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Monday, April 4, 2011

EDITORIAL 04.04.11

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Editorial

month april 04, edition 000797, 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. REJOICE! WE CONQUER!
  2. WAGES OF PAKISTAN'S SINS
  3. JUDICIARY TO THE RESCUE - JOGINDER SINGH
  4. PREVENTING NUCLEAR MELTDOWN: ASSESSING REGULATORY FAILURE IN JAPAN AND THE US

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THE SECOND COMING
  2. CASH IT IN
  3. THE CUP THAT CHEERED - RONOJOY SEN
  4. 'THE ONLY SHIBBOLETH THE WEST HAS IS SCIENCE'

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. A GLORIOUS CONFIRMATION
  2. DOUBLE EXPOSURE
  3. BEFORE FUKUSHIMA...
  4. THANK YOU, AFRIDI - MAHEEN SADIQ
  5. WE CAN LURE BACK HOUSE SPARROWS BY SETTING UP FOREST-GARDENS

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. CUP THAT OVERFLOWS
  2. A MATTER OF MEASURE
  3. COASTAL DIVIDE
  4. THE MAGIC OF 2011 - MINI KAPOOR
  5. SERIAL BRIDE - AMRITA DUTTA
  6. OF DEFENCE AND DEFENSIVENESS - RONEN SEN
  7. THE INDEX OF INEQUALITY - RAVINDER KAUR
  8. IS IT BETTER TO SAVE NO ONE? - NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  9. A CELEBRITY APPRENTICE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE - GAIL COLLINS

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. GONE IN 60 SECONDS
  2. SERVICING TRADE DEFICITS
  3. WATCH THOSE STATES CAREFULLY - SUNIL JAIN
  4. WILL CHINA COOL?

THE HINDU

  1. BEHIND INDIA'S WORLD CUP
  2. AN EXCITING DISCOVERY
  3. EARTHQUAKE AND JAPAN  - KOJIN KARATANI
  4. A STRUGGLE BETWEEN 'REFORM CADRE' AND THE 'OLD LINE' IN THE CONGRESS  - SURESH NAMBATH
  5. KASHMIR ISSUE CLOUDS INDIAN VIEW OF KOSOVO  - ARVIND SIVARAMAKRISHNAN
  6. U.S. FEARED INDIAN PROPOSAL MAY CURTAIL ITS INFLUENCE IN UN - HASAN SUROOR
  7. 'U.S. NEEDS TO READ 'PERSIAN MIND' TO DEAL WITH IRAN'  - A. SRIVATHSAN
  8. PAKISTAN'S UNCONVENTIONAL VIEWPOINT ON TERRORISM  - KATYAYANI MURTI

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. FOR RISING INDIA, A DREAM COME TRUE
  2. SAY NO TO CORRUPTION - INDRANIL BANERJIE
  3. 'EASTEND' IS INDIA - KHALID MOHAMED

DNA

  1. WHY THE FEMALE BIAS AMONG THE WELL-OFF?
  2. SHUBHANGI KHAPRE
  3. INDIA'S BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE CAPABILITY IS GROSSLY  EXAGGERATED - PRAVIN SAWHNEY
  4. ABANDON THE IMPORT OF NUCLEAR REACTORS: DR A GOPALAKRISHNAN - DR A GOPALAKRISHNAN
  5. LIBYA IS A SIDESHOW; REAL ISSUE IS NEW BALANCE OF POWER - HARSH V PANT
  6. MY MONDAY MORNING BLUES - AMI GANDHI
  7. INDIA'S MISSION DOMINATION - KIRAN MORE
  8. VIEW FROM PAKISTAN ON INDIA'S TRIUMPH - NAUMAN NIAZ
  9. LAW SHOULDN'T TAKE LONG COURSE - RAKESH BHATNAGAR

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. A SWELLING POPULATION
  2. INDIA LIFTS WORLD CUP
  3. COMMERCE IN FLORICULTURE - BY DR. MANOJ NAZIR
  4. WHERE IS THE COMMON MAN, MR FINANCE MINISTER? - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. OF FARMERS AND LOANS - BY ASHOK B SHARMA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. A MUCH-AWAITED EUPHORIA
  2. SHUNGLU PANEL'S FINDINGS
  3. SALE OF WEAPONS
  4. INDIA'S CORE INTERESTS IN S. ASIA - BY ZORAWAR DAULET SINGH
  5. A THEME WEDDING - BY V.K. KAPOOR
  6. PANCHAYATI RAJ: A GOD THAT FAILED - RAJ KUMAR SIWACH

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. CUP TO CUP, AND THE NATION WITHIN

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. AN IDEA OF INDIA
  2. PM BOOSTS CONFIDENCE
  3. FROM DIALOGUE TO CONVERSATION - SANJAYA BARU
  4. COULD AMERICA FADE IN ASIA? - EVAN FEIGENBAUM
  5. DIMINISHING RETURNS - A V RAJWADE
  6. STATSGURU: 4 APRIL 2011

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. CRICKET AND BEYOND
  2. FREE UP PRICING
  3. SWEET SUCCESS
  4. AN UNFINISHED CATHARSIS  - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
  5. 'WE WILL MAKE INDIA MORE INVESTOR-FRIENDLY' - HEMA RAMAKRISHNAN & ABHEEK BARMAN
  6. THE ANATOMY OF SLOW RECOVERY  
  7. SPIRITUAL PROGRESS  - K VIJAYARAGHAVAN
  8. THE TRAP OF OVERWHELMING DEMANDS  - SUMANTRA GHOSHAL

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. FOR RISING INDIA, A DREAM COME TRUE
  2. SAY NO TO CORRUPTION
  3. PARTIES HAVE WORK CUT OUT IN ASSAM
  4. WEIRD LOGIC, BIZARRE TRENDS
  5. AYURVED: THE SCIENCE OF LIFE
  6. 'EASTEND' IS INDIA

THE STATESMAN

  1. WORLD BEATERS
  2. SHEILA V SHUNGLU -
  3. CHANGE IN MYANMAR
  4. PROPERTY BUBBLES - ANDREW SHENG

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. WELL PLAYED
  2. FULL CLAIM
  3. THEN AND NOW  - KESAVAN
  4. END GAME  - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. STANDING SUPREME
  2. BOOM DECADE
  3. NO GENIUS PLAYS ONLY FOR SELF - M J AKBAR
  4. NATIONAL HYSTERIA OVER CRICKET - BY P N BENJAMIN
  5. TRUE ANGELS  - BY DOROTHY VICTOR

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. SPRING'S AWAKENING?
  2. AN EPIDEMIC OF RAPE FOR HAITI'S DISPLACED
  3. FIXING THE MISTAKE WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
  4. GAINS AND LOSSES - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. THE G.O.P.'S EMPTY STAGE - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  6. THE TRUTH, STILL INCONVENIENT - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  7. BRING DONORS OUT OF THE SHADOWS - BY DAVID CALLAHAN
  8. WHOLESALE ROBBERY IN LIQUOR SALES - BY DAVID WHITE

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. SGT. CHAPIN'S TRAGIC DEATH
  2. WHICH IS THE BIGGER DANGER?
  3. BELATED CONCERN ABOUT COSTS
  4. AL-QAIDA IN LIBYA?

HARARETZ

  1. GOLDSTONE REGRETS
  2. HEADING TOWARD AN ISRAELI APARTHEID STATE - BY DANIEL BLATMAN
  3. GOLDSTONE REMINDED US OF THE REAL FACE OF KADIMA - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  4. FILLING THE POWER VACUUM  - BY AMIR OREN
  5. RICHARD GOLDSTONE IS A NOBLE MAN – BY ALON IDAN

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - PROGRESS IN TURKISH PRISONS
  2. AKP'S LUCK WILL HOLD ONLY AS LONG AS TURKEY REMAINS INDISPENSABLE - BARÇIN YİNANÇ
  3. A TURKEY'S GROWING PAINS - EMRE DELİVELİ
  4. CHP'S MAIN CHALLENGE IS TO BREAK PREJUDICES - SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ
  5. '1821': Greece's reconciliation with its past - C. CEM OĞUZ
  6. SECOND 'DAMASCUS SPRING': WHERE IS AL-ASSAD'S SYRIA HEADING? - CİHAN ÇELİK
  7. HIJACKING THE ARAB REVOLUTION - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  8. THE 'MASTER PERIOD' - YUSUF KANLI
  9. CLEARER THINKING REQUIRED TO SOLVE BOSNIAN CONUNDRUM - DARRAGH FARRELL

THE NEWS

  1. ANOTHER SHRINE ATTACK
  2. RIP HEC
  3. THE 'MOHALI SPIRIT'  - ASIF EZDI
  4. WINDS OF CHANGE  - NOSHEEN SAEED
  5. CRUSADERS REBORN  -  DR A Q KHAN
  6. LIBYA AND BAHRAIN  - IFTEKHAR A KHAN
  7. HIJACKING THE ARAB REVOLUTION  - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  8. SPIKED BIRYANI  - CHRIS CORK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NO ONE LISTENS TO YOUNG DOCTORS WOES
  2. CRICKET WORLD CUP RIGHTLY GOES TO INDIA]
  3. DON'T DESTROY TIME TESTED STRUCTURE - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  4. LIBYA'S OPEN ENDED FIASCO - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  5. WHO TO BLAME… - M TAHIR IQBAL
  6. KASHMIR: A HUMANITARIAN ISSUE - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  7. THE BATTLE FOR PUNJAB - RIAZ MISSEN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. CONSUMERS PAY DEARLY FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET
  2. NAUGHTY CORNER IS OFF LIMITS
  3. TRAGIC SETBACKS FOR A JUST CAUSE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. RED SIGNAL FOR NBN GRAVY TRAIN
  2. DEMOCRACY'S SLOW MARCH
  3. THE ARAB WORLD'S TASTE FOR FREEDOM IS CERTAIN TO GROW

THE GUARDIAN

  1. NORTHERN IRELAND: NOT THE END OF HISTORY YET
  2. VOTING SYSTEM: TIME FOR A FAIRER ALTERNATIVE
  3. IN PRAISE OF… SWALEDALE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. NEW APPROACH TO REPRESENTATION?
  2. MR. KAN'S CRISIS LEADERSHIP
  3. RUSSIAN ALIENATION AND THE COST OF FREEDOM - BY MARIA LIPMAN
  4. PAINT THAILAND YELLOW AND RED, WITH A CAVEAT TO COMPROMISE - By THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK
  5. OTHER NATIONS CAN LEARN FROM FUKUSHIMA INCIDENT - BY MARK HIBBS

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. INDIE CANDIDATE, WHY NOT?
  2. R2P AND UN WORKERS
  3. ENERGY REVOLUTION CAN POWER INDONESIA IF POLICY BARRIER LIFTED - SVEN TESKE
  4. QUESTIONS ON WITNESSING VIOLENCE - INTAN PARAMADHITA
  5. HOW TO MANAGE GEOPOLITICS AT G20 SUMMIT - MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. VYE FOR 2015
  2. IT'S ONLY CRICKET
  3. GERMANY'S GREEN SPRING
  4. THE SPOILS OF AUTOCRACY APRIL 2011  - BY SUMON K CHAKRABARTI
  5. INDIA-PAKISTAN: "AND AS THINGS HAVE BEEN, THINGS REMAIN. IF HOPES WERE DUPES, FEARS MAY BE LIARS"

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. STIRRING A LETHAL BREW...   - BY DR JAMES J ZOGBY PRESIDENT

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

REJOICE! WE CONQUER!

IT'S MORE THAN JUST WINNING THE WORLD CUP


India's victory in cricket's 10th Fifty50 World Cup is more than just a moment of celebration for MS Dhoni and his XI, as well as for their billion-strong supporters. Along with the 1983 Prudential Cup victory, this achievement will now acquire iconic status in Indian cricket. What Dhoni and Gary Kirsten — the low-key but impressive South African whose coaching stint with the Indian team came to an end with the World Cup — have done is built on the legacy of the Sourav Ganguly-John Wright years. That earlier leadership created a team that believed it could win. This current leadership has crafted a team that does not believe it can lose, not even at 31 for two, with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag back in the pavilion. Yet this World Cup has had other implications as well. Its success, to a large degree a product of the Indian team's success, has revitalised the F50 game and given it a new lease of life. Before the World Cup began, people were writing off the format itself. In the age of Twenty20 cricket, the traditional limited overs game was neither here nor there. It was not Test cricket, which appealed to the purist, and also lacked the thrill and raw commercialism of the shortest version of the game. Yet, the manner in which this World Cup has been played has put a lot of doubts to rest. There have been close matches and tight finishes, especially in games between the major teams, and this has happened without compromising core values of the game. The India-Sri Lanka final at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday was a high scoring game but was not one-sided or unduly favouring only batsmen. The wicket offered something to the bowlers, the outfield was fast, the fielders were outstanding. It was sport at its most compelling and victory required strategy, gumption and an element of risk-taking. There was nothing predictable about the match. Indian cricket authorities — no doubt encouraged by the International Cricket Council — have understood the futility of producing featherbed wickets that make for crazy run feasts but, ultimately, boring cricket. F50 cricket has refused to die quietly. It has come back to challenge — or at lease reclaim space from — the rampaging T20 leagues. India's stake in the longevity of this format has also gone up with this victory, and international cricket will be the richer for it in the run-up to the next F50 World Cup in Australia in 2015.

It is piquant to compare Dhoni's Devils — as the Indian team has already been nicknamed — with the 1983 winners led by Kapil Dev, Kapil's Devils as they were called. Both teams were led by self-made men from middle class backgrounds outside India's big cities. Yet, the 2011 team is much more diverse than its predecessor, capturing the new impulses and geographies of India's economic rise and social churning, and the expanded base of its cricketer constituency. In many senses, 1983 was a fluke, a fortunate fluke but an out-of-the-blue moment nevertheless. If India and the West Indies had played each other 10 times in the summer of 1983, the Caribbean side would probably have won eight times. The 2011 achievement is different. There is a structure and method to it; the Indian team is easily the world's finest today, in Test cricket and F50 cricket alike. Dhoni's men — like the rest of India perhaps — are poised for sustained achievement in the coming years. May the ambition underpinning the bravura of April 2 never go away. ***************************************


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

WAGES OF PAKISTAN'S SINS

JIHADIS NOW TARGET THEIR PATRONS


Given Pakistan's recent track record in assassinations, suicide bombings and deadly shootings, there is little news on these lines that, sadly, still manages to elicit a sense of shock or even surprise. Already the world has seen Pakistani politicians — from the powerful Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer to the inconsequential Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti — being assassinated for their less-than radical views. Nobody was taken aback when the average Pakistani cheered Taseer's cold-blooded murder. Nor was anybody amazed when the Government of Pakistan shied away from unequivocally condeming the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, whose funeral saw few prominent Pakistanis turning up for the last prayers. That's today's Pakistan where few seem to be worried about their country's free fall into chaos, disorder and jihadi violence. The so-called civilian Government is weak. Funded and armed by America, the military runs the show from the shadows while a deeply entrenched terror network functions completely outside the pale of the law, such as it exists. Reports of suicide bombings have become so commonplace that they barely qualify as being newsworthy. Given this stark reality, it is only natural that last week's repeated attempts to assassinate the ultra-conservative hardline leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam should have gone largely unnoticed and unreported. On March 30, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a political rally organised by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam where its chief, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, was to address the gathering. The maulana escaped unhurt but at least 10 people were killed. The next day another suicide bomber targetted his motorcade and killed 13 people. The attacks point to the terrifying heights that radical Islamism has scaled in Pakistan.


There is little doubt that Maulana Rehman was attacked because on March 5 he told the National Assembly that he was open to discussing the "perceived misuse" of Pakistan's draconian anti-blasphemy laws. Unlike Taseer or Bhatti, Maulana Rehman is by no means a vocal opponent of these laws. Yet his comments are considered blasphemous enough to warrant his assassination. Diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that have revealed that the staunchly pro-Taliban maulana was willing to share information about the militants in exchange for greater political clout has only complicated matters. A popular figure in his constituency in Balochistan and equally influential in neighbouring Waziristan — both Taliban hotbeds — the revelations have angered Maulana Rehman's radical supporters and now threaten his life. So, forget about minorities and liberals in Pakistan, now even the fundamentalists are not safe in that country. Such are the wages of Pakistan's sins.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

JUDICIARY TO THE RESCUE

JOGINDER SINGH


With the political class exposed as overwhelmingly corrupt and cynical, the judiciary alone can uphold the Constitution and protect the people.

With the Supreme Court becoming proactive in monitoring cases of corruption against the high and mighty and ticking off the Government and the CBI for their indifferent attitude towards such cases, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is predictably feeling ill at ease. Recently, he dropped his mask of reticence and fired a salvo against judicial activism by calling upon the judiciary not to exercise its power of judicial review to undermine the legitimate roles assigned to other branches of the executive and the legislature.

Speaking at the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference in Hyderabad, Mr Singh said, "Our judges, while interpreting laws, have also widened their scope and reach as lawgivers.... The judicial process has a dynamic role to play both as the guarantor of justice to litigants and as upholder of the constitutional conscience. But at the same time, it has to be ensured that the basic structure of our Constitution is not subordinated to political impulses of the moment or to the will of transient majorities." Underlining the need for the judiciary to adapt itself to a fast-changing world to retain its relevance, Mr Singh said the role of courts and judges in making law an instrument of social stability and progressive change cannot be over-emphasised.

Earlier, Chief Justice of India Justice SH Kapadia had appealed to Government to change its approach of 'equality' while implementing policies and rather focus on serving people on the basis of their needs. "If we take equality as a basis, our resources may not be sufficient ... Our limited resources should be spent in such a method that food, education and healthcare are made available, at least to those living below the poverty line, taking deprivation as a yardstick."

Mr Singh, perhaps as an afterthought, later acknowledged the efforts of the Supreme Court for delivering several landmark judgements in public interest litigation cases which are now part of the evolution of India's constitutional jurisprudence.

The truth is that the Government feels uncomfortable and embarrassed when its partisan decisions are challenged and nullified by the judiciary. Left to itself, the Government of the day would never have ordered an inquiry into the 2G Spectrum loot as it was afraid of losing power in the event of withdrawal of support by its coalition partner, the DMK. The former Minister for Telecommunication, A Raja, not only ignored the suggestions of Union Minister for Law M Veerappa Moily and then Minister for Finance P Chidambaram, but also defied the Prime Minister's instructions. His successor, Mr Kapil Sibal, has trashed the Comptroller and Auditor-General's report, suggesting that the loss to the exchequer was 'zero' and not a presumptive `1.76 lakh crore as indicated by the CAG report.

In this age of coalition politics, for any Government, irrespective of the party in power, survival has become more important than probity in public life. There are men of principles in all political parties but there is no party of principles. Today, the truth is determined by majority votes and not on the basis of facts.

The judiciary is an important pillar of any democracy. In India, it has performed creditably and stood the test of time in spite of what self-serving politicians might say. But for judicial intervention, many wrongs would never have been set right.

Forget the 2G Spectrum loot, even the Commonwealth Games swindle or the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam would not have seen the light of the day if not for intervention by the courts. So also the appointment of Mr PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner. He got the coveted job despite being charge-sheeted in the palmolein import scam while serving as Secretary in Kerala's Department of Food and Civil Supplies.

Interestingly, in the case of the appointment of a new chief of ONGC, Mr Thomas withheld vigilance clearance on the ground that three MPs had brought allegations against the candidate. However, the MPs who had reportedly written the letters later said those were forged letters. The appointment of the CMD still hangs in the balance while the appointment of the CVC has been quashed by the Supreme Court.

Rules are bent and violated blatantly to suit and please politicians. The Maharashtra Government was embarrassed when it came to light that politicians were trying to influence police officers to get their supporters, arrested for committing criminal offences, released from police custody. The Supreme Court issued strictures against the State Government, taking cognisance of a telephone conversation between then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and a police officer.

Subsequently, Maharashtra's Home Department issued a circular, asking investigating officers not to mention in diary entries any telephonic conversation they may have had with politicians and legislators. The circular said that officers should be careful as diary entries are often submitted as affidavits in the courts and cause embarrassment to the Government.

What can be said with some surety is that crime cannot be hidden for long. It is but natural that politicians will feel unhappy when pulled up by the judiciary. The judiciary's job however, is not to please politicians but to uphold the law of the land.

Despite rumblings in political parties, it should be remembered that the judiciary has by and large acted creditably. Its decisions are independent of political compulsions. India has adopted a universal democratic pattern under which it is perfectly within the domain of the judiciary to tell other branches of the state what they should be doing, where they have transgressed and what are their limits of power.

Instead of finding fault with the judiciary, the Prime Minister and his Government would do well to ensure speedy justice for the common man. The Supreme Court has recently observed that "no Government wants a strong judiciary… The system has already become sick. What can be the expectation of the common man for speedy justice? Even in the Supreme Court, a special leave petition takes eight years to reach the final hearing. We all give sermons. We go to the National Judicial Academy and give lectures to judicial officers asking them to speed up disposal of cases. But where is the infrastructure? They are already under heavy burden. There are only lectures, committees and commissions, but no solutions... Look at the budgetary allocation to judiciary. It is not even one per cent. That is the commitment to the judiciary".

In the 10th Five-Year Plan (2002-07), the allocation for judiciary was `700 crore which was 0.07 per cent of the total Plan outlay. Most of the State Governments earmark less than one per cent of their Budget for the judiciary. In spite of that our judiciary has done what it is supposed to do — that is to uphold the Constitution and protect people from injustice.

In an ideal situation, the judiciary will refrain from intruding into the domain of the executive and the legislature and stick to applying and interpreting the law. But when there is cynicism about the seriousness and impartiality of the Government in stemming corruption, maintaining checks and balances as has been mandated by the Constitution becomes imperative. Irrespective of what any politician may say or feel, the judiciary must continue doing its job without being swayed by either pressure or criticism.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PREVENTING NUCLEAR MELTDOWN: ASSESSING REGULATORY FAILURE IN JAPAN AND THE US


The Fukushima nuclear disaster has exposed the failure to respond to evolving scientific data and technology and to enforce regulations stringently, write Daniel Kaufmann & Veronika Penciakova


Many wonder whether Japan's nuclear disaster could have been averted. The embattled operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, has borne the brunt of criticism; its numerous failures over the years are certainly well known. However, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, responsible for regulating the nuclear industry, also ought to be subject to particular scrutiny for allowing TEPCO to operate despite its past safety and disclosure violations. We thus ask what types of regulatory failure may have contributed to Japan's nuclear crisis and assess whether the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is at risk of committing similar errors.


Regulatory failure occurs when the regulatory system is deeply flawed — such as when it over- or under-regulates or when the regulatory design is based on "old science". Regulatory failure also happens when agencies inadequately fulfil their oversight, supervisory and enforcement functions. Failures by regulatory agencies can go undetected for some time until they are exposed by a crisis, such as the BP oil spill in 2010 and the financial crisis that originated in Wall Street in 2008. When assessing regulatory failure, it is important to distinguish between at least three different types of failure: Lack of resources, mismanagement and poor technical expertise, and capture of the regulator by the regulated. Episodes of regulatory failure result from different combinations of subpar performance in some or all of these components.


Which dimensions were associated with the failures at Japan's regulatory agency? Does the US nuclear energy regulator face similar challenges? Let us review each of the three types of failures in the context of Japan's NISA and the US's NRC.


Lack of Resources: When regulators lack the resources to hire staff, provide adequate training and expend the money necessary to monitor industries, regulatory concerns may go undetected and failure may result. The evidence does not suggest that Japan's NISA or the US's NRC lacked sufficient resources to effectively implement regulations.


Mismanagement and 'Old Science': The regulatory system may sometimes over-regulate (business start-ups) or under-regulate (in finance, oil and nuclear power) due to ideological reasons or inadequate use of the latest knowledge and techniques. Even when regulators have a sufficient mandate to regulate and are provided adequate resources, they may still be ineffective at implementing and enforcing regulations and overseeing the operations and preparedness of the plants. The lax application of regulations and resistance to adoption of the latest scientific know-how and technical expertise regarding risk assessments can cause regulatory failure. Also, regulation and knowledge mismanagement can distort the incentives for industries to meet safety standards.

Japan: The Fukushima nuclear crisis has exposed NISA's failure to respond to the evolving scientific data and technology and to enforce regulations stringently. Since the 1980s, NISA has failed to act on warnings it received regarding the resilience of reactor containment structures to core meltdowns and the ability of plants to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. This is particularly worrying since Japan has historically been prone to both earthquakes and tsunamis. For instance, in 2007 a 6.8-magnitude earthquake resulted in 1,200 litres of radioactive water leaking into the Japan Sea. The plant operator, TEPCO acknowledged that the reactors had not been designed to withstand an earthquake of that size.


Japan's nuclear power safety regulations appear to be based on assessments of maximum earthquake and tsunami events derived from the modern historical record. However, these methods do not take into consideration uncertainties that account for a non-zero likelihood of a more devastating future earthquake and tsunami, even though risk assessment models that do so currently exist. Moreover, NISA has largely left the task of risk assessments and emergency response planning to plant operators and has merely published voluntary guidelines on advances in regulations rather than issuing concrete binding regulations. NISA is only now starting to order nuclear power plants in Japan to inspect devices and equipment and formulate emergency plans.

NISA has been lax in ensuring the adherence to safety regulations of Japan's nuclear power plants. In 1999, 20 tonnes of radioactive water leaked into the Tsuruga plant from a cracked pipe. Even though a similar pipe had sprung a leak in 1996, these pipes were not inspected in subsequent years. In 2004, five workers were killed when super-heated steam burst from a pipe at a reactor run by Kansai Electric. It was later discovered that the pipe had not been inspected in five years.


NISA has also remained passive in addressing the nuclear industry's long history of deception and cover-ups by different private operators, including but not limited to TEPCO. In 2002, five top executives from TEPCO resigned over a string of safety record cover-ups, including the falsification of containment vessel tests and shroud safety records. In fact, in 2002 four major nuclear companies admitted to concealing evidence of cracked containment structures from NISA. In 2007, seven of the 12 public utilities admitted to having falsified past safety records. And at a basic level, it is now emerging that TEPCO's disaster response plans that had been drawn in case of an accident at the Fukushima plant were totally inadequate: They merely called for one stretcher, a satellite phone, and 50 protective suits. Again, this raises serious questions not only about TEPCO, but about NISA's oversight.


United States: While a degree of regulatory laxity plagues the NRC, it results more from lax enforcement of regulations than from failure to heed warnings or private sector deception. The NRC's Office of the Inspector General uncovered 24 instances in which nuclear plants failed to report defects in equipment that could pose safety risks. In the last eight years, the regulator has not imposed any penalties on plant operators for such infractions.

For 15 years, the NRC allowed a water containment system to leak in New York despite the problem being documented. In South Carolina, a plant operator had to shut down reactors twice in six months. One of the shutdowns was caused by a power shortage in an electrical cable that had been installed in 1986 and was not up to standard. In New Jersey, a nuclear plant was relicensed in 2009 even though it lacked a reactor containment shell that could withstand a jet crash. Within seven days of its relicencing, an ongoing leak of radioactive tritium-polluted water was uncovered. These regulatory oversights in the US likely contributed to several accidents, but none are as severe as those in Japan.


The US regulatory system faces a particular challenge regarding the handling of the vast amounts of spent fuel. At the beginning of 2010, nearly 65,000 metric tonnes of spent fuel was being stored at US nuclear power plants. The NRC does not have limits on the amount of time fuel can remain in spent fuel pools and has not mandated, for instance, the transfer of spent fuel to dry casks, which are located away from reactors. Currently, nearly 10 times as much fuel is located in spent fuel pools than in the reactors. This is worrying as the pools are not protected by containment shells as the reactor cores are.

However, whereas Japan has tended to use outdated risk-assessment methodologies, the NRC has been more proactive in utilising the latest technology to address potential safety risks. Although in the US, the types of risks nuclear plants face are different (such as lower risks of tsunamis afflicting power plants), risk assessments carried out in the US do consider each plant's geographical location and all plants have to take into account the risk of potential terrorist attacks. In recent years, the regulator has adopted some new risk assessment techniques in their plant-by-plant reviews. Some of the modeling techniques used in the US also takes into account the risks of potentially devastating future natural disasters.


In Japan, mismanagement results from the regulator's failure to adopt the latest technology and to punish private sector deception. In the US, the problem seems to center around general weaknesses in regulatory oversight and lack of a spent fuel strategy. While the US NRC's mismanagement and challenges in technical expertise appear to be less severe than those of Japan's NISA, improved regulatory enforcement by the US NRC may still be warranted.


Capture: The incentives for regulators to effectively implement regulations can also become distorted when industry actors exert undue influence over the regulatory process.


Japan: The influence of the nuclear industry over NISA occurs through various channels. NISA is not an independent regulator and is therefore even more susceptible to outside influence. NISA is housed under the Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes the nuclear sector domestically and abroad. The METI has very close connections to the nuclear industry and has been charged with distorting information presented to public officials on nuclear energy and orchestrating the defeat of alternative energy development legislation. The METI has made it clear that expanding Japan's nuclear power industry is of central importance to the Government's growth strategy. As such, it has been instrumental in the launching of the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co, a public-private partnership headed by TEPCO to sell nuclear reactor contracts to developing countries. In the fallout from disaster, it seems the Government has recognised the danger of this conflict of interest and there are now reports that the Japanese Government is considering splitting NISA from METI.


Japanese officials also have an incentive to be deferential to private sector counterparts since retiring public officials often obtain prominent private sector jobs in a practice called amakudari, or "descent from heaven" (a practice in the US known as the "revolving door"). It is not uncommon for individuals involved in the nuclear sector to act at different times in the licencing, rulemaking and inspections process. For instance, a director general of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry obtained a job with TEPCO after leaving his regulatory post. Private nuclear power industry companies may also have a direct role in shaping regulations. When the Government convened a panel to revise nuclear regulatory standards in 2005, 11 of the 19 members on the panel were from the nuclear industry.


United States: The NRC faces similar types of regulatory capture challenges, but the agency is an independent regulatory agency and therefore not involved in the promotion of the nuclear industry. Yet it receives 90 per cent of its funding from industry fees, which potentially compromises its independence.


One report suggests that the NRC has acted in some cases more to safeguard the interest of the nuclear power industry than the public. Nearly half of NRC employees surveyed by the agency in 2002 said they feared raising safety concerns might undermine their career. Also, as is common in other regulatory agencies in the United States, NRC employees often pass through the revolving door. There have been some isolated cases when regulators have accepted gifts from and made decisions in favour of future employees prior to leaving the NRC. In one recent case, a commissioner voted on a matter that benefitted three nuclear companies, two of which he was negotiating an employment contract with at the time.


In the United States, the NRC is connected to the nuclear sector through industry efforts to influence the legislative process. Last year, the US nuclear industry spent nearly $54 million to lobby Congress and employed 12 former members of Congress as lobbyists. Some of the top supporters of the nuclear power sector have also been some of the largest recipients of campaign contributions from this sector. There are many examples of this type of lobbying. For example, Exelon, one of the US's largest nuclear operators, contributed to the campaigns of the House minority whip and the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman and contributed to 14 of the 19 members in the House of Representatives from states where Exelon owns reactors.


Conclusion: The manifestations and extent of regulatory capture in Japan and the US differ, with the problem seemingly more acute in Japan. However in both countries, regulators have had their incentive to regulate effectively distorted by the influence of the nuclear industry. In the fallout from the Fukushima crisis, the role of numerous actors will be scrutinised, including TEPCO and the Japanese Government. But, the role of Japan's nuclear regulator should not be underestimated. By failing to sanction plant operators for safety infringements and to heed safety warnings, NISA allowed the private sector to continually skirt regulations. NISA may not have been properly empowered to mandate changes in the private sector. In addition, whatever de jure mandates they may have had, they did not forcefully implement in practice. To a significant extent, it appears that regulatory capture of NISA by Japan's nuclear industry turned the regulator into a caretaker of industry rather than one for public safety.


The US's nuclear and regulatory situation differs from Japan's. The evidence suggests that the NRC is not effectively enforcing regulations. The NRC's regulatory struggles do not stem from private sector deception, but from a degree of regulatory capture (there are some instances of undue influence) and particularly from the weak enforcement of existing rules.


In the United States, the NRC will imminently be undertaking a 90-day review of the country's 104 reactors. But in addition an in-depth review should also be conducted by a fully independent commission (akin to the Kemeny Commission established in the aftermath of the Three-Mile nuclear power accident), which would review how the NRC could more effectively implement existing regulations and conduct plant-specific "stress tests" of seismic risks with the purpose of revoking licenses in cases where standards do not conform to the risks exposed by the latest technology. The independent study should also look into an industry-wide strategic approach to safely managing the storage of spent nuclear fuel, which poses a particular risk in the United States.

Daniel Kaufmann is Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, and Veronika Penciakova is Research Assistant, Global Economy and Development, at The Brookings Institution.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

THE SECOND COMING

 

Motera, Mohali, Mumbai - what a journey it's been. If cricket is religion in India, then skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's climactic six at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday was the equivalent of the second coming. It took 28 years for those who had witnessed Kapil Dev and his men lift the World Cup at Lord's to relive that magical moment. And for a generation that had grown up on stories about the heroic exploits of Kapil's Devils, this was the moment to announce the arrival of a young India that isn't afraid to rise to the occasion and exceed expectations.

The infectious exuberance of youth was visible in the performance of the men in blue at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Cricket legend and local boy Sachin Tendulkar missed out on a big score in front of his home crowd. But unlike Team India of old, this wasn't a one-man unit or a three-man unit. It's hard to say how individual members of the team would rate against India's all-time cricketing greats. But there's no denying that in terms of self-belief, consistency, coordination and professional team spirit (as opposed to the nursing of individual egos), this team is right up there among the best. Perhaps India's ageing and bitterly rancorous politicians could learn a thing or two from them.


Looking back, World Cup 2011 certainly counts as a success. In contrast to the forgettable 2007 edition of the tournament in the Caribbean, most matches saw healthy crowds with tickets being sold out for games involving the subcontinental teams. Contrary to fears, there was no loss of intensity over the long tournament. Nor were there major logistical glitches in organising the matches spread over India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The festive atmosphere and massive spectatorship - not to mention that three subcontinental teams were among the four semifinalists - confirmed that the power centre of the cricketing world is now indeed the subcontinent.

In terms of the game itself, the Decision Review System has won fans and perhaps paved the way for more technology-based intervention. The ODI format, predicted to be losing out to T20, is resurgent. But this World Cup will be remembered most for showcasing the best of South Asia. From the dignity of Dhoni to the graciousness of Kumar Sangakkara or Shahid Afridi and the enthusiasm of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan fans, cricket united
South Asia in a shared spirit and reaffirmed the bonds between us. It may have given us a glimpse of a possible South Asian renaissance in the 21st century.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

CASH IT IN

 

Census 2011 brings cheer: population growth clocked the sharpest dip since 1947, down to 17.6% from 21.5% 10 years ago. Absolute numbers - 181 million added in 2001-2011 - also fell. Total population however is a mammoth 1.21 billion.

By the looks of it, we'll beat China's numbers by 2030. Reassuringly though, when many countries including
China will shoulder ageing citizenries, India's swelling youth brigade can potentially drive growth with productivity, entrepreneurship, savings and incomes. But leveraging this asset requires creation of opportunities.

Take literacy: its rate has risen to 74%, with elevated female literacy clearly having contributed to decadal population decline. Yet, statistical cheer notwithstanding, we're nowhere near the required 100% target. To get there, our ramshackle public
education system must be revamped. With rudimentary skills, countless Indians are literate on paper and countless more not even this. Will they cut it in an increasingly demanding workplace?

Education and employment are intrinsically linked. Besides helping people read and write, we need vocational education and training to create employable skills in areas from plumbing to construction and automaking. Agriculture's turnaround, it's said, may mean 58 million additional jobs by 2012.

But the rural sector can't absorb burgeoning ranks demanding better wages and living conditions. What can is mass industrial employment, mandating labour reform so more factories can be built and employers invest in workers' skills upgrade.

If
India is to produce good managers, domain leaders and innovators, higher education reform is as crucial.

Finally, to sustain population growth, we need good hospitals as much as roads and power. Cities being magnets in any aspirational economy, India's urban population could hit 590 million by 2030. So urban development needs boosting as well. With the right spurs, our demographic dividend can have a huge payoff in terms of growth and prosperity. Let's make sure it does.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

THE CUP THAT CHEERED

RONOJOY SEN

 

When Mahendra Singh Dhoni sent the ball screaming over the boundary in the penultimate over of the final, India not only regained the World Cup after 28 years, it capped the highest ever run chase in a final.

And though
Team India rightly dedicated it to the immortal Sachin Tendulkar, playing his sixth World Cup, the win in the final was brought about by India's young guns who don't seem to have fear written in their DNA.

If June 25, 1983 changed the course of Indian and indeed world cricket, April 2, 2011 will remain inscribed in the memory of a new generation of cricket fans.

Now the faded images of Kapil Dev holding aloft the trophy on the Lord's balcony will sit alongside Dhoni and his triumphant men in blue at the Wankhede Stadium.

The
2011 World Cup was supposed to decide the fate of 50-overs cricket. The newest kid on the block, Twenty20, was supposed to have made the one-day game and its showpiece tournament redundant.

But the past six weeks have been a joyous celebration of one-day cricket and the twists and turns of the format, showing that it can more than hold its own against the shortest version of the game. And it was appropriate that the final was an all-Asian one, the subcontinent having become the de facto headquarters of cricket since the late-1980s.

One reason people were writing off this World Cup was the memory of the last tournament in the Caribbean which was such a dreary affair. Too few competitive games, poor organisation, tickets priced out of the reach of ordinary fans, the mysterious death of the Pakistani coach and India's exit in the first stage all combined to put off fans but also sponsors. But this World Cup came together in a manner most people would have had difficulty imagining before the tournament began. It was a masterstroke to stage the inaugural game in Dhaka. Despite having a team that disappoints more than it delivers, the enthusiasm for cricket in
Bangladesh is unmatched. The same is true for Sri Lanka where even matches not involving the home team drew packed stadiums.

Admittedly in India the neutral matches were not as well attended. But even then more than 20,000 fans were present at the
Eden Gardens to watch Ireland play South Africa and thousands turned up to see Australia play Kenya in Bangalore. Most venues were renovated with the fans finally getting some of the minimum comforts they deserve. The makeover for the Chinnaswamy stadium in Chennai was perhaps the most stunning.

The format more or less eliminated the possibility of a top team being knocked out at the initial stage, as had happened in 2007. But the way everything played according to the script including the India-Pakistan semifinal, a match-up everybody had been desperately hoping for, was amazing. That game was not only played in the right spirit, its effect was felt beyond the pitch and in the corridors of power.

But most important was the quality of cricket. Before the tournament began, the predictions were of run feasts. But as it transpired there were only five 300-plus totals, if you leave aside games involving the associate nations, and four of them were in matches involving India which arguably had the best batting line-up. Bowlers were by no means props; this was particularly true for
Pakistan who made it to the semifinal primarily on their bowling strength. Spinners predictably played a huge role, but fast bowlers were equally potent.

The number of close matches far exceeded expectations with England alone providing more cliffhangers than all the matches combined in the last World Cup. Some of the more recent innovations worked well. The umpire decision review system, despite its flaws, helped minimise errors. The batting powerplay was a joker in the pack with most teams struggling to master it. More often than not, we saw wickets tumbling rather than boundaries being cleared in that vital five-over phase when fielding restrictions were on.

Not that there weren't any glitches. At around six weeks, the tournament stretched on for too long. There were far too many meaningless matches involving the minnows in the group stage. While the associate nations do add colour to the tournament, it does not make much sense to throw them at the deep end once every four years. The
ICC has to take a hard decision on how to balance the World Cup's competitive flavour with the goal of spreading the game.

The other flaw was the ticketing system and seats available to the general public. While in India a huge chunk of tickets in the stadium falls in the nebulous 'complimentary' category, too few tickets were available for the paying public. The routine lathi charges on people who had queued for tickets were one of the few blots on the tournament. Even as the stadiums were given a facelift their capacity was reduced, a travesty considering the size of India's cricket audience.

Finally, a visit to the stadium during an India match made it apparent that cricket watching has undergone a metamorphosis. The tamasha-like atmosphere in the stands makes the game in the centre somewhat marginal to the spectators who only want to see India win. A certain amount of jingoism is built into sport, but taken to the extreme it has nasty repercussions as when India crashed out in 2007. Tellingly, Dhoni referred to this before the final.

But let us banish such thoughts on a day when Indians all over are yet to recover from the dream end to the 2011 World Cup.

The writer is a visiting research fellow at
ISAS, National University of Singapore.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'THE ONLY SHIBBOLETH THE WEST HAS IS SCIENCE'

 

The social scientist Bruno Latour , from France's Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), was in New Delhi and spoke about what it means to be modern with Deep K Datta-Ray .


Why do you argue that Western Europe has never been modern?


The only shibboleth the West has is science. It is the premise of modernity and it defines itself as a rationality capable of, indeed requiring separation from politics, religion and really, society. Modernisation is to work towards this.


A move away from the pre-modern, which is a period of embroilment and entanglement of everything but when one looks at the practice of science in a laboratory, as i did, this division is revealed as false.


Scientists are very much entangled in their culture and this culture is not pristine, untouched by other cultures and practices. The real history of Europe therefore is one of a constant interaction, a mixing of peoples, various cultures and the material.


What does this mean for our understanding of what the modern world actually is, how institutions thought of as quintessentially modern function?


There's very little on how today's world actually functions. Instead there is the official story of modernisation. Meanwhile, there is a prominent discourse in India about modernisation.


My argument is that the baseline for understanding modernity requires interrogation, which destabilises expectations of what a modernising society should do.


Traditionally, the moderns criticised the supposedly archaic, symbolised by the East. Everyone wanted to become modern - but my work demonstrates that being modern was never as clear as presumed. So, when India begins to modernise what happens?


There is a double instability - of an uncertain baseline and then what happens when that is implemented in a society far away and especially in an institutional setting and in an area so close to the state such as governance. So there has to be more work on this.


This is especially important because there are so many more people here, it is possible to have institutions of a different complexion altogether, of alternative ways instituted here. India is a reservoir of alternative interpretations of what the global is and these ways of viewing the world need to be exposed.

Could it also be said that the idea of a universalising 'modern' rationality is not necessarily European but became dominant in Europe?


For that there has to be more work on the non-western world. Regardless of place, there have to be thicker descriptions of practice, of what the modern world actually is, how do banks work for instance, because all we have is utopian description of how modernity functions. The dream of utopia killed descriptive work because the focus was on a universalising rationality, not how rationality actually plays out in practice. It should be clear that i'm not saying the East is somehow different, exotic. If one looks at the works of Newton to Einstein they were never scientists in the way modernity understands the term.


What are the implications of this type of work on politics?

Well, politics cannot keep to the scientific ideal quite simply because science in practice meant our moving from the country to the city and getting progressively disconnected from nature. But now one cannot discuss anything without thinking of the whole. Science was supposed to take us out of the cosmos and into a universalising rationality but that has produced all sorts of problems which are being corrected today by new approaches which are reminiscent of the non-modern, such as the politics of nature. This is a cosmological approach, one that ties in everything to make a decision.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

A GLORIOUS CONFIRMATION

Aspirations are lovely. But confirmation is beautiful. It is now confirmed that Mahendra Singh Dhoni leads a world champion team. For a nation that looks for heroes (and villains) to form snap judgements, Saturday's World Cup final at Wankhede Stadium provided a refreshing and glorious change. There was a phalanx of heroes, led from the front by the Indian captain and ably supported by a team that went beyond the players and included coach Gary Kirsten and Team India's support staff. And it was apt that the match that decided who were world champions was the finest game of the Cup. It is worth noting that in the after-match celebratory photographs of Team India with the ICC World Cup trophy, the skipper was nudged into the side of the frame. What makes Dhoni such a tremendous leader is that he knows when to take centrestage and lead from the front — on the pitch — and when to let his teammates bask in their collective glory — in the celebrations.

The question mark that hung over the Indian team lifting the World Cup was always about its 'completeness'. No one doubted India's batting prowess. What raised concerns was whether India's bowlers and fielders would be able to take advantage of a batting line-up that was as 'wide' as it was 'deep'. In past World Cups, the 'depth' was seen as being an automatic ticket to glory. But giants of the game such as Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were there four years ago; they were there again now. What made the vital difference was the fact that the Indian team was one cohesive unit that was more than just a sum of its parts. And this was evident throughout this tournament and never more than in Mumbai on Saturday evening.

What we saw in the final was a distillation of the World Cup itself. Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara led a team that was precise, talented and on a roll. The 275-run target, fuelled by a glorious 103 not out by Mahela Jayawardane, was a challenging one for India. But if India was such a great batting team, it was reckoned they would reach it. And they did. The Indian innings showed something that may still be eluding the India supporter: that Team India is not just Tendulkar and Sehwag with a supporting cast of nine other players. If anything, the failures of the legendary opening batting pair helped to drive home this point. Gautam Gambhir showed a firm head on his shoulders and a fine grip on his bat with his 97. Yuvraj Singh continued his incredible World Cup streak and showed that a man had stepped in for the youngster that he was. But it was the captain — so refreshingly different from the mental make-up and expectations of all those cheering on India — who showed grit, temperament and the sheer beauty of a well-paced innings that was never shorn of excitement despite its display of control and lack of 'flash'. Dhoni and his boys, under the shine of Kirsten, have done something that we thought would have been easy to do much earlier. This team just showed that it knew the difference between wanting something and getting it. And with Dhoni we were witness to steely resolve flashing a smile.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

DOUBLE EXPOSURE

Julian Assange, take a breather. Porn WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to revealing more about what is revealed anyway, has bared the identities of what parents and readers of this newspaper tastefully call adult film stars. The database containing the real names, dates of birth of porn stars, sorry, adult artistes, are now out there.

Porn WikiLeaks till now has only dealt with the American adult film industry. The rumour is that there is a whistleblower in the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, a sexually transmitted diseases-testing facility in California. So our local stars can take it a bit easy. But secrets can tumble out and take on less family-oriented figures closer home. You won't have to wait too long to find a WikiLeaks-type platform outing your computer-viewing habits in the public domain. And we don't think you're worried about your reading the latest news about conditions of inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

Pornography, like confessions in churches, rests easy on the principle of hidden identities. But with the Porn WikiLeaks come the possible throttling of double identities. This may be a huge victory for purveyors of morality, but for the consensual adult artist, this could mean not going home on holidays to meet the family. As for any newspaper tying up with Porn WikiLeaks, you, curious reader, can safely assume that this publication isn't interested in exposing smut of this kind.

As for smut in general...

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

BEFORE FUKUSHIMA...

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

I  first heard of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor breakdown on the morning of April 26, 1986, when the Soviet ministry of medium machine building, responsible for nuclear reactors, reported it to the Kremlin. Though the seriousness of the incident remained unclear during our emergency politburo meeting, a government commission, comprising  scientists from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, nuclear reactor specialists, physicians and radiologists, was established and dispatched to Chernobyl.

Initial reports were cautious, and only on the following day, did we learn that an explosion had taken place at the nuclear power station, at least two people had been killed, and radioactive material had been released downwind. The international media, however, had already started talking about a radioactive cloud. We received more concrete information on April 28 and started informing the public of the seriousness of the disaster, focusing on efforts to manage the dangerous and worsening situation.

As efforts to contain the fire and radioactive releases continued, authorities began evacuating the locals. "The heart of the reactor, the hot radioactive core, is in suspension," academician Yevgeni Velikhov announced, adding, "Can it hold up or will it sink into the ground? No one has ever been in such a difficult position."

Within about ten days the reactor fire and radioactive releases were contained. But, by then, nuclear fallout had spread to Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and beyond. Thanks to the thousands of emergency workers, the consequences were limited. Much long-term damage, however, had been done. Some 50 workers died fighting the fire and reactor meltdown, and another 4,000 or more deaths may eventually be shown to have resulted from radioactive releases. The radiation dosage at the power plant during the accident has been estimated at over 20,000 roentgens per hour, about 40 times the estimated lethal dosage, and the World Health Organisation identified 237 workers with acute radiation sickness.

Over 135,000 people were evacuated from the area immediately following the accident, and another 200,000 over the following months. The extent of the nuclear fallout was illustrated by the fact that within only a few hours after the accident, radiation alarms were sounded off at Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over 700 miles from Chernobyl. Today we know that about 77,000 square miles of territory in Europe and the former Soviet Union have been contaminated with radioactive fallout, leaving long-term challenges for flora, fauna, water and human health. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent in trying to contain and remediate the disaster, with a new containment shell now being constructed over the 1986 sarcophagus and what's left of the reactor.

We must continue to examine the long-term public health and environmental consequences of the accident to better understand the relationship between radiation and human life. The 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident is an important historic milestone to remind ourselves of this solemn duty. Furthermore, it's also the perfect time to address four issues:

Prevention: It's important to prevent any possibility of a repetition of the Chernobyl accident. The true scope of the tragedy still remains beyond comprehension and is a shocking reminder of the reality of the nuclear threat. It's also a striking symbol of modern technological risk.

Renewable energy: While the old Soviet nuclear reactor model is no longer in production, we must still be careful while constructing and operating nuclear power plants today. We can't reject nuclear energy as many countries depend on it. But it's necessary to realise that nuclear power is not a panacea, as some observers allege, for energy sufficiency or climate change. Its cost-effectiveness is also exaggerated, as its real cost doesn't account for many hidden expenses. In the US, for example, direct subsidies to nuclear energy amounted to $115 billion between 1947 and 1999, with an additional $145 billion in indirect subsidies. In contrast, subsidies to wind and solar energy combined over the same period totalled only $5.5 billion. To end the vicious cycle of 'poverty versus safe environment', we must shift to efficient, safe and renewable energy. We must invest in alternative and sustainable sources of energy and conservation and energy efficiency initiatives to meet both energy demands and conserving our fragile planet.

Transparency: The closed nature and secrecy of the nuclear power industry, which had experienced some 150 significant radiation leaks at nuclear stations throughout the world before the Chernobyl fire, contributed to the accident and response difficulties. We need transparency and public oversight and regulation of the nuclear power industry today, along with complete emergency preparedness and response mechanisms.

Vulnerability to terrorism and violence: We must carefully consider the vulnerability of reactor fuel, spent fuel pools, dry storage casks, and related fissile materials and facilities to sabotage, attack and theft. While the Chernobyl disaster was accidental, today's disaster can be intentional. We must pay attention to keeping weapons and materials of mass destruction — in this case, nuclear weapons-grade materials such as high-enriched uranium and plutonium — out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations. US President Barack Obama's initiative to secure and eliminate all bomb-grade nuclear material in four years is an important step forward in improving global security. But we must not forget that these fissile materials are often used in nuclear power and research reactors.

Let's all remember Chernobyl not only for its negative impact on Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe, but also as a beacon of hope for a safer and more sustainable future.

(Mikhail Gorbachev is former President of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize and is now the Founding President of Green Cross International.)

*The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THANK YOU, AFRIDI

MAHEEN SADIQ

 

There's a lot to be said about the World Cup, especially our match against India. And it has a lot more to do with Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Gul's bad luck, and Sachin Tendulkar's good fortune. Cricket speaks to our nation in a way our government never has. And Shahid Afridi addressed the nation in a way our president never has — unselfish, genuine, modest. So when Afridi apologised to Pakistan, millions listened and were humbled by the gesture. Our eyes were filled with tears and our hearts with love and a strange kind of sorrow. Afridi, you need not apologise to the nation. We are proud of you and our entire cricket team!

You didn't bring back the cup, but any excitement, any happiness, any hope that Pakistanis have felt in the past few months is because of your brilliance. We've been hearing a lot of 'Pakistan needs something to celebrate', but what Pakistanis really needed was something to look forward to. The green team gave us that with the anticipation of each game played.

The funny thing about cricket is that it can unite the nation through a victory or a loss. It would have been wonderful to go out on the streets and celebrate with dhols, as we did when we won the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in 2009. But even after our loss on Wednesday, the people of Pakistan, in their state of disbelief, came out and shared their sorrow. Misery loves company. Cars on streets, people driving around slowly, quietly, patiently. No honking, no cursing, nowhere to go, nowhere to escape. It was surreal. This only goes to show what cricket means to us and

the massive void it fills for our nation. Cricketers, you made us patriotic. You made us passionate. You made us proud. And these precious adjectives are some that Pakistan rarely gets the chance to associate itself with.

So again, Afridi, your apology is appreciated but not needed. You conducted yourself with patience, grace and dignity, encouraging your own with a smile, and congratulating the opponents with an even bigger smile. You didn't win the semi-finals, but you won our hearts. Thank you for showing the world we are not an aggressive nation.

To Pakistan, I propose this: if there's anyone who needs to apologise, it's us. So to Afridi and the team, I apologise for the pressure I put on you to win the World Cup. It comes from my own shortcomings. So lazy and so cowardly am I that I am incapable of creating for myself a reason to celebrate Pakistan. Since as far as I can remember, my patriotism has tenaciously clung to cricket. It is unfair. I know.

To those Pakistanis who thought this was a match between Hindus and Muslims, I'm glad India won. This was never a battle between nations, or a jihad against Hindus. It was a semi-final cricket match, and if a loss is what it took to be reminded of this then I'm glad we lost. Victory would have only made you gloat over something you had done wrong all along. However, if there was one thing I was relieved to discover it was that we don't hate India. We may hate America, but we don't hate India. No burning of the Indian flag, no bitter remarks, no threatening reaction. Just healthy competition and a pure love for the game.

So we don't hate India. In fact, we hate Asif Ali Zardari. What pleased me even more were the numerous text messages and Facebook statuses I came across that poked fun at Zardari. My personal favourite is, "We congratulate India on winning the semi-finals. As a goodwill gesture, India can keep Pakistan's prime minister. And if it wins the finals, we will give our president too." Ahhh, Zardari jokes. They never get old. He's our scapegoat now. It's his fault we lost. Somehow.

It's time we stopped asking of our cricketers something we should have been asking of ourselves. Or our government. Let's find ourselves a reason to be patriotic and celebrate Pakistan, and let cricket be a sport, not an identity. If we all just took a little responsibility, maybe our beloved team can finally approach the pitch as cricketers, not as soldiers entering the battlefield. We owe it to them. Welcome back, boys!

(Maheen Sadiq from Pakistan wrote this article for the Pakistan Defence Forum before the India-Sri Lanka final.)

*The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WE CAN LURE BACK HOUSE SPARROWS BY SETTING UP FOREST-GARDENS

 

You don't hear the chirps of a sparrow as much as you did once upon a time, do you? The reasons for their decline are yet to be understood, but we do have some pointers. Mosquito coils, cellphone radiation and automobile exhaust of vehicles running on lead-free petrol could be major factors. The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is certainly another cause related to their decline as for the first 15 days of their lives, their nestlings live exclusively on a diet of worms.

It is true that we can neither wish away unleaded petrol, the cellphone or the mosquito coil. So is the fate of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) sealed? Not really.

No other bird has taken to living with the humans as the house sparrow. It originated in West Asia, reached Eurasia and North Africa with agriculture and eventually spread across the world. Today, it's the most widely distributed species on our planet. In fact, the only places where it is not found are dense forests and in the tundra region.

The sparrow remained an integral part of human life for millennia, but today they are disappearing from the cities all over the world. In Britain, they're now in the red list as a species of `high conservation concern'. In Sri Lanka, they are a protected species and in the Netherlands, they are an `endangered species'. If a bird that so easily adapted to human habitation and is a prolific multiplier whose range runs from the costal areas to the Himalayas can start disappearing from our cities and towns, there is something seriously wrong with our urban landscap as they can still be seen in smaller towns and villages.

Think of a little change in our urban gardens. Manicured lawns that need precious ground water, chemical fertilisers and pesticides need to be replaced with forest-like green areas with indigenous grass, fruit-bearing trees like jamun, ber and shehtoot along with some thorny ones like babool as they are the ideal nesting grounds for the small birds.

To water these garden forests we need to create waste water wetlands, where water purifying plants like bulrushes and wild canna will remove toxins and pass on the water for irrigating these green areas. In these mini eco-systems there would always be small fish, frogs, dragonflies and spiders to ensure that the mosquitoes don't breed there. They will also be the green zones where our children could learn how eco-systems work.

Our match-box like apartment architecture has driven the house sparrow away. I do hope our new forest-gardens e will lure them back.

Dushyant Parasher is an environmentalist and wildlife photographer.

He is the recipient of the Himalayan Environment Trust Award 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

CUP THAT OVERFLOWS

 

India last won a World Cup 28 years ago. It had never then been played outside England, nor in coloured clothes. No team other than Clive Lloyd's mighty West Indians had lifted the Cup; India was not mad about one-day cricket yet, and its greatest cricketing memory was probably the Test victories of the summer of 1971. A generation later, enough has changed, even if the euphoria of the moment has not. The largest change, surely, is the size of the stage. Challenged by the Twenty20 format or not, the tears and emotion visible at the Wankhede on Saturday night — and across the streets of this celebrating country — reveal how the World Cup has become, for us, the pinnacle of national sporting achievement.

What has been wonderful, thus, is how the cricketers have risen to the occasion each time. This isn't just a matter of on-field performances, though there have been many that were remarkable:

Mahela Jayawardene's masterful century in the final, for example, at better than a run-a-ball while apparently just guiding each delivery around the park, was one of the great one-day innings, reminding us that there's a space for grace and calm in this era of big hitters. And while no single player has dominated this Cup, as Lance Klusener or Viv Richards did in Cups past, more than one player has scripted stories of redemption and excellence, coming good at this of all possible moments. Yuvraj Singh entered the Cup being mocked as extra weight for the team, and wound up player of the tournament. Pakistan's Shahid Afridi pulled his difficult team together, and pulled them into the semifinals almost on the strength of his willpower and brilliant bowling. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, scratching around for a score earlier in the Cup, took India home in the finals, clouting a massive six to end things.

But what has truly demonstrated cricketers' willingness to embrace and elevate the moment has been the grace with which this tournament has been conducted. From

the Sri Lankans looking for a Tendulkar T-shirt after the final, to Shahid Afridi's and Kumara Sangakkara's post-match speeches, the teams that India played on its route to the Cup were dignified in defeat, ensuring there was little ugliness to adulterate the joy. And Dhoni, calm throughout in spite of the expectations, was magnificent after they won, too — gently reminding fans that India won in spite of decisions that he would have been pilloried for had the team lost.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A MATTER OF MEASURE

 

The seemingly innocuous question of whether to continue with the old academic year or divvy it into more manageable units, in a semester system, has been a bitter, angry one at Delhi University. The last vice-chancellor who pushed for the system even compared the university's intransigent teachers' union to a khap panchayat for setting their face against change. Now, the new vice-chancellor, Dinesh Singh, has articulated his own position — that it would in fact help teachers, and give them greater autonomy, and a chance to draw on their own individual expertise.

When the Knowledge Commission suggested the semester system, its benefits were outlined as a way to break work into more digestible units for students, ensure they are tested periodically, and, crucially, inject greater flexibility into syllabi as texts are chosen by individual instructors, who also evaluate student work — as opposed to a impersonal process with an annual centralised examination and fixed course-material. These units can be creatively combined, and may bring a degree of inter-disciplinarity. It also helps students transfer credits, move across institutions, etc, apart from hugely reducing their workload.

Teachers though, have mixed feelings — they point out that Delhi University (and others even more so), doesn't present a uniform standard. It's an umbrella of colleges with varying levels of competence. Can all of them be trusted to come up with their own teaching material and assessments? Second, would greater freedom to colleges mean formalising differential standards? There are other practical difficulties, like ensuring parity across their evaluations. Teachers also point to the increased volumes of evaluation and administration, and whether our structures are geared to take on this shift immediately. The new vice-chancellor seems to have staked out his position in favour of a gentler transition. This is, ultimately, a technical question, and there is much meeting ground. The ultimate ends of university reform are clear — greater academic freedom, more inter-disciplinarity, etc — and the academic community must not let today's insufficient structures detract from the larger benefits of the semester reform.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COASTAL DIVIDE

 

If our blood chocolates have just got bloodier, there's a short and a very long history behind it. The face-off between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara in Ivory Coast may not escalate into a fully fledged civil war if the UN peacekeepers and French troops, the latter having taken over the airport in Abidjan, manage to check the bloodbath, with one aid agency estimating almost 1,000 deaths. But the scope for international players is limited — not unreasonably, given colonialism's extended fallout in Africa. But then, NATO intervened in Libya; and there's reason to be wary after Rwanda and Darfur.

