled part of the world where for much of its modern history, the mosque and the soccer pitch served as release valves for pent-up anger and frustration, Turkey's marriage of a secular state with a vibrant economy governed by a moderate Islamist party is what cements its appeal. That appeal is bolstered by popular consumer goods sold across the region and television sitcoms that push moral boundaries.

It is also boosted by a perception that Turkey under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and a Middle East emerging from the assertion of popular will on the streets of Arab capitals are sounding the death knell to competing ideologies – Kemalism and Islamism – that have proven incapable of catering to 21st-century needs. The discarding of ideological straightjackets gives Turkey a significant common denominator with emerging Arab forces. It has also allowed Turkey to establish itself as a point of reference for Islamist and non-Islamist centrist forces in the region. Yet, the limitations of Turkey as a model are likely to emerge as more open political systems develop in Egypt and Tunisia. Those limitations are evident in differences between Turkey's strictly secular vocabulary and religious terms that shape moderate Islamist discourse as well as its ban on the wearing of headscarves in universities and Parliament, as well as criticism that the AKP has replaced military authoritarianism with civilian authoritarianism.

Perceptions of sustained European rejection of Turkey coupled with the country's assertion of its diplomatic and economic weight across the region, as well as an increased interest in its Ottoman past, have changed those attitudes toward Arabs who now are important markets and customers receptive to what Turkey has to offer politically, diplomatically, economically and culturally. The sense of European rejection of Turkey because it is a predominantly Muslim nation has also garnered it Middle Eastern and North African empathy.

Where Arab leaders have been reactive, be it on the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the Iranian nuclear crisis or the assertion of popular will, Turkey has garnered popularity by being proactive.

As a result, Turkey, for the first time in its modern history, has created the building blocks needed to position itself as the bridge between East and West that it unsuccessfully asserted to be in the past. Yet, Turkey's successful projection of itself as a bridge is likely to increase the pressure on it to iron out its warts as well as to make a clear cut choice rather than picking and choosing between support of some assertions of popular will while effectively endorsing authoritarian rule elsewhere.

Post-Mubarak Egypt poses a particular challenge to Turkey and the testing of how far its commitment to change in the region goes. Erdoğan was one of the first leaders to openly call on Mubarak to resign in unambiguous terms in a speech that was broadcast on Arab TV and aired in Cairo's Tahrir Square. His speech represented a break with his foreign policy based on what his foreign minister describes as "zero problems with neighbors" that, until then, steered clear of democracy and human rights issues in favor of pragmatism and trade deals. To Erdoğan and the Egyptian military, the Turkish model means different things. The Egyptian military, which has effectively ruled Egypt for 60 years, most likely sees Turkey as a model of modernization and economic liberalization controlled by military tutelage that safeguards its political and economic privileges and ensures that Egypt continues to steer a pro-Western course. If analysis of the Turkish model shows anything, it portrays it as a model of progress in democratization achieved in opposition to rather than driven by the military. Egyptians for now appear to put their faith in the military leading their country within six months to democracy.

The Egyptian military's interpretation of the Turkish model is the model that pro-Israeli forces as well as AKP critics are advocating for Egypt in a bid to curb the influence of the country's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood. It is an approach that ultimately prolonged and complicated rather than accelerated Turkey's moves toward greater democracy and would likely be perceived by many in the Middle East as an effort to stymie Arab efforts to shape their own future and formulate a foreign policy of their own. The Turkish government has so far remained silent on which stage of development of its model it hopes Egypt will look to for inspiration.

Overall, a comparison of what shaped Turkey's development of its model with circumstances elsewhere in the region does not bode well for Egypt and others in the Middle East. For much of their post-World War II history, Turks have insisted that they needed the straightjacket of association with the EU to achieve political and economic reform. Neither Egypt nor others in the Middle East have a straightjacket to keep them on the right path.

Turkey's straddling of the democracy fence could also be put to the test if popular protests spread to the oil-rich Gulf, geopolitically a strategic region ruled by authoritarian families that see their countries as fiefdoms, but constitute important Turkish markets and sources of investment.

Turkish policy decisions will have much to offer the United States, Europe and Israel as the West and Israel seek to come to grips with a Middle East that irrespective of its form of government will be far more responsive to public opinion than close allies were in the past. As a result, they will adopt policies that are more in line with Turkish foreign policy, including withdrawal of Arab, and particularly Egyptian support, of the blockade of Gaza and closer relations with countries viewed as hostile by the West and Israel, such as Syria and Iran. For the first time in its history, Turkey is emerging as a true bridge between East and West. Change in Egypt and Tunisia and unrest elsewhere in the region, however, puts Turkish aspirations and its ability to live up to expectations to the test.

*James M. Dorsey is a journalist, author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a research fellow at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore. This is an abbreviated version of the article. For more information, please visit www.turkishpolicy.com.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PREEMPTIVE CENSOR

YUSUF KANLI

A while ago, at a social event, a top guest from the European Union Commission asked me what I meant by the term "preemptive censorship" in some recent articles.

Naturally, it was difficult to explain to a person who did not need a crash course in democracy to understand the importance of freedom of thought for democratic governance how it happens that this country has been claiming at least since 1950 of being a democracy but is skilled enough to invent all sorts of oddities to curb and penalize free thought.

There are several forms of censorship. In Turkey, those wishing to apply censorship must indeed be creative because Turkish intellectuals, throughout history, have been rather talented in finding ways of getting around all bans and restrictions. It is no coincidence, for example, that this country has such a strong caricature – indeed satire – magazine tradition. In the late 1970s and in the first half of 1980s there was the weekly "Gırgır" magazine which indeed was the bravest critic of the governments, including the 1980-83 coup administration. The circulation of Gırgır was well over 1.5 million copies a week, a record that so far no other publication has been able to match in this country.

Why was there Gırgır in the Turkey of the 1970s and 1980s? Freedom of expression was made so dangerous by the governments and the political atmosphere prevailing in the country during those years that political criticism was only possible through caricatures and comedy.

Indeed, the same years were the years when Devekuşu Kabare, a cabaret theater, of Metin Akpınar and Zeki Alasya became so popular with its daring criticism of the prevailing anti-democratic mentality in governance. The "Yasaklar" or "Bans" play of the duo, in which the two bitterly criticized the extravaganza in the country in banning almost everything, for example, is still in the video archives of many people.

Yet, never ever in the history of the Turkish Republic – or in the preceding Ottoman Empire which never claimed to have democratic governance – have curbs on freedom of expression or freedom of press been seen to the current extent as in the "advanced democracy" of Absolute Ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, majoritarian governance.

When I was making the criticism that under AKP majoritarian rule Turkey has left behind the classical censorship period and ushered in a preemptive censorship era, I must say I never ever thought that the government and its judicial-police, revanchist army might go one day to the extent of criminalizing an unpublished book and that a court in Turkey would issue an order for the confiscation of all printed copies and erasure of all digital copies from computers of a book that was not yet published. Put aside the fact that the "The Imam's Army" book by arrested journalist Ahmet Şık was not even published yet – it was still incomplete; when arrested, Şık was still trying to improve the text, according to comments from the editors of the publishing house.

Unfortunately, irrespective of their political inclinations, if all Turks don't unite in opposing this clear and dangerous oppression of thought, it might be too late tomorrow to stop the advance of a police-state mentality in the governance of this country.

A reader commented the other day: "Comparing the erasing of a book by Mr. Şık to the period of the early '80s is disgusting. Mr. Kanlı, how many people have been assassinated during the last five years? How many people died during the '78-'80 period due to political strife?"

The reader was indeed right. Thank God 10-15 young people a day are not dying in the Turkey of 2011 while in those terrible years so many beloved ones fell victim to the violent political strife that we later learned was masterminded by some people aspiring to ripen the atmosphere in the country for a military coup. No one in this country, I believe, would like to see a return to those terrible days of pre-1980 coup. Yet, even in that period, there was freedom of thought and freedom of press far wider than what this country has now.

It is indeed disgusting to see all that "advanced democracy" verbalism while the sphere of democracy is getting narrower in the country.

Words cannot suffice to explain what indeed a court order is for the confiscation of an unpublished book.

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PREEMPTIVE CENSOR

YUSUF KANLI

A while ago, at a social event, a top guest from the European Union Commission asked me what I meant by the term "preemptive censorship" in some recent articles.

Naturally, it was difficult to explain to a person who did not need a crash course in democracy to understand the importance of freedom of thought for democratic governance how it happens that this country has been claiming at least since 1950 of being a democracy but is skilled enough to invent all sorts of oddities to curb and penalize free thought.

There are several forms of censorship. In Turkey, those wishing to apply censorship must indeed be creative because Turkish intellectuals, throughout history, have been rather talented in finding ways of getting around all bans and restrictions. It is no coincidence, for example, that this country has such a strong caricature – indeed satire – magazine tradition. In the late 1970s and in the first half of 1980s there was the weekly "Gırgır" magazine which indeed was the bravest critic of the governments, including the 1980-83 coup administration. The circulation of Gırgır was well over 1.5 million copies a week, a record that so far no other publication has been able to match in this country.

Why was there Gırgır in the Turkey of the 1970s and 1980s? Freedom of expression was made so dangerous by the governments and the political atmosphere prevailing in the country during those years that political criticism was only possible through caricatures and comedy.

Indeed, the same years were the years when Devekuşu Kabare, a cabaret theater, of Metin Akpınar and Zeki Alasya became so popular with its daring criticism of the prevailing anti-democratic mentality in governance. The "Yasaklar" or "Bans" play of the duo, in which the two bitterly criticized the extravaganza in the country in banning almost everything, for example, is still in the video archives of many people.

Yet, never ever in the history of the Turkish Republic – or in the preceding Ottoman Empire which never claimed to have democratic governance – have curbs on freedom of expression or freedom of press been seen to the current extent as in the "advanced democracy" of Absolute Ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, majoritarian governance.

When I was making the criticism that under AKP majoritarian rule Turkey has left behind the classical censorship period and ushered in a preemptive censorship era, I must say I never ever thought that the government and its judicial-police, revanchist army might go one day to the extent of criminalizing an unpublished book and that a court in Turkey would issue an order for the confiscation of all printed copies and erasure of all digital copies from computers of a book that was not yet published. Put aside the fact that the "The Imam's Army" book by arrested journalist Ahmet Şık was not even published yet – it was still incomplete; when arrested, Şık was still trying to improve the text, according to comments from the editors of the publishing house.

Unfortunately, irrespective of their political inclinations, if all Turks don't unite in opposing this clear and dangerous oppression of thought, it might be too late tomorrow to stop the advance of a police-state mentality in the governance of this country.

A reader commented the other day: "Comparing the erasing of a book by Mr. Şık to the period of the early '80s is disgusting. Mr. Kanlı, how many people have been assassinated during the last five years? How many people died during the '78-'80 period due to political strife?"

The reader was indeed right. Thank God 10-15 young people a day are not dying in the Turkey of 2011 while in those terrible years so many beloved ones fell victim to the violent political strife that we later learned was masterminded by some people aspiring to ripen the atmosphere in the country for a military coup. No one in this country, I believe, would like to see a return to those terrible days of pre-1980 coup. Yet, even in that period, there was freedom of thought and freedom of press far wider than what this country has now.

It is indeed disgusting to see all that "advanced democracy" verbalism while the sphere of democracy is getting narrower in the country.

Words cannot suffice to explain what indeed a court order is for the confiscation of an unpublished book.

***************************************

 

 

 


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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SPIRIT OF SPRING

 

A spirit of goodwill hangs in the air, seemingly ushered in by the gentle breezes of spring. There is some hope that the ice which has kept Pakistan and India apart for so many months since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 may finally be melting. The Pakistan Interior Secretary Chaudhry Qamar Zaman has begun talks in New Delhi with his Indian counterpart G K Pillai. The dialogue, spread over two days, will help design the setting for talks between the prime ministers of the two countries, which go ahead in Mohali before the start of the crucial semi-final encounter between Pakistan and India. Anticipation is high for both events - with issues which include Kashmir, terrorism and water disputes likely to be taken up by Mr Manmohan Singh and Mr Yusuf Raza Gilani. Matters which include Indian involvement in Balochistan will meanwhile be taken up by the secretaries.

The issues are, we can all see, ones that are not necessarily easy to solve. It may take more than a single round of talks to get anywhere at all. But what is important is that a start has been made and it is backed by good intentions. There have been various efforts to demonstrate this, with the Indian PM's invitation to Mohali quickly accepted by Mr Gilani, even though his son will be undergoing surgery in London at the same time. Meanwhile, the Indians seem to be doing what they can to facilitate travel for Pakistanis eager to get to Mohali, while President Zardari has pitched in by granting remission to an Indian prisoner who served 27 years in a Pakistani jail. The Indian Supreme Court had advocated his release on humanitarian grounds. The omens then seem to be good and it seems clear that there is a genuine desire to get the stalled peace process back on track. Calls for this have been made by those on both sides of the border. The most important thing is that talks are beginning once more and that top leaders are involved in them. There are many issues which divide the two countries. But discussion and negotiation is the only way to solve them, even though this will necessarily take time and involve sustained efforts which continue well after the excitement at Mohali is over and the two prime ministers have returned home after their meeting in the cricket stadium.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KURRAM BREAKDOWN

 

 

Just over a month after a peace deal between warring Shia and Sunni tribes had been negotiated by elders and key roads, including the highway to the town of Parachinar opened up, a bout of violence has placed the accord under jeopardy again. The ambush of several buses carrying Shia passengers from Peshawar to Kurram last week left 13 dead. Others were wounded and some 35 kidnapped. The inaccessibility of the region caught up in sectarian strife for so many years makes it impossible to say what the precise toll is. But, no matter what the figure, the number killed in Kurram in the last few years is far too high. Four more were added to this toll Sunday when a van carrying passengers from Afghanistan was hit by rockets. In the past, people cut off from the rest of the country by the closure of highways, have lived in a state of siege, unable to access medicines, healthcare and, at times, even food items. The basic needs of people, their desire to live in peace and their desire to resume normal activities make it imperative that everything possible be done to keep the accord intact. Even now, negotiations are said to be on to ensure this and there have been reports of the arrest of key militants in the area, believed to be involved in whipping up sectarian hatred. These arrests should perhaps have taken place earlier, before minds could be poisoned to this degree and so many difficulties created for people. The fact that hate based on belief has been allowed to fester in so many places is in many ways responsible for the dangers we face - both in Kurram and in other places.


There is another dimension to consider. The location of Kurram on the Pak-Afghan border, with inlets jutting into Afghan territory makes the agency strategically significant for militants engaged in fighting state forces. There is reason to suspect they wish to ensure Kurram remains in a state of anarchy - this would make it possible for them to use it as a point to cross without check into Afghanistan, and make it harder to capture the militants who have reduced the tribal belt to a war zone within which no one is safe.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

FURIOUS FIRE

 

The sight of shops burning down and distraught traders watching helplessly as goods are devoured by cruel flames that leave behind only blackened, charred remains has been witnessed once again. This time it happened at Empress Market, the second biggest wholesale market in Karachi which has stood in the heart of the city for almost 150 years. The lack of insurance means it is the owners of the 100 or so shops destroyed in the blaze who will, in most cases, be left to manage the best they can in already tough economic times. They have suffered the same fate as their counterparts in Lahore's sprawling Shah Alam market, where wholesale outlets were destroyed by a similar fire earlier this year.

The fact that the blaze at Empress Market and its magnificent colonial structures broke out in the early hours of Sunday means that, mercifully, there was no loss of life. Things could easily have been very different. While investigations are underway, an electric short circuit is so far believed to have caused the inferno. This has been the case in other markets and plazas - pointing to the need for measures to ensure better safety and thus avert devastating loss of this kind. However, there are also those who sense that there may be more to the story than an accidental fire and suspect a conspiracy. And it may be a bit too much to hope that the fate of the enquiry ordered into this incident will be any different from other such enquires in the past.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DRONE ATTACKS - WHERE DO WE STAND?

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

 

There has been a policy shift by the government regarding the victims of US drone attacks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). It isn't a major change and is apparently a one-time decision aimed at calming the people enraged by the repeated missile strikes by the CIA-operated Predator and Reaper planes in Pakistani territory and the civilian casualties that are caused in these targeted killing raids.


For the first time since June 2004 when the US drones started attacking suspected militants' hideouts in the Pakistani tribal areas, the government has decided to compensate the victims of the most recent missile strike that killed 45 civilians and caused injuries to another 50 in North Waziristan's Dattakhel area on March 17.

The decision cannot compensate the precious lives that were lost or stop the bereaved families from thinking of ways to avenge the deaths. The compensation of Rs300, 000 for the dead and Rs100, 000 for the injured also is meagre, but this is the amount that the government normally gives to civilians killed and wounded in acts of terrorism. More importantly, the government by deciding to compensate the victims of the drone attack sent a clear message to the US and the international community that civilians were being harmed in these aerial strikes. It was also evidence of the fact that the US-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) despite an awesome reputation weren't that accurate. The use of airpower, whether jets, gunship helicopters and drones, in populated areas invariably causes 'collateral damage' and in most cases isn't the proper way in counter-terrorism operations. Armies employ airpower to avoid casualties of their soldiers on the ground or because they lack manpower and are required to operate in remote and forbidding terrain. But in the process of using excessive airpower there is the risk of causing too many civilian deaths and alienating the population whose support is need in isolating and defeating the militants and the terrorists.

 

The decision to offer compensation to the victims came in the wake of strong-worded statements by President Asif Ali Zardari and the Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemning the Dattakhel drone strike. General Kayani termed the deaths of innocent tribesmen including elders and children in the attack as inhuman, gave an assurance to the tribes people in Waziristan that they would be protected and in a way chided the US that this was no way to fight the war against terrorism.


After having conceded that the dead were innocent, the next logical step for the government was to compensate the families who lost members in the drone strike or had someone injured. This is what the government has been doing all these years in case of victims of terrorist attacks including suicide bombings. One could, therefore, draw the conclusion that the drone attack by the US on innocent tribesmen holding a jirga in the open to resolve a local dispute was an act of terrorism. In fact, an attack by any power or organisation in which civilians are killed, injured and maimed is a terrorist act. It is also a war crime although bringing the lone superpower to justice is impossible. In America's undeclared war against Pakistan and in the one next door in Afghanistan that has been declared and sanctioned by the UN, there have been many other incidents of human suffering that border on war crimes. The list of atrocities committed by terrorists and militants operating in this region should be longer and bloodier, but non-state actors don't accept any law or principle. States and professional armies need to do better in keeping with their claims and accept accountability in case their actions cause innocent deaths and war crimes.