Ivory Coast, with a population of 22 million, was till recently West Africa's most prosperous nation. But even as it provided the world with most its cocoa, it internalised the narrative of a former anti-colonialist refusing to relinquish his hold on power. According to the UN, Gbagbo, a former trade unionist, lost the 2010 elections. His challenger, Ouattara, is internationally recognised as the legitimate head of government. A technocrat, Ouattara has formerly worked at the IMF and headed the West African Central Bank before taking over as prime minister under Felix Houphouet-Boigny — the president Gbagbo built his reputation opposing.

The battle is for one thing alone: power. The UN accuses Gbagbo's militias of the worse violence, and he's been ignoring the unanimous call from the UN, EU, African Union and the West African regional body Ecowas to step down. But Ouattara hasn't been able to preserve a clean image either with his rebel troops bloodying their hands. The government in the south has long been accused of discriminating against the north, populated by Muslims and immigrants. But the 2003 ceasefire that ended the civil war also divided the country. The 2010 election was meant to bridge that divide. Unfortunately, southerner Gbagbo and northerner Ouattara continue to embody the nation's primary faultline.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE MAGIC OF 2011

MINI KAPOOR

 

This is not 1983. Nineteen-eighty-three, they say, changed cricket. Twenty-eleven, I would wager, will fend off change. The fireworks are still to fall silent, the party has not yet vacated India's roads, and all and sundry have only just begun to insinuate themselves into the game by announcing prizes for Dhoni's squad, so it may appear to be too premature to say this. But the triumph at Wankhede will in fact protect the game of cricket, and not just in India, from its own excesses.

Over the past 40 days, the World Cup has had to justify itself. At the heart of the questioning was the very viability of one-day cricket. Between the pacey abbreviation of Twenty20 and quieter revival of Test cricket, these 100 overs of a one-day match were seen to be something between an indulgence and a waste of time. ODIs were, in the new decade of a new century, neither here nor there — what were the skills that kept it apart? India, after all, picked themselves up alright after the early exit in the Caribbean four years ago.

Ask Australia. Part of the reason this is not 1983 is that since the mid-1990s the Australians have rewritten the rulebook that determines what makes a champion. Greatness, with them around, was no longer a random collection of good days in the park. They innovated, they affected aggressiveness, they never let up, they kept on winning — most of all, they allowed themselves no excuse. If they were world champions in 1999, 2003 and 2007, it simply reflected their performance elsewhere.

When Ricky Ponting was booed after the Ahmedabad quarter-final, it was shocking not only because he had been a gracious captain in defeat — but also because he had just passed on the baton, to be picked up by a team that would be the new Australia. Australia will recoup, for sure, but in the meanwhile they have set a standard for what world dominance requires. The West Indies were champions too, in every way, once — and while their flair often masked their hard work and their cricket embraced all of us with its post-colonial messaging, they did not set themselves up as the team to beat. They were too nice. Australia, on the contrary, overstressed the result-above-all-else code — recall Mark Taylor's act of denial in passing up a chance to go past a Bradman record. And even as Australia made an easy meal of their opponents in 2003 and 2007, they asserted that winning the World Cup signified that dominance.

So, for what it's worth, with its mismatches, the same old teams and boring build-up, the World Cup is our only measure to anoint a world champion. Every sport needs to sort out its ranks. Ask Sachin Tendulkar. He said afterwards: "Winning the World Cup is the ultimate. It is the proudest moment of my life. It shows it is never too late. I thank my teammates who were fabulous. I could not really hold back my tears."

Cricket is a funny old game, with its individual profiles, its batsman-bowler match-ups, yet with the team result hovering over every one of those stories. Perhaps we must look at Sachin's career to make sense of the enormity of the occasion — and also to inquire why it holds hope beyond the predictable triumphalism.

Sachin's career actually touches that of the 1983 squad. As a 16-year-old, he made his debut on a tour of Pakistan in 1989. The heroes of 1983 were around, they must have been for it was still the era of Kapil Dev, but Sachin decided on his role in Indian cricket soon enough. At Sialkot, Waqar Younis, also a debutant in that Test series, bloodied Sachin's nose, but the little boy refused to retire hurt. He'd say later:

"It didn't feel nice, what with blood flowing from my nose, but I couldn't leave for the side was not doing well."

The side did not do well far too often. It's fanciful, and what's sport without its flights of imagination, but it's essentially true: for Sachin, cricket's greatest son, to realise the sport's greatest prize, a team worthy of Sachin's presence had to be constructed — the bits-and-pieces brilliance and fairytale twists of 1983 would not do. Sachin's greatness needed to be validated by that of the team he inhabits. In team sport, a great player needs a team's triumph. His mates know it, as they also must know that it in no way diminishes their own contribution. As cricketer after cricketer dedicates this World Cup to him, the irony is revealing: the man who could not be a great captain, a captain who could not summon the serenity and aloofness Dhoni does, became in the end a great leader. And what Sachin's done above all else, as he sits on the cusp of his hundredth international century, is reinforce the ambition of going on and on, and on, searching for the next victory, the next challenge. It's like Simon Barnes writes in The Meaning of Sport, "Greatness requires a kind of perpetual thirst."

Will this team of world champions, then, show the thirst to go on and on? In that line of questioning lies hope. Barnes emphasises that no sport can afford to devalue its heartland. The effect of 1983 was to read that heartland as a geographical entity, the hundreds of millions of fans in the subcontinent who sustained the profitable commerce of the game based on broadcast rights. But as the standard formats of competitive cricket, international and domestic, move towards new, shorter, hyper versions that still do not have the coordinates to measure greatness, another heartland, the people who invest the game with romance and something beyond the scorecard's reading, is being sidelined. Barnes says that what is being privileged, and this includes one-day's recent gimmicks, is "cricket for people who don't like cricket", and that cricket today underestimates this heartland's capacity to move on.

People who don't like cricket usually do not like Tests, the ultimate arbiter of the game for the heartland. The effect of the Australian reign was to imbue the five-day game with techniques and tactics of the one-day game, to make it more competitive and interesting. India come to one-day championship as the current top-ranked Test team. If India can work out why the 2011 World Cup final is Sachin's triumph, when his contribution to the run total was so meagre, they would restore equilibrium to cricket. Twenty20 will benefit from this moment too, but now T20 will not consume cricket.

mini.kapoor@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SERIAL BRIDE

AMRITA DUTTA

 

The wedding costs Rs 3 crore. And you, dear reader, ask who got married! How often have wise elders told you that in India we don't marry people, we marry families. And so, on NDTV Imagine's reality show Shadi 3 Crore Ki, a show which upgraded a sadharan Rs 8 lakh wedding between two middle-class Punjabi families to an eight-figure spendfest, no bridezilla ran her sharp Prada heels over the wedding planner's floral arrangements nor made the catering staff quiver in fear because the wine glasses had water spots. Instead, portly uncles and plump aunties sat squashed on aubergine-coloured sofas, sulking over shopping budgets ("Rs 50,000? Usse kya hoga?"), the youngsters of the family (no, silly, not the girls) tittered as they planned for an "item" in a bachelor party, and excitable anchors loudly gloated over the money being spent.

Bollywood used to do it differently, of course. In that never, never land, where beautiful people lived in English county mansions and danced with enthusiasm on K Jo's pink sets, the elaborate naap-tol of "real" weddings was kept out. Swarovski-encrusted lehngas appeared without discussions of money. Chachajis and dadijis didn't summon dark clouds of gloom if the bride's family sent only a refrigerator as a gift; or glower in disapproval at the dulha's wedding ring and deem it too small. And caste? Rahul/ Raj/ Rohit never had any; it was so not cool. Reality TV weddings, in contrast, are more gauche, more real and more uncomfortable to watch.

It is true of Band Baajaa Bride (NDTV Good Times) as well, a makeover show that takes the auntyjis out of the picture and puts the bride in relative control. It seems to play on more modern anxieties — what lehnga to wear or which variant of "jewel facial" to deploy in the battle against (shudder) a breakout of acne. But its itemised listing of What Needs to be Fixed Before D-Day — slimness and fatness, dry hair and dull skin, buck teeth and lack of height — can be unnerving. And, make no mistake, the family is still watching. While it might allow a bride from Bangalore to ditch her Mysore silk for a blue-and-pink crepe lehnga, it still has veto power on the level of "exposure" ("You see, we are from a very conservative family").

What do these shows tell us about middle India, which is both the audience and inspiration for reality TV? The truth, universally acknowledged, is that marriage is foremost a social strategy, with not enough elbow room for romance or women's choice. Pragmatic Shruti Kakkar knew all about it in the movie Band Baajaa Baaraat, when she bargained with her parents that they let her work till she got married. The makeover show that plays on that movie name lays out a code of consumption — and coolness. It teaches a bride in Raipur which markers of upward mobility to acquire, but is mindful about who decides what she wears. In the real world, a wedding can add up to Rs 3 crore or more. (One wonders, though, is there enough bang for the wedding buck? Why do Rs 250 crore galas and Rs 3 crore ones seem the same?) But the budget of a wedding, and its rituals, are weighed down by many more anxieties — caste and honour, property and community, and that gift which must not be named.

Reality television in India is its own beast, not always on the side of the socially conservative — whether it is the manufactured sleaze of Bigg Boss, or the frisson of excitement that Sach Ka Saamna triggered through the confessions of cheating husbands, and women who sleep around and tell. The genre works best as the agent provocateur, by taking all our cosy, comforting assumptions about ourselves, and running them through a shredder. In comparison, the recent crop of reality shows are decidedly coy, especially after we have watched Rakhi Sawant and Rahul Mahajan in the roles of Suitable Girl and Boy. Why not, then, a case for a reality show around the anti-bride? Or the anti-wedding? One that takes the smugness and the silence around our big, fat weddings and runs with it? One that actually gives some space to the two people at the heart of the crowd of relatives?

Or, perhaps, it is best to turn to Bollywood. Candyfloss it might be, but, at least, its bejewelled characters find time to fall in love. What good is a marriage without that?

amrita.dutta@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OF DEFENCE AND DEFENSIVENESS

RONEN SEN

 

Defence cooperation, or for that matter, nuclear, space and high-technology cooperation, has to be seen in the perspective of the evolving global economic and geostrategic architecture. The essential underpinning of such cooperation is strategic partnership based on the convergence of long-term interests. These include not just protecting our territorial integrity, tackling threats posed by terrorists and insurgents, nuclear proliferation, promoting energy security and so on. They also involve promotion of our economic interests, through balanced trade and market access.

After our independence we went through several phases in our defence cooperation. First it was primarily the British, and then predominantly the Soviet Union, from the '60s onwards, followed by diversification of procurements from West European countries since the early '80s. Thereafter, we had to cope with unprecedented challenges to our defence preparedness following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which accounted for over two-thirds of our defence inventories, and establish a partnership with Russia in the '90s. The latest stages involved our defence partnership with Israel and the ongoing process of establishing defence cooperation with the US. During virtually all these transitional phases there were initial reservations and resistance to change in significant sections of our political, bureaucratic and, to a lesser extent, military establishments. The debate on the current transitional phase in our defence cooperation is thus not unprecedented.

The only difference is that this transition coincides with a cyclical peak in our defence modernisation programme. This is in the backdrop of the massive military modernisation and force-projection programme of China, rather than its surrogate in the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan, which is also highly dependant on the US....

One of the most difficult tasks in my diplomatic career was not only to restore defence cooperation with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but to give it a boost with new contracts, as an indispensable element of a new strategic partnership with Russia. The old monolithic structure of defence production involved thousands of major and subsidiary enterprises spread all over the Soviet Union meeting centrally-determined production quotas. No enterprise had any idea of costing, supply chains or marketing mechanisms. Russia retained about 80 per cent of this industrial infrastructure. Yet it could not on its own produce many weapon systems without inputs from enterprises in newly independent states. Orders from the Russian armed forces dried up, with a budget cut of 68 per cent in 1992 alone. They lacked funds even for maintenance of existing inventories and had to resort to cannibalisation for spares and aggregates. Defence production declined by almost 90 per cent between 1992 and 1997. Old structures had collapsed. New ones were constantly in a state of flux. We had no option but to resort to unorthodox measures during the most difficult initial years of the post-Soviet transition period...

I am certain that after more than a decade of subsequent consolidation and revival of the Russian economy, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, our defence cooperation has been further strengthened. The biggest current challenges to this relationship are to impart it with greater and more balanced economic content, and the modernisation of the Russian defence industry to sustain defence cooperation in a longer term perspective. We have a big stake in the success of Russia coping with these challenges, since our dependence on Russia for defence supplies is greater than on the rest of the world combined. It is in fact greater than the dependence of most NATO countries on the US. Russia, the US and our other partners will have to demonstrate their competitiveness through a substantially increased serviceability of their systems in current use by us and for new procurements.

Let me now turn to our defence cooperation with the US...

A high-profile manifestation of service-to-service cooperation was that of the navies of India, the US, Japan and Australia after the tsunami in 2004. The then secretary of state, Colin Powell, had turned down former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's pleas for including China in these operations in the Indian Ocean. There have been around 50 joint exercises between the armed forces of India and the US so far, which have been of mutual benefit, and led to greater recognition of the high professional standards of our armed forces.

By far the most important agreement governing our cooperation is the India-US New Framework in Defence Cooperation signed at the defence ministerial level in Washington DC in June 2005, after the NSSP, and just prior to the historic civil nuclear initiative. This agreement was a significant manifestation of the strategic dimension of India-US relations.

The US, which has been used to dealing with either allies or adversaries, is currently in the process of learning to deal with a partner with shared values and intersecting interests, but assertive of its autonomy as a vibrant democracy. The process of understanding and undertaking mutually acceptable adjustments aimed at addressing systemic differences between India and the US will have to be done quickly, and not over several years as in the case of our cooperation with the Soviet Union.

Increasing public awareness in India of the evolution of India-US relations, and the extraordinary extent of US support of our national security concerns in our region and beyond, should help in balancing our deep-rooted perceptions of the unreliability of the US as a defence partner. We could also explore ways of reducing dependence and promoting inter-dependence and mutual stake-holding in defence collaboration with all our partners. Pending issues for creating a better atmosphere and enhancing comfort levels for cooperation should also be addressed...

Our approach to all these issues and responses to pending proposals reflect not just our perceptions of the US, Russia or any other country. They relate primarily on how we perceive ourselves; the extent to which we have shed our colonial-era sense of insecurity and fear of being dominated and exploited. It is high time that we stopped the charade of making a virtue of procrastination and lack of decisiveness. We need less ideological posturing and more open debate on whether our own interests are best served by remaining outside global regimes or by joining the global mainstream. We need to ask ourselves whether we should remain fence-sitters or prepare to take our place at the global high table.

Excerpted from a speech at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, on April 1. Sen is a former ambassador to Russia and the US

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE INDEX OF INEQUALITY

RAVINDER KAUR

 

First the good news: the overall sex ratio improved from 933 in 2001 to 940 in 2011. There are more women in the Indian population than there were ten years ago. The bad news: there are even fewer girls in the 0-6 age group then there were in 2010. The number went down from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011 — a decline of 13 points.

While the perennial question — why don't Indians want daughters — continues to stare us in the face, we need to dissect the provisional child sex ratio figures released by the census commissioner a little carefully to understand the implications.

One positive trend that may go unnoticed in the swirling sea of declines in 24 out of our 35 states/UTs is the improvement in many of the forever guilty northern states — especially Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh and Delhi, the two much maligned cities, have also shown improvement even though Delhi's — by only one point — hardly calls for celebration. But there is improvement in Himachal Pradesh as also in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu; the latter two are in many ways similar to the northern states. Haryana and Punjab at 830 and 846 still remain states with the worst sex ratios and with J&K joining them, continue to contribute a large share of the country's female deficit; but their upward movement finally should make us take heart.

How about the rest of the country? It seems that while the north may be improving, the rest of the country is resolutely marching on the path of daughter elimination, continuing trends that began as early as 1971 in some states. It is difficult to explain why north-eastern (and largely tribal) states such as Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim and Tripura should be showing further and large declines from 1991 and 2001 figures. Other eastern states, Assam and Meghalaya, also show smaller but definite declines. States in this part of the country are generally taken to be more female friendly than the rest of India. And even though most of them continue to have above normal sex ratios (higher than 950) the declines need to be taken as warning signals. West Bengal and Orissa have also continued their 2001 downward trend. Another shocker is the continuing dips in the central Indian tribal states — Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have declined and so has the hill state of Uttarakhand. STs, as a social group, have had robust sex ratios even though there was a decline between 1991-2001, from 985 to 973. The declines in both the north-eastern and central Indian states, states with tribal populations, means that ST ratios are likely to fall further. Then there are the outliers: A huge drop of 78 points in J&K? And small UTs like Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu have dived by 66 and 16 points respectively.

Can there be one common explanation as to why child sex ratios have been dipping around the country for several decades? Despite all our differences — of language and culture, kinship and marriage, wheat growing and rice growing areas, lower and higher castes, nomadic, tribal and hill people — are we now simply united by our desire to get rid of our daughters?

Unfortunately, the census has as yet not published the critical sex ratio at birth (SRB) figures for 2011, that is, answers to the census question: children born, by sex, in the year immediately preceding the census. This ratio will tell us whether the promising signs of a turnaround shown by the sample registration system (SRS) data are corroborated across the country. If the sex ratio at birth for 2011 does show an improvement, then there are two — good and bad news — conclusions to be drawn: sex selective abortions may have reduced but neglect continues unabated with post-birth discrimination leading to further attrition of girl children up to age six (and perhaps higher). Many rich states like Punjab and poor states like Madhya Pradesh show higher girl child mortality. Madhya Pradesh continues to record cases of female infanticide.

There is also an alternate explanation. The statistic on the sex ratio, 0-6 years, in 2011, is actually an average of sorts of the SRB in the previous seven years. These seven years are centred in 2007, and if there has been an improving trend then the 2004-2010, average of 914 means a higher number for SRB for 2010. The Census 2001 number for SRB was 906, that is, the census SRB in 2010 will most likely be in the high 920s, possibly higher. So while the child sex ratio shows a decline, the SRB will show an improvement provided the census data reflects the trend upwards in the SRS data. This would be reason for hope that the trend perceived at the tail end of the last decade could become long-lasting.

But to return to the million dollar question on everybody's mind — why does a growing India continue to discriminate against girls? Interestingly, we are not alone in this — China, growing faster than us has a worse problem while rich countries like South Korea have only recently managed to get normal sex ratios at birth. New work by French demographer Christophe Guilmoto shows that the malady may be spreading to other parts of Asia — Vietnam, Singapore,

Armenia, Albania, Azerbaijan and Georgia show masculine child sex ratios. But this should not be cause for comfort to us!

The new dip in the child sex ratio also signals a general policy failure and an inability to control sex determination. Can laws and palliative policies address the root causes of the malaise? The answer is no. As I have reiterated several times, it can only be the hard work of ensuring equal rights for girls and women — whether in property or in other entitlements such as education, nutrition and health care that will drive the turnaround. Parents have to value daughters — only then will they survive. Also, society has to learn to acknowledge the contributions of women and girls — and this has to be learned behaviour as the market doesn't seem to be doing it very well.

The writer teaches sociology at IIT, Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

IS IT BETTER TO SAVE NO ONE?

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Critics from left and right are jumping all over President Obama for his Libyan intervention, arguing that we don't have an exit plan, that he hasn't articulated a grand strategy, that our objectives are fuzzy, that Islamists could gain strength. And those critics are all right.

But let's back up a moment and recognise a larger point: Obama and other world leaders did something truly extraordinary, wonderful and rare: they ordered a humanitarian intervention that saved thousands of lives and that even Col Muammar el-Gaddafi's closest aides seem to think will lead to his ouster.

We were all moved by E man al-Obeidy, the woman who burst into the reporters' hotel in Tripoli with her story of gang-rape and torture, only to be dragged away by security goons. If we had not intervened in Libya, Gaddafi forces would have reached Benghazi and there might have been thousands of Eman al-Obeidys.

It has been exceptionally rare for major powers to intervene militarily for predominantly humanitarian reasons. One rare example was the United States-led Kosovo campaign in 1999, and another was Britain's dispatch of troops to Sierra Leone in 2000 to end the brutal civil war there. Both were successes, but came only after years of killings that gradually built up the political will to do something.

Critics argue that we are inconsistent, even hypocritical, in our military interventions. After all, we intervened promptly this time in a country with oil, while we have largely ignored Ivory Coast and Darfur — not to mention Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

We may as well plead guilty. We are inconsistent. There's no doubt that we cherry-pick our humanitarian interventions.

But just because we allowed Rwandans or Darfuris to be massacred, does it really follow that to be consistent we should allow Libyans to be massacred as well? Isn't it better to inconsistently save some lives than to consistently save none?

If the Libya operation is successful, moreover, it may help put teeth into the emerging doctrine of the "responsibility to protect" — a landmark notion in international law that countries must intervene to prevent mass atrocities. And that might help avert the next Rwanda or the next Darfur.

After the Vietnam War, many Americans were traumatised by the very idea of using military force. As a result we were too slow to react to genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, and hundreds of thousands died as a result. Then we recovered our moxie — and unfortunately barged into Iraq. The difficulties of Iraq and Afghanistan have again made many Americans — particularly on the left — allergic to any use of military force, even to save lives in a limited operation with very few civilian casualties, like the one in Libya.

I don't think the United States should arm Libyan rebels, partly because that would require training them to use the weaponry, and we shouldn't have military boots on the ground, for fear of a nationalist backlash among Libyans. But we can step up the bombing of Libyan military units (arguably necessary to protect civilians), making clear to those units that unless they stand down, they will be destroyed.

Critics complain, correctly, that we don't have a clear exit strategy. But plans made in conference rooms rarely survive the first shot anyway. The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 lasted 11 weeks, entailed civilian casualties and faced constant sniping from critics — until it abruptly succeeded and largely put an end to the slaughter there.

Gulf countries could leak word of a $15 million reward for the arrest of Colonel Gaddafi. That might empower his aides and bodyguards to get greedy. The mounting defections of aides like Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa suggest that even some members of the inner circle believe the tide has turned. They're opportunists, and they apparently believe Gaddafi is going down.

The International Criminal Court is investigating Colonel Gaddafi, with an indictment possible as soon as next month. It would be a fine step towards ending global impunity for atrocities if a SWAT team of Libyans and coalition forces swooped down one day and seized Colonel Gaddafi to face trial in The Hague. It's the kind of thing that no one can predict, but it's an ending that would leave this Libyan incursion remembered not only for the lives it saved, but also as a milestone in the history of humanitarianism.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A CELEBRITY APPRENTICE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

GAIL COLLINS

Donald Trump has run faux campaigns for president before, flirting with the Democrats and independents. This time, he's playing a conservative Republican. By 2016, he'll probably be talking about his affinity for the Alaskan Independence Party or the Whigs.

And, of course, he's suddenly a birther. "This guy either has a birth certificate or he doesn't," he said of President Obama. "I didn't think this was such a big deal, but, I will tell you, it's turning out to be a very big deal because people now are calling me from all over saying: please don't give up on this issue."

In a potential Republican field that includes Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, it's hard to come up with a line of attack loopy enough to stand out from the pack. But darned if Trump didn't manage to find one. "If he wasn't born in this country, it's one of the greatest scams of all time," Trump told Bill O'Reilly, who demurred: "I don't think that's the case." Vote for Donald Trump, the man who can make Bill O'Reilly look like the most sensible guy in the room.

Trump's main argument for why he should be taken seriously as a presidential contender is his business success. Has Obama ever hosted a long-running reality series? Owned a bankruptcy-bound chain of casinos? Put his name on a flock of really unattractive high-rise apartment buildings? No!

"By now my name is big enough and equated with the gold standard to the extent that I don't have to say too much about it," wrote Trump in one of his books, before going on to say a lot more about it. He is extremely sensitive to any gibes about his business record, which has been up and down over the years.

During one down period, I referred to him in print as a "financially embattled thousandaire" and he sent me a copy of the column with my picture circled and "The Face of a Dog!" written over it. Trump was one of the first people I interviewed when I came to New York as a reporter back in the '80s when he was a developer-wunderkind who had started in the business with nothing but a smile, a dream and his father's large holdings in real estate.

He's still promoting, 24/7. Some people believe that his presidential flirtations are an attempt to draw viewers to his TV show, Celebrity Apprentice. In it, people who are alleged to be famous compete for money for their favourite charities and what one former contestant revealed was a salary of $16,000 apiece.

Celebrity Apprentice is widely regarded as terrible and cheesy programming, but, actually, it has its moments. I recently saw an episode in which a former top model had a serious discussion with a fellow competitor about whether this was the 20th century or the 21st. You can't get stuff like that on Mad Men.

The series is a perfect reflection of Trump himself: an orgy of product-placement and personal aggrandisement. All the contestants, including the ones in their 70s, have to refer to their host as "Mr Trump." They all sombrely devote themselves to making faux commercials about whatever enterprise has coughed up cash for a major mention that week. When you think about it, Celebrity Apprentice has a lot in common with the current Republican presidential campaign. Endless blathering. Strange contenders who did something vaguely notable in 1986. And Donald Trump, looking extremely cheerful.

Beyond having the moral fortitude to tell Dionne Warwick she is fired, Trump's qualifications for being president of the United States include having co-written a large number of books, including Think Big and Kick Ass ("People always ask me: 'How did you get so rich?' ") and Never Give Up. ("This book is about a subject near and dear to my heart — never giving up.")

To establish his birther creds, this week Trump produced his own birth certificate, after one failed attempt in which he came up with a document that was too weak to qualify for a passport. By the time he worked things out, we had an entire news cycle devoted to Donald Trump having been born in New York.

Now, let's try asking to see his tax returns.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GONE IN 60 SECONDS

 

Given how witnesses have a tendency to turn hostile—or commit suicide (like Sadiq Batcha)—in high-profile cases, and the holes in the chargesheet filed in the A Raja scam, the CBI did well to delay appearing in the trial court on Saturday. With the nation's attention riveted on the India-Sri Lanka final when the CBI came in, few studied the chargesheet in detail. The CBI has made some progress though. Pointing out Swan Telecom and Unitech got some of their bank drafts made before the telecom ministry issued letters of intent is important, as is the statement that Swan was wholly owned by Reliance ADAG—90.1% of Swan was owned by Tiger Traders which, the CBI found, was an ADAG associate, a fact that ADAG has been denying so far. Much of this was pointed out by CAG (it cited ADAG's infusion of R992 crore of preference capital in Swan as proof of its ownership), but if CBI investigations show the same thing, this augurs well.

Yet, the chargesheet has many holes and to the extent proving the case depends upon the strength of witnesses, the choice of witnesses is somewhat curious. The main charge against Raja is that he changed the definition of the First Come First Served policy to benefit certain telcos. Well, the Solicitor General (now Attorney General) who is a CBI witness is the one who approved this! The AG says a vital paragraph of what he approved was dropped but, as this newspaper has pointed out, what was dropped was largely irrelevant. Once Raja's counsel points out the SG/AG cleared the operative part of FCFS, the case will suffer a serious setback—Gone in 60 seconds, to use the title of the famous Nicholas Cage thriller. Equally curious is calling Niira Radia as a witness since she was, till recently, in the dock for her alleged role in influencing Raja. One of Radia's clients (Tata) has been declared innocent so far, and the other (Unitech) guilty, so is the strategy that Radia turns state's approver on Unitech? Seems risky, given how witness testimony can change.

The Supreme Court had asked the CBI to investigate how firms had been given dual-technology licences before the policy was announced, but the CBI has nothing on it, except to incorrectly cite Trai on this. Indeed, it is curious the chargesheet doesn't mention the fact that since Raja did not get a mandatory Trai recommendation on introducing new licensees, all 157 licences issued were illegal—CBI's focus seems to be only on the 35 licences issued to Swan/Unitech.

Finding of a smoking gun, in any trial, is always critical. But the CBI says it has yet to make significant headway in the R200 crore invested by Shahid Balwa in the DMK chief's wife's and daughter's TV channel. Nor does the chargesheet explain why salaried officials of ADAG should hatch a conspiracy on their own, especially since the group put in R1,000 crore into Swan — it also makes you wonder about the quality of audit if no one catches such paper trails in the normal course. The CBI has a long haul ahead. Let's hope the second chargesheet is better than the first one. Perhaps the Court should reconsider its decision not to vet the chargesheet—after all, the CBI was reluctant to even seriously investigate matters until the Court stepped in.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SERVICING TRADE DEFICITS

The steady deterioration in the trade balance, which increased from $32.8 bn in Q1 to $37.8 bn in Q2, fell to $31.6 bn in Q3. But the impact of this turnaround on the merchandise trade front is limited, as the cumulative trade deficit in the first three quarters of the year is still at a high $102 bn, substantially higher than the $87bn trade deficit in the corresponding period of 2009-10. The real reason for worry is that the net surplus from the services trade has almost stagnated, with the numbers inching up by just about a billion dollars to $29 bn. The growth of remittances, which is the other major contributor to the invisible inflows, has also been anaemic, with the number going up by just about half a billion to $41.3 bn. Consequently, increased net earnings from the invisible trade (mainly services and remittances by non-residents) was too small to neutralise the growing trade deficit and contain the current account deficit.

The stagnant net earnings from the services trade has been a major worry in recent times. The reason is that though the net surplus earned from software exports has gone up by more than $5 bn, to $40 bn, the contribution of other sectors were only marginal or even negative. For instance, while tourism contributed a net surplus of $2.8 bn in the first three quarters of the year, the earnings from transport services were negative. The biggest worry is the ITeS and related services, where the imports now exceed exports by as much as $8 bn, with growth of both exports and imports accelerating sharply. Thus, the net outflows from the segment neutralised a large part of the earnings from software exports. So, the overall numbers show that despite the sharp deceleration in the trade deficit in the third quarter of the year, the stagnant surplus earned from services trade and remittances have ensured that the current account deficit still remains at an uncomfortably high 3.1% of GDP during the April-December period.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WATCH THOSE STATES CAREFULLY
SUNIL JAIN

Economists have argued, for a long time, that it is economic growth that determines the outcomes of elections. The higher the growth, the higher the chances of a government getting re-elected. While that could explain the Congress party coming back to power in 2009 with 42% more seats than it got in 2004 (from 145 in 2004 to 206 in 2009), how does it explain the BJP losing so badly in 2004 (its seats tally fell from 182 in 1999 to 138 in 2004) despite all the hype over higher growth and India Shining? Former chief economic advisor, Arvind Virmani, one of the big proponents of the economy-leads-to-votes theory, explains this by arguing that GDP growth during the BJP years was actually lower than the average of the previous period—as compared to 6.7% between 1994-95 and 1998-99, growth in the Vajpayee years was a lower 5.6%; others refine the argument by bringing in inflation, jobs … A new study,

by Poonam Gupta at ICRIER and Arvind Panagariya at Columbia University, brings in an altogether new

dimension, one that could be more than mildly worrying for the ruling Congress party in the context of how it has done in various state elections in the recent past.

Gupta and Panagariya, like the other economists, begin by proving that higher GDP growth results in higher chances of winning elections. So, using data for the 2009 general elections, they say incumbent parties in high-growth states won 85% of the seats they contested. In contrast, they say, incumbents won just 52% and 40% of the seats they contested in medium- and low-growth states. From the old days where Prannoy Roy and Vinod Dua made 'anti-incumbency factor' a household term, Gupta-Panagariya are tying to do the same with 'pro-incumbency factor'!

But, and here's the twist, the duo bring in not just incumbency at the national level, but argue that state-level incumbency has an effect on the national or all-India results. So, while the older economic models (Arvind Virmani, Surjit Bhalla, among others) would say the Congress would win more seats if GDP growth picked up, Gupta-Panagariya argue that if growth in Bihar is faster than that for all-India, the Lok Sabha seats in Bihar will go to Nitish Kumar's JDU and not to the Congress. This is why, they point out, that even while India's GDP growth picked up in 2009 when the Congress was in power at the Centre, the party managed to win just nine of out 72 seats in the states of Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh—these states, whose growth was rising, were all ruled by non-Congress parties.

Gupta-Panagariya argue that the wealth of candidates is important, as is their criminal record (the richer you are, and the more criminal cases you have, the greater are the chances of your winning!), but there's a caveat to this. Much of the individual characteristics really apply to low-growth states; in the higher-growth states, what matters more is whether the candidates are affiliated to a major national party, and whether that party is the incumbent one or not. All other factors being constant, they say, a candidate belonging to the state-incumbent party has a 35-40% greater chance of being elected than the candidates of other parties. This relationship is greater in faster-growth states and non-existent in the slowest-growth ones.

If the growth of GDP in a state is 1% higher than the national average for the last few years, their regression analysis tells them, the candidates of state-incumbent parties have a 6 percentage point higher probability of winning than do candidates of non-incumbents. If the growth difference is 2 percentage points, this probability rises by 12 percentage points.

So, if the Congress is not in power in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat and Karnataka, and these states manage to register higher growth than the national average, the Gupta-Panagariya model would suggest the seats here will go to opposition parties.

Of course, there is some hope here as well. The authors have tried to map the Congress party's extra 61 seats in the 2009 elections in terms of an incumbency/non-incumbency and high-growth/medium-growth/low-growth matrix. They find the Congress won 1 extra seat in a high-growth state that it was in power in; it won just 2 extra seats in a non-Congress high-growth state; it won 40 seats in low-growth states where it was not the incumbent party (Prannoy's anti-incumbency factor is alive and kicking in low-growth states!)—it won 8 seats more in the medium-growth states that it was an incumbent for and 10 in the medium-growth states it was not the incumbent party. In which case, the Congress's big hope lies in states like UP not being able to up their growth game.

None of this is to suggest the model is infallible—JDU MP NK Singh, who was in the audience where the model was being presented, made a valid point when he said that the model would be really robust if it could explain why, despite all the years of non-performance, Lalu Prasad managed to get re-elected. Certainly, it would be interesting to see how the model takes care of coalitions, and it would be interesting to see whether voters are reacting to GDP growth or whether they respond more to public works programmes (Virmani's model takes care of this); the model seems to assume inflation is irrelevant and that the distribution effects of growth are not as important as many would think, and it seems to assume caste is not as important as our politicians make it out to be. This may well be true, but could just as well be wishful thinking. The model is young, and needs a lot more testing. But there can be little doubt politicians who ignore growth are being short-sighted. That's the lesson politicians from both the Congress and the BJP would do well to keep in mind.

sunil.jain@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WILL CHINA COOL?
AMITENDU PALIT

The 12th Five Year Plan of China, approved by the National People's Congress (NPC) a few weeks ago, is being intensely discussed by economists. The discussion is not only over whether China, which has been growing at an annual average rate of 10%-plus for almost a whole decade (except the brief financial crisis-induced slowdown in between), will be able to moderate growth to 7%. It is also over what such growth moderation means for the prospects of the region. And whether China's decision to lower growth and focus on distribution vindicates what many have been arguing: high growth and effective distribution cannot go hand-in-hand.

Speculation over whether moderation of growth is indeed possible stems from scepticism over whether wings of the growth engine can be clipped when it takes off. Short-term history does

not support this objective. During the 11th Plan, the actual GDP growth unfailingly exceeded the target GDP growth. During 2005-10, the target GDP growth for each year was 8%. However, the actual growth each year, including the more sober years of 2008 and 2009, was well above 8%. While these two years produced 9.6% and 9.2% GDP growth, the other years saw growth

exceeding 10%.

Going by the last Plan, clipping the wings of the economy won't be easy. Concerns over 'over-heating' of the economy had not become as rampant when China embarked on its last Plan. These worries have peaked in the last few years, coupled with apprehensions over a 'hard-landing' of the economy. Chinese authorities appear to be approaching their mission far more seriously this time. But, in this regard, there is a difference between perceptions of the central government and the provinces. Before the NPC, provinces and municipalities held their own individual congresses for discussing GDP targets. Most provinces preferred to target GDP growth of 10% or more. This is expected, given that performance incentives for provincial governments and administrations are tuned in to GDP targets. This can well turn out to be a major problem for the central government in moderating growth. With incentives in the system aligned to high growth, introducing a reverse trend might be more difficult than what the central government expects.

China's policy in moderating growth seems to be to reign in expansionary policies that have been fuelling growth in recent time, and also exacerbating other pressures like inflation. Much of the expansion has come from the stimulus injected during the financial crisis. China has become an exceedingly cash-rich economy, not only because of expansion in liquidity but also due to a lack of adequate variety of financial instruments for parking liquid cash. Real estate is the main asset promising returns in the long term. This has led to a stiffening of housing and property demand on part of not only the salaried class but also other segments of the economy who are cash-rich. Property prices have shot sky-high; developers have seized the opportunity to quote even higher prices, leading to further escalation. Contraction of liquidity might help in containing this process by a large extent. With less cash driving economic activity and transaction values, nominal GDP growth can be brought down; with prices falling, there could be a similar impact on real GDP growth as well.

Will reduction in Chinese growth imply similar prospects for the region? Unlikely, because China intends to shift to an economic model that derives inspiration from domestic consumption and investment. The earlier Plan's thrust on exports has been replaced by emphasis on domestic growth. While this does not mean that cheap 'made in China' products will vanish from the nooks and crannies of the world; China is expected to become a market absorbing more exports from other countries. This is good news for several countries in the region such as India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh, whose manufacturers can now delve deeper into the Chinese market and production networks.

Despite trying to control market failures as much as possible, it is clear that after more than three decades of economic reforms, China realises that growth and distribution do not always go hand in hand. Regional income

inequalities and other disparities are clear indications that GDP growth does not benefit all equally. The result of uneven benefits is social discontent. The Chinese system can hardly afford to proceed with discontent. What

China, therefore, will try to do, and probably wisely, is to ensure that

people do not feel left out of the

growth process. For that, cooling

down is important. The next five years will be keenly watched by other emerging markets, to see if the Chinese experiment succeeds.

The author is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

BEHIND INDIA'S WORLD CUP

Ahead of the World Cup, widely perceived as the most open in recent times, India found itself in an unenviable position: anointed as the favourite and appointed to play in front of volatile, demanding home crowds. A measure of the constricting pressure India's cricketers experienced during the tournament may be had from captain M.S. Dhoni's revelation that his men struggled to keep their food down and that Yuvraj Singh was physically sick because of anxiety. Seen in this light, India's second World Cup triumph — 28 years after the gloriously improbable victory Kapil Dev's team achieved against the mighty West Indies — appears all the more remarkable. Four distinct qualities characterise this triumph. One, the facility for natural expression under pressure, especially when batting. Two, game-toughness, which manifested itself in the wherewithal to meter resources through a draining tournament. Three, the peculiar yet much-desired ability, common to teams Dhoni leads, not so much to solve problems as to transcend them (the lift in the fielding standard of a largely unathletic side inured to mediocrity was hard to explain). Four and most important of all, an unbending desire to win that was stronger than any of the other teams.

From a unit that looked flawed in the league stage — its bowling inadequate, its fielding incompetent, its batting inconsistent, particularly in the Power Play overs — India transformed itself into a side that got the job done in the big matches. As Dhoni noted, his team peaked at the right time. No one better illustrated this transformation than the captain. He reserved his best innings — a poised, calculated, and ultimately devastating 91 — for the finale. His decision to promote himself in the big game was a classic case of leading from the front, and while he made tactically questionable calls, his ability to inspire a band of men to stay invested in a contest is second to none. Gautam Gambhir seems to escape notice in a team of superstars, but he must be acknowledged as one of the finest big-match batsmen of his generation. His record in second innings in important Tests and in run chases and grand finals in ODIs and Twenty20 games is exceptional. India discovered and re-discovered many heroes in the World Cup. Yuvraj had a standout tournament, his runs and wickets often coming when his team needed them most. Zaheer Khan held the bowling together, delivering wickets whenever his captain threw him the ball in the middle-stages. He might not have ended as he wished, but his brilliant opening spell in the final set the tone. Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, and Suresh Raina made runs that were worth more than their quantity while Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, and Ashish Nehra contributed vital spells without having consistently good tournaments. R. Ashwin, curiously overlooked for much of India's campaign, added an edge to the bowling and forced Harbhajan to raise his game. Sachin Tendulkar, for whom the team said it wanted to win the World Cup, continued his scarcely believable second wind which now spans three years. The team's spontaneous gesture of chairing a visibly emotional Tendulkar and parading him before an adoring home crowd showed how much it meant to all involved. Coach Gary Kirsten and the rest of the backroom staff deserve high praise for creating an atmosphere in which India's cricketers could relax and thus express their skills naturally. Sri Lanka might have fallen at the last hurdle, but much like Pakistan, it won fans for its cricket, its comportment, and its captaincy. But this was India's World Cup, and Dhoni's men were worthy winners of a well-staged tournament.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

AN EXCITING DISCOVERY

The discovery of Acheulian tools no younger than one million years, and possibly as old as 1.5 million years, in Tamil Nadu overturns the current thinking that hominins or early humans lived in India merely 0.6 million to 0.5 million years ago. The exciting finds are from a site at Attirampakkam, in the Kortallayar River basin, about 60 km northwest of Chennai. Previous age estimates indicated that hominins who moved out of Africa dispersed across Asia and Europe around the same time. This was inconsistent with the widely accepted current theories of early human migration from Africa to Asia. By dating the artefacts as at least one million years old, a paper published online in Science ("Early Pleistocene presence of Acheulian hominins in South India" by Shanti Pappu et al., March 25, 2011) comes close to placing them in sync with the migration of early humans from Africa to the rest of the world through Asia. The latest study used two dating methods – palaeomagentism to date the sediments from where the tools were recovered, and aluminum-beryllium isotope technique to date six artefacts. Combining the two techniques helped make the dating robust.

Attirampakkam was identified by the British geologist Robert Bruce Foote in 1863. The Indian researchers took nearly a decade of holistic study of the site to understand the archaeology in relation to paleo-environment. Among the more than 3,500 quartzite tools recovered from the site, the most common ones were the oval and tear-drop shaped bifacial hand-axes, cleavers, and small fakes (small chipped stones). Quite a number of tools discovered at the lowest buried Acheulian levels indicate that they were brought from elsewhere and only the final shaping was done at Attirampakkam. This is not unexpected: hominins using Acheulian tools were highly mobile.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

EARTHQUAKE AND JAPAN

IT IS NOT JAPAN'S DEMISE THAT THE EARTHQUAKE HAS PRODUCED, BUT RATHER THE POSSIBILITY OF ITS REBIRTH. IT MAY BE THAT ONLY AMID THE RUINS CAN PEOPLE GAIN THE COURAGE TO STRIDE DOWN A NEW PATH.

KOJIN KARATANI

I was on the streets of Tokyo when the earthquake struck. The ground shook violently, while buildings swayed around me for a long time. It was beyond anything I had experienced before, and I sensed that something terrible had happened. My first thought was of the Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people in 1995. Although I did not experience the Kobe earthquake first hand, it hit the region of my hometown where many close relatives lived, and so I headed immediately to the scene of the disaster. I walked the streets where building after building had collapsed into rubble.

Clearly, the scale of the current disaster far surpasses that of the Kobe earthquake. For it also includes the damage caused by the tsunami to coastal regions across hundreds of kilometres as well as the danger of nuclear catastrophe. Yet these are not the only differences. The Kobe earthquake was completely unexpected. Aside from a small number of experts, no one had imagined the possibility of an earthquake there.

The recent earthquake, on the other hand, had been anticipated. Earthquakes and tsunamis have struck the Northeastern region of Japan throughout its history, and frequent warnings had been sounded in recent years. Meanwhile, nuclear power had always given rise to strong opposition, criticism, and warnings. Yet the scale of the earthquake went far beyond any prior anticipation. It was not that anticipating the scale of such a disaster was impossible, just that people had purposely avoided doing so.

There is another difference. Although the Kobe earthquake occurred after the end of the bubble economy of the1980s, when economic recession had already taken hold, people at the time had yet to fully recognise the demise of Japan's high-growth economy. For this reason, the Kobe earthquake initially appeared as a symbol of Japan's economic downfall. Yet this was quickly forgotten as the nation tried to recapture an age when people spoke of 'Japan as No. 1.' It was after the Kobe earthquake that Japan wholeheartedly adopted neoliberal economic policies with the pretext of reviving the economy.

In contrast, the awareness of economic decline was widespread in Japan prior to the recent earthquake. The shrinking birth rate and the ageing of the population left no room for a rosy outlook. Although empty nationalist rhetoric calling for Japan's revival as an economic superpower continues to hold sway in the major media, a different perspective has taken root in people's hearts, one that acknowledges the reality and continuing prospect of low growth and that calls for the formation of a new economy and civil society. In this respect, the recent earthquake does not come as a surprise shock to the economy. Rather, it will only strengthen already existing tendencies, confirming, in a sense, the very issues that were overlooked following the Kobe earthquake.

In the wake of the Kobe disaster I was impressed, first of all, by the relative composure of the elderly people who had lost their homes. Their attitude was that having started out from the burnt-out ruins of World War II, they had only to start over again. Second, large numbers of young volunteers, raised in an age of affluence, gathered from all over Japan to help out, forming communities of mutual aid. Such a phenomenon was not unique to Japan. I have heard of a similar occurrence following the recent Sichuan earthquake in China. Such communities emerge where traditional communities are gone.

Examining the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent catastrophes in her book A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit concludes that "extraordinary communities arise in disaster." It is commonly thought that when order dissipates, a Hobbesian natural state arises in which people behave as wolves toward one another. The reality, however, is that people who regarded one another with fear when living in the social order created by the state form communities of mutual aid amid the chaos following disaster, a spontaneous type of order that differs from that which exists under the state.

It was this type of community that was born in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake. Yet Japan's particular historical experience also came into play. For the ruins of the earthquake strongly evoked the psychological conditions following World War II, when people came together to reflect upon the war and the history of modern Japan that led to it. The 'paradise' formed in the wake of the disaster, however, was short-lived, and the memory of the war disappeared along with it.

When order was restored following the Kobe earthquake, the dominant tendency was to try to use the disaster as a business opportunity to effect economic revival. Prime Minister Koizumi encouraged neoliberalist policies all the more, and he trampled on the post-war pacifist Constitution by pushing through the dispatch of Self-Defence forces to Iraq. Yet the end result was continuing economic stagnation and a widening gap between rich and poor. As a result, the Liberal Democratic Party, which had held sway for so long, yielded power to the Democratic Party of Japan. Yet the new administration was unable to embark on a new course.

This was the situation in which the recent earthquake occurred. Once more, the disaster evoked the burnt-out ruins after the war. In addition, the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant cannot help but call forth memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Post-war Japanese have had a strong, even excessive, aversion to nuclear weapons and to nuclear power in general. Needless to say, there was strong opposition to the building of nuclear power plants in Japan.

Nonetheless, following the oil shocks of the 1970s, the state affirmed and encouraged the development of nuclear power plants. Early campaigns proclaimed the necessity of nuclear power for economic growth, while in recent years it was claimed that nuclear power could help reduce carbon emissions and therefore benefit the environment. That such claims were a form of criminal deception on the part of industry and government has been made all too clear by recent events.

In the ruins of post-war Japan, people reflected upon the path the country had taken in modern times. Standing against the Western powers, modern Japan strived to achieve the status of a great military power. The shattering of this dream in the nation's defeat led to another goal, to become a great economic power. The ultimate collapse of this ambition has been brought into sharp relief by the recent earthquake. Even without the earthquake, it was fated for destruction.

In truth, it is not the Japanese economy alone that is failing. In the early 1970s, global capitalism entered a period of serious recession, and since then it has been unable to overcome the decline in the general rate of profit. Capital has sought a way out of this decline through global financial investment and by extending industrial investment into what had formerly been 'third world' regions. The collapse of the former strategy has been exposed by the so-called Lehman shock. Meanwhile, the accelerated development of countries such as China, India, and Brazil, continues. Yet such accelerated growth cannot last long. It is inevitable that wages will rise and a limit on consumption be reached.

For this reason, global capitalism will no doubt become unsustainable in 20 or 30 years. The end of capitalism, however, is not the end of human life. Even without capitalist economic development or competition, people are able to live. Or rather, it is only then that people will, for the first time, truly be able to live. Of course, the capitalist economy will not simply come to an end. Resisting such an outcome, the great powers will no doubt continue to fight over natural resources and markets.

Yet I believe that the Japanese should never again choose such a path. Without the recent earthquake, Japan would no doubt have continued its hollow struggle for great power status, but such a dream is now unthinkable and should be abandoned. It is not Japan's demise that the earthquake has produced, but rather the possibility of its rebirth. It may be that only amid the ruins can people gain the courage to stride down a new path.

(Professor Kojin Karatani is a distinguished Japanese philosopher and literary critic. This essay, written on March 16, 2011 and translated into English by Seiji M. Lippit, is published by The Hindu with the permission of the author. Professor Karatani's biography is at www.kojinkaratani.com/en/bios/ biography.html.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

A STRUGGLE BETWEEN 'REFORM CADRE' AND THE 'OLD LINE' IN THE CONGRESS

CABLE SPEAKS OF SOME MEMBERS OF THE PARTY ADVOCATING THAT SONIA GANDHI JETTISON MANMOHAN SINGH AS PRIME MINISTER

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: After the Congress suffered electoral losses in Punjab and Uttarakhand in February 2007, some party members advocated that party president Sonia Gandhi "jettison" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in April-May 2007 and "put a more saleable political face at the head of the government," according to a United States Embassy cable ( 100159: confidential) sent on March 13, 2007.

"Following a string of recent local-level electoral defeats in Mumbai, Uttarakhand, and Punjab, Sonia Gandhi and her personal advisors are very concerned that the impending Uttar Pradesh (UP) elections will turn out horribly for Congress. As a result, some are advocating that she jettison Prime Minister Singh — whose message of rapprochement with Pakistan has been criticized by the BJP — and put a more saleable political face at the head of the government," the cable sent under the name of Embassy Charge d'Affaires Geoffrey Pyatt reported to Washington.

The Embassy appeared worried about the "reform cadre" in the government being sidelined by the "old line" Congress with socialist sympathies. "What seems clear in the aftermath of recent polls is that the reform cadre of Manmohan Singh, [Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission] Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and Finance Minister [P.] Chidambaram are politically diminished, Sonia Gandhi's inner coterie is deeply worried, and the old line Congress and their Communist fellow-travelers are empowered. Politics in India are a mess right now for Congress, and while the GOI [Government of India] is publicly optimistic about the nuclear deal, it is clearly caught in a domestic political eddy," the cable added.

It also took note of the political compulsions of the Congress that might have a bearing on U.S. interests. "Others are urging that the Congress hunker down and play it safe on the budget, inflation, economic reform, and foreign policy — including the nuclear deal — to minimize the negative impact on UP voters, many of whom are Muslim and take a dim view of the United States."

Energy sector concerns

The cable, accessed by TheHindu through WikiLeaks, was sent ahead of a visit to India by Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman to further the U.S.-India relationship in the energy sector.

Mr. Pyatt, in the "scene-setter" for the visit, expressed the hope that Mr. Bodman could win over the Indian nuclear scientific establishment with the prospect of "future-oriented programs" like the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. "Your scheduled meetings in Mumbai with Department of Atomic Energy Secretary Dr. Anil Kakodkar and in New Delhi with Special Envoy Shyam Saran offer an opportunity to highlight the many benefits of U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation, which could be lost if India does not conclude the 123 Agreement quickly," he wrote.

Briefing Mr. Bodman on what to expect during his meetings in India, the Charge said: "The Prime Minister will likely tell you that his number one priority is extending the benefits of India's rapid growth to the 700 million Indians — mostly in the rural sector — who continue to live at a near subsistence level. Rising food and fuel prices have particularly hurt the poor, creating a political backlash against the UPA government in recent state elections. Prime Minister Singh and your other interlocutors will be very interested in your ideas on how the United States can help with India's energy needs in the short and long term, particularly with respect to the rural sector."

Looking ahead to Mr. Bodman's meeting with Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora, Mr. Pyatt wrote that Mr. Deora had "close ties to Sonia Gandhi's inner circle and a political base in Mumbai, and he is central to India's international quest for growing petroleum and natural gas imports, and cooperation with the United States in domestic industry development and regulatory policy." The Minister had told American diplomats that India did not expect a final agreement to be reached on the oil pipeline with Iran due to Iranian unreliability and Iran changing the terms of the June 2005 agreement to sell India LNG from its South Pars field for 25 years. "The MPNG increasingly sees LNG from Qatar and Australia as a more viable option than several proposed pipeline projects," the cable noted.

While giving the Energy Secretary a backgrounder to the U.S.-India civil nuclear negotiations, Mr. Pyatt said Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had handed Under Secretary Nicholas Burns a "completely inadequate counter-draft to the 123 Agreement — authored by the skeptics in India's nuclear establishment who remain concerned about U.S. efforts to 'entrap' India and constrain its strategic program."

Mr. Burns, the cable added, had asked Mr. Menon to "provide a more workable basis on which the U.S. and India can continue talks, and invited an Indian team with negotiating authority to the U.S. for the next round of discussions." (This was sent before the two countries released the full text of the 123 agreement, which allows for cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, in August 2007.)

Analysing the compulsions of the Congress-led government in this context, it said:

"The politics around India's energy policy reflects a struggle between needed economic reform and political impediments to change. Prime Minister Singh and Deputy Chairman Ahluwalia are well aware of what economic reforms are needed to enhance India's long term growth.

"They realize that reasonable regulation and market-based pricing of electricity, petroleum products, natural gas, and coal would be most conducive to encouraging investment, reliable revenue streams, energy efficiency, and rational choice among projects and energy sources. However, the political imperatives of middle-class and poor voters' resistance to price increases, particularly with consumer inflation recently exceeding 6%, have induced the GOI to maintain price controls and government subsidies. Similarly, although the GOI privately doubts Iran's reliability as a potential source of natural gas by pipeline or of liquefied natural gas, it continues negotiations with Iran to appease Muslim and left-wing voters and Members of Parliament."

(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

KASHMIR ISSUE CLOUDS INDIAN VIEW OF KOSOVO

ARVIND SIVARAMAKRISHNAN

CHENNAI: There were U.S. pressures on India to recognise Kosovo's independence early, but New Delhi worried that a parallel would be drawn between Kosovo and Kashmir, U.S. Embassy cables have revealed.

The cables, classified by Political Counselor Ted Osius of the New Delhi Embassy, were accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Even before Kosovo's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in February 2008, U.S. Ambassador to India David C. Mulford "urged" India to join the United States and "key European countries in recognizing Kosovo's independence as early as possible after its expected declaration" ( 140972: confidential, dated February 12, 2008).

"Recognition from India would indicate global solidarity and help stave off instability in Kosovo and the region," the cable quotes the Ambassador as having said.

In response, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon "thanked the Ambassador for conveying the U.S. position," but stated that the Indian government was yet to decide "how to respond to a declaration of Kosovo independence."

Diplomatic analysis in the cable suggests there were "two political tensions that will make the Indian government lean against recognition of Kosovo."

First, India's "historical alignment with Russia…makes non-recognition the default position," according to the cable.

More importantly, "the Indian government's fear that Kosovo independence will set a precedent for Kashmir independence will also work against an immediate Indian recognition for Kosovo."

The U.S. Mission's two main contentions were that "the situation in Kosovo presents a unique situation that sets no precedent, and that recognition will help stabilize a region fraught with challenges," both of which Mr. Osius resolved to "convey…to the appropriate Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs."

The Embassy continued to raise the issue with the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. On February 21, Mr. Osius delivered a political démarche — diplomatic code for a move or manoeuvre — on recognition, to Joint Secretary for the Americas Gaitri Kumar, and Joint Secretary for Central Europe V. Ashok, "neither of whom provided a substantive response" ( 142815: confidential, dated February 25, 2008).

However, three days earlier, the MEA released a statement indicating that India's position was that Kosovo did not meet all the three conditions required to qualify for recognition, namely, "a defined territory, a duly constituted Government in charge which is accepted by the people and which has effective control over an area of governance."

"It has been India's consistent position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be fully respected by all states," the cable quotes the statement as saying. "We have believed that the Kosovo issue should have been resolved through peaceful means and through consultation and dialogue between the concerned parties."

The statement asserted that India had "taken note of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo," had identified "several legal issues involved in this Declaration," and was "studying the evolving situation," it said.

Mr. Osius reiterates prior suspicions about India's reticence, noting that the "Indian media has produced several stories on the subject with an angle relating Kosovo to Kashmir."

The cable cites press reports of two Kashmiri separatists' reactions to the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party said it "strengthened our resolve to achieve freedom for Kashmir." Syed Ali Geelani is quoted as saying that the "creation of a Muslim state within the European heartland has strengthened our resolve to achieve our right to self-determination."

(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

U.S. FEARED INDIAN PROPOSAL MAY CURTAIL ITS INFLUENCE IN UN

HASAN SUROOR

LONDON: Strident opposition from the United States to a proposal by India and other Non-Aligned Movement countries to change the way the United Nations Secretary-General is elected was prompted by fears that it "would dramatically curtail the influence of the U.S. in the selection process."

Washington was also deeply concerned that the process — under the proposed system — "would work against U.S. interests at the UN" as candidates competing for the top job would be expected to address "controversial issues such as development assistance levels, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and management reform,'' according to a confidential U.S. diplomatic cable accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

A cable dated May 24, 2006 ( 65263: confidential) from the U.S. Mission at the UN said that India's "aggressive" campaign on the issue was "part of a broader Indian effort to bolster its standing in the developing world and its chance for a permanent seat on the Security Council."

Sent under the name of U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN John Bolton, it accused India of "trying to take advantage of the current atmosphere of conflict between the G-77 and the developed world, and to capitalize on momentum from the G-77's recent management reform votes."

French Permanent Representative Jean-Marc de La Sabliere was reported as saying that "he thought the Indians were trying to establish a 'general practice of contentious votes' as part of their campaign for a permanent seat in the Security Council."

Under the proposal, which was eventually rejected, the Security Council would have been required to recommend "two or more" candidates to the General Assembly for the election of the Secretary-General, instead of the usual one. Americans interpreted the move as being "directed primarily at the P5 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council], and in particular at the U.S.'' They argued that "providing two candidates to the GA…would dramatically curtail the influence of the U.S. in the selection process."

'A G-77 beauty contest'

"More problematic," the cable speculated, "would be [a] scenario where the election becomes a beauty contest among the G-77 in which candidates are forced to provide commitments inimical to U.S. interests. In a process that enhances member states' ability to elicit pledges, SYG [secretary-general] candidates could be forced, for example, to limit the representation of the developed world in the Secretariat's senior ranks. We would expect candidates to address controversial issues such as development assistance levels, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and management reform. Given the balance of votes in the GA, such a campaign would work against U.S. interests at the UN."

Nirupam Sen targeted

The cable targeted India's Permanent Representative Nirupam Sen, claiming that he had been "widely quoted as saying that the current process creates a 'Secretary-General who is secretary to the P5 and general to the General Assembly,' and that a new process is needed to 'reverse the situation'. He referred to the current SYG as 'the P5's official executioner'."

The cable added: "Russian PR [Vitaly Ivanovich] Churkin (currently serving as the unofficial P5 coordinator) has been seeking an appointment with Sen for more than a week to discuss the issue but has been unable to get on the Indian PR's schedule. Churkin told the other P5 PRs that he thought Sen was clearly avoiding the meeting."

Describing the proposal as a "symptom of the deeper divide among the UN membership,'' the cable warned that if "the NAM is successful in bringing this issue before the GA for a vote, and certainly if it passes, there will be a serious fight over Charter language and Security Council authority this fall."

In the event, India itself did a U-turn ( The Hindu, March 20, 2011; vide cable 64794: confnoforn, dated May 19, 2006) and joined the U.S.-sponsored "consensus" on the issue.

(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

'U.S. NEEDS TO READ 'PERSIAN MIND' TO DEAL WITH IRAN'

A. SRIVATHSAN

CHENNAI: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his regime were more "irrational" than what the world knew them to be, said K.C. Singh, former Indian Ambassador to Tehran, according to a cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi on December 15, 2005 ( 47728: secret). Mr. Singh was Ambassador to Iran from 2003 to the latter part of 2005.

Observing that Iran is "'propelled by paranoia,' and that the fear was enhanced by the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq," the former Ambassador cautioned: "If the Western world applies pressure" the Iranians "will rally behind Ahmadinejad." Such a response, however, would not be a reflection of any popular support for the President as "most of the people disapprove of his fervor for religious influence throughout society and government."

But the "Persian response to threats" would push Iranians to back Mr. Ahmadinejad in a confrontation with outsiders, Mr. Singh added.

The Political Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi made an "introductory call" on Mr. Singh immediately after his return from the Tehran assignment and after he took charge as Additional Secretary (UN and International Security) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). At that meeting, apprising the diplomat of what he described as the "Persian mentality," Mr. Singh said Mr. Ahmadinejad fervently anticipated "the imminent return of the prophesied twelfth Shia imam," Muhammad al-Mahdi, who was born in the 9th century.

According to Mr. Singh, this fervour had made the President "prone to respond to threats by acting as a martyr."

The Shiites believed that Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth imam, voluntarily went into hiding after his birth and would return 'before the end of history,' to save humanity from the evil forces that threaten it.

The cable, sent under the name of Ambassador David Mulford, documented in detail Mr. Singh's perception of the Iranian regime and his suggestions to deal with it, including those which appeared to be in "disagreement with government [of India] policy."

Mr. Singh explained that Mr. Ahmadinejad not only believes in the imminent return of the twelfth Shia imam, but also told those who accompanied him to the opening of a UN General Assembly meeting held in September 2005, that he "felt his presence."

Mr. Singh also cited an instance where the entire Cabinet "drafted a resolution addressed to the twelfth imam, and dropped it in a well in Qom, where petitions to al-Mahdi are traditionally deposited."

Qom is an important pilgrimage centre, and Iran is building a uranium enrichment facility near it.

If Western governments wanted to effectively deal with such an irrational regime and wean the Iranian people from their support to its nuclear programme, the U.S. must first understand the "Persian mentality," Mr. Singh advised.

In order to deal with this regime, the U.S. should either peacefully engage with it or apply force, "but not alternate between engagement and threats," Mr. Singh suggested. In his opinion, the Russians seemed to have understood the situation better. They have been able to slowly apply pressure "to encourage Iran to accept its compromise solution to dispel the IAEA crisis."

The U.S. diplomats found Mr. Singh to be a "breath of fresh air" in the MEA, and his comments on Iran to be "a surprisingly clear window into the flavor of politics in Tehran from a diplomat who has enjoyed good access to Iranian leaders."

(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

PAKISTAN'S UNCONVENTIONAL VIEWPOINT ON TERRORISM

TURKISH DIPLOMAT'S VIEW ON WHY FOR ISLAMABAD CROSS-BORDER TERROR IS NOT QUITE TERROR

KATYAYANI MURTI

CHENNAI: Pakistan's Kashmir policy could be informed by an unconventional view of cross-border terrorism, at least one Turkish diplomat contended, according to a cable classified by Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara Robert Deutsch.

The cable was accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs South Asia Head Ergin Soner "said that he sees no change in the Pakistani attitude toward cross-border terrorism," following Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's January 2004 diplomatic visit to Turkey ( 13493: confidential, dated January 26, 2004).

General Musharraf's engagements in Turkey included meetings with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gul, as well as an address to Parliament, but Turkish government representatives declined "to 'squeeze' Musharraf on cross-border terrorism," the cable says.

Mr. Soner "opined that Pakistan does not consider it terrorism."

'Indirect references'

Still, "the subject of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir came up only through 'indirect references'" during the visit, even though "Turkey and Pakistan signed an anti-terror cooperation agreement covering exchanges of information and experts," the cable says.

"It's not Turkey's job to take it (cross-border terrorism) up with them," it quotes Mr. Soner as saying.

However, "despite Musharraf's warm visit," during which the Pakistan President "got full honors," Mr. Soner said the Government of Turkey had decided to continue "a more 'balanced' approach to the Kashmir issue" than it had "adopted after the Cold War, during which it strongly backed Pakistan."

"Turkey needs that balance…in order to improve relations with India," Mr. Soner said, according to the Embassy cable.

He went on to say that "India has responded by becoming 'more supportive' of Turkey on the Cyprus issue but did not amplify his comments."

(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

FOR RISING INDIA, A DREAM COME TRUE

Where does Indian cricket go from here? What newer worlds are there it for it to conquer? What will to do for a generation to whom the 1983 World Cup victory was something for Granddad and Dad to rave about on nostalgic days? How much more money will it attract than it already does? These are the sort of questions that are inevitable after Saturday's magical night out at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team confirmed their standing as the top dogs in both Test and one-day international cricket.

This was a status once reserved almost exclusively for the West Indies before the cocky Australians grabbed the crown for close to two decades. The manner in which the Men in Blue went about their task of chasing down a testing total spoke volumes of their preparation and mental strength, for which the nation should remain eternally grateful to the self-effacing Gary Kirsten and his crew of support staff, who worked tirelessly for three long years to make this Indian dream come true.

Significantly, India's victory in 1983 was one of the triggers for the near terminal decline of cricket in the Caribbean. If it does the same for Australia now, there appear to be very few threats to India's potential domination of the sport for some years to come. In the course of World Cup 2011, this Indian team revealed unexpected depths and resilience — witness the star-studded displays by Yuvraj Singh, who not very long ago had almost been lost to the game, the granite determination of the captain, or the Zen-like calm of a Zaheer Khan, who was so terribly scarred in the disastrous final of 2003. Be that as it may, at least this much is certain — India have rewritten history in more ways than one in the course of their monumental chase of the World Cup title, and side by side, confirmed their place at the centre of the cricketing universe. With the Indian Premier League having become the template for cricket as pure entertainment for administrators of the game around the world — and one offering seriously big bucks to its practitioners — there is little standing in the way of the nation remaining pacesetters both on and off the field for some time to come. In fact, the most immediate effect may well be felt at IPL-4, which kicks off on Friday for a 51-day ride, and it will quickly demonstrate whether or not there is an overkill factor involved. After all, the emotional high of winning the game's premier tournament — and fulfilling a national icon's 31-year search — is a pretty steep one and difficult to replicate at such short notice.

On a completely different note, Saturday night's triumph will affirm the confidence of, and indeed boost, an already upwardly mobile and aspirational young India still further. Not for nothing does the world now look as this country as the story of the future, and the self-belief that will be derived from seeing their team beat every world champion team of the past — the West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — on their way to the pinnacle will serve to underline aspirations and self-confidence still further. India now knows that it can take on — and best the best. In many fields, Indians have become world leaders, and while cricket is still and all only a game, to this country it means so much more. It was first a lever for young men from smaller towns and cities to pry open the door to the top. It could now well become a vehicle to the future for so many more of their compatriots.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

SAY NO TO CORRUPTION

INDRANIL BANERJIE

The results of the Tamil Nadu state elections are destined to have a lasting impact on national politics. Unlike in the past, this poll is not merely a contest between two state-level political stalwarts; this time, it is a contest between two competing issues of vital national concern: corruption versus power politics. Can electorates be managed? Can they be seduced by poll gifts and populist promises? Or is corruption an issue? A section of the political elite in India has taken the position that corruption is not a core issue in this country of malnourished millions.

The insinuation is that the voting public's concern is not corruption at high levels but mundane issues like the price of cooking gas and rice.

This sadly might actually be the case. The common woman might feel so removed from the portals of power that she could care little about who is robbing the public exchequer as long as she continues to get many of her daily needs at hugely subsidised rates.

This is the issue that is going to be decided in the forthcoming state elections, and most of all in Tamil Nadu, where a coterie is alleged to have robbed the country of countless millions. It is in this state that the corruption issue has come into the sharpest focus.

The state's two principal political protagonists — M. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa — have been forced to adopt opposing positions as a matter of compulsion rather than ideology. Mr Karunanidhi's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its ally, the Congress Party, have tacitly come to represent the view that corruption even at a massive national scale is not an electoral issue.

Ms Jayalalithaa, leader of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and successor to the legacy of the late MGR, herself embroiled in corruption cases, has perforce gravitated to the opposite side of the spectrum where national theft, bribery and fraud have become the core issues, along with price rise and power cuts. But as one survey reported, this time corruption is the big emotive issue in her campaign.
The usual political equations have been worked out by both alliances, and on paper, at least, both sides are evenly poised. It is clear that the essential contest in Tamil Nadu, as in the past, will be between the two alliances. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), unable to form an alliance with either of the two fronts, is not expected to make any impression at all. Mr (Vaiko) Gopalaswami's Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), having failed at seat adjustment with Ms Jayalalithaa, has decided to boycott the polls, a move that will only help Mr Karunanidhi's party.

Perhaps the biggest boost to Ms Jayalalithaa's alliance will be provided by the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), launched in 2005 by the charismatic Tamil actor Vijayakanth. Ever since its appearance on the Tamil political stage, the DMDK has been stealing huge chunks of state votes. In 2006, the first time it contested state elections, the party grabbed 8.38 per cent of the total votes even though it won only a solitary seat. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it got 10.1 per cent of the votes, making it the fourth largest political party in terms of votes after the DMK (25.04 per cent), AIADMK (22.8 per cent) and the Congress (13.9 per cent). In the past, Vijayakanth had declined to ally with any other party but after two polls, where his party could not translate its voteshare to seats, he now clearly appreciates the importance of partnerships.
Likewise, the Congress, with its ever-increasing voteshare, has been providing a similar thrust to the DMK-led alliance. The Congress has steadily been improving its tally because either one of the two dominant state parties has been giving it electoral space. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the DMK-Congress combine alone secured about 39 per cent of the total votes. This is an unbeatable figure and Mr Karunanidhi is hoping it will be repeated.
To drown out criticism of corruption, his party continues to bank on distributing freebies and sharing some of his party's immense good fortune with the electorate. The voting button is, of course, with the Tamil Nadu voter and how s/he thinks will greatly shape policies at the national level in the years to come.

For corruption, unlike what some politicians would like us to believe, does affect growth, development and the equitable distribution of wealth. It shifts the focus away from good governance and developmental issues, it breeds a culture of cynicism and irresponsibility, and worst of all, it degrades institutions vital for proper state functioning.

The recent findings of the noted management consultants, McKinsey & Co, that the southern states are witnessing a decline in economic performance comes as no great surprise. The worst performers between 2005 and 2010 were the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which recorded an average real gross domestic product growth rate of just 7.4 per cent each as compared to the national average of 8.7 per cent. Gujarat and even Bihar, two states where there is a political will to focus on development and growth issues, have done better.

The question today is whether Tamil Nadu, a state that has been the epitome of good governance in the past, will once again show the way for the rest of India. To do so, it will first have to forcefully reject the culture of brazen corruption.

Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

'EASTEND' IS INDIA

KHALID MOHAMED

Champagne is being uncorked by more Hollywood movie moguls than ever before at the swishy suites of Rajasthan's palace hotels. Heavy-duty celebrities are jetting in to break into Bollywood boogies. And Yann Martel's topselling novel — The Life of Pi — is being filmed by the Oscar-winning Ang Lee in beach-caressed Puducherry. Whoa, how come the sudden influx of international film crews? Evidently, rules and strictures have been relaxed, a thorough contrast to the bygone decades when the script of every American and European film project was scanned by New Delhi's dense forest of ministries.

The legendary Louis Malle was blacklisted for exposing the harsh reality of Kolkata in Phantom India (1969), a marathon documentary which continues to be inaccessible to this day and age. Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha (1993) was stonewalled. Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997),which studied the politics of Tibet, was denied a go-ahead.

Followed a near-blockade. Hollywood's honchos were particularly sceptical about shooting in India, opting instead for Sri Lanka locations vis a vis Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Sir Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982) had to jump through hoops for clearances not only from the Central government but also from a group of filmmakers who objected to an Englishman appropriating the Mahatma for a biopic. The very fact that a censor certificate had been denied to Nine Hours to Rama (1963), revolving around Gandhi's assassination, had fuelled the argument for a clampdown. Sir Richard patiently explained that his intentions were honourable, the rest, of course, is Oscar history.

Indeed, there are countless instances of "access denied". Perhaps the most quixotic one stretches way back to 1956. George Cukor's Bhowani Junction narrated the story of an Anglo-Indian woman — portrayed by the drop-dead gorgeous Ava Gardner — at the time of the extinction of the British Raj. The film was situated at the Bhusawal railway junction, but the Indian government would have none of it, fearing that the departing Brits would be eulogised. Consequently, locations in Pakistan were passed off as India. Today, the film has a cult following. Evidently, the fears were absolutely unfounded.

Mercifully, at long last the paranoia has subsided. Currently, at least three major units are filming in India, and many more are on the way. Even Roland Joffe, who had to spar with bureaucratic snafus and hostility from the Kolkata locals while shooting City of Joy (1992), is back in Madhya Pradesh this time to shoot a period piece titled Singularity, featuring Josh Hartnett and Bipasha Basu, as a warrior queen. Advance reports suggest that the plot could have similarities to the life of Rani of Jhansi. Heaven help Joffe if such reports are accurate because the result would ipso facto be matched with the historical records.

The unfortunately named director Michael Winterbottom has chosen Jaipur for the retelling of the Thomas Hardy tragedy Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Over three decades ago, Roman Polanski's adaptation of the classic had showcased Nastassja Kinski in the eponymous role. Freida Pinto takes over from Kinski. Titled Trishna, the project arouses immediate curiosity for marrying western sensibility to an Indian milieu.

Pinto's Slumdog Romeo, Dev Patel, shows up in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, toplined by the grand dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Shot in Jaipur, the film promises to be a wry comedy of manners. Obviously, the worldwide success of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire has underscored the potential of India as a thematic backdrop. Rightaway, this yielded the extremely disappointing Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts sleepwalking-talking through an ashram which looked camera-friendly but that's about it. Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart, shot in Pune and Mumbai, at best was just passable.

Forget quality and all that jazz for the time being though. Forget, too, the thumbs-down given to the periodically-announced biopics on Indira Gandhi and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The point is that the X-Men hero, Hugh Jackman, is gyrating to the tune of Dhak dhak karne laga, Julia Roberts is declaring that she is bowled over by India's spirituality. And above all, more international filmmakers are warming up to an area which was once hopelessly equated with darkness.

Khalid Mohamed is a well-known film critic

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DNA

OPINION

WHY THE FEMALE BIAS AMONG THE WELL-OFF?

SHUBHANGI KHAPRE

 

The deep-rooted bias against the girl child in a progressive state like Maharashtra has exposed the rotten mindset among the economically progressive and educated classes in society. The provisional figures provided by the Census authorities are alarming. The sex ratio is 883 females per 1,000 males in the 0-6 age group, a sharp decline since 2001 when the figure stood at 913.

 

The statistics are shocking and require an analysis of what the key factors for the decline are. Stringent laws are not going to solve the problem of the skewed child sex ratio. The gender bias is not an outcome of poverty or illiteracy; it is possible for the state government and NGOs to play a pro-active role to take corrective policy measures in these fields. What makes the matter complex is that gender bias is deep-rooted in the economically progressive and educated classes.

 

The challenge before the state is to change this mindset. If we take the trends into account, prosperous districts such as Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Pune, and Mumbai fare poorly in this regard. On the other hand, backward regions like Gadchiroli, Gondia and Nandurbar paint a heartening picture of gender equality. In some tribal districts, the there are as many as 1,038 females per 1,000 males.

 

Former health minister Vimal Mundada (2004-2009) had taken up the fight against gender discrimination with a missionary zeal. The state government introduced stringent laws to curb the practice of sex determination tests. It also conducted vigilance raids on private clinics notorious for aborting female foetuses. However, Mundada often candidly indicated: "The biggest challenge is how to fight the bias in educated and economically progressive couples against the female child."

 

The trends are identical across the nation. States like Haryana and Punjab, which boast of a high economic growth rate, have also shown a preference for the male child. Why should a well-off family worry about nursing two daughters instead of two sons? There are no simple answers. The concept of perceiving daughters as 'paraya dhan', who incur expenditure instead of multiplying wealth, is embedded in the psyche. This section of society does not think that conducting sex determination tests is a crime. It believes that advanced technology should be used to tailor the family as per one's requirement.

 

No civilised society can ever justify the kind of gender bias that was revealed in the current Census. It is mind-boggling to think that a state like Maharashtra continues to nurse such a regressive mindset. In 1994, Maharashtra was among the first states to come up with a comprehensive women policy. The Congress government, under chief minister Sharad Pawar, had evolved the policy which promised holistic development of women across sectors. It also implemented 33% reservation for women in local bodies.

 

In 2000, the state further amended the policy to incorporate new challenges in socio-economic sectors. In 2011, the state government has introduced a bill promising 50% reservation to women in local bodies. The debate on 33% reservation for women in state assemblies and the Parliament is under consideration. An adequate number of laws is thus already in place to address the problem, but it is now important for the government to go beyond legislation and address the bias.

 

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DNA

OPINION

INDIA'S BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENCE CAPABILITY IS GROSSLY EXAGGERATED

PRAVIN SAWHNEY

 

After the March 6, 2011, interceptor (endo-atmospheric at 15km altitude) test, the director general, Defence Research and Development Organisation, Dr VK Saraswat, who is leading the nation's home-grown ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme told the media that with one more test (exo-atmospheric at 150km altitude) planned later in 2011, phase I (two-layered ballistic missile shield) of the programme would be over, and India will have the capability to intercept 2,000km range ballistic missiles.

 

"Only the US, Russia, France, Israel and India have the capability to put in place a ballistic missile defence shield. China is still developing it," said the irrepressible Saraswat. Alluding to the 2007 successful Chinese anti-satellite test, he added, "India now has all the technologies and building blocks which can be used for anti-satellite missions in the low earth and polar orbits."

 

With his grossly exaggerated claims, Saraswat hopes to soon get Rs10,000 crore to start work on BMD phase II meant to intercept 5,000km range ballistic missiles. With an untenable foundation, phase II will be a disaster. This is not all. Terming baby steps as giant strides has grave national security implications. While ahead of India in ballistic missiles capabilities since 2001, Pakistan continues to increase its inventory of nuclear weapons' land vector by citing India's BMD claims as a destabilising factor.

 

Given such implications, the defence minister, AK Antony needs to restrain Saraswat and the DRDO from making irresponsible statements.

 

Let's start with a few basic facts. All ballistic missiles when fired leave the atmosphere and then re-enter it to hit the target. They can be intercepted at three points during the trajectory: when the ballistic missile takes off (ideal, but difficult as it requires space based detection capability), when in space (called exo-atmospheric, it is second best option as debris remains suspended in space), and when it finally re-enters (endo-atmospheric). The 30km altitude is the dividing line between the atmosphere and space; below 30km is atmosphere and above 30km is space, two mediums with different characteristics. It is evident that both the interceptors should be designed to hit the hostile missile as high as possible so that the destroyed missile's debris falls as much away as possible from friendly territory. Moreover, as a general rule, the nuclear chain reaction (a hostile ballistic missile will have nuclear warhead), which then cannot be controlled, gets activated about 10km above the earth. If the hostile payload that has the nuclear warhead gets a direct hit before the payload drops to this low height, the nuclear core will not get activated and it will not burst. It is evident that interceptor missiles with conventional warhead should be used only if it has 100 % accuracy to hit the bull's eye. Otherwise, the preferred option for interceptor missile warhead is a nuclear warhead which while engaging the hostile missile ideally in exo-atmosphere detonates its warhead by its blast (it need not be a direct hit), with the nuclear debris then remaining suspended in space. In short, it should be nuclear warhead for nuclear warhead.

 

Given these facts, let's examine what has been achieved by the DRDO since BMD started in 1995. A total of two exo-atmospheric interceptor (called PAD) tests have been done achieving altitudes of 48km and 80km, and two endo-atmospheric tests (called AAD) have been done at altitudes of 15km and 18km. Thus, the maximum PAD interception has been at the altitude of 80km.

 

 

Saraswat hopes to do another PAD (delayed, was to happen in 2010) at the altitude of 150km for intercepting 2,000km range ballistic missile. At present, PAD cannot hit more than 1,000km range missiles.

 

Thus, there are six major unresolved issues. First, the choice of Prithvi missile as the target (in all the interceptions done so far) is wrong as the missile has slow speed. Pakistan does not have Prithvi missiles; all its missiles with 2,000km ranges (like the Chinese CSS-5, renamed Ghauri, as even M-11 and M-9) have faster speeds. Saraswat would do well to designate indigenous Agni-I with 700km and Agni-II with 2,000km range as the hostile missiles and then demonstrate successful interceptions. Second, the PAD, validated thus far, can attain a maximum height of 80km, which is insufficient to intercept 2,000km range missiles in exo-atmosphere. Moreover, there is a need to demonstrate high speed interceptor than the present PAD intercepting Prithvi missile. Therefore, would it not be better for DRDO to hold the claims till it has successfully test-fired the interceptor against the Agni-II missile?

 

Third, given the fact that the interceptors are armed with conventional warheads, there is the need to repeatedly demonstrate simultaneous exo and endo-atmospheric tests; if one misses the target, the other should be able to kill it. This has not been done. Fourth, the DRDO has not said whether the March 6 test and the earlier tests were indeed direct hits. Considering that the interceptors have radio frequency seekers and the imaging infra-red seekers have still not been demonstrated, and the proximity fuse on the warhead will explode within 20m of the target, even with a slow target like Prithvi, the interceptions may not have achieved a 'kill'.

 

Fifth, all interceptor tests have been conducted from known designated sites, and have thus been stage managed. All Prithvi missiles depicting hostile missiles have been fired from the integrated test range (ITR) at Chandipur, Orissa, and the interceptors from the Wheeler's Island 70km apart. In actual war, such ideal situations will not be unavailable. There is thus a need to do further tests in the above suggested configurations for successful interceptions of missiles with 2,000km ranges.

 

And, lastly, it is unclear whether India has the capability to fabricate small nuclear warheads for interceptors, which is why the DRDO keeps harping that they will be armed with conventional warheads.

 

On the question of Chinese anti-satellite test, Saraswat told me that with successful BMD interceptions, he need not demonstrate the anti-satellite capability. If this was so, why would the Chinese find it necessary to demonstrate anti-satellite capability? The answer lies in cold statistics. Satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) are at heights of 300km above the earth, as they will not be stable otherwise. The polar orbit is at height of 843km. The demonstrated capability of DRDO's exo-interceptor is only 80km above the earth. Even if the DRDO were able to make an interceptor that could reach the height of 300km, it needs to be remembered that satellites in LEO move at speeds of 28,000km per hour. Thus, to demonstrate assurance, there is a need to do a successful anti-satellite test, which the Chinese did, and got the US anxious about their increasing space capabilities. The US, which has demonstrated capability to kill a satellite in LEO and polar orbits with laser on aircraft, is already thinking about the inevitability of space militarisation. Both the early warning and interception of satellites and long range missiles (5,000km onwards) by laser beams is best done through space capabilities. China is planning the catch-up with the US. Where does this leave India where the DRDO has happily declared that intercepting satellites and ballistic missiles are the same thing?

 

— The writer is editor, FORCE newsmagazine. He can be contacted at pravin@forceindia.net

 

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DNA

OPINION

ABANDON THE IMPORT OF NUCLEAR REACTORS: DR A GOPALAKRISHNAN

DR A GOPALAKRISHNAN

 

The decision taken by the government to import about 40,000 MWe of Light Water Reactors (LWRs) within the next two decades, has no justifiable technical or economic basis. In spite of repeated demands from various quarters, including Parliament, no document on India's nuclear power policy has ever been presented by the government for debate.

 

The prime minister stated on March 29, 2011, "Today India has fully demonstrated its capabilities in all the scientific and technological aspects associated with the design, development, construction, operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors and associated fuel cycle facilities. We owe this to the success of the indigenous three-stage programme whose foundation was laid by Dr Homi Bhabha." Here, he is referring to India's present capability to design and build up to 700 MWe capacity Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). With the demonstrated indigenous expertise of having designed, built and operated 17 PHWRs on our own up to 540 MWe capacity, and with four 700 MWe PHWR construction projects in hand, there is no reason why India has to diversify its nuclear fleet to include several new types of foreign reactors, of which neither Indians nor foreigners have any experience so far.

 

The reason for bringing in imported reactors is neither technology driven nor is it for the economic benefit of the country. In the context of the need to maximise plutonium production from the first stage reactors to rapidly advance along the three-stage Bhabha Plan, it should be noted that the Indian PHWRs are the most efficient plutonium producers, far superior to the high burn-up LWRs which DAE is planning to import. We have complete mastery of PHWR technology, with three generations of engineers and scientists who have been trained in all facets of related activities, with existing full capabilities for its manufacture and fabrication within Indian industries. These capabilities are already demonstrated and today we have the inherent indigenous ability to further extend the PHWR designs to 1000 MWe rating.

 

The natural uranium to fuel the PHWRs and the production and availability of most of the critical components for these reactors are indigenously assured to a great extent and, if necessary, these can be supplemented with item-wise imports, which are now permissible under the NSG clearance. As for costs, a 700 MWe PHWR can be built within a capital cost of Rs8 crore/MWe, whereas a 1650 MWe French EPR at Jaitapur will cost the tax-payer more than Rs21 crore/MWe.

 

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) had framed a nuclear power plan prior to 2004, a copy of which is available at the DAE website ["A Strategy for Growth of Electrical Energy in India", http://www.dae.gov.in/publ/doc10/index.htm]. According to Table-11 of this document, the DAE had confirmed that 208,000 MWe of nuclear power can be generated in India by 2052 using Indian uranium resources, without having to import even a single reactor beyond the two Russian VVERs at Kudankulam, which were by then under construction. This itself would mean a string of 208 nuclear reactors, each of 1000 MWe capacity, to be set up along our ecologically fragile coastal regions by 2050!

 

With Manmohan Singh coming in as prime minister in 2004, the US administration sensed a new-found opportunity to push hard for a strategic alliance with India. Among the US objectives were the desire to bring several of our PHWR installations under IAEA safeguards, to revive the moribund US nuclear industry by selling US-design nuclear reactors to India, slow down and eventually stop India's indigenous nuclear programme based on the Bhabha Plan which successive prime ministers had been nurturing for decades, and to get India diverted away from the plan to utilise its thorium resources through building fast-breeder reactors. The prime minister's office (PMO), for the first time in our history, spearheaded an informal alliance of few key politicians, the US and Indian corporate sectors and their federations interested in profiteering from the Indian nuclear power business, along with a small group of top-level officials in the PMO, the DAE, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), etc, who collectively helped the PM all along to make a baseless case for import of reactors, without any qualms about ignoring the ethical and professional norms which they were expected to uphold.

 

Throughout the years of deliberations on the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was also kept out of the loop and not even consulted on the safety and reliability of reactors to be imported. This collective also successfully kept Parliament and the people of India deliberately in the dark throughout this decision-making process. And all this is still continuing under cover of the Official Secrets Act, which is unnecessarily being applied to this civilian nuclear power sector, mainly to hush up the irrational policy decisions and the questionable financial deals between the government and corporate business houses.

 

By 2007-2008, the PM had taken a unilateral decision to import at least 10,000 MWe LWRs from the US and he asked the then foreign secretary to make this promise in writing to the US state department. It would now appear that the PM had most likely made a firm commitment to the French president as well, to similarly import six of their still un-built & untested Evolutionary Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) at an exorbitant cost. Both these actions were taken without informing Parliament and without seeking any detailed techno-economic or safety analysis to justify this approach. The present secretary DAE and his two predecessors, the CMD of NPCIL, the then foreign secretary & national security adviser and a few of the top corporate business leaders appear to have been privy to these decisions, which were developed and taken in close liaison with the PM. The top echelons in the PMO, DAE, NPCIL etc. went along with these illogical decisions, taken mostly out of political compulsions and as a quid pro quo to the foreign governments, who helped India in getting the IAEA & NSG clearances, and as a reward to the nuclear industries in India and abroad.

 

By early 2008, at the height of the opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal, the PM felt it would be safer to have a scientific fig leaf for his unilateral and illogical decisions. The then secretary DAE, along with his close associates in NPCIL and the PMO, severely and irrationally modified the 2004 DAE nuclear plan and came up with a statement that the country needs to urgently import 40,000 MWe of LWRs in the 2012-2020 period to avoid a 412,000 MWe electricity generation gap which would otherwise occur by 2052 ! This revised policy is also now available at the DAE website ["Evolving Indian Nuclear Programme – Rationale and Perspective, Public Lecture by Dr Anil Kakodkar, Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore, July 04, 2008, http://www.dae.gov.in/lecture/paperiasc.pdf]. The projection of the DAE is that India will then be able to use the additional plutonium from these imported LWRs to augment the power generation through fast breeder reactors by approximately an additional 340,000 MWe. With this addition, the DAE projects India will have a total of about 655,000 MWe nuclear power generation by the year 2050. That will be 655 nuclear power reactors each of 1000 MWe capacity, strung along a total coastline of about 6000 kilometres the country has – about 109 six-reactor nuclear parks, spaced along the coast every 55 kilometres apart!

 

What a mad programme! Even without Fukushima happening, should we be subjecting our future generations to such a crazy, high-density nuclear programme in 2050, just so that this PM can justify importing 40,000 MWe foreign nuclear plants? The prime minister and his PMO, DAE & NPCIL officials of the present and past must be held culpable, if this is indeed the thoughtless nuclear power path they have been charting for us.

 

Under the above circumstances, the government must immediately and permanently cancel all plans to import foreign nuclear reactors, irrespective of the unauthorised promises given by the prime minister to foreign governments and any preliminary agreements which NPCIL may have signed with foreign companies. The entire subject of the Nuclear Power Policy under the Manmohan Singh governments needs a thorough debate in Parliament and should be openly discussed with energy specialists in the country. It should be preceded by a re-look at the overall energy policy of our country to assess whether all viable non-nuclear electricity generation schemes have been given their due priority, before we jump-start an extensive nuclear power programme, even if it is based on the Bhabha Plan. Plans for conservation of electricity, loss minimisation, use of renewables, and the preparation of a clearly aggregated minimum electricity demand projection are also to be emphasised simultaneously.

 

— The writer is former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

 

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DNA

OPINION

LIBYA IS A SIDESHOW; REAL ISSUE IS NEW BALANCE OF POWER

HARSH V PANT

 

Middle East is boiling and no one is quite sure where the region will end up even a month from now. The situation in Libya is at the front and centre of global agenda as Gaddafi and his opponents battle it out for control of their nation. Forces loyal to colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi have advanced rapidly in recent days, seizing towns they ceded just a few days ago after intense allied airstrikes and hounding rebel fighters into a chaotic retreat. The allies began the air campaign after the UN Security Council authorised military intervention on March 16 to protect civilians.

 

]However, even after days of airstrikes, loyalist forces have enough resources to defend colonel Gaddafi's urban strongholds.

 

Meanwhile the situation in Syria continues to pose its own set of challenges. The protests against the Assad regime began more than a week ago in Daraa, after the police arrested a group of young people for scrawling anti-government graffiti. The ripples were felt nationwide after government forces fired on demonstrators. Protesters set fire to party offices in several towns, toppled a statue of the former president, Hafez al-Assad, and tore down billboards of the current president, actions that have been unheard of in the police state.

 

Yet, in his first address to the nation after bloody protests and calls for reform, president Basher al-Assad blamed a broad conspiracy from beyond his borders for Syria's turmoil and offered no concessions.

 

A battle for influence is gathering momentum in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since January, the Islamic republic has seen its largest regional rival — the government of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak — toppled by protesters, while the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has strengthened its grip on Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, another regional bulwark against Iranian expansion, is distracted by uprisings on its borders, particularly in Yemen, Oman and Bahrain.

 

Meanwhile, US influence in the region has plummeted with the loss of allies and prestige. The Obama administration is rethinking an Iran strategy that relied on Middle Eastern allies to counterbalance Tehran's forces.

 

Though the Iranian government inevitably is vulnerable to the same forces that toppled repressive regimes among its neighbours, Iran will gain in the short-to-medium term as US influence declines in the region.

 

Saudia Arbia sent troops to Bahrain last month where they backed up a violent crackdown on unarmed protesters by Bahrain's own security forces. For Saudi Arabia, the issue in Bahrain is less whether Bahrain will attain popular rule than whether Iranian and Shi'ite influence will grow.

 

Iran and Saudi Arabia have sparred on many fronts since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 — a Shi'ite Muslim theocracy in Tehran versus a deeply conservative Sunni Muslim monarchy in Riyadh — in a struggle for supremacy in the world's most oil-rich region.

 

Now, after a decade that seemed to tilt the regional balance toward Iran, Saudi Arabia decided that Bahrain was the place to put its thumb more heavily on the scale. It sent troops to help crush pro-democracy demonstrations because most of the protesters were Shi'ites challenging a Sunni king.

 

The brutal crackdown in Bahrain poses the greatest Middle East democracy dilemma yet for the Obama administration, deepening a rift with its most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, while potentially strengthening the influence of its biggest nemesis, Iran.

 

Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia have chilled to their coldest since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saudi officials, still angry that president Obama abandoned president Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in the face of demonstrations, ignored American requests not to send troops into Bahrain.

 

The US has long viewed Saudi Arabia as a last bulwark against an ascendant Iran and does not want Tehran stepping in to back Shi'ites in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.

 

 

But where the US and the Saudis split is over how to prevent Iran from gaining traction. While American officials say the Saudi and Bahraini governments can head off trouble by making political reforms, the Saudis believe that political reforms would only open the door to greater instability.

 

As the US struggles to come to terms with the rapidly evolving ground realities in the Middle East, it is clear that Libya is likely to appear a sideshow very soon, simply because there are at least half a dozen major crises likely to dwarf it, now emerging. The real issue in the region today is about the emergence of a new balance of power in the region, and all powers, including India, will have to deal with it soon.

 

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DNA

OPINION

MY MONDAY MORNING BLUES

AMI GANDHI

 

Why do Monday blues always follow me? It's 9pm on Sunday and my anxiety levels have reached a fever pitch. I try to concentrate on television shows, friends' parties, dinner, socialising or something else that I am suppose to do on Sunday evenings, but I can't really concentrate on anything. My mind gets saturated with the thought of getting up early and travelling with the great and the unwashed tomorrow morning to yet another week of toil.

 

Isn't this feeling familiar to all? Isn't Monday a culprit? I think it has to do with the transition from leisure time to work time.

 

I have started mentally preparing myself by saying, "No matter how much you hate Mondays, they will come and you can do nothing about it because every day is not Sunday." Believe me, it's nothing to do with the type of job you have. I know people who hold rather pleasant jobs but still do not look forward to Mondays either.

 

It's just like a fast-moving car, where the change of gears from leisure to work takes place. It takes a bit of time to get back into the flow of mundane work. If seen from another perspective, every Thursday evening I say the opposite, "Thank God it's Friday." I have experienced that it is an easier transition from work to leisure than vice versa.

 

Recently, I asked a number of people for their feelings about "Monday mornings". This is how they reacted:

 

l A lifetime punishment, can't get out of it

 

l Sunday should last forever, but every day is not Sunday

 

lAnd the same daily routine starts

 

l It's more like a MOAN-DAY

 

l Sundays feel poisoned

 

because of the Monday coming up

 

l Just wake up with a mission to end another week

l I don't want to think about it

 

There are still many Mondays to come. So changing the way I feel about them is just one of the best ways to fill my day with passion.

 

I am planning to welcome the next Monday instead of kicking it. It's only possible if I start doing something new at the beginning of every week — catch up with friends, plan dinner, go

 

shopping or on long drives with dad, wear something new and bright, and much more.

 

Let's see whether this works or not. It's a simple way to beat the Monday blues.

 

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DNA

OPINION

INDIA'S MISSION DOMINATION

KIRAN MORE

 

This World Cup had me excited primarily because of the evenly-matched teams. And I am not surprised it was such an open tournament.

 

While the three subcontinental giants were my favourites, Australia, I thought, would be the dark horses. The last time we witnessed such an open World Cup was in 1999. I think the biggest factor that separated the eventual winners of 1999 — Australia — from the other two favourites was their mental strength. In terms of ability, South Africa and Pakistan were right up there.

 

Similarly, in this edition, the side that showed the right amalgamation of mental fortitude and ability emerged champions. And I am glad it's India.

 

MS Dhoni & Co started their campaign as hot favourites. However, in a tournament of this magnitude — and scrutiny levels — various theories crop up. Never before had a host nation won the World Cup (Sri Lanka had won the 1996 final in Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium). However, from a cricketing angle, the Indian team had all it takes to win the championship. All they needed was to back their ability and maintain their mental composure in crunch games.

 

Dhoni is a fine captain, possesses that courage of conviction and always leads from the front. He proved it by promoting himself in the final. He batted under pressure and his controlled aggression eventually proved to be the decisive factor.

 

Right from the start, the astute Jharkhand lad knew the tournament itinerary like the back of his hand and used the same to his advantage. In cricket, things don't always go according to plan. Dhoni found that out when he persisted with Piyush Chawla in the league games and Ashish Nehra in that final over against South Africa. The media went hammer and tongs and questioned his acumen. That, I believe, was unfair.

 

However, a strong leader always has the last laugh! Some of Dhoni's masterstrokes during the course of the tournament deserve a lot of praise. He knew Yuvraj Singh was a key member and promoted him against England. That knock did a world of good to the southpaw's batting fortunes. Dhoni then played a temperamentally-strong Suresh Raina ahead of Yusuf Pathan in the knockout stage. He then opted for Ashish Nehra ahead of R Ashwin against Pakistan.

 

I remember having written an open letter to MS — it was published in DNA's edition dated March 19 — and I'd requested him to promote himself up the order. I have always believed Dhoni is India's best middle-order batsmen, especially when it comes to pacing an innings. This temperament is also laudable. That he saved his best for the last has pleasantly surprised me. This is what makes Dhoni a very special captain and great leader of men.

 

The last three matches brought the best out of India. India's batting is no more about one or two individuals. We have seven top-class batsmen, capable of conquering any total against any bowling line-up in the world. In their last three matches, India's batsmen proved they can chase as well as set targets. Once again, India proved that they have the best batting line-up in the business. Gautam Gambhir's knock in the final was simply brilliant and it proved why he is such an integral part of this Indian team. He will play that sheet anchor role for many more years to come.

 

Or bowlers and fielders also deserve special mention. Zaheer Khan deserves a lot of praise. While his more illustrious teammates will hog all the limelight — they all deserve it, no doubt — Zaheer never quite gets so much publicity or fame. I would like to remind you all that it was Zaheer who gave his skipper the crucial breakthrough(s) right through the tournament.

 

My best wishes go out to the 15 players, coach Gary Kirsten and all other members of the support staff. Some of these boys were first drafted into the Indian team during my tenure as chief selector and it is gratifying to see them on top of the world.

 

The 1999 World Cup gave us a new champion in Australia. And we all know how the Kangaroos dominated world cricket for the next 12 years or so. Today, India are in a similar position. If they play their cards right, the next decade — truly and deservingly — will belong to them. Let's hope for the best.

 

— Kiran More is a former India wicketkeeper and chairman of selectors

 

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DNA

OPINION

VIEW FROM PAKISTAN ON INDIA'S TRIUMPH

NAUMAN NIAZ

 

Kumar Sangakkara called the 'heads' and won the toss, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and India kept their 'heads' and won the World Cup!

 

Shahid Afridi didn't requisition the powerplay in Mohali in the semifinal versus India when Pakistan required 82 runs to win in 62 deliveries. The Pakistan skipper didn't play Shoaib Akhtar; he tried reinforcing failures by persisting with Abdul Razzaq, who turned out to be a liability and he didn't really employ a 'slip' when MS Dhoni had freshly arrived and Saeed Ajmal was virtually unplayable with his 'doosra' being intractable. Afridi was never considered a strategic genius, a pedestrian with tactical implementation of plans.

 

Had Sangakkara been a Pakistani, he would have been summoned in the court to explain his unconvincing (to be polite) or distrustful (to be pretentious) performance. He dropped a catch, missed a clear stumping of Dhoni in the same over Virat Kohli had gotten out. India's captain ran away with the World Cup with a mettlesome unbeaten 91. Sangakkara also missed running out Gautam Gambhir when on 30 (he eventually toppled Sri Lanka's hopes with a perfect 97).

 

Sangakkara didn't employ Muttiah Muralitharan when India required 24 runs off 22 balls. Instead, he turned to Nuwan Kulasekara who went all over the place. Regrettably, Lasith Malinga still had one over to spare when India routed Sri Lanka.

 

Even as Sangakkara batted and battled to 48 in 67 balls with five fours, the method that he used playing late and with the spin of Yuvraj Singh was surely the softest dismissal in Sri Lanka's innings. Everything went wrong with Sangakkara and everything that went wrong with Sri Lanka actually was all what Sangakkara did.

 

Mahela Jayawardene's was the best innings of the match. He picked the ball early and played very late. The masterly Jayawardene burgeoned at Mumbai scoring 103 in 88 deliveries in 159 minutes with 13 fours, all of them diligently executed. To his dismay second time in a row, he ended up on the losing team in the finals. He would fret and regret as his career is drawing to a close. Such was Jayawardene's cracking form that India's top bowler Zaheer Khan, who had conceded only 16 runs in 7 overs having picked two wickets, ended with 2-60 in 10 overs; 44 runs scored in his last three. Such was the power of Sri Lanka's lower middle order.

 

India's only hope to reach the target was the moisture and the overestimated 'dew' factor to minimise Muttiah Muralitharan and Suraj Randiv's off-spin. It actually happened. India won the World Cup 2011. Despite criticism against his captaincy and batting form, Dhoni came into bat ahead of the Man of the Tournament Yuvraj Singh. Brave, bold, mettlesome and preemptive, he should be rated amongst the top few captains in the world — presumably a tier higher than Daniel Vettori, Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith.

 

Team India deserved it. They had Garry Kirsten on the drawing board and they had MS Dhoni executing them shrewdly and diligent; they had the irresistible Yuvraj Singh (4 x man of the match awards). Yuvraj must be a proud man being in the India U-19 team that won the World Cup; he was part of India's team that triumphed in South Africa winning the World Twenty20 and now he has been on the centre-stage; maturing in his role as India won the World Cup 2011.

 

The World Cup 2011 win wouldn't just give 1.2 billion people of India opportunities to celebrate; the peppermint scented balloons, the fireworks, the monetary rewards or the champagne flavoured air around them; it will doubly strengthen India as cricket's superpower and a market-place that attracts the West and everyone to go there and play international and league cricket. Well done BCCI! India's emergence as the world champions should be a befitting tribute to Sachin Tendulkar, whom I call international cricket's untainted brand ambassador.

 

As India pick momentum and their well-deserved champions' status, Australia's power and influence is waning. South Africa continue to 'choke' at crucial stages, despite having the most balanced team. They just couldn't be elevated as a world power-house. Pakistan isn't existing anymore despite their ascendancy to the semifinals. It's quite clear they have become shrivelled wood because of unconditional alienation and also primarily because of self-infliction. West Indies are already dead. England marooned and almost standing on the fringe with a begging bowl.

 

The ICC is still trying to manifest its power. Now, the responsibility settles with India to manage to re-establish its position as leader of the international community, the second problem regarding the denigration of quality of cricket would remain. The responsibility to protect applies only in extreme cases. But how can pressure be applied in milder cases? A simple principle suggests itself: India ought to do much more on the constructive side. Constructive engagement does not violate the principle of sovereignty and, most important, the withdrawal of assistance such as to Pakistan (cancelling their full tour in January 2009 on political grounds) does not violate it, either.

 

The more India will do on the constructive side, the more options they would have in imposing balance so to ensure they aren't left alone at the top; it actually happened to Australia as they forgot how the mighty could fall. India has to be cautious of the silent creep of impending doom. They needn't be on the cusp and remain unaware and they would continue developing their product which they have been doing conscientiously and professionally, and they should pre-empt the five stages of decline whilst they are the champions of the world. The stages are as follows:

 

a)Hubris of success

 

b)Undisciplined pursuit of more

 

c)Denial of risk and peril

 

d)Grasping for salvation

 

e)Capitulation to irrelevance or pulverisation

 

The last word on World Cup 2011 — I would like to give a different perspective to ICC's role as a 'regulatory body' and not a 'governing body'. This raises a question: What role should individual boards play in cricket's economy? Market fundamentalists want to remove cricket governments from the economy altogether, and they hate bodies patronising the game outside their scope. The trouble is that market fundamentalists are right when they assert that boards are ill-suited (barring BCCI) to run cricket's economy and that is even more true with countries like the West Indies and Pakistan, to some extent even Sri Lanka.

 

ICC's steps to brand the three major competitions as their own, including the World Cup, has been notoriously ineffective and more generally, it is the shortcomings of the individual boards as economic factors that have led to the rise of market fundamentalism. Am I now advocating a return to individual boards' intervention in the economy on the international scale?

 

I believe it is a mistake to pose this as an either/or question. There is a need for India now internationally, even if boards from other countries are ill-suited to run cricket's global economy. The distortions and inefficiencies introduced by ICC regulations can be kept to a minimum by using incentives and penalties that work through the market mechanism.

 

— The writer is the Fellow, Royal College of Physicians (Edin), member of the Royal College of Physicians (UK), official historian of Pakistan cricket, former cricket analyst of the Pakistan team and the Pakistan Cricket Board and a former manager of the Pakistan team

 

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DNA

OPINION

LAW SHOULDN'T TAKE LONG COURSE

RAKESH BHATNAGAR

 

Too much dependence on the political or legal governance for regulating the rights that are so dear to us such as Article 19(2) of the Constitution that permits reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression can have grave effects on the entire gamut of fundamental rights.

 

The government is feeling hurt with insulting remarks by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Joseph Lelyveld in his book on Mahatma Gandhi's life.

 

A reviewpublished in a foreign newspaper created a storm. It said Lelyveld's book portrayed the Mahatma as "a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent and a fanatical faddist".

 

Others say the book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, is much less sensational.

 

The author also said, "I do not allege that Gandhi is racist or bisexual. The word 'racist' is used once to characterise comments by Gandhi early in his stay in South Africa... the chapter in no way concludes that he was a racist or offers any suggestion of it."

 

However, Union law minister M Veerapa Moily says the officials are examining the entire 'National Honour Act of 1971', which protects the Indian constitution and its flag.

 

The government would take a call after bureaucrats read the law and translate its provisions to the ill-effects of the Lelyled's book.

 

The core issue remains, however, whether the government could examine the correctness of howsoever illogical and absurd 'accusations' against a national icon who is no alive.

 

Though the propriety demands that due respect should be given to some leaders like the Mahatma, Abraham Lincoln and alike, there's no law that can put a fetter on the absurdity of the highest order.

 

Instead of making any addition in the chain of laws and regulations, the government should give top priority to the respect of every human being.

 

The right to privacy is as much as important for a beggar on the street or a man living in a jhuggi as much for those who belong to the five star culture.

 

Let the law takes its own course, but the government can ensure that the law doesn't take long course.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

A SWELLING POPULATION

 

We have the Census Report 2011 with us. In parts it is alarming. "We are now over 17 per cent of the world population, and India is 2.4 percent of the world's surface area," said C. Chandramouli, India's census commissioner. "We have added the population of Brazil to India's numbers this time." India's total population grew from 1.03 billion people in 2001 to 1.21 billion this year, or an increase of 17 percent, according to the preliminary calculations of the massive census exercise that ended in February. The population of India - the world's second most populous nation after China - now almost equals the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan. While Hindus comprise 80.5 % of the total population, the second largest minority, the Muslims form 13.4 % according to the available information. However, literacy rate has shown remarkable increase and stands at 79.9 per cent for females and 86.3 per cent for males thus making an overall average of 72.9 per cent. The galloping population in the country and shrinking natural resources especially water and forest cover are matters of grave concern for the policy planners. India has to control the rapid growth of her population in case her economic development is to become meaningful. Therefore it appears that the government will have to focus attention on population related issue as a matter of priority.


But the census's most alarming finding is the continuing preference for sons over daughters in Indian society. In the past decade, the ratio of girls to boys for children age 6 and younger has plunged to 914 girls per 1,000 boys. The ratio was 927 girls to 1,000 boys in the previous census. In many parts of India, female fetuses are aborted or female infants killed soon after birth by families that look upon daughters as a financial burden. The trend is worse in the states where people are prosperous and educated, including the northern state of Punjab and the western state of Gujarat. The trend has continued despite the government forbidding the use of ultrasound tests to reveal the gender of a fetus to its family. "Whatever policy measures we have been following in the last 40 years will need a complete review now. They have not been effective," said India's home secretary, G.K. Pillai. But notwithstanding this, the overall ratio of females to males in India has improved, with 940 women per 1,000 men now, compared with 933 females per 1,000 males a decade ago. But the national capital region of Delhi has recorded a much lower gender ratio, with 866 females per 1,000 males.
Who is committing female feticide and infanticide? Available figures show that it's not the poorest and least literate people and communities who are responsible; to the contrary, the reverse is true. The 2011 numbers show that the states with the worst child sex ratio (CSR) are not the most backward: the prosperous agrarian states of Haryana and Punjab bear that ignominy with the neighbouring industrial hubs of Delhi and Chandigarh only slightly better. At a caste and community level, tribal societies have always had much better CSRs. In 2011, this is borne out by the far higher CSRs of states that have a high tribal population - Mizoram, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh, have a better CSR than even Kerala, India's default model state. This indicates that mere education has not been enough to correct a deep societal and cultural bias that the India seems to have against girls. Uttar Pradesh has a better CSR than Maharashtra and Gujarat, while Bihar betters the national average. Since the CSR counts the number of girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six, this is one trend that cannot be explained away by high out-migration. The gap between backward and non-backward districts was particularly high in states like Gujarat (923 to 873), Jammu & Kashmir (992 to 932), Madhya Pradesh (948 to 924), Rajasthan (936 to 905) and Orissa (964 to 937). This trend, too, was largely not seen in the southern states. Overall, India's population grew during the past decade at a rate of more than 17 percent. This rate was slower than the 21 percent growth recorded between 1991 and 2001, or the 23 percent growth rate for the census before that. It represents the sharpest decline in the rate of growth since India's independence in 1947. But the absolute population numbers nevertheless continue to rise - an ongoing cause of concern for many analysts. The population growth rate also varies wildly between states - another cause for worry, experts say. "Our federal government sends funds to the states according to their population. This means that the states that have worked harder to reduce their population growth get less money from New Delhi," said Devendra Kothari, a consultant to Management Institute of Population and Development.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INDIA LIFTS WORLD CUP

 

In a thrilling final, Indian cricket team lifted the World Cup on Saturday at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai imposing six-wicket defeat on indomitable Sri Lanka. Victory came to the Indian team after twenty-eight years. Prior to it, India played the crucial semi final in which she ousted Pakistan in a historic match at Mohali. Top cricket experts in the world, while balancing India and Sri Lanka, the final contestants before they actually clashed, did concede the formidable strength of Indian bating side while they were skeptical about Sri Lankan middle order. The game showed their apprehensions were not ill-founded. But they were unanimous in presuming that Sri Lanka had an edge over India in bowling area. When Muralitharan was bowling to Sachin, commentators rightly quipped that the world's greatest bowler was bowling to the world's greatest batsman. What actually brought India success, apart from other factors, was their superb and immaculate fielding including some instances which have very few parallels in cricket history like the one showing Yuvraj stopping a sizzling four from Sangakkara. The victory has made Indian captain rank among the greatest in the world of cricket. Cool, determined and optimistic, he inspired his team on most critical junctures and, himself playing real captain's inning of 91 runs, hit the final sixer to bring laurels to his team and his country. He is rightly crowned the man of the match. Captain Dhoni, a sportsman to the hilt, thanked his entire team for excellent cohesion on the field. In keeping with the great Indian tradition, he and his team gracefully showered respect and recognition to the greatest of Indian batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar, by dedicating the world cup to him. They lifted him on their shoulders and Sachin lifted India on his shoulders. The youngsters made India proud and the grateful nation salutes the heroes.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

COMMERCE IN FLORICULTURE

BY DR. MANOJ NAZIR


Information technology has brought in miraculous changes in the life of a modern man. Among several utilities of information technology internet the information the super highway has become an imperative tool for common man to exchange information at a greater speed, without manual intervention to boost industrial business. Floriculture industry is one among the several areas where in such technology is used to a great extent for a quick shipment of produce and maintenance of the same is of paramount importance due to highly perishable nature of product. E commerce has changed the way of florists to do business. This is achieved by developing an online information system using which grower's \ bidders can participate in the on line auction of their products and without any manual intervention, products can be sold and purchased. In fact in the next four years, more than 300% increase is expected in on line flower sale. It is also noteworthy that flowers are currently the third most profitable sellers on the web. The internet allows each customer to see the product they want before they buy. It is estimated that 67% of all fresh flowers purchases are made by women who are also currently the fastest growing segment of internet users.


A Grower engaged in commercial floriculture business can approach an on line auction centre with samples of different products of flowers. After acquiring user name and password the grower enters the on line auction centre. Samples of the products will be serially numbered and full description of each of the product with respect of plant characteristics and growers field coupled with package of practices followed will also be displayed auction centre in their webs site specifies the time of auction of such products well in advance. At the same time, bidders sitting across the globe would also log on to the auction centre by specifying their respective user name and password.


Once the auction starts, computers will display the scanned images of the products with their identification numbers along with the grower's price. A successful bidder at the end of the process will make the use of E- banking facility to arrange for payments. Such a procedure not only saves time, but also fetches the grower's international market price for the produce.


On- line information system

World commerce on line.inc.is a leader in global business to business electronic commerce solutions for the perishable product industries, having the acquisition of flower auction. Com. Flower auction.com is an e-commerce company targeting the U.S floriculture industry providing interactive on line e- commerce solutions for flower growers. It enables business in the perishable products industry with e- commerce technology solutions. For further information about on line information system log on at www.flowerAuction.com.
Rose bazaar .com


It is a global market place for flowers and an information and learning centre on flower trade and also an auction centre for flowers from around the globe. A flower shop is a unique retail shop wherein a user can buy boquets, plants and flowers. Flora shop offers regional prices depending on the destination. Further details about this information system can be browsed at www.rosebazar.com


The main intention of e- commerce in floriculture is to reduce arbitrage costs by creating a virtual trade platform for the global floral business. It is the fastest real time Auction with response speed of 1\22nd of a second and also interactivity promotes global trade and encourages bulk order which results in foreign exchange. E- Commerce promotes buying flowers at our convenience. It is also an information centre and provides a news letter giving highlights of floriculture business around the world. The news item would provide links to authentic on line source for detailed news whenever they are available and permitted. Some of the regular features would be on foreign exchange rates, ruling market prices for flowers, important stock market information and current trade and technical events. It also provides detailed trade articles on various subjects of intrest like climatic conditions, kind of flowers cultivated, trade statistics, market conditions, government policies, exports, imports and trade directory. There are green pages which is world trade directory for floriculture which provides a list of registered companies under several sections such as growers.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WHERE IS THE COMMON MAN, MR FINANCE MINISTER?

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

The Finance Minister has wholly focused on economic growth. He has resolved to simplify the Income Tax, and Excise and Custom Duty laws. He is plodding the states to move to a single rate of VAT and to remove the Central Sales Tax. It is hoped that these measures will help raise our growth rates. The main task before the Government, it is believed, is to make the country prosperous. Distribution will happen slowly on its own. This prosperity will come by proper allocation of resources through free run of the market. Say call centers are able to pay higher price for electricity because they are making huge profits. The slum dwellers can pay less. The market will provide more electricity to the call centers and lead to higher rate of growth. The benefits of the call centers will percolate to the slum dwellers in due course. The Government should not interfere with the market so that resources are allocated to those that produce more wealth. It is seen that poor villagers settle in the slums of Delhi and Mumbai and enjoy facilities such as tube light, refrigerators and TVs. The Government should let such percolation happen on its own.


Such a happy outcome is not necessary though. Percolation may be a mere trickle. Industries can use capital-intensive equipments and reduce the demand for the services provided by the poor. The call center, for example, can use vacuum cleaners and automatic tea-making machines leading to less demand for janitors and street-corner tea suppliers. Second, free run of the market leads to equal encouragement to the consumption of 'good' and 'bad' items alike. Healthy products like Chyavanprash and harmful products like bottled soft drinks are taxed equally. The welfare of the people can be reduced by uninformed consumption of bad products.
Third, advertisements can be use to spin the minds of the people and get them to consume harmful products like X-rated movies and bottled soft drinks. Fourth, the market has no mechanism to deal with mental anguish arising from increasing inequality. A village lad may be happy in an urban slum with his TV but he can yet be much agitated seeing the rich pass by in their air-conditioned cars. This leads to more violence. For these reasons allowing the market to determine the allocation of resources is not acceptable.


The result of government-led welfare schemes has not been satisfactory either. Soviet Russia built huge welfare machinery but it collapsed under the weight of luxury and waste perpetrated by the Communist Party officials. Indira Gandhi implemented Garibi Hatao programmes the beneficiary of which was the Government welfare mafia rather than the poor. The Government schools are today ensuring that few children pass the exams and trapping poor people into substandard education. We have to find a way that captures the vitality of the market while providing relief to the poor just as a red stop light is placed on the crossings to allow pedestrians to cross.
The Finance Minister should classify products in 'good' and 'bad' categories. Chyavanprash is good while cigarette is bad. Fresh buttermilk is good while bottled soft drinks are bad. Handloom is good because it creates employment while power loom is bad because its eats employment. Cycle rickshaw is good because it is environment-friendly while auto rickshaw is bad because it creates pollution. Solar power is good because it provides us with energy security while petroleum is bad. The Finance Minister should impose lower rates of tax on good products and high rates on bad products. Admittedly this will lead to some reduction in the growth rate. Electricity will be allocated more to the production of Chyavanprash and less to cigarettes though the latter can add more to economic growth. But we should accept such low of growth rate. It is like putting a stop light on the crossing. It is not to negate the traffic but to regulate it so that ultimately it moves faster.
Taxes have a great impact on employment. The Finance Minister wants to apply a single and uniform rate of tax to handloom and power loom, to handmade paper and machine-made paper, to harvesting of wheat by agricultural labour or by automatic harvesters, or to the laying of cable by manual labour and by excavator by the telephone company. This treats capital- and labour-intensive methods of production equally and reduces the demand for labour. The Finance Minister should instead apply lower rates of tax to labour-intensive products.
Winner of Nobel Prize in economics Prof Edmund Phelps has suggested that the European governments provide subsidy to employment instead of running huge money-guzzling welfare schemes. Such differential rates of taxes will benefit those telephone companies that lay cables by manual labour and hurt those that do the same by excavators. Companies will compete with each other to employ more workers so that they can avail of tax concessions. Present law requires that manufacturing companies undertake an energy audit of their operations. A similar 'employment audit' can be required by manufacturing and service companies. The Government can impose a 'High Capital-Labour Ratio Tax'. Companies that employ more capital and less labour may be subjected to a higher rate of tax.


Economic reforms should be applied to welfare sector. Nitish Kumar Government in Bihar has decided to implement the Antyodaya scheme through vouchers that can be encashed by the beneficiary at a shop of his choice. The same formula should be applied to central schemes like Integrated Child Development, Rozgar Guarantee and Indira Awas. Beneficiaries can be provided coupons that can be encashed for the specified service at designated locations. This will create competition among the welfare providers and help dismantle the Government welfare mafia that is making merry by locking the poor into poverty.


The Finance Minister must take a lesson from Egypt. The Government had in place a scheme where bread was provided almost free to the people. It cost barely 10-15 paise at India prices. Yet, it failed to contain the dissatisfaction among the people. Economic growth failed its leaders because man does not live by bread alone. Egyptian Government failed to manage inequality. It failed to build in people- and employment friendly policies in the main economic policy. We must give up this blind pursuit of economic growth and moderate it with pro-people policies otherwise we may go the Egypt way.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

OF FARMERS AND LOANS

BY ASHOK B SHARMA


Much has been said about the Union Finance Minster, Pranab Mukherjee doling out a lot to the farmers and even some have termed this Budget 2011-12 as Aam Aadmi's (common man's) Budget. But a detailed analysis shows that the Budget is entirely oriented to boost the investment prospects in the industry, infrastructure, capital market, services and housing sector and has negligible positive impact on agriculture. The imbalance in focus in the Budget will accentuate price inflation trends and push the rural poor to a difficult situation.
Agriculture has routine allocations like Rs 7,860 crore for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Rs 400 crore for Green Revolution in the eastern region, Rs 300 crore each for production of pulses, oil palm, peri-urban vegetables, coarse cereals, fodder and for the new National Mission for Protein Supplements. These allocations are meagre to serve the interests of 750 million farmers in 600,000 revenue villages in the country.
Tall claims are being made about financial inclusion of farmers at a cheaper rate of interest. The Union finance minister says that government's 3% subvention on interest for crop loans can help farmers to a large extent. But he should know that more than 50 million sugarcane growers and farmers affected by natural calamities will not be able to get the benefit of this scheme. Sugarcane is a 11 to 18 month crop and mills pay late to farmers and therefore farmers cannot repay bank loan in a year to reap the benefits of the interest subvention scheme. The Government should allow at least two year's time for repayment of crop loans so that farmers can reap the benefit of Government's interest subvention scheme.