There was no way the government and the military could have ignored the March 17 US drone strike in North Waziristan like the previous 232 or so attacks that have taken place in Pakistan in the past seven years. It was a shut and open case as a tribal gathering had been attacked and civilians had been killed. Failure to condemn the drone strike could have threatened the fragile peace accord still holding in North Waziristan and triggered attacks against the government and the security forces. There were indications that the militants were preparing to launch attacks after threatening to unilaterally undo the peace accord. The Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led militants have always hurled such threats and often forced the government to back down. Missiles were reportedly fired at the army camp in Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, after a long gap. These were warning shots that prompted the local peace committee and grand jirga to initiate hectic efforts to prevent hostilities from breaking into open conflict. It seemed that the damage control exercise undertaken by the government and the North Waziristan tribal jirga had worked, for the time-being at least, but the situation could get out of hand any time. Demands by the US for active military operations by Pakistan in North Waziristan were still being made and the drone attacks could resume in due course of time. In any case, the US would want to create a situation to force Pakistan's hand to launch a big military operation in North Waziristan.


The government policy on the US drone attacks in Fata is ambiguous. The decision to compensate the victims of the March 17 drone strike in North Waziristan doesn't mean that the government and its armed forces would in future attempt to shoot down the intruding drones. Rather, the same old policy of publicly protesting the drone attacks and privately condoning the strikes would continue.


This policy has seen twists and turns starting from the rule of General Pervez Musharraf when the drone attacks were first launched in Pakistan. He unsuccessfully tried to own the attacks by claiming these were being undertaken by Pakistan's security forces. He even claimed responsibility for the US drone strike on the madrassa in Bajaur in which 83 students and their teachers were killed by arguing that the place was bombed using Pakistan's airpower as it was a militants' training centre. Few believed him as Pakistan's didn't possess the missile-carrying drones and Musharraf had to stop making such claims. Besides, there was dangerous fallout of this policy. Musharraf's claim for the attack on the madrassa led to a swift retaliation by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants when a suicide bomber killed 42 soldiers at the army training ground in Dargai not very far from Bajaur.


Subsequently, the government for a while kept quiet and then began protesting the US drone strikes. The protests were made on the grounds that the drone attacks violated Pakistan's sovereignty and were counterproductive as the civilian casualties were radicalising not only the affectees but also others in the tribal areas and beyond. In recent years though, the protests by the government became milder and infrequent. In fact, the protests became subdued as the drone attacks increased in numbers and intensity. The big increase came with the election of President Barack Obama and the coming into power of the PPP in Pakistan. The WikiLeaks revelations in which the US diplomatic cables quoted both President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani condoning the drone strikes confirmed something that many already believed.


Now that the president and the army chief have for the first time offered condolences to the families of those killed in the March 17 drone strike in North Waziristan and the dead and the injured are being compensated, isn't it time to formulate a proper policy on the subject. The government needs to come clean on the US drone attacks because the issue won't go away. The attacks could resume and there would be civilian casualties also. Militants too would get killed in these attacks and some of them would be on Pakistan's own hit-list. Pakistan wants the US to transfer the drone technology to it and this means it acknowledges the efficacy of the drones. However, Pakistan's military wants to use the drones itself instead of the US.


As things stand, one cannot expect any major change in Pakistan's policy on the drone attacks. It seems civilian deaths would be condoled and compensated, but no effort would be made to stop US drone strikes.



The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

'NEW' GROWTH STRATEGY

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

The Planning Commission prepared a "new" growth strategy and released it in January 2011. The president, prime minister and other political leaders have been eulogising this growth strategy. The latter has stemmed from dissatisfaction with the "old" growth model that relied on investment, particularly public investment. In other words, the Planning Commission claims that public investment has been the main driver of growth in Pakistan. The new strategy proposes a growth model in which the private sector should be the growth driver, with major emphasis on efficiency, innovation and entrepreneurship. The role of the government would be limited to a facilitator that protects public interest.


The document discusses a variety of issues, at times disjointed with each other. It appears that the Planning Commission had commissioned various studies on different topics. The staff at the Planning Commission tried to put together these different studies under one report and as such, the topics covered are fairly disjointed.

The document analyses the historical developments pertaining to growth, savings and investment, and claims that the period of high economic growth in Pakistan coincides with massive injection of foreign flows. The report did not provide any supporting table for this assertion. In the same paragraph, the report argues that foreign aid in Pakistan was negatively associated with long-term growth. These two assertions are contradictory. Either growth has spiked with inflow of foreign resources, or it has contributed negatively to long-term growth in Pakistan. Both assertions cannot be true.


The document discusses demographic dividend with no link to the report. The report analyses a demographic transition currently taking place in Pakistan as a result of decline in fertility rate. The report rightly points out that the journey from demographic transition to demographic dividend will not be automatic. The dividend has to be earned. Unfortunately, this report is silent on how to transform transition into dividend. Or how can we earn dividend?


The report further analyses the reasons for low growth in Pakistan, attempts to identify various constraints to growth, highlights the salient features of the new growth strategy, talks about improving productivity through market reforms, creative cities, connectivity (the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)) and engaging youth in nation building. The new growth strategy, therefore, centers on productivity improvement, development of mega cities, the role of ICT and engaging youth in nation development.

The report is technically weak, lacks cohesion, and some parts are based on incorrect facts. But the most important comment on this new growth strategy is: What is "new" in this strategy? Or is it a recycling of earlier government reports? It will be difficult to provide answers to these queries in the remaining space. The readers will have to wait till next week to get detailed answers to these questions.


What I can say in this column is that there is nothing "new" in this growth strategy. It is nothing but old wine in a new bottle. The Report is a recycle of earlier government reports with marginal addition. Millions of rupees have been doled out to local and foreign consultants for the purpose of recycling earlier reports. Additional resources in foreign exchange have been sought from various donors to undertake more studies. Proof of the above claims will be provided next week.


While discussing the reasons for low growth in Pakistan, the report points out that the "old" model of growth practiced in Pakistan relied on investment and that too on public investment as a driver of growth. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with investment-led growth. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have relied on investment for sustaining higher economic growth.


For example, India's investment-to-GDP ratio hovered around 30 to 37 percent of GDP in the decade of 2000s. Similarly, China sustained an investment rate in the range of 40 to 44 percent, Vietnam in the range of 30 to 42 percent, Kazakhstan in the range of 27 to 32 percent during the same decade. Pakistan's investment rate, on the other hand, ranged from 17 to 22.5 percent in the decade of 2000s. Pakistan needs to increase its investment rate to sustain higher economic growth as others have in the region.


Secondly, the new growth strategy argues that public sector investment has dominated in Pakistan and as such served as major driver of growth. This statement is factually incorrect. The share of public investment in total investment has been on the decline since the 1970s. The share of public investment has been 60 percent in the 1970s (the number is high because all the industries and financial sector were nationalised in the 1970s and as such investment in erstwhile private sector entities were reported under public investment), declined to 49 percent in the 1980s, 41 percent in the 1990s, and 25 percent in the 2000s.


Can we say that public sector investment dominated in Pakistan when we see a sharp declining trend? I leave it to the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission to clarify. Furthermore, the 25 percent contribution to overall investment is directed towards infrastructural development which is the primary responsibility of the government.

The private sector has always played a dominant role in Pakistan's economy. It employs 90 percent of the workforce, over 80 percent of the GDP originates from private sector activities, over 75 percent investment is undertaken by the private sector and almost all the foreign trade is handled by it.


Should we still claim that the "old" growth model was driven by public sector investment? Have the consultants done their job properly in declaring the old growth model redundant? The readers will have to wait till next week to get an answer. What is required, however, is to make the private sector more efficient by removing irritants through structural reforms.


The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School Islamabad. Email: ahkhan @nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BEYOND THE 'CRISIS STATE'

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI

 

The notion of a new Pakistani nationalism is not new in a chronological sense. It is as old as the country itself. Its newness is in how widely it is dispersed and how explicitly divorced it is from the state-defined and military-dominated version of Pakistan's economy, its history and its politics. Old Pakistani nationalism is India-centric, it is scared of multiple identities, it rejects indigenous cultures. Worst of all, it is confused. It often plays jump rope between being Muslim and being Islamic, being Indian and being Arab. Its fear of the Bengali language broke up the country, but has failed to break reality to it. Luckily, the new Pakistani nationalism doesn't need an invitation. It is a product of the very realities that the old nationalism helped produce. Old Pakistan may be incapable of learning lessons from its mistakes, but it seems very likely that the new Pakistani nationalism is a product of the lessons of history.

 

Where's the evidence of this new Pakistani nationalism? Like the answers to so many questions in life, I've found an answer to this one, in an exciting new book. Being released this week, Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State (Oxford University Press) is a collection of essays by an array of some of Pakistan's best and brightest minds. Each essay helps define some of the country's most dire problems, and each one attempts to propose a range of solutions that are likely to help forge a Pakistani future more prosperous and more stable than today. Edited by former Pakistani ambassador to the US and the UK, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Beyond the Crisis State is a solid effort to illuminate where hope will come from.


Two features of the book merit extraordinary consideration. The first is its refreshing honesty. The book does anything but tread lightly, even on some very, very sensitive nerves. In the opening chapter, Ayesha Jalal provides an account of some of the creative explanations often used to cohere the idea of Pakistan. In the shorter form, we are denied Jalal's signature narrative style. Yet, this is more than made up for by the calm and assertive confidence with which she takes a hatchet to the state's clumsy, inadequate and failed attempts to forge national identity in Pakistan.

The second is the outstanding and powerful positivity of tone that the book takes. Many of the contributors, like Ahmed Rashid, are not exactly known to be optimistic and positive observers of the Pakistani condition. Yet the book offers a realistic and positive set of ideas about what has enabled Pakistan to survive, as a society and a state, and what are the likely realities of the near- and medium-term future that will enable the country to go from surviving to thriving.


Lodhi's own essay, from which the title of the book is derived, is an exceptionally good summary of post-1999 Pakistan. Her analysis of what constituted the substance of the Musharraf era, and what factors brought it to an end, offers a very cogent look at recent political history. Most importantly, she articulates some of the conditions that reflect at least a partial, if not textbook, kind of emergence of a politically relevant Pakistani middle-class. In her assessment of the five possible futures for Pakistan from here on, the most optimistic and most fragile is the evolution of this enlarged Pakistani middle-class.


The book relies on this narrative of a Pakistani middle class, both through explicitly appropriating the idea of an urban Pakistani middle class, and by implicitly addressing it, and challenging it to do better. In his essay, "Why Pakistan will survive?" novelist Mohsin Hamid revisits taxation and Pakistan's unsustainable fiscal realities – an issue that he has written and spoken about frequently since relocating to Pakistan. Other contributors to the book include veteran reporter Zahid Hussain, former ambassadors Akbar Ahmed and Munir Akram, former IMF official Meekal Ahmed and the resident South Asia expert at the United States Institute of Peace, Moeed Yusuf.

Yusuf's contribution to the book is an excellent essay he has co-authored with Shanza Khan, titled, "Education as a strategic imperative." Derived from a research that Yusuf did for the Brookings Institution in 2008, the essay articulates the current state of education, the risks involved in allowing this situation to continue unchecked and the kinds of changes required to change direction, from the disaster that the state of education in Pakistan entails today to a situation in which Pakistan's youth bulge becomes a competitive advantage for Pakistan.

On the whole, the book acknowledges the problems that plague Pakistan, and offers a reasonable set of ideas about how to tackle them. Best of all, there is decidedly none of the self-consciousness in this book that has in the past been a hallmark of efforts to articulate solutions to Pakistan's problems.


Too often, corrective measures are suggested for problems, either with far too much anger and bitterness or with far too little introspection. In the past, we've often had to choose scathing, acerbic and insensitive diatribes, by folks with non-existent constituencies. Or we've had to choose delusional, self-righteous and inaccurate portrayals of history that slavishly seek to patronise those in power, with or without uniform.


In this new book, and, indeed, right across the emerging Pakistani discourse, the era of having to vacillate between two extremes might be coming to a close. We don't have to choose between ill-informed, angry, insensitive diatribes and dangerous and concocted propaganda. Lodhi has edited a set of brilliant Pakistani minds, all of whom seem to be saying that Pakistan and Pakistanis have made a lot of mistakes. But that we need not repeat them. They also suggest that key institutional trends in Pakistan over the last decade indicate that the time for this learning may finally be here. These include a visible and empowered urban middle class, a loud and aggressive national media, unprecedented international pressure and support and a growing sense of self – a sense of Pakistaniat that is good enough, just because it is.


This sense of Pakistani identity is at the heart of what I call the new Pakistani nationalism. It is captured quite nicely in this new book. It is the beating heart of Pakistan, on Main Street and in the virtual reality of blogs, and social media. Perhaps it is best summed up by Adil Najam, the Boston University professor, environmentalist and international-relations expert. On his blog, "All Things Pakistan," he defines Pakistaniat (a term that he may not have coined but has certainly helped popularise): "To embrace Pakistan in all its dimensions – its politics, its culture, its minutiae, its beauty, its warts, its potential, its pitfalls, its facial hair, its turbaned heads, its shuttlecock burqas, its jet-setting supermodels, its high-flying bankers, its rock bands, its qawwals, its poets, its street vendors, its swindling politicians, its scheming bureaucrats, its resolute people – in essence, all things Pakistani."

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.
www.mosharrafzaidi.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

EXTREMISM

AHMED QURAISHI

 

 

Mr president,

While the international community rightly worries about extremism in the Middle East, we are giving a pass to a dangerous development: the rise of religion-based hatred in Europe, America and India. I would like to seize this opportunity to draw EU's attention to a dangerous development that needs to be arrested and eliminated in its infancy. We still have time to support the good work of civil society groups in these three regions to stop this trend.

The twenty-first century's first act of genocide based on intolerance and xenophobia took place in India, the largest democracy. In 2002, over 2,000 Indian citizens were picked up from their homes, shops and streets; men, women and children, and were burned alive. Those burned alive included a man called Mr Jafri, a member of the party that holds Mahatma Gandhi as an icon. He was burned alive and his only fault was that he belonged to the wrong religion.


Mr President, on 23 January 1999, Australian priest Graham Staines and his two underage boys Timothy and Philip were burned alive inside their car by a mob of Indian extremists. Twelve years later, the killers of Graham and his two kids are stronger today politically in India than at any other time.


In Europe, until recently a bastion of freedom and admirably so, xenophobes are not just raising their heads, they are coming to power. In the United States, an American politician is preparing a parliamentary witch-hunt of US citizens of Muslim heritage. My organisation and its members are alarmed at Germany's new interior minister's anti-Islam statement that offends German Muslims. We are alarmed to see strands of fascism infiltrating some governments in Europe.


An editorial writer in Paris wrote a comment in the International Herald Tribune calling Germany's new interior minister 'an international embarrassment'.


The New York Times has described this dangerous trend in Europe in this one line: 'Not much spreads fear and bigotry faster than a public official intent on playing the politics of division.' The paper was talking about Peter King, a US legislator spreading hate against American Muslims.


We see a trend in Danish cartoons, in the anti-Islam film in the Netherlands, the banning of Muslim headscarf in France, and the ban of mosque minarets in Switzerland. And now we have an act of religious extremism and hatred committed by two Americans who claim to represent our great religion, Christianity.

It is not enough to condemn acts of lunacy like the burning of Islam's holy book by two US citizens. The US government must move to ban the denigration of any religion. In this context, we endorse OIC member states' draft resolution on Defamation of Religions and urge all governments and NGOs to endorse it.

This trend must be nipped in the bud for Europe and the US to stake their claim to being bastions of freedom.

We urge the United Nations Human Rights Council to take note of the fact that denigrating religions and beliefs strengthens the hands of extremists everywhere. Deliberate denigration of any religion must be considered an act of extremism.

World Muslim Congress strongly urges the Council to take note of the backward slide in the great ideals of the Durban Declaration over the past decade. Let's arrest the backward slide while we can.

My organisation joins the civil society groups and the good people in Europe, United States and India in combating this rising trend of discrimination and xenophobia in these regions.

Lastly, my organisation would like to thank the Lutheran Bishop of Berlin, Markuz Droge, for his condemnation of German interior minister's attempt to single out Muslims in Germany for hate.



Extracted from a statement delivered by the writer recently to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on behalf of the World Muslim Congress. The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: aq@paknationalists.com

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I. THE NEWS

CRICKET DIPLOMACY

DR QAISAR RASHID

 

Cricket diplomacy is the opposite of the notorious "gunboat diplomacy," in which forces are deployed and coercion is used against the opponent. In the context of Pakistan-India relations, the history of diplomatic episodes in the name of cricket is not new. In 1987, using a cricketing occasion, Gen Ziaul Haq visited India to meet Rajiv Gandhi and consequently watered down mutual mistrust. In 2005, Gen Pervez Musharraf visited India to watch a cricket match and met Manmohan Singh to revive talks on Kashmir. What is unique in the visit of Gilani is that it is the first time a civilian representative of Pakistan is practising cricket diplomacy with India.

This diplomacy has the potential of giving an impetus to bilateral talks on the level of foreign secretaries. The talks have been at a virtual standstill despite the fact that at Sharm el-Sheikh in 2009 and at Thimphu (Bhutan) in 2010 the prime ministers of the two countries had affirmed the need for the resumption of the peace process.

It is interesting that sports diplomacy is taking precedence over public diplomacy. In that sense, the meeting will be a great opportunity for the easing of bilateral tensions and promotion of peace. The opportunity should be exploited to the fullest because Pakistan is already facing certain foreign policy challenges vis-a-vis India.

Pakistan has been trying to establish its parity with India, especially in the wake of the Af-Pak strategy declared by US President Barack Obama in 2009 which de-hyphenated Pakistan from India and hyphenated Pakistan with Afghanistan. Pakistan considers that in that way Pakistan has been degraded in terms of regional importance, and that resultantly the US has disturbed the strategic regional balance in favour of India. Subsequently, the US entered a nuclear- energy deal with India while, on the energy front, it offered Pakistan only renovation possibilities for the spillways of Tarbela Dam under the Kerry-Lugar Act of 2009. Pakistan has yet to find its rightful place at the regional and international levels.

 

The safeguarding of peace is itself a challenge between the two countries. Efforts to enhance people-to-people contact to lessen mutual misunderstandings were disrupted by the Mumbai attacks in November 2008. Pakistan has been trying to restrain non-state actors from the crossing border and afflicting any harm on India. India seems skeptical that the military and the ISI are not under the control of the civilian government in Islamabad. The incumbent government has tried to distance itself from anti-India obsessions.


On its western border, Pakistan is facing a challenge to preserve the sanctity of its sovereignty. US-Nato forces are going all out to violate the border with drones, and are killing innocent civilians. On the eastern border, India still thinks that Mumbai-type attacks can take place again. Any new episodes of this kind are a source of worry for both India and Pakistan. The mistrust is at its height. India has already included in the list of issues to be discussed in bilateral negotiations the handing over of the planners of the Mumbai attacks who India believes were from Pakistan. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the ISI chief, had also been summoned by a court in the US in this regard. In fact, India has made the resolution of the issues surrounding the Mumbai attacks a precondition to talk on the resolution of the Kashmir issue.