Financial inclusion of farmers should be carefully devised so that the loanee farmers would be in a position to easily repay the loans after making remunerative returns from his investment. But the situation is different in this country where a loanee farmer becomes heavily indebted and he is unable to make enough returns to sustain the livelihood of himself and his family - this forces him to a perpetual debt trap and ultimately to commit suicide. Therefore the main issue before the government is to see that the farmer gets adequate returns to support himself and his family. The increases made in minimum support prices (MSPs) by the government are not sufficient enough to cover the input costs in farming and allow him to get a favourable return.
However, a good thought has come to the Finance Minister. He has admitted that soil health has deteriorated due to excessive chemical agriculture and therefore the need to encourage organic farming. It is a fact deteriorated soil health has come in the way of increasing productivity and production. Besides, in-farm traditional organic farming in right sense will not only restore soil health, but would be comparatively cheaper than chemical agriculture.


Organic products has a global market size of over $30 billion and our farmers are unable to reap its benefit due to the high cost of certification. It would be wise for the government to subsidise the cost of organic certification of individual farmers and facilitate the marketing of his organic produces.


The Government's decision to deliver fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers is a welcome step. But the Government has planned to deliver fertiliser subsidy only to farmers living below the poverty line. Fertiliser subsidy should be given to all farmers and the quantum of subsidy should be determined as per the land holding. The amount should be deposited in farmers' bank accounts. All farmers need subsidy and there should not be any distinction as ceiling on land holdings is implemented throughout the country. Farmers should be free to use the subsidy in the way he likes either for chemical farming or for organic farming. If the Government wishes to promote organic farming it should provide additional subsidy to cover the high cost of organic certification.
For the year 2011-12 there has been a massive Rs 20,000 crore cut in major subsidies on fuel, fertiliser and food from what was spent in 2010-11 (Revised Estimate). The cut in food subsidy by Rs 27 crore exposes Government's sincerity towards ensuring food security and welfare of farmers. Government should give diesel subsidy directly to farmers. The reduction in fertiliser subsidy exposes the anti-farmer character of the Government.


Instead of setting up of Mega Food Parks, the Government should assist unemployed youths in rural areas to set up small agro-processing and value addition units, cold storage and warehousing in rural areas. This will help in reviving rural economy, resolve rural unemployment and prevent the influx of rural poor to urban areas. The Budget has not given any attention to tribal farmers and those in hilly areas. The Budget has not given the needed attention to irrigation.


As per the Statement of Revenue Foregone, total tax concession were to the tune of over Rs 500,000 crore in 2010-11 with corporate tax exemptions amounting to over Rs 88000 crore. If the Government can dole out such huge benefits to corporate houses then why it is miser towards farmers. Government's failure to provide adequate facility for primary healthcare and education at affordable rates in rural areas exposes the Government's apathy towards the poor. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A MUCH-AWAITED EUPHORIA

WORLD CUP WIN A BOOST FOR SELF-BELIEF

 

The World Cup win that took 28 years in coming was something the entire nation was waiting for with bated breath. It was being hoped over the last three editions — 2003, 2007 and now — that India would be able to bring the elusive cup back in a repeat of the 1983 success which had a salutary effect on the game and the industry around it.

 

Interestingly, the World Cup success was more a case of when, not if. India has been ruling the cricket world off the field for a long time and over the last five to seven years, this success has also been reflected consistently on the field. Now, when the conditions and circumstances were favourable and the team found its footing at the right time, it became a perfect mix for the famous victory. While the talent and form were always going to be important for getting to this pinnacle, the team formation and the captain's role were paramount in giving that extra push. Mahendra Singh Dhoni stuck to his guns, defying some of the bigwigs within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to do what he thought was best on the field.

 

Additionally, several of these players were aware that this was possibly the most opportune time for them to put a World Cup win on their CV. Many of these players are also approaching the end of their careers, so for some it was a now or never situation. However, the one thing that united the team was the burning desire to prove to themselves that they were good enough to bring the cup home. Players like Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh were all fired up with the hunger for success at this ultimate stage. With them were millions of cricket fans.

 

Clearly, a glorious new chapter has been scripted in the history of Indian cricket. Now, the 1983 win will finally be given time to die a natural death, with honour. There is a new folktale to be told, till India wins another such title. That would likely not take as long as 28 years, but is also not expected to come rushing too soon. But the entire nation now knows we can win. There is a self-belief that we can now feel happy about.

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SHUNGLU PANEL'S FINDINGS

CORRUPTION, FAVOURITISM ALL THE WAY

 

AFTER indicting Delhi's Lt-Governor Tejender Khanna and Chief Minister Sheila Dixit for huge losses and delays in infrastructure projects for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the V.K. Shunglu committee in its final report has castigated the role of Suresh Kalmadi in the harshest possible terms, holding him responsible for most of the mess.

 

The former chairman of the Organising Committee (OC) has been accused of making "material changes" in official documents to get the post and also to have administrative control over it. Once he got the coveted post, he ran the OC "like a club" in which the criteria for recruitment and promotion seemed to have been "who knows who" rather than merit. Even the attempts of the Ministry of Sports to open a dialogue with Kalmadi between November 2003 and September 2004 on the action to be taken for the CWG were unsuccessful because Kalmadi was unwilling to do so till he was assured of chairmanship. The result? Work was nowhere near completion even on the eve of the Games.

 

The report points out that there was no internal accountability framework for the OC chairman, as he could not be called to question in any governance forum in the OC, like the executive board or the general body, which were not independent enough to play this role since these institutions were effectively controlled by the chairman. No wonder Kalmadi himself brought in individuals as employees and consultants from his constituency in Pune, even when better talent was available elsewhere.

 

With such people at the helm, things were bound to go horribly wrong and they did. The then IOC secretary general Randhir Singh and president Kalmadi had themselves said in a letter to the Ministry of Sports in 2003 that the Games would cost Rs 300 crore to Rs 400 crore. But a staggering Rs 28,000 crore was spent, which the report aptly describes as a "galactic jump. Everyone, be it the Sports Authority of India or the CPWD, squandered money. The committee report would serve a useful purpose only if all those found guilty are served their just desserts and a mechanism is found to ensure that there is no repetition of the mega-scandal.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SALE OF WEAPONS

GUILTY ARMY OFFICERS MUST BE PUNISHED

 

The ultimate and most powerful instrument of any state is its military. It is, therefore, vital that the officer cadre in particular and the ranks they command are men and women of character and integrity. But what happens when some members of this force entrusted with the country's security engage in acts of impropriety?

 

In a shocking revelation, Army officers, including even a major general, along with soldiers have been found selling for profit in the black market prohibited weapons originally given to them at concessional rates for private use. Taking cognisance of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the Supreme Court has expressed shock and surprise at the illegal sale of a large number of prohibited weapons by Army officers to around 800 persons, including terrorists and criminals, in connivance with civil servants. As if this is not grave enough, both the Army and the Ministry of Defence have been criticised for impeding both inquiry and disciplinary action. Expressing outrage, the Supreme Court has understandably observed that this racket has occurred in "of all the places in the armed forces where utmost discipline is required". In Rajasthan, three officers from the IAS and five from the Rajasthan Administrative Service are facing an enquiry for their alleged involvement in issuing arms licenses. If the PIL is to be believed, then the problem could be on a much larger scale since the Army is currently investigating about 40 officers in the Western Command. The figure of Army officers involved could be far higher if all seven commands – six operational and one training — are taken into account.

 

Such acts of impropriety cannot and must not be allowed. Both the Army and the Ministry of Defence must view this issue with the seriousness that it deserves and take all measures to bring the culprits to book. Service officers must not be allowed to misuse their privileges. This goes against the very ethos of the military and it is something that the country can ill afford.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

INDIA'S CORE INTERESTS IN S. ASIA

FOREIGN POLICY MUST REFLECT THE REALITY

BY ZORAWAR DAULET SINGH

 

 

The recent fad in Western security commentary on India has sought to portray this country as a natural member of East Asian political life. The impetus for this narrative began last November with the US administration's public endorsement that India was an East Asian power with President Obama urging India's lawmakers to "not only 'look East' but also 'engage East'". More recently, American diplomats have prodded India to a "Be East" policy, reflecting perhaps impatience with the pace of India's Pacific rendezvous.

 

India, in fact, began to look east in the early 1990s, much before Washington's courting began. And simply because the West is now encouraging this, doesn't mean that India should do the opposite. What India's political and strategic community should, however, debate is a geostrategy that is consistent with the geopolitical context of South Asia.

 

It can be argued that by diverting India's geostrategic attention eastwards, Washington is attempting to re-orient Indian threat perceptions away from Pakistan. And it is not difficult to discern why. India's strategic bifurcation away from the subcontinent would enable Washington to maintain its preferred South Asia policy of increasing investments in both India and Pakistan without their bilateral contradictions complicating US regional strategy. This is something that recurred throughout the Cold War, and continues to be a potential nuisance to the US.

 

Now, China is undoubtedly both a regional challenge and a geostrategic threat to Indian security, and most analysts would find US prodding on India's "East Asia" credentials an opportunity that should be leveraged both to enhance Indian influence and perhaps even increase its bargaining leverage vis-à-vis China.

 

But it is arguably not an overriding factor that should compel India to abandon its multivector worldview, which seeks to expand Indian influence in West Asia, South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral states. Plainly put, by looking eastwards, the reality of Pakistan will not disappear. Moreover, by exclusively and openly focusing on a future Chinese threat, India would merely invite a larger deployment of Chinese offensive forces in Tibet, requiring an Indian counter-response and thus producing an offence-defence dynamic that could hardly enhance Indian security. It would presumably also give the Pakistani military a window of opportunity to rehabilitate itself and maintain its position as a regional balancer, ironically a situation that would favour China.

 

In fact, a threat-based assessment goes against the very grain of strategic discourse in security establishments today. The mantra of capability-based military modernisation is now the preference for most aspiring powers, including India, in a post-Cold War era where the dissolution of entrenched ideological and material conflicts are reducing the salience of the notion of permanent threats. What does this essentially mean? A focus on capabilities rather than threats is advantageous because threats may be transient and continue to assume different avatars, and a grand strategy or military modernisation programme that tailors itself exclusively to preconceived threats will usually find itself behind the curve. In contrast, focusing on capabilities will offer more flexibility to re-divert or re-deploy national instruments toward dynamic threat contingencies.

 

To be sure, capabilities are not acquired in a vacuum. Capabilities require a context and a reference point if they are to be acquired and developed efficiently. This context is derived from a nation-state's self-image of its place in international life, the geopolitical location of the state, the material and military attributes of its peers, and the desired zone of influence.

 

Returning to the contemporary flux in India's political and security posture, what geostrategic orientation must India assume to channel its grand strategic agenda? India's potential and aspiration to be a pole in the international system coupled with the complex geopolitical reality that includes at least two uncooperative and allied states on its periphery implies that it would be imprudent to focus on Pacific China as an exclusive symbol of India's rise. India's core interests are in South Asia and it is continental China rather than naval China that remains a priority, and it is the balance of power on the Himalayan frontiers that India must seek foremost to improve. And insofar as the regional challenge of unchecked Chinese power to Indian influence is concerned, that can only be effectively dealt with by a policy of internal balancing or building India's domestic capabilities. Improving governance, logistical connectivity across the subcontinent and adopting an economic model that produces true pan-Indian development complemented by a more astute and nimble regional policy will keep Chinese power at bay.

 

On the broader Asian arena, India recognises the challenge that surrounds China's rise and is keen to participate in diverse bilateral and multilateral initiatives that can both serve as a hedge against a more assertive China and advance the search for a stable and plural multipolar equilibrium. The track-1 US-India dialogue on East Asia, of which a couple of rounds have already been concluded, is but one manifestation of such a multivector approach.

 

India's abiding belief that a bloc-based system usually produces lesser security for all implies that India's vision for Asian security is broader than that of the status quo actors in East Asia and the Western Pacific. It is perhaps instructive to note that India's National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon recently remarked that an Asian security system "should be plural. No one-size solution or simplistic prescription will work. We should learn from the failure of Cold War alliance systems in the area, and of earlier Asian Collective Security proposals". The NSA further argued that a new Asian order must include "the entire Eurasian landmass" from the "Suez to the Pacific".

 

The underlying logic for such an open security system is underscored by the global political economy. The economic interdependence within Asia, especially in East Asia, and the complex web of extra-regional trade and investment linkages that connect Asia to Western economies only underscore the preference for an open economic and security system. US-China economic interdependence, for all the recent bluster, has merely been dented. The geoeconomic linkages between the West and China continue to be deep, profitable and include the participation of a multitude of state and corporate actors from across East Asia India's perfunctory contribution to this division of labour is the true failure of India's Look East policy.

 

So yes, look East, but don't stop looking behind your shoulder too. This would produce a manageable relationship with China and its neighbours without compromising India's strategic flexibility and options in West Asia, and especially when that region is primed to witness tumultuous change in the coming years.

 

India's geopolitical location makes it a Eurasian power, and India's foreign policy must reflect that.

 

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A THEME WEDDING

BY V.K. KAPOOR

 

THE wedding venue wore the look of an oasis in a desert. Horses, camels and palm trees added to the ambience. Close relations were dressed as sheiks, and women were trying to look like Mughal begums.

 

The main challenge facing wealthy people is displaying. At one time, they did it by "conspicuous leisure" — not working. Now it is "conspicuous consumption" — spending a lot. People use possessions to define their place in society. Self in a market-based society is treated as a commodity whose value is determined externally. Every function is a social strategy with a specific aim.

 

The guests included the political, social and bureaucratic elite of Delhi. The host had money, influence and access. The hostess was a childlike adult with too much money itching for risk and sensory overload. There was a flood of expensive liquor being served by well-endowed girls dressed in Arabian costumes.

 

 

A netaji entered. The hostess hurried towards him and they embraced each other warmly. Her gestures were hotter than a frying pan. Netaji was known for his roving eye and called a 'Master Blaster' in political circles. He had extensive contacts in the film industry, and had inducted same stars in the party.

 

A lady from the corporate world was drawing favour-seekers galore. A large number of senior bureaucrats were hovering around her. She had got jobs for some bureaucrats after retirement.

 

I saw a former minister standing alone nursing his drink. I walked up to him and greeted him. He very bitterly pointed to a man saying that he was his old 'chamcha' and was now avoiding him. I told him that a 'chamcha' needs a plate, and moves to another plate which is full. He laughed sheepishly.

 

An old socialite who had become a 'sannyasin' came with her husband. She was carrying a string of beads in her hand. She had a colourful past. She reminded me of an old Sanskrit proverb "Vridha Nari Pati Vrata" (An old woman becomes loyal to her husband). Her husband had the look of a kicked spaniel.

 

There was a 'liaison man' who was briskly meeting everybody and anybody. He was a permanent fixture in the Delhi golf club. He knew everybody who was worth knowing. The art of fixing has evolved into a science of building, nurturing and maintaining relationships. It is he whom you know that determines your strength.

 

People were drinking with gay abandon. Indian middle class has come of age. It is a time of tall men and short character, steep profits and shallow relationships. Taller buildings and shorter tempers. We buy more and enjoy less. There is a quantum jump in adultery and adulteration.

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PANCHAYATI RAJ: A GOD THAT FAILED

RAJ KUMAR SIWACH

 

The democratic edifice of India is built by 239544 panchayats represented by 2828779 elected representatives. This constitutional arrangement becomes more complex when we add more conventional institutions, formal and informal, like the khap panchayats in Haryana, pani panchayats in Orissa, vana panchayats in Uttarakhand, caste panchayats in Karnataka, Gavki in Maharashtra and Oor in Tamil Nadu.

 

All these constitutional and conventional panchayats deal with economic development, social justice, dispute settlement, rural development and social welfare services. A question may arise in this context: have these multiple agencies been working in tandem or encroaching upon each other's domain? There are conflicts and contradictions in the domain of self-governing institutions when they distribute the slice of the cake to the villagers. For these reasons, they are also called as self-aggrandised governments.

 

Sadly, the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have not been successful in inculcating political consciousness among the people. The reasons are not far to seek: financial constraints, lackadaisical bureaucracy, rampant corruption and politicians' insensitivity.

 

Echoing his concern, Dr George Mathew, Director, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, lamented that though over three million men and women are elected to the PRIs, they have no idea about their rights and responsibilities. Unless political bodies at all levels including the MPs, the MLAs and government officials take a positive stand, the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act will remain on paper.

 

The PRIs in India, barring a few exceptions, are growing in size and scale but without the roots. What we witness today is a miasma of cynicism, disillusionment and disappointment. The founding fathers' intentions are marred by gory killings for gotra, election boycotts in the fear of losing the caste hegemony, auctioning for panchayat positions, violence and pressure to prevent capable candidates from contesting elections for the reserved seats, gross financial irregularities, fraud, corruption, misuse of funds and so on.

 

This is due largely to a crisis of ethos and culture. The dynamic, honest and committed youths keep off the rural leadership. On seeing this vacuum, leaders capture the helm of affairs whose conduct reflects covetousness, not commitment; avariciousness, not temperance; and collusion with landlords and politicians, not cogitation for genuine empowerment. The rural youths prefer to migrate to cities in search of jobs or reluctantly feast on agricultural income which works as disguised unemployment.

 

Because of compelling circumstances, they elect representatives as Hobson's choice. These representatives too run around politicians and officials for funds and services in the rural areas. Thus, public interest takes a back seat. Elections will serve little purpose unless people are endowed with resources and authority to steer the machinery of governance.

 

Over the years, the Centre and the states have set up numerous committees and commissions. These have made recommendations for institutional and procedural reforms. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission, in its report on local governance, has considered the core principles of local governance reform. These include subsidiarity, devolution, capacity building, citizen-centricity and accountability. This reform package presents two contradictory viewpoints. One, the policymakers wish to devolve more powers to the PRIs in the name of citizen-centricity (examples: community policing, maintaining public order and resolving local disputes). And two, they have become platforms to perpetuate exploitation and injustice meted out to weaker sections. Both paradoxical roles (anticipated and discharged) are products of two ideological strands and present the superstructure of the PRIs without a structure or base. This implies that the ethical soil propitious for the success of grassroots institutions is yet to be levelled.

 

The ground reality has not changed much in terms of economic development empowerment and social justice. In other words, there is neither raj nor panchayats with autonomy and independence. These elected representatives of village republics are losing credibility and people's trust. Their sense of fairness, justice and equity has also become questionable. The cultural terrain of the PRIs, which hitherto neglected all reform measures, needs a second look.

 

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, while speaking on "development with freedom" makes a case for the revival of our old cultural values of good governance. The values enshrined in social capital and signifying trust, cooperation, faith, impartiality and justice at the community level need to be reincarnated if India should become a super power.

 

Cultural renaissance is the need of the hour. The evidence of such governance culture is vividly seen in the practices and traditions of diverse faiths, sects, religions and philosophies of Indian ruling elites. In addition to devolving funds, functions and functionaries to the PRIs, there is a need to awaken people and free villages from the iniquitous system of poverty, squalor, injustice, factionalism and suspicions between neighbors sharing common streets and fields.

 

The root cause of the country's present ills is the culture of misgovernance. And this can be effectively tackled if the Gram Sabhas and Mohalla Committees are rejuvenated by involving people.

 

The current debate on corruption reminds one of Plato's utterances. Plato was hostile to democracy because the people lacked expertise and enlightenment to understand governance. Robert M. MacIver calls this situation as "aristocratic fallacy" wherein both the rulers and the ruled are incompetent. The people select a good physician and an able lawyer but not a good representative. Competence and wisdom in governance are rare phenomena.

 

The Gram Sabha is the place where the first brick of our democratic edifice lies but it remains unnoticed. The potential and power of the people, if tapped properly, can transform the lives of masses in rural areas. Consider three success stories: Odenthurai near Coimbatore for generating environmental-friendly power; Michael Pattinam in Tamil Nadu for rainwater harvesting; and Hivre Bazar near Ahmednagar for environmental preservation, development and communal harmony.

 

The cumulative effect of these experiments has shown that the Gram Sabha is the gateway to democracy. Today, however, what we witness is the Sarpanch Raj where no effective meetings of Gram Sabhas are convened to assess the performance of Gram Panchayats. And even if these are convened, there is poor attendance.

 

The Gram Sabhas can act as watchdogs of a committed and accountable democracy. They can supervise and monitor the functioning of the village panchayats and government functionaries. They can also examine the annual statements of accounts and audit reports of the Gram Panchayats prepared for implementing the rural development schemes. Their success varies from state to state. In states like Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, they are more active and functional but in states like Bihar, they are merely ceremonial bodies.

 

There is an urgent need to ensure cent per cent attendance in the Gram Sabha meetings. An effective campaign involving the media, students, NGOs, mahila mandals, schools, colleges and NCC will help ensure this.

 

For efficient resource mobilisation, organic linkages between panchayats, line departments of the state government and the Gram Sabhas have to be evolved. They need experts in micro-level planning in such areas as building community assets, social welfare, social justice, environmental conservation and rural development.

 

In most states, the Gram Sabhas are only advisory bodies. They should be made the sanctioning authority for taking up any developmental programme at the village level.

 

The Gram Sabhas should meet at least for four times a year. Maximum decentralisation and transparency will ensure accountability and reduce corruption. The list of beneficiaries, muster rolls, bills, vouchers, accounts, applications for licenses and permits should all be tabled, examined and approved by the Gram Sabhas. If the people are dissatisfied with their representatives, the Gram Sabhas should be endowed with the right of recall.

 

The Gram Sabhas should be empowered to penalise local bureaucracy for dereliction, embezzlement and fraud. These can provide a direct link between the service providers and service recipients by shortening the long chain of accountability under which crooked civil servants manage to escape punitive action on account of legal plumbing.

 

The writer is Reader, Department of Public Administration, Chaudhary Devi Lal University, Sirsa, Haryana

 

Overdue reforms

 

 The Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) hold the key to good governance. Over 70 per cent of India's population continues to live in the villages and 60 per cent of the nation's workforce draws its sustenance from agriculture and related activities. This sums up the importance of PRIs.

 

 The states should re-examine the Gram Panchayat delimitation for greater efficiency in the delivery of services. When small villages are clustered, gains can be expected, but the trade-off could be in terms of larger Gram Sabhas.

 

 The people's participation is inversely proportional to the Gram Sabha's size. Many Gram Panchayats are too small to function as autonomous institutions of local government. To be an economically viable administrative unit, a Gram Panchayat must have a minimum population size.

 

 When Gram Panchayats are large as in Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam, states should constitute ward sabhas which will exercise in such panchayats powers and functions of the Gram Sabha and of the Gram Panchayat as may be entrusted to them.

 

 Panchayats should have their own staff. They should have full powers with regard to recruitment and service conditions of their employees within a broad framework of state laws and certain standards.

 

 The state governments should not have the power to suspend or rescind any resolution passed by the PRIs or take action against the elected representatives on the ground of abuse of office, corruption, etc. or to supersede/ dissolve the panchayats.

 

 In all such cases, the powers to investigate and recommend action should lie with the local Ombudsman who will send his report through the Lok Ayukta to the Governor.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

CUP TO CUP, AND THE NATION WITHIN

NOT JUST A CHAMPION SIDE, DHONI'S TEAM IS THE GLIB AND POLISHED BILLBOARD FOR THE NEW MUSCULAR INDIAN ECONOMY

 

 Six years after India first won the cricket World Cup in 1983, the sociologist Ashis Nandy famously wrote, "Cricket is an Indian game, accidentally invented by the British." With the euphoria over Dhoni's triumph still washing over us, those words spring back to life again.

 

 Cricket has long had a social and political dimension in this country and the striking pre-eminence of cricket in the Indian imagination is deeply rooted in a set of complex and contradictory processes that parallel the emergence of an "Indian" nation itself.

 

 When Kapil's Devils lifted the World Cup for the first time, they surprised even themselves. India for all its long history in cricket was still a minnow of the game. Outside of the sporting pitch, politically too it was a nation in disarray. The Nellie massacre had just taken place and Assam was burning, Punjab was a tinderbox about to ignite, the historic peace accord in Mizoram with Laldenga was still three years away, the other North-Eastern insurgencies were still raging, Infosys was still an unknown start-up in Bangalore and the steely grip of the license-permit raj was asphyxiating the economy.

 

We were a nation in crisis and if anyone had predicted then that it would prove more resilient than the Soviet Union; that the Eastern bloc of the Cold War would soon collapse but India would remain intact, they would have been laughed out of the room.

 

It is difficult to imagine now with the burgeoning muscle of Indian capitalism that drives our cricket – and the world's – but in 1983 N K P Salve, then a Union Minister, Congress strongman from Nagpur and president of the BCCI was refused an extra ticket to the final by the snooty management at Lord's. He had been allotted one, but when his team unexpectedly reached the final, he asked the MCC for another ticket for his wife who had just flown in. He was snubbed and it was that putdown that galvanised him to rally the ICC's associate countries

and get the next World Cup out of England and to India in 1987.

 

In many ways, Dhoni's triumph completes the deeper struggle that started on that day at Lord's. At the level of power politics, until as late as 1993, England and Australia retained a veto power in the ICC on any matter relating to international cricket. By the early 1990s though, the skills of Dalmiya and Bindra had combined with the driving force of the surging Indian economy and the numbers of Indian television to reverse that power structure. With 80 per cent of the revenues of the international game now coming from India, it has long controlled the global game.

 

    But economic control would always seem a bit hollow without respect on the sporting field. The spirit of a new resurgent India that Sachin brought to the game, which Ganguly inculcated as captain and which Dhoni now embodies, completes the sporting takeover. Unlike the surprise guerrillas of 1983, for the first time in 2011, an Indian team entered the World Cup as favourites and lived up to its billing.

 

 Cricket's great fortune has been that the 1983 triumph coincided with two historic social developments: the creation of a national TV network and the simultaneous creation of a new consumerist middle class. In 1980, there were just 18 TV transmitters in India and 2 million TV viewers, by 1990 India had 500 TV transmitters and 30 million viewers of Doordarshan. It was the perfect staging ground for the newly emerging satellite TV networks and their use of cricket as a battering ram to capture the Indian imagination.

 

 Cricket has always been big in this country, but the special madness of Indian cricket and its complete fusion with national identity that see on our streets today was something that was forged only in the 1980s. It is no accident that when TV advertising first started becoming big on Doordarshan, the first pan-Indian icons it tapped into were the heroes of cricket: Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri after the 1985 Benson and Hedges Cup.

 

The focus of this advertising was the new exploding middle class and it helped create a new notion of it even as it sought to convert them into consumers. In the words of one marketer, the commodity images on television "opened up whole new worlds that they never knew existed".

 

Dhoni's team then completes that process. It is as much a finished consumer product as it is a champion side, as much a glib and polished billboard for the new muscular Indian economy as Kapil's team was an uncut, rough and ready diamond, waiting to be harnessed.

 

In 1983, Ranchi was a provincial backwater and Mahendra Singh Dhoni a toddler. Last year, Ranchi was rated among the highest employment generating cities in India, fuelling 16.8 percent of new jobs being created in Tier-III cities. And Dhoni, its most famous product, reflects the whirring internal engines of India and its can-do spirit as much as anyone else.

 

Did anyone say cricket was just a game?

 

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

EDITORIAL

AN IDEA OF INDIA

MORE WORK NEEDED NEXT DECADE TO IMPROVE PROFILE

India's population of 1.2 billion, according to the 2011 decennial census, is growing at the century's slowest rate of 17.6 per cent — four percentage points lower than in the previous decade. India is approaching, but has not yet reached, the replacement level. This means India's population will stabilise somewhere between 1.5 billion and 1.6 billion by 2030, making it the world's most populous country. It is hard to discern a pattern in state-wise growth, except that the states with the lowest growth rates – Kerala (4.9 per cent), Goa (8.2 per cent), Sikkim (12.4 per cent) and Himachal Pradesh (12.8 per cent) – are small states with high literacy levels. Surprisingly, growth rates in the more developed southern and western states were only slightly below the national average, with the growth rate in Gujarat almost two percentage points above. On the other hand, growth rates in the so-called BIMARU states of northern India dropped by an average of five percentage points, with Rajasthan (seven percentage points) registering the sharpest decrease.

India's literacy rate has inched to 74 per cent, but it is still among the lowest in rapidly developing Asia. Particularly heartening is the increase in female literacy from 54 per cent to 65 per cent. India has to do more to catch up with East Asia and Southeast Asia's rates of literacy and skill development, but the past decade has shown an acceleration of performance that should continue into the next. It needs to be investigated whether the increase in literacy rates is owing to new enrollments in primary schools, thanks to schemes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, or the recently launched adult literacy drive. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging.

 

 The fall in the female sex ratio from 927 females for every 1,000 males to 914 within a decade is disturbing. Punjab (846) and Haryana (830) remain at the bottom of the barrel, despite an actual improvement in their respective ratios compared to the midterm evaluation in 2006. The ban on sex determination tests seems to have little effect on the ground, with the proliferation of sex clinics even in Tier-II and Tier-III cities and beyond. It is a matter of deep concern that the practice of female foeticide is widely prevalent even among the educated and affluent, despite widespread documentation of the adverse sociological consequences of such practices. The policy response would necessarily have to go beyond enforcement which has limitations. Mass education, through the print and electronic media, coupled with the involvement of NGOs, has proved far more effective in the past.

The findings of the census warrant serious analysis given that it is arguably the most exhaustive and reliable source of primary data at the household level. For example, it would be interesting to see if there is a correlation between higher female literacy and decline in population growth rates, as seen elsewhere. At first glance, declining fertility rates and increasing literacy levels would indicate that more people aspire to hitch their wagon to India's economic boom. If this is true, one could not ask for a more solid foundation for inclusive growth. The policy challenge is to deepen and widen this sentiment.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

PM BOOSTS CONFIDENCE

SINGH'S MESSAGE REASSURES INDIA'S BUSINESS LEADERS

BUSINESS STANDARD

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done well to reassure Indian business that his government is not only aware of their concerns but is also committed to addressing them. Given the composition of the audience at the last week's meeting of the PM's council on trade and industry, the prime minister could have easily lectured his audience about public concern over crony capitalism and the "governance deficit" in the corporate sector. However, he chose not to lecture or admonish; he opted to reassure. He also urged Indian business leaders to set an example in corporate governance and in addressing environmental and social concerns. Taking forward the message delivered at the previous week at the annual Business Standard Awards function in New Delhi, the prime minister reiterated the government's commitment to bridging both the governance and infrastructure deficits about which many people have been complaining.

The prime minister's larger macroeconomic message was also reassuring to Indian industry. His emphasis on maintaining the economy's "growth rhythm" and dealing with inflation in such a way that it does not hurt growth is comforting. Equally assuring is his emphasis on improving the policy environment and infrastructure for India's manufacturing sector. A recent report of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has drawn attention once again to how China's industrial sector is far ahead of India's. China's share of world manufacturing value added is larger than the combined share of Europe's four largest industrial powers. India has the market, the skills and the capabilities to build an equally competitive industrial sector. The challenge is to improve both the supply of skills and the policy environment.

 

Dr Singh has also done well to reiterate India's commitment to maintaining an open trading environment through its adherence to multilateral, bilateral and regional trade agreements. However, India must be more proactive in seeking a successful completion of the World Trade Organisation's Doha Round of trade negotiations.

The prime minister's candid reference to "the nervousness in some sections of the corporate sector arising out of some recent unfortunate developments" was welcome. His reassurance that the government is "committed to ensuring that our industry moves ahead with confidence and without fear or apprehension" and that the "government is committed to improving the quality of governance" will be widely welcomed. These assurances must be followed by visible action, including the promised legislative and administrative measures to tackle corruption, improve transparency and rein in the corrupt. The government continues to have ministers and officials who act in a non-transparent and arbitrary manner and use discretionary powers to persecute some and favour others. Various wings of the government, including tax administration and investigating agencies, continue to be used to harass, threaten and browbeat those who are disliked by some in the power system.

Even as improving the policy environment for business remains a priority, investing in the economic and social infrastructure that underpins and sustains growth is equally important. Prime Minister Singh has said all the right things while addressing Indian business leaders. His government must also do all the right things.

 

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 BUSINESS STANDARD

FROM DIALOGUE TO CONVERSATION

IS PAKISTAN READY TO CARRY FORWARD A NEW CONVERSATION STARTED BY PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH?

SANJAYA BARU

 

Is Pakistan ready to carry forward a new conversation started by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

 

When Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf first met India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004, he declared that the two could resolve long-standing differences between their countries within minutes if they applied their mind to it in right earnest. Dr Singh smiled and cautioned the General, "I am not a soldier, General Saheb, and I am much older. I cannot run like you. Let me walk step by step."

Walk they did for several months, "creating a road by walking", as Dr Singh put it at a banquet he hosted in April 2005 in New Delhi. Eventually, it was the General who ran out of steam.

At Thimpu last April, Dr Singh changed track. Meeting his counterpart after the disruption caused by the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008 and the Sharm-el-Sheikh misadventure of July 2009, Prime Minister Singh and Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani opted for a "conversation" rather than a dialogue. No joint statements, no declarations. Just a quiet conversation to find a way forward, mindful of all the pitfalls and the potential threats to the process.

Clearly, Dr Singh is not ready to give up on Pakistan even if many people in both countries still view each other with extreme distrust. The evolution of his thinking is captured by half a dozen speeches delivered between November 2004, weeks after his first meeting with President Musharraf, and December 2006, weeks after the two met in Havana for an extended one-to-one conversation (All speeches are available at www.pmindia.nic.in).

The first time Dr Singh revealed his "new thinking" on the bilateral relationship, with a focus on Kashmir, was in a November 2004 convocation address at the Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences. While referring to the building of a "naya Kashmir" he said, "I have come today to Kashmir not with a 'package' but with a 'plan'. A plan to reconstruct the economy, reform the Government, regenerate entrepreneurship, revitalise the institutions of civil society and redefine the political paradigm and context in the sub-continent" (emphasis ours).

He followed this up the same week with a speech at the Indira Gandhi Conference where he spoke at length about how he saw India developing in the next decade. He ended with the words: "If this is the India we build at home, it will find itself in a new world. The world will look anew at us. Our neighbours will find us more welcoming and will welcome us more warmly. Over the next decade I would like to see India living in a neighbourhood of shared prosperity and peace. I would like to see India even more actively engaged with all of Asia and all of the Indian Ocean region. I would like India to be actively engaged with the world's major powers in all international forums participating willingly in the preservation of peace, protection of the environment and the creation of prosperity."

His next important statement on India-Pakistan relations was in the Lok Sabha on March 10, 2005, which I quoted in my last column ("Manmohan Singh bats again", March 28). This was followed by his welcome remarks to President Musharraf in April 2005 when he said, after entering all the caveats about Pakistan stopping all manner of support to anti-India terrorism emanating from Pakistan, "Our people and our common destiny urge us to make an earnest attempt to find a lasting solution to all issues. In a globalising and increasingly integrated world, borders have lost meaning for much of the world. The journey of peace must be based on a step-by-step approach, but the road must be travelled. As an ancient saying goes, a road is made by walking." In saying "a road is made by walking" Dr Singh opened up the possibility of new possibilities.

How far that dialogue had got within a year is captured by a March 2006 speech in Amritsar in which Dr Singh offered Pakistan a "Treaty of Peace, Security and Friendship" stating, "I have often said that borders cannot be redrawn but we can work towards making them irrelevant — towards making them just lines on a map. People on both sides of the LOC [line of control] should be able to move more freely and trade with one another. I also envisage a situation where the two parts of Jammu & Kashmir can, with the active encouragement of the governments of India and Pakistan, work out cooperative, consultative mechanisms so as to maximise the gains of cooperation in solving problems of social and economic development of the region."

In January 2007, Dr Singh said in his address at the Annual General Meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi, "In the increasingly globalised and integrated world we live in, political borders are no longer economic and social barriers. I dream of a day when, while retaining our respective national identities, one can have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. That is how my forefathers lived. That is how I want our grandchildren to live."

This grand vision, and the idea of a treaty, was punctured by the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 and the developments in Pakistan. In retrospect, Mr Musharraf's early enthusiasm was clearly ill-considered, and Dr Singh's "step-by-step" approach has endured.

Mr Gilani, however, is a politician who seems to recognise the merit of this approach and of a "conversation", rather than a "dialogue". However, it is still not clear if Mr Gilani can carry his army leadership along, and can prevent hotheads in his country from sabotaging the process.

Conversations between implacable adversaries, especially nuclear-armed neighbours, are necessary, important and useful. Is Pakistan willing to carry forward the conversation? Perhaps Dr Singh should undertake an early visit to Pakistan to find out.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

COULD AMERICA FADE IN ASIA?

IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ADAPT US POLICY TO THE CONTOURS OF CHANGE IN ASIA IF THE US WISHES TO REMAIN VITAL AND RELEVANT THERE

EVAN FEIGENBAUM

Asia is reintegrating, but the United States (US) simply isn't adapting quickly enough. And it is essential to adapt US policy to the contours of change in Asia if the US wishes to remain vital and relevant there.

What's the problem? For Washington, it is at once intellectual, strategic and bureaucratic.

 

 Intellectually, the US still has three separate foreign policies in Asia — one for East Asia, another for South Asia, and a third for Central Asia (which it scarcely regards as part of Asia at all). Even as Asia reintegrates, then, the US is too often stuck in an outdated mode of thinking.

Strategically, traditional US roles and habits are being altered compared to, say, 10 years ago. And the Asia that is likely to emerge 10 years from now will be very different from that with which Americans have grown comfortable.

Gradually, but inexorably, the region is becoming more Asian than "Asia-Pacific", especially in its economic and financial arrangements; more continental than subcontinental, as East and South Asia become more closely intertwined; and more Central Asian than Eurasian, as China develops its western regions and five former Soviet countries rediscover their Asian roots.

In concrete terms, this means that old US roles are being challenged by new forces. In East Asia, for example, preferential trade agreements, regionally-based regulations and standards, and institutions created without US involvement – most notably, the Asean Plus Three and a related China-Japan-South Korea mechanism – hold the potential to marginalise the US in time. In Central Asia, Washington has, for nearly two decades, promoted pipeline diversification away from Russia and towards the West across the Caspian Sea, only to have the new oil and gas pipelines run eastward to China. And in South Asia, the US has developed a strategic relationship with India while fading elsewhere as China assumes a larger role.

Sri Lanka offers a good example: although the US is still a major trading partner, China is emerging as Colombo's partner of choice for large-scale capital investment. And China isn't the only East Asian power expanding its economic links with South Asia. While the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement sat moribund in Washington for nearly two years until December 2010, Korea and India ratified their own agreement in goods, services and investment. And India and Japan signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in February 2011, even as negotiations for a proposed US-India Bilateral Investment Treaty continue to go nowhere.

Bureaucratically, US institutions, policies and programmes are badly skewed.The US isn't well organised for success in the new Asia. The US formulates and implements its Asia policy through a baffling mishmash of misaligned agencies and military commands. Thus, Pacific Command (PACOM) based in Hawaii handles East Asia and half of South Asia, while Central Command (CENTCOM) based in Florida oversees the other half of South Asia.

Responsibility for Central Asia is lumped with Russia and Ukraine at the National Security Council, with India at the State Department, and with India, China and Japan at the Pentagon. In fact, the US didn't even treat India as an Asian country until as recently as the 1990s, managing relations with New Delhi through a westward-looking bureau with principal responsibility for West Asia.

Should this matter to the US? So what if China is building gas pipelines to Turkmenistan, or Japan is investing in Indian infrastructure, or Chinese demand now powers economic growth of America's closest Asian allies, including South Korea and Australia?

The problem is not that the US will cease to be a power in Asia. Particularly in East Asia, Washington remains an essential strategic balancer, vital to stability. But, for one thing, the US cannot simply be a provider of security-related public goods. So it risks fading as Asians provide more and more economic public goods to one another. And rapid Chinese growth, combined with slack global demand, means that China increasingly powers the growth of nearly every major economy in Asia. Within a generation, the US could find its firms at a competitive disadvantage in a part of the world that will constitute a huge chunk of the global economy.

Meanwhile, Washington could miss opportunities to work in new ways with India in East Asia, with Japan and South Korea in South and Central Asia, and with China in Central Asia, in particular. Americans could be bystanders to the economic and strategic dynamics that are quickly reshaping the region.

To adapt, US decision makers do not need to reorganise the entire US government. It would be enough to increase the scope and intensity of activities across the artificial dividing lines that have been constructed within Asia.

The US could stand to coordinate a bit more with Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, and not just on East Asian issues. It could factor India even more explicitly into its East Asia policy. It could send its CENTCOM commander to the Pacific and its PACOM commander to Central Asia every once in a while. It could support efforts to foster trade and work through public-private partnerships to build infrastructure.

Without a new map of Asia that reflects the ways in which Asians themselves are remaking their continent, US' relevance – and influence – will wane in the coming decades.

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

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

DIMINISHING RETURNS

IS THE US RELINQUISHING ITS SUPERPOWER STATUS?

A V RAJWADE

Is the US relinquishing its superpower status?

Paul Kennedy had cautioned more than two decades back in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, that, at some stage, great powers suffer from "imperial overstretch". Referring specifically to the US, he noted "the awkward and enduring fact that the sum total of the United States' global interest and obligations is nowadays far larger than the country's power to defend all simultaneously… it simply has not been given to any one society to remain permanently ahead of all the others". Britain experienced this in the twentieth century, and one wonders whether the US, too, is gradually relinquishing its traditional role. One sign of this is the loss of dollar's status as a safe haven currency ("The changing status of US dollar", Business Standard March 14).

 

 Another came last week when the US ceded leadership of the Libyan operation to The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, more specifically, France and Germany, and eschewed an invasion of the country. In a recent speech, US President Barack Obama reminded the audience that the US had gone "down that road in Iraq", where "regime change took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya". Clearly, he is a far more sober and mature president than his juvenile predecessor. However, he should have referred to the untold miseries inflicted on millions of Iraqis as a result of the invasion in 2003 on spurious grounds, in pursuit of the "neocon" agenda. A couple of years before the turn of the century, the so-called neo-conservatives in the US (a group of right-wing conservative Republican intellectuals, who later dominated the Bush Jr Administration and were the architects of the Iraq invasion) promoted what they described as The Project for the New American Century. The first manifestation of the New American Century was the regime change in Iraq by invading the country. Afghanistan and Iraq have since exposed the limitations of American military and economic power, and the surprising incompetence manifested in the post-war occupation.

Nor is the record of the Anglo-Saxon model of laissez-faire states and finance capitalism, as practised over the last three decades, any better: stagnancy of real wages, increasing income inequalities, intractable twin deficits, fiscal and current account, and a huge and fast-growing public debt, even before factoring in the present value of future social-security obligations. President Obama has merely recognised the limitations in giving up the leadership of the Libyan operation.

"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted," wrote playwright Arthur Miller. Has such a moment arrived? Dani Rodrik of Harvard University argued some time back, "The US, the world's sole economic hyper-power until recently, remains a diminished giant. It stands humbled by its foreign-policy blunders and a massive financial crisis. Its credibility after the disastrous invasion of Iraq is at an all-time low, notwithstanding the global sympathy for President Barack Obama, and its economic model is in tatters. The once-almighty dollar totters at the mercy of China and the oil-rich states."

More immediately, there are several major macro economic problems quite apart from the twin deficits. One is that the housing market, which was the origin of the 2008 financial crisis, remains soft and prices are still falling. Many analysts, from academics like Nouriel Roubini to hedge fund managers like Paul Singer, have warned in recent weeks about the dangers of inflation reigniting, thanks to the continued loose monetary policy. Recent economic data from the US support this possibility. The prospects for global inflation have obviously not improved by the continued volatile situation in West Asia and North Africa and its implications for oil prices. (To be sure, some of the western countries and Japan would, in a way, be relieved if inflation reignites as it would be a less painful way of reducing the ratio of public debt-to-nominal GDP than increasing taxes or cutting expenditure.) Global economic recovery is still fragile and, though growth in the US is much stronger, it is still very much a jobless recovery. Stagflation may well be on the cards. One sign of the times is that PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund, has reduced its exposure to US treasuries to zero — it obviously expects yields to go up.

The US monetary policy makers focus on "core inflation" (exclusive of fuel and food prices). The ostensible reason is that these are too volatile. I wonder whether the real reason for the exclusion is that monetary policy can do little to control them, and discretion is obviously the better part of valour.

Tailpiece: Dani Rodrik, when questioned about India, said recently that it is "a thriving economy. It has a huge potential. I hope it doesn't make the mistakes that other emerging market economies have made — in particular by giving in to the Siren Song of financial globalisation." (The Economic Times, March 25.) I have often argued in this column that we seem to be doing exactly this in terms of capital flows and the exchange rate.

avrajwade@gmail.com 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

STATSGURU: 4 APRIL 2011

India's bounce-back from its multiyear low on March 9, 2009 has been sharp and steeper than other equity or commodity benchmarks and relatively broad-based. But the domestic market marginally underperformed the global equity markets in the financial year 2011 on concerns of inflation, allegations of corruption and a slowdown in quarterly earnings growth rate.

The Sensex's one year return at 11 per cent was significantly lower than 94 per cent by neighbouring Sri Lanka's All Shares index. Next door, the Karachi-100 index also did well with a 16 per cent appreciation. Stock markets in Indonesia, Germany and the US managed an edge over India while Japan suffered more than a 10 per cent value erosion due to the massive tsunami and earthquake.

 

 The low-key performance of the equity markets was reflected in the cash market turnover, which declined 15 per cent as investors stayed away from delivery-based trading. The IPO market, too, did not get good response as most new offerings posted negative returns after listing. No wonder the IPO index compiled by the Bombay Stock Exchange declined 13 per cent.

Speculative trading was rampant as turnover in the derivatives segment increased 69 per cent to Rs 493 lakh crore. The F&O segment of National Stock Exchange continued to be big daddy with a 50 per cent-plus share. Currency futures, introduced in 2008-09 for institutional players, accounted for a 15.3 per cent share while commodity futures, caught in the inflationary measures, witnessed a drop in the market share. (Click here of graph)

Trading in derivatives contracts on regulated exchanges worldwide surged to their highest levels in nearly a decade in 2010, according to statistics compiled by the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE). More than 22.3 billion derivative contracts were traded on exchanges worldwide in 2010 (11.2 billion futures and 11.1 billion options) against 17.8 billion in 2009. The growth rate (+25 per cent) is one of the highest since 2003. The number of futures traded increased faster (+35 per cent) than options (+16 per cent), according to WFE, which annually conducts a survey for the International Options Markets Association (IOMA). The National Stock Exchange, which ranked at No 7 in the global charts in term of derivative contracts, underperformed with a four per cent rise.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CRICKET AND BEYOND

INDIA'S WORLD CUP VICTORY WILL BOOST OVERALL CONFIDENCE AND THE ECONOMY


 When 1.21 billion people cheer in unison, toast their team and one another, the elated mood it generates can only be good for the economy. The World Cup victory by Dhoni's boys will boost not just cricket and sport but the economy in general. It will serve as the mood changer the nation needs to break the weariness of spirit created by a seemingly endless stream of scams and political skulduggery. Why, champions of logic might well ask, should the positive fallout of a victory on the cricket field go beyond the breweries that supply liquid accompaniment to happy hours? Quite fortunately, economic behaviour is not hostage to the constricting rigours of rationality. Behavioral economists have disproved the conventional wisdom of theory that rationality has economic agents in its thrall. In any case, even perfectly rational people display completely weird behaviour in the absence of perfect information. This being the case, let us not worry too much about theoretical objections, such as they are, to the positive externalities of a cricketing triumph.


For a large number of young Indians, it is routine to find the names of their compatriots liberally sprinkled over assorted honours lists: dollar billionaires of the world, the aristocracy of information technology, finance wizkids and so on. What is puzzling is the absence of Indians in the league tables of sporting achievement. That India won a cricket World Cup ages ago serves only as a prickly reminder of contemporary failure. It is this yawning gap in the collective sense of achievement that Saturday's victory at the Wankhede stadium fills. True, it is just a tiny section of the population that is fortunate enough to have only sporting mediocrity to worry about. But it is this self-satisfied section's combined actions that go on to determine how fast the economy would grow and how far the resulting prosperity spreads. The whole point is that their success enlarges their tribe, embracing ever larger sections of the population. Team India celebrates India's national theme of unity in diversity. Indeed, India needs to soak in the message of united striving, to achieve more substantive success in the world of material progress.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FREE UP PRICING

THIRD PARTY RISK COVER PRICES MUST BE FREED, INSTEAD OF FREEZING CLAIMS

 

The government's reported move to cap third-party claims for road accidents to prevent courts from awarding unlimited compensation to victims is flawed. Caps would further distort the pricing of such covers and hurt accident victims, even if it helps insurers cut losses. Instead, fetters on pricing of third party risk covers that provide compensation to accident victims should be removed to safeguard the interests of consumers and insurers. Today, premiums are regulated in this segment. Insurers treat third party risk covers as a bleeding portfolio as claims far outstrip premium collections, especially in commercial vehicles. The problem gets compounded when compensation is unlimited, eroding the profitability of insurers. Reforms to overhaul the outdated policy on third-party insurance covers are, therefore, in order. To start with, insurance regulator or Irda should free pricing on such covers. Regulating tariffs only in this segment does not make sense when pricing has been freed in all other general insurance segments such as health, fire and engineering. Free pricing could push up premiums in the near term. However, competition will ensure that insurers price their risks more efficiently and this will drive down premiums. Pricing is bound to become more scientific over time. Rash drivers and those in crowded metropolises with a higher accident rate will find themselves paying more, while those with an unblemished driving record will be rewarded with lower premiums. The motor-insurance pool, set up by general insurers to collectively service commercial vehicle third party insurance business, will also work better when pricing is freed.


Systems should be in place to ensure that all vehicle owners have the mandated third-party cover, to boost premium collections. Insurers will then find it worthwhile to write the business. However, compensation claims should be filed within a stipulated period. This will ensure that disputes do not linger on. The government should not buckle under pressure from the transporters lobby to stall free pricing.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SWEET SUCCESS

CHINA MAY NOT BE ABLE TO CURB GIRLS OPTING FOR A WAY OF GETTING RICH QUICK

 

CHINA probably matches India genius for genius, geek for geek, prodigy for prodigy, but a recent move by school authorities in Guangdong province has demonstrated how truly eclectic that country is when it comes to pedagogy. While Indian kids are being railroaded by teachers and parents alike into swotting for the same old medical and engineering courses, China has farsightedly moved to nip a nascent new avenue of advancement literally in the bud: marrying money. The pilot project to teach girls in junior and middle school how to resist suave older men and learn self-respect demonstrates at least official will against this conventional shortcut to getting rich. It also underlines the state's determination to resist popular surges, given that an online poll has shown that nearly 60 percent of young respondents had ambitions of marrying or getting into a relationship with rich, older men to get ahead in life. In that respect, China's pioneering stance is akin to Indian schools suddenly launching courses that urge children not to think that clearing a joint entrance exam is the only stepping stone to success and riches.


The theory, however, that young Chinese girls were looking at this method of getting ahead because of shortcomings in their education may not hold water. It could well be that the girls have deduced that all's fair in love and wealth accumulation. This odd phenomenon, in fact, could give a positive twist to the otherwise dismal statistics of the falling female to male ratio in both countries: only the best men will win. Indeed, it will be all the more difficult for the Chinese to persuade young girls not to go the way of several of their prominent compatriots who have leapfrogged into the media spotlight thanks to advantageous unions with sugar daddies often more than double their age.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FACE OFF    

AN UNFINISHED CATHARSIS

THE IMF'S INDEPENDENT EVALUATION OFFICE INDICTS THE FUND, BUT SHIES AWAY FROM THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION

MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH


 As a mea culpa, it could not have got better. Or should that read 'worse'? But as an exercise in soul-searching, the report of the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the IMF's performance in the run-up to the financial crisis, released mid-February, could not have been more thorough. Or more deserving of attention!


But February is a month when most of India is fixated on the Union Budget looming ahead. So the IEO report was almost completely ignored by business dailies here despite the fact that it is a remarkable piece of work. And, as a freshly-minted member of the G20 club charged with overseeing safe-landing the global economy, we have a vital role in ensuring the report gets more traction, and more important, is acted upon.


But first, what is the IEO? It was established in 2001 after the Asian crisis with a mandate to conduct independent and objective evaluations of the IMF's policies and activities. The idea was that a frank and informed postmortem would improve the Fund's ability to draw lessons and integrate improvements into its future work.


The Office is fully independent of the IMF's management and operates at arm's length from the board of executive directors. The director is an official of the Fund, but not a staff member, and the majority of full-time IEO personnel are from outside the Fund.


This is not a matter of detail. No internal body would have been as scathing of the IMF's performance. Consider. In a Box titled, What was the IMF saying about Iceland in 2007-08, the report says the IMF's discussions with that country's government under Article IV found Iceland's medium-term prospects 'enviable', adding 'the banking sector appears wellplaced to withstand significant credit and market shocks.' All this, just months before Iceland's banks collapsed like a house of cards! That is not all. The IMF, we in India have tacitly accepted, has one set of rules for the developing world and another for its patrons in the developed world. But you don't expect to see that in a report fathered by the IMF, even if by an Independent Evaluation Office! And here lies the strength of the report: its honesty. 'The quality of bilateral surveillance,' it admits, 'varied greatly among other member countries…. In contrast to upbeat messages to the largest systemic financial centers, some smaller advanced and emerging market countries with similar vulnerabilities received repeated warnings about the buildup of risks in their domestic economies.' A case of double standards? You bet!


The IMF's ability to correctly identify mounting risks was hindered by a high degree of groupthink, intellectual capture, a general mindset that a major financial crisis in large advanced economies was unlikely, and incomplete analytical approaches.


Groupthink or the tendency among homogeneous, cohesive groups to consider issues only within a certain paradigm and not challenge its basic premises is not unique to the IMF. It happens everywhere. All the more reason to guard against it! But that is easier said than done, as anyone familiar with the parable of
The Emperor's New Clothes would agree.


The prevailing view among IMF staff — a cohesive group of macroeconomists, mostly educated in US universities —was that market discipline and self-regulation would be sufficient to stave off serious problems in financial institutions. They also believed that crises were unlikely to happen in advanced economies, where 'sophisticated' (?) financial markets could thrive safely with minimal regulation of a large and growing portion of the financial system.

 

The IMF staff was uncomfortable challenging the views of authorities in advanced economies, being overly influenced (over-awed?) by their reputation and expertise; a case of intellectual capture, the report concedes. So, while they had no problem lecturing developing countries, they were was wary of doling out tough talk to developed countries. Many believed there were limits to how critical they could be regarding the policies of the largest shareholder since '…you're owned by these governments (read: the US)'. More dangerously, staff perceived that in case of disagreement, the IMF management would end up endorsing country authorities' views. None of this is a particularly encouraging read at the time when the G20 seems to have lost its way and the IMF, to all intents and purposes, has regained its position as numero uno. True, there has been some tinkering at the margin with voting rights in the IMF Board and advanced economies have been included in the Fund's 'Vulnerability Exercise' and 'Early Warning Exercise'. There is also increased research on macro-financial linkages and financial stability assessments have been made a mandatory part of surveillance for 25 most systemic financial sectors.


However, as the report points out, similar views were articulated after previous crises;but were either not implemented or implemented indifferently. Why? Because of a phrase we in India are hearing more and more these days: 'governance deficit'. The report accepts this but finally settles for more of the same. So, it suggests creating a risk assessment unit reporting directly to the management, changing the insular culture of the IMF by inducting outside analysts, encouraging staff to be more candid, etc. And shies away from more crucial reform that alone can deliver better governance: root-and-branch overhaul of the Fund's voting rights to reflect the new realities of the 21st century world.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

 'WE WILL MAKE INDIA MORE INVESTOR-FRIENDLY'

HEMA RAMAKRISHNAN & ABHEEK BARMAN


Chinese President Hu Jintao will play host to leaders from Brazil, Russia India and South Africa later this month. They will meet on the far southern Chinese islandprovince of Hainan to share views on international economic, financial, security issues. With the economic disparities among countries, will the third Brics summit deliver results? R Gopalan, secretary, department of economic affairs, is confident that Brics as a group can play a significant role in enhancing global economic outcomes.


"The G20 is a testimony to the fruits of working together for economic policy coordination. Brics, as a group, is also expected to meaningfully contribute to policy coordination which is critical to sustain economic recovery," he says.


India is anchoring a study by finance ministers and central bank governors of Bric countries on the future of the world economy and the role of these countries. It is reported to have sought more cooperation from Russia in drafting the report that will bring Brics countries to work together for stronger cooperation and provide the platform for sharing best practices. A draft report was released last year and expectations are that the final report will be released during the summit this month. The real challenge is to have a balanced economy.
Gopalan, a professional banker who joined the civil services, reckons that global economic recovery is still uneven and fragile. "The tensions in Libya and surge in commodity prices could pose risks and fuel inflationary expectations in emerging economies," he says. High commodity prices will feature in the discussions among Bric members. South Africa, a new entrant to Brics, will participate for the first time.


Will the stress over China's currency policy and trade surpluses make it tough for this group on global diplomacy to forge a consensus at the third summit? China has been under pressure to allow its currency, the yuan, to appreciate against the dollar. The US has argued that the value of the Chinese currency is being kept artificially low, hurting American exports to China and giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage.
Gopalan steers clear of commenting on the issue. "Each country has its own strengths and weaknesses and will try to see how best they can protect their national interests," he says.


What worries India's policymakers the most on the domestic front at this stage? Inflation, says the career bureaucrat, without batting an eyelid. "Inflation is worrisome. Food inflation has been due to a structural shift in the consumption pattern. The demand for vegetables, pulses, milk and eggs has grown stronger with the rise in per capital income. India is the largest producer of milk, yet production has not kept pace with demand. The new programme for pulses and other policy measures such as interest subvention for fish farming will help tame inflation," he says.


The central bank reckons that the outlook on inflation will hinge on how the food price situation, both domestic and global, evolves. Any increase in global food prices is also an added risk to domestic food price inflation as the country is large importer of food items such as edible oils. Another factor that would shape the inflation outlook is how global commodity prices behave. Price rise in non-food primary articles could push up input costs for the manufacturing sector. Gopalan concurs with the RBIs view that food inflation needs to be tamed as it could hurt the growth momentum. "Inflation is a concern even among investors, but there are no quick-fix solutions," he says. Is the dip in FDI inflows this fiscal worrisome and will speedy decisions on reforms such as FDI in multi-brand retail help improve the investment climate. "Overseas investors want to spread their risks, but India is clearly a destination for FDI. There is really no evidence of reluctance to invest here. So, we need to create an investor friendly environment," argues Gopalan.

FDI is expected to rise in the coming fiscal with big-ticket investments in the pipeline. This includes South Korean steel giant Posco's $12 billion investment in an integrated steel plant and a minor port in Orissa. India also needs to build infrastructure fast to lure foreign investors. But there are problems and delays in public-private partnership (PPP) projects in infrastructure including roads, ports and power plants. Land acquisition has become a controversial issue. A new law to change the archaic land acquisition rules is yet to come into force and the debate now is how much land the government should acquire for a PPP projects. "What the finance ministry is looking at this stage is to overhaul policy on PPP in infrastructure projects to get rid of confusion and clutter," he says. Gopalan, tipped to be the next finance secretary, is gearing up to push the government's reform agenda.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

THE ANATOMY OF SLOW RECOVERY

J BRADFORD DELONG


Between 1950 and 1990 — the days of old-fashioned inflation-fighting downturns engineered by the United States Federal Reserve — America's post-recession unemployment rate would fall on average 32.4% over the course of a year from its initial value toward its natural rate. If the US unemployment rate had started to follow such a path after peaking in the second half of 2009, it would now stand at 8.3%, rather than 8.9%.
Unfortunately, none of the net reduction in the US unemployment rate over the past year came from increases in the employment-to-population ratio; all of it came from declining labour-force participation. Unemployment has fallen from 10.1% over the course of the past 18 months, but the employmentto-population ratio has remained stuck at 58.4%. Perhaps it would be better if unemployed people who could have jobs — and who at full employment would have them — were actively looking for work rather than out of the labour force completely. If you take that view, between 1950 and 1990, the US employment-to-population ratio would rise an extra 0.227% annually on average for each year that the unemployment rate was above its natural rate. If the US employment-to-population ratio had started to follow such a path after its 2009 peak, the current ratio would be 59.7%, rather than 58.4%. (In that case, we would be experiencing "morning in America," rather than the current state of economic malaise.) This is, I think, the best metric to use to quantify the decidedly sub-par pace of today's jobless recovery in the US. It is not out of line with other American yardsticks: since the output trough, real GDP has grown at an average rate of 2.86%/year, barely above the rate of growth of the US economy's productive potential. And it is not out of line with the experience of other rich economies, whether Japan or in Europe. Indeed, today's US predicament contrasts sharply only with the current experiences of developing Asia. There, real GDP growth and declining unemployment show a solid, well-entrenched, and rapid recovery — to the point that inflation will soon become a more significant macroeconomic problem than job creation.


The obvious hypothesis to explain why the current US recovery — like the previous two — has proceeded at a sub-par pace is that the speed of any recovery is linked to what caused the downturn. A pre-1990 recession was triggered by a Fed decision to switch policy from business-as-usual to inflation-fighting. The Fed would then cause a liquidity squeeze and so distort asset prices as to make much construction, sizable amounts of other investment, and some consumption goods unaffordable (and thus unprofitable to produce). The resulting excess supply of goods, services, and labour would cause inflation to fall. As soon as the Fed had achieved its inflation-fighting goal, however, it would end the liquidity squeeze. Asset prices and incomes would return to normal. And all the lines of business that had been profitable before the downturn would become profitable once again. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, therefore, recovery was a straightforward matter: simply pick up where you left off and do what you used to do.


After the most recent US downturn, however(and to a lesser extent after its two predecessors), things have been different. The downturn was not caused by a liquidity squeeze, so the Fed cannot wave its wand and return asset prices to their pre-recession configuration. And that means that the entrepreneurial problems of are much more complex, for recovery is not a matter of reviving what used to be profitable to produce, but rather of figuring out what will be profitable to produce in the future.

the pieces, and turning some of them over. When the Fed ends a liquidity squeeze, it turns the pieces right side up. So, it is easy to reassemble the puzzle. Now, however, there is no one to turn the pieces right side up, so things are much harder to correct.


Indeed, I believe that things are even worse: as long as aggregate demand remains low, we cannot even tell which pieces are right side up. New investments, lines of business, and worker-firm matches that would be highly productive and profitable at normal levels of capacity utilisation and unemployment are unprofitable now. So, what America needs now is not just a recovery in demand, but also structural adjustment. Unfortunately, the market cannot produce a demand recovery rapidly by itself. And it cannot produce structural adjustment at all until a demand recovery is well under way.


(The author is Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley)
© Project Syndicate, 2011

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COSMIC UPLINK

SPIRITUAL PROGRESS

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN


True spiritual progress is, essentially, progress towards the cherished dreams of the evolved 'spirit' within, which resides in all human beings. In this progress, the aspirant not merely feels but really knows what he truly wants and needs for fulfilling the yearnings of this spirit. This also is knowledge of all 'truth' — truth of matters which, The Bible notes (John: 8,32), would "set you free" — a freedom from distractions, dissipation and conflicts, which retard one from progress to natural elegance and 'flow'. Such clutter, confusion and disarray within are those 'mental formations', termed by Patanjali as chittavrithi. Weakening or 'blocking' these, the aspirant obtains the desired freedom, enabling him to bridge the gap between what he presently is (with all his limitations and infirmities) and his cherished ideal. This 'bridging the gap' or 'joining' is, verily, yoga, derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, meaning "to join". This progress towards one's ideal and vision is thus through the triumph of the evolved and life supporting forces within over the base and retarding forces, which too cohabit alongside. This is that "victory over oneself ", as conceived of by A J Cronin, which is manifested through transition from mere 'doing' to be established in 'being' — a state, where one's truest interests and potential lie. In essence, the net result is clarity, poise and precision, resulting in effectiveness and efficiency in all that the aspirant takes up or issues forth. This and this alone, is true spiritual progress!

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

THE TRAP OF OVERWHELMING DEMANDS

SUMANTRA GHOSHAL


Some managers constantly worry whether they are meeting others' expectations. Trying to please everybody, these managers tend to get absorbed in speculations about what others expect, about the best strategy to meet those expectations, and the consequences of not meeting them. Ultimately, the managers fail, not only because they find no time to pursue their own agenda, but also because in trying to please everyone, they typically end up pleasing no one. Managing with purpose means realising that you cannot meet everyone's expectations. Rather, you must concentrate on your key stakeholders. That means learning that saying a real yes and committing to something inevitably implies saying no to other things. It also means becoming aware of how much influence various stakeholders have on your ability to achieve your goals—and tailoring your responses to those individuals accordingly.


Purposeful managers differ from those who try to please everyone by not simply reacting to expectations, but by actively shaping them. Rather than merely meeting the expectations of your key stakeholders, then, you must do everything possible to exceed them. Another strategy is to present your own goals and ideas before your stakeholders have a chance to present their demands.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FOR RISING INDIA, A DREAM COME TRUE

 

Where does Indian cricket go from here? What newer worlds are there it for it to conquer? What will to do for a generation to whom the 1983 World Cup victory was something for Granddad and Dad to rave about on nostalgic days? How much more money will it attract than it already does? These are the sort of questions that are inevitable after Saturday's magical night out at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium as Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team confirmed their standing as the top dogs in both Test and one-day international cricket. This was a status once reserved almost exclusively for the West Indies before the cocky Australians grabbed the crown for close to two decades. The manner in which the Men in Blue went about their task of chasing down a testing total spoke volumes of their preparation and mental strength, for which the nation should remain eternally grateful to the self-effacing Gary Kirsten and his crew of support staff, who worked tirelessly for three long years to make this Indian dream come true. Significantly, India's victory in 1983 was one of the triggers for the near terminal decline of cricket in the Caribbean. If it does the same for Australia now, there appear to be very few threats to India's potential domination of the sport for some years to come. In the course of World Cup 2011, this Indian team revealed unexpected depths and resilience — witness the star-studded displays by Yuvraj Singh, who not very long ago had almost been lost to the game, the granite determination of the captain, or the Zen-like calm of a Zaheer Khan, who was so terribly scarred in the disastrous final of 2003. Be that as it may, at least this much is certain — India have rewritten history in more ways than one in the course of their monumental chase of the World Cup title, and side by side, confirmed their place at the centre of the cricketing universe. With the Indian Premier League having become the template for cricket as pure entertainment for administrators of the game around the world — and one offering seriously big bucks to its practitioners — there is little standing in the way of the nation remaining pacesetters both on and off the field for some time to come. In fact, the most immediate effect may well be felt at IPL-4, which kicks off on Friday for a 51-day ride, and it will quickly demonstrate whether or not there is an overkill factor involved. After all, the emotional high of winning the game's premier tournament — and fulfilling a national icon's 31-year search — is a pretty steep one and difficult to replicate at such short notice. On a completely different note, Saturday night's triumph will affirm the confidence of, and indeed boost, an already upwardly mobile and aspirational young India still further. Not for nothing does the world now look as this country as the story of the future, and the self-belief that will be derived from seeing their team beat every world champion team of the past — the West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — on their way to the pinnacle will serve to underline aspirations and self-confidence still further. India now knows that it can take on — and best the best. In many fields, Indians have become world leaders, and while cricket is still and all only a game, to this country it means so much more. It was first a lever for young men from smaller towns and cities to pry open the door to the top. It could now well become a vehicle to the future for so many more of their compatriots.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SAY NO TO CORRUPTION

 

The results of the Tamil Nadu state elections are destined to have a lasting impact on national politics. Unlike in the past, this poll is not merely a contest between two state-level political stalwarts; this time, it is a contest between two competing issues of vital national concern: corruption versus power politics. Can electorates be managed? Can they be seduced by poll gifts and populist promises? Or is corruption an issue? A section of the political elite in India has taken the position that corruption is not a core issue in this country of malnourished millions. The insinuation is that the voting public's concern is not corruption at high levels but mundane issues like the price of cooking gas and rice. This sadly might actually be the case. The common woman might feel so removed from the portals of power that she could care little about who is robbing the public exchequer as long as she continues to get many of her daily needs at hugely subsidised rates. This is the issue that is going to be decided in the forthcoming state elections, and most of all in Tamil Nadu, where a coterie is alleged to have robbed the country of countless millions. It is in this state that the corruption issue has come into the sharpest focus. The state's two principal political protagonists — M. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa — have been forced to adopt opposing positions as a matter of compulsion rather than ideology. Mr Karunanidhi's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its ally, the Congress Party, have tacitly come to represent the view that corruption even at a massive national scale is not an electoral issue. Ms Jayalalithaa, leader of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and successor to the legacy of the late MGR, herself embroiled in corruption cases, has perforce gravitated to the opposite side of the spectrum where national theft, bribery and fraud have become the core issues, along with price rise and power cuts. But as one survey reported, this time corruption is the big emotive issue in her campaign. The usual political equations have been worked out by both alliances, and on paper, at least, both sides are evenly poised. It is clear that the essential contest in Tamil Nadu, as in the past, will be between the two alliances. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), unable to form an alliance with either of the two fronts, is not expected to make any impression at all. Mr (Vaiko) Gopalaswami's Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), having failed at seat adjustment with Ms Jayalalithaa, has decided to boycott the polls, a move that will only help Mr Karunanidhi's party. Perhaps the biggest boost to Ms Jayalalithaa's alliance will be provided by the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), launched in 2005 by the charismatic Tamil actor Vijayakanth. Ever since its appearance on the Tamil political stage, the DMDK has been stealing huge chunks of state votes. In 2006, the first time it contested state elections, the party grabbed 8.38 per cent of the total votes even though it won only a solitary seat. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, it got 10.1 per cent of the votes, making it the fourth largest political party in terms of votes after the DMK (25.04 per cent), AIADMK (22.8 per cent) and the Congress (13.9 per cent). In the past, Vijayakanth had declined to ally with any other party but after two polls, where his party could not translate its voteshare to seats, he now clearly appreciates the importance of partnerships. Likewise, the Congress, with its ever-increasing voteshare, has been providing a similar thrust to the DMK-led alliance. The Congress has steadily been improving its tally because either one of the two dominant state parties has been giving it electoral space. In the last Lok Sabha polls, the DMK-Congress combine alone secured about 39 per cent of the total votes. This is an unbeatable figure and Mr Karunanidhi is hoping it will be repeated. To drown out criticism of corruption, his party continues to bank on distributing freebies and sharing some of his party's immense good fortune with the electorate. The voting button is, of course, with the Tamil Nadu voter and how s/he thinks will greatly shape policies at the national level in the years to come. For corruption, unlike what some politicians would like us to believe, does affect growth, development and the equitable distribution of wealth. It shifts the focus away from good governance and developmental issues, it breeds a culture of cynicism and irresponsibility, and worst of all, it degrades institutions vital for proper state functioning. The recent findings of the noted management consultants, McKinsey & Co, that the southern states are witnessing a decline in economic performance comes as no great surprise. The worst performers between 2005 and 2010 were the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which recorded an average real gross domestic product growth rate of just 7.4 per cent each as compared to the national average of 8.7 per cent. Gujarat and even Bihar, two states where there is a political will to focus on development and growth issues, have done better. The question today is whether Tamil Nadu, a state that has been the epitome of good governance in the past, will once again show the way for the rest of India. To do so, it will first have to forcefully reject the culture of brazen corruption. * Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PARTIES HAVE WORK CUT OUT IN ASSAM

 

There appear to be no outright winners in Assam's two-phase election on April 4 and 11, although it is a state that is meant to underpin the stability of the country's north-eastern region where insurgencies have been endemic and migration into India through porous borders has been a troubling issue for decades. In the saddle for two consecutive terms, the ruling Congress is up against a double anti-incumbency. Ministers in the Tarun Gogoi government face serious charges of corruption. The allegation of malafide in the distribution of tickets is also being hurled at the party leadership by Congress cadres themselves, though this could be a touch exaggerated. All that the party has done is to re-nominate its sitting MLAs, although this can hardly be said to be a tested strategy, especially in an anti-incumbency situation. The Congress' opponents — the Asom Gana Parishad, the BJP and the All-India United Democratic Front (AIAUDF) of Badruddin Ajmal — appear reasonably well set in their areas of influence and, in indirect ways are seeking to be of assistance to one another in the poll battle. Nevertheless, none of them appears to have a constituency large enough to see it through. For them, to come to power by bonding openly with one another can be also be politically tricky. Can the BJP and AIAUDF cohere ideologically, for instance? While corruption is a significant item in the campaign against the Gogoi government, there appears to be an absence of an overwhelming poll issue in the state of the kind available in the other states where Assembly elections are being held. It is to be seen if the ruling party can prise a position of advantage for itself out of such a situation. Its seats had fallen quite sharply in 2006, but it had been able to put together a majority in collaboration with the Bodo Front which picked up 10 seats in the House. The BPF is partnering the Congress this time around as well, but it is far from certain the latter can retain the 54 it bagged in 2006. In the event it cannot, the present Opposition parties can sustain their coalition ambitions if Congress numbers are seriously down. But a twilight zone cannot be ruled out. That could test deal-making abilities on both sides of the divide. In that event political stability in a sensitive part of the country is likely to be prejudiced. Assam's fractured polity is of relatively recent origin. In earlier times, the "Ali-Kuli-Bengali" matrix — i.e. Muslims, tea garden labour from the erstwhile tribal belt of Bihar (now Jharkhand), and Hindu Bengali migrants from the erstwhile East Pakistan — worked in favour of the Congress. All the three constituencies have lately shown a tendency to go in different directions — typically, away from the Congress. But no counter-weight to the Congress has evolved either. The AGP has not quite emerged as the state's regional party. Its years in office did not exactly add lustre to the party although it had emerged from a pervasive protest movement in the state. Fortunately for the AGP, this time around it does not appear to be a house divided on the eve of election. The persistence of ethnic divisions, and the inability of governance across time to address the core economic concerns of the different communities, have led to a situation where intra-community political conflict is always round the corner, and lends a sharp edge to political and electoral competition.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WEIRD LOGIC, BIZARRE TRENDS

 

Using father's plight One man's meat is another man's poison, but in Uttar Pradesh, one man's plight often becomes another man's delight — more so if they happen to be blood relatives. It has been three months since BSP MLA Purshottam Naresh Dwiwedi landed in jail for allegedly kidnapping and raping a dalit girl. Mr Dwiwedi's wife and son initially raised the expected hue and cry over his arrest, claimed he was innocent and even threatened to commit suicide if he was not released. Now, three months later, his son, Mayank Dwiwedi, is all set to contest the Nareni Assembly seat in Banda district which his father holds in the present Assembly. Mr Dwiwedi, conveniently forgetting his father's plight, has now launched a massive PR exercise. Recently, he sent Holi wishes through SMS to all senior journalists, party leaders, bureaucrats and even lawyers. Sources close to him disclose that he is also preparing to use the "services" of various brahmin outfits in the state to push his case and tell his voters how his father was made a victim of political conspiracies. This will also mount pressure on chief minister Mayawati to confirm his candidature from Nareni. With just the right ingredients — tragedy, crime, jealously, conspiracy — the boy is sure scripting his political story on the right track. Dousing Afridi's fire Cricket experts may tear their hair out trying to explain why the Shahid Afridi magic failed to work in Mohali. But an astrologer's weird logic to explain Afridi's dismal performance at the high-voltage semifinal match of World Cup 2011 takes the cake. The soothsayer was part of a three-member panel hosted by a private television news channel at Raipur to give their expert opinions on all aspects of the match. Armed with Afridi's birth chart, the fortune-teller forecast before the match that the Pakistan captain was enjoying an exulted Mars in his horoscope. "Afridi's fire will devastate India," he said. After the Indian innings ended, a viewer questioned the astrologer as to what happened to Afridi's fire as he failed to take a wicket. Unperturbed, the clairvoyant remarked, "Afridi will show his fire in his batting." After India won, viewers started grilling him. The red-faced astrologer fiddled with his laptop and said, "When Afridi arrived on the pitch to bat, there was a planetary movement in his horoscope, leading to transition of moon to the mars' house. This doused his fire." Mixing saffron and red Rajasthan is witnessing an "ideological harmony" between the saffron party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) as both have joined hands against the ruling Congress.When BJP members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), led by Opposition leader Vasundhara Raje, protested against the Congress government, three CPI(M) MLAs were quick to join the protest. The CPI(M) house leader, Mr Amra Ram, also shared the dais with Ms Raje when she addressed a press conference. As if that was not enough, CPI(M) MLAs marched in Delhi with saffron MLAs and joined the delegation of the BJP when the Opposition called on the President. It is another thing that when the BJP was in power, the police had crushed the Left's agitation in Sri Ganganagar district and had also beaten-up former CPI(M) MLA, Hetram Beniwal, mercilessly. So what is the reason for this newfound friendship? A wag says, "The BJP used to oppose the Communists because of their closeness to Russia and China. Now Russia has lost its Communist tag and BJP chief Nitin Gadkari himself visited China." Terminal condition Last week, the two national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), hit a new low in their political discourse. During his recent sojourn in Jharkhand, BJP president Nitin Gadkari hit out at the Congress and termed it a "cancer" affecting the country. Responding to the provocation, Union minister and senior Congress leader from Jharkhand Subodh Kant Sahai said that the BJP was "AIDS" which hit the nation's body politic because of the party's wrong habits. The bewildered public is now wondering who really requires treatment and what hope is there for a country "afflicted" with such entities.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

AYURVED: THE SCIENCE OF LIFE

 

The four Vedas: Rigved, Samved, Yajurved and Atharvaved are the rivers of the knowledge, which cover every aspect of Creation. Out of these rivers, a tributary of Atharvaved is Ayurved. Vedas were not documented in the earlier yugs when the Creation began. It was in dwaparyug that rishi Vyas documented this knowledge which existed as shrotras in the earlier yugs and was passed on by the guru to the shishya as gyan. Also, in the time when this great knowledge or science of life was given by Lord Brahma to Daksh Prajapati, diseases had not manifested in the physical world. The level of purity was so high in the earlier yugs that though diseases did exist at that time, they were unable to manifest themselves. As the level of selfishness increased in every yug, the calamities and diseases also increased as a result of the environment, the heavy thoughts, and karmas of people. Satyug was the age of the ultimate level of purity, selflessness and compassion for the whole Creation, not just mankind. The sages of yesteryears asked for this knowledge or the science of life even when it was not needed in those times when there were no diseases. Lord Brahma was the original propounder of Ayurved. It was first given to Daksh Prajapati from whom it was given to Asvins, and then from Asvins to Indra. Till this time this science was confined to heaven only. Close to the end of satyug, the sages including Angiras, Vashishtha, Kashyap, Bhrigu, Atreya, Gautam, Bharadwaj, Agastya, Vishwamitra, Chyawan and many more, anticipating the onslaught of the diseases in forthcoming ages, collected in the valley of Himalayas to discuss this sacred topic. Gradual decay (ageing) is the very nature of the body. This process is intensified by the onslaught of diseases. By means of yog and Ayurved one learns to slow down this process of ageing and to achieve a state of balance. The causes of the diseases relating to both mind and body are wrong utilisation, non-utilisation and excessive utilisation of time, mental faculties, and objects of the sense organs. Diseases are categorised into two categories — mental and physical. In the physical, the three factors which are pillars of the body are vat, pitta and kapha. A balance of these three doshas is a healthy body and imbalance is disease. Factors that affect the mind are rajas and tamas, which are of psychological importance. These are the pathogenic factors of the mind and can only be reconciled by the practices of yog. Out of the physical factors, i.e, tridosh; vat which means vayu, is of greatest importance because of its acuteness, varieties and seriousness of disease caused by it. Also, it is the carrier of any imbalance in the body, because out of all the three doshas, vat is the only one which is mobile. Then comes pitta, which is the root of digestion and metabolism, and the last one is kapha, which is the root cause of the least number of diseases. Vat is said to cause 80 kinds of diseases, pitta 40 and kapha 20, but in various permutations and combinations they can take innumerable shapes. A disease manifests in the body when any of these doshas increases or decreases from its state of balance. — Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting. Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'EASTEND' IS INDIA

 

Champagne is being uncorked by more Hollywood movie moguls than ever before at the swishy suites of Rajasthan's palace hotels. Heavy-duty celebrities are jetting in to break into Bollywood boogies. And Yann Martel's topselling novel — The Life of Pi — is being filmed by the Oscar-winning Ang Lee in beach-caressed Puducherry. Whoa, how come the sudden influx of international film crews? Evidently, rules and strictures have been relaxed, a thorough contrast to the bygone decades when the script of every American and European film project was scanned by New Delhi's dense forest of ministries. The legendary Louis Malle was blacklisted for exposing the harsh reality of Kolkata in Phantom India (1969), a marathon documentary which continues to be inaccessible to this day and age. Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha (1993) was stonewalled. Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997),which studied the politics of Tibet, was denied a go-ahead. Followed a near-blockade. Hollywood's honchos were particularly sceptical about shooting in India, opting instead for Sri Lanka locations vis a vis Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Sir Richard Attenborough's Gandhi (1982) had to jump through hoops for clearances not only from the Central government but also from a group of filmmakers who objected to an Englishman appropriating the Mahatma for a biopic. The very fact that a censor certificate had been denied to Nine Hours to Rama (1963), revolving around Gandhi's assassination, had fuelled the argument for a clampdown. Sir Richard patiently explained that his intentions were honourable, the rest, of course, is Oscar history. Indeed, there are countless instances of "access denied". Perhaps the most quixotic one stretches way back to 1956. George Cukor's Bhowani Junction narrated the story of an Anglo-Indian woman — portrayed by the drop-dead gorgeous Ava Gardner — at the time of the extinction of the British Raj. The film was situated at the Bhusawal railway junction, but the Indian government would have none of it, fearing that the departing Brits would be eulogised. Consequently, locations in Pakistan were passed off as India. Today, the film has a cult following. Evidently, the fears were absolutely unfounded. Mercifully, at long last the paranoia has subsided. Currently, at least three major units are filming in India, and many more are on the way. Even Roland Joffe, who had to spar with bureaucratic snafus and hostility from the Kolkata locals while shooting City of Joy (1992), is back in Madhya Pradesh this time to shoot a period piece titled Singularity, featuring Josh Hartnett and Bipasha Basu, as a warrior queen. Advance reports suggest that the plot could have similarities to the life of Rani of Jhansi. Heaven help Joffe if such reports are accurate because the result would ipso facto be matched with the historical records. The unfortunately named director Michael Winterbottom has chosen Jaipur for the retelling of the Thomas Hardy tragedy Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Over three decades ago, Roman Polanski's adaptation of the classic had showcased Nastassja Kinski in the eponymous role. Freida Pinto takes over from Kinski. Titled Trishna, the project arouses immediate curiosity for marrying western sensibility to an Indian milieu. Pinto's Slumdog Romeo, Dev Patel, shows up in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, toplined by the grand dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Shot in Jaipur, the film promises to be a wry comedy of manners. Obviously, the worldwide success of Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire has underscored the potential of India as a thematic backdrop. Rightaway, this yielded the extremely disappointing Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts sleepwalking-talking through an ashram which looked camera-friendly but that's about it. Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart, shot in Pune and Mumbai, at best was just passable. Forget quality and all that jazz for the time being though. Forget, too, the thumbs-down given to the periodically-announced biopics on Indira Gandhi and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. The point is that the X-Men hero, Hugh Jackman, is gyrating to the tune of Dhak dhak karne laga, Julia Roberts is declaring that she is bowled over by India's spirituality. And above all, more international filmmakers are warming up to an area which was once hopelessly equated with darkness. * Khalid Mohamed is a well-known film critic

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WORLD BEATERS

TRIUMPH CAPS YEAR OF AMAZING SUCCESSES


It has often been said that shorter formats of cricket favour batsmen. By that reckoning, India with the finest batting line-up in the ICC Cricket World Cup was expected to win. The distance between armchair punditry and the arena though is considerably greater than that between the wickets in Mumbai and the boundary rope.  Even great batsmen are human and the odds can be beaten, indeed they often are by skilled bowlers and determined fielders. It is to India's credit that her younger middle-order batsmen did not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by either the occasion or by the early dismissals of two stalwarts in Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. This team deserved to win because it was clinical – even at the cost of sometimes sacrificing its customary flamboyance – in getting through to the final and winning it.  In the process, it gave its most iconic member the greatest moment, as he described it, of his illustrious career. That so many members of the team said they wanted to win the Cup for Tendulkar tells us what a great champion he has been. That they chose to carry him on their shoulders for a victory lap because, as one of his young colleagues put it, a man who has borne the weight of a nation's aspirations for 21 years deserved to be carried thus, underscored the role Tendulkar has played his country. India has invested heavily in cricket and its international cricketers. M.S. Dhoni and his team ensured that the investment came good. Trite though it might sound, this truly was a team effort.


What next? It seems cruel, almost mindlessly so, that after an emotionally and physically exhausting tournament these cricketers will be back to play the Indian Premier League in sweltering conditions. As soon as that money-driven tamasha ends, the team will be off to the West Indies, to be followed immediately by a tour of England. Sadly and because the IPL is a cricketer-for-hire event, even great players cannot plead fatigue to opt out. While both overseas engagements have a few one-day fixtures, the focus will be on more leisurely Test cricket – three such engagements in the Caribbean and four in England are on the anvil. After the dizzying heights India has reached in recent months – top Test and one-day team – anything that follows can only be anti-climactic. But April 2 was a great day, one to savour for a long time.  The World Cup victory does not take away the many problems we have as a nation, but it certainly helps us forget them for some time.


SHEILA V SHUNGLU

THE PM CANNOT DUCK THIS ONE

TECHNICALITIES averted UPA-II facing further embarrassment in Parliament as the truncated budget session did not permit discussion on the Shunglu panel's indicting the Delhi Government of mismanagement and dubious dealings in infrastructure-creation for last year's loot-laced Games. The issue has since snowballed with Sheila Dikshit publicly slamming the Shunglu findings, announcing a paragraph-by-paragraph rebuttal, and in the interim casting her own aspersions on the panel's competence. The chief minister was not only upset at the panel uploading its report on its website (actually the Centre appeared reluctant to disclose its contents), but livid at its faulting her style of functioning, concentrating power in her hands ~ which she arrogantly misused. It confirmed what was widely suspected: that  projects were deliberately allowed to slide so that corners were cut (pockets lined?) as deadlines approached. The aura of efficiency and probity that Dikshit created for herself was blown away. Perhaps for the first time, the Opposition (and her detractors in the local Congress unit) have authentic ammunition with which to attack the "exemplary" chief minister. And she is clearly "hurting".

What makes this open confrontation more than a routine bid to explain away an inquiry report is that it puts Dr Manmohan Singh ~ personally ~ in a "spot". When CWG controversies raged he had assured none would be spared, and had immediately after the event appointed the Shunglu committee as proof of that commitment. Having placed much stock in the panel he is now morally bound to back it solidly. If Mrs Dikshit can get away with "rejecting" this particular report all the panel's other work comes undone. For unlike the "criminal" probes by the CBI, CVC etc, this panel viewed administrative wrangling as damaging to the nation as transgressing the penal code/financial regulations. It filled a breach, now it is being blasted by an entity that is really "in the dock". The Prime Minister has to take a call, quickly if his post-games promise is to retain credibility. Does he have the political guts to take on a Congress "showpiece", a 10 Janpath favourite to boot? And someone who has won three elections on the trot ~ the ultimate determinant according to his recently propounded theory. Some six months ago Mrs Dikshit made a heroine of herself leading a broom and bucket brigade to salvage the CWG village. That PR exercise failed to sweep away her own dirty dealings. Now the Prime Minister is required to pull the plug on her, or risk his own severely bruised image going down the drain.


CHANGE IN MYANMAR

OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLE

Myanmar's military handing over power to a civilian government after ruling for 50 years and dissolution of the ruling junta's State Peace and Development Council, previously known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, are positive steps though the military will continue to dominate the political scene. General Than Shwe will retain a firm grip on power and expects everyone to report to him for quite some time. President Thein Sein, heading the civilian government, is also a military man who shed his uniform last year to contest the election. Though the SLORC seized power in 1988, Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi could not have contested the election even if she was released from detention before the polling date because Article 121 of the new Constitution bars her from holding any elective office because of her marriage to a foreigner and her two sons being citizens of a foreign country.  Besides, any person convicted of an offence is disqualified from contesting elections. With one-fourth of all seats in the bicameral legislature reserved for the military, Article 396 empowering the Election Commission to dismiss any MP for "misbehaviour," and Gen. Shwe's Union Solidarity and Development Party polling 80 per cent of the votes, the transition to civilian government is unlikely to usher in freedom or democracy to the impoverished nation.


The developments, however, offer India an opportunity to improve ties with Myanmar. Gen. Shwe has learnt that in the globalised world, Myanmar cannot remain an island. His sacking and jailing of Gen. Khin Nyut is to reduce his country's dependence on China as a strategic partner. He has now turned to Russia for military assistance. Gen. Nyut, who headed the intelligence wing of the junta, was responsible for facilitating transfer of arms from China to Naga and Ulfa insurgents in the North-East. One of the welcome features in the new set-up is the creation of political space for ethnic groups in their areas which will help their culture, language and economic development.  Suu Kyi, though free to move around and express her views, has not been able to bring about national reconciliation or unite opposition forces. So far, she has played a cautious and conciliatory approach. She must persuade the West to lift sanctions against Myanmar if it wants her to play a role in providing an alternative to Gen. Shwe's "disciplined" democracy.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

PROPERTY BUBBLES

WHAT GOES UP CAN COME DOWN

ANDREW SHENG

 

HOW worrisome are real estate bubbles for the banking system? Based upon the recent sub-prime and then global financial crisis, very worrisome indeed.


The reason why real estate is so important to our whole economic life is because we take it for granted. A house is likely to be the largest single investment for most families.  For companies, the real estate and fixed assets are often, other than inventory, the most important asset, especially as collateral for loans from banks. For banks, the largest single asset held for collateral against bank credit is real estate.  For local governments, real estate sales and property taxes comprise the most important source of revenue. Hence, most people equate buoyant house prices as an indication of prosperity, and most property developers would like to convince governments that they should never let property prices deflate.


The surprising thing about real estate value is how often economists ignore balance-sheet values until it is often too late. The real estate value is 225 per cent of US GDP. It took only 20 per cent drop in real estate prices to wipe out nearly 45 per cent of GDP, precipitating the deepest crisis in US recent history. It was only after the US regulators finally decided to look closely at the credit of the US banking system that it was discovered that as much as half of total credit are real-estate related (particularly through mortgages or mortgage-backed securities).


On 10 March 2011, the 2010 Fourth Quarter US Flow of Funds data was published by the Federal Reserve Board. Real estate assets comprise $18.2 trillion or 25.7 per cent of total household assets. Real estate values lost $6 trillion in the two years 2006-2007, $1.2 trillion in 2009, and after a modest recovery in the first half of 2010, for the full year, lost another $0.6 trillion in 2010. The result is that net worth of households may have recovered a bit from higher financial assets due to the zero interest rate policies, but is still $7.9 trillion down from its peak year of 2007.


The same pattern is seen in the US non-financial corporate sector. Real estate assets account for 25.6 per cent of total assets, and that has lost $2.4 trillion or 26 per cent from its peak in 2007. Commercial real estate seems to have stabilized somewhat in 2010, but the numbers do not completely show up in the non-performing loans of the banks.


Based upon the testimony of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to Congress, there is a clear association between the number of failed or failing banks with their exposure to real estate loans, particularly commercial real estate acquisition, development and construction loans (ADC).   In the three years 2005-2008, ADC loans increased 75 per cent and the concentration of ADC loans to total capital rose from 26 per cent in 2000 to 50 per cent in the third quarter of 2007.


Loans disbursed quickly tend to go bad. More than half of the sub-prime loans originated in 2006 and 2007 had defaulted by November 2010. Foreclosure of mortgages reached 2.8 million in 2009 and exceeded 2 million in 2010.


At the end of 2009, non-current residential construction loans held by FDIC insured banks rose from 1.45 per cent of such loans to 25.7 per cent. As a result of bad loans to the real estate sector, 322 FDIC institutions failed since 2008 (out of roughly 7770 such institutions) and another 860 banks are designated as 'problem institutions'. Many of these troubled institutions failed because of high concentration in ADC loans in commercial or residential real estate.


The S&P/Case-Shiller Housing Index showed a 2 per cent decline in the year to September 2010, whereas commercial real estate prices showed around 3 per cent increase. Nevertheless, rents for commercial real estate are still falling. 


Thus, despite the quantitative easing, which seems to have helped in causing equity prices to go up, real estate prices have not recovered that much, suggesting that if real estate prices still go down, the banking system would still be vulnerable.


Why is real estate so important in the banking sector books?  The main reason is that real estate is the primary collateral and base asset against leverage. What securitisation and financial derivatives have done is to leverage these assets considerably and therefore, when the primary base asset price is falling, the value of the financial derivative assets fall on a multiplied basis, due to the leverage effect.


In a recent speech to Cambridge University, Lord Adair Turner, Chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority, argued that neither the Basel III reforms nor the measures against "too big to fail" are sufficient to ensure global financial stability. He argued for higher capital ratios than those set under Basel III and also further regulatory measures against shadow banking.


In particular, he argued that it was the balance between debt and equity contracts in the economy and financial system, as well as the maturity transformation that are the basic risks in the financial system.
He is surely correct that 'financial instability is driven by human myopia and imperfect rationality as well as poor incentives" and that in order to make the financial sector more stable, it will require a multi-faceted and continually evolving regulatory response.


Like Lord Turner, the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is finally convinced  that it is human failings that caused the financial crisis. It was the failing in ideology that markets are self-correcting that caused financial regulation to be "market friendly". However, it is also the low interest rates that gave rise to asset bubbles and central banks cannot continue to deny that they had no role in allowing asset bubbles to form.
As we have now seen from the Japanese experience, real estate booms and busts have a long demographic cycle. In the growing stage for the population, real estate prices can grow, but when the population ages and then declines, real estate prices can deflate, causing massive losses if there was an asset bubble. 
You may not be able to stop bubbles completely, but surely there are tools to stop the banks over-lending to that sector. What goes up can come down. ~ Asia News Network

The writer is Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and University of Malaya.  He was former Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission

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THE TELEGRAPH

WELL PLAYED

The triumph of the Indian cricket team on Saturday evening can be best expressed in the words of a poet used to describe a battle: "...'twas a famous victory.'' Playing in front of a supportive home crowd, M.S. Dhoni and his men fulfilled the rising expectations of an entire nation. If the win against Pakistan in the semi-finals at Mohali, played in the presence of two prime ministers and against the backdrop of a diplomatic initiative, saw very poor quality cricket on a slow wicket, the match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, despite the tension and nerves associated with a World Cup final, had better cricket to offer. Batting, bowling and fielding — the three principal departments of the game — may not have been top class but were not inferior either. What was outstanding, of course, was the individual performance of the Indian captain, Mr Dhoni. He led from the front as a leader should — promoting himself in the batting order and then producing a match-winning innings. Remarkably enough, his innings had no great fanfare. He went about doing his job: winning the finals. The nation erupted in ecstasy and this was in sharp contrast to the cool and clinical professionalism that Mr Dhoni displayed while he was batting.

The win in the World Cup finals can be seen as symbolic of the passing of the baton in Indian cricket. The Indian team showed that it is no longer critically dependent on the old guard in order to triumph on a big occasion. In Mumbai, the burden of the batting was carried by Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and, of course, the captain, after the heroes, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, had failed. It was very graceful of the youngsters to say that they had won the match for Mr Tendulkar, but it was actually their victory. The burden of responsibility in the Indian cricket team has passed unobtrusively, as indeed it should, to the next generation. This is the more heartening aspect of the victory, going beyond the immediate joy of being on the top of the cricketing world. The problem subsequent to a major cricket win in India is that it tends to get blown out of proportion. A well-earned victory in the game of cricket was witnessed and enjoyed on Saturday. It should be left at that.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FULL CLAIM

It is not the child's fault. This appears to be one of the reasons behind the Supreme Court's most recent decision about the inheritance rights of the illegitimate child, but it is not the only reason. Earlier, law allowed the illegitimate child to inherit property that the parents had acquired themselves, not what they had inherited. In other words, if a couple chose to have a child without being married, as independent agents, they could let the child inherit whatever they earned or acquired as independent agents, but not what they themselves inherited as part of family property. By implication, the family was out of bounds as long as the couple's relationship was not sanctified — institutionalized — by marriage. In that case too, the fact that being born is not the child's fault was one of the driving principles. The law was not ungenerous; it merely followed the orthodoxies of the time. The child was not cast out into the wilderness, but 'contained' in the 'non-family' unit of the unmarried couple and allowed a part in their 'self-acquired' assets. How far such acquisition is possible without family inheritance, tangible or intangible, visible or invisible, was a philosophical question that could not be addressed if the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate was to be kept up.

The possibility of implicit contradiction has been finally erased by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that children born of unmarried parents can inherit 'family' property too. Apart from it not being the child's fault that it is born, it is also innocent of the conditions of its birth, no different in this from children born after marriage. The child's right to property should be considered independently of the relationship of its parents. So the driving force behind the court's decision is the changing status of relationships and of marriage under contemporary social conditions. It has stated clearly that the shift from earlier rulings is caused by changes in the idea of legitimacy. The higher judiciary has most often shown itself sensitive to social change in rulings and decisions regarding the position of live-in partners and their rights, for example, and in upholding a law that extends protection to all women in a household, whatever their marital status or their relationship to the men in the house. This inheritance ruling is a logical step in the same direction.

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THE TELEGRAPH

THEN AND NOW

THE COMMITMENT TO VICTORY FOR THE SAKE OF THE TEAM CAME FIRST MUKUL KESAVAN

In 1983, we knew the Cup was winnable when Kapil took that running, over-the-shoulder catch off Viv Richards. It was early in the second innings, the West Indies had a lot of batting left, but with Richards gone, we knew the door was ajar. It happened this time too; there was a point, early in the second innings, when Indian spectators realized that we could win the thing. This was a slow-dawning recognition unlike Kapil's catch, which was a clear sign, and it was inspired not by something dramatic that happened in the course of play but by an absence.

When Malinga came off after his opening spell in which he dismissed Sehwag and Tendulkar, Perera and Kulasekara took over. It took me about half an hour to realize that Malinga apart, Sri Lanka didn't actually have a bowling attack. This was a surprise, given that the pundits had been telling us that Sri Lanka, like Pakistan and South Africa and unlike India, had match-winning bowlers.

But as Perera (a bits-and-pieces player, not a specialist bowler) and Kulasekhara went about their toothless medium-pace routines, only to be replaced by the off spin of Dilshan (a batting all-rounder) and Randiv (who hadn't played a single match in this World Cup), I allowed myself, nervously, to toy with the prospect of victory. When Muralitharan came on in the 19th over and creakily bowled a spell devoid of turn or menace, it became clear that only Malinga (or some malign accident) could derail the Indian chase.

Interestingly, both captains made the same defensive mistake in selecting their teams. Dhoni left out the keen, competitive Ashwin (again) because he was worried that South Asian teams played spinners well, and absurdly gambled on Sreesanth. But at least the Indian captain was clearly opting for seam over spin. Sangakkara, forced to find a replacement for his best all rounder, Angelo Mathews, made a series of defensive choices that left him with a bowling attack with no variety and very little quality.

Where India had the left-arm genius of Zaheer Khan to vary the right-arm seam and swing of Munaf Patel and Sreesanth, and the left-arm orthodox spin of Yuvraj to compliment Harbhajan's off-spin, Sri Lanka played three right-seam bowlers and three off-spinners. It's hard to believe that Sangakkara sacrificed the extraordinary variety and deception of an in-form Mendis for yet another off-spinner who hadn't even made the original squad. The reason, we're told, is that the Sri Lankan brains trust thought that the Indians had sorted out Mendis while Randiv's record against them made him the better choice.

Really? In 14 matches against India, Suraj Randiv has taken 12 wickets at a cost of more than 40 runs per wicket. Mendis, on the other hand, has 28 wickets in 16 matches at an average of under 25. Mendis's record is, in fact, better than Muralitharan's who has taken 74 Indian wickets in 63 matches at an average of just under 32. Even if we allow that Sehwag and Tendulkar and the more experienced Indian batsmen have subsequently learnt to read Mendis, there are young players like Kohli and hapless tailenders who might have found him a handful. Also, it is one thing to read Mendis from the hand, quite another to get after a relentlessly accurate, endlessly various bowler in a World Cup final.

In their group games, the Sri Lankans relied on an extraordinary range of spin bowling options with Malinga as their fast-bowling spearhead. Against India they chose to do without Mendis's wrist spin and the left-arm orthodox slows of Rangana Herath in favour of an off-spinning monoculture and paid a price for it. The two wickets that Sri Lanka took after Malinga's inspired first spell, came about thanks to an inspired reflex catch by Dilshan off his own bowling and a kamikaze shot by Gambhir. For the rest of the time, when Malinga wasn't bowling, such pressure as there was on the Indian batsmen came from the Sri Lankan total, not the skill of the bowlers on display.

The one post-Malinga wobble was Kohli's wicket against the run of play, and with his customary sense of occasion, Dhoni promoted himself to steady the chase. Apart from the Sreesanth blunder, Dhoni was pitch-perfect on the day. He looked uncharacteristically tense when he walked in to bat, but reverted to his usual, masterful self within a few overs. Almost as if he was responding to the non-violent beauty of Mahela Jayawardene's century, Dhoni bludgeoned a savage 91. The only thing that looked likely to stop him was a hernia. The first half dozen fours he hit were smashed between cover and point in a style that resembled Rafa Nadal's forehand more closely than any stroke in cricket's batting textbook. By the time Dhoni hit his second six, he had, in partnerships with Gambhir and Yuvraj, closed out the match.

He was even better in the post-match press conference, teasing Gambhir about the daft shot he had played to miss a century in the final, slyly declaring that he made sure of winning because he knew that he'd be at the receiving end of an avalanche of recrimination for every choice he had made if India lost. Best of all, Dhoni insisted that they had won it for each other, for the team. "We wanted to win the trophy for each other first. The first thing you want to do is give them [the team] happiness; to see it in their eyes." The team consciously decided to "...concentrate and keep it small. If you do well and win the World Cup, the whole country has a share in it." The commitment to victory for the sake of the team came first; the expectations of their billion compatriots came afterwards.

Contrast this with L.K. Advani's response to Rajdeep Sardesai after the match. Advani declared that he was very pleased with the win because the win would promote national feeling, respect for the flag and the national anthem. Like all political zealots, his only interest in sport is instrumental: the game itself, the fellowship of team sport, mean nothing to him. Dhoni's unerring discrimination in these matters, his knack for avoiding the easy nationalism that comes naturally to politicians like Advani or starlets like Preity Zinta, make him not just a wonderful captain, but a remarkable and unusual public figure.

Dhoni wasn't quite two years old when Kapil Dev took that fateful catch in 1983. I was 26 and it's hard to believe that this second win finds me deep in middle-age. Youth, gentle reader, is the time used up between World Cup victories.

mukulkesavan@hotmail.com

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THE TELEGRAPH

END GAME

GWYNNE DYER

"The general offensive has begun,"said Seydou Ouattara, the military spokesman of the man who claims to be Ivory Coast's legitimate president, Alassane Ouattara. "We've realised that this is the only way to remove [the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo]." On the same day, Ouattara's troops seized two cities in the west of the country: Daloa and Giglio.

While ragtag little armies surge back and forth along the North African coast like a high-speed replay in miniature of the Western Desert campaign in the World War II, a much bigger war is getting under way 1,500 kilometre to the south. And although there are 9,000 United Nations troops on the ground in Ivory Coast, they will not intervene to stop the war there.

The UN soldiers, all from African countries, were sent there to police a truce between the Muslim north of the country, which has been in the hands of the rebel New Forces since 2002, and the government of President Gbagbo which controlled the largely Christian south. They were also there to supervise the election last November that was supposed to end the division of the country.

Unfortunately, the election did not work. Ouattara claimed victory and 3,000 international election observers backed him up, but an ally of Gbagbo's on the Constitutional Court declared half a million of Ouattara's votes invalid and said Gbagbo had won. Back to square one.

Ouattara declared himself president, appointed the commander of the New Forces, Guillaume Soro, his prime minister, and holed up in a hotel in Abidjan with three UN tanks parked out in front to deter an attack by Gbagbo's forces. Gbagbo insisted that he was still president, and threatened to use the army against Ouattara.

Last roll

The UN troops will not intervene decisively because they were not sent to Ivory Coast to take sides in a large civil war, which is how this could end up. It isn't just a quarrel between two stubborn men. It is about a probably irreversible transfer of power from the Christian south to the Muslim north in West Africa's richest country.

There was no hostility in the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Ivory Coast 50 years ago: this is entirely a product of politics. Just as every evolutionary niche is always filled, so is every political niche, including the one inhabited by politicians whose method is to build support in one ethnic or religious community by stirring up fear or jealousy in another. Ouattara and Gbagbo both belong to the political species, although they would deny it with their last breath. They have succeeded so well that Ivory Coast now stands on the brink of a Muslim-Christian civil war. The normal result would be a hardening of the current partition of the country, but first there will be one last roll of the dice.

Gbagbo is in deep trouble. The West African central bank has denied him access to Ivory Coast's accounts, the country's main cash crop, cocoa, is being boycotted by the international community, and last month, he had trouble paying salaries and pensions to civil servants — including the military.

Gbagbo must pay them again this week, and he probably does not have the money. So Ouattara is going for broke. Last week, he rejected the peace envoy appointed by the African Union, and at the weekend, the New Forces launched their final offensive. Or at least they hope it will be the final offensive.

So far they are doing well, and they may just roll over Gbagbo's disintegrating army and reunite Ivory Coast by force. Even that would leave great bitterness in the south — but it is also possible that Ouattara's big push will stall after a few days.

Either way, the old Ivory Coast is finished. What replaces it may be very ugly.

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

EDITORIAL

STANDING SUPREME

'INDIA'S CUP CAMPAIGN WASN'T A SMOOTH AFFAIR.'


Saturday night's surreal feeling has gradually given way to a huge sense of pride and accomplishment. The enormity of India's spectacular triumph in the World Cup final is slowly dawning on the nation as reality has begun to sink in. India are on top of the world, with a feel-good factor permeating through Indians across the world. Fifteen young and not-so-young men have worked hard towards this goal, leaving no stone unturned in their overwhelming desire to be recognised as the world's best cricketing outfit. The scenes of unadulterated joy and the unchecked tears of happiness that accompanied India's six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Mumbai merely reiterated how badly the team wanted this victory.


To say that the genesis of this triumph lay in collective effort, in unyielding spirit and a remarkable sense of cohesiveness that has not always been an Indian trait is stating the obvious. For 28 long years, the country had bemoaned the fact that Kapil Dev's men had no company at the top of the summit, that for all the wealth of talent India possessed, they didn't have the silverware to show for it. The World T20 title of 2007 did provide minor consolation, but the big prize had remained elusive until the double was completed on Saturday by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose place in Indian cricket history has been further cemented with his extraordinary heroics as captain and player.


It's impossible not to be caught up in the euphoria of a success that has both been a long time coming and thoroughly deserved. India's World Cup campaign wasn't a smooth affair. There were moments of self-doubt, the occasional stutter during the league phase, an uneasy feeling that pre-tournament favouritism wasn't really justified. As the competition reached the knockout stages, however, India grew in stature,  raising their game remarkably and marching inexorably towards a tryst with destiny. In successive knockout matches, they cruised past the three previous World Cup winners — Australia, Pakistan and finally Sri Lanka — in one extended show of character, ambition and raging fire. Driven by player of the tournament Yuvraj Singh and player of the final Dhoni, they fulfilled a long-standing commitment to the peerless Sachin Tendulkar, in his sixth and final World Cup, and presented the perfect going-away gift to Gary Kirsten, coach extraordinaire who has plotted their rise up the charts. Champions of the world — it's a tag that sits beautifully on Dhoni's path-breakers!

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

BOOM DECADE

'THE CLAIMED DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND IS ILLUSORY.'


The provisional figures from Census 2011 may look good on a percentage basis but are still a matter of concern in terms of absolute numbers. That is because the nation has to feed, educate and keep in good health not percentages but real men and women, whose numbers have gone up by 181 million in a decade and touched 1.21 billion. The figures show a declining trend with the decadal growth falling to 17.64 from 21.54 per cent in 2001. It is encouraging that the growth recorded in the past decade is the lowest in the past 90 years and for the first time the population is losing its incremental bulge and the line is sloping downwards. But the improvement is not enough and much of gains of development can be lost on supporting the increasing population. The claimed demographic dividend will be illusory if resources have to be spread thin on the growing numbers.

It is no surprise that the fall in population growth rate is slower in states where literacy levels are also low. This calls for a more effective thrust for literacy and other social welfare initiatives and a more active family welfare programme in these states. It is a good trend that the overall literacy rate has gone up from 64.83 to 74.04 per cent. It is even more creditable that female literacy has grown much faster (by 11.8 per cent) than male literacy, which grew by 6.9 per cent. But the overall literacy rate is still lower than that of a even a very poor and backward country like Congo. The main reason is that the vicious cycle of lower literacy and high population is still not broken in the most backward states of the country.


The most disconcerting disclosure is the fall in child sex ratio — the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 age group — which is now 914.23 against 927.31 in 2001. The overall sex ratio has marginally improved from 932.91 to 940.27 but this is probably because of the greater longevity of women. The child sex ratio is the lowest since 1961 and its deterioration is more than alarming in Punjab and Haryana. It shows that all measures against gender discrimination and female foeticide and infanticide have not produced results. The trend will have serious social and economic consequences.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

NO GENIUS PLAYS ONLY FOR SELF

M J AKBAR


'Cricket has become a supreme totem pole of the Indian economy both on an individual as well as a collective level.'


The difference between the Indian team that won the World Cup in 1983 and the one in 2011 is an uncomplicated one: the economy. The 1983 victory was a consequence of talent, extraordinary self-belief and some luck. In 2011 the Indian cricket team is by far the richest eleven in the game, sucking the oxygen out of other sports, a template for ambition in homes across small cities that will become the Delhis and Mumbais of tomorrow, a magnet for middle class and rural India which understands that the distance from obscurity to superstardom is a game that bypasses the educational demands of conventional professional upward mobility, and fetches rewards quite outside the zone of merit and salary.


Cricket has become a supreme totem pole of the Indian economy both on an individual as well as a collective level, a classic instance of the virtuous cycle in which money breeds success and success generates greater profits. India begins with a substantial advantage over the other cricket teams of South Asia. Victory and defeat are determined, of course, by the human element, otherwise sport would be too dull to bother about; but the institutional spread offers both a massive pool of talent as well as the motivation that only an exploding bank account can bring. Yusuf Pathan cannot find a place in the final eleven, but is nearly Rs 10 crore richer out of the IPL which will follow the World Cup. He was born in circumstances where such a figure was beyond imagination.

How much better, therefore, would the brilliant players of Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been had they had the good fortune of such an economy to hone and add lustre to their superb capabilities? The tragedy of a negative environment is profound: when Pakistani players make a mistake (and they made too many in the semifinal against India to be forgiven) cruel whispers of match-fixing swirl around. The post-match talk is all about whether the Pak interior minister had been briefed by his intelligence agencies when he publicly warned the team about throwing the game away against India.


The logic is mathematical, rather than moral. There is immediate and continuing monetary reward for an Indian player which makes the risk involved in a fix a stupid option. A crook might be able to continue playing cricket, but no crook is going to get paid to appear on an advertising billboard. But if a player is in the unenviable situation where cash from illegal betting is higher than legitimate earnings, temptation will always hover inside the dressing room.


Great champion

It hardly helps that some Pakistani players were recently caught making deals with bookies, despite high levels of vigilance imposed by the ICC. In Mohali, the Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi won millions of Indian hearts when he accepted the adversity of defeat amid a cloud of inevitable suspicion, with the grace of a great champion: how much more would his genius have flowered if he had lived in a more stable age of Pakistan's history!

The tortured internal conflicts within Muralitharan's soul can barely be imagined: a Tamil who got an impossible 800 Test match wickets playing for Sri Lanka during decades shredded by a civil war between a Sinhala-majority government and the Tamil Tigers. Did the ferocity in his eyes belong to inner demons? If they did, he is a man of great character, for he silenced them through a display of commitment to his team and flag that has made him a hero of his nation. No genius plays only for himself: talent might belong solely to the self, but withers when it becomes selfish. Murali or Sachin Tendulkar have achieved much more than their ability warranted because they also surrendered their genius to a higher, national cause. Neither needed to be captain to prove they were superior; the responsibilities of captaincy diminished Sachin.


Those of us who delight in cricket should consider ourselves blessed because we will see, on Saturday, the finest batsman in history compete with the greatest spinner ever born in a match of wits that could define which side will take the cup. This is obviously written before the result, but the result is only going to be a statistic. A statistic has no place in an epic. We shall see the last, dazzling burst of meteors that have enflamed our firmament.

So far, Sri Lanka have been the best team in the tournament. They have been so good with the bat that we do not know how good, or indeed how fragile, they are down the line. The partisan within me admits this reluctantly, but the past is, in such an event, irrelevant to the present. Murali will bowl his last ball in a World Cup, and Sachin stroke his final off-drive through a motionless field. Those are memories that will mature into magic as we weave our own way to our last days.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

NATIONAL HYSTERIA OVER CRICKET

BY P N BENJAMIN


No social psychologist has studied the significance of the spread of cricket fanaticism in India.
Cricket needs a national and rational debate. However, the fret and fever of this game has distorted our values to such an extent that rational discussion has become nearly impossible. The risk of losing caste, of becoming unpopular, of being put down as a killjoy, is genuine. Doped minds are no new phenomenon in this country or any other, at this time or any other. We stumble against them every second step, we scarcely touch their psyche. We cannot afford to be not bothered. The protective of social hypocrisy, so necessary for work-a-day living, helps us pass on with a smile or a joke.


Love of cricket, real or simulated, was and still is, a status symbol. No social psychologist has made a study of the significance of the spread of cricket fanaticism in India. That may be because their minds are unfree, predisposed by the subjective attitudes they share with the rest of their peer group. But as in the case of our education, the quality of cricket appreciation has changed with the spread of its popularity. The upsurge of cricket fanaticism reflects some curious national character. In victory we become unduly elated and boastful. But we are deflated demoralised by defeat. The idea of courage in the hour of defeat, by holding on, sticking it out, fighting to the last is not a part of our national temper.


A puzzle

The bustle and hustle associated with cricket is a puzzle to thoughtful minds. To say this is not to decry cricket. Far from it. Few will dispute the fact that it is a fine game. It has come to stay in our country. Even a confirmed cynic will agree that, slow as the game is, the singular thrill it offers now and then lingers long in our minds. However, our slavery to this game has to be discarded here and now. Time is of the essence. One should never forget that cricket is a good servant, but a bad master. Let us by all means listen to the running/walking commentary. But, let us observe moderation in this. Let us play less cricket. Play less cricket or perish.

India is nowhere internationally in sport and its standard is pathetic. Why can't India have a coherent and comprehensive programme, which would build world-class athletes in two decades? Because of cricket! By all means, worship the cricket stars and also pay them as much as they want. But, for heaven's sake, treat athletics and hockey, football and other sports with the same affection.

 

Parallel revolution

We are familiar with the various methods employed by our commercial and industrial houses and MNCs to promote the cause of cricket. While this service to the cricket cult is commendable, the time has come for these institutions to sponsor a parallel revolution in sports other than cricket. Especially, athletics, this revolution, on a war-footing, it is a must, if India's teenagers are to be enthused to try and lift the nation's flag aloft in the world of sports, a world of truly international proportions, not circumscribed by just less than a dozen countries. "Athletics is dead! Long live Athletics!" That plagiarism of the royal tribute should be the resolve of every Indian who has even a trickle of sporting blood running in his veins.


This writer is not trying to make out a case for killing cricket. He is also not impervious to the appeal of cricket. It is a great game, assuredly, and even if only six or seven nations play it, there is no logic whatsoever in killing what's already there and established, just as there is no logic in killing English merely because millions in this country do not understand it. But, the gravamen of his complaint is that we are in the breach of the wise Sanskrit aphorism, "Discard excess in everything". It is time we strove to regain what the distinguished Hungarian writer, Tiber Derby, long ago called: "that lost beautiful human virtue, a sense of proportion."

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

 

TRUE ANGELS

BY DOROTHY VICTOR


It is easy to be an angel when nobody ruffles your feathers.


At a recent 75th birthday party I attended, there were, as one might expect, plenty of applause and praises for the birthday boy. The family gave him a fitting tribute by recounting the several feathers he had added to his cap, year after year, through sheer dedication and devotion. The guests were particularly moved as his young son, in praise for his father's courage, narrated an incident when fire broke out at the factory his dad was employed in 40 years back.


"Being the supervisor of the factory, he took it upon himself to save the workers thereby suffering 75 per cent burns himself," the youngster testified adding that this courageous act was for him a guiding light and an inspiration to face life's many challenges that loomed along the way.


Such events move any nerve and inspire every soul. If at all there is anything that comes out of such unforeseen and destructive calamities it is the heroic acts of the brave and the courageous present. The recent disaster in the coastal city of Sendai where one tragedy after another is unfolding is a typical backdrop where such courageous heroes can be found.


Take for example the employees at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant, which was affected by the earthquake and the tsunami, making them susceptible to life threatening nuclear radiation. Even as people around them were moving to safer places, these employees hung in there, doing their best to assuage further loss, putting their own lives at high risk. It might seem that it was in their normal course of duty to do so. Yet the hidden heroism, the tremendous courage and the fine nobility to put a greater cause above their safety, do not come in the normal course of duty; it goes beyond that. For, it is easy to be an angel when nobody ruffles your feathers. But to display courage and resolution when danger stares at you in the face is the test of a true angel.

In a world where glamour is considered great and prominence the most eminent, it is these brave hearts who really count and determine the course of history. However, just as the summer showers which are more effective than the hurricanes do not get any publicity, these common men will never make it to the cover page of the 'Forbes'. But the fidelity, loyalty, valour and consecration of these, whose names are unhonoured, is an inspiration in adversity. They are the true angels, who 'light a candle, instead of cursing the darkness'

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

EDITORIAL

SPRING'S AWAKENING?

There are encouraging signs in the March jobs report, but for each hopeful development, there is a caveat. The economy added 216,000 jobs last month and marked the 13th straight month of private-sector job gains — but the growth is still weak. At a comparable point in the recoveries from other severe recessions, the economy was adding about 400,000 jobs a month.

The drop in the unemployment rate — from 8.9 percent in February to 8.8 percent last month — also requires an asterisk. More unemployed people found jobs in March. But over all, the number of people who have found work in the past year has been dwarfed by the masses who are missing from the labor force, including young people without jobs and without prospects and others who have given up looking for jobs. If sidelined workers were counted in the official statistics, the jobless rate today would be 9.8 percent.

So what to make of the data? Incremental gains are welcome, but their durability is much in doubt. Higher oil prices, among other things, could undo tenuous job gains. Politicians' unwillingness to do what is needed to reinforce the recovery is an even bigger threat.

On the federal level, the fixation on the deficit above all else is particularly dangerous. An economy with significant labor slack requires more — not less — government spending. Unfortunately, Republicans have successfully framed the debate so that spending cuts are inevitable, and the best one can hope for is that the White House and Congressional Democrats will hold down the size of the cuts.

The recent Republican attack on foreclosure relief efforts, just as house prices are falling anew, is another destructive move. Foreclosures reduce the equity of all homeowners and the health of communities, which is bad for business and bad for jobs.

On the state level, politicians are talking about reducing the duration of unemployment benefits. Michigan just adopted a law — passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by the Republican governor, Rick Snyder — to reduce state unemployment benefits to 20 weeks starting next January, down from 26 weeks. Florida is also considering cutbacks, in what advocates for the unemployed fear may be a wave of such measures across the country.

Proponents say that lowering employer-paid taxes that go to cover unemployment benefits will boost businesses and jobs. More likely, lost economic activity from reduced benefits will be greater than the tax savings — leading to even fewer new jobs.

Republicans often justify their antirelief, antitax stances by saying that businesses aren't hiring due to uncertainty about the effects of government spending and regulation. The numbers don't support that. A research note last week from the Economic Policy Institute pointed out that in March, the length of the average workweek remained stuck at 34.3 hours, far below where it was before the recession and not far off its low point of 33.7 hours in mid-2009. If employers had work that needed to be done but were skittish about hiring, hours would have been ramped up to meet the need.

Clearly, it is not uncertainty about government that is impeding hiring; it is lack of work. And lack of work is due to the fallout from the financial crisis and recession. It stands to reason that government spending, job-creation programs and regulations to ensure that there isn't another crash would help the economy and lead to more jobs. Reason, however, is in short supply.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN EPIDEMIC OF RAPE FOR HAITI'S DISPLACED

Life after Haiti's earthquake has been especially difficult and dangerous for displaced women and girls. In addition to the ongoing crises of homelessness and cholera, a chronic emergency of sexual violence prevails in the settlements where hundreds of thousands still live, well over a year after the disaster.