Pakistan has a potential for trade with India. The European Union, where mutual ideological and political differences were overlooked for the sake of collective economic benefits, is a good example of the benefits of mutual trade. Pakistan is still not looking at the world through the economic prism. To avoid pressures from the International Monetary Fund and to deal with the slights embedded in the Kerry-Lugar Act, Pakistan has to engage in regional trade to boost its economy. India is a part of the region and under the World Trade Organisation Pakistan has not yet given India the Most Favoured Nation status in trade.

The issue of Kashmir needs solution through political means, and not through military means. The dynamics have changed in the course of time. Armed with nuclear weapons, both countries must think differently now, instead of leaving everything in the hands of military strategists. Dialogue is a better way forward in the case of Kashmir.

Nevertheless, when the prime ministers of the two countries sit together for the sake of peace, the rivalry the two countries' cricket teams display on the ground will keep the spirit of competition alive.


The writer is a freelance contributor.


Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

 

 

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I. THE NEWS

UNCERTAIN ENDGAME

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

The growing turmoil in the Middle East has overshadowed a number of developments relating to Afghanistan. But it has not obscured an emerging international consensus that the war in Afghanistan should be brought to an end by a peaceful political settlement involving talks between all parties to the conflict.

Top US military leaders however have yet to buy in to the idea of talks with the Taliban preferring instead to pursue a course of military escalation to gain an upper hand and dictate rather than negotiate the terms of an eventual settlement. There have been renewed warnings from Pentagon officials and military commanders of "fierce fighting" ahead. There have also been calls for a large military footprint beyond 2014, the date set by Nato's Lisbon summit for an end to combat missions by coalition forces.

Amid the uncertainty produced by these utterances, two recent pronouncements have significance for the evolving situation in Afghanistan as July 2011 looms, when the first batch of US forces will pull out from Afghanistan.

The announcement by President Hamid Karzai is more symbolic than substantive but it indicates the direction in which things are headed. Last week, he unveiled plans for his forces to take charge of security in seven areas in July. This is intended to lead to the assumption of all security responsibilities in 2014.

Although Karzai's announcement mainly involves non-insurgent regions or areas where a heavy deployment of foreign forces is ready to come to the aid of Afghan security personnel, it marks the first formal step in a three-year transition of responsibility to Afghan authorities. But a negotiated peace will be needed to make this transition feasible especially as multiple problems plague Afghan security forces and cast doubt on their ability to act independently of foreign troops.

The second and more significant announcement came in a speech delivered by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Asia Society on February 18, 2011. This set out in the clearest terms so far what she described as "a new phase" of America's diplomatic efforts on Afghanistan. Referring to the two surges that had been underway, a military offensive and civilian aid to undercut the insurgency, she said these had prepared the ground for the third: "an intensified diplomatic push to bring the Afghan conflict to an end".

Clinton explained that the diplomatic surge aims to "support an Afghan-led political process" which "history and experience tells us is the most effective way to end an insurgency". She pledged that 2011 would see strong US-backing for a "responsible reconciliation process led by the Afghans and supported by intense regional diplomacy".

Declaring US readiness to "reconcile with an adversary" she spelt out three "red lines for reconciliation" with the Taliban. "They must renounce violence ...... abandon their alliance with al Qaeda, and abide by the Constitution". Then came a significant shift. The three redlines were no longer described as pre-conditions but as objectives – as "necessary outcomes of any negotiation". What had been privately conveyed to Pakistani officials by the Obama Administration a few months earlier was now being publicly affirmed. Secretary Clinton acknowledged "For reconciliation to succeed Pakistan will have to be part of the process".

The promise held out by her speech to move to a political strategy narrows the gulf with Pakistan, which has long insisted that the war can only be brought to an end by political, not military means. It also closes the gap with America's Nato allies in Europe who have been privately calling for talks with the Taliban to secure a political resolution.

For months Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has urged top US officials not to set pre-conditions for a dialogue but to turn their three 'redlines' into end-objectives to be achieved through a process of negotiations. He has also suggested that a political process be launched without delay to ascertain who among the Afghan opposition is reconcilable and who is not.

The Clinton pronouncement offers Washington and Islamabad an opportunity to more closely align their strategy in Afghanistan. But what remains unclear is whether the civilians in the Obama Administration and its military leaders are on the same page on the timing and scope of what Clinton calls a diplomatic surge.

The top US commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and the Pentagon, have yet to accept the notion of talks with Taliban leaders. So far they have only embraced a policy of "re-integration", which aims at splitting and weakening the Taliban, and not "reconciliation" which means negotiating with them. A European diplomat depicted this stance rather graphically: "the US military only want to talk with their boots on the Taliban's neck".

Recent interviews and Congressional testimonies by General Petraeus, far from indicating any winding down of the military effort, signal that more fighting is in store in Afghanistan. Petraeus has also been giving upbeat assessments of the progress made by the surge strategy and claiming that the Taliban momentum has been "arrested" in much of the country, even if he has described these gains as "fragile.

This narrative of progress provides a useful rationale to switch course to a political track. Whether or not this is supported by ground realities the impression of gaining a military advantage provides a face-saving way to move towards negotiations. But this has yet to happen. Instead the US military is pushing ahead with a strategy aimed at killing Taliban leaders rather than talking to them.

With a more intense phase of combat planned in coming months this strategy is at odds with what Pakistan believes to be the best way forward. Islamabad would prefer a de-escalation of violence as a first step to launching a credible reconciliation process. This would create the political space and conditions for diplomatic efforts to succeed. Conversely, stepping up the military campaign would contradict the pursuit and attainment of a political solution.

Pakistan's views on a political settlement now find greater traction abroad. Opinion in the West has increasingly congealed around the idea that the only viable strategy to end the war is a negotiated solution, and that the time to launch diplomatic efforts is now. A recent report by the Century Foundation, an American Think Tank, makes this case and calls for talks with the Taliban. "Re-integration" it states will "not provide the political resolution that peace will require". Headed by Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, and Thomas Pickering, a former US undersecretary of state, the taskforce that wrote the report proposes a high-level peace process and outlines a potential settlement.

A cross-party report issued by a Parliamentary select committee in Britain goes even further. It critiques the present US-led military campaign in Afghanistan and deems the present strategy as flawed. Not only is this counterinsurgency effort not succeeding, it could be counter productive and unravel efforts to secure a political solution. Expressing fears that the ten-year Nato operation in Afghanistan could end in failure, the report calls for a "political surge" in which the US holds direct talks with the Taliban.

These reports come aimed rising war weariness among the public in Western countries. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans now believe that the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting. Similar majorities in Europe want an end to the conflict and the withdrawal of their combat troops.

Can the Obama Administration summon the political courage to prevail on its military to accept the primacy of a 'political surge' and get behind a diplomatic effort? Much hinges on an answer to this question.

A settlement could take years to negotiate and would likely see incremental progress in the first instance. That should urge urgency to start such a process. Prevarication on the political track and the continued pursuit of a military strategy can complicate, even derail efforts towards lasting peace in Afghanistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S DIRTY HAND IN BALOCHISTAN

 

INTERIOR Secretaries of Pakistan and India are meeting in New Delhi as part of the full spectrum dialogue to discuss security-related issues. Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, who is leading Pakistan's delegation at the crucial talks, said the country was participating in the dialogue with open mind. As a mark of peace and goodwill gesture, he not only presented sweets to BSF soldiers on the other side of the border at Wagah but also asserted that he was carrying a message of love and peace for the people of India. And in a related development, honouring appeal by the Indian Supreme Court, President Asif Ali Zardari remitted remaining sentence of an Indian convict Gopal Das in a bid to create congenial atmosphere for success of the talks.


All this shows that Pakistan, as usual, was quite sincere in its engagement with India and wants the process to be productive and result-oriented. But people of Pakistan genuinely complain that our leadership and policy-makers are conceding too much ground in their zest to please Indians and create the so-called congenial environment for talks. We have done this all along but so far there is hardly any reciprocity from New Delhi and therefore, this approach has not resulted in any tangible benefit. This is particularly so in the case of Balochistan where Indians are sponsoring terrorism and funding anti-state elements but regrettably Pakistan has not taken up the issue in right earnest with India fearing that it might vitiate the atmosphere. Way back at Sharam el-Sheikh Prime Minister Gilani is understood to have raised the issue with his Indian counterpart and it found space in the joint statement issued afterwards but the problem remains there and Indian interference in the Province is assuming dangerous proportions. It is beyond comprehension that terrorists and militants can sustain their campaign without foreign funding, training and supply of uninterrupted arms and ammunition of all sorts. In fact, off and on, Pakistani authorities have been making statements about involvement of India especially the role of its missions in Afghanistan but unfortunately neither any evidence nor Indian agents have been presented before media to expose real face of New Delhi. There are reports that Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhary would also raise this issue with his Indian counterpart and we hope this would be done in a serious and determined manner. India is hammering Mumbai incident too much in an apparent bid to keep Pakistan at defensive but we are confident that Qamar Zaman, who has necessary expertise and background in security related issues, would not only rebut Indian claims but also present Pakistan's case in a convincing manner.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DRONES: CROCODILE TEARS OF US ENVOY

 

DRONE attacks, which are rightly viewed by people of Pakistan as direct assault on the country's sovereignty and acts of aggression, are one of the most troubled dimensions of the Pakistan-US relations. There has been zero tolerance of this policy by people of Pakistan but March 17 attack on a tribal jirga at Datta Khel in North Waziristan Agency compelled even civilian and military leadership of the country to register a strong protest over the dastardly act.


There is, however, a general impression that the United States is least bothered over what Pakistanis think about its drone policy and persists with attacks. After attack on jirga that killed innocent people, American Ambassador was summoned to Foreign Office to register a protest and realizing severity of the reaction, he promised to go back to Washington to convey to his leadership the true sentiments of Pakistani people. However, he conveniently forgot the commitment and instead extended an invitation to Foreign Secretary to visit Washington, which once again confirmed pigheaded attitude of the United States. But now, as part of window-dressing, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, speaking in Brussels, has expressed regrets over civilian casualties in the brutal attack in North Waziristan. We feel that this regret is devoid of any substance, as neither there is any repentance nor assurance that this will not happen again, which makes his statement mere an eye-wash. You cannot compensate killing of innocent people by offering mere regrets and repeating the same afterwards. Pakistan has been insisting that in the first place these drone attacks should be stopped forthwith as these are counterproductive and lead to increase in extremism and even if these are necessary then the technology should be given to Pakistan to take action on its own. There might be some foreign militants but the collateral damage is much more than tactical or strategic gains, if any in these drone attacks. The United States must review its strategy if it is genuinely interested in containing extremism and stablishing a friction-free relationship with Pakistan. It is also the duty of our leadership to take up the issue at all available forums — civilian as well as military — to bring its complications home to American authorities.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DRONES: CROCODILE TEARS OF US ENVOY

 

DRONE attacks, which are rightly viewed by people of Pakistan as direct assault on the country's sovereignty and acts of aggression, are one of the most troubled dimensions of the Pakistan-US relations. There has been zero tolerance of this policy by people of Pakistan but March 17 attack on a tribal jirga at Datta Khel in North Waziristan Agency compelled even civilian and military leadership of the country to register a strong protest over the dastardly act.


There is, however, a general impression that the United States is least bothered over what Pakistanis think about its drone policy and persists with attacks. After attack on jirga that killed innocent people, American Ambassador was summoned to Foreign Office to register a protest and realizing severity of the reaction, he promised to go back to Washington to convey to his leadership the true sentiments of Pakistani people. However, he conveniently forgot the commitment and instead extended an invitation to Foreign Secretary to visit Washington, which once again confirmed pigheaded attitude of the United States. But now, as part of window-dressing, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, speaking in Brussels, has expressed regrets over civilian casualties in the brutal attack in North Waziristan. We feel that this regret is devoid of any substance, as neither there is any repentance nor assurance that this will not happen again, which makes his statement mere an eye-wash. You cannot compensate killing of innocent people by offering mere regrets and repeating the same afterwards. Pakistan has been insisting that in the first place these drone attacks should be stopped forthwith as these are counterproductive and lead to increase in extremism and even if these are necessary then the technology should be given to Pakistan to take action on its own. There might be some foreign militants but the collateral damage is much more than tactical or strategic gains, if any in these drone attacks. The United States must review its strategy if it is genuinely interested in containing extremism and stablishing a friction-free relationship with Pakistan. It is also the duty of our leadership to take up the issue at all available forums — civilian as well as military — to bring its complications home to American authorities.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

US DISREGARD TO PAKISTAN CONCERN

M ASHRAF MIRZA

The United States has seemingly ignored with impunity Pakistan's protest against drone attack on a Tribal Jirga in Datta Khel of North Waziristan Agency last week that killed 40 Pakistanis including some Tribal elders. The attack was angrily condemned by all segments of society as provocative response to Pakistan's magnanimous gesture of freeing Raymond Davis, who had killed two innocent Pakistanis in broad daylight in Lahore last January 27. Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashaq Pervez Kayani termed the predator attack as 'unjustified and intolerable' besides describing it as a violation of human rights. 'Such an act of violence takes us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism', he said in a statement.


Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir had summoned the American Ambassador to the Foreign Office and conveyed to him Pakistan's strong protest against the attack. According to a private TV channel, he also wrote a letter to the US envoy seeking an apology from Washington on the brutal killings of the innocent Pakistanis. The drone attack is being taken by the people of Pakistan as an act of 'US celebration of Raymond's release' and 'Pakistan's reward for compromising the national sovereignty'. The attack has, in fact, deepened the public anguish and indignation resulting from the Raymond Davis episode. Washington's silence over Pakistan's protest is perhaps a message that it least bothers about Islamabad's concerns and protests about the drone attack meaning thereby that the US doesn't care about the sentiments of the Pakistani people.


Understandably, the drone attacks in Tribal Areas were initiated by the United States with the tacit approval of the Pakistani authorities especially of former President Musharraf. These attacks were also not taken cognizance of by President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani after the induction of the democratic set up in the country. President Zardari was even quoted by WikiLeaks as having told a US Congressional delegation visiting Pakistan some time back that he is not bothered about the human losses caused by the drone attacks. A change is, however, being observed in the government's policy on this count for some time now under intense pressure from people and Parliament. The vocal and strong condemnation of the latest drone attack by the COAS is obviously a new development, which marks the tension in the relations between the two countries. Time has, however, come to tell the United States in unambiguous terms to stop drone attacks instead of mincing words in apologetic manner. The fact is that the drone attacks have not contributed towards elimination of Taliban as is being claimed by the United States.


The exercise has instead created intense anti-American sentiments in the tribal areas on one hand and has caused immense problems for Pakistan to deal with the terrorists since the attacks have proportionately killed a lot more tribesmen than the terrorists. The government rightly feels that the drone attacks are veering the tribesmen out of Pakistan's influence and thus seriously jeopardizing its efforts to delink the common tribal people from the terrorists. According to an estimate, a maximum of one terrorist is killed for every ten Tribesmen, which is simply a nightmare for the nation. Those whose near and dear ones are perishing in the drone attacks can obviously not be pacified with false promises especially when the tribal people are known for their culture of vengeance. The drone attacks are also eroding the writ of the government of Pakistan in the Tribal areas.


A strong perception exists in the Tribal areas that the tribesmen should be allowed to defend themselves against the drone attacks since the government is doing nothing tangible to protect them and that its statements on the issue represent sheer lip service to the security of their lives and property. As a matter of fact, the people of Pakistan are fully justified in their conclusion after about a decade of war against terror that the United States may or may not succeed in eliminating terrorists and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but it has certainly destabilized Pakistan, besides ruining its economy and creating insecurity within the country.


The situation, therefore, demands reorientation of the Foreign Policy in keeping with the national interests. It's unfortunate that our Foreign Policy has hitherto remained US centric even at the cost of the national interests in the process of business with Washington. Quite recently the United States had to apologise for the loss of innocent lives in a similar drone attack in the tribal area as a result of closure of the NATO supplies to Afghanistan through Torkham and Chaman. That was possible due to the firm stand taken by the Pakistani authorities against the drone attacks. A similar stand is needed now to convey to the US that Pakistan should not be taken for granted any more since the drone attacks are not only causing human losses in the Tribal areas but are also generating hatred for the government, besides deepening the anti-US sentiments.


It's also time that Pakistan should formulate a new strategy to deal with the US appropriately for its follies such as the drone attacks. Pakistan must shun the apologetic mindset and assert its national interests with dignity and self respect. The people have suffered enough and sacrificed enough. Prudence demands that they should not be pushed to the wall. The Pakistan government ought not be, therefore, oblivious to the wave of public protests against corruption, injustice, unemployment and cronyism that has swept the Middle East. Pakistan can also fall in line since the causes that led to the violence there amply exist in our country as well.


It's an established fact that terrorism has escalated in the region as a result of the US intervention in Afghanistan. The failure of the US in curbing terrorism is writ large. It's, therefore, high time that Washington should take urgent steps to create environment in Afghanistan that may help her withdraw from the land locked country. The fact of the matter is that US policy in Afghanistan was faulty right from the beginning since it targeted the Pakhtoons who constituted over forty percent of the total population of the country. At the end of over a decade of war against terror, the US has not only failed in bringing about peace, security and development in the war torn country but has also brought misery to the Afghan people.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

DESECRATION OF THE HOLY QUR'AN

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

Controversial and ugly Pastor Terry Jones, a blot on the name of humanity, acted as a judge in a mock trial that ended with burning a copy of Quran at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. The US strongly condemned the burning of Quran by a radical pastor in Florida. The spokesman said the Obama administration is deeply concerned about all deliberate attempts to offend members of any religious minority. But this condemnation is not enough; the US should invoke hate crime and put Terry Jones in the dock. Last year, he had called off the event after criticism from U.S. religious leaders, violent protests abroad and pressure from President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. This time on actual burning of the Holy Qur'an, American politicians, media and intelligentsia are silent on the despicable and abhorrent desecration which glaringly exposes their hypocrisy and double standards. Had it been the sacrilege of Bible by some satanic elements in Pakistan, people of the US and European countries would have exploded in a noisy outrage, howling in unison to hold Muslim ummah responsible for it.


Today, western countries see no evil at home and blame Muslim fraternity for acts of terrorism. And this isn't something particular to America; this profanity cuts across the entire western world, bespeaking of a kind of an unholy alliance between their temporal and spiritual orders against the Muslims and their religion, Islam. When a wicked cartoonist makes caricatures of holy Prophet (PBUH), they all team up in his defence on the pretext of so-called freedom of expression. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI delivered his Easter message in St. Peter's Square where tens of thousands gathered to hear his message. While mentioning the plight of Christians in various places especially in Iraq, in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, he spoke of Christians who suffer persecution and even death for their faith, as for example in Pakistan; and countries afflicted by terrorism and by social and religious discrimination. In 2006 also, Pope Benedict, in his address at University of Regensburg, Germany had passed some uncalled for comment on jihad and Islam, which had outraged Muslims throughout the world.