Groups of Haitian women have been struggling to defend themselves, banding together to prevent assaults and now taking their case to a wider world. At a hearing March 25 in Washington before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a grass-roots group, Kofaviv, joined other human-rights advocates in pressing for an end to what they called a rape epidemic. The police, they said, rarely patrol inside unlighted camps or investigate attacks. Victims live in constant fear and shame while attackers go unpunished.

Their evidence, compiled in a wrenching petition delivered to the commission last fall, led the commission to demand urgent action by Haiti to protect its women and girls. The Haitian government, beset by political and other crises, has failed to do its job. But others, including the United Nations, the United States and other international donors and aid agencies, can and must do more.

The camps need more police and better lighting. Community groups need training and resources to protect victims and identify predators. Women's groups must be drawn fully into relief and reconstruction planning.

While the world's attention has turned elsewhere, Haiti's misery remains. The U.N. reported in March that contributions to its ongoing emergency appeal are lagging and funds are running out for even such basics as clean-water delivery and sewage removal. This month's meeting of Haiti's recovery commission and the selection of a new president may begin to put the recovery back on track. Women and girls in Haiti's camps must not be forced to live in constant fear.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FIXING THE MISTAKE WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS

There is new evidence that state governments are finally understanding what a tragic mistake they made during the 1990s when they began trying ever larger numbers of children as adults instead of sending them to the juvenile justice system.

Prosecutors argued that harsh sentencing would protect the public from violent, youthful predators. But it has since turned out that most young people who spend time in jails and prisons are charged with nonviolent offenses. As many as half are never convicted of anything at all. In addition, research has shown that these young people are vulnerable to battery and rape at the hands of adult inmates and more likely to become violent, lifelong criminals than those who are held in juvenile custody.

A new study by the Campaign for Youth Justice, a Washington advocacy group, shows that state legislatures across the country are getting the message. In the last five years, the authors say, 15 states have passed nearly 30 pieces of legislation aimed at reversing policies that funnel a quarter of a million children into the adult justice system each year.

Ten states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana and Nevada, have cut the number of offenses that get youthful offenders automatically transferred to adult courts. Three states have expanded the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts, so that children under 18 are no long automatically prosecuted as adults. And several states have limited the circumstances under which young people can be housed in adult lock-ups before or after conviction.

Momentum is building for similar reforms all across the country. For example, Nebraska is considering a bill that would give people sentenced as juveniles to life without parole an opportunity to petition for reductions.

Far too many children are still being sentenced by adult courts and confined to adult prisons. But this study shows that the tide has begun to turn.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

GAINS AND LOSSES

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

After a long, scentless winter, apart from the tang of woodsmoke in the air, you could suddenly smell the earth again early one morning last week. It seems odd to call the scent fresh — it was darker and mustier than that — but fresh is how it felt, hovering like a ground fog above the last banks of snow. A whole field of clover could grow in that smell alone.

When the snow slid back at last, the grass looked as if it were waking from a long, sodden nap, and all but the stoutest plants, even the yuccas, had been bulldozed. Vole trails are still visible on what looks like a lawn of crushed velvet, and the ground isn't quite soft underfoot yet, except where the gophers have been digging, and there it is spongy and accepting. The only ice left is under the scattered hay where the horses fed in the middle pasture. Every time I walk across it I think of 19th-century icehouses packed with the winter's pond ice and insulated with sawdust and straw.

This was a winter with casualties. The snow undid the bottom row of insulators on the electric fence, one by one. I've lost track of the mice that wandered into my traps. Two losses above all leave me disheartened. One is the beehive. There was nothing stirring there on a 60-degree day a couple of weeks ago, no bees on the aconites or snowdrops. There will be a mournful spring harvest of honey as I clean out the hive and prepare it for a new colony next spring

What worries me most is the barn cat, whom I haven't seen since the harshest days of early February. He had been coming up to the house to eat on the deck, but I usually saw him up in the hayloft, watching warily as I tossed down bales, or basking in a wedge of sunlight in the run-in shed. In the heaviest snow, he waited on a low dogwood branch until he saw me coming, and then hid until I set out his food. I believe he's gone. But there's just a chance that one warm day I'll see him sitting — black and tailless — on a fence rail, looking at me as if to ask where I've been.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE G.O.P.'S EMPTY STAGE

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

A month from now, the contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination were supposed to appear at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., for the first of their primary debates. But the list of declared candidates is so pitifully short that last week the debate was postponed until September, to avoid the embarrassment of a stage potentially populated only by Tim Pawlenty and the pizza magnate Herman Cain.

The stage would be full by autumn, the organizers promised. While "too few have made the commitment thus far for a debate to be worthwhile," the Reagan Foundation's executive director declared, "there will be a long and impressive list of Republican candidates who eventually take the field."

No doubt the list of candidates will lengthen. But Republicans shouldn't feel too confident about the "impressive" part. When it comes to challenging Barack Obama for the presidency, the Party of Lincoln looks increasingly like a party of Mario Cuomos. Its biggest names and brightest lights are mainly competing to offer excuses for why they won't be running in 2012.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, for instance, is convinced that he could capture the White House. "I already know I could win," he told National Review earlier this year. But he's apparently too modest to vindicate his boast: "I've got to believe I'm ready to be president, and I don't."

Mike Huckabee, likewise, will tell anyone who'll listen that he would be the favorite in the primaries and the strongest choice to face Obama. But he'll also say that the campaign trail is exhausting, the debates are a waste of time, he doesn't like to fund-raise — and anyway, he and his wife are building their dream house in Florida, so the White House doesn't necessarily fit into their plans.

Then there's Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who came to Washington in February and delivered the kind of speech that conservative campaigns are built on: a dense and fluent argument for limited government, rooted in the premise that America's fiscal liabilities constitute a "survival-level threat." Alas, somebody else may have to ensure the survival of the republic, since Daniels has spent the month backpedaling from the idea of a presidential run.

Paul Ryan, the House Republicans' rising star, shares Daniels's view that the United States faces a pivotal moment in 2012 — a historic choice, as he likes to put it, between the American tradition of limited government and a "European-style social welfare state." Naturally, he's already ruled out a run for president. So have lesser lights like Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana. So has the Republican politician with the most famous name and strongest executive record: former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.

None of this means that the Republican ballot will be empty come January. We know Mitt Romney is running: in fact, he never really stopped. We know Newt Gingrich is kind-sorta-definitely running. Pawlenty is in, and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi may join the field as well. There's a long list of dark horses, potential spoilers and vanity candidates — Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman, John Bolton and Ron (or Rand!) Paul, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump. And of course there's Sarah Palin, who will presumably keep the media playing "will she or won't she?" all the way to Iowa.

But if Romney is the front-runner and Pawlenty the freshest face, the Republican Party will have let both its own constituents and the country down.

Every presidential election matters, but Daniels and Ryan are right to see the 2012 campaign as a potential hinge moment in American domestic politics. The unpopularity of President Obama's agenda, the obvious unsustainability of blue-state spending habits (evident in budget battles from California to New York) and the looming entitlement crisis have created a remarkable opportunity for conservatives to reimagine government's role — to look "beyond the welfare state," as Yuval Levin argues in the latest issue of National Affairs, and try to discern what come next.

But the right's opportunity could easily be lost. The public loves to vote for leaner government and then recoil from the reality. Already there's a backlash against conservative governors in states like Wisconsin and Ohio who are perceived to be cutting too much too fast. When Ryan and his colleagues release what promises to be an ambitious plan for entitlement reform next week, they'll be putting a bull's-eye on their party's back.

Fifteen years ago, in the wake of the 1994 Republican revolution, conservatives were in a similar position — fresh from a midterm victory but politically overextended, struggling to persuade a wary public to embrace limited government in practice as well as theory.

Out of a mediocre primary field, they ended up with Bob Dole as their  standard-bearer. Their cause did not soon recover.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 3, 2011

An earlier version of this article misidentified the state Senator John Thune represents. It is South Dakota, not Indiana.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE TRUTH, STILL INCONVENIENT

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

So the joke begins like this: An economist, a lawyer and a professor of marketing walk into a room. What's the punch line? They were three of the five "expert witnesses" Republicans called for last week's Congressional hearing on climate science.

But the joke actually ended up being on the Republicans, when one of the two actual scientists they invited to testify went off script.

Prof. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a physicist who has gotten into the climate skeptic game, has been leading the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, an effort partially financed by none other than the Koch foundation. And climate deniers — who claim that researchers at NASA and other groups analyzing climate trends have massaged and distorted the data — had been hoping that the Berkeley project would conclude that global warming is a myth.

Instead, however, Professor Muller reported that his group's preliminary results find a global warming trend "very similar to that reported by the prior groups."

The deniers' response was both predictable and revealing; more on that shortly. But first, let's talk a bit more about that list of witnesses, which raised the same question I and others have had about a number of committee hearings held since the G.O.P. retook control of the House — namely, where do they find these people?

My favorite, still, was Ron Paul's first hearing on monetary policy, in which the lead witness was someone best known for writing a book denouncing Abraham Lincoln as a "horrific tyrant" — and for advocating a new secessionist movement as the appropriate response to the "new American fascialistic state."

The ringers (i.e., nonscientists) at last week's hearing weren't of quite the same caliber, but their prepared testimony still had some memorable moments. One was the lawyer's declaration that the E.P.A. can't declare that greenhouse gas emissions are a health threat, because these emissions have been rising for a century, but public health has improved over the same period. I am not making this up.

Oh, and the marketing professor, in providing a list of past cases of "analogies to the alarm over dangerous manmade global warming" — presumably intended to show why we should ignore the worriers — included problems such as acid rain and the ozone hole that have been contained precisely thanks to environmental regulation.

But back to Professor Muller. His climate-skeptic credentials are pretty strong: he has denounced both Al Gore and my colleague Tom Friedman as "exaggerators," and he has participated in a number of attacks on climate research, including the witch hunt over innocuous e-mails from British climate researchers. Not surprisingly, then, climate deniers had high hopes that his new project would support their case.

You can guess what happened when those hopes were dashed.

Just a few weeks ago Anthony Watts, who runs a prominent climate denialist Web site, praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself "prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong." But never mind: once he knew that Professor Muller was going to present those preliminary results, Mr. Watts dismissed the hearing as "post normal science political theater." And one of the regular contributors on his site dismissed Professor Muller as "a man driven by a very serious agenda."

Of course, it's actually the climate deniers who have the agenda, and nobody who's been following this discussion believed for a moment that they would accept a result confirming global warming. But it's worth stepping back for a moment and thinking not just about the science here, but about the morality.

For years now, large numbers of prominent scientists have been warning, with increasing urgency, that if we continue with business as usual, the results will be very bad, perhaps catastrophic. They could be wrong. But if you're going to assert that they are in fact wrong, you have a moral responsibility to approach the topic with high seriousness and an open mind. After all, if the scientists are right, you'll be doing a great deal of damage.

But what we had, instead of high seriousness, was a farce: a supposedly crucial hearing stacked with people who had no business being there and instant ostracism for a climate skeptic who was actually willing to change his mind in the face of evidence. As I said, no surprise: as Upton Sinclair pointed out long ago, it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

But it's terrifying to realize that this kind of cynical careerism — for that's what it is — has probably ensured that we won't do anything about climate change until catastrophe is already upon us.

 So on second thought, I was wrong when I said that the joke was on the G.O.P.; actually, the joke is on the human race.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BRING DONORS OUT OF THE SHADOWS

BY DAVID CALLAHAN

THE billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch have drawn sharp criticism for their extensive giving to libertarian causes. Though some of their organizational ties are public, many are unknown, thanks to a provision in the tax code that allows the Koch brothers and other donors, on both the left and the right, to conceal the recipients of their largess, even as they get to write it off on their taxes.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem: require all nonprofit organizations that engage in political advocacy to reveal their donors.

True, individuals must disclose on their tax returns the details of large gifts to charitable organizations, known as 501(c)3 groups from the section of the tax code governing them. But this information is kept private by the Internal Revenue Service. While gifts given directly through foundations must be made public, the wealthy can give without leaving fingerprints by routing money through "donor-advised funds" sponsored by 501(c)3 groups — which don't have to publicly name their donors.

And, thanks to the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, things are getting even worse. That decision now allows organizations that can engage in overt partisan work, called 501(c)4 groups, to take unlimited corporate money — again, without revealing their donors.

In many cases, organizations have both 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4 arms that work closely together in the same building to shape government policy. One such group is FreedomWorks, which has received significant amounts of money from the Koch brothers and is a force behind both the Tea Party political movement and the conservative libertarian policy agenda it espouses.

Beyond requiring more transparency, the law also needs to make finer distinctions among nonprofits. The Koch brothers rightly note that their activist giving is just a small part of their overall philanthropy; David Koch, for example, has given extensively to the New York City Ballet. But the tax rules treat the brothers' giving to medical research or modern art museums exactly the same as their gifts to ideologically driven organizations like the Cato Institute. All are classified as "charity."

This is an unfair use of public tax subsidies. The Internal Revenue Service doesn't allow tax filers to write off their donations to politicians or parties, because that would mean Republicans would be subsidizing Democratic political efforts, and vice versa. So why should gifts that often seek the same outcomes through nonprofit organizations be treated differently?

In response, the Internal Revenue Service should create a new category for nonprofits engaged in policy advocacy. Such groups would have to disclose all their donors, while traditional 501(c)3's — museums and universities, for example — could continue to receive anonymous gifts.

The I.R.S. should also set a ceiling on the deductibility of such gifts to limit the extent to which all taxpayers subsidize de facto political giving by the wealthy. The treatment of small gifts would remain unchanged to encourage ordinary Americans to engage in civic life.

These reforms won't be easy. It would be difficult to define which groups belong in the new advocacy category and such decisions must be made in a careful, nonpartisan manner. But the result would make sense: the public has a right to know how tax-exempt donations are being used, and by whom, as well as a right not to foot the full bill for political activism by the superwealthy.

The United States is known for its vibrant nonprofit sector. Today, though, this sector has become yet one more avenue for the wealthy to try to dominate civic life. If we care at all about political equality, we must regulate the growing flood of money into this arena.

David Callahan is a senior fellow at Demos and the author of "Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHOLESALE ROBBERY IN LIQUOR SALES

BY DAVID WHITE

 Washington

IMAGINE if Texas lawmakers, in a bid to protect mom-and-pop bookstores, barred Amazon.com from shipping into the state. Or if Massachusetts legislators, worried about Boston's shoe boutiques, prohibited residents from ordering from Zappos.com.

Such moves would infuriate consumers. They might also breach the Constitution's commerce clause, which limits states from erecting trade barriers against one another. But wine consumers, producers and retailers face such restrictions daily.

Last month,  Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, introduced a bill in the House that would allow states to cement such protectionist laws. It should appall wine snobs, beer swillers and even teetotalers. In this case, the law would protect not small stores and liquor producers, but the wholesale liquor lobby.

Like virtually all of America's liquor laws, this proposal traces its origins to the temperance movement. When Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933, states were given the authority to regulate the "transportation or importation" of "intoxicating liquors" within their borders.

States were allowed to decide whether they wanted to remain dry. As alcohol again started flowing freely, states either assumed control over its sale and distribution, or created a wholesale tier to sit between producers and retailers.

Before Prohibition, many bars were owned by brewers or distillers. Temperance advocates blamed these bars for some of the ills associated with drunkenness, and believed that keeping the producers away from the business of selling directly would help society.

Lawmakers hoped this wholesale tier would weaken producers. And indeed, the wholesaling industry grew quickly, as most alcoholic beverages had to pass through it before ending up at liquor stores, bars and restaurants. It was, essentially, a state-mandated middleman.

Today, wholesaling is big business. Together, the nation's two largest wholesalers — Southern Wine & Spirits and Republic National Distributing Company — have revenues of about $13 billion.

 A chunk of that cash is funneled to lawmakers. The National Beer Wholesalers Association maintains the nation's third-largest political action committee, and since 2000, it has donated $15.4 million to candidates for federal office — about $5 million more than the A.F.L.-C.I.O donated in that time.

In the past decade, it spent $5.6 million on lobbying Congress; the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America spent $9.3 million.

The expenditures make sense. The wholesaling industry's survival depends on maintaining today's highly regulated system. It is estimated that because of wholesalers, consumers pay 18 percent to 25 percent more at retail than they otherwise would.

And in recent years, the industry's dominance has been threatened.

Last year, the United States passed France as the world's largest wine-consuming nation (in bottles, not yet per capita). America's love affair with wine deepened in the early 1990s, when many people developed a preference for high-end wines and started ordering directly from producers.

Wholesalers didn't like being cut from these transactions, so they pushed state lawmakers to prohibit "direct shipping." Many did. By 1999, just 19 states allowed consumers to order wine from out-of-state producers.

But in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Granholm v. Heald that the 21st Amendment "did not give states the authority to pass nonuniform laws in order to discriminate against out-of-state goods." Thus, lawmakers could prohibit out-of-state wineries from shipping into a state only if they were willing to block their own wineries from shipping out.

In the six years since, several states have liberalized their wine laws. But many restrictions remain.

Alabama oenophiles can order wine only from an out-of-state producer if they have received written approval from the state's Beverage Control Board. Wineries can ship into Indiana and Delaware only to consumers who have visited the winery and made a purchase in person. In 37 states, residents are prohibited from ordering wine from online retailers or auction houses or even joining wine-of-the-month clubs.

The bill under consideration in Congress will make things even worse.

This proposal would allow discrimination against out-of-state producers and retailers if lawmakers can prove that such laws advance "a legitimate local purpose that cannot be adequately served by reasonable nondiscriminatory alternatives."

That means that if a state's discriminatory liquor laws produce tax revenues, for instance, they can't be challenged in court.

But instead of burdening consumers by foisting more restrictions on alcohol sales, lawmakers should free the market and expand consumer choice by scrapping this bill and letting wholesalers know that it won't be considered again, as the commerce clause reigns supreme.

Nationwide, there are more than 6,000 wineries, and about 7,000 American wine retailers have Web sites. Wine clubs affiliated with newspapers (including this one), gourmet stores and even rock bands are taking off. Yet most Americans have access to only a small fraction of what's available.

The wholesaling industry is right to be nervous. After all, consumers have shown that they will order directly from producers and specialty retail shops if given the chance. But that's no reason to save an antiquated system that gives Americans fewer choices and makes them pay more.

David White is the founder and editor of the wine blog Terroirist.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SGT. CHAPIN'S TRAGIC DEATH

As long as things are quiet and we suffer no personal threat or danger, there may be a tendency for many of us simply "to take for granted" the necessary and efficient protection that our faithful police officers provide for us, our loved ones, and our homes, businesses and other property, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But then there sometimes come horrifying moments when a criminal enemy (or enemies) of us all challenges human life, and thus our very civilization.

Our Chattanooga police officers faced such a terrible event about 10:20 Saturday morning.

It was reported that a burglary was in progress at U.S. Money Shops at 5952 Brainerd Road. Back-up officers were called. As at least half a dozen Chattanooga police officers quickly rushed to the scene, a gunman opened fire on the officers!

Tragically, Chattanooga Police Sgt. James Timothy Chapin was shot to death!

Officer Lorin Johnston was wounded in the gunfire, but, thankfully, his injuries were reported to be not life-threatening.

The man arrested for firing on the officers reportedly was wounded himself and was hospitalized in intensive care. He was said to have been on parole from incarceration in Colorado.

Sgt. Chapin, who was 51, was a 27-year veteran of the Police Department. Sgt. Chapin reportedly is survived by his wife and two children.

"He's just a good family man — a fine, fine officer," said Sgt. Toby Hewitt, president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Wounded Officer Johnston in 2007 had donated a kidney to fellow Chattanooga Police Officer Daniel Jackson. Officer Johnston had been awarded the Police Department's Medal of Valor.

Each day when our police officers go on duty, they face unpredictable situations and challenges of many kinds.

It is impossible for those of us who are not personally engaged in their kind of service to imagine the stress that they inevitably face for us all.

It also is impossible for us to thank them adequately — especially Officer Chapin, along with Officer Johnston, and all of the other faithful officers who answered the call in this case, and others.

We appreciate all of our fine police officers for protecting us and our society — at potential great danger to themselves in unpredictable situations at any moment.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WHICH IS THE BIGGER DANGER?

With a tsunami having damaged a nuclear power plant in Japan, releasing some radiation, it is natural that questions would be raised about whether adequate precautions have been taken to guard against nuclear accidents not just in Japan but worldwide — including in Tennessee.

But nuclear power is a sensitive topic, and emotional discussions of it can hide the fact that so far no radiation-related deaths have been linked to the damaged plant in Japan. And in the United States, even our worst nuclear incident, at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, neither killed nor seriously injured anyone.

You may have read in the Times Free Press that a Chattanooga man has been arraigned on charges of falsifying safety records last summer at a reactor being built at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn. Is that a "minor" thing? Of course not! There is a reason for safety protocols at nuclear plants, and if the worker broke the law, he appropriately could face prison.

But the weight of historical evidence in U.S. nuclear energy production shows that it is safe here. Unduly clamping down on nuclear power in this country would be a serious overreaction to the events in Japan.

Ironically, the world does face nuclear threats which, unfortunately, most countries are not taking seriously enough: The radical Muslim regime in Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, and Communist North Korea apparently already has them.

Unstable Iran has promoted terrorism for decades and says Israel should be wiped off the map. Communist North Korea regularly threatens war on free South Korea, and it even torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel in 2010, murdering 46 sailors.

So which do you think is more dangerous: peaceful U.S. nuclear power production that has an excellent safety record, or the possession of nuclear weapons by nations whose actions have demonstrated their violent intentions again and again?

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

BELATED CONCERN ABOUT COSTS

It's sad that Massachusetts is in deep financial trouble, in large part because of its government-run health care system. We don't wish difficulties on the people of that or any state.

But we might want to save a bit of sympathy for the rest of the country as well. That's because ObamaCare, the federal health "reform" law, was based heavily on the Massachusetts law — which predated ObamaCare by about four years. That gives us a four-year window to see what we can expect nationwide from ObamaCare. It's not pretty.

Massachusetts' reforms were supposed to provide nearly universal coverage for the state's residents. And to be sure, the percentage of residents who are now officially covered has grown. But at a high price!

"[I]f you think [medical] access was hard, wait until you take on cost control," Gov. Deval Patrick said in proposing measures to cut spending.

Here are a couple of unpleasant facts, courtesy of the news organization Stateline.org:

n Forty percent of Massachusetts' budget is now devoted to health care.

n Within five years, a family earning the median household income in Massachusetts will spend about a third of its earnings on health care.

Additionally, Massachusetts has had to raise taxes, impose assessments on insurers and hospitals and boost premiums and copayments.

And so, as the Stateline.org article noted, "Now, after five years, Massachusetts is getting very serious about the cost problem."

Isn't it wiser to "get serious" about costs before imposing a big new program — whether in Massachusetts or in Washington?

improved performances.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

AL-QAIDA IN LIBYA?

As repugnant as Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is, some of the rebels seeking to oust him may not be any better. Allowing deliberations on that question is one more reason why President Barack Obama should not have gone to war in Libya without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, NATO's top commander, recently told a Senate panel there are at least "flickers" of the terrorist groups al-Qaida and Hezbollah in the rebel forces. And even the president now acknowledges there may be "elements that are unfriendly to the United States and our interests."

The details are sketchy, and some of the rebels undoubtedly are rightly motivated. But these matters should have been discussed openly before the president committed the United States to military action in Libya.

And with our country facing no imminent threat from Libya, that action should not have been taken at all without Congress' approval.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

GOLDSTONE REGRETS

IT IS ISRAEL'S INTERNAL, MORAL OBLIGATION - AND NOT JUST FOR REASONS OF INTERNATIONAL UTILITY - IS TO DO EVERYTHING IN ITS POWER TO AVOID HARMING THE INNOCENT.

Retired Judge Richard Goldstone chaired a three-person fact-finding mission to investigate charges of war crimes on the part of Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip two-and-a-half years ago. The commission disbanded after the report was submitted, and there is no procedure in place for revoking or revising it. Neither have its other members made their voices heard. As in other cases involving "water under the bridge," there is little weight given to regrets after time has elapsed or circumstances have changed.

Given these reservations, and in the spirit of the current tides sweeping the region, (in Libya, for example ), Goldstone's comments in The Washington Post should be taken for what they are worth. Goldstone was invited to chair the committee because of his standing as a jurist in South Africa, which moved from an apartheid regime to democracy (with all the problems that entails ), and because of his Jewish roots and basic sympathy for the State of Israel. The "Goldstone commission" and "Goldstone report" are brands associated with his name.

The dispute surrounding the report, published in September 2009, was concerned less with the facts on the ground and more with the significance attached to them. There was a bit of debate about the definition of "civilians" - for example, did it include Hamas people who earned their living as police in the daytime and were active in the terror attack system after work? But the main dispute was over the question of why civilians were being harmed: Was it a matter of intentional policy, an overriding order that was translated into implementation? Or were these exceptional cases, mostly unintentional, and had the minority of cases that turned out to be intentional properly addressed in legal or disciplinary forums?

The government of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces General Staff adhered from the outset, and rightly so, to the narrative of exceptions and investigations. The Goldstone report seemed to adopt as its working assumption, however, that these incidents were the outcome of policy - a view reinforced by rash declarations by government ministers. Also contributing to this interpretation was Israel's refusal to cooperate with the work of the fact-finding mission, lest this be taken as an endorsement.

Israel does not need a comparison with Hamas, whose members launch rockets at civilian sites in order to exculpate themselves. Its internal, moral obligation - and not just for reasons of international utility - is to do everything in its power to avoid harming the innocent. A certain amount of regret on Goldstone's part must not cause Israel to regret the limitations it has imposed on its army.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

HEADING TOWARD AN ISRAELI APARTHEID STATE

ISRAELI RACISM, WHOSE NATURAL 'HOTHOUSE' IS THE COLONIALIST PROJECT IN THE TERRITORIES, HAS LONG SINCE SPILLED OVER INTO ISRAELI SOCIETY AND HAS BEEN LEGITIMIZED IN THE SERIES OF LAWS RECENTLY PASSED IN THE KNESSET.

BY DANIEL BLATMAN

It has been 60 years since the apartheid state was established in South Africa. In March 1951, a few years after the racist National Party came to power, racial segregation was anchored in law. As was common in other countries that adopted racist laws in the 20th century, those in South Africa were accompanied by "laundered" explanations.

Hitler declared after the Nuremberg Race Laws were passed in 1935 that they would create a suitable basis for a separate but worthy existence for Jews in Germany alongside German society. The race laws in South Africa established that people of different colors cannot exist when mixed with each other - only in separate, protected spaces.

The tsunami of racist laws passed by the Knesset in recent months is also being explained by reasoned and worthy arguments: the right of small communities to preserve their own character (the Acceptance Committees Law ); the state's right to prevent hostile use of the funds it allocates to education and culture (the Nakba Law ); and the right to deny citizenship to persons convicted of espionage or treason (the Citizenship Law ). But I believe that as in other historical instances, the aim of this legislation is the gradual establishment of an apartheid state in Israel, and the future separation on a racial basis of Jews and non-Jews.

An apartheid state is not created in the blink of an eye. What was created in Germany in 1935 was the outcome of a long and sometimes violent debate, which had been ongoing since the middle of the 19th century, about the place of Jews in modern Germany and Europe. Indeed, the desire to isolate and distance the Jews from society - legally and socially - was part of the belief system of anti-Semites in Europe for decades before Hitler came into power.

In this respect the Nazi regime, along with other regimes that passed racial separation laws (among them those in Romania, Hungary, Italy and Vichy France in 1940 ), only anchored in legislation a reality that had already been enthusiastically received by the populace. Of course, when such laws were enacted, the regimes involved did not support or imagine that at the end of the road, a "final solution" was waiting in its Nazi format. However, once the seeds were sown, no one was able to figure out what fruit they would bear.

The historical background of the Israeli apartheid state-in-the-making that is emerging before our eyes should be sought in 1967. It is part of a process that has been going on for about 44 years: What started as rule over another people has gradually ripened - especially since the latter part of the 1970s - into a colonialism that is nurturing a regime of oppression and discrimination with regard to the Palestinian population. It is robbing that population of its land and of its basic civil rights, and is encouraging a minority group (the settlers ) to develop a crude, violent attitude toward the Arabs in the territories. This was exactly the reality that, after many years, led to the establishment of the apartheid state in South Africa.

In her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism," Hannah Arendt draws a sharp picture of the process of the development of the society of racial segregation in South Africa, from the start of the Dutch Boer colonialist settlement there. Assumption of racial superiority - the subordination of the black population - was the only way the "whites" could adjust to life in the midst of that race. The nurturance of feelings of racial supremacy, to which were added the belief in cultural superiority and the justification for economic exploitation - these are what, in a decades-long process, gave rise to the need to anchor this situation in proper legislation.

Thus, the dehumanization of the blacks, who at the start of the colonization period were perceived as no more than enhanced work animals, led to the establishment of a regime of racial separation 60 years ago in South Africa, which for decades left tens of millions of black people mired in a situation of harsh poverty, exploitation and atrophy.

It is not hard to identify this sort of worldview developing - with respect to Arabs - among widening circles of settlers in the territories and among their supporters within the (pre-Six Day War ) Green Line. It also has quite a number of supporters in the Knesset, even if they will not admit this outright.

Israeli racism, whose natural "hothouse" is the colonialist project in the territories, has long since spilled over into Israeli society and has been legitimized in the series of laws recently passed in the Knesset. Only people who avoid looking at the broad historical context of such a process are still able to believe it is possible to stop the emergence of an Israeli apartheid state without getting rid of the colonialist-racist grip on the territories.

 

Prof. Blatman is a Holocaust researcher and head of the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

GOLDSTONE REMINDED US OF THE REAL FACE OF KADIMA

OPERATION CAST LEAD 1, MANUFACTURED BY KADIMA, CONSTITUTES AN ISRAELI AND INTERNATIONAL LICENSE FOR CAST LEAD 2.

BY AKIVA ELDAR

Upon seeing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's radiant face as he celebrated Judge Richard Goldstone's confession that his UN report on Operation Cast Lead dealt too harshly with Israel, and upon hearing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's attack on the Jewish judge - one might have thought that those two politicians were the ones who sent the Israel Air Force to bomb the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009. What about a good word for Ehud Olmert? A small bouquet of flowers for Tzipi Livni? After all, they're the ones who showed the whole world that Israel can attack Palestinian residential areas and come out looking like the victim.

Operation Cast Lead 1, manufactured by Kadima, constitutes an Israeli and international license for Cast Lead 2. The Cast Lead saga demonstrates the similarity between the two largest political parties with respect to the use of force against Hamas. Even the defense minister was not dislodged in the last election.

Likud is considered a "right-wing party" because of Netanyahu's reluctance to act promptly in negotiations with the Palestinians, and his failure to freeze construction in the settlements. Kadima has assumed the "centrist party" label, thanks to Olmert's accelerated talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In practice, the Annapolis process made it possible for the Kadima government to impose an extended blockade on 1.5 million people in Gaza and ignore the theft of land in the West Bank. Peace, as we all know, was not the result, and it remains very much in doubt whether any Israeli government in the foreseeable future will herald a breakthrough leading to a peace treaty.

It was not for nothing that Netanyahu provoked Livni from the Knesset podium about whether she is willing to give up the West Bank settlement of Ariel, evacuate the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in East Jerusalem, or allow a limited number of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Netanyahu presumably knows the answers. Indeed, they can be found in the Al Jazeera papers, which documented the talks between Livni and the senior Palestinian representative at the time, Ahmed Qureia - and they are: No, no and no. And if the head of Kadima changes her mind on those issues, how many fellow leaders will back her up?

Kadima's behavior pattern in the Knesset refutes the assumption that an agglomeration of "refugees" from the Likud, Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu parties will be waving the tattered flag of the peace camp. The elected officials of Kadima have stood out more for defending the settlement policy and attacking democracy than for criticizing the suspension of peace talks or protesting the damage done to the weaker segments of the population.

For the benefit of the left-wingers who voted for Kadima, here is a selection of Kadima's actions during the Knesset session that just ended:

* Two Kadima MKs (Otniel Schneller and Eli Aflalo ) voted in favor of a law requiring a national referendum to approve any Israeli return of land, and only 15 out of 28 faction members voted against.

* After attacking colleagues who participated in J Street's annual conference in Washington in February, and accusing them of doing damage to the state, Schneller initiated a debate in the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on the left-wing Jewish lobby, which doesn't see settlement construction as something that contributes to a two-state solution. He told fellow Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, who attended the conference, that "it's strange that the chairman of Likud Youth and the former chairman of Betar are assisting a pro-Palestinian organization." Hasson responded: "You haven't been part of Kadima for a long time; you don't represent Kadima." Unfortunately, it's looking like Schneller very much represents Kadima.

* Schneller was one of three Kadima MKs (the other two were Yulia Shamalov Berkovich and Robert Tibayev ) who supported a Yisrael Beiteinu proposal to investigate the funding sources of human-rights groups in Israel.

* Hasson and fellow Kadima MK Shai Hermesh co-sponsored a recently passed law, along with radical right-winger David Rotem, allowing certain small communities to use admissions committees to screen potential residents. Only one Kadima MK (Shlomo Molla ) voted against it.

* No more than five Kadima MKs voted against the Nakba Law, and two (Gideon Ezra and Orit Zuaretz ) voted for a law revoking the citizenship of Israelis convicted of espionage, of an act of terror against the country or of aiding Israel's enemies. No Kadima member voted against it.

Now that Kadima is five years old, it is looking more like a satellite branch of the right wing, disguised as a centrist party. The shared victory party of those behind Operation Cast Lead and the leaders of the struggle against the so-called "delegitimization" of Israel is an excellent opportunity to bring them all together under the chuppah.

Thank you, Judge Goldstone. Thank you for reminding us what the real face of the alternative actually looks like.

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HARARETZ

OPINION

FILLING THE POWER VACUUM

THE STATE COMPTROLLER INQUIRY INTO THE TRAVELS OF BENJAMIN AND SARA NETANYAHU POSES A POLITICAL, DIPLOMATIC AND SECURITY THREAT TO THE PRIME MINISTER'S FREEDOM OF ACTION.

BY AMIR OREN

The State Comptroller inquiry into the travels of Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu poses a political, diplomatic and security threat to the prime minister's freedom of action. Even calling it the "Netanyahu Inquiry" is incriminating, suggesting his decisions were motivated by external considerations. In his messianic quest to remove from Israel strategic-existentials threat from the east, Netanyahu likes to pretend he is Churchill. But Churchill also needed the agreement of Roosevelt (and Stalin ).

Netanyahu will need the consent of Barack Obama for any action he takes, or at least an assurance that he will get away with it. At home, he will need to overcome pockets of resistance among the operational corps, who defy the conventional wisdom about military chiefs being more trigger-happy than their political leaders.

Netanyahu's main partner is Ehud Barak, the most sophisticated politician to grace the Middle East since Anwar Sadat. He is so sophisticated that you can never tell what his main thrust is, as opposed to the the diversionary maneuver. In 1982, while serving as a major-general, Barak proposed to Ariel Sharon, the defense minister at the time, that Israel attack Syria in an operation whose details only half a dozen of government and military leaders would be privy to. The rest would be distracted and misled. An IDF lightning strike, he said, would get the Americans to "quickly recognize the new reality." Sharon decided to go for Lebanon instead. In 1991, then-deputy chief of staff Barak withstood pressures from Defense Minister Moshe Arens, Air Force Commander Avihu Bin-Nun and others to attack West Iraq, but during talks held at the Pentagon, he understood the benefit of having the IDF semi-openly prepare for war. The U.S. assessment that Israel might be pushed to action caused Washington to boost its own efforts in West Iraq.

Barak and Netanyahu need a decision-making mechanism under their control and military professionals that think like they do. They have progressively diluted the stock of the public in the most fateful decision of this era - from the electorate to the Knesset, from the Knesset to the MKs who made the deals to create a government, to the ministerial defense committee and finally to the cabinet of seven. Their goal will be achieved if the cabinet of seven decides to empower a triumvirate - made up of the prime minister, the defense minister, and a third member, preferably a friendly minister or chief of staff, as Galant was meant to be - to decide on the timing and outline of a military operation.

Clause 40 of the Basic Law on Government requires that any declaration of war be approved by the cabinet. It also allows a handful of ministers to determine "military operations needed for defending the state and public security," but only in the case of responding to an attack, not initiating an operation that can be expanded into war. It is unclear whether Barak and Netanyahu will invite senior professional officers who think otherwise to share their reservations with the rest of the cabinet. The law also obliges the government to inform the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee about its plans. Strategically speaking, this committee is not as convenient for Barak and Netanyahu under its current chair, Shaul Mofaz, as it was under Mofaz's predecessor, Tzachi Hanegbi.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss was only recently dragged into this mess, as part of his investigation of the so-called "Harpaz affair," in which a document was forged in order to influence the appointment of the next army chief of staff. It was said at the time that Gabi Ashkenazi should have handed over the Harpaz document to the comptroller himself, rather than wait for the affair to explode. The lesson has been learned, and about two months ago, a senior officer delivered to the comptroller huge mountains of documents, about 100 megatons worth of political and personal explosives, concerning decisions on strategic matters made by the top political and military brass.

The comptroller is now reading the material, some of which has been described as hair-raising. Lindenstrauss prefers constructive pre-emptive criticism over hand-wrenching reports written after the disaster. In an interview to an internal newsletter in his office, Lindenstrauss spoke about "real-time inquiries, in special situations when public interest warrants their conduct even as the event in question is still taking place, to fundamentally influence decision-making already at the early stages."

Both inquiries, the open one pertaining to actual flights heading west and the covert one pertaining to different kinds of flights heading east, put Netanyahu in a pincer-like clutch. The comptroller's assertiveness in these matters is a sign the power vacuum created by the weak leaders of the Netanyahu-Barak government.

 

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HARARETZ

OPINION

RICHARD GOLDSTONE IS A NOBLE MAN

GOLDSTONE IS A HUMBLE AND PROFESSIONAL PERSON. HUMILITY AND PROFESSIONALISM ARE THE TWO MAIN QUALITIES MISSING IN ISRAEL, WHICH IS WHY THEY PROVOKE SUCH VICTIMIZED AGGRESSION AMONG US.

BY ALON IDAN

Richard Goldstone is a noble man. How humble and professional a man can be, when he publishes a text whose main message is that he has changed his position. This is a person with enough self-confidence to allow him to examine a situation again on the basis of new data. Goldstone is a model to be emulated of a culture of discourse which is strange to us, which is opposite to our fundamental psychological mindset.

He published an article in The Washington Post entitled "Reconsidering the Goldstone report on Israel and war crimes." Why the "reconsideration"? Because the final report of the UN panel, comprising independent experts, which continued its investigation following the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, found that Israel had examined "400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza," while Hamas "has not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel." The committee also concluded "that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy" by Israel.

Goldstone published his reconsidered views following new data that entered the equation - mostly thanks to the report he authored. They were included late because Israel did not cooperate when the investigation for the report was being undertaken. The new data helped create a new picture, a more precise one, of the situation in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009. When it became possible to discuss the implications of the new data, Goldstone wrote his article in the Post.

Except that "reconsideration" is a strange concept in the culture of Israeli discourse. It is therefore interpreted in "Israeli" parlance as: "I was wrong." Why "I was wrong"? Because reality here does not allow "reconsideration." "Reconsideration" requires the delay of judgment, waiting. In order to "reconsider" one needs to assume that there is a possibility of changing one's stance, that there is a possibility for error. In other words, in order to "reconsider," a person needs to have some doubt about himself.

But the situation in this country does not allow for doubt: That is perceived to be weakness, an admission of guilt, a questioning of our very existence. It is also seen as a waste of time. In Israel we believe in being certain, vociferous, unequivocal. And that is a fundamentally insecure belief: An inadequate person holds on to the little that he has. And that grasp is always forceful, aggressive.

Israel's reaction to the publication of the "reconsideration" is identical to Israel's response to the "previous consideration" - the original Goldstone report: hysteria. This is a response based on that same fundamental psychological state of "victimhood and aggression." And it is formulated thus: Once more it has been proven that we have been victimized, and once more we shall respond with a heavy hand. For the Israeli there are now two "Goldstones": the bad-guy Goldstone, and Goldstone the pushover, the one who accused us and then changed his mind.

Paradoxically, Goldstone who accused us is more respected than Goldstone who does not accuse us. The reason for this is simple: Goldstone the accuser is power, while Goldstone who does not accuse is weakness. The power we granted to Goldstone the accuser we translated in real time into investigative reports about him sentencing people to death. Now that he has changed his mind, we are upset about empowering him, and our main goal is to transform him into "pathetic."

But Goldstone is not pathetic. Goldstone is a humble and professional person. Humility and professionalism are the two main qualities missing in Israel, which is why they provoke such victimized aggression among us. "Only an ass does not alter his opinion," Moshe Dayan once said. In this tale, Goldstone is not the ass.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - PROGRESS IN TURKISH PRISONS

It is a truism that bad news usually trumps the good. We don't apologize for this. We don't ascribe to "we need more positive news" arguments classically made by media critics. The airplane taking off and landing without a hitch is not news. The bribe-taker will always eclipse the civil servant successfully managing on his salary alone. That diverse ethnic groups have co-existed in Switzerland for centuries is commendable, but hardly head turning.

And so it is both logical and natural that our report Friday on the absence of significant problems of torture in Turkish prisons and detention facilities was consigned to Page 4. The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture noted in its latest report that problems do persist, particularly in strife-riven Diyarbakır. We suspect the committee's inspectors may even have overlooked a few things, like the story we reported last year of a man beaten in an Istanbul jail. The police did not dispute the claim, but rather insisted that somehow he punched up and bruised his face all on his own. Surely Turkey is not Norway. 

But when one considers the horror stories that once emanated from Turkish prisons, particularly in the 1980s, one has to remark on the significant progress. When one considers that thanks to a popular movie of the 1970s, prison torture was almost a synonym for Turkey for many years, the turnaround is remarkable.

The fact is that while problems remain, Turkey has gone from having one of Europe's worst prison systems to one of the best. The conversion from gang-run dormitories to cells of European standards over the last decade is just one element of efforts to make lock-ups more humane – if still not ideal.

A second dimension of this "downward trend in both the incidence and severity of ill treatment," in the report's wording, is that this is evidence of the central argument for Turkey's continuing integration with European norms. 

As Egemen Bağış, Turkey's minister for the European Union, likes to say, the EU integration process is akin to a doctor's regimen for better health. But it is not just the EU process. Driving Turkey's improvement in human rights and strides in prevention of torture is the Europe's anti-torture convention, which Turkey signed in 1987. This, in turn, is an institution not of the EU but of the Council of Europe, created in 1949, of which Turkey is a founding member. 

This aspect of the "normative" process whereby Turkey is compelled to ever-higher standards in all walks of life continues regardless of the opening or closing of EU chapters, should not be overlooked. It is further evidence for the doubters that Turkey is a European country aspiring – and achieving – the continent's standards in all walks of life.

We commend the work of the committee and that of prison officials who are paying attention.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

AKP'S LUCK WILL HOLD ONLY AS LONG AS TURKEY REMAINS INDISPENSABLE

BARÇIN YİNANÇ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's last week's visit to Iraq took place despite the information revealed by the Wikileaks on how Turkey tried to replace Iraq's current Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. My understanding is that the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad, Murat Özçelik, has been involved before and after last year's election in political activity that has been probably unprecedented in the republic's diplomatic history. In any other time, he could have been declared "persona non grata." But what has been going on in Iraq is far from conventional, otherwise half of foreign officials in Iraq would have been declared "unwanted personalities."  

Al-Maliki could not dare to send him back to Turkey, yet I heard rumors that he was so angry with Özçelik that one time, when the Turkish ambassador was in the Iraqi parliament, he sent his officials to ask him to leave the premises. Yet it was the same Özçelik he asked to see for a meeting that lasted well over an hour prior to Erdoğan's visit.

Considering U.S. or Iranian activity in Iraq, I don't see why Turkey should not be equally active.

But we have to recall that being actively involved in a neighbor's internal affairs is a novelty for Turkey, which lacks a bit of experience in that domain.

As one Turkish diplomat put it, "Turkey is the new kid in town, and it is bound to make mistakes."

Turkey did not achieve its aims in Iraq. Al-Maliki was reappointed as prime minister, and Turkey's attempt to replace the Kurdish president Celal Talabani failed as well. Yet Erdoğan's visit to Iraq showed that "there are no hurt feelings."

This whole episode tells us two things:

First, Turkey cannot achieve its desired outcome only through the activities of its ambassador. These activities need to be supported by additional tools backed by financial means.

Second, as the new kid on the bloc, Turkey has the luxury of making mistakes. Currently, betting on the wrong horse seems not to have cost Turkey too much. That stems from the fact that Turkey is a country that is not expendable.

This fact seems to play well into the hands of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Everyone seems to accommodate the new kid in the bloc, despite the mistakes it makes.

Let's take the case in Libya. The Turkish prime minister has clearly accused France, Great Britain and United States, who led the military intervention, to be after Libyan oil. Then the government first objected to NATO's intervention, only to make a U-turn afterward.

It said it accepted NATO to take over the command of the operation since its conditions were met. It should be a mystery for us to learn about which of the rules of engagement has secured the so-called condition that "Libya's natural resources will not exploited by certain countries."

Actually there is no mystery. The truth of the matter is that while government officials use heated rhetoric in public, behind the scenes they do nothing in the lines of that rhetoric. Reliable NATO sources told me Turkey has not imposed any limitations on the rules of engagement.

Lord David Howell, the U.K. minister of state for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, came to Turkey, in the midst of all this zig-zaging. Never mind the fact that Turkey has accused the U.K. of pursuing neo-colonial aims, never mind the zig-zags on NATO. The speech he delivered to inaugurate the Wilton Park Conference on March 25 was a brilliant example of how British diplomacy is choosing to ignore the AKP's empty rhetoric and prefers instead to engage with the government. The whole speech, which you can find on the Daily News' website, is one long statement of praise.

Probably Lord Howell was aware of the fact that despite heated rhetoric on not letting NATO take over command, behind the scenes Turkey was quietly stepping into line. And as Turkey is a regional power that remains indispensable, why antagonize the AKP government by being critical of some of its policies, goes the line of British thinking. That's probably why, although he spoke the day after the police raided a newspaper in search of an unpublished draft of a book, he preferred not to emphasize it. Ten years ago, half of the speech would have been devoted to the problems on fundamental freedoms. This time, amid all the praise, only once did the minister dare say something unpleasant. But he has done it in such a way that it could have gone unnoticed.

"Some of those who oppose Turkish accession may be largely unaware of the significant reforms that Turkey has already made. But there is no doubt that there is still work to be done, whether on freedom of expression, the rights of minorities or judicial reform," said Lord Howell.

London might prefer to ignore AKP's anti-goverment rhetoric, saying cooperation behind the scenes goes unobstructed. Yet, this unchecked rhetoric strengthens the already strong anti-Western sentiments in the public, which in the long run will prove unpleasant, since the governments in the future could become hostage to the public, which will make it harder to take a different line behind the scenes. Moreover, Turkey's new assertive policy takes its strength from its strengthening democracy. It can only continue to act as a responsible benevolent power, as long as its democracy continues to strengthen, not the other way around.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A TURKEY'S GROWING PAINS

EMRE DELİVELİ

emre.deliveli@gmail.com

Data released on the last day of March do a pretty good job of taking a snapshot of the Turkish economy.

First, the economy grew 9.2 percent yearly in the last quarter of 2010, bringing growth for the whole year to 8.9 percent. While this number seems rather impressive at first look, you must remember that what goes down must come up: Just as last year's figure puts Turkey at the top of the growth league, the 2009 contraction of 4.8 percent was one of the highest among the country's peers.

In fact, average growth during the last three years is a mere 1.6 percent. While this number might be rather satisfactory for the mature economies of developed countries, it is far from enough for Turkey. For one thing, it is definitely not sufficient for creating enough jobs to keep unemployment at bay.

Coming back to Thursday's release, even a casual look is more than enough to illustrate the unbalanced growth profile: Domestic demand contributed 15.4 percent to growth, while foreign demand, because of imports growing much faster than exports, stole 5.6 percent from it, with stock depletion cropping a further 0.6 percent.

This is Turkey's familiar disease of depending too much on external financing for growth, a direct result of its low domestic savings rate. In fact, growth breakdown is very similar to the previous quarter's, except that the scale is now much larger.

Such unbalanced growth is cause for concern because it is unsustainable: If capital flows were to dry up, we could see a sharp adjustment either through quantities or prices. In other words, either the economy would contract, or the exchange rate would depreciate sharply.

Latest data suggest that the portrait is getting bleaker. The trade deficit continued its record run when the February figures were released on Thursday as well. While exports grew 22 percent yearly, import growth was a whopping 48.7 percent, and the wedge between export and import growth rates continued to widen.

It remains to be seen whether the Central Bank of Turkey's latest measures have been successful at all in slowing loan growth and therefore curbing imports and the trade deficit. Governor Durmuş Yılmaz had noted in his ill-famed The Wall Street Journal speech that economists would need to wait until at least the end of March to judge whether the Bank's policies were working.

In that sense, I am really looking forward to next week, as not only will complete loan data from end-March be available, but import taxes, which are used to project imports, will be released along with the March budget figures as well. I am more than happy to give Yılmaz the benefit of the doubt until then.

Speaking of the Central Bank, the growth and trade deficit prints also show how much behind the curve the Bank has been. No one would have blamed the CBT if the sharp reserve requirement ratio, or RRR, hikes of last month had been done in December.

Instead, the Bank opted for its unconventional policy mix of lowering the policy rate and increasing RRRs, which was, although the Bank claimed otherwise, net-expansionary. The Central Bank lowered the policy rate for the noble cause of deterring hot money, where it has largely succeeded.

But in retrospect, after having seen the growth figures, cutting rates in December looks more like adding fuel to the fire. As for the Bank's quantitative tightening measures, with the trade deficit and other recent demand indicators hinting that growth has hardly lost steam, one cannot help but ask if the Bank acted first too little, then too late.

Let's hope that the Central Bank's policies will work. Because if they will not, the government's and the Bank's hands will be virtually tied until the general elections.

*Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CHP'S MAIN CHALLENGE IS TO BREAK PREJUDICES

SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ

Friday breakfasts with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, have almost become a routine for Ankara bureau chiefs of the newspapers. Every meeting with him means the revelation of another report presenting the main opposition party's suggestions for the solution of the country's fundamental problems.

Following reports on family insurance – a key instrument in eradicating the poverty in the country under the would-be CHP government; reports on the development of civil society, a crucial tool for the improvement of full democracy; and reports on the youth – who total account for nearly 19 million citizens, the party has outlined its latest work on the economic development of East and Southeast Anatolia, the least-developed regions of Turkey.

It's a common view that the "new CHP" under Kılıçdaroğlu has opened a new chapter in the party's history with a totally brand-new rhetoric, claiming to address every single individual from all segments of the society. Kılıçdaroğlu's soft-spoken and modest manner accompanied with growing in-house dynamism, especially before the general elections slated for June 12, is helping the party to change its image. But is it enough? To what extent can the party turn these efforts into votes in the elections?

Kılıçdaroğlu candidly responded to these questions and, perhaps for the first time, made their primary concern clear. "The most important hurdle [before the success in the general elections] is the value judgment against the CHP. It's not an easy task to break these prejudices held by some circles overnight," Kılıçdaroğlu said. These prejudices, according to him, paint the CHP as "the party of state, an affiliate of the military and incapable of ruling the country or introducing solutions to the problems" and so on.

"We are working hard to change this picture. We are determined to become a party embracing its people," he added.

Kılıçdaroğlu, however, accepted that there was not enough time to break these prejudices against the CHP given that there were only two and a half months left until the elections.

"Furthermore, some of these judgments have been passing from one generation to another. Naturally, we are not blaming people for having these prejudices against us; instead, we are revisiting the past to see our shortcomings," he sincerely added.

The party brass is happy to see that the reports publicized so far are being adequately discussed in the public. They have already believed that the only way to come to power is to address the real problems of the people.

For Kılıçdaroğlu, the three segments they had the most difficulty in reaching in the past were "craftsmen and tradesmen, farmers and housewives." "But," he said, "Now we have tools to attract their attention."

Despite all these developments, public opinion polls show that the road ahead will still be bumpy for the CHP. The surveys revealed that the party is still polling around 26 percent while the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, looks set to secure another term with more than 40 percent of the popular support at the moment.

But for Sencer Ayata, deputy leader of the CHP and prominent sociologist, these polls do not reflect the right picture. "We have not conducted any polls but I can tell you that we are much higher than these in some independent polls," Ayata stated. "Even in a poll made by the AKP, we are higher than 28 percent."  

When one recalls that the party's vote in 2009 local elections was already around 28 percent, the mark of success will doubtlessly be to increase such a number. For many, anything less than 30 percent of the votes will count as a failure that could trigger a new leadership fight in the party. A senior party official recently said that they were not below 30 percent, and that they were expecting the percentage to tick up toward election day. 

"Our target is to become the government. A CHP government is needed for a country to resolve its gender problems and to embrace the principles of a social state, democracy and the rule of law… We hear from many circles that the only party which can solve the Kurdish question is the CHP," Kılıçdaroğlu has said. 

Votes from the southeast

The CHP's leader is also modest in his expectations from Southeast Anatolia. He said he was not expecting a dramatic increase in votes from the region but suggested that "they will get a good portion of votes." "Our priority is to be able to reach everyone in the region, to touch them and to tell them know about our plans for the regional people," he said.

Yes, but how? An always optimist, Kılıçdaroğlu says: "Two-and-half months is not a short time. Many things can change."

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'1821': Greece's reconciliation with its past

C. CEM OĞUZ

As every columnist, I too receive some harsh criticism from readers sometimes. One such piece was "From the barbarians to Papoulias with love," dated Jan. 24, in which I humbly criticized Greek President Karolos Papoulias' reported remark that "[the Greeks and Armenians] were butchered by the same barbarian," namely the Turks.

"According to the evidence presented by the great Ottoman historian Halil İnalcık," I objected to that biased and insulting statement, "Greece and Cyprus experienced their golden years under Ottoman administration."

From the content of the messages I received from Greek readers, nevertheless, I soon realized that it was a huge mistake to reveal such a historical fact. To be honest, I questioned my sanity. Instead of trying to defend Turkey over things that she cannot reasonably be solely held responsible for, I thought I should have said, "Yes, it is we, the Turks, who are responsible for even Adam and Eve's fall from grace."

Even Hungarian President Pal Schmitt, who said the Hungarians were "lucky" to have been ruled by the Ottomans for 150 years because our ancestors "did not intervene in either [their] religion or [their] language," could not calm me down. I thought in those days that we should have done away with this man long ago because he was not only distorting our history but also ruining our reputation as barbarians!

Yet I am very pleased to see nowadays that I am evidently not alone in my madness. The Greek writer Petros Tatsopoulos and his team of international historians including William St. Clair, Thanos Veremis, and Fikret Adanır who prepared the documentary "1821" are also apparently the neighborhood nutters.

The documentary, aiming to present an objective narrative of history, clearly displays that the idea the Greeks suffered under the Ottoman yoke during centuries is nothing more than a myth. Rather, it was the most prosperous era of the Greeks. More importantly, in contrast to the claims that the Ottomans slaughtered thousands of Greeks during the riots, some 20,000 innocent Muslim men, women and children were killed during the first weeks of the insurrection by Greek rebels.

As usual, the documentary caused an uproar among the Greek public. Hard core nationalists and the clerics harshly reacted to it because it was not only distorting Greek history but also was "biased" in favor of the Ottomans. Mr. Tatsopoulos was accused of being an "agent on the payroll" and "servant of foreigners." The project was presented as a deliberate calculation of its sponsor, the National Bank of Greece, to serve its interests in Turkey, since it bought the majority shares of a Turkish bank in 2006.

Does this criticism sound familiar to you? Are the accusations different from those made in Turkey in a similar event?

If someone sincerely wants to get an healthy improvement of relations between Turkey on the one hand and Greece and Armenia on the other, (s)he must take two points of grave importance into account: First of all, both the Greeks and the Armenians are as much indoctrinated as the Turks with an ultra-nationalist version of their history that makes them too blind to reconcile with reality. Secondly, the Turks must immediately reconcile with their history, but the same is particularly valid for Greeks and Armenians, otherwise their obsession with the Turks will ruin them. Without change, there will never be a normalization of relations among these countries.

Having said this, I would like to wrap up with a little joke which I dedicate to Mr. Tatsopoulos and his colleagues who really make me optimistic for the future of Greek-Turkey relations: In the beginning, God created the Earth and rested. Then God created man and woman and partially rested. Finally, God created Armenians, Turks and Greeks. Since then, God has never ever rested.

Amen!

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SECOND 'DAMASCUS SPRING': WHERE IS AL-ASSAD'S SYRIA HEADING?

CİHAN ÇELİK

DAMASCUS – It was a calm day. No different from any other usual Damascus day. Until I was pushed to the Sabeh Bahrat (Seven Seas) Square by thousands of Syrians holding flags and pictures of their embattled leader. Tuesday's march in the capital was a show of force in support of defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by his people amid the ongoing protests in country's north and south.

After a turbulent week that saw both anti- and pro-regime rallies, more violence and a security clampdown, now the question lingers: What's next in Syria? Will the president fulfill his promise of reform? Will his much-anticipated reform drive meet protesters' demands? Or are we to witness another "Arab Spring" effect, which will see the Syrian regime fall from grace after popular demonstrations, as it happened in Egypt or Tunisia?

For now, only a fool would attempt to predict the fate of Syria and that of its rulers. While much of the analysis of events in the poorly dubbed "Arab world" examines the parallels and similarities between regimes, Syria demands a departure from this line of reasoning. Not only does the nature of protests to date differ in comparison with others in the region, but the dynamics are also influenced by other factors such as the country's reform attempts a few years earlier, the perception of the "brother leader" among Syrian society and Damascus' role as a balancing power in the region.

The anger, fed by years of frustration and fear, during the demonstrations aims at the "corrupted state," whereas very few publicly demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, who in fact heads the state. Al-Assad has always held a unique place in the hearts and minds of Syrians, and as president he has always enjoyed popular support for his foreign and domestic policies.

In Syria, he has projected the profile of "humble servant of the nation," and differentiated himself from his counterparts in other Arab nations, who have been long accused of abusing the state's resources for their own interests.

Concerning regional issues, al-Assad insists that his country is the "security guarantee" of the region, despite the West trying to convince us otherwise. The last decade has been a wild ride for Syria, but al-Assad has somehow managed to survive crises, tensions and wars at his front door, maintaining the status quo in some cases and making unexpected moves in others.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Syria has often been at odds with the United States and called for an end to the occupation. Besides the U.S. presence in Iraq, Damascus has also had a rocky relationship with Baghdad over issues such its alleged support for insurgents in Iraq and long-standing water disputes.

On the other hand, Syria has flourishing ties with the Islamic regime in Iran – a development that has raised eyebrows in the West. Syria's alliance with Tehran and its support of the Palestinian cause, which includes playing host to the Hamas supremo, continues to be a huge headache for its arch-foe, Israel. Nevertheless, the two countries held Turkish-mediated peace negotiations, even if these eventually failed due to the dispute over the occupied Golan Heights and Israel's war on Gaza.

Syria has also always been a dominant actor in the affairs of its western neighbor, Lebanon, but the developments following the 2005 assassination of popular Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri have weakened its influence. After nearly 30 years, Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon amid international pressure, but it continues to cast a shadow over Lebanese politics. Al-Assad's senior officials still risk being indicted by a U.N.-backed international tribunal for their alleged roles in the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister.

Recently, al-Assad has adopted a more open diplomacy with the West, started to mend ties with the United States and inched toward improving relations with the European Union, France in particular. Previously undertaken baby steps to liberalize the economy have also earned al-Assad's praise by the Syrians in addition to his foreign policies. Syrians both love and fear Bashar al-Assad – as they loved and feared his father, Hafez al-Assad, who is still off limits to criticize – but now they want Bashar al-Assad to end a fear-dominated era and showed it by chanting freedom slogans on the street. However, the lack of definite terms in his promise for reform during last week's presidential speech dashed the hopes for change in the country, though anti-government protests started to lose momentum in the countryside after a security clampdown over the weekend.