Pope Benedict XVI had hit out at Islam and its concept of Jihad in his lecture to staff and students at the University of Regensburge - his Bavarian homeland. He had quoted a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor Manuel II who among other things had misinterpreted Jihad and misquoted the command to prove his point that Islam was spread by sword. Pope Bendict's words are a sort of article of faith for Christians; he should therefore use his position for creating inter-faith harmony to make this world a better place to live in. Historical evidence suggests that the Roman Empire after converting to Christianity continued with its aggressive posture towards other nations and religions. Some Muslim rulers likewise have had similar posture, but Islam is not to blame for aberration of handful of Muslims. So far as Islam is concerned it is a religion of peace; it heralded the end of ancient world of oppression, inequality and injustice, and of pride and privileges based on distinction of race, colour and creed. More than fourteen hundred years ago, Islam gave the message of peace, justice, human dignity, reason and light, which is enough evidence that Islam is an active and progressive religion.


Those who misinterpret Islam as a dogmatic, conservative, upholder of obscurantism in fact deviate from the simple, rational and humane spirit of Islam, and are, indeed, enemies of Islam. In holy Quran, Islam advocates religious liberalism: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256). If anybody had transgressed such command in the past, then Islam should not be blamed. As a matter of fact all religions gave the message of peace and love. And all the Prophets were assigned with the task of making human beings humane, kind and tolerant so that people could live in an atmosphere of peace and amity to achieve intellectual, spiritual and material welfare. As said earlier, there are enemies of peace everywhere. The pseudo-intellectuals from the West also continue propaganda against Islam. The onslaught gained momentum with Samuel P. Huntington's article, which was published in the summer issue of Foreign Affairs journal in 1993. Given its intellectual and doctrinal nature, it helped formation of series of attitudes opposing Islam in the West.



One of Bush's glaring mistakes was his perpetual criticism of Muslims by using terms like "Islamo-fascism" that were aimed at demonizing Islam and were provocative in nature, which have created more hatred against the US in the Muslim world. Whereas Bush had imperialist outreach and motives to control the world resources, Pope Benedict is not the victim of such mundane ambitions. He should use his position and status to create harmony between followers of different religions. He should rather emulate Pope John Paul II for creating inter-faith harmony who had suggested that Muslims and Christians could pray together. It is expected that he would also appeal to the US and western countries to stop rampaging, pillaging, exploiting and invading Muslim countries so that this world can be made a better place to live in. Secondly, he should also suggest invoking the hate laws that exist in the US states, and action could be taken against Terry Jones and his associates.


At the present, the world is in the throes of violence and turmoil; therefore the need for interfaith harmony has never been as urgent and great as it is today. With the US-led war on terror, none else but Muslim fraternity is targeted. There are flashpoints like Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir where Muslims have been subjected to oppression, repression and foreign occupation. In all these cases, Muslims have been pushed against the wall with the result that the world has become more violent, more radicalized and more dangerous to live in. Against this backdrop, if a few hundred misguided elements out of 1.5 billion Muslims in the world resort to violence or suicide attacks, Islam is certainly not to blame. On 13th November 2008, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia while addressing a UN interfaith dialogue meeting said: "Terrorism is the enemy of all religions, calling for a united front to combat it and promote tolerance". In fact, it is the conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed, between the occupiers and those who fight for their independence and sovereignty, and last but not the least between haves and have-nots countries.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

EXTREMISM NEEDS TO BE REDEFINED

DR ASIF IQBAL

 

In post 9/11 era the terms, "religious extremism", "moderate Muslim", and "radical Islam" have gained much focus – mostly with abominable relevance. Extremism is defined as the condition or act of taking an extreme view, often connoted as fanaticism, madness, and intolerance. Putting the two words Islamic and Extremism together gives rise to a highly vague, unexplicit, unintelligible, and yet wontedly used term. Most commonly, — as per perception of most of the western nations — Islamic Extremism is construed as the use of extreme tactics such as bombing and assassinations for achieving perceived Islamic goals (see Wikipedia).


Obviously, most of the brains shaping up this delineation are ignorant of Islamic ideology, principles, and practice and, thus, quite easily emblematise an Islam-practising society as a heap of zealots and wrongdoers. Moreover, the world media and even some of the secular-minded circles of Islamic states have been vehemently fuelling and airing biased and blemish apprehensions to persuade the masses that there is not much difference between thorough-Islamic-practice and Islamic Extremism and also that the so-defined "extremism" does kick-off various manifests of terrorism. In addition, there has been a compelling urge for searching, producing and presenting "moderate Muslims" as role-models to the people for betterment and progress of impoverished Muslim societies and to help decimate the menace of terrorism.

Exactly what do "Islamic Extremism" and "Moderate Muslim" mean? Technically speaking, an Islamic extremist would be a person endeavouring to fully abide by the codes and obligations put into force by Islam. Keeping in view the essence of Islamic teachings, (s)he is supposed to be a person possessing extraordinary piousness, truthfulness, honesty, sympathy, and magnanimity for other beings; among other personal traits. Quite specifically, (s)he is also expected to be a master humanitarian, channelling his/her efforts for alleviating poverty, educating people, and ameliorating the needy and also going all out to eradicate the evils like innocent killings, sectarianism, women maltreating, and general misanthropy from the society. In addition, yes, (s)he is also expected to keep beard or veil the face, support gender segregation in gatherings, call people for prayers, prohibit them from alcoholism, vulgarism, and lasciviousness, assert for Islamic legislation, and participate in Jihad (not terrorism). How do you reckon this kind of a person: good or bad; certainly good and good for the society at large. Now, what is a moderate Muslim? Where did this appellation originate from?


` Did it come from Islamic scriptures? No. By the degree of allegiance, a Muslim can either be a practising Muslim, non-practising Muslim, or a partially-practising Muslim. Why do we contemplate a moderate Muslim is better than an extreme Muslim? If moderate Muslim has been confused with partially-practising Muslim, then this term can be elucidated as a person who does good deeds as well as bad ones. For instance, a person who never misses obligatory prayers but also treats his neighbours unethically falls in this category. A person doing exactly the other way round is also a partially-practising Muslim (may I call him a moderate Muslim as well?). Let me work out an analogy. Liking a moderate Muslim more than an extreme one is something like preferring a partial-truthful-partial-liar over a downright truthful person. Isn't this way of thinking illogical? And how salubrious this kind of person could be for the community, anybody can easily judge.


Well, as it is a widely acclaimed fact that Islam profoundly denounces terrorism and annihilation of innocent people, Muslims or non-Muslims, with any rationale whatsoever, how come a perfect or extreme Muslim be tagged as a potential terrorist or a repugnant and discordant element of a human civilisation. Hence, the bottom line of the remonstration presented is that any felonious act related to terrorism, anarchy, bloodshed, lynching, and sectarian intolerance has to be explicitly envisaged as un-Islamic extremism and tagged as heinous crime or a major social disorder or whatever without any tie-in with Islamic quintessence.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

FORSAKING INSTITUTIONAL SOVEREIGNTY

DR KHALIL AHMAD

A larger section of the sovereignty lobby tries to evade the real issue of institutional sovereignty facing Pakistan; rather it appears that their crying over the spilt milk of external sovereignty is a ploy to that effect. This larger section includes so-called nationalists mostly from the Right and the Center. They all glorify a militarized Pakistan. Despite that Pakistan is an ally of the US in the war on terror, they want Iqbal's Mamula (a little bird) to fight Shahbaz (a hawk). In their vision, they see Pakistan militarily confronting US, then US collapsing and Pakistan emerging victorious replacing the US.


Not only does this lobby play down the idea of internal sovereignty, they also negate the notion of institutional sovereignty. This they may defend as if by requiring an army they mean to conquer the whole world. Be that wishful thinking as it may! Countries and nations are not made of wishes of a select few. They are made of stuff which is a sum total of individual citizens' wishes and aspirations, and these citizens need freedom, a right annexed to them by nature, to see their wishes and aspirations fulfilled. So, let's confront, instead of US, the reality first! The sum total of the wishes and aspirations of a country's citizens is usually reflected in its constitution. The use of 'usually' signifies the presence of conflicting wishes and aspirations in a society. Democracy resolves this conflict by way of majority's rule and giving the elected representatives power to make laws but for all the citizens to follow. This majoritarian rule again clashes with the notion of citizens as sovereign individuals. To resolve this, the constitution of 1973 enshrines the fundamental rights indiscriminately securable to all the individual citizens of Pakistan.


The ongoing debate on 'the basic structure' of the constitution concerns this issue. Without going into the intricacies of this debate, the present writer holds fundamental rights as the core value of the constitution which no legislation can encroach upon. In its NRO judgment (December 16, 2009), the Supreme Court in para 27 quotes the argument put forward by its own amicus curiae: "Mian Allah Nawaz, Sr. ASC also appeared as Amicus Curiae. He, after elaborating the philosophy of morality, theory of law, theory of kleptocracy and the philosophy of the Constitution, contended as follows: . . . (c) The protection of the fundamental rights of the people is the soul of the Constitution. The NRO, 2007 is violative of the basic soul of the Constitution." From this it follows that the fundamental rights, being the soul of the constitution, forms the basic structure of the constitution. This makes them inviolable and requires they be protected at any cost. Also, from this it follows that the sole aim of the whole paraphernalia of 'government,' worked out in the constitution, is to protect the soul of the constitution, i.e. the fundamental rights. Thus, the parliament, provincial assemblies, the courts, the election commission, auditor general, the armed forces, etc., are there to serve the same purpose.


Now, as is evident, the constitution distributes the sovereignty to various institutions to accomplish the same task. May it be noted that the all supreme entity is the constitution! Then comes the judiciary, and after it the legislature. The executive being an implementation entity requires no sovereignty. Although they are sovereign in their domains, their sovereignty is limited and defined by the constitution. The judiciary is sovereign in interpreting the letter and spirit of the constitution, in seeing whether new legislation is not in conflict with the constitution, and in protecting the constitution. The legislature is sovereign in making new laws as per the dictates of the constitution. However, while as far as its judgments are concerned, the judiciary cannot be questioned by the legislature (or the executive), the legislature (and the executive) are bound by the constitution, and hence by the judiciary's judgments which, in order to protect the constitution, interpret it. All the other institutions created by the constitution cannot claim any sovereignty. Only those institutions are sovereign which the constitution invests with power to legislate (the legislature) and the power to check the legislation (the judiciary). Other institutions make rules and procedures for their own functioning only. The constitution does not take into account political or any other interference in the working of sovereign as well as implementation entities. As may be envisaged, this is a matter to be taken care of by the rule of law. So, the election commission, auditor general, the armed forces, etc, are just subordinate entities, not sovereign but independent in their functioning to the limit of their mandate.


In addition, the constitutionally elected citizens must be distinguished from the nominated/appointed citizens as the later are in the employment of the government of Pakistan, and are required to obey the orders of the constitutional authorities. They have nothing to do with running the affairs of the government internally or externally. In view of this, assigning any sovereignty to these and other such institutions is un-constitutional. Be it auditor general, or the election commission, or the armed forces, they are all there to act according to their legal and constitutional mandates. Thus, when any of these institutions trespasses on and interferes with the functions of the sovereign entities, the judiciary and the legislature (and the executive as their implementation entity), they are guilty of committing un-constitutional acts, and that is essentially tantamount to overriding not only the institutional sovereignty but the sovereignty of the country also.


The sovereignty lobby is alive to this issue is not borne out by any available evidence. As said above, they camouflage this issue under the guise of external sovereignty which in turn strengthens their notion of conquering the world by using this or that army. Their support to Taliban derives from this source. They also argue the civilian incompetence and corruption as its disqualification to rule in a sovereign manner. Indeed they move in a circle. This circular movement has dampened the spirit of the constitution and the sovereign individuals also. However, they are not the only culprits responsible for defending such trespasses on the institutional sovereignty, the political parties which somehow come to power as ruling party or as coalition partner, are equally guilty. It is because of their inherent weakness, lack of courage, and lust for power that they always submit to and compromise with such and other institutionally external interferences or dictation. None dares to defy it vitally. Had he not bowed down to the outside pressure on his sovereign office to reinstate the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges, and his party's Prime Minister not withdrawn his orders of putting ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry, I would have been madly in love with President Asif Ali Zardari and his government! Alas, in Pakistan wishes and interests of a select few reign supreme, not the constitution of the country!


—The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

A TIME FOR INTROSPECTION

NAZIA NAZAR

Shakespeare says 'what is in a name'? It seems to be true so far as the name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan is concerned, as there is nothing Islamic in Pakistan - from terrorism to violation of minorities' rights and from widespread illiteracy to horrible crimes against women. Yes of course, we own an Islamic name which satisfies our sense of identity to be Islamic outwardly. In fact, our hypocrisy and double standards have made us a laughing stock in outside world which compels us to find some time to introspect as to what was the struggle for an Islamic state all about? If it was just for a land we are living in today, then our heads hang in shame since we have failed to uphold the true spirit of Islam. The fact of the matter is that Islam is not as much complicated as we tend to make it with our rigid attitude and limited perception. Like many other matters, the concept of the nature of an Islamic state may have been disputed among different Islamic scholars. But who could deny the fact that no state could be described as Islamic until it turns to be a welfare and humanitarian state, where grand human rights charter ordained by Islam could be implemented in letter and spirit.


Hence, the apostles of Islamization in Pakistan should first advocate a democratic and welfare state as envisioned by the Quaid ie with equity, social justice and safeguard of minority rights which are prerequisites to establish an Islamic state. The fact of the matter is that Quaid-e-Azam too visualized Pakistan in line with the same concept which unfortunately was distorted soon after his death. As a result, Pakistan has transformed into a chaotic state where non-Muslims and Muslims are equally in danger. Moderate Muslims are being blasted for differing with extremists' flawed interpretation of religion and non-Muslims for simply asking justice and security of life, honour and property being citizens of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the assassination of federal minister Shehbaz Bhatti and growing discrimination against minorities is not only a mockery of Jinnah's concept of a state but also of Objective Resolution - Pakistan's Magna Carta - and our enacted constitution which ensures the safeguard of minority rights in Pakistan. Above all, such unfortunate circumstances put a question mark on the very Islamic nature and identity of this country, as it is following the opposite path.

Today the religious intolerance appears to have penetrated into our society adding violence/disharmony and leading to polarization. Islam teaches equality and peaceful co- existence, and all Muslims are exhorted to remain above sectarian divide and protect the rights of minorities. It is imperative to understand that there is no obscurity about minorities' right in Islam, which according to moderate Islamic scholars seeks to establish a society where all citizens enjoy equal rights and religion does not become the basis for any discrimination. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had defended the rights of non-Muslim minorities at many different places. He said, "O who kills a man under covenant (dhimmis) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise" (Bukhari and Muslim). "Whoever murdered a zimmi, God closed the doors of heaven upon him"(Nasai). "Beware! Whosoever is cruel and hard on such people i.e., (Contractees or non-Muslims) or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can endure, or realises anything from them against their free-will, I shall myself be a complainant against him on the Day of Judgment" (Related by Abu Daud in The book of Jihad). The ancient history of Islam is replete with the examples when non-Muslims were not only given full protection but also in many cases rulings were given in favour of non-Muslims against the Muslims. During the days of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a Muslim killed a zimmi. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) ordered the execution of the murderer. Many books written by scholars narrate that during the time of the caliph Umar, certain Muslims had usurped a piece of land belonging to a Jew, and then constructed a mosque upon it. The caliph ordered the demolition of the mosque and the restoration of the land to the Jew. During the rule of Caliph Hazrat Ali, a Muslim murdered a zimmi. When the charge was proved, Hazrat Ali ordered for the execution of the murderer and said: "Whoever is our zimmi, his blood is as sacred as our blood and his property is as inviolable as our own property". In the light of above and many more instances, do those extremists who shed the blood of innocent minorities deserve to be called Muslims at all? What kind of service they are doing to Islam by denying the teaching and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?

It will not be wrong to say that they are as much the enemy of Islam and Pakistan as of non-Muslim Pakistanis. They are transgressors and criminals and no other tag they deserve to uphold. Nevertheless, the incompetence of our government to rein in extremists is equally a matter of concern since it is the foremost duty of any government to give full protection to minorities, their leaders and their places of worship. We should not be oblivious to the fact that one of the factors for creation of Pakistan was the exploitation of Muslim minority by dominated Hindu population in united India which ultimately led them to demand a separate homeland in the shape of Pakistan. Hence, leaving minorities in Pakistan with the same destiny and sense of insecurity is not a good omen as it can destroy the national fabric.


To recapitulate, green and white colours of Pakistani flag are beautiful combination similar to the proportion of Muslims and non-Muslim population which live in Pakistan. It is incumbent upon us to liberate Pakistan from unbridled hate mongering extremists and make it a peaceful land - a land really of pure people. It is pertinent to mention here that a constant struggle from all sections of our society to fight extremism in all of its manifestations is need of the hour, failing which any one of us could be the next target.

—The writer is a Lahore-based freelance columnist.

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

AFTER A DAY OF RECKONING, WHAT NOW FOR LABOR?

A MORALLY and politically exhausted government got the shellacking it deserved on Saturday, but it would be a mistake to think the political damage was confined to NSW, isolated in time and space from the broader Labor Party story.

Yes, there were issues and problems peculiar to a 16-year-old administration drowning in patronage. But the loss is part of a relentless reassessment of modern Labor that has been under way in earnest since John Howard's defeat at the 2007 federal poll. The problems for Labor go way back. A generation ago, party stalwart Peter Walsh was warning of the threat to Labor of the tertiary educated apparatchiks who derided the party's base. Even earlier, Kim Beazley Sr noted that Labor, once run by the "cream of the working class", was dominated by "the dregs of the middle class". We are now witnessing the fruits of Labor's failure to confront those influences and recognise the immense changes that have been under way in this country. We are seeing what happens to a political movement that is out of touch with the values of its working-class base, many of whom are now small-business traders.

At the 2007 federal poll, Kevin Rudd successfully presented himself to voters as a kinder, friendlier version of John Howard. But the global financial crisis that emerged early in Labor's term precipitated a return to type for the party. The government's big-spending interventionist approach proved to be at odds with the values and interests of mainstream Australia. By then the tide was already turning against Labor across the country. In August 2008, Paul Henderson's Labor administration clung to power by one seat in the Northern Territory. The following month, Labor was thrown out in Western Australia, and on one day in March last year, the Rann government lost the popular vote in South Australia but hung on via a clever marginal seats campaign, while Tasmanian Labor was forced into coalition with the Greens to survive. Within months, federal Labor was forced to sup with the Greens and previously conservative independents to form government, but nothing could save Victorian Labor when its judgment day came around last November. By last weekend, it was beyond doubt the reckoning was complete, and that Labor's rehabilitation across the nation will be complex, slow and far from certain.

For now, no one within Labor has many answers. Those that are being proffered are well off the mark and reflect outdated assumptions. Chief among them is the recommendation from Labor heavyweights Bob Carr, Steve Bracks and John Faulkner that the party must move to recover its voters on the left who have been lost to the Greens. But the "three wise men" got that wrong in their review of the last federal election. It is clear from the slew of elections since 2007 that Labor must somehow learn to show respect for the values and aspirations of middle Australia, not the professional and public service class domiciled in gentrifying suburbs who have flirted with Bob Brown. We would go further and suggest that the backlash against Labor includes a subliminal rejection of the trade union culture that dominated the 2007 poll, at which the ACTU delivered the party victory.

There is no sign from NSW, the historical powerhouse for Labor, that the party understands any of the above. Indeed, one of the biggest hurdles to its survival as a viable force is that the people who brought Labor to its knees now have the job of picking it up off the floor. It is far from clear they have the capacity for self-reflection required to shift the party's culture. Far be it from us to dictate to the handful of Labor parliamentarians left standing who they should elect as opposition leader, but the man most likely, former union boss John Robertson, would be a disaster. Indeed, his elevation would seal the perception that Labor has learnt nothing from the rout.

Sussex Street has demonstrated a tin ear for the electorate, but the answer does not lie in listening to the squeakiest wheels -- whether that be the Greens or the extreme right. Conservative radio hosts do not necessarily represent mainstream Australian views, but neither do the soft-left reporters at the ABC or in the Fairfax press. Barry O'Farrell, the new NSW Premier, understands this. He sits cheerfully in the moderate centre ground, determined to deliver services, not ideological lectures, to a community that wants its governing class to fix transport and hospitals and avoid damaging policy initiatives that simply add to the cost of living. There are serious lessons for NSW Labor here, but also for the federal Coalition and a leader whose image is far more conservative and uncompromising. Tony Abbott has been good at consolidating his base, but as we have said before, Australian elections are won from the centre, not the fringes. For the Gillard government, there's a double lesson: it must address the issues raised above and also realise that the "rainbow coalition" that keeps it in power is gossamer thin. On Saturday, voters unhappy with Labor bypassed the Greens and independents and went straight to the Coalition.

For decades now, there has been a slow but certain move away from traditional voting patterns, with Australian voters happy to follow the parties focused on policies, not polemics. Both sides of politics are vulnerable to this trend, but it is Labor that is struggling to find a meaning for its existence now it has lost touch with its tribe. Its time starts now.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

REPORT WORTH READING ANY TIME

IN an insult to taxpayers and the parliamentary system, the final Senate-committee report into the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program was tabled after 10pm on Friday, timing that suggests the Gillard government would prefer to keep critical discussion of Labor's $16.2 billion stimulus to a minimum.

The report was tabled too late for prime-time news programs and newspapers' early editions, when media attention was focused on the NSW election. It was also tabled without the knowledge of the Liberal Party chairman of the committee, senator Chris Back, and several other opposition members, who would have sought to maximise coverage.

Leaving aside the politics, one telling point in the report is that as of December 31 last year, 42 per cent of the supposedly "shovel-ready" primary school projects remained to be completed, more than a year after the threat of recession from the financial crises had passed. Even if the ongoing projects are better managed to avoid waste, cookie-cutter school halls are a highly questionable priority in a nation seriously short of transport and other productive infrastructure.

It is no surprise that the Senate report was highly critical of the Building the Education Revolution, the shortcomings of which were revealed case by case, state by state, by The Australian. And given the fact the Senate inquiry was dominated by Liberal members with their own political axes to grind, its claim that the government-appointed taskforce inquiry into BER headed by Brad Orgill "misinterpreted" data in order to conclude the scheme had achieved value for money in state schools needs careful analysis. While Mr Orgill, a respected investment banker, was less scathing of the overall outcome of the BER than the Senate committee, at least his taskforce was deeply critical of the poor value delivered by the former NSW government. With breathtaking understatement, even the ALP senators on the Senate committee conceded that "not every aspect of the program was delivered flawlessly."

Mr Orgill accused the Coalition-controlled inquiry of "political point-scoring", insisting that value for money was achieved in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, with Victoria's performance still being analysed. More important than the tit for tat between the Senate committee and Mr Orgill's taskforce, however, is the fact that projects in independent and Catholic schools across Australia were completed more quickly and with lower average costs than projects in state and territory government schools, especially in the three largest states of NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Just as perturbing was the committee's conclusion that NSW government school projects cost 28 per cent more, on average, than projects in Queensland government schools, and almost double those in independent and Catholic schools in some states.

The BER debacle reinforces the lesson that governments are not suited to project delivery. To help avoid any repeat of such waste in other projects, the report's recommendation that the powers of the commonwealth Auditor-General to "follow the money trail" be boosted to ensure value for money is achieved in state expenditure of commonwealth monies deserves to be adopted. While NSW was the most incompetent steward of the BER, Julia Gillard cannot avoid the fact that the buck stops with her because she held the purse strings.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ABBOTT'S AGENDA NEEDN'T RULE NSW

WHEN you achieve a voting swing unprecedented in our country's history, hubris can be a danger even for someone as temperamentally immune as Barry O'Farrell seems to be. But there was a touch of it as O'Farrell and the inner circle of Coalition politicians and advisers savoured their historic election win.

This was when O'Farrell promised to ''take the fight up to Canberra'' on the threat he sees to family budgets and jobs in the state from the Gillard government's proposed carbon tax or price. He has also singled out for objection the limits on raising the state mining royalty under the planned super-profit tax system for the mining industry, the national health agreement, and the national curriculum (for ''dumbing down'' NSW schools). ''We haven't had a state Labor government prepared to stand up to Canberra and I will,'' O'Farrell declared.

Forgivable brave talk on election night, and Tony Abbott was lapping this up and egging him on. On reflection though, O'Farrell should be cooling it. There are few analysts of either Labor or Coalition slant who think federal issues had much to do with the state swing, except perhaps in the seats regained from independents by the Nationals. Voters switched from Labor because they were disgusted by its cronyism and inability to build infrastructure and improve services.

The voters want a quick, honest appraisal of the state of NSW government finances, and an immediate start on what O'Farrell has said are his priorities. Foremost among these is the setting up of a state infrastructure authority, adoption of a 20-year investment plan for transport, and a detailed five-year funding scheme.

Helping Abbott bring down Gillard is not in the platform he presented to NSW voters. If he and the other two Coalition state premiers have any idea of making federal-state relations unworkable to such an end, they need to drop it. The losers would be the people of this state. It would also be a distraction ultimately rebounding on O'Farrell's own longevity as premier. The federal Liberals should rather learn from O'Farrell's example.

Indeed, given the counter-cycles of state and federal politics, it might be in the state Coalition's own best interests if Labor stays in power in Canberra. O'Farrell might also consider that with transport his priority, a federal Labor regime that makes a big thing of public sector leadership in infrastructure is more likely to cough up the billions in funding NSW will need than a Coalition focused on budget surpluses and debt reduction.

O'Farrell's first big encounter with Canberra will be to try to divert the $2.1 billion in federal funds promised for the Parramatta-Epping rail link to his favoured north-west and south-west rail lines. As we have argued, there is no reason why these essential links for Australia's biggest city can't be started. O'Farrell should do what NSW Labor couldn't: initiate well-planned and costed projects that earn federal infrastructure funding.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LOTS OF PROBLEMS UNDER ONE ROOF

THE analysis of housing prices in Sydney and other capitals by Bob Birrell and Colin Keane, which we reported yesterday, shows what first home buyers know already: even out on the fringes prices are out of reach. Pursuing the Australian dream is getting more difficult. The causes are many, unfortunately, and solutions are problematic.

Scarcity is driving house prices up. Sydney is not only growing through natural population increase; it is also a magnet for migrants. But new dwellings are coming onto the market too slowly to cope with the increase, so prices rise. It is one argument for a slowed immigration intake - though as the present low unemployment rate suggests the economy is close to a labour shortage, that may present other dangers. As we report today, the development industry wants home owners to fear the falls in house prices a cut in the intake might cause.

Politicians' solutions - first home buyer grants, stamp duty cuts and the like - tend to make things worse by putting more money into the hands of buyers without increasing the supply. Buyers just use their extra dollars to bid prices up further. Tax rules that favour home ownership also encourage buyers to invest too much in the family home.

Developers often blame planning rules which insist that they provide infrastructure - roads, shops, ovals, playgrounds and so on - for new subdivisions. The cost of those services is added to prices - but what is the alternative? In the past, suburbs developed without them became ghettos and pockets of deprivation. Is that what new home buyers want? Or should taxes rise so all pay for new services?

The O'Farrell government's policy is to hasten development on the metropolitan fringes with new rail links. That should help. Speeding up land releases will obviously add to the supply and perhaps help moderate prices. Good transport links also allow higher-density development. The policy has drawbacks, though: O'Farrell wants relatively less infill housing in existing suburbs to meet Sydney's housing needs. That means more sprawl in one of the world's lowest-density cities, more productive farmland paved over faster for housing.

Sydney's appetite for housing is voracious; satisfying it comes at an increasing cost - one measured not just in dollars.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CABS ON THE SCENIC ROUTE TO CHAOS

AS EVERY Victorian will tell you, the Kennett government cleaned up the taxi industry. Cabs acquired a uniform yellow colour, drivers acquired uniform clothing and, best of all, they were expected to know how to get to the places where their passengers wanted to go. A decade and a half later, however, little seems to remain of those reforms other than the colour scheme.

Most regular cab users can tell at least one horror story about a driver who answered ''Where's that?'' or consulted the vehicle's satellite navigation system when asked to drive to the MCG. And although cabs may still all look the same, they are not all maintained at the same standards of roadworthiness, nor do their drivers always demonstrate that they are able to handle a car safely. There is also evidence of credit-card fraud. How did the Kennett government's achievement collapse so quickly?

As The Saturday Age reported at the weekend, both government and commercial oversight of the taxi industry has ceased to operate for the benefit of either drivers or passengers. The Brumby government's ''Greater Melbourne Taxi Release'' of an extra 530 licences has earned $36 million for the state's coffers, with more expected, but has not alleviated the problems plaguing the industry. Under the Bracks and Brumby governments, the industry became heavily dependent on international students for its driver pool, but with the tightening of immigration laws the pool is shrinking, with the result that the increased number of licences has chiefly meant that there are fewer people available to drive many more taxis. Occupancy rates are down to an all-time low of 27 per cent, and the difficulty of earning a living driving a cab has increased - especially since the traditional 50-50 split of earnings between operators and drivers appears to be a dying practice.

This week the Baillieu government is expected to announce that former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chief Alan Fels will chair a new Taxi Commission, charged with reforming the industry. Professor Fels, who has argued that opening up the taxi market would result in fares being cut by up to a third, has no small job ahead of him. Reassuringly, he also says that anyone behind the wheel of a taxi must be a competent driver possessing good street knowledge, and of good character. Those should be the minimal standards expected in the industry, and ensuring that they apply ought to be the regulator's first task

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

AUSTRALIA LAGS AS THE REST OF THE WORLD ACTS

GEOGRAPHY has always isolated Australia. Rarely, though, is the effect so obvious as it is in the debate on climate change. Globally, the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is widely accepted. Visitors to Australia are surprised to find that not only is the effect of emissions in dispute, but even scientific records of climate trends.

In the past week, The Age has examined at length the premises of the local debate. These reports have shone a light on fallacies about scientific opinion and uncertainty, economic impacts and global action on emissions.

A key problem in drawing on complex science is that scientists are versed in assessing degrees of uncertainty. The public is not; any unresolved issue is taken as suggesting serious doubt about even a broadly accepted scientific conclusion. And if laypeople are prepared to dismiss the weight of scientific opinion what is left of informed debate?

The existence of dissenting voices is a mark of democracy, but this does not mean that balance in reporting scientific and policy debates is achieved by giving opposing sides equal weight when that ''balance'' does not remotely resemble the weight of scientific support for human-caused climate change.

A carbon tax was first imposed overseas almost two decades ago. Like Australia, Norway has a developed economy built on cheap fossil fuels. Today it has cut emissions per person to half those of Australia. As to the ''cost'' of this, Norway's economic worth per person is up with the best in the world. The European Union has run an emissions trading scheme for years. By 2009, Europe had managed to cut emissions by 16 per cent since 1990, while its economy grew by 40 per cent. Several major European nations have direct carbon taxes as well.

As a bloc, the European Union is the world's largest economy, but produces only about 14 per cent of global emissions, compared with China's 22 per cent and the United States's 20 per cent. Even then it is not accurate to argue that a lack of action by China and the US makes anything Australia does irrelevant. In the past four years, China's emissions have been cut to almost 20 per cent below business-as-usual projections. China is committed to a carbon market and an increase in energy from renewable sources from 8 per cent to 11.4 per cent by 2015 (Australia's renewable input is barely 5 per cent). In the US, 10 states already participate in an emissions scheme, while California, which ranks in the world's top 10 economies, is set to start pricing carbon next year.

Amid these developments, Australia stands out as the biggest emitter per person in the world. This country is regarded as a policy laggard. The impact of climate change depends largely on decisions taken by 20 or so leading nations, as countries outside this group and the European Union produce less than a fifth of global emissions. Of the 14 countries that emit more than Australia, very few are doing less to cut emissions. If a rich, developed nation with so much room for improvement does so little, the signal this sends to the world's most populous developing nations hinders global action.

Many argue a case of pure self-interest: Australia's contribution to global emissions is minor, so why lead the way? This assumes any damage to Australia is only to its reputation. Australia is missing out on a boom in the growth industries of the 21st century. Early adopters of new energy technology have prospered. Germany's renewable energy sector rivals its famed vehicle industry. Globally, renewable energy has attracted more investment than fossil fuels three years in a row.

Climate change is, however, much more than an economic challenge. If only the debate in Australia reflected that.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

LIBYA: NARROWING THE OPTIONS

Today in London a large gathering of foreign ministers will be attempting to resolve some of the contradictions

The decision to intervene in Libya has been weighed down from the beginning by a heavy load of the euphemisms, ambiguities, and hypocrisies which so often accompany the resort to violence in international affairs. The keenest advocates of action, France and Britain, had to formulate their proposals to the United Nations in narrowly humanitarian terms in order to convince some doubtful nations that they would not pursue regime change directly, and to manoeuvre others, like Russia and China, into a position where they would have looked like reactionary allies of Gaddafi if they had vetoed the resolution which was eventually adopted.

The country that alone was capable of providing the military muscle to enforce the resolution, the United States, insisted for domestic political reasons that its unavoidable leadership role be disguised behind a screen of Nato machinery. That led to much posing and obstruction by Nato members pursuing other agendas, especially France with its idea of European military autonomy and Turkey with its pretensions to be seen again as a protector and spokesman for the Middle East as a whole. In the ensuing confusion, valuable time was lost, time which could, for instance, have been used to intervene earlier against Gaddafi's forces threatening Misrata, Libya's third largest city and the main stronghold of the uprising against the regime in the west of the country. Now those forces are in the city, from which it will be hard to dislodge them without causing unacceptable civilian casualties.

Today in London a large gathering of foreign ministers and other representatives will be attempting to resolve some of the contradictions which they themselves have created, while a smaller group of the countries forming the steering committee for what is now a Nato operation will also be meeting. The main issue before them is to decide at what point Nato action ceases to be about protecting civilians from Gaddafi and begins to be about prosecuting a war on behalf of Libyan insurgents who appear unable to take and hold ground on their own.

The rebels have been their own worst enemies in this regard. Three military commanders seem to be functioning independently, if not as rivals, while the regular troops who defected in the west of the country have not been committed to operations in an organised way. Undisciplined charges by pick-up trucks are not a strategy. The political coherence of the National Transitional Council has, meanwhile, reportedly been at times very strained.

Russia, Turkey, and perhaps also Italy and Germany, have made up their minds that the line between civilian protection and regime change has already been crossed. Anglo-French tactics can be criticised, but surely there should be no disagreement that the worst possible outcome in Libya would be partition, with a Gaddafi-held zone holding on for months or years. The objection to the Russian and Turkish positions is that they make such an outcome more likely. The critical question is whether the people of western Libya want Gaddafi or not. If they do not, and that is the way the limited evidence certainly points, then policies like immediately winding down the military effort or facilitating a ceasefire will merely give Gaddafi a second wind, unless there are other, relatively peaceful levers that could then remove him, which seems far from guaranteed.

The emerging compromise may be that for a few more days the current rules of engagement, allowing ground attacks on military assets not directly or actively threatening civilians, will continue in force but then a narrower interpretation will prevail. That gives Nato planes a slender window to tip the military balance further against Gaddafi. Thereafter it may well get much more difficult, and, if it does, some countries may have much to answer for.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… ROSEMARY SUTCLIFF

Sutcliff's best books find liberal members of elites wrestling with uncomfortable change. They might even have been Guardian readers

Favourable reviews of Kevin MacDonald's newly released film The Eagle are spinning over into renewed sales of the book on which it is based, Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 children's classic The Eagle of the Ninth. Still in print more than 50 years on, The Eagle of the Ninth is the first of a series of novels in which Sutcliff, who died in 1992, explored the cultural borderlands between the Roman and the British worlds – "a place where two worlds met without mingling" as she describes the British town to which Marcus, the novel's central character, is posted. Marcus is a typical Sutcliff hero, a dutiful Roman who is increasingly drawn to the British world of "other scents and sights and sounds; pale and changeful northern skies and the green plover calling". This existential cultural conflict gets even stronger in later books like The Lantern Bearers and Dawn Wind, set after the fall of Rome, and has modern resonance. But Sutcliff was not just a one-trick writer. The range of her novels spans from the Bronze Age and Norman England to the Napoleonic wars. Two of her best, The Rider of the White Horse and Simon, are set in the 17th century and are marked by Sutcliff's unusually sympathetic (for English historical novelists of her era) treatment of Cromwell and the parliamentary cause. Sutcliff's finest books find liberal-minded members of elites wrestling with uncomfortable epochal changes. From Marcus Aquila to Simon Carey, one senses, they might even have been Guardian readers.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

AKIHABARA RAMPAGE VERDICT

The Tokyo District Court on March 24 sentenced a 28-year-old former temporary worker to death for indiscriminately attacking and killing pedestrians in June 2008 in Akihabara, a popular shopping and tourist district in Tokyo packed with stores selling electronics goods, anime and other pop-culture products. Seven people were killed and 10 others were injured in an atrocious act that shocked the nation.

What led the defendant, Tomohiro Kato, to commit such a crime greatly puzzled survivors of the attack, relatives of the murder victims and ordinary citizens. The fact that he gave advance notice of his intention to commit the crime via a mobile-phone bulletin board and that he stated after his arrest that he had not cared whom he attacked also caused a sensation. Although the court sentenced Kato to hang, the trial failed to uncover a convincing motive behind the crime.