In his presidential speech, al-Assad warned of a plot led by "outsiders" aiming to incite sectarian conflict in Syria. His argument seemed exaggerated to some but his warning should not be ruled out too quickly. In a country demographically dominated by Sunnis and ruled by Alawites in addition to hosting other minority groups such as Christians, Druze, Kurds, Circassians, Syriacs, Armenians and Jews, any sectarian strife in Syria would affect the whole region. A regional observer said conflict would impact Iraq, Lebanon and even Turkey, which is home to considerable numbers of Alawites in its southern cities.

The stakes are high and Syria has the risk of becoming another ticking bomb in the region if al-Assad fails to make fundamental changes on core issues, such as lifting the emergency law and putting an end to widespread corruption.

The country saw a similar reform attempt in early 2000, when Syrian intellectuals engaged in intense political and social debates that were initially backed by government during the so-called "Damascus Spring" period. Despite a promising outlook, the government then turned the spring into winter, ended the debates and arrested many who had taken part in them.

This time the Syrian leader may be forced to let people advance in their struggle and allow them a part of his lion's share in the country's ruling mechanism, while also trying to give the impression that he is not giving in politically. If not, he is well aware of the fact that he may not be able to avoid the wrath of "spring" once more.

* Cihan Çelik is the news editor of the Daily News. He can be reached at cihan.celik@hurriyet.com.tr

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 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HIJACKING THE ARAB REVOLUTION

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

So it has come down to this. After Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Libya now finds itself in the line of fire of the Coalition of the Willing. Of course, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, the West is not fighting "Islamist terrorism" in Libya or is on the quest of the holy grail called Weapons of Mass Destruction. The mission now is to "save lives" and take out the monster that just refuses to fade away like the other friendly, neighborhood dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. 

He must hang on in there like a bad dream, an evil spell over Libya. Those who thought Moammar Gadhafi would soon follow his fellow travelers into the sunset were clearly mistaken. The demented author of the Green Book seems to sincerely believe he's God's gift not just to the people of Libya but to the whole of humankind. But then Col. Gadhafi, distinctly delusional that he is, isn't the only one to live in this make-believe world. 

There are many out there who have persuaded themselves their leadership is crucial to the survival of their people and their departure would bring about the end of the world. Such is the power of delusions of grandeur. You tend to believe you are at the center of universe. 

Those larger-than-life statues, from Baghdad to Benghazi, are not the celebration of a monstrous ego but the manifestation of the perennial insecurity of the powerful. They have to constantly reassure themselves about their own power. 

Some of the biggest and most obscene tributes to human vanity are found in Muslim lands. Islam came to banish all man-made idols and we have replaced them with men who view themselves as divine. They worship themselves and expect their people to do the same. Gadhafi is not the only one to believe in his immortality and his right to rule Libya forever. He must kill his people, if need be as he has been doing all these years, to govern them. 

There are others out there who have convinced themselves that if they deprive their people of their noble leadership, they will all perish and go to hell. Après moi, le deluge!

After four decades of absolute power, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen believes his people are not still "ready" to govern themselves or determine what's good or bad for them. "I am prepared to step down," he reasons, "provided the people of Yemen prove they have capable leadership to take over from me." Touché!

Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who between himself and his father have ruled Syria for nearly half a century, doesn't fit the description of a tyrant. He insists he and his people are "on the same page." There's no problem whatsoever. 

What about those angry demonstrations? And why are the Syrian troops firing on peaceful protesters?

Of course, it's the doing of "conspirators and outsiders," you know. There's no trouble in the Baathist paradise of Syria. In fact, a Syrian government spokesperson told CNN's Hala Gorani with a straight face, that President al-Assad himself has wanted to introduce "reforms" since he took over from his father 11 years ago. Then why hasn't he? What are we waiting for? The end times or another crusader coalition?

Truth be told, whether it is Libya or Syria or numerous other Arab republics, they have all suppressed, abused and persecuted their people for decades – or the lifetime of a tyrant. In addition to perpetual abuse of power and all-pervasive corruption, they all have one thing in common. They've all repressed popular democratic movements that turn to Islam for guidance and inspiration, rather than dance to the tunes of London and Washington. And they have all done this with the blessings of Western champions of democracy and freedom. 

In Egypt, both Hasan al-Banna, the legendary founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his successor Sayyid Qutb were assassinated by the powers that be, not to mention the thousands of its activists who were incarcerated and tortured for years for believing in a better world. From Gamal Abdel Nasser to Anwar Sadat to Hosni Mubarak, the most admired grassroots movement in the Arab world has remained banned and suppressed for half a century. 

This is the same story all across the Arab world. From Egypt and Yemen to Syria and from Algeria and Tunisia to Libya, the Islamists have been hunted like animals for decades. In 1982, Syrian forces massacred thousands in the city of Hama in a crackdown on the Ikhwan (Brotherhood). The memories of Hama massacre are still fresh. 

And who could forget how Algeria's veteran revolutionaries dealt with the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, when it swept the first ever multiparty democratic elections in 1991-92? The regime not just annulled the historic vote and the verdict it produced, it unleashed a reign of terror against the Islamists for daring to take the democratic path to change. Nearly 300,000 lives perished in the subsequent civil war whose wounds are yet to heal.

History repeated itself when Hamas wrested power from the corrupt and clueless elites of Fatah in 2006. The Palestinians are still paying the price for this cardinal sin, locked away as they are in the largest prison on the planet. 

All this of course wouldn't have been possible without the active support and cooperation of our Western masters. Even as they have endlessly sung hosannas to the deity of democracy, they have aided and abetted their ever-obliging allies to crush and destroy those foolish enough to believe in their rhetoric. Indeed, if the Middle East is still stuck with tyranny in 21st century and men in khaki rule forever, you know whom to thank for it. 

So it's rather touching to see Uncle Sam and his cohorts come around cheering on the juggernaut of change that is on the march in the Middle East. The folks who are still working with a racist and terrorist regime to wipe out an entire nation in its own land have no shame in pontificating about a people's right to choose their destiny. 

Those who have protected and pampered the Mubaraks and Ben Alis all these years see no irony in coming forward to claim credit for the tide that has turned the Arab world around. Talk of hunting with hares and running with hounds! Some Western pundits even have the cheek to thank the Cowboy Crusader, who gave us Afghanistan and Iraq and sent more than a million people to their death, for the Arab revolt. 

Is there no limit to Western hypocrisy and duplicity? Why do they think they can fool all the people all the time? Don't they see the writing on the wall? The tide has turned in the Middle East and Western powers will ignore it at their own peril. For those who have the courage to throw out their corrupt despots are capable of confronting their masters too. 

A whopping majority in the Muslim world has no sympathy for Gadhafi whatsoever.

They are waiting for his imminent fall and will celebrate his exit – and of others like him – just as they rejoiced over the departure of Ben Ali and Mubarak. But they aren't going to welcome the Janus-faced friends of their tormentors either. So expect no roses in Tripoli, Mr. Obama, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron!

*Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published columnist based in the Gulf. He can be reached at aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE 'MASTER PERIOD'

YUSUF KANLI

Did you hear? The absolute ruler, who has been in efforts to transform after the forthcoming June 12 parliamentary elections his de-facto absolute rule into de-juro by ordering his parliamentary majority to write a new constitution and carry Turkey into a presidential system of governance, has declared that the first term of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government was their apprentice period, the second term which is now coming to an end, their journeyman period and the third term, which appears certain to open after the June polls, would be their master period.

The Turkish nation has always been lucky. Even in far worse situations somehow it managed to salvage itself. Sometimes they followed a wolf or melted iron mountains and opened themselves up to new horizons; sometimes united behind an idealist young officer, braved the worse of all difficulties and with an poorly armed army of peasants waged a war and won against mighty enemies and made him the "father of the nation."

The name of one of the greatest survival sagas of the nation might be ridiculed today by giving the same name to an organized offensive against the patriots, nationalists, Kemalists or in summary those refusing to give up to political Islam waging a revanchist war against secular and democratic Turkey.

An "advanced democracy," the fundamentals of which consist of absolute surrender to the absolute ruler, unconditional submission to his administration and demonizing of the entire republican history, achievements of the past governments and particularly whatever might be left from the ideals and principles of the founding father of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The first nearly five-year of rule of the ruling AKP, that the absolute ruler now describes as their apprentice period, was perhaps indeed their apprentice period as they indeed did some great jobs to promote individual rights and liberties, enhanced the sphere of democracy and bring Turkey closer to Western standards of democratic governance. "Wrong guys doing good things," we commented during those years. Even the AKP must concede today that in that first period in government, while the administration was trying to undertake a series of European Union-demanded political reforms or reforms that had to be undertaken in order to meet the Copenhagen political criteria, the AKP majority was not alone in Parliament. The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, as well as many independents and even at times the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, was lending precious support to it.

If the prime minister is of the opinion that the first five years of AKP in power was its apprentice period, it is so unfortunate that the AKP did not remain as an apprentice. In that period, of course, because of rampant nepotism in bureaucratic appointments and some other factors, including perennial prejudice against political Islam, there was skepticism about the democracy commitment of the AKP. Many people did not believe in the sincerity of the democracy and rights lectures of the AKP leadership. Yet, that period indeed helped enhance rights and freedoms in Turkey and brought Turkey closer in democratic standards to those in Europe. Thus, that first period was crowned with Turkey moving on from perennial guest in the EU's waiting room into a country in accession talks – the tough EU remained non-committal to Turkish membership, saying the process is an open-ended one.

Another peculiarity of the first term might be where the AKP sought its source of legitimacy. Shunned by conservative establishment and refused to be given the benefit of the doubt by large segments of the Turkish society despite its 34 percent electoral support, the AKP and its leadership sought itself legitimacy in external support, particularly in the support of Washington and the EU. It must not be forgotten that particularly Washington gave that support wholeheartedly and even went to the extent of according Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a presidential reception at the White House, though put aside he was not a prime minister, he was not yet elected to Parliament.

The second AKP term that started with a presidential election debacle of the last weeks of the first term started with a very reconciliatory balcony speech promising to become a government of all, not only of the 46.7 percent voted for the ruling party, but Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and such politico-judicial thrillers turned out to be an all-out war against secularists, nationalists, patriots or whoever dared to criticize the AKP governance. The end result is an extremely polarized society.

Now, the absolute ruler says AKP would start its mastership period in governance after the June 12 vote. May God save Turkey!

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

CLEARER THINKING REQUIRED TO SOLVE BOSNIAN CONUNDRUM

DARRAGH FARRELL

Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently in the middle of yet another of its characteristic political "episodes," this time over government formation at both the entity and state level and the exclusion from power of the most popular Croat parties. This somewhat predictable situation, which follows last October's general election, has once again heightened international concern over the apparent degeneration in the political atmosphere in the country, with the European Union deciding last week to "reinforce" its representation in Sarajevo. 

It is hard to see, however, what a strengthened EU office in the country could achieve, given the difference in opinion that exists between Brussels, Moscow and Washington over the international community's role in the country. This lack of a cohesive international approach, combined with the protests of the excluded Croat parties and their claims that Croats are marginalized in Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with the opportunism of Serb representatives, who have used the disagreement over government formation as a sign of the country's apparent essential dysfunction, has sparked another flurry of opinion from political commentators on what the future holds for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Their alarm at politicians questioning the state and increasing ethno-national rhetoric is, however, surprising, given that fundamental constitutional questions surrounding Bosnia and Herzegovina have existed since the country's independence. It is these status issues that continue to ensure one political "episode" will be followed by another, and that "normal," "right-left" or issue-based politics remains pushed to one side.

The Dayton framework that provides the current administrative structure for Bosnia and Herzegovina, while viewed by some as "final," is so decentralized and convoluted to the point that it is ambivalent. This ambivalence has allowed status issues such as the fundamental structure of the state, to remain open and in question. This scenario, combined with the ever-present and universal potential for politicians to play the nationalist card, further squeezes out the space for issue-based politics.

The question then is how Bosnia and Herzegovina addresses the fundamental state questions, allowing it to finally move on to "certainty," to "normal" or "boring" politics. The example of Northern Ireland shows that this can be achieved through an agreement between political leaders at the elite level. This elite, made up of former extremists, have come together to share power in a single assembly in Belfast, and they have a vested interest in making the peace agreement succeed, thereby keeping the benefits that come with holding office and power. They have also managed to quell any dissidents within their respective communities and any potential to be outflanked by extremists. This model, however, cannot be readily applied to the Bosnian and Herzegovinian context, as unlike Northern Ireland, the situation in the country is far more complex, involving multiple power centers, multiple actors, and multiple administrative levels, all of which make a deal among the political elite difficult to achieve, as among other things, some would have to give up their current benefits and power.

Another example of how fundamental state questions may be overcome is by being presented with a fait accompli, such as that experienced by Serbia through the internationally administered independence of Kosovo. Despite Serbia's official position, there appears to be a general acceptance that the province is lost, and with this comes the opportunity for the country to finally move beyond the national questions that have cast a shadow over its past 25 years. If it had the will or inclination, the international community could impose a "solution" on Bosnia and Herzegovina, for example through devising a "new" Dayton, abolishing the entities and creating a centralized state. Even if the international community did have the unity and stomach for such a proposition, it would be far from ideal, lacking solid domestic legitimacy and almost certainly provoking fierce opposition from Serb and Croat representatives.

Another extreme and unrealistic method to resolve the status issue is the secession of the Republika Srpska, the mostly Serb ethnic entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina that is one part of the two part federal system and that enjoys wide autonomy, a scenario that is unlikely to receive any international support in the short-to-medium term future. Despite the collective trauma and weariness caused by the 1992-1995 conflict and the general disdain felt by the public for political conversations such as the one contained in this article, the secession of the Republika Srpska is likely to face resistance from the rest of the country, including military opposition, especially when one considers the unresolved status of the city of Brčko.

The general contempt towards politics shown by the Bosnian and Herzegovinian public in recent years can be partially, if not largely, explained by the level of corruption which continues to pervade through the various administrative levels throughout the country. Sections of the public have shown in the past year their willingness to take to the streets to protest against certain government policies, and although unlikely, it is not beyond the realm of belief to suggest that public protests against corruption and inept politicians, similar to recent protests in Croatia, could take place in the future and lead to a change of political direction. However, any movement from below that could fundamentally alter the political atmosphere in the country would have to gain support from all ethno-national groups, and could be easily undermined by nationalism and factionists. 

In conclusion, it appears that there is no easy way to overcome the essential constitutional and status questions that continue to underpin Bosnian and Herzegovinian politics. Accession to the EU, whenever it does occur, is unlikely to be the panacea that many think it will be, with the examples of Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Belgium demonstrating how constitutional issues can remain unsolved and problematic within EU member states. Furthermore, the EU is going through its own internal problems, and it is difficult to predict what condition the union itself will be in when Bosnia and Herzegovina does finally join. However, the example of Belgium also shows that the presence of fundamental constitutional issues does not necessarily have to cripple the state in question. Indeed Bosnia and Herzegovina has been living with these issues for years, yet has still made progress, if limited, towards the promised land of banality.

Nonetheless, at some stage in the future, the questions surrounding the state will have to be resolved once and for all, and the sooner the international community recognizes this, the better. Creative thinking from international officials and domestic representatives is required in order to come up with a solution that will allow for certainty and for issue-based politics to take center stage. Perhaps the best hope is for a simpler version of Dayton, one with less ambivalence. This would have to contain enough carrots to entice Republika Srpska representatives to sign up to it, but it could also finally put to rest any talk of secession. A clear (re-)commitment by the representatives of each ethno-national group to a defined future structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whatever that may look like, is required to end the cycle of political "episodes" and for the country to move once and for all to a less dramatic, quiet life. 

* Dr. Darragh Farrell is a member of the Centre for the Study of Wider Europe at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He has written a number of articles on the politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER SHRINE ATTACK

 

The deadly suicide attacks on a shrine in southern Punjab have sent a wave of shock and grief running through a country already reeling from a string of similar incidents. In the latest attack, two powerful blasts shook the remote Sakhi Sarwar shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan district on Sunday, killing at least 36 devotees including women and children. With the number of critically injured estimated at over 100, it is feared that the death toll may rise further. The attack took place just outside the shrine during the annual Urs of a most venerated local saint, when the area was packed with thousands of devotees and a festive atmosphere prevailed. Initial reports claimed that the blasts were the result of two suicide attacks. Police sources claim that they have also succeeded in capturing at least two alleged bombers from the scene of the crime who have been handed over to the agencies for interrogation.

The shrine is located in a sparsely populated, hilly, semi-tribal part of Punjab, bordering Balochistan and not too far from the southern tip of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Road links in the area are primitive and medical facilities virtually non-existent, severely hampering rescue operations. Ambulances had to be deployed from adjoining districts and most of the injured were taken to the government hospital in Dera Ghazi Khan, some 40 kilometers from the site of the attacks. The more seriously injured were taken to Nishtar Hospital in Multan. When news of the tragedy broke, reports say that many of the young doctors on strike in the area abandoned their protest and reported to work in order to tend to the victims.

The attack was the latest in a string of similar incidents at some of the most venerated shrines across the country. Starting from the attack on Rehman Babaís shrine near Peshawar in 2010, extremists have targeted the Data Darbar in Lahore, Abdullah Shah Ghaziís mausoleum in Karachi, the Baba Fareed Shakarganj shrine in Pakpattan among many others. The targets chosen are not only ësoftí, involving some of the most poor and defenceless people in the country. They also cast light on a certain abhorrent mindset that is bent on imposing its narrow interpretation of Islam on a population that has traditionally found solace and spiritual peace at the Sufi shrines dotted across the length and breadth of the country. One bitter fallout of the latest shrine blast will be to further sharpen the divide between sects and among them. The attacks will incense followers of the Barelvi sect who in general venerate shrines and saints as opposed to adherents of more puritanical strains of the faith who view the activities at such places of worship with some suspicion. The attack is also bound to reopen the already bitter debate between the federal and provincial governments about the spread of extremism in southern Punjab.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 

RIP HEC

 

The phrase 'monumental folly' does not begin to describe the plan to break up the Higher Education Commission and devolve its functions to the provinces. It is true that the HEC needs to reorder its priorities in light of a changing level of skills needs if we are to begin to function as a knowledge-based economy. But the wholesale dismemberment of one of our few institutions that has a reasonable level of functionality is little short of preposterous – and dangerous – nonsense. The provinces are already demonstrating that they are unable to cope with the demands of devolved budgets and responsibilities, in the main because nobody thought to build the capacity to deliver before handing over the keys to the filing cabinets and budgets. We are witnessing a slow-motion train crash as local services stumble once disconnected from the federal umbilical, with two sectors, health and education, already suffering particularly severely.

Consider this – our total science and technology workforce numbers around 130,000, with scientists and researchers about 53,000 of that number. A trifling 10 percent – around 5,300 – hold PhD's and about 80 percent of those PhD holders – around 4,000 – are in institutions of higher education governed by the HEC, and they are scattered all across the country. A desperately small proportion of the 53,000 – 18 percent – are in engineering, 16 percent in medicine and 14 percent in agriculture; as against a disproportionate 24 percent in social studies and humanities. These figures indicate a chronic shortage of people in the 'hard sciences', reflected in the fact that we have only 162 researchers and scientists per million population, a figure we need to increase fourfold over the next decade if we are to be in any way competitive. We could quote figures in justification of retaining the central unity of the HEC until we were blue in the face, but there appears to be a wilful desire on the part of the federal government to abandon what little common sense it has in favour of blind orthodoxy – devolution. Score-settling is another reason for this calamitous move. The PPP government is still smarting from the principled stand taken by the HEC in the matter of fake degrees held by parliamentarians. These intellectual pygmies in their tiny-mindedness and desire for revenge seek to cripple the HEC for exposing their duplicity, and jeopardise significant foreign aid funding if they do. Can we really afford to throw money away that is targeted to education? We think not. The crucial role played by the HEC, in ensuring and sustaining the knowledge and skills base that may just drag us out of the morass we have blundered into, stands at risk; and there is an urgent need to reconsider the plan to break it up. Reform it – yes. Streamline it – yes. Inject new blood and some original thinking – yes. Chop out some of the deadwood – yes. Devolution in this case is no solution, and the politics of petty revenge is another knife in the heart of an already grievously wounded education sector. Not that this is likely to bother a government that has only ever paid lip-service to improving our education system.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

THE 'MOHALI SPIRIT'

ASIF EZDI

 

As Pakistan-India summits go, Mohali was a rather lacklustre event. Even the previous two meetings of leaders as uncharismatic as Gilani and Manmohan Singh, held at Sharm El-Sheikh (July 2009) and Thimphu (April 2010), were not completely lacking in drama. But Mohali was different. There were no particularly memorable moments or words and the meeting produced little beyond the usual verbiage about the importance of dialogue to resolve outstanding issues.


Manmohan did try some originality by calling for 'permanent reconciliation', as if to reject any notion of temporary reconciliation. Gilani also showed some innovativeness. The two prime ministers, he said, had discussed "all core issues". (He seems not to know that for Pakistan there is only one 'core issue': Kashmir.) Even more striking, Gilani did not once utter the word Kashmir in his public remarks in India. It is to be hoped that all this is a reflection not of a change of Pakistan's stance but of Gilani's lack of grasp of national policy issues, even one as central as Kashmir.


Gilani also made another innovation. He told the Indian prime minister that Pakistan and India must take 'ownership' of the issues between them, apparently echoing what has been the traditional Indian line aimed at excluding the 'internationalisation' of Kashmir. But as the foreign ministry's spokesperson indicated later, Gilani's remarks were meant to rule out a role by a third country like the US in the resolution of our disputes with India. Our leaders, including Gilani himself, have in the past been pleading for US mediation in resolving the Kashmir issue. Whatever reason there might have been for such appeals at one time, there is none any longer, in view of the new strategic partnership between India and the US, and of Washington's recent tilt towards India on Kashmir.


Despite the improved atmospherics of Pakistan-India relations as a result of the Mohali summit, there is little reason for optimism as far as issues of importance to Pakistan are concerned. India's focus will remain on enhanced trade and travel between the two countries and across the Line of Control and on modest 'confidence-building measures'. The foreign ministry's one-line press release saying only that the summit was a 'win' for the dialogue process is an appropriate and realistic assessment of what to expect (and what not to expect) from Mohali.

The Indian foreign secretary tried to exude much more enthusiasm in her briefing of the media and gushed about the "Mohali spirit, an extremely positive and encouraging spirit that has been generated as a result of today's meeting". Only a day earlier, Indian Home Secretary Pillai had spoken in similar superlative terms of his two-day meeting in New Delhi with his Pakistani counterpart. These talks, Pillai said, had been 'extremely positive' and had significantly reduced the trust deficit between the two countries. For his part, Rehman Malik congratulated his 'brother', Indian Home Minister Chidambaram, on the successful conclusion of the meeting between the interior secretaries.


One reason given by India for its unusually upbeat assessment of these talks, mainly for diplomatic reasons, was Pakistan's agreement, in principle, to receive a commission from India "with respect to Mumbai terror attack investigations". The modalities and composition of the commission are yet to be worked out but the Indian side claims that Pakistan has pledged to provide voice samples of the alleged plotters of the Mumbai attacks, as India has been demanding. There is considerable scepticism in Delhi that Pakistan would deliver on this 'promise'. The Indians suspect that 'judicial roadblocks' might be put up to stop the delivery of the voice samples.

But India is playing down these misgivings and has agreed to allow a Pakistani commission to visit India to talk to Ajmal Kasab and the Indian investigators of the Mumbai attack. India has also provided some information gathered by it in the investigation of the Samjhauta Express bombing by Hindu extremists and promised some more.

The Indian government clearly does not want to allow Pakistan's alleged 'foot-dragging' in punishing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to stall the resumed dialogue process. Despite pressure from the opposition BJP not to delink talks from the 'terrorist threat' from Pakistan, the Indian prime minister did not play up the terrorism issue at Mohali. He said only that an atmosphere free of violence and terror was needed in order to enable true normalisation of relations to be achieved, a far cry from the earlier demand for a dismantling of the 'terrorist infrastructure' before dialogue could be resumed.


In fact, India is now keen to open a dialogue also with the Pakistan army and the ISI in order to 'deepen engagement' between the two countries. For this purpose, the Indian high commissioner at Islamabad has reportedly been instructed to open channels of communication with the army chief and the ISI director general.

This is not the first time that Delhi has broached this idea. Earlier, in July 2009, Manmohan Singh had 'disclosed' to a group of Indian journalists that the Indian high commissioner had met the ISI chief to discuss resumption of talks between the two countries. This was denied by unnamed sources in ISI. Later that year (September 2009), Pasha again featured in the Indian press after he attended an iftar reception hosted by the high commissioner.


Manmohan Singh's invitation to Gilani was plainly a ploy to give a boost to the resumed dialogue with Pakistan without appearing to be softening India's demand on giving terrorism the foremost priority. A dialogue with Pakistan is important for India not because it is dying for normalisation of relations with Pakistan but because without engagement with Pakistan, Delhi will find it very difficult to achieve 'normalisation' in Occupied Kashmir. Having quelled Kashmiri militancy through brute force, Delhi is now looking for credible Kashmiri interlocutors with whom it could make another agreement like the Indira-Abdullah agreement of 1975 granting greater autonomy to the occupied state. Ideally, Manmohan would like to revive the back-channel negotiations on Kashmir started under Musharraf so that Pakistan is also brought on board. But if Pakistan is not agreeable, Manmohan would like to make a deal with the 'moderate' faction of the APHC. This would be facilitated if Pakistan adopts a neutral attitude towards such a deal, something that would be easier to achieve if Pakistan is engaged in a sustained wide-ranging dialogue.


Fortunately for Manmohan, Pakistan's current government, like Musharraf before him, is focused mainly on finding ways of prolonging its own rule and has been neglecting the Kashmir cause. India is no doubt pleased that even on the massive human rights abuses being committed by the Indian forces, on which some international human rights organisations like Amnesty International have been quite vocal, the Pakistan government has been mostly silent. Delhi is especially encouraged by the fact that Pakistan has not raised the Kashmir issue in international fora, apart from the UN General Assembly last September.


Popular sentiment in Occupied Kashmir can be gauged from the fact that Pakistan's victory over the West Indies in the World Cup quarter-final was celebrated with fire crackers but India's win against Australia passed 'without a murmur', as a Western news agency reported, apart from some crackers lit under official orders by the Central Reserve Police of India. While Gilani and Manmohan were watching the Pakistan-India semi-final, together with hundreds of millions of other Pakistanis and Indians, orders had been issued to enforce Section 144 strictly in Srinagar and public screening of the match was banned across Kashmir in order to avert an outbreak of anti-India demonstrations.

The British weekly, the Economist, wrote last December that Western leaders, keen to keep India 'onside' against China and greedy for its markets, have kept disgracefully quiet about human-rights abuses in Kashmir. Gilani's silence on Kashmir at Mohali was worse. It was shameful, scandalous, and outrageous.


How can we blame Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy for something of which our own leaders are equally guilty?


The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

 

WINDS OF CHANGE

NOSHEEN SAEED


 It's heartening that the quote "Change occurs when the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing" is gaining relevance amongst Pakistanis across-the-board. Two significant developments that interrupted the normal course of action by Pakistani legislators can be seen as signs of hope and change.

First, the protest and walkout of opposition lawmakers as soon as the president rose to address the joint sitting – simply refusing to listen to the head of state who had nothing tangible to offer: no vision, no strategy, no sense of direction, only lip service without commitment, hollow slogans without truth and empty promises that outrun performance – was hailed as a positive and refreshing move. For the first time the opposition presented itself as a harmonious whole having will and purpose. This suggests that in future smooth sailing would be a still more distant dream for the government and its much propagated policy of reconciliation now kaput.

Second, ten members of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms that prepared the 18th Amendment draft bill with consensus, incorporating 100 recommendations to restore the 1973 Constitution, refused to receive the Nishan-e-Imtiaz award from President Zardari. The special ceremony was held at the Presidency to confer civil and military awards on outstanding citizens for their accomplishments. Those who declined to receive the award included Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Sen Ishaq Dar, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Sen Abdul Malik, Sen S M Zafar, Sen Shahid Hassan Bugti, and Sen Nawabzada Mir Haji Lashkari Raisani of the PPP.

Their absence demonstrated a complete breakdown of trust in President Zardari's leadership, the demise of collaboration and consensus decision-making within the country and the overall erosion of confidence in the government's policies.

In recent days, Pakistanis witnessed deliberate deceptiveness by the government. While claiming that parliament is supreme, it imposed new taxes worth billions through a presidential order, which opposition leaders consider illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional. PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal went to the extent of saying that the president should approve the budget through a presidential order too.

While stating that every state institution, including the judiciary, should be respected, the government incited the people of Sindh to hold protest demonstrations, made a call for a strike and a sit-in in front of the Sindh High Court building, all against the Supreme Court's declaring the NAB chief Deedar Hussain Shah's appointment illegal. The PPP's strike call was unmistakably an attempt to fan provincialism and trigger anger against the judiciary in Sindh, and a scheme to cause bedlam in the province, which resulted in incidents of gunfire, vehicles being set ablaze and loss of innocent lives. Where in the world do sitting governments fuel anarchy?

Furthermore, a resolution was encouraged in the Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assemblies for the condemnation of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the appointment of Deedar Hussain Shah as NAB chairman. This raising of the flag of confrontation was a clear negation of the government's much trumpeted policy of reconciliation.

Pakistanis continue witnessing diversionary tactics designed to deceive, baffle and distract public attention from the country's current problems. The tactic include confusing statements on Benazir Bhutto's assassination, reopening of the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, deliberate attempts to alienate coalition partners and then spending weeks to win them back.

The boisterous tirade of Sindh interior minister Zulifiqar Mirza against the MQM; theatrical ruckus in and lota match outside the Punjab Assembly, was more of a smokescreen to divert public and media attention. While the confusion prevailed, new taxes were levied through a presidential ordinance and Raymond Davis was released.

Then we have the grand strategy of appeasement of the West, issuing visas without proper documentation, Blackwater agents getting visas through the Pakistani embassy in the UAE, the Raymond Davis case. To advance its goals, the government made efforts to use the PML-Q against the PML-N, tried manipulation of political puppets depending on their intended use, and bribed legislators to switch sides and cast votes in favour of the government stance. The government's horse-trading was exposed in the joint session of parliament. The lotas remote-controlled by the PPP were out in the open.

Such acts have further eroded citizens' trust and confidence and led many to believe that Pakistan is being trapped in a downward spiral. Pakistanis seem petrified of the consequences which they believe will not only de-emphasise national security and countrywide priorities but shift the government's focus and energy on concocting more crafty designs for its survival.

Interestingly, a lady legislator impressed by President Zardari's knowledge of history is going about quoting the president as having said: "I have vast space like Russia available to me; whenever threatened, I keep on withdrawing, leaving the 'scorched earth' in front of my enemies, who while trying to reach me will tire out ultimately, and I plan to deal with them when they exhaust. Then like Russia I shall be victorious." It seems our knowledgeable president forgets the role winter played in Russian history.

When those in the corridors of power spend all their energies in laying traps of deception to wear out and fool their own people, then naturally they will be unreceptive to national sovereignty and public welfare, and they will fail miserably to ensure basic security, essential services and economic opportunities. An ineffective vision may be worse than no vision at all.

The root causes of all evils in society, and behind every crisis and conflict, are due to poor governance, widespread poverty and weak economic growth. Any government that fails to establish policies, strengthen institutions and reinforce governance reforms is sure to ride on a tide of discontent. Undoubtedly, the three year Zardari rule is the worst in history and Pakistan is suffering like it's never suffered before.

Perhaps it's time for Pakistan's allies to realise that that the current government has failed on all fronts and any more support given would be tantamount to their going against the welfare and well-being of Pakistanis. The US has become extremely unpopular in Pakistan because people feel that since this is a US-backed government Washington is responsible for their misery and plight.

The writer is information secretary of the women's wing of the PML Email:
nosheensaeed58@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CRUSADERS REBORN

DR A Q KHAN

 

The history of the Crusades and the crusaders is almost 1,000 years old. The First Crusade – a campaign by the Christians to retake Jerusalem and surrounding areas from the Muslims – took place in 1096 and continued until 1099. This will be discussed later. Here I would just like to point out that the Crusades by Christians against Muslims had a centuries-old history and there is deep-rooted animosity behind them. Christians' campaign started as soon as our Holy Prophet (PBUH) spread the message of Allah (the Quran). The Christians and the Jews immediately plotted, intrigued and fought against the Muslims. Once the Muslims became stronger and Islam was established in Arabia, Muslims started campaigns against the most powerful Christian dynasties. Within a few years they ruled Armenia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Spain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and even some western parts of what is now Pakistan. No other religion had ever posed such a serious threat to Christianity.


This old animosity is manifesting itself once again, the latest attack being the brutal attacks on Libya with advanced missiles and aircraft, killing a large number of innocent civilians. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has called the Libyan war a medieval crusade. Both Russia and China, by abstaining from the UN resolution, tacitly allowed the Western countries to undertake this aggression. They should have learnt from the example of Iraq and clearly defined what action was to be allowed.


The first Crusade, in which all the European countries participated, was instigated by Pope Urban II. The crusaders conquered Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine and the coastal areas of Syria. The Second Crusade took place between 1147 and 1149. The Christian army was led by Germany's emperor Conrad III and France's Louis III. The aim was to stop Imamuddin Zangi from conquering Christian-occupied territories. Imamuddin died during this war and his famous son, Nuruddin Zangi, led the Muslim armies, and the Crusaders failed to make any gains. Nuruddin Zangi inflicted heavy casualties on his opponents.


The Third Crusade, from 1189 to 1192, was the biggest and most important campaign by the European Christians. It started as an attempt to stop the conquest of Jerusalem by Salahuddin Ayubi. The Christian armies were led by Richard the Lionheart, Philippe of France and Frederik Barbarosa of Germany. Barbarosa drowned in a river in Turkey and Richard and Philippe failed to achieve any victory. Salahuddin decisively defeated the crusaders at Hittin (to the west of Lake Tiberias), took Guy of Jerusalem as prisoner, executed Reginald of Karak and recaptured Jerusalem. During the Fourth Crusade, from 1202 to 1204, the crusaders started fighting amongst themselves, killing each other and occupying Constantinople. In the Fifth Crusade, from 1218 to 1221, the crusaders attacked Egypt, but were decisively beaten by Malik Kamil Ayubi. The Sixth Crusade, 1228 to 1229, was led by Frederik II of Germany. There was no actual war, Malik Kamil Ayubi agreeing to a compromise and allowing the crusaders to take possession of Jerusalem. However, Muslims didn't accept this and reoccupied Jerusalem in 1244. The Seventh Crusade, from 1248 to 1249, and was led by Louis IX of France. The crusaders attacked Egypt, were defeated by Malik As-Saleh Ayubi and Louis was taken prisoner. After paying ransom he was allowed to leave. The Eighth Crusade, 1270 to 1271, was again under Louis IX and was another failure. This time he was joined by British king Edward. Instead of going to Jerusalem, the crusaders went to Tunis, where Louis died. With this, the first phase of the Crusades came to an end.


There was another Crusade known as the "Children's Crusade." Believing that adult soldiers were sinners, the crusaders recruited thousands of children, who were dispatched to Jerusalem in 1212. By the time they reached Marseille, they were looted, misused and even sold as slaves.


The second phase of the Crusades was started by the Europeans after the industrial development in the late 13th century. The British, French and Spanish went all out to conquer Islamic countries and brutally murdered millions of Muslims. Spain was liberated. Morocco, Tunis, Algeria, Senegal, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaya were all colonised. All Central Asian Muslim states were subjugated by the Russians.

The current phase started in the last few decades when born-again Christians like Bush and Blair attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and destroyed them. At the moment, with Obama in charge, Libya is the "bad Muslim boy." They will make a horrible example of Libya, as they did of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Let us look back at our own history and character. Wherever the Western countries succeeded, they did so because of traitors, collaborators and corruption. Starting from Morocco to Indonesia, one always finds collaborators responsible for the downfall of Islamic regimes. If any Muslim stood up to these invaders, he was eliminated. By manipulation and intrigues, stooges are brought to power and these countries are then ruled through them. At this time their goal is to fully control oil. Only Libya remained somewhat beyond their control, hence the current action to force it into toeing their line, just as Iraq and all the oil-producing Arab countries have been forced to do.


When the crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1098, they massacred all the Muslims – 70,000 in total. Western historians have written extensively on this barbarity and have mentioned that the courtyard of the Holy Mosque where Muslims had taken refuge was covered in so much blood that the hooves of the horses were submerged. When Salahuddin reconquered Jerusalem in 1187, he spared all those who laid down their arms and surrendered. First he freed all the women, children, old men and the wounded and then allowed all Christians to be freed against ransom. Many of the soldiers had no money. For them, Salahuddin's brother, Malik Adil, quietly paid so that they could to go back to their respective countries. All these details have been given by famous historian Karen Armstrong in her well-known book The Crusades.


Now coming to the crux of the matter, as mentioned earlier, these curses are of our own doing. We have totally ignored Divine edicts. Look at the rulers in Islamic countries; see their character, policies, friendship with the Western World and thir dependence on them, their submissive attitude towards all injustice and brutality by their patron and, above all, their patron's attitude towards Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians and their biased policies towards anything that is Islamic. Still they continue to consider the West to be their friends and protectors. It is all inviting what the Almighty has warned us of – disgrace and destruction.


Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

LIBYA AND BAHRAIN

IFTEKHAR A KHAN

 

Eight years after the Iraq invasion of March 2003, the armed forces of the US, Britain and France launched an attack on Libya. As usual, US-led military aggression against the oil-rich Muslim state is as humanitarian as the ones intended to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and to emancipate Afghan women from Taliban oppression. Before the invasion of Libya, the envoys of five Arab countries, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and the UAE, attended a meeting in Paris to approve the use of military force in Libya. Qatar did one better, by sending its air force jets to be part of the invasion. Regime-change through military aggression is nothing new; we've been there before.


What's new is that the first black president in the White House has invaded Africa, the continent to which he traces his lineage. After Saddam Hussein was sent to the gallows and replaced with Maliki in Iraq, after the Taliban government was thrown out and one under Karzai was installed in Afghanistan, Moammar Qaddafi is the candidate for change. And Mahmoud Jebril is the likely new man to head the interim transitional government in Libya. He has been in the US for many years and all that he now needs is a Karzai-style green cloak to be in business.


It's believed that French intelligence initially fomented the uprising in Libya followed by agents of Britain's MI6 who, according to the Daily Mail, phoned Libyan generals to defect or face targeted assassinations. And imagine the celerity with which 90 percent of 544 British MPs have voted in favour of invading Libya when 53 percent of the British people surveyed have opposed the intervention. Not to mention that demonstration by two million Britons in 2003 against the imminent Iraq invasion, a protest which failed to have any impact on official British policy. It speaks of a disconnect between what Western people want and how their governments act, and in their name. Some democracy there!


Nato has taken over control of the war in Libya. An alliance of 28 countries now, Nato was established in 1949 when its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, stated that the organisation's aim was to "keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." The organisation was to serve as a means of mutual defence against outside threats. Not long after that, Nato's posture not only changed from one of defence to offence, but the organisation was also placed on call for the top Western superpower. It's now commanded by US Admiral James Stavrids.


And the UN is nothing more than a handy tool that Western powers manipulate to acquire resolutions to suit their global interests. As the imperialist powers have made it a habit to invade sovereign states in the name of human rights or some such pretence, the UN is never found wanting in the provision of timely sanction to them. Doesn't the United Nations' approval of a no-fly zone over Libya amount to its declaration of war on a member-country?

Nevertheless, Muslim leaders understand that behind the altruism of the West is the scramble for oil and other energy resources in their countries. And they rather not get ideas. In an allusion to them, French president Nicholas Sarkozy has warned: "Every ruler should understand, especially Arab rulers, that the reaction of the international community and Europe from this moment on [following the attack on Libya] will be the same each time."

But aren't US-Nato double standards starkly evident when we compare Western positions on Libya and Bahrain? While the imperialist powers support the uprising in Libya, they oppose the protests in the Persian Gulf emirate of Bahrain. Bahrain, where Sunni emirs have ruled for more than two centuries, faces an uprising mostly by the Shiites, who are 70 percent of the population. The hostility of the protesters against the ruling elite is not directed so much against the emir, however, as it is against his slimy uncle, Khalifa ibn Salman al-Khalifa, who has ruled the city-state as prime minister ever since it became independent in 1971.

Saudi Arabia has troops stationed in Bahrain, because it believes that the uprising there is instigated by Iran, which is the only Muslim country in the turbulent region where people are living with honour and dignity under their selfless leadership.


It appears that Muslim blood, cheap as it is, will continue to be spilled, whether the population of the country in question is Shiite or Sunnis, or even if the victims are liberal or agnostic, for that matter.


The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore. Email: pinecity@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HIJACKING THE ARAB REVOLUTION

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

 

So it has come down to this. After Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Libya now finds itself in the line of fire of the Coalition of the Willing. Of course, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, the West is not fighting "Islamist terrorism" in Libya nor is it on the quest of the holy grail called Weapons of Mass Destruction. The mission now is to "save lives" and take out the monster that just refuses to fade away like the other friendly, neighbourhood dictators in Tunisia and Egypt.


He must hang on in there like a bad dream, an evil spell over Libya. Those who thought Muammar Qaddafi would soon follow his fellow travellers into the sunset were clearly mistaken. The demented author of the Green Book seems to sincerely believe he's God's gift not just to the people of Libya but to all of humankind. But then Col Qaddafi, distinctly delusional that he is, isn't the only one to live in this make-believe world.


There are many out there who have persuaded themselves that their leadership is crucial to the survival of their people and their departure would bring on the end of the world. Such is the power of delusions of grandeur. You tend to believe you are at the center of the universe.


Those larger than life statues, from Baghdad to Benghazi, are not the celebration of a monstrous ego but the manifestation of a perennial insecurity of the powerful. They have to constantly reassure themselves about their own power.


Some of the biggest and most obscene tributes to human vanity are found in Muslim lands. Islam came to banish all man-made idols and we have replaced them with men who view themselves as divine. They worship themselves and expect their people to do so. Qaddafi is not the only one to believe in his immortality and his right to rule Libya forever. He must kill his people, if need be as he has been doing all these years, to govern them.

There are others out there who have convinced themselves that if they deprive their people of their noble leadership, they will all perish and go to hell. After me the deluge!


After four decades of absolute power, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen believes his people are not still "ready" to govern themselves or determine what's good or bad for them. 'I am prepared to step down,' he reasons, 'provided people of Yemen prove they have a capable leadership to take over from me.' Touche!


Bashar Assad of Syria, who and his father between themselves have ruled Syria for nearly half a century, doesn't fit the description of a tyrant. He insists he and his people are "on the same page." There's no problem whatsoever.

What about those angry demonstrations? And why are the Syrian troops firing on peaceful protesters?

Of course, it's the doing of "conspirators and outsiders," you know. There's no trouble in the Baathist paradise of Syria. In fact, a Syrian government spokesperson told CNN's Hala Gorani with a straight face, President Assad himself has wanted to introduce "reforms" since he took over from his father 11 years ago. Then why hasn't he? What are we waiting for? End times or another crusader coalition?

Truth be told, whether it is Libya or Syria or numerous other Arab republics, they have all suppressed, abused and persecuted their people for decades – or the lifetime of a tyrant. In addition to perpetual abuse of power and all-pervasive corruption, they all have one thing in common. They've all repressed popular democratic movements that turn to Islam for guidance and inspiration, rather than dance to the tunes of London and Washington. And they have all done this with the blessings of Western champions of democracy and freedom.

In Egypt, both Hasan al Banna, the legendary founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his successor Sayyid Qutb were assassinated by the powers that be, not to mention the thousands of its activists who were incarcerated and tortured for years for believing in a better world. From Gamal Nasser to Anwar Sadat to Hosni Mubarak, the most admired grass-roots movement in the Arab world has remained banned and suppressed for half a century.

This is the same story all across the Arab world. From Egypt and Yemen to Syria and from Algeria and Tunisia to Libya, the Islamists have been hunted like animals for decades. In 1982, Syrian forces massacred thousands in the city of Hama in a crackdown on Ikhwan. The memories of Hama massacre are still fresh.

And who could forget how Algeria's veteran revolutionaries dealt with the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) when it swept the first ever multi-party democratic elections in 1991-'92? The regime not just annulled the historic vote and the verdict it threw up, it unleashed a reign of terror against the Islamists for daring to take the democratic path to change. Nearly 300,000 lives perished in the subsequent civil war whose wounds are yet to heal.

History repeated itself when Hamas wrested power from the corrupt and clueless elites of Fatah in 2006. The Palestinians are still paying the price for this cardinal sin, locked away as they are in the largest prison on the planet.

All this of course wouldn't have been possible without the active support and cooperation of our Western masters. Even as they have endlessly sung hosannas to the deity of democracy, they have aided and abetted their ever obliging allies to crush and destroy those foolish enough to believe in their rhetoric. Indeed, if the Middle East is still stuck with tyranny in the 21st Century and men in khaki rule forever, you know who to thank for.

So it's rather touching to see Uncle Sam and his cohorts come around cheering on the juggernaut of change that is on the march in the Middle East. The folks who are still working with a racist and terrorist regime to wipe out an entire nation in its own land have no shame in pontificating about a people's right to choose their destiny.

Those who have protected and pampered the Mubaraks and Ben Alis all these years see no irony in coming forward to claim credit for the tide that has turned the Arab world around. Talk of hunting with hares and running with hounds! Some Western pundits even have the cheek to thank the Cowboy Crusader, who gave us Afghanistan and Iraq and sent more than a million people to their death, for the Arab revolt.

Is there no limit to Western hypocrisy and duplicity? Why do they think they can fool all the people all the time? Don't they see the writing on the wall? The tide has turned in the Middle East and Western powers will ignore it at their own peril. For those who have the courage to throw out their corrupt despots are capable of confronting their masters too.

A whopping majority in the Muslim world has no sympathy for Qaddafi whatsoever. They are waiting for his imminent fall and will celebrate his exit - and of others like him – just as they rejoiced over the departure of Ben Ali and Mubarak. But they aren't going to welcome Janus-faced friends of their tormentors either. So expect no roses in Tripoli Mr Obama and Mr Sarkozy and Mr Cameron!

The writer is based in the Gulf and has written extensively on the Muslim world affairs. Email: aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

SPIKED BIRYANI

CHRIS CORK

 

Having got to the point where birthdays are more a matter of regret than celebration I was determined to allow my most recent notch on the stick to pass unremarked. Not so those around me who seem to celebrate it with as much enthusiasm as they did in their teens.


Thus it was that there were cards and little posies and some carefully chosen gifts all of which, somewhat against my curmudgeonly nature, left me with something of a rosy glow. It was all capped off with a cake modestly dressed with a single candle and a chicken biryani of industrial proportions.

My partiality for biryani is long noted in the family, and I can barely get through the door of any relative without being offered 20kg of the stuff. The house staff had laboured long in the kitchen to produce this paragon of Punjab cuisine which tasted as good as it smelt and was appreciated by all who sat at my table.

Can you hear the 'but' hovering in the background? Correctly perceived if you did Dear Reader for my birthday biryani was home to an unwelcome visitor whose identity was only truly revealed the following Saturday afternoon.

Buried deep within the rice and spices was what doctors call a 'foreign body'. As soon as I had swallowed an otherwise innocuous mouthful I knew there was a problem. Choking and spluttering, something lodged deep in my throat. Try as I might nothing would dislodge it.


The next morning it felt a little better and I kidded myself that it was probably en-route through the digestive system. I went off to Islamabad as planned on the Thursday night, thing in throat seeming to trouble me less and less. Friday night it got uncomfortable again and by Saturday morning I was unable to swallow fluids, never mind solids and I declared myself Officially Unwell.


For years some relatives have put me up whilst in Isloo, and I was firmly taken in hand by the older daughter of the family who put me in the car and off we went to a medical centre.


Duly x-rayed (nothing showed up) and examined by a very thorough doctor there was a swift decision to refer me to the larger of the teaching hospitals in Islamabad. Feeling worse by the minute it was a dive into the arms of some of the best – certainly quickest – health care I have ever had.


On the operating table in under an hour four doctors had a jolly good ferret around inside my throat, aided by various bits of scaffolding, what felt like a torch the size of a tennis ball and a knife you could have slaughtered a cow with should the fancy have taken you. (I am sure I am wrong in all these perceptions but when you are lying on your side thinking these might be your last moments I think a brief excursion into hyperbole may be excused.)

"My goodness...will you look at that!" I heard as I spat blood and tried to concentrate on what was going on. The 'that' which was being referred to was the 4cm long piece of wood, needle-spiked at both ends and hooked, which they had cut out of the wall of my gullet.


The 'foreign body' that turned into an unwelcome birthday gift and for all I know could have cost me my life. All in all it cost me 13,000 rupees and a lot of lost meetings. A week later there is just a touch of discomfort – and a domestic staff who will be very careful the next time they cook me a biryani.


The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NO ONE LISTENS TO YOUNG DOCTORS WOES

 

THE strike by young doctors in Punjab Government run hospitals is now in the fifth week and there appears to be no solution in sight to their woes as they are calling for increase in their salaries and regularization of contractual services. In the meantime patients are facing severe problems as the doctors do not attend them in outdoor, indoor and emergency wards and according to reports twenty patients lost their lives in the last two days for lack of medical attention.


What is more worrisome is that senior doctors at some of the hospitals have also extended their support to the young doctors. A large number of young doctors have also tendered their resignations to the association which has announced that the strike would continue for an indefinite period if a notification of a special salary package was not issued. No doubt the Punjab Government is facing financial crunch and in the given situation it cannot bear the additional expenses but the young doctors are playing a key role in hospitals in attending the poor patients who cannot bear the expenses of private hospitals. Keeping in view the sufferings of the patients, it was essential on the part of the provincial government to pay attention to the demands and make necessary increases in their salaries as had been done for civil servants and hundred percent increase in salary of police personnel. Punjab Government had been having no budgetary problems in the past and if it could re-duce its expenditure under certain heads and check the wasteful expenditure, it would surely be in a position to meet the demands of the young doctors. It needs to be mentioned here that the Government spends millions of rupees on the educa-tion of each doctor and when they start performing duties in hospitals, they are paid less than even a police constable. One agrees that the demand of monthly sal-ary of Rs 90,000 for a young doctor is on the much higher side and the poor coun-try like Pakistan can ill afford it but at least they must be regularised against the vacant posts and given the existing pay scales. There should be no apathy towards the woes of young doctors and we would request the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to look personally into the matter and remove some of the grievances of the young doctors so as to restore normal functioning at government hospitals.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CRICKET WORLD CUP RIGHTLY GOES TO INDIA]

 

INDIA beat Sri Lanka by six wickets in a pulsating final to deliver World Cup glory to their cricket-mad population for the first time since 1983. On Saturday at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, India rightly regained the World Cup after a gap of 28 years and all of India exulted lustily and the celebrations are going to continue for a long time.


The triumph highlighted the power of the collective team effort. In this perspective there is need to mention that the world cup has shifted from the West to the East and in the East too it has been won by a much deserving team. In fact Indian team having a combination of super batsman like Tendulkar, Dhoni, Yuvraj and Gambhir along with fiery and foxy bowlers proved themselves as dedicated fighters. Sri Lanka smashed 91 from their last 10 overs to post 274-6 in Mumbai, with Mahela Jayawardene making a superb 103. Tendulkar's early dismissal for 18 ensured there was to be no fairytale 100th international century for Mumbai's favourite son. It was a very competitive total in the end, but India's batting came through with Gambhir and Dhoni batting magnificently. It was being speculated right from the beginning of the tournament that India was the favourite to win the world cup and we congratulate the Indian cricket team over the much deserved victory. Other teams in South Asia including Pakistan must learn a lot from the Indian team, which competed in each match as a well knit unit and ultimately emerged as the champions..

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DON'T DESTROY TIME TESTED STRUCTURE

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

 

The new wave in Pakistan is to destroy administrative structure we inherited, much of was time tested. The politicians are mainly responsible for experimenting with all kinds of run away schemes of "reforming" what they call "bureaucracy" of which they talk as if they are talking about something dirty or filthy. They mistake by confusing the Red Tape tainted Corruption with bureaucracy. Red tape should not be confused with the time tested administrative structure evolved in modern age. Even otherwise "State" has been in existence since emergence of civilized societies. In the oldest civilizations, Egyptians, Chinese Babylonian – there was a State structure and with it were the rudiments of institutions of law enforcement agencies, judges and scribes or bureaucracy and of course military. There was never ever a state without these minimum institutions of governance. Human civilization is a continuous developing phenomenon.


The rulers/politicians self delusion that they must reject all that we have inherited in modern day Pakistan is incorrect. We had the symptoms of this mentality in various experimentation attempted in political system and time to time in administrative reforms. The short lived Basic Democracy, and Majlis-i-Shura systems were political innovations introduced in the past. The tinkering with Secretariat by inordinately increasing ministries and reckless feather bedding of officials that today it can be said that there are ten times more high grade officials in the government than ever in Pakistan's history. Pleasing officialdom , or bribing them, by making every Tom Dick and Harry a high grade official whether you need it or not is the order of the day. Another similar experimentation was to abolish the time tested District Administration, and Magistracy system in the Districts. The District Administration system the British established was so successful that India adopted it after its independence. The name of designations of officials, Deputy Commissioner, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Magistrate, Section 30 Magistrate carried certain respect and authority. It gave the District an efficient administrative system. Inspector General, D I G, SSP etc for Police Officials carried a certain authority established over long years. The new designation have made those ranks greatly colourless and ineffective.The Russians after the Communist Revolution initially abolished all ranks ; just replaced them with "Tvarish" or comrade- but soon they had to return to the old names of the ranks. Again it was general, colonel, Ambassador, etc, not just Tavarish. Same happened in China. They abolished the name of the ranks. One was no longer General, Colonel, etc, just his name. Their experiment also failed, and the ranks were restored. When used over long time, the names of ranks take a certain image and prestige in the minds of the public. Devoid of that era district officials are devoid of that aura and consequently there is no effective administration in the districts. Is India less "democratic" that it has not weaken the old structure and designations of District officers. Our politicians think that "democracy" means no administration worth the name.


Now there has been devolution of federal functions to the provinces which as a former ambassador to Yugoslavia I shudder to think where it would take Pakistan's federal links with the Provinces to. I saw Yugoslavia disintegrating into several states when provincial autonomy was taken to absurdity. Here cultural , educational functions and the H.E.C are being decimated to make each province carve out its own educational directions and of cultures. That reminds one of the experiment made in Akbar the Great's days on what is the natural tongue of children . New born children were kept in isolation for a number of years so as not to be influenced by environment. When they were few years old they were brought out and it was found that they made mere sounds. Our politicians cater for cheap popularity without caring for bigger interests. They play to the gallery. The result is that in the name of so-called democracy we have weak administration. Does US, UK, Europe not have "democracy" where there are law courts and administration are firm and strict. The other day some foreigner asked me in a party "Is this true that the British controlled their Indian Empire –that is undivided India- with 400 ICS officers and 70,000 troops." I had to say yes. I may add that administration was quite firm and timely decisions were taken , courts delivered judgment with speed- and reasonably fairly- compared to Pakistan administration and courts delivered decisions in good time. Any one who had lived in pre-independence India agrees with this over-all view of Administration and lower courts – with which public were mostly concerned. The demand for Independence was made because it was the rule of foreigners, and it in finl analysis served British interests. In Pakistan the politicians wanted to tinkle with the time tested administration because they wanted the Dy Commissioner and Police to be under their control. British India had 16 provinces and three Chief Commissioners Provinces, and except for Governors , Inspectors General of Police and some local administration and police heads, all the officials were "native" Indians. This is why in India the administrative structure of British days has been kept in tact only the Rule of the country and provinces called States has been Indianized. Rulers, decision making, policy making legislatures, has come to Indians to serve Indian interests and Indian aspirations but the old Indian Penal Code, Procedures Code and basic laws have been retained. In our case also they have been retained but the local politicians want the implementers to be under their control. The local politician abhors independence of administration and local courts, and when he denounces " bureaucracy " he is expressing his disgust with independence of Administration. This is the dilemma of partial administration vs independent administration. When X party is in power it wants administration to be subservient to it, when Y party is in power it wants the same for itself. This was the style of Communist Rule. Truth according to the Communist Party truth was what served the Party, there was no "truth", or impartiality as such.


The citizen wants impartial administration, not politicized administration. Another example of double standard international political morality is the Western aggression on Libya. A news item dateline London says that a meeting of top diplomats ( of NATO & US) has decided that Ghaddafi must go. Now this means that it is for NATO to decide in which foreign country who will rule where, according to the list of persona non-grata of the rulers. The right to remove their rulers does not belong in Muslim countries to the people of that country but to NATO/ West/Christian world to remove those foreign rulers, whom they consider non grata. Of course this "principle" of power drunk was applied on Saddam and Iraq. The West can destroy the entire.country, murder thousands of locals –all that is justified. While I just approved of British basic grass root administration in India this imperial dace of the west is the other side of the coin. These days PCS Officers in Punjab are agitating against the DMG –or what was once called C S P- officers. Their main grievance is slower promotions and very limited opportunities for getting high posts in the Government compared to those available to DMG. This has become a burning issue in Punjab, although I am sure that this kind of grievance is nursed in other provinces also. Clamoring for equal opportunity with higher echelons is not limited to Punjab. I took 1950 Punjab PCS Competition, and after standing second in the Province, I was appointed an EAC Magistrate till I secured a high position in Pakistan's first CSS Competitive Examination 1949 and first assigned to CSP and then switched to Pak Foreign Service, which was graded higher than although equal to CSP. Thus I had been in both services. The availability of greater opportunity to what is called Superior Services is not limited to the CSP/DMG but present in several other cases, for example in Secretariat, Armed Forces (Commissioned Officers as compared to JCOs) medical professions (medical doctors and para medical staff) and so on so forth/


Are these categorizations justified? Competitioners do not enter Superior Services through selection by powerful persons and sifarish, competitions are like Olympic race in which all contestants have equal chance but the best win the race. Any body with a university degree under a certain age can take the competition examination. The age limit in my days used to be from 21 to 24 – now God alone knows what it is now? – There is a constant demand to raise the age limit to 35! (Why not to 55?) Written tests are examined by persons whose identity is kept secret, papers are sent to the examiners under fictitious roll numbers, so it is intended to make the grading of the candidates beyond any iota of doubt. Ever care is taken that the entire examination process is kept in secrecy.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

LIBYA'S OPEN ENDED FIASCO

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

President Obama made a televised address from the National Defence University in Washington to explain why he took action against the forces of the Qaddafi regime that had begun attacking civilians for protesting against the regime. Those who drafted the Resolution 1973 based their case on a need to protect Libya's civilians from attacks and facilitate dialogue between warring camps. Top Vatican official in Tripoli Bishop Martinelli has recently commented: "The air strikes are meant to protect civilians, but they are killing dozens of civilians;" he was reacting to killing of 46 civilians by the UN mandated bombers.


During the entire episode of diplomatic build up against Libya, Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) was neither seen nor head. Arab League (AL) hurriedly suspended Libya's membership and abdicated its leverage to resolve the crisis. It referred the matter to UN for military action against Libya in the form of enforcing a no-fly zone. No wonder spoilers promptly filled the void. UNSC resolution 1973 about Libya was poorly drafted by these opportunists. It is likely to set a horrible precedent in the name of vague terminologies like democracy, human rights, protection of civilians etc.


Going by the wording of resolution, almost all Arab states and most of the developing countries could qualify for foreign intervention under fuzzy pretexts. Such actions are poised to be selective. Atrocities committed in places like Gaza and Kashmir will continue to be pushed under the carpet. Realizing the implications of the resolution, Arab support for military intervention wavered rather quickly. Alas! By then lamb had been handed over to wolves. It is not surprising that out of 21 AL members, only four attended the Paris summit convened for implementing the UN resolution. Qatar and the UAE are the only Arab states taking part in enforcing no-fly zone, both contributing just a token number of aircraft.


Resolution authorized UN member states to "take all necessary measures" to achieve these aims, but ruled out the presence of foreign troops on Libya's soil. However, the US ambassador to the UN later said that it would permit helping the rebel forces with weapons. Hence United States has found justification to train, arm and finance anti-Qaddafi insurgency, although some of the rebel leaders are affiliates of Al-qaeda and have fought against America in Afghanistan and Iraq.


The UN mandate of enforcement under Chapter 7, and related articles is meant to be exercised as a 'last resort'. Russia and China questioned the merit of using force when other means had not been exhausted; this argument was also supported by Brazil and India. These four nations also pointed out the lack of clarity about who would enforce the measures.