Around 12:30 p.m. on June 8, 2008, the defendant drove a two-ton truck into a crowd of pedestrians at an intersection in Akihabara, killing three and injuring two. He then exited the vehicle and, armed with a dagger, fatally stabbed four people and injured eight others. He attacked a police officer but failed to injure him. The crime happened on a day when people thronged Akihabara's main avenue, which at the time was a pedestrian-only zone on Sundays and holidays.

The incident spurred several social changes. The Firearms and Swords Control Law was revised to prohibit the possession of daggers and possession of knives with 5.5 cm or longer blades. The pedestrian-only zone in Akihabara was suspended for more than two years, only resuming on a temporary basis in January on Sundays.

In the first hearing of the trial in January 2010, Kato accepted all the facts that the prosecution presented. He said, "I am the criminal. There is no room to doubt that I was responsible for the incident."

The remaining contentious point in the trial was whether he was mentally competent at the time of his rampage. His defense counsel sought leniency by saying that at the time of the crime he had a diminished mental state. The court said that the fact that the defendant planned the crime and carried it out pointed to no diminishment of his mental state.

The trial focused on determining the motive for the crime. The defendant stated that the bulletin board was the only place where he felt he belonged. He posted numerous messages complaining about his job, his inferiority complex about his appearance and his inability to find a girlfriend. The prosecution regarded his unstable job situation, his inferiority complex about his appearance and his inability to find a girlfriend as auxiliary motives for his deadly act.

During the trial, the defendant explained his motive by stating he felt that the family-like connections he had established with other people via the bulletin board was destroyed because some users, sometimes posing as him, posted messages that sabotaged the friendly atmosphere of the online venue. He said that the crime was aimed at stopping people from posting messages that caused him stress. He reasoned that if they knew he had committed a horrendous crime, they would stop their abhorrent behavior on the bulletin board.

In its ruling, the court decided that the bulletin board harassment was the main motive behind the crime. It also said that he vented his anger about the disappearance of his work clothes, and that he suffered alienation because of a loss of family members, friends and his job.

Importantly, the ruling stated that the defendant's stated motive should not have led to him to carry out such an atrocity, although the court acknowledged that in the mind of the defendant his stated motive may have served as sufficient cause.

Although the defendant may believe that he gave a persuasive explanation for his motive for the attack, survivors and relatives of the victims are at a loss as to why they have had to suffer from such a senseless act. Some of them suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.

But attributing the crime solely to Kato's character may be missing the point in understanding his offense. Together with Japan's unstable employment situation, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the overall weakening of human relations in society, the advancement of information technology tends to create a "virtual world" in which people who are insecure about themselves seek a haven. Kato may have been such a person.

How and where to obtain the courage to live in the real world and establish meaningful human relations are big questions facing all members of society. Some individuals, such as Kato, are apparently unable to find proper solutions.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

UNREQUITED HOPE FOR KAN

BY KEVIN RAFFERTY

Special to The Japan Times

OSAKA/LONDON — More than two weeks after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a horrendous tsunami and crippling damage to a major nuclear plant in northeast Honshu, it is as if Japan is still sleeping through a raging nightmare. Initially, economists tried to play down the damage, saying that this part of Japan was less economically significant than Kobe, which was bashed in 1995.

It is becoming clear that the triple-disaster of quake, tsunami and nuclear accident in the Tohoku-Pacific region has produced immense damage not only to the economy of Japan and the world, but also to the psyche of Japan.

The devastated area is a wasteland, with swaths of towns and villages destroyed and the debris swept and scattered miles inland. It is humbling to witness the fortitude of victims, some with harrowing tales of their own narrow escapes and the numbing deaths of loved ones. They sit patiently in inadequate temporary shelters with precious few amenities that would allow them to dare to hope to rebuild their shattered lives.

More than 100,000 Self-Defense Force troops are working on relief and helping brave workers try to cool down and bring the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant under control.

The Fukushima plant again has electricity. But restoring full control over the nuclear reactors is still proving elusive. Discovery of increasing radiation levels in tap water as far away as Tokyo and of contaminated vegetables unsafe for consumption have come with assurances that for the first time in recent Japanese history the government is being as honest as it can with the facts.

That has made people more scared. Does the government really KNOW? Does it have a plan? Ordinary Tokyo citizens are nervously stockpiling supplies. Ultra-careful foreign governments are banning all exports from Japan of food and vegetables. Radiation has picked up as far away as Iceland, in minute traces.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan is clearly proving not to be the man with the plan that will put Japan on its feet again, let alone remedy both specific and general deficiencies in the way that the country is organized. Kan and his team are still in pristinely laundered jump-suit mode, ready to spring into action to help but staying safely in Tokyo.

Some Japanese grumble that Kan has not been seen recently, and is leaving things to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, who reels off the latest facts. But what does it all mean?

By now, the politicians should be working on a multitiered plan, although even the immediate provisions will have to wait until the Fukushima plant is under control. Immediately, there needs to be continuing relief and rehabilitation, restoration of homes, factories, roads and communications that can be saved and moving evacuated people into more secure accommodations where they can resume their lives until permanent homes and offices can be constructed.

This means learning the lessons of shoddy and corrupt work after the 1995 Kobe quake done under the guise of the need for speed. Estimated costs of this disaster have risen past $300 billion or three times those of 1995.

Short-term there must be an inquest into how Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), the operators of the Fukushima plant and of much of Japan's nuclear capacity, managed to evade safety checks and why they stored more spent fuel rods at the facility than was safe.

This would include an assessment of whether nuclear power is a safe option for earthquake- and tsunami-prone Japan. It should involve an investigation into the coziness, collusion and corruption between leading officials and Tepco and how to prevent its recurrence among officials, politicians and construction companies on the make for fast bucks from post-quake reconstruction.

Somewhere beyond that, Japan would benefit from a medium to long-term study of what sort of 21st-century country it aspires to be, which would include looking at the structure of the economy and the role of agriculture, industry and trade, and foreign relations in a globalizing world. It would also be helpful to examine relations between politicians, bureaucrats, leading corporate executives and the people at large.

All this means political choices and politicians who will lead but consult and respond to the people. Kan offered to bring opposition leader Sadakazu Tanigaki into a grand coalition government. Tanigaki refused. Why should he join when Kan had not spelled out how a coalition would work? But neither Tanigaki nor any of the other contenders for power have shown much understanding or initiative as to how they might be willing and able to contribute to a national rebuilding.

Politicians of all proliferations seem to be in sleep-walking mode, waiting to wake up so that they can resume their normal petty squabbling. Japanese politics resembles a child's kaleidoscope full of colorful clashing pieces of paper. You put it up to your eye a moment later and the bits have all changed position.

Apart from the principal officers of state, most of the 18 members of the Cabinet are ministers of catchy slogans. Kaoru Yosano for example was brought in as a fiscal hawk who would find a way of raising new taxes to tackle the yawning budget deficit. His title is minister of state for economic and fiscal policy. This post puts him in charge of birthrate and gender-equality issues, social security, and tax reform. There is a separate finance minister and a minister of economy, trade and industry.

There is talk of three supplementary budgets in the 2011 fiscal year, but no thoughts of how to pay for them. The sport of the budget was supposed to be whether Kan would have to quit or call an election as the price of its passage.

If he values his own skin, Kan had better start putting together a plan before his rivals wake up.

Kevin Rafferty, based in Hong Kong, is editor in chief of PlainWords Media.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

THE FALSE PANACEA OF WORKFORCE FLEXIBILITY

BY HELEEN MEES

AMSTERDAM — Competitiveness has become one of the economic buzzwords of our time. U.S. President Barack Obama trumpeted it during his State of the Union address in January, while European leaders and Japanese fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano have embraced it as a priority.

But what sort of competitiveness do they have in mind?

Asked during an interview in September 2007 whether European governments should liberalize their countries' labor codes, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan responded that Europe's labor-protection laws significantly inhibited economic performance and resulted in chronically high unemployment across the continent.

But it's no longer September 2007. U.S. unemployment stands at 9.4 percent, not 4.5 percent. And according to Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, there is no reason to expect the jobless rate to approach 5 percent — generally considered the natural rate of unemployment — anytime soon.

In the 2000s, the U.S. lost 2 million private-sector jobs on balance, with the total falling from 110 million in December 1999 to 108 million in December 2009, despite massive consumer spending. That 1.4 percent decline came during a decade in which the U.S. population grew by about 9.8 percent.

To understand what is happening, consider Evergreen Solar, the third-largest maker of solar panels in the U.S., which announced in January that it would close its main American factory, lay off its 800 workers there within two months, and shift production to China. Evergreen's management cited the much higher government support available in China as its reason for the move.

Evergreen is only one of many cases suggesting that the U.S. might find itself in the midst of what Princeton economist Alan Blinder in 2005 dubbed the Third Industrial Revolution. According to Blinder, 42 million to 56 million American jobs — about one-third of all public- and private-sector jobs in the country — are vulnerable for offshoring.

If anything, we are only in the early stages of that revolution, and although the outcome remains uncertain, a preliminary comparison between Europe's largest economy, Germany, and the U.S. suggests that the former is better equipped to hold its own in the age of globalization.

German multinationals like Siemens and Daimler are ratcheting up investment to meet both emerging- market and domestic demand. The companies plan to add hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide this year alone. While many of these jobs will be in Asia, both companies say they will add high-skill jobs in Germany as well.

Is Germany's labor-market rigidity to thank for that? It may indeed be part of the explanation. A recent study by the Central Planning Bureau in the Netherlands shows that workers with a permanent contract receive more employer-funded training than workers with a temporary contract.

For U.S. employers, it is much easier to purge workers from the payroll — or, as Robert Gordon of Northwestern University puts it, to toss out every deck chair — than it is for German employers. Germany's labor code bars such layoffs, but German employers also are presumably less inclined than U.S. employers to shed workers, because they have invested more in their companies' human capital. With fewer firm-specific skills than their German counterparts, American workers are more susceptible to layoffs.

Indeed, Siemens, apparently conscious of the benefits of labor-market rigidity, has taken the unusual step of promising its employees a job for life. Last year, the company sealed an agreement with the trade union IG Metall that includes a no-layoff pledge for its 128,000-strong German workforce.

A more important explanation for Germany's economic success may be the substantial government support that German industries receive on a structural basis, especially the auto industry. The U.S. economy, on the other hand, is bogging down in its policymakers' persistent emphasis on consumption and tax cuts (most notably for the super-rich) over investment.

The U.S. needs to change its economic policy course. A decade of historically low interest rates has led to economic imbalances in favor of sectors that are highly leveraged: the financial sector, the housing market and private equity. This has come at the expense of sectors that are more dependent on equity financing. Now that the housing bubble has burst, the U.S. finds itself out-trained, out-educated and out-maneuvered in the global competition for employment.

We now know that labor-market deregulation does not ensure economic resilience and rapid job creation. On the contrary, the best solution is probably a diversity of labor contracts. Some labor-market rigidity may make sense for jobs that require firm-specific skills and training, alongside greater flexibility for jobs that require fewer skills.

Heleen Mees is a Dutch economist and lawyer. Her most recent book,"Weg met het deeltijdfeminisme!," examines third-generation feminism. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

WHOSE INTERESTS TO SERVE?

As our intelligence community is struggling hard to improve itself and provide early and accurate information to the country's top decision makers in the wake of several incidents of mob violence nationwide and a series of bomb attacks in Jakarta, a severe tug-of-war is occurring at the House of Representatives on the scope of the authority that the nation's intelligence agencies should have.

Providing intelligence agencies with a legal umbrella is undoubtedly necessary to ensure that they act within the Constitution and the limits of the law.

The problem is that some articles in the government-drafted intelligence bill currently under deliberation at the House are counter to universally recognized human rights principles, such as the presumption of innocence and equality before the law.

People's traumatic experiences with the nation's intelligence agencies during Soeharto's rule are still vividly remembered by many Indonesians. It is understandable that many are still reluctant to give more power to our intelligence bodies.

One key article of the intelligence bill has the potential to ignore human rights and basic legal principles: Granting intelligence agencies authority to intercept private communications, including those on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, in the name of security.

We are of the opinion that granting spy agencies eavesdropping authority — for whatever reason — would violate basic human rights that have only a tentative foothold in Indonesia, such as the freedom of speech and the freedom of opinion.

The article that would authorize intelligence agencies to monitor private communications in Indonesia mirrors the scope of the greatly criticized Patriot Act, which was approved by the US Congress and enacted by US president George W. Bush in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We oppose that article and believe that intelligence agencies should be allowed to monitor private communications only after securing court approval — a common legal practice in many parts of the world.

Also controversial are proposed articles authorizing intelligence agencies to arrest and questioning suspects for up to seven days. Again, such actions should only be authorized by a court and intelligence agencies must have sufficient evidence prior to detaining suspects. Failure to secure court approval or obtain evidence runs counter to the principles of presumption of innocence and equality before the law that assure the fair treatment of all Indonesian people, including suspected criminals and terrorists.

Another article that has failed to attract the attention of House lawmakers relates to the organization of the nation's intelligence community. The article would establish the State Intelligence Coordinating Agency (LKIN), a non-ministerial government body that would directly report to the President.

In our experience, placing the chief of the nation's top intelligence institution under the direct supervision of the President will lead to abuse in Indonesia. The intelligence community might wind up working for the interests of the president instead of the state.

Deliberation on the bill is underway. There is still ample of time for the country's lawmakers to carefully and thoroughly study the proposed articles and make necessary adjustments and revisions to make it more legally and constitutionally compliant.

No one can deny that the state needs strong and effective intelligence agencies. But no one can deny that all intelligence activities should be done in accordance with the laws. Sadly, poor and corrupt law enforcement is one of the most dangerous problems in this country.

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THE JAKARTA POST

LEGAL UNCERTAINTY IS CAUSED BY ADVOCATES

SEBASTIAAN POMPE

In February 2011 one of the most prominent advocates in Jakarta, a darling of the international community, informed a foreign mission that the main reason for poor legal certainty in Indonesia is the fact that the Supreme Court does not publish its decisions.

This is something one hears quite often from the advocate community. In public statements, the media and publications, the Indonesian advocacy habitually blames the courts for legal uncertainty, and they point at the absence of published court decisions as the main reason.

In reality, in February 2011 the Supreme Court had 22,437 decisions on its website. That is more than the all decisions published by the Supreme Courts of the US, the Netherlands and Australia put together over the past ten years.

Indeed, it is more decisions than the number of decisions published by the US Supreme Court over the past hundred years.

The latest decision that was uploaded was yesterday (www.putusan.mahkamahagung.go.id/).

This large collection does not include the decisions from many other Indonesian courts that are also published.

Thus the Constitutional Court publishes all its decisions on its own website (www.mahkamahkonstitusi.go.id), the Commercial Court published all its decisions since 1998 in hard copy format (by Tatanusa www.tatanusa.co.id), while the decisions published on the individual websites of the respective courts which in many cases are very numerous (cf. Quarterly Fact Sheet Issue 4 — in March 2011 an assessment of all court websites was published cf. Muhamad Faiz Aziz, Mega Ramadhani et al., An assessment of court websites (Jakarta: Tatanusa 2011)). Thus, the religious court Surabaya published 2814 decisions over 2010 (http://www.pa-surabaya.go.id/) and nearly all 340 religious courts publish their decisions separately on their websites.

Furthermore, there are the decisions published over past decades in journals such as Yurisprudensi Indonesia, Varia Peradilan, Hukum dan Pembangunan or Hukum as well as private collections such as Chidir Ali, Setiawan or more recently the MTI series on court decisions in corruption cases.

These collections sometimes are significant: the monthly journal Varia Peradilan published 5-10 decisions in each issue for over 30 years (and continues to do so) and must come close to 3,000 decisions.

The body of court decisions that is publicly accessible has always been understated, but in recent years the Supreme Court in particular has been driving at comprehensive publication, working back in time.

So in sum, modern Indonesia has a very large and very up to date collection of published court decisions.

Why do advocates in this country, including some of the most prominent ones, fail to grasp this reality?

This issue is all the more surprising because the large-scale publication of court decisions is not really something new as we have seen, but has been unfolding since the early days of reform more than a decade ago.

So why would advocates ignore the existence of a very large body of legal information which is readily available at their fingertips?

Why would they even go to the point of stating before foreign visitors that these court decisions
do not exist, and that this in fact is the very root cause of legal uncertainty?

One conclusion must be that if advocates do not know about this large collection of court decisions, then presumably their legal practice does not include perusing records of court decisions.

What this comment really says is that the tens of thousands of court decisions that are currently published are irrelevant for the work of advocates in Indonesia.

Under these conditions, for Indonesian advocates to complain about the absence of court decisions breathes hypocrisy.

It also shows that currently one of the main causes of the weak legal certainty in Indonesia sits with the advocate profession.

The way to shape the law and to hold courts accountable for their decisions is through a critical discourse, and it is incumbent on advocates to engage in such discourse when arguing cases before the courts.

When the advocates do not bother to check on published decisions, such critical discourse never happens, and accountability falls flat.

The failure of the Indonesian advocacy to recognize even the existence of a massive body of published court decisions, let alone work with it, is a reflection of the weakness of the advocate profession in Indonesia, marked as it is by professional fragmentation and lack of discipline.

It is important to understand that when we talk about judicial accountability and legal certainty in modern Indonesia, this is less a problem of the law and more a problem of the legal institutions and professions. Also, it is less a problem of courts, and more a problem of the advocacy.

Of course, the Supreme Court shares responsibility in enforcing its own discipline.

It really does not help if one senior Supreme Court Justice says that consistent jurisprudence implies that some jurisprudence therefore can be inconsistent as happened not too long ago. As legal systems go this is just wrong, and not a very intelligent statement.

Another Supreme Court Justice said just last month that "we have the continental legal system which therefore means we have disparity in decisions". This statement shows complete ignorance about even the roots of the Indonesian legal system, or what legal systems are about generally.

It is just an utterly foolish thing to say. Comments such as these are troubling, and do their bit in reducing public confidence in the competence of the Supreme Court and the legal system in Indonesia as a whole.

The Supreme Court leadership must be much firmer and clearer in defining what its decisions actually mean. The court absolutely must create discipline in its own decision-making, actively project that discipline to the broader legal community and beyond, and be tough in maintaining that discipline internally.


This is much more than just instituting chambers: It is instilling a common understanding on the role and true meaning of court decisions.

But in the broader context of making courts accountable and shaping the law, the Supreme Court more than holds its part of the bargain.

Its publication of decisions is really impressive, indeed unprecedented. More generally the information the courts made available to the general public exceeds that of all other state institutions, ranging from court decisions to budget figures.

The judiciary is the most transparent public agency in the country.

Making that information and accountability work really is up to the legal professions, the advocates foremost amongst them.

They ought to analyze and digest the court decisions, use them in their own litigation, refer to them, develop a disciplined critical discourse between each other and the courts. The advocates fail to do all this: they do not read, do not use, do not refer and do not discourse.

And when foreign visitors come, the advocates even deny the decisions are there.

It is a shame. And it underscores that the principal cause for the lack of legal certainty in modern Indonesia is with the fragmented and incompetent Indonesian advocacy.

The writer is program manager, National Legal Reform Program.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

LEGAL UNCERTAINTY IS CAUSED BY ADVOCATES

SEBASTIAAN POMPE

In February 2011 one of the most prominent advocates in Jakarta, a darling of the international community, informed a foreign mission that the main reason for poor legal certainty in Indonesia is the fact that the Supreme Court does not publish its decisions.

This is something one hears quite often from the advocate community. In public statements, the media and publications, the Indonesian advocacy habitually blames the courts for legal uncertainty, and they point at the absence of published court decisions as the main reason.

In reality, in February 2011 the Supreme Court had 22,437 decisions on its website. That is more than the all decisions published by the Supreme Courts of the US, the Netherlands and Australia put together over the past ten years.

Indeed, it is more decisions than the number of decisions published by the US Supreme Court over the past hundred years.

The latest decision that was uploaded was yesterday (www.putusan.mahkamahagung.go.id/).

This large collection does not include the decisions from many other Indonesian courts that are also published.

Thus the Constitutional Court publishes all its decisions on its own website (www.mahkamahkonstitusi.go.id), the Commercial Court published all its decisions since 1998 in hard copy format (by Tatanusa www.tatanusa.co.id), while the decisions published on the individual websites of the respective courts which in many cases are very numerous (cf. Quarterly Fact Sheet Issue 4 — in March 2011 an assessment of all court websites was published cf. Muhamad Faiz Aziz, Mega Ramadhani et al., An assessment of court websites (Jakarta: Tatanusa 2011)). Thus, the religious court Surabaya published 2814 decisions over 2010 (http://www.pa-surabaya.go.id/) and nearly all 340 religious courts publish their decisions separately on their websites.

Furthermore, there are the decisions published over past decades in journals such as Yurisprudensi Indonesia, Varia Peradilan, Hukum dan Pembangunan or Hukum as well as private collections such as Chidir Ali, Setiawan or more recently the MTI series on court decisions in corruption cases.

These collections sometimes are significant: the monthly journal Varia Peradilan published 5-10 decisions in each issue for over 30 years (and continues to do so) and must come close to 3,000 decisions.

The body of court decisions that is publicly accessible has always been understated, but in recent years the Supreme Court in particular has been driving at comprehensive publication, working back in time.

So in sum, modern Indonesia has a very large and very up to date collection of published court decisions.

Why do advocates in this country, including some of the most prominent ones, fail to grasp this reality?

This issue is all the more surprising because the large-scale publication of court decisions is not really something new as we have seen, but has been unfolding since the early days of reform more than a decade ago.

So why would advocates ignore the existence of a very large body of legal information which is readily available at their fingertips?

Why would they even go to the point of stating before foreign visitors that these court decisions do not exist, and that this in fact is the very root cause of legal uncertainty?

One conclusion must be that if advocates do not know about this large collection of court decisions, then presumably their legal practice does not include perusing records of court decisions.

What this comment really says is that the tens of thousands of court decisions that are currently published are irrelevant for the work of advocates in Indonesia.

Under these conditions, for Indonesian advocates to complain about the absence of court decisions breathes hypocrisy.

It also shows that currently one of the main causes of the weak legal certainty in Indonesia sits with the advocate profession.

The way to shape the law and to hold courts accountable for their decisions is through a critical discourse, and it is incumbent on advocates to engage in such discourse when arguing cases before the courts.

When the advocates do not bother to check on published decisions, such critical discourse never happens, and accountability falls flat.

The failure of the Indonesian advocacy to recognize even the existence of a massive body of published court decisions, let alone work with it, is a reflection of the weakness of the advocate profession in Indonesia, marked as it is by professional fragmentation and lack of discipline.

It is important to understand that when we talk about judicial accountability and legal certainty in modern Indonesia, this is less a problem of the law and more a problem of the legal institutions and professions. Also, it is less a problem of courts, and more a problem of the advocacy.

Of course, the Supreme Court shares responsibility in enforcing its own discipline.

It really does not help if one senior Supreme Court Justice says that consistent jurisprudence implies that some jurisprudence therefore can be inconsistent as happened not too long ago. As legal systems go this is just wrong, and not a very intelligent statement.

Another Supreme Court Justice said just last month that "we have the continental legal system which therefore means we have disparity in decisions". This statement shows complete ignorance about even the roots of the Indonesian legal system, or what legal systems are about generally.

It is just an utterly foolish thing to say. Comments such as these are troubling, and do their bit in reducing public confidence in the competence of the Supreme Court and the legal system in Indonesia as a whole.

The Supreme Court leadership must be much firmer and clearer in defining what its decisions actually mean. The court absolutely must create discipline in its own decision-making, actively project that discipline to the broader legal community and beyond, and be tough in maintaining that discipline internally.

This is much more than just instituting chambers: It is instilling a common understanding on the role and true meaning of court decisions.

But in the broader context of making courts accountable and shaping the law, the Supreme Court more than holds its part of the bargain.

Its publication of decisions is really impressive, indeed unprecedented. More generally the information the courts made available to the general public exceeds that of all other state institutions, ranging from court decisions to budget figures.

The judiciary is the most transparent public agency in the country.

Making that information and accountability work really is up to the legal professions, the advocates foremost amongst them.

They ought to analyze and digest the court decisions, use them in their own litigation, refer to them, develop a disciplined critical discourse between each other and the courts. The advocates fail to do all this: they do not read, do not use, do not refer and do not discourse.

And when foreign visitors come, the advocates even deny the decisions are there.

It is a shame. And it underscores that the principal cause for the lack of legal certainty in modern Indonesia is with the fragmented and incompetent Indonesian advocacy.

The writer is program manager, National Legal Reform Program.

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THE JAKARTA POST

INDONESIA'S TAINTED DEMOCRACY CALLS FOR CHANGES

RIZAL RAMLI

Recent revelations from WikiLeaks documents, stating that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his family were involved in corruption are, frankly, not a big surprise.

After all, Indonesian politics is notoriously dirty.

Yudhoyono and his advisors have tried to play down the scandal, but make no mistake about it: Since the news about the palace shenanigans has hit the streets, the outlook for Yudhoyono's presidency until the 2014 elections has been very bleak.

Until recently, mainstream opinion about Yudhoyono had been that he was a weak leader but he remained popular because of the common belief that he possessed that rarest of commodities in Indonesian politics: integrity.

But now that a shadow has been cast over his reputation as an honest character, people are starting to wonder if he deserves to stay in office until the end of his term.

Even if Yudhoyono were dishonest and not the leader everybody hoped he was, one could at least find a good reason to support him if his administration had made some decent progress in national development.

Sadly, the quality of life in Indonesia has declined under Yudhoyono's leadership.

Although economic growth has been respectable, less than 20 percent of the population lives comfortably while the vast majority must continuously struggle to make ends meet.

Even menial jobs are difficult to find and the average income remains very low. Prices of staple foods and daily necessities have been increasing over the past year, leading to an increase in poverty.

Not only has life become more difficult for the average Indonesian under Yudhoyono's watch, but we have also witnessed a return to the excesses of power that plagued the country under the former Soeharto regime.

The "legal mafia" — a commonly used reference to organized crime throughout the country's legal system — remains a constant menace and prevents us from becoming a more humane and just society.

In fact, the legal mafia is a cabal of influential private attorneys, officials within the police, the prosecutor's office and the judiciary. As a result, the law is conveniently ineffective when applied to elite citizens with money and power.

Many thoughtful observers believe that we can no longer afford to ignore Yudhoyono's failures as a president. Our acceptance of his shortcomings is an act of collective irresponsibility and ensures us of continued decay.

What we are witnessing today is the spreading of the seeds of national disintegration. In turn, this could translate into Indonesia becoming a failed state.

Former Soviet Union president Gorbachev was known as a very judicious leader who was praised by Western leaders. He was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

His weak leadership, however, was blamed for runaway unemployment, a dramatic loss of public welfare and, eventually, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While Indonesia enjoys plaudits from the international community for being one of the largest democracies in the world, I would argue that beyond the right to vote in elections there are few other reasons to wax eloquent about our particular brand of freedom.

So while we may be categorized as an electoral democracy, there is another sobering reality that needs to be addressed: While Indonesians have the right to vote, their votes have only bought them what is best described as a "tainted democracy".

What this means for the average citizen is that the system is only successful at increasing the wealth of crony businessmen, executive officials and legislators — hence defeating the core principle of democracy itself, which is government for the people.

For those Indonesians who care deeply about the future of our country, it has become painfully clear that the reformist movement needs to be reinvigorated.

Civil society must unite to voice their discontent and demand political change.

Change is the only solution for containing a tainted democracy, weak leadership and a troubled government.

Political change can oust small self-interested elitist groups and champion efforts to make democracy work genuinely in the interests of the people.

The process for political change, however, does not require a coup or an overthrow of government. A coup can only be carried out with guns or by military forces.

Far-reaching change can be endorsed effectively by strong public support through a peaceful and non-violent approach.

If Indonesians can manage to gain ownership of their democracy, it would set a great example for the rest of the world.

In 1998, Indonesia took the bold step by moving out of the shadows of authoritarian rule.

Similar transitions are beginning to take shape in the Arab world. Now a new, equally important transition needs to take place in Indonesia for others to see: The replacement of the elite that only makes a mockery of our hard-earned political freedom.

Indonesia can still become one of the greatest nations in Asia, but Indonesians must now understand that it is their individual responsibility as citizens to stand up for their rights and keep pushing for change until democracy can work for their own welfare.

If change toward a better quality democracy materializes, Indonesia could again show the world that our democracy is capable of self-correction toward the establishment of genuine social justice.

The writer was the coordinating economic, financial and industrial affairs minister during the presidency of Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid. He is a political observer.

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THE JAKARTA POST

DEPOLARIZING THE WATER DEBATE

MOHAMAD MOVA AL AFGHANI

Since the enactment of the Water Law in 2004 and the Constitutional Court's judicial review of the law in 2005, the discourse over water management in Indonesia has been largely polarized into "privatization" versus "anti-privatization" poles. Having said that, the definition of privatization itself is far from being settled by both fronts.

The government has always equated "privatization" with "share divestiture", and has therefore denied on many occasions that privatization occurs in the water sector.

Technically, the government is correct. In practice, however, it's lip-service. The anti-privatization group, on the other hand, often confuses privatization with liberalization, corporatization or commercialization.

At the very heart, the anti-privatization movement appears to reject any application of economic principles to water management, while at the same time failing to offer any feasible alternatives.

What happens then is a game of hide and seek. In order to avoid invalidation by the Constitutional Court due to strong public pressure against privatization, only one paragraph — out of 100 articles in the 2004 Water Law — is dedicated to regulating private sector participation in water services.

But even that one paragraph is vague, and the term "business enterprises" is subsumed in a sentence together with "cooperatives".

The paragraph says: "Cooperatives, privately-owned business enterprises and the [members of] society may participate in the undertaking of the development of drinking water provision systems."

The law does not say what kind of participation a business enterprise may engage in. The implementing regulation of the Water Law only mandates that the government enters into contracts with the private sector.

Neither the Water Law nor its implementing regulation have ever detailed how the public interest would be safeguarded by such contracts.

And so contracts between local governments and the private sector were entered into without any sufficient protection from public law.

Numerous 25-30 year water services "concession" contracts have been signed in several regions; they are oftentimes poorly negotiated, poorly drafted and poorly supervised.

What the government and their international financial institution counterparts often forget is that transplanting foreign legal concepts does not always end in success.

One of the reasons why regulation-by-contract works in other countries such as France is because of the make-up of their judiciaries, which allows administrative judges to take the role of regulator in settling delegated public service problems arising out of concession or lease contracts.

Our legal system, inherited from the Dutch, bars judges from taking up a regulatory position. Thus, many transplant projects such as "concessions" end in "organ failure".

What the anti-privatization groups often suggest to tackle this problem is to terminate concession projects and get rid of the private sector.

Unfortunately, they have not presented a sound argument as to how the incumbent Regional Tap Water Company (PDAM) will run the company if the private sector leaves, bearing in mind that a robust governance system for PDAM is not yet in place.

One of the factors is presumably that the focus and energy spent by anti-privatization groups had been exhausted by criticizing the less "privatized" water companies — which comprise less than 7 percent of the total — while the remaining 93 percent of the publicly owned PDAM remain overlooked.

Anti-privatization debates have also failed to secure the pragmatic interest of the water consumer in places where "privatization" occurs.

Jakarta's water services, for example, are governed by 18-year-old pre-reformasi, pre-regional autonomy, Soeharto-era bylaws.

Not a single clause in the bylaws contain the term "consumer rights". So, if you happen to be a resident of Jakarta, the bylaw unfortunately does not really allow you to complain about bad service.

Some of your rights might be regulated in the concession contract between Jakarta's local government and the two private water companies, but as the contract contains a confidentiality clause you may not be allowed to read, ironically, what are supposed to be your rights.

In foreign countries such as England, water companies are fully privatized and as a consequence are also fully regulated and consumer rights are guaranteed.

Indonesians, on the other hand, are averse to acknowledge that private sector participation occurs in practice, and so leave the regulatory framework vague.

The consequences are dire: The delegation of public services to the private sector is running wild and consumers are victimized.

I think it is high time for us to depolarize the debate and put rhetoric aside. What matters most is not public or private but how the consumer's interest is safeguarded.

We need to start reforming our institutions. This can start in your own city, by asking your legislator to enact or revise the regional bylaw on water services.

After all, water is what you drink every day, you should want the law to provide some basic guarantees.

The writer is a Ph.D. candidate at the UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science in Dundee, UK.

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THE JAKARTA POST

THE INTERNET AND REGIME SECURITY

BAMBANG HARTADI NUGROHO

Controversy over the Internet has remained rife decades after it became public. During the 1990s, we witnessed the spread of the technology to almost every part of the world, giving the people access to a nearly unlimited flow of information and new ways to communicate with each other.

On the other hand, such freedom has often been met with the never ending effort of authorities to limit or put boundaries on their own people. Responses taken by governments vary from implementing certain regulations on the use of the Internet to restricting certain content deemed threatening or sensitive. Others have gone even further by applying a total shut down, preventing the public from accessing it.

The latest discourse raised by the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) on the need to monitor social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook is evidence of the endless conflict between freedom and state security.

There is clearly a common concern among those authorities on the power of the Internet; the power derived from its very own nature: Its accessibility and influence upon people. The recent phenomenon of a whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks, has caused significant distress to many governments all over the world.

In addition, the mass use of social media — some that also acts as whistle-blowers — has also added weight to this concern. Although very much contentious, it is understandable that some then see the Internet phenomena as a "non-military security threat", due to the "damage" it may or has done.

When dealing with the concept of security, one might have the tendency to misinterpret its meaning, due to the wide spectrum of its definition. The traditional notion of "security" as an academic concept was at the very beginning considered identical to "national security".

Simply put, when speaking about national security, one will seek to ensure the survival of a nation or a state against external threats — something described as military threats from other states.

The main reason such narrow coverage of "security" dominated the academic as well as policy debates during the Cold War was because the main international actors at that time — the US and Soviet Union — were quite well-established.

They did not have to pay attention to vulnerabilities; That is, threats coming from the domestic side of the state. As a consequence, they could and had to focus on external threats in the form of military threats from each of their own rivals. Despite the concept of security widening in the post-Cold War era, military threats are still considered one of the most important elements in defining national security.

A completely different understanding, however, can be found within the Third World countries. Yong-Pyo Hong (2000) explained that to most developing countries, internal threats are as important as, if not more important than, external threats.

Those threats from within the State are defined as political weakness, economic underdevelopment and social cleavages.

Although these phenomena mostly happen in authoritarian states, it might also take place in democracies such as Indonesia. The keyword used is political legitimacy; that is to say that any government whose political legitimacy is weak would seek to strengthen its position by any means necessary.

Clear distinction can be drawn from both definitions. The first focus more on the state as the referent object of security.

It deals with the survival and the well-being of the whole nation bound in the form of a state.

Meanwhile, the second deals only with the survival of a certain government or regime by removing any possible threats that may endanger its already fragile legitimacy, hence the name Regime Security.

Consequently, when something is declared a threat to security, the question that follows should be: Whose security?

There are two sides on which the Internet stands. It must be acknowledged that the Internet may act as an imminent threat to security. The past two decades have shown a growing concern on various forms of cyber crime, with targets ranging from the governments to the people.

In some cases, the attacks have a wide impact, therefore, they can be considered a security threat. However, this does not represent the entire realm, therefore cannot be valid ground to deem the whole network a threat to national security.

On the other hand, Manuel Castels (2001) claimed that the Internet has become an indivisible element of the social movement in the network era. The Internet has provided a medium for ordinary people to engage in the struggle to promote universal values: Human rights, democracy, social justice, the environment and so on. In other words, it has become a medium for spreading ideas to and creating awareness for the people all around the world, including those under the ruling of authoritarian regimes.

Such an argument is most evident in the recent regime changes in the Middle East. Regardless of arguments attempting to prove that regime changes occurred by design, it is interesting to see global support from the people toward those who are struggling and under oppression in those states.

From news sites to social networking sites, they have been spreading the word from the inside to the people all around the world about what is happening; and support has resulted.

Considering that situation, an Internet shut down is a logical action that can be taken by the regimes. The aim was clearly to prevent the public from earning and spreading information regarding their countries, therefore limiting domestic pressure on the sitting regime.

In the situation where their political legitimacy is already at stake, those regimes cannot afford other challenges delivered through the Internet, thus cutting their people's access to it is the best measure.

From this experience, the lesson that can be learned is that the notion "security" must not be taken for granted. "Security" has the consequence of expanding state power and authority over the referred issue, and this includes taking any means necessary to contain any threat it may cause.

Unfortunately, the nation does not always share the same security concern as the ruling regime, therefore, the people have every right to deny any securitizing move made by their governments.

This also applies in the attempt made by certain governments to declare the Internet a threat to security. Particularly because, when they speak about it, they do not always refer to national security, but their very own regime security instead.

The writer is an assistant lecturer in international relations at the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

MOHALI: TRIVIALISATION OF AN IMPORTANT INITIATIVE

I have been a strong and consistent critic of the manner in which  the  Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has been handling India-Pakistan relations.

Nobody has written more strongly on his agreement with then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at Havana in September 2006 for a joint counter-terrorism machinery than I.

Nobody has written more strongly on his failure to deal effectively  with Pakistan post-26/11 than I.