Blitzkrieg style attack on Libya by the US, the UK and France surprised almost everyone because of the speed with which it was executed after authorization. Much before the passage of resolution, western media was abuzz with the speculations that foreign special operatives and logistic support units had already entered the Libyan soil clandestinely. NATO is well experienced in enforcing no fly zone; however, other attendant aspects of the mission and strategy are hazy. Libya is more than thirty times larger than Bosnia, where NATO implemented a no fly zone by employing around 240 aircraft from over ten countries. A number of countries participating in the air campaign are of the view that they want an end to the rule of Qaddafi; whereas, this is not the language of the Resolution 1973. Moreover, a no fly zone could do little to impede Qaddafi's land forces. One wonders how long this operation could comprise of exclusively air campaigns; Kosovo model may not hold good for Libya. Enforcing the UN mandate by air power alone will be impossible. Eventually, it would necessitate the commitment of ground troops.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently observed that the concept of a "just war" can easily take on the aspect of a crusade. Wars on such pretexts are indeed a replica of the medieval notion of a 'morally justified war', which have since long been replaced with the model of 'legal war'. UNO was precisely raised to prevent this kind of 'just' wars. Due to munitions of phenomenal destructive power at the disposal of intervening parties, such interventions end up in causing more casualties and destruction than what the repressive regimes, having relatively primitive means, could inflict on their own people. Pakistan has termed the resolution as a sign of alarm. Pakistan is deeply concerned on the use of force against Libya and is of the opinion that a big crisis is in the offing in Arab region and Northern Africa. Iran has also expressed similar reservations.


Disagreement over the extent and limits of Libyan intervention indicates deep divisions within regional and global institutions and governments. A split UNSC vote of 10-0, with five abstentions indicates the lack of unanimity on the issue. Split within Europe is rather evident. Germany abstained from the resolution, refusing to participate in the operations and 'calling any military operation folly that may go beyond air strikes'. Germany's stance is by backed by Turkey. Brazil's ambassador raised the prospect of the resolution "causing more harm than good" to the civilians intended to be protected. Similar considerations weighed on Arab League delegates when they debated the crisis in Cairo. They called for a no-fly zone in Libya, and nothing more. Arab League was opposed to any foreign intervention and wanted that no-fly zone "must end with the end of that crisis."

Therefore, in case of prolonged, conflict, the frail cooperation among regional groupings could quickly meltdown on the pretext of violation of the UN parameters set for intervention. Although the UN authorization is based on the premise that civilians are under attack, the rebels are armed and an armed conflict is underway. The Libyan government has the right, as a sovereign nation, to put down the armed rebellion; though it certainly does not have the right to kill the unarmed innocent protesters. China and Russia abstained and in a way extended tacit support to the move to launch an aggression against a sovereign country. Even though they may not be in favour of allowing invasion and occupation of Libya, now they may not be able to arrest or reverse this tendency. Islamic and other developing countries need to do effective lobbying with Moscow and Beijing to stall such move.


Pakistan is of the view that no country should be divided, fractured or brought under attack merely in the name of restoration of democracy, protection of human rights or safeguarding the civilians. Pakistan also rejects the trend of regime change through foreign intervention. Pakistan's priority is stability and peace. President John F Kennedy once quipped that limited military interventions are like taking a drink, once you take one and the effect wears off, you have to take another. American and British media are already referring to eastern Libya as 'disputed territory.' Forced partition of Libya would create yet another perpetual war zone. In all probability, we are in for a long haul!


—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

WHO TO BLAME…

M TAHIR IQBAL

Amongst my friends, I have always extolled the key role played by Pakistan's top spy agency for the greater interest of Pakistan. Its role especially towards the end of cold war has been significant helping new trends and shifts in the world history. But its role on the heels of 9/11 has been opaque and cryptic: working in consonance with CIA against the scourge of terror, and at the same time receiving allegations from the US officials for having support for Taliban factor. In all its capacities, I have evermore eulogized its part that would be for the good of Pakistan.


But Raymond Davis was a test case that considerably dented my conviction. Davis was caught and arrested, and the case brought under judicial parameter; but then came the anti-climax which was really ludicrous. Too much haste was shown to get him released without officially exposing unequivocally the status and reality of Davis. It is for sure that Raymond could not have been handed over without some strategic gain from the US. Second and more important: the decision, whatsoever, as to Raymond's fate was, to much extent, in the dexterous hands of military establishment of Pakistan with due assistance from provincial and federal governments; and the duo did not desist from facilitating the route of direction. What is the deal that brought about the release of the CIA agent? Now as media has it that the CIA will limit its covert operation in Pakistan as a result of the understanding reached between ISI and CIA. Per contra, the US officials have claimed that CIA has made no pledge to scale back covert operations in Pakistan to secure the release of Davis.

Such deals usually befall behind the locked corridors of power in tête-à-tête and the result often remains under the wraps. The public, later, come to know the claimed versions which are also settled behind the closed doors. One such meeting took place on February 23 last, when Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiani met his American counterpart at a beach resort at Muscat. The immediate result was the suspension of 30 surreptitious CIA operatives, and 12 such operators left the land of Pakistan forthwith. David Ignatius writing lately in Washington Post also points at the vital part played by DG-ISI, Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha in this context. A news website, Rediff also corroborates to the version of pre-eminent role played by DG-ISI in bailing out this CIA contractor.

If the deal struck promises the roll-off of secret CIA operations in Pakistan, that can be a giant leap. But what fails me to understand is that how the conditioned release of Davis and extraction of some strategic gain while scraping all the rules and laws can go to safeguard the sovereignty and image of Pakistan. Was the dual murder suspect and CIA agent - as the US and British media hold him - immune to the law of Pakistan. The register in Kot Lakhpat gaol does not have any entry of the name. That means: Raymond Davis never was incarcerated. There is no record of him with the jail authorities. Thereafter, his exodus from Pakistan was accelerated encroaching on all legal procedures - no visa stamp and no passport. How can such a sheer breach of the canons of law steer Pakistan towards a stable and sovereign state. Favour can also be extended without violating laws. A boss can also be pleased without infringing rules. Raymond Davis case also brought into the sharpest focus the role of Pakistan's embassy at US that issued visas to many Americans without security clearance of Pakistan's agencies. So magnanimous has been our endeared ambassador, Hussain Haqqani that he managed issued some visas to the Americans on the short notice of 24 hours.


Reportedly, about 3,000 visas were issued to US officials by our Embassy in Washington between July 14 and December 31, 2010 without the approval of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and security agencies. As a result of the above authorization, visas were issued to dubious US officials - one of which was perhaps Raymond Davis - without following proper procedures. The policy of issuing visas to the Americans within 24 hours without verification was fraught with dangers and undesirable consequences. So what a security agency can do here when no record of many such Raymonds exit with the foreign office of Pakistan?


To please our neo-colonial rulers, all played their part with all fealty. PPP created the difference by ostensibly supporting for the spy's release, the other parties and institutions kept their hands in clandestinely. Here lies the dissimulation. No party or authority came forward to accept the blame of his release. Rather, hypocrisy and false posturing touches its pinnacle when PPP levied blame on PML-N for his exoneration despite the standpoint adopted by big-wigs of PPP. The chronicle of history enlightens that the blame game, not to say, point scoring continues until the real issue vanishes from the brains of common people; and thus the sport of politics forge on to form the complex web of history which bristles with the yarns of dissimulations, hypocrisy and false posturing..

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

KASHMIR: A HUMANITARIAN ISSUE

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

Upon establishment of the United Nations Organization, Colonialism came into sharp contrast with the right of self-determination. Resultantly, many of the Afro-Asian countries including India and Pakistan were decolonized and got independence. The UN however, failed to give right of self-determination to Kashmiris. Rather, the miseries of Kashmiris, started with the Treaty of Amritsar-1846, had increased many-fold over the years. Earlier, Kashmiri's peaceful attempt to come out from the clutches of the slavery was brutally crushed, resulted into the worst massacre by Dogra Rule in 1931. Sequel to this, Dogra rulers' committed worst form of human rights violation of the Kashmiri until Kashmiris revolted in October in 1947 to get their right of freedom. In the process, they gained partial success, with bulk of the state getting under Indian occupation.


United Nations has passed a number of resolutions, all promising them their right of self-determination. These resolutions were accepted by India too. However, subsequently, India denied the right of self-determination to Kashmiris, until their peaceful struggle was forced to convert into an armed resistance movement against Indian occupation in early 1990s. The tactic used by India for the human rights violation include; indiscriminate killings of Kashmiri masses by its security forces, arbitrary arrest and detention, gang rapes of women, torture and even arson and looting of houses. Through inhuman and discriminatory laws, India has given special sweeping powers to its security forces. As per Jawayria's article, 'Kashmir: India's Reign of Terror', there is a huge concentration of Indian army in Jammu and Kashmir, indeed, unparallel in the world. "From January 1989 to December 2007, nearly 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed by Indian troops in Kashmir and as many disappeared during Indian forces' custody in various interrogation centers and torture cells. About 113,882 civilians have been arrested without any reason, 22,591 women widowed, 1756 gang-raped and the children orphaned estimate to 107,051, People rendered homeless are beyond calculation as vaguely 105,536 buildings/homes have been destroyed brutally. There is hardly any house in occupied Kashmir, which has not sacrificed one or two or more of its members for the cause of liberation."


India did not let loose its brutalities even after Kashmiris denounced their armed struggle in 2003. Indian security forces still number over 650,000, continued human rights violation of Kashmiris. In 2008, Indian forces fired on the group of peaceful demonstrators and killed dozens of innocent Kashmiris. These protestors were asking for a safe passage to sell their fruits and other agricultural product either to Indian markets or else to Azad Kashmir. Their movement was blocked by Indian security forces and Hindu nationalists, under BJP, thus disallowing them their legal right of selling their product. Like all other discriminatory acts of the Indian security forces, this was a clear violation of the international humanitarian law. Earlier, India attempted to change the demography of Kashmir, through allotment of Kashmiri land for settling non Kashmiri Hindu population in the garb of extending the space for a Hindu shrine. There have been continuous brutalities on Kashmiris by Indian forces thereafter. In May 2009, India Army rape and murder two Kashmiri women at Shopian area. The incident was seriously resented by all Kashmiris and also invited condemnations from all over. Similarly, Indian forces killed a nine years old boy without any fault. In 2010, there has been killing of many innocent Kashmiris by Indian security forces, an act totally in violation of the UN Charter and Human Rights Declaration. Until now, there has been a debate whether Kashmir is a political or a religious issue. A dominant class believes that, it is a political issue. It in fact is the issue of the future of a state, having population of over 15 million, spreading over an area of 84471 square miles. A limited class, however, believe on the religious context of the state. Nevertheless, over the years, the humanitarian dimension of the issue has become more glaring then other two. Today, the global community has a realization that, the massive human rights violations in the occupied state has to be dealt as per the provisions of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights of December 1948 and Article 1 of the UN Charter. Under the declaration, the broad guidelines are "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." The declaration prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention of any human being and also declares that, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The declaration takes a lead from the UN Charter, which aims to, "develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples," Article 1 of the UN charter, emphasized on the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction.


Upon Kashmiri uprisings in 1990, Governor Rule was imposed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and through a special amendment in the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA), Indian security forces were given sweeping powers of arrest and detention of Kashmiris. The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), permits people to be detained for a period up to two years on vaguely defined without trial for simply asking whether the state of Jammu and Kashmir should remain part of India. This contravenes their right to express their opinions guaranteed in Article 19 of the ICCPR a clear violation of human rights by Indian forces as they have never permitted any detainee or arrested person to know the charge or allegation against him / her.


Similarly, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, (TADA) permits the Indian forces to detain the people arbitrarily for just inquiring whether Jammu and Kashmir should remain part of India or discussing the possibilities of plebiscite. This cruel act allows the authorities to arrest and detain people just on mere suspicion and people can be remanded up to 60 days in police custody. Amnesty International has analyzed the provisions of TADA and found it completely violation of important international Human Rights Laws. No guarantee is given for freedom of expression or security for fair under TADA. This Law is a gross violation of Human Rights. Besides, as per Special Power Act, Indian Army and Para-military forces have the power to shoot any individual who is violating or behaving in contravention of the law enforced. Under all these discriminatory laws, Indian security forces could even shoot to kill with virtual immunity. These special legal provisions are in contravene to most important human rights provisions laid down in international human rights instruments to which India is a party. It is therefore, moral responsibility of international community that, India should be forced to abolish these inhuman and discriminatory laws specially designed for human rights violation in Kashmir. After all, in this highly civilized world, Kashmiris too should be given their basic right to live as a free nation. The issue has to be tackled as a humanitarian issue, aiming to reduce the human sufferings.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

THE BATTLE FOR PUNJAB

RIAZ MISSEN

 

PPP and the MQM are going to redraw their manifestos. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of the largest political party of Pakistan has constituted a 10-member committee and Farooq Sattar, the central leader of the Karachi-based party has announced the institution of Central Council to chase their respective ends. Both the political parties are partners in the government at provincial (Sindh) and federal level though the MQM has declined to accept any portfolio.


PPP is the largest political party of the country, both going by its nationwide support base as well as the results of the last general elections. The problem with the MQM is that it is identified as the party of the Urdu speaking migrants and is confined to urban areas of the lower province. Its hold on Karachi gives it exclusive edge vis-à-vis the mainstream political parties of the country, given the megacity's position as the provincial capital as well as the business hub of the country.


Though the minutiae of the changes in the manifesto of the PPP and the MQM's manifesto will come out as the committees set up for the purpose will brood, deliberate and discuss the matter but the interests and orientations of the two parties are already in limelight. While PPP wants to hold on to its position as the largest political party of the country, MQM cherishes the dream of its expansion beyond the urban areas of Sindh. Punjab is its most treasured political destiny its leadership wants to reach out. The party leadership also wants to shed the ethnic image of the country and, therefore, the new manifesto will certainly be drafted keeping it in mind. MQM is in a sense is one of its kinds given the nature of interests it presents and the agenda it wants to carry on. If one sets aside its ethnic orientations, as its opponents blame, the fact remains there that it is support-base which constitutes urban areas. The language and thoughts of its leadership clearly indicate that it is not yet thinking about bridging the communication gap between cities and the countryside. The image of the rural areas which they carry with them is the one dominated by feudal, tribal and spiritual chieftains who, they believe, are answerable for prevalent ignorance and poverty.


MQM is likely to project itself as a knight in shining armor and deliverer through the new manifesto. Ending feudalism is the long cherished goal of the MQM now, as has been the case in the past. It is very well understood by the party leadership that its further expansion will be resisted by the powerful agriculturalist lobby heavily present in the mainstream political parties like PPP, PML-N, ANP and their religious and ethnic associates. Overall, MQM is pitted against all who matter in the politics of Pakistan.


PPP, of course, represents the landed interests. It has a genuine interest in the urban areas of Sindh and Punjab and for that matter it lures the laborers and working classes in the cities. Sindhi and Seraiki nationalists are its natural allies since the times of its inception. In the countryside it wants status quo and has a genuine interest in pushing the landless and the marginalized to the nearby towns and cities as a matter of externalize the conflict in the rural side. The PPP is almost out in the big cities of Sindh and only Multan has become it bastion in Punjab. How to gain control of the urban/ industrial region in the two above mentioned provinces remains a cherished goal of the PPP and this desire is likely to figure in the revised manifesto of the party. It is the point where the two parties' interest is going to clash with each other. The MQM is not going to hand over Karachi and Hyderabad to any political party and is up to competing them in Punjab as well.


PPP has recently brought out its Seraiki card which it has held close to its chest since its birth. The premier recently said in Jalalpur Pirwala, a town of Bahawalpur, he is in favor of dividing Punjab on linguistic lines and that the new manifesto of the party will include Seraiki province on its election agenda — to the very much anxiety of the regional leadership which expects from the party to support the revival of the defunct Bahawalpur province. The PPP has found an unexpected ally in the form of the ex-ruling party, PML-Q, which has floated the idea of dividing Punjab to create a province for its southern parts though it is against doing so on ethnic or linguistic lines.


As for the MQM, it is all in favor of new provinces. It is one step ahead of the PPP in the sense that it pleads the re-demarcation of the boundaries of the existing provinces. The PPP prefers status-quo in this regard and it is only lately that it has supported dividing Punjab. Though the premier in his aforementioned address in Bahawalpur had also announced support for the 'small provinces' it is not yet clear whether he meant by it strengthening the position of the existing smaller provinces or the creation of new ones like Hazara. MQM aspires for carving out a province out of Sindh and its such desire found some expression in the form of the district government system which it welcomed and gained a virtual mastery over Karachi but abolition of this system by the PPP in Sindh, and elsewhere, has caused frustration in the MQM and it is quite natural that it is up to find a space outside of Sindh to make its voice effective in the decision making process of the country. Given its bitter experience in the past, the MQM will avoid reviving any demand for creation of province essentially comprising Karachi till it finds its support-base out of Sindh. So Punjab has become vital for it after the abolition of the local government system and indefinite postponing of the polls.


PPP seems ultimately convincing itself that it can't take over Takht-e-Lahore given the presence of PML-N and the wide support of the media and establishment available to it. All of its reconciliation policy has ended up its alliance with the PML-N in Punjab. The South Punjab, a mainstay of the party, feels now frustrated and is all up to getting rid of Takht-e-Lahore. The move to divide Punjab, however, may backfire. The PML-N may overcome its feet-dragging and re-condition its motivation to this end as a measure to avoid commotion and mayhem due to concentration of desperate interest in Punjab and to revive its claim as a national-level party; it may negotiate a constitutional amendment with the government and its ethnic allies for some formula to create new provinces. Language can be one factor but not the sole criteria for dividing a province. The 7th NFC Award can serve as the best guide. If it decides so, PML-N may be next party to announce its next manifest right now.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

CONSUMERS PAY DEARLY FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGET

THE MANDATORY 20 PER CENT TARGET SHOULD BE REVIEWED

Martin Ferguson's acknowledgment that mandated renewable energy quotas come at a price is both a statement of the obvious and a refreshing injection of common sense into a debate where straight talking is in short supply. In a speech last week, the Energy Minister confirmed that government's mandatory target to generate 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 was displacing investment in generation that would otherwise come from non-renewable technologies.

Mr Ferguson's remarks are part of a growing realisation that the renewable energy target, increased to 20 per cent by Labor from the 2 per cent set by the Howard government in 1997, will cost the community. Wind and sunlight may be free but the cost of harnessing their power is, for now, exorbitant. Treasury documents released under Freedom of Information laws on Friday predicted that the mandatory RET would add more than 4 per cent, or $40, to the average household energy budget every year until 2015 and more in subsequent years. Treasury argues that the scheme should be reviewed with the introduction of a carbon price, to which we say: amen.

The Gillard government must act on this advice if it wants to continue to brand its climate change strategy as market-based. Dismantling programs such as this one is often complex and costly, but the inherent flaw of the mandatory RET is that "picking winners" among current, high-cost technologies not only guarantees higher prices, it also holds back other potential solutions such as sequestration, hot rocks and geothermal energy. It skews investment towards the most mature, and thus cheapest, option, which is wind. RET-imposed market distortion has left electricity providers and consumers no choice but to pay high transmission costs for wind power often generated in remote areas or to underwrite expensive, state-run schemes that pay households to produce power from rooftop solar panels. Both cost consumers far more than coal-fired power, even with a price on carbon in the band likely to be adopted.

The inherent unsustainability of this so-called sustainable energy policy should give both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott cause for concern. For the government, abandoning the mandatory RET or imposing a sunset clause would create political problems. The Greens heavily favour greater use of renewables but are rarely troubled by economic details. The longer the scheme continues, the more is likely to be invested in technology to produce power that would be uneconomical without heavy subsidies passed on to consumers by electricity companies. Even with a ready market, the owners of Australia's biggest baseload renewable energy project, the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative, have been forced to call in receivers because of lower than expected green energy prices.

The opposition has a good case to argue against the market-distorting impact of the RET, even though it was pioneered, on a smaller scale, by the Howard government. In rejecting an emissions trading scheme, the Opposition Leader needs to avoid the same pitfalls as the RET scheme in its "direct action" policy. That promises to accelerate the rollout of renewable energy in homes, schools and communities with $100 million to be spent each year "for an additional one million solar energy homes by 2020". As the Grattan Institute argued last week, carbon markets are not perfect but they encourage least-cost solutions, promote innovation and respond to changing circumstances.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

NAUGHTY CORNER IS OFF LIMITS

CHILDREN NEED DISCIPLINE THAT IS GENTLE, FIRM AND FAIR

Perhaps we missed the news that Australian toddlers had sprouted wings and turned into cherubs. The National Childcare Accreditation Council has declared "the naughty corner" off limits to protect children from "inappropriate treatment". There will be hefty penalties for supervisors who allow a child to be "separated from other children for any reason other than illness or an accident".

"Time out" is a time-honoured strategy to reform pint-sized troublemakers by giving them space to ponder their misdeeds. The Early Childhood Australia lobby insists that "common sense" will apply, which is fine -- until a parent complains about their little angel's punishment.

Few parents could survive a day with young children without the time-out sanction, especially now that a tap on the tail is frowned upon. Yet the "tough love" advocated by Chinese-American author Amy Chua in her bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother suggests another approach that advocates claim gives children a head start in life. Each patient and carer should make their own choice, and for those who wish, the naughty corner should not be ruled off limits.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

TRAGIC SETBACKS FOR A JUST CAUSE

BURNING THE KORAN HAS JEOPARDISED PROGRESS IN AFGHANISTAN

Amid the preoccupation with upheavals in the Arab world, the barbaric slaughter of UN workers by a rampaging mob inflamed by the burning of the Koran in a fringe church in faraway Florida is a tragic reminder that the challenges of Afghanistan remain largely undiminished, with little sign of real progress in the conflict.

Twenty people were killed, some of them brutally beheaded, in the massacre in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, long a stronghold of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The ancient city, Afghanistan's fourth largest, has until now been a rare haven of relative peace. Its name, translated, means Noble Shrine. It was supposed to be one of the first cities to be handed over to the control of NATO-led forces as part of the troop pullout process. Only last week, President Hamid Karzai was there extolling its virtues as a redoubt of support for his government. That it has now become the setting for the worst single attack on UN workers in Afghanistan, at a time when public support for the Afghan commitment is at an all-time low in the US and elsewhere, will raise questions about the wisdom of imminent troop withdrawals by the coalition and the handover to Afghan forces.

It would be easy to see the rampage, by a mob more than 3000 strong, as simply an outrageous attack on UN officials working selflessly in Afghanistan not for their own benefit, but for the welfare and progress of the Afghan people. It was certainly that, but much more was involved, too. It shows that, even in a city like Mazar-i-Sharif, it is frighteningly easy for foreign aid workers to fall prey to the murderous malevolence of Islamic extremism stirred up by imbecilic actions of a former used-furniture salesman in Gainesville, Florida, who runs a potty, fringe church and calls himself a man of God. The evil provoked by events in Pastor Terry Jones's Dove World Outreach Centre, of course, goes further than just the blood of innocents spilled in Mazar-i-Sharif. In another demonstration against the burning of the Koran, in the Afghan city of Kandahar, a further 10 people were killed and 78 wounded. He should feel ashamed, but he doesn't. Now, in another cynical publicity stunt aimed at attracting attention to his church even as its tiny and insignificant congregation sheds members, he's talking about putting the Prophet Mohammed on trial. He and his church are a disgrace. No one denies him or his church the right to free speech. But to so wilfully seek to insult and outrage in such a provactive way is beyond the pale.

Nothing, however, excuses the murderous attacks on UN workers, for which the extremists alone are responsible. Such barbarism is a painful reminder of why it is important not to lose sight of the allies' just cause in Afghanistan and not to give up on the challenge. The fight there -- the battle in which the innocent UN workers and others fell victim -- is against extremism, be it from Islamic militants or those elsewhere.

The best advice to Pastor Jones is to shut up before more innocent lives are lost. And the best advice to the UN Assistance Mission and others working and fighting so valiantly in building a new Afghanistan is not to abandon the challenge. Despite tragic setbacks like those at the weekend, the cause of defeating extremism and terror deserves the ongoing support of the civilised world. It must be kept on track. There must be no wavering.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

RED SIGNAL FOR NBN GRAVY TRAIN

THE government corporation building the national broadband network is right to baulk at apparent price-gouging by companies bidding to install parts of the system. Certainly there are shortages of labour with the necessary skills. On top of the resources boom, the floods in Queensland, NSW and Victoria have required thousands of homes and businesses to be rewired, an urgent task that naturally gets priority.

NBN Co will no doubt be hoping that once this remedial work abates there will be more electricians and telecom technicians available. But it is not clear that soaring labour costs alone are the real reason why 14 construction firms are setting such a high price for work on the network.

The tender does involve the most intricate part - connecting optical-fibre cables from data mainlines to individual homes and offices - and requires fielding multiple skilled teams. But we suspect the size of this component - a third of the total estimated $36 billion network cost - looms as a massive federal gravy train from which, it is hoped, a few excessive bites will go unnoticed. Or if they are noticed, that the Labor government is so anxious to get this centrepiece of its agenda completed on schedule that some gold-plating will be overlooked.

Rather suspiciously, the main trade union involved is backing the tenderers. Maybe all are on the gravy train. Figures found by the Herald show it would add up to a $3.7 billion blowout in the network cost. NBN Co should carefully dig into the figures presented in the tender to find out exactly what is the case. A few months' delay is not a great problem.

But if a genuine shortage of skills is creating a wage spiral, NBN Co should go to the government. Not for a bigger budget, but for some selective opening of the immigration taps. They could also throw open the tender to foreign companies, if it is not already. There should be a lot of experience and expertise with high-speed broadband in South Korea and China, and other countries that have already gone far ahead of Australia.

Of course, the remedy in the medium to longer term is more encouragement and availability of trades training for young Australians, retrofitting older workers with updated and improved skills, and modernising and streamlining apprenticeships. To be fair, this is a priority of the Labor federal government, and a good start has been made. But if a serious skills shortage looks like persisting more than two or three years, Canberra should further ease the 457 visa tap for specialist workers.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY'S SLOW MARCH

IT IS more than two decades since the American intellectual Francis Fukuyama so prematurely declared ''the end of history''. The Cold War had been won. Western liberal democracy had prevailed ''as the final form of human government''. Apparently all that was left to do was to sit back and watch as democracy washed its way around the globe, seeping into every dark corner with its guiding light.

The early, heady weeks of this year's ''jasmine revolution'' in the Middle East prompted similarly optimistic forecasts of sweeping change. The relative ease with which civilian protesters toppled entrenched dictators in Tunisia and Egypt has since emboldened opposition movements from Syria to China. So, too, the West's decision to lend air support to the embattled rebels in Libya and save them from the murderous wrath of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's men.

But it has never been that simple. The scent of jasmine is mixed with tear gas, petrol smoke and explosives. Libya's opposition forces, despite the NATO air strikes, are only hanging on. And in Syria, Bahrain and China harsh crackdowns and arrests have followed - not capitulation or political reform.

What now, given that Western war planes are in control of Libyan air space? Certainly Western governments have long championed democracy beyond their borders. However, it would be a mistake to see the West's role in Libya as yet another ideological sortie, and to - therefore - expect similar support for opposition movements elsewhere.

The NATO intervention in Libya was morally and legally justified because of our collective responsibility to protect. NATO strikes held off an imminent military assault by Gaddafi that would probably have led to the mass slaughter of his own people. In Bosnia and Rwanda in the mid-1990s the world failed to use military force to prevent genocide; few world leaders are willing to make the same appalling mistake again. But that is not the same as intervening to hasten democratic change, no matter what the protesters on the ground are calling for.

Since World War II, Western nations have tried various ways of promoting democracy around the world, the least effective of which has been military force. Iraq and Afghanistan are the latest testaments to the human and economic costs of seeking to impose democracy through the barrel of a foreign gun. That is why the West's brief today begins and ends with the protection of the many Libyans in Gaddafi's sights.

Genuine and sustainable political reform can only be built from the ground up. An opposition victory must belong to the Libyan people, not to Western bombs and guns.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE ARAB WORLD'S TASTE FOR FREEDOM IS CERTAIN TO GROW

THE WEST CAN'T ALWAYS INTERVENE, BUT IT MUST ENCOURAGE.

WHAT spark actually set alight the dry tinder of Arab politics over recent months will never truly be known. Political repression has been a long and lamentable feature of countries in the Middle East and North Africa; its people are young and if not unemployed, then underemployed in jobs without purpose, living in societies that should be rich off the wealth of natural resources but are instead stagnating under corrupt regimes.

But life in Arab nations has been thus for many years - and up to a few months ago, this was the common and seemingly permanent lot for people in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and almost all the countries of the region. Suddenly everything has changed.

The revolution sweeping the Arab world is momentous. Brave people have taken to the streets day after day to demand change even under threats of brutal reprisal. Their inspiration may stem from 26-year-old vegetable seller Mohammed Bouazizi, who set himself alight in December to protest at the stranglehold Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali held in Tunisia for two decades. Or perhaps the momentum comes from the success - and the surprise - of protesters toppling the 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Some on the streets clearly have nationalist aspirations. Some are driven by a loathing of authoritarian controls, while others coalesce around their religious faith, a hope that Islam will guide the society. But what appears common to all, whether in Syria or Bahrain, Jordan or Yemen, is a sense of idealism - an optimism that the future can only be better than the past.

Many obstacles remain. One is in the person of Muammar Gaddafi, whose stubborn and callous rule has left Libya in a poor and isolated state. Gaddafi's brutal repression of protests in Libya fomented a rebellion that the United Nations is now seeking to protect by enforcing a no-fly zone across the country. The rebels are militarily fragile and there is talk of supplying arms to aid their struggle. While the foreign forces intervening in the conflict must beware the risk of fuelling the civil war, the imperative remains to protect civilians from violence. From there, it is obvious the people of Libya want to put the Gaddafi years behind them.

Yet there is a limit to how much the rest of the world can help. The invasion of Iraq illustrated just how fraught it is to seek to impose political revolution, despite gratuitous attempts by supporters of that war to credit the former Bush administration with the Arab revolutions of today.

There are boundaries on even the minimal use of force by the international community. Take Syria, where the regime of Bashar al-Assad is a further hurdle to the march of protesters. Assad has been predictably thuggish in response to demands for greater political freedom, and especially harsh in and around the town of Deraa in the country's south. Despite the crackdown, neither the US nor France are warming the engines of their jet fighters to patrol the skies over Damascus. Should the protests in Syria escalate - and the reprisals intensify - the West will have to confront the awkward dilemma of explaining why Libyan lives are more valuable than those of Syrians. Likewise to the people in Yemen, Bahrain, or others.

But it need not come to this. The clear wish of people for greater political freedom should and must be respected. The examples set in Tunisia and Egypt will resonate across all the countries of the region, regardless of how long the present rulers seek to cling to power. Already the monarchy in Jordan has been forced to make changes in an attempt to placate the masses. It will take time to see whether such a transformation brings about a credible democracy, but it is apparent people will not settle for business as usual.

One reason is knowledge. Controls on news remain real but the chance to circumvent them is growing. The widespread use of social media has been a well-documented feature of these protests. Less recognised but perhaps far more influential is the role of satellite television services such as al-Jazeera. Seen in the homes of millions, credible reporting on the protests and the excesses of the regimes has impelled the response across the Arab world.

In a sign of paranoia, Syria's rulers have taken to accusing the Qatar-based broadcaster of deliberately ''dimming'' the rule of President Assad ''in an attempt to ignite sedition''. Such is the tired tactic of an authoritarian: to blame the messenger and ignore the message.

The outcome of this Arab revolution remains uncertain. But the promise it holds can only nourish faith that eventually, everywhere, people will stand against oppression and prevail.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

NORTHERN IRELAND: NOT THE END OF HISTORY YET

THE MURDER OF RONAN KERR IS NOT A RANDOM EVENT. IT IS UNQUESTIONABLY PART OF A CONTINUING PATTERN

The booby-trap bomb killing of a young police officer in Northern Ireland at the weekend feels like a horror risen from the grave, a brutality erupting out of a dark and almost forgotten past. For people of the murdered 25-year-old Constable Ronan Kerr's own generation, who have grown up in the years during which Northern Ireland has been at peace, his killing will have been specially incomprehensible. Surely such violence – and in Omagh of all places – was now a thing of the past? Was it not just last week that first minister Peter Robinson was claiming that the 5 May Northern Ireland assembly elections will be the first in which the main issues will be everyday ones?

The answer to these questions remains yes. And yet the murder is not a random event. It is unquestionably part of a continuing pattern. The killing of Constable Kerr comes days after a large bomb was defused outside the courthouse in Derry and two men were shot in Dublin during what is said to have been a dispute among dissident republicans. The gun and the bomb – and the clandestine infrastructure and networks that go with them – have not disappeared. And a threat remains on the mainland too. It is less than six months since the home secretary said an attack in Britain by Irish terrorists is now a "strong possibility".

The killing of a Catholic police officer was a political act as well as a criminal one. It was clearly designed to frighten Constable Kerr's co-religionists out of a police career. But the days when Northern Ireland's police could plausibly be depicted as sectarian enforcers against oppressed Catholics are long past. Policing has been reformed. The 50:50 recruitment drive has meant that 30% of officers are Catholics now. This line must be defended. It was good, therefore, to see all sides rising instinctively to that responsibility this weekend. The murderers must be caught. But their attempt to wreck police reform must be defeated too.

As always, however, there is a deeper story. Northern Ireland remains culturally divided in spite of the heroic transformations of the recent past. On the margins – quite big margins, judging by a 2010 survey that gave them an estimated 14% support – some republicans remain wedded to ancestral agendas and to the rewards of outlaw ways of life. Some of the old republican dogs refuse to learn new peaceful tricks. Meanwhile a new generation has grown up which embraces the criminal glamour of the past – especially in grim economic times both sides of the border – that their elders have forsworn. They may not be many. But there are enough of them, and enough fellow travellers, to matter. Their threat will remain real for far longer than most of us would like to admit.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

VOTING SYSTEM: TIME FOR A FAIRER ALTERNATIVE

For most of the 19th century, and for several decades in the middle of the 20th, British politics was a two-horse race. Those times are over.

In those far off Gilbertian days when nature contrived that every voter was either a little Liberal or a little Conservative, or in the more recent but now also increasingly distant postwar days when every voter was either Labour or Conservative, the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of election caused few serious injustices. With only two main parties to choose from, and with most loyalties seemingly immutable, a swing in the national mood was easily – and reasonably fairly – replicated on the opposing benches of the House of Commons. For most of the 19th century, and for several decades in the middle of the 20th, British politics was a two-horse race. If the Tories were up, Labour was down. If Labour soared, the Tories sank.

Those times are over. Those circumstances no longer exist. The old Britain has fragmented and its politics have fragmented with it. Voting is more shaped by things like education, gender, age, ethnicity and cultural identity, and less by class and locality alone. People move about more than in the past, not just within the country but between countries. Perhaps politics also matters less and is reflected in shallower loyalties. Whatever the reasons, however, politics is no longer the old two-horse race. Ever since at least the 1974 general elections, there have always been three large parties in British elections. In Scotland and Wales there have been four, and in Northern Ireland often five. In the last two decades, further parties have loomed at the margins. Yet FPTP remains unreformed, although discarded in devolved, mayoral, European and some local government electoral contests.

Two facts sum up what has now come to pass under the existing electoral system. The first is that the party affiliation of MPs no longer reflects the party choices of the electorate taken as a whole. The second is that fewer and fewer MPs win their seats with majority support in their own constituencies. Back in 1955, Labour and the Tories had a formidable 96% of the votes and 99% of the MPs. At the same time 94% of MPs were elected by majorities of those who voted. But in 2010, Labour and the Tories together got only 65% of the votes, yet still had 87% of the MPs. Meanwhile only 32% of the current House of Commons were elected by 50% or more of those who voted, a record low.

As a result, more voters than ever are now disfranchised by FPTP. Whether this widening gap between electors and elected alone explains the decline in the reputation of modern politics is doubtful. But it correlates with it in ways which should make all democrats extremely uneasy. The abuse of expenses proliferated in a parliament which was growing increasingly unrepresentative of the voters, as well as in one which was increasingly unresponsive to them. That is why changing the electoral system and changing the expenses system are connected progressive reforms. They are both part of an urgent and uncompleted need for a more transparent and accountable politics which voters can better trust to represent them fairly.

The alternative vote (AV) system – in which voters place candidates in order of preference and in which the winner must obtain a majority of the votes cast – is certainly not the fairest electoral system devised. But it is fairer than the one we have got, and it is rooted in the constituency link. By requiring winners to secure a constituency majority it compels all candidates to engage with all voters. It also thus binds MPs more closely to their constituents. It largely does away with any need for tactical voting. It thus also diminishes the attraction to candidates of negative campaigning. As a result this makes it difficult for extremist parties to prosper. The defenders of the existing system defend a system that is unfair and that has failed. If you want politics to be more representative, more trustworthy and to work better, then support AV in the 5 May referendum.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… SWALEDALE

Rough weather, difficult stock and skeletal profits are part of farming life in the beautiful hillsArticle history

It is good that Adrian Edmondson's engaging stomp round the Yorkshire Dales on ITV makes plain that a chocolate-box landscape is not always an easy place to live. Rough weather, difficult stock and skeletal profits are part of farming life in the beautiful hills. All manner of logistical problems beset other ways of earning a living and can even deter the affluent retired, whose energy and civic-mindedness often help revive flagging communities. A case in point has been the prospect of the Yorkshire Dales national park authority moving out of Hudson House in Reeth, the little capital of upper Swaledale where "real" life still continues among the holiday homes. An end to the authority's contract threatened the future of the whole building, an inspired conversion of Reeth's former Barclays bank which opened in 2003 and houses a whole range of crucial services – police, local council representatives, a Citizens Advice bureau. Now the dale can breathe easily again. The authority has decided to find money from elsewhere to keep its base and information centre open, albeit reducing spending by £8,000. Not an easy call, for the park must make cuts of £1,900,000, or 31% of its budget, in the next four years. But, as with so many similar dilemmas, the rethink will prompt a tackling of the shortfall of customers at Reeth, which has performed less well than elsewhere. A good start will be the Swaledale Festival – also run from Hudson House – which fills the valley from 28 May to 11 June.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW APPROACH TO REPRESENTATION?

The Supreme Court's 15-member Grand Bench ruled March 23 that the vote-value disparity in the August 2009 Lower House election, which reached a maximum 2.30-to-1, was "in a state of unconstitutionality."

Although the Grand Bench did not explicitly say the disparity was "unconstitutional," it is the first such ruling by the Grand Bench since a combination of the single-seat constituency and proportional representation systems was introduced for Lower House elections in 1994. The ruling means that the Diet must quickly rectify the situation.

The Supreme Court ruling dealt with nine lawsuits filed by two groups of lawyers, who claimed that the disparity violates the constitutionally guaranteed equality before the law. In the 2009 Lower House election, in which the Democratic Party of Japan trounced the Liberal Democratic Party to become a governing party, the maximum vote-value disparity reached 2.30-to-1 between the Kochi No. 3 constituency (with the least number of voters) and the Chiba No. 4 constituency (with the largest number of voters). This means that a voter in the Chiba constituency had only about 0.4 of the vote value enjoyed by a Kochi constituent.

What is conspicuous about the latest ruling is that the Supreme Court said the Diet should quickly abolish the current seat apportionment system under which, out of the 300 Lower House seats for single-seat constituencies, one seat each is first given to the 47 prefectures and the remaining 253 seats are distributed in proportion to the population distribution. The ruling will also affect the Upper House elections because the Upper House uses a similar system.

The current system is designed to prevent underrepresentation of smaller populations in rural areas. The ruling said that the system has already lost rationality and is the main factor responsible for inequality in vote value.

It has been said that as long as single-seat constituencies are based on the boundaries of municipalities, it will be difficult to attain perfect electoral equality. To avoid both underrepresentation and over-representation, the Diet must take a radically new approach.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. KAN'S CRISIS LEADERSHIP

According to a March 26 and 27 Kyodo News poll, the approval rating of the Kan administration rose 8.4 percentage points from mid-February to 28.3 percent, and 57.9 percent of the polled approved of the way his Cabinet deals with the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

But Prime Minister Naoto Kan cannot be content with his performance. The poll shows that 63.7 percent think he is not exercising sufficient leadership and that 58.2 percent do not approve of the way the government handles the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Some of his behavior after March 11 has cast doubt on his reliability as a leader. For example, on the morning of March 12, he flew to the power plant aboard a helicopter. Mr. Haruki Madarame, head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, who accompanied him, said Mr. Kan went there because "he wanted to learn a bit about nuclear power."

One wonders whether it occurred to Mr. Kan that by being away from the prime minister's headquarters for several hours, he might have delayed timely, important decisions related to the relief of disaster victims and the resolution of the nuclear crisis.

A big problem with Mr. Kan in this crisis is that people cannot clearly see what kinds of instructions he is issuing to help disaster victims, and to lessen or end the nuclear crisis, or what kinds of problems he has detected with the government operations and what kinds of rectification measures he has taken. He should speak more often before the media, explain what he is doing and answer questions.

He should make sure that disaster-hit people get necessary support without fail and that infrastructure, lifelines and temporary housing are in order in devastated areas. He also should present a vision for reconstruction of northeastern Japan. He needs to have bureaucrats provide necessary information and advice, and issue clear instructions to them. He must behave carefully so that he can gain the trust of people, bureaucrats and opposition party members, which is the most important thing during a national crisis

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

RUSSIAN ALIENATION AND THE COST OF FREEDOM

BY MARIA LIPMAN

MOSCOW — The Russian government, with its solid hold on power, has invariably gotten away with poor performance, inefficiency, corruption and widespread violation of political rights and civil liberties.

Polls consistently demonstrate that the Russian people are not deluded: They routinely respond in surveys that government officials are corrupt and self-serving. More than 80 percent of Russians, according to a poll conducted last summer, believe that "many civil servants practically defy the law."

Yet, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who remains Russia's most powerful person despite his not holding the presidency, has enjoyed high and steady approval ratings for years. A mild drop in early 2011 probably reflected a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty about the future.

Even so, roughly 70 percent of respondents in a February poll said that they approved of Putin's performance. President Dmitry Medvedev's approval ratings are only slightly lower.

Russian leaders' high ratings do not, however, indicate a rational preference for the incumbents over potential contenders. With political competition in Russia eviscerated, comparison and choice are not part of the political left.

Rather, these poll numbers are a "vote" for the status quo. They convey a shared sense that political change is not desired, notwithstanding terrorist attacks, technological catastrophes, lawless police or rigged elections.

During the years of Putin's leadership, the Kremlin has steadily pushed citizens farther and farther from decision-making by virtually dismantling representative institutions. Gubernatorial elections were abolished six years ago, and even elected city mayors have been progressively replaced by appointed officials. Polls routinely indicate that more than 80 percent of Russians believe that they can make no difference in national or even regional affairs.

This system of political alienation is accepted by an overwhelming majority of Russians. The "masses" and the "best and the brightest" alike show no interest in political participation. Political opposition groups do not attract public support, which makes it easy for the government to suppress them.

Indeed, in the absence of political participation, the government enjoys easy dominance over society. The perennial Russian order — the dominant state and a powerless, fragmented society — remains largely in place.

Twice in the 20th century, the omnipotent Russian state was dramatically weakened: At the beginning, when the Russian Empire collapsed, and at the end, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Both times, however, the traditional pattern of state dominance was quickly re-established.

Although state-society relations in Russia hue to a traditional pattern, different leaderships have shaped them in different ways. Stalin's regime could be compared to a cruel, sadistic father who keeps his children in a state of fear and submission. Brezhnev's model resembled a bad marriage, exhausted of love or respect, in which the spouses constantly cheat, take advantage of each other, and grab each other's property, though the powerful husband occasionally reminds his wife that he is boss and demands at least a formal pledge of loyalty — or else.

Compared to these two models, Putin's model of state-society relations looks like a divorce, or at least a separation: Each side minds its own business and doesn't interfere with the other's sphere. It is a model best described as a no- participation pact.

The Kremlin may have monopolized decision-making, but it is largely nonintrusive and enables citizens to live their own lives and pursue their own interests — as long as they do not encroach on the government realm.

Unlike in the Soviet Union, which massively infringed on citizens' private space, today's Russians enjoy virtually unlimited individual freedoms. The nonintrusive nature of the government is appreciated: People eagerly engage in their private affairs — with little regard for the political realm, which they have willingly abandoned.

Nevertheless, the last 20 years of broad individual freedom and limited civil liberties have generated shifts in Russian society — if not across the board, then certainly among certain groups.

In particular, Russians have acquired some organizational and community-building skills. The use of online social networks, for example, has grown faster than in any other country in Europe, and has helped create some semblance of a public sphere, with the Russian blogosphere often a venue for angry public expression about social injustice, undeserved privileges, lawlessness and police impunity.

Socioeconomic protests have also become a feature of Russian life, especially during the economic crisis. Unlike political groups, which attract very limited public support, socioeconomic demands have repeatedly brought together thousands of people in various parts of the country.

In big cities, moreover, a new urban class is emerging — advanced and modernized Russians with good professional skills who feel at ease in the globalized world. It is mostly due to this group that private charity has developed in recent years.

Despite opportunities for self-expression, community building and activism remain marginal and do not alter or weaken the state's dominance over society. Despite the recent rise in negative public sentiment, protest activity remains fragmented and invariably local in scope and demands.

For now, at least, provincial Russians and the new urban class alike have accepted Putin's no-participation pact. In fact, should events turn out badly, critically minded and well-informed urban achievers would be most likely to embrace the ultimate form of nonparticipation: emigration.

In the current political climate, the more enlightened Russians would rather use their skills and talents for self-fulfillment abroad than be the driving force of Russia's modernization.

Masha Lipman is the editor of Pro et Contra, a policy journal published by the Carnegie Moscow Center. © 2011 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

PAINT THAILAND YELLOW AND RED, WITH A CAVEAT TO COMPROMISE

By THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK

BANGKOK — After three consecutive years of deadly street protests, Thailand has arrived at the point where it will need to hold new elections, as the current term of its national assembly expires next December.

Indeed, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has indicated that he will call for the dissolution of the lower house by the first week of May. This follows a parliamentary no-confidence motion, which his government barely survived. Accordingly, the stage is set for a general election at midyear.

In view of the political volatility of recent years, this semblance of stability and constitutional regularity is deceptive. Echoing popular movements elsewhere, Thailand remains locked in conflict and polarization between an entrenched regime propping up Abhisit and burgeoning new voices clamoring for enfranchisement. Any peaceful outcome to this conflict will require farsighted concessions and compromises.

Thailand's street politics during this political crisis date back to 2005, when the corrupt and abusive government of Thaksin Shinawatra, which had been re-elected in a landslide that year, was toppled by a military coup.

Two years later, after the military regime rammed through a new constitution, Thaksin's proxy political party won another election, as his popular base of "red shirts" in Thailand's downtrodden northeast and northern regions remained loyal to him.

Thaksin's yellow-clad royalist foes, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), took to the streets against him again in 2008, as the judiciary ordered the dissolution of his party for the second time. In April 2009, and again in April-May 2010, the disenfranchised red shirts camped in the streets of Bangkok to demand new elections, but were dispersed by the army, with 91 fatalities.

Despite their setbacks and lost credibility following the torching of Bangkok's central business district, the red shirts have grown in number and demonstrate monthly against Abhisit's government. After two years, PAD yellow shirts have also returned to the streets to show their disillusionment with Abhisit.

PAD ringleaders now denounce all politicians as corrupt and extol the virtue of the monarchy. Using the weapons of an anti-corruption drive and rising nationalism (the result of a periodically violent border dispute with Cambodia), the royalist-conservative movement is implicitly pointing to an extra-constitutional solution to Thailand's political standoff. Another military coup is their unspoken answer.

While these machinations are par for the course for Thailand's topsy-turvy democracy, they point to a deeper structural schism. Thailand's six-decade-old incumbent regime, which relies on symbiosis between the monarchy and the military, is unable to tolerate elections that empower the rural masses unwittingly awakened by Thaksin's premiership.

These masses, along with the urban poor, make up the bulk of the red shirts. They demand a voice in politics, a stake in the country's grossly unequal economy, and the chance for upward mobility that they saw in Thaksin and his populist programs. They know that elected politicians are prone to graft, but now refuse blatant disenfranchisement and the formation of governments like Abhisit's, which was brokered in an army barracks.

For Thailand's military-political axis and its supporting pillars in the judiciary and bureaucracy, suppressing these voices has become increasingly unworkable. Moreover, Thailand already attracts unwanted attention for its Draconian security laws.

Bangkok, for example, has been under either a state of emergency or provisions of the internal security act for more than a year, in violation of basic civil liberties. There are now unprecedented scores of political prisoners. Around the country, many red shirts are persecuted, and several have been murdered under mysterious circumstances. More than 100,000 Web pages have been blocked for "subversive" content. More charges of lese majeste have been filed, and with more convictions than ever.

But the establishment's efforts to put a lid on the seething Thai kettle appear untenable. Cold War exigencies, which benefited and cemented the military-monarchical alliance in the 1960s and 1970s, have been replaced by the imperatives of democracy. The electorate is no longer passive in the face of rampant corruption and vote-buying.

But solutions for the country's ills must be found within the boundaries of law and constitutionalism. Another military putsch would nudge Thailand backward, from a democratic outlier on the world stage to an authoritarian outcast.

A way forward beckons. The remarkable 64-year reign of 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej deserves credit for Thailand's unity and stability, which kept communism at bay and enabled steady economic development, warts and all. But times have changed. Entrenched regimes everywhere can endure only if they recognize and accommodate popular aspirations.

Of course, Thaksin's legacy of corruption and of a pandering populism must be rejected, but the profound awakening of the Thai electorate that did occur, almost accidentally, during his premiership needs to be built upon, not suppressed.

Thailand needs elections that are not subverted by judicial decisions. The coup-era constitution will then require a revamp. And the lese majeste code, which literally allows anyone to file charges against anyone else, must be reformed. Perhaps the Royal Household itself should be tasked with filing such charges.

The list goes on. The opacity of the Crown Property Bureau, worth an estimated $30 billion, eventually will have to be addressed. And the question of royal succession also needs clarification as Thailand's constitutional monarchy navigates the uncertain path ahead.

These are delicate issues, given Thailand's raw and rabid polarization between those with vested interests in the old order and those intent on putting an end to what they claim are neofeudalistic privileges and entitlements.

Unless good-faith efforts at compromise are shown by all sides, Thailand will not retake its rightful place among the world's up-and-coming democracies.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak is professor and director of Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Security and International Studies in Bangkok. He is also a visiting professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. © 2011 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

OTHER NATIONS CAN LEARN FROM FUKUSHIMA INCIDENT

BY MARK HIBBS

BERLIN (Kyodo) In the first severe accident at a Western-designed nuclear power plant since Three Mile Island, Japan is confronted by the specter of three reactors simultaneously running amok and melting down.

A partial meltdown at Three Mile Island happened three decades ago on the other side of the globe and Japan's memory of it was faint.

The nuclear industry provided assurance that steps had been taken to virtually exclude such an event happening again. The Chernobyl disaster didn't really dent that confidence because it was its unique design that triggered the explosion, and, unlike Japanese reactors, Chernobyl had no containment to hold back deadly radiation.

Beginning half a century ago, technocrats running Japan's knowledge- based economy were drawn to nuclear energy's seductive promise and quickly mastered its techniques. But Japanese culture is in some respects profoundly risk-averse, and nuclear power unsettled many people because the price tag included an unquantifiable portion of uncovered residual risk.

The incident at Fukushima has reminded Japan that a serious accident in an advanced country can happen at any time. Newly aware of this, the Japanese nation will surely reassess its commitment to nuclear power.

But this reassessment will not put an end to Japan's nuclear program. For many years Japan will continue to produce much of its base load electricity with reactors as it has no real choice.

Nonetheless, Japan will draw important, expensive and likely painful lessons from this accident in the coming months. The precarious balance of power in nuclear decision-making among central government bureaucrats, utility companies and local politicians will not make it easy for Japan to translate what it learns into actions.

Any future decisions to extend the lifetimes of Japan's nuclear power plants after 40 years of licensed operation should take into account the forthcoming technical evaluation of the Fukushima accident.

Japan should candidly review the willingness of Japanese authorities, not long before this accident, to permit the oldest reactor at Fukushima to operate for an additional 10 years after its 40-year license expired this year.

Fundamental questions must be asked about the role of geoscience in finding locations for nuclear power plants. A 2007 earthquake and this month's tsunami exceeded the design basis calculated for reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa and Fukushima, respectively.

A magnitude-9.0 quake was not expected in the vicinity of Fukushima. More attention had been focused instead on the Hamaoka nuclear power plant site, located south of Tokyo, as the likely target of a massive earthquake.

Japan should reassess how dependent upon nuclear power it should be in the longer term. The earthquake in 2007 and last month's tsunami disenabled all but two of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s 17 reactors at two sites, provoking a lengthy electricity supply crisis. That might prompt Japan to take measures to improve the effectiveness of the country's power grid.

The Fukushima accident is not a blanket verdict against nuclear power. The reactors at Fukushima were apparently well-maintained and safely operated.

Unlike at Three Mile Island, Fukushima was not caused by poor safety judgment of operating personnel but by a crippling external event. For that reason, Japan — and other nuclear energy countries — should take additional steps as appropriate to protect nuclear installations against external events, including station blackouts, attacks by terrorists and plane crashes.

Finally, in its own self-interest, Japan should impart to its neighbors, and especially those countries located along the Pacific "Ring of Fire" which now operate or want to deploy reactors, what it learns from the accident.

Japan should support and encourage other states to back new international guidelines that would discourage nuclear power plants from being located on coastlines in areas where tsunamis can be anticipated. Fukushima shocked people because it happened in a country with one of most advanced nuclear power programs in the world.

Without Japan's deep infrastructure, logistical capabilities, emergency preparedness, management resources and dedicated personnel on site — combined with a central government which commanded authority — it could not have prevented a triple meltdown.

Japan and other nations need to communicate this sobering fact to all nuclear newcomer states, and ensure that they comprehend that they must incorporate this standard into their nuclear aspirations.

Mark Hibbs is a senior associate in Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Program, based in Berlin. Before joining Carnegie, he was an editor and correspondent for nuclear energy publications for over 20 years.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

INDIE CANDIDATE, WHY NOT?

With a limited stock of leaders, the 2014 presidential election will likely feature the same candidates who vied in 2004 and 2009, except for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as a bid for a third mandate is barred by the Constitution.

Grave concern about the lack of candidates possessing strong integrity and capacity to lead has apparently driven the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) to propose constitutional amendments that, if approved, will allow independent candidates to run for the country's top executive post.

The DPD has strong grounds for the radical change, as Article 27 of the Constitution stipulates that any citizen has an equal right to contest an election as a presidential or vice presidential candidate. Previous discourse over independent candidates has never borne fruit — let alone developed — as the same Constitution clearly limits the race to candidates who contest under banners of political parties.

Political reform since 1998 has opened more room for institutional democratic experimentation in the country, which in 2004 resulted in a landmark direct presidential election. The DPD motion for constitutional amendments, therefore, is just part of the effort to enrich and broaden the nation's view of what is best for this developing nation to nurture its hard-won democracy.

It will be the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) that will decide whether the amendments will materialize, but it is advisable that a public debate be opened to tap as many aspirations as possible concerning the issue of independent presidential candidates ahead of the much-awaited MPR convention.

Independent candidates will give voters more choices of leaders in a time when political parties are losing the public faith. The political parties, particularly those that prevail in the legislative and executive branches of power, have widely been derided for pursuing their own interests, thus tainting the democracy that helped them assume power.

Political parties, or more precisely, their elites, have never stopped misusing the people's mandates, as in the recent case of plans to construct a new office for House of Representatives lawmakers, which would cost a whopping Rp 1.16 trillion (US$133.4 million).

The need for leaders with integrity is another challenge the political parties can hardly meet, as more and more politicians, both in the national and regional levels, are being found guilty of corruption or facing graft charges. Democracy has apparently given rise to corruption and will keep the nation from the justice and prosperity that we believe are the fruits of democracy.

Hopes abound that independent candidates will offer a panacea thanks to their lack of links to political parties. But it may be a dream to expect a president who has no roots in the House, which is a representation of the political parties, to govern effectively. Even an elected leader who won an outright majority such as President Yudhoyono cannot escape the House's bullying.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

R2P AND UN WORKERS

While the United Nations routinely invokes its responsibility to protect — often referred to as R2P — to justify international interventions to protect civilians on humanitarian grounds, like what is currently happening in Libya, whose job is it to protect UN staffers on the ground?

Seven UN workers in the Afghan town of Mazar-e Sharif died Friday at the hands of an angry mob, which had been incited by reports of the burning of a Koran in the United States two weeks earlier. Four Afghans were killed in the incident. On Saturday, another violent protest occurred over the same issue elsewhere in the country, leading to 10 more Afghan deaths.

Any senseless death is tragic, even in world trouble spots like Afghanistan. But the death of UN staffers is a double tragedy because it clearly jeopardizes the work of the international agency to help restore peace in that country.

We salute the UN for its decision to continue its good work in Afghanistan in spite of the tragedy, but we also appeal to the host country to do more to protect the safety of all UN workers so they can finish their jobs.

It is easy to blame the violence on the Florida pastor who burned a copy of the Koran on March 20. While that pastor may have been the source of the provocation, the Afghan government owes the world a thorough investigation into how the mob in Mazar-e Sharif could have amassed and gone on a killing spree.

As the town had been considered one of the most peaceful in Afghanistan, allegations of infiltration by the Taliban should be seriously looked into.

The rest of the Islamic world, including Indonesia, has been right in dismissing the March 20 Koran burning as an act of provocation. But it is puzzling that a violent reaction occurred in a town in Afghanistan targeting the UN. Someone or some organization in Afghanistan was certainly scheming, and found in the Florida Koran burning a perfect excuse to deploy a mob.

Nevertheless, the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, which organized the event, should not be spared from international condemnation for the bigotry that led to the unnecessary deaths of so many people, including UN staffers. The church should consider itself lucky that no Americans were among the dead on Friday. If there were, church members would likely have to face the wrath of their fellow Americans.

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THE JAKARTA POST

ENERGY REVOLUTION CAN POWER INDONESIA IF POLICY BARRIER LIFTED

SVEN TESKE

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has committed to a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 26 percent by 2020 with Indonesian financial resources and 41 percent with international support. Despite the country's growing economy, Indonesia has an electrification rate of only 65 percent — meaning that 35 percent or 92 million people have no access to electricity.

Greenpeace welcomes President Yudhoyono's commitment and would like to highlight that GHG reduction targets and an increase in electrification do not contradict each other; rather, they support each other. Indonesia's electrification target of 90 percent by 2020 can only be achieved by using renewable energy, due to its decentralized nature and the very short planning and construction time.

In 2005 Greenpeace published a blueprint, the Energy [R]evolution scenario, of what a sustainable energy supply for Indonesia could look like. In the meantime the renewable energy industry has expanded globally and costs for solar and wind turbines have dropped significantly, making it even easier and more economic to switch from fossil fuels to renewables. An energy revolution offers benefits for the economy, society, local communities and the environment.

Economic benefits, because renewable energies need no fuels and therefore make Indonesia's power supply independent from volatile fossil fuel world market prices. Solar photovoltaic electricity is already far cheaper than electricity from diesel generators. Decentralized solar-wind-small hydropower systems fit far better with Indonesia's archipelagic geography than centralized coal power plants.

Better for society, because renewable energy systems are more labor intensive than fossil fuel power plants, but need no fuel. Therefore, a renewable energy supply requires more investment in labor.

The renewable energy industry will create several hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing jobs through the manufacture of solar collectors, small hydropower systems and geothermal systems both for the domestic market, as well as for export.

 Good for communities because, with a good renewable policy framework from the Indonesian government, communities can organize their own energy supply in parallel with the national plans. With a good renewable energy policy framework bottom-up planning and top down financing is possible, which is the fastest strategy to electrify a huge archipelago like Indonesia.

A mix of different renewable technologies depending on the locally available resources can gradually develop into a connected nationwide energy system. Indonesia's renewable policy should support the expansion of minigrid-renewable energy systems — called "energy clusters" — by redirecting fossil fuel subsidies towards these new and modern power systems. Once set up, those systems do not need constant subsidies anymore, as they mostly run without fuel.

Indonesia has huge renewable energy potential: Solar, geothermal, small hydro and, in some regions, wind