 Nobody has hit out more vehemently at him post-Sharm-el-Sheikh than I for making a reference to Balochistan in his joint statement with Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani.I had also written an open letter to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress (I) President, on this subject. I had criticised him on other occasions too for what I perceived was a lack of consistency in his policy towards Pakistan.

Yet, despite my past criticism of Dr. Manmohan Singh, I have refrained from deploring the initiative taken by him in inviting President Asif Ali Zardari and Gilani to watch the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket semi-final at Mohali on March 30 except on the ground that inviting both the Head of State and the Head of Government of Pakistan could impose a heavy responsibility on our intelligence and security agencies which would be called upon to protect them.

My decision to refrain from criticising our Prime Minister's Mohali initiative could be attributed to two reasons. Firstly, I have been feeling for over a year now that Indo-Pakistan relations have got into a rut and that the time has come for the two countries to think of ways of giving it a forward push. Secondly, I saw the Prime Minister's invitation to the two Pakistani leaders not as a diplomatic initiative to discuss substantive issues, but as an attempt to create a Feel-Good atmosphere between the two countries at a time when the atmosphere of  suspicions and hostility towards Pakistan in India  is very strong because of Pakistan's perceived lack of interest in the investigation and prosecution of the Pakistan-based co-conspirators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes and due to reports on the ingress of a large number of Chinese troops into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and China's decision, with US complicity, to supply two more nuclear power stations to Pakistan.

The Prime Minister, as I could notice, had taken care to see that his invitation to the two Pakistani leaders is not viewed as "cricket diplomacy" or as yet another exercise at summitry. If he had wanted it to be another summit exercise, he would not have invited both the Head of State and the Head of Government, though ultimately only Gilani has accepted the invitation. If he had wanted  to upstage the road map laid down for the resumption of formal talks with Pakistan at the level of senior officials, he would have most probably convened a meeting of either the National Security Council (NSC) or the Cabinet Committee on Security to prepare the groundwork for the initiative. There are no indications to show that he did either.

It seems to have been a decision taken by him on the spur of the moment after it became clear that India and Pakistan would be pitted against each other in one of the semi-finals. Because of the continuing cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, we could not have been generous in issuing visas to Pakistani spectators wanting to cross over into India to watch the match. The invitation to the two leaders of the Pakistani people is a gesture which could mitigate to some extent any disappointment in Pakistan over India's reluctance to issue more visas.

It is an important, but risky  gesture which could have political consequences---positive if the two Prime Ministers reach some understanding on bilateral relations in the margins of the match and negative if Mohali is followed by a serious act of terrorism somewhere. In an earlier article, I had stressed the importance of not projecting the cricket match as another Indo-Pak war to be won or lost. It is equally important not to project the Prime Minister's invitation as a major diplomatic move, which it does not seem to be. We should avoid unnecessarily and unwisely creating either feelings of confrontation over the match or feelings of expectation over the meeting of the two Prime Ministers during the match .We should also avoid Hyde Park style debates on this issue in our TV channels---- as one saw in the "We The People" programme of NDTV on March 27. Indo-Pakistan relations are too serious a matter to be trivialised as they were in the programme.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India,New Delhi)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

BROKER PEACE IN LIBYA NOW

The skies of Libya are scrambled with firepower. French Rafale jets, British RAF Tornadoes and the US Tomahawk missiles rule the roost. Despite the coalition's claim that it has effectively enforced a no-fly zone, Paris and London continue to fly sorties attacking sensitive installations inside Libya. This has compounded the situation on ground and resulted in large-scale casualties, which the West loves to call it as collateral damage.

Yet, the very premise of attacking the North African country is far from served, as pro-Gaddafi forces are reportedly attacking civilians as a revenge tactic in an attempt to quell the uprising. This equation suggests that Libya is heading towards a long-drawn civil war and one that will also continue to weather foreign onslaught, as well. The mounting wave of human exodus and spike in social problems hints at grave dangers to the war-ravaged country's territorial integrity.

It is quite unfortunate that as Libyas marshland is being pounced with potassium, no political effort is underway to bring the crisis to an end. The African Union's desire to broker a ceasefire and send in a delegation to persuade Col. Gaddafi to relinquish power is in need of being harnessed. The earlier the initiative is put to test, the better. Sporadic fighting on ground and indiscriminate use of air power have rocked the country's serenity, and has left it in a state of complete lawlessness, devoid of the writ of government. Washington, which wants to take a backseat in air raids by handing over the command decorum to Britain and France, can make use of its diplomatic muscles to broker an accord with Gaddafi.

The US knows well what Gaddafi's limitations are and how he can be persuaded to give in. If the cap that the FBI had superficially put on Libyan assets and accounts in the US is any criterion, the State Department holds enough leverage to convince Gaddafi to quit in order to save his skin, kith and kin. It, however, remains to be seen how the Obama administration deals with the rapidly unfolding developments in Libya, and puts its foot down. To this day, it has relied more on rhetoric and largely acted as a passive player behind the European assertiveness to re-colonise Africa.

Putting an end to skirmishes between the pro-and-anti Gaddafi forces is a must. And that cannot be done until and unless a serious effort is made on its internal and external levels. With the international community's demand for a no-fly zone in vogue, it's time to cease operation Odysseys Dawn and get down to the real business of making peace. The jingoism of air strikes, which were resorted to without exhausting diplomatic options, now haunts the peace and security of the entire region. The rationale, if any at all, behind attacking Libya has backfired.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

'THERE IS NO PERFECT OPTION IN A SITUATION LIKE IN LIBYA'

Every decision is going to have pluses and minuses

Following is the first interview since the attacks on Libya began,  given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Jake Tapper of ABC's This Week on Saturday.

Q:  NATO has assumed command and control of the no-fly zone, or is  it this weekend, but not yet for the civilian protection.  When do we anticipate that happening?

Well, we hope, that NATO, which is making the military planning for the civilian protection mission, will meet in the next few days, make a decision, which we expect to be positive, to include that mission, and then just as the arms embargo and the no-fly zone has been transitioned to NATO command and control, the civilian protection mission will as well.

Q:  What do you say to the people in Ivory Coast or Syria who say, "Where's our no-fly zone?  We're being killed by our government too."

Well, there's not an aircraft – there's not an air force being used.  There is not the same level of force.  The situation is significantly different enough that the world has not come together.  However, in Ivory Coast, we have a UN peacekeeping force which we are supporting.  We're beginning to see the world coalesce around the very obvious fact that Mr. Gbagbo no longer is president.  Mr. Ouattara is the president.

So each of these situations is different, but in Libya, when a leader says spare nothing, show no mercy and calls out air force attacks on his own people, that crosses a line that people in the world had decided they could not tolerate.

Q: When do we know that the mission is done?  The no-fly zone has succeeded, civilian protection has stopped. 

The United States Senate called for a no-fly zone in a resolution that it passed, I think, on March the 1st, and that mission is on the brink of having been accomplished.  And there was a lot of congressional support to do something.There is no perfect option when one is looking at a situation like this.  I think that the President ordered the best available option.  The United States worked with the international community to make sure that there was authorization to do what we have helped to accomplish.

But what is quite remarkable here is that NATO assuming the responsibility for the entire mission means that the United States will move to a supporting role.  Just as our allies are helping us in Afghanistan where we bear the disproportionate amount of the sacrifice and the cost, we are supporting a mission through NATO that was very much initiated by European requests joined by Arab requests.

I think this is a watershed moment in international decision making.  We learned a lot in the 1990s.  We saw what happened in Rwanda.  It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant.  But I think – and what has happened since March 1st – and we're not even done with the month – demonstrates really remarkable leadership.

Imagine we were sitting here and Benghazi had been overrun, a city of 700,000 people, and tens of thousands of people had been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands had fled either with nowhere to go or overwhelming Egypt while it's in its own difficult transition, and we were sitting here.  The cries would be, "Why did the United States not do anything?  Why – how could you stand by when France and the United Kingdom and other Europeans and the Arab League and your Arab partners were saying you've got to do something?"  So every decision that we make is going to have pluses and minuses. 

Q:  You heard the Secretary of Defence say that Libya did not pose an actual or imminent threat to the nation, and bearing in mind what you just said, I'm still wondering how the Administration reconciles the attack without congressional approval with then-candidate Obama saying in 2007 the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation and, as a senator, you yourself in 2007 said this about President Bush.

 If the administration believes that any – any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.

Q:   Why not go to Congress?

 Well, we would welcome congressional support, but I don't think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention where we are one of a number of countries participating to enforce a humanitarian mission is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama were speaking of several years ago.  I think that this had a limited timeframe, a very clearly defined mission, which we are in the process of fulfilling.

Q:  Secretary Clinton, on Pakistan, Pakistan has been trying to block U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the FATA region, it continues to work with terrorists to attack India, it held a U.S. diplomat in its prisons for several weeks, as I don't need to tell you.  Has this relationship gotten worse in the last six months, U.S.-Pakistan?

 It's a very challenging relationship because there have been some problems.  We were very appreciative of getting our diplomat out of Pakistan, and that took cooperation by the Government of Pakistan.  We have cooperated very closely together in going after terrorists who pose a threat to both us and to the Pakistanis themselves.  But it's a very difficult relationship because Pakistan is in a hard position trying to figure out how it's going to contend with its own internal extremist threat.  But I think on the other hand, we've also developed good lines of communication, good opportunities for cooperation, but it's something we have to work on every day.

Q: And finally, we've talked a bit about the end of this operation, how it ends.  I'm wondering if you can envision the United States supporting a plan where Qadhafi is exiled.  Would the U.S. be willing to support safe haven, immunity from prosecution, and access to funds as a way to end this conflict?

 We are nowhere near that kind of negotiation.  I'll be going to London on Tuesday for a conference that the British Government is hosting.  There will be a number of countries, not only those participating in the enforcement of the resolution, but also those who are pursuing political and other interventions.  And the United Nations has a special envoy who will also be actively working with Qadhafi and those around him.

We have sent a clear message that it is time for him to transition out of power.  The African Union has now called for a democratic transition.  We think that there will be developments along that line in the weeks and months ahead, but I can't, sitting here today, predict to you exactly how it's going to play out.  But we believe that Libya will have a better shot in the future if he departs and leaves power

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

 

 

 

THREE-WHEELER DRIVERS FORGET PASSENGER-SAFETY

In recent times the numbers of three-wheeler accidents have increased and passengers have suffered by the lack of responsibility on the part of three-wheeler drivers. Often the accidents have even been fatal and at other instances passengers have received severe injuries resulting in a long drawn recovery or even losing the use of a limb. Furthermore in many instances the injured passenger has to wait in the vehicle till the three-wheeler driver calls for the well-known insurance officer whose duty apparently is to check on the vehicle and report it for the repairs needed. He has no communication with the passenger nor does he advises the driver to take the injured passenger to a police station or hospital. The three wheeler driver with his inborn thoughts of self preservation then takes the passenger to their residence where distraught relatives scarcely think of police entries, their one concern been to rush the patient to hospital. And as far as these accidents go to government hospital often have to spend a considerable amount of funds to get a patient back on his feet. In a recent survey done by a hospital most accident took place during the daytime and the passengers were the commonest victims. Soft tissue injury and long bone fractures were often observed due to toppling due to a sudden turn of the vehicle. Out of the 28 drivers interviewed, 25 admitted breaking the handle-lock to increase the vehicle's turning angle. Toppling due to a sudden turn was identified as the cause of the accident in all those who had interfered with the handle-lock. At the time of the accident almost 89% of the drivers were under the influence of alcohol. The survey suggested that a strong association was observed between mechanical alteration of the vehicle's handle-lock and the risk of accident.

Driver licences are often issued without a proper medical examination or at best a cursory test which is not often insisted on. Applicants for a driving licence or for the renewal of such a license should have a binocular visual acuity. No defects should be present within a radius of the central 20 degrees. When a progressive eye disease is detected or declared, driving licences may be issued or renewed subject to the applicant undergoing regular examination by a competent medical authority.  A year or two ago there was a system by which three wheelers were registered according to the police division in which they functioned and the details of the police division was stamped on the vehicle. This made it easier to identify the vehicle. However though the scheme was started with much fanfare it appeared to have been suddenly dropped for now one finds more vehicles not having the police area they belong to stamped at the rear of the vehicle. 

It would also be given the power to insist that  the drivers have regular medical examinations for diabetes , eye examination and blood pressure since these can affect his judgment for the renewal of licenses. Further periodic examinations should be made to see that there is no alteration made on the vehicle hand lock device.

It really serves no purpose merely to charge a three wheeler driver for reckless driving without making him aware that he is responsible for the safety of his passenger. In fact as it was done by the traffic police many years ago to motorists who violated traffic regulations periodic lectures to three wheel drivers may have a punitive effect of reducing the number of fatal and semi fatal accidents that seem to happen with such regularity.

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DAILY MIRROR

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.

Hindu

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

 

SHOWDOWN TIME FOR CRICKET'S BIGGEST SHOW

A politically divided Sri Lanka, will be united and one in heart and mind as the biggest cricket show on earth reaches its showdown time with millions in most continents watching it live on television. Will it be Sri Lanka versus India or New Zealand taking on Pakistan in Saturday's ICC Cricket World Cup final? If not, will it be Sri Lanka having to battle Pakistan with India playing host? These are the questions that will be asked before the finalists book their places.

But whatever has to be said or asked, the purists cannot be expected to run away from the fact that cricket, whether it's a World Cup or not, is not so much about sport anymore. Gone are the days when World Cup Cricket was played in the true spirit of sportsmanship apart from an occasional on-field hiccup and the environment was about people and players.

Sadly this World Cup, right or wrong, may have to overcome the ignominy of going down in history as one of the most lackluster international events where the military might of a country out-did its team creating a war-like environment.

We will however leave the complicated matters to the so-called experts and for the moment focus on the four teams that have struggled to come this far. Take the case of New Zealand and Pakistan. Few people gave them even a boundary-line chance and now here they are at the threshold of becoming the top two teams in world cricket. None of the teams came to be as psyched up as they were and their rivals today and tomorrow will have to play at their brilliant best to get into the final. Or will they, Pakistan and New Zealand oblige the pundits by falling at the post.

It is hard to imagine though that this would be the case from a team like Pakistan which have now proved they got five of the most effective wicket-taking bowlers and New Zealand which have got the most vibrant of fielders to stop any run machine.

There is no doubt that India with its powerful batting line-up numbering seven potential century makers would be difficult to beat. They have seldom had it so good .

But what of Sri Lanka? Unlike that bulldozing team of 1996, they have yet to be tested under the most trying situations which is the most vital requirement that makes a champion team. For Sri Lanka to win the World Cup from now on either their rivals will have to play badly or the individuals that keep the team afloat will have to continue rowing.

Sri Lanka's performance against England can in no way be taken as champion stuff. The pitch would have been to their liking but the bowling they faced was mere schoolboy stuff to say the least. When Arjuna Ranatunga lifted the World Cup in 1996, in the presence of Pakistan's then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, he was truly a champion with a champion team for whom national pride was the only motivating force.

 Kumar Sangakkara and his team have been given the best of everything. There's no room for excuses.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LIBYANS..?  

BY PATRICK COCKBURN

In the next few weeks Colonel Muammar Gadaffi is likely to lose power. The forces arrayed against him are too strong. His own political and military support is too weak. The US, Britain and France are scarcely going to permit a stalemate to develop whereby he clings on to Tripoli and parts of western Libya while the rebels hold the east of the country.

Even before the air strikes Gadaffi had not been able to mobilise more than about 1,500 men to advance on Benghazi, and many of these were not trained soldiers. The reason for their advance is that the rebels in the east were unable to throw into the fighting the 6,000 soldiers whose defection touched off the original uprising.

The first days of foreign intervention mirror the experience of the US and its allies in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, by going extremely well. Air attacks shattered a column of tanks and infantry south of Benghazi. Survivors have fled. The rout may soon resemble the rapid dissolutions of the Taliban and the Iraqi army.

In Iraq and Afghanistan most people were glad to get rid of their rulers, and most Libyans will be glad to see the back of Gadaffi. His regime may well fall more quickly than is currently expected. Pundits have been wagging their fingers in the last few days, saying Gadaffi may be mad but he is not stupid, but this is to underestimate the opŽra bouffe quality of his regime.

It is the next stage in Libya - after the fall of Gadaffi - which has the potential to produce a disaster similar to Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases successful war left the US as the predominant power in the country. In Iraq this rapidly turned into an old-fashioned imperial occupation. "The occupation was the mother of all mistakes," as one Iraqi leader is fond of repeating. In Afghanistan the US always called the shots, even if Hamid Karzai headed the government.

The same problem is going to arise in Libya. There will be a lack of a credible local partner. The rebels have shown that they are politically and militarily weak. Indeed, if this had not been so, there would have been no need for a last-minute foreign intervention to save them.

The local leaders who rise to the top in these circumstances are usually those who speak the best English and get on with the US and its allies. In Baghdad and Kabul those who initially rose were those who fawned the most and who were prepared to go before Congress to express fulsome gratitude for America's actions.

There is a further complication. Libya is an oil state like Iraq, and oil wealth tends to bring out the worst in almost everybody. It leads to autocracy because whoever controls the oil revenues can pay for powerful security forces and ignore the public. Few states wholly reliant on oil are democracies.

Aspirant Libyan leaders who play their cards right over the next few months could put themselves in a position to make a lot of money. An Iraqi civil servant in Baghdad commented cynically before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 that "the exiled Iraqis are an exact replica of those who currently govern us", but the present leadership was almost sated "since they have been robbing us for 30 years" while the new rulers "will be ravenous".

Already there are signs that David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy are coming to believe too much of their own propaganda, particularly over Arab League support for air strikes. Diplomats normally contemptuous of the views of the Arab League suddenly treat its call for a no-fly zone as evidence that the Arab world favours intervention.

In terms of the exercise of real authority, Gadaffi is likely to be replaced not by Libyans but by the foreign powers which assist in his overthrow. Going by what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq it will not take much for their actions to be seen across the Middle East as hypocritical and self-serving, and resisted as such.

 

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

SECURITY, ACCOUNTABILITY ... AND THEN DIALOGUE  

BY ANWAR ABDULRAHMAN

During the last few days we have surprisingly learned that the Al Wefaq Society has asked Kuwait to mediate with Bahrain.

This information has appeared in Kuwaiti newspapers, that the opposition group is now 'ready to start talks with Bahrain's authorities'.

How surprising, because there is no need for Al Wefaq to make such a request. Dialogue has already been originated by Bahrain's leadership, and it was the Al Wefaq Society, remember, that did everything in its power to thwart it!

However, events have moved so fast that frankly now is not the time for dialogue, because other national priorities have overtaken it at such a delicate juncture.

Today, of more importance are two vital objectives. Firstly, restoring firm security and stability to comfort and assure citizens and residents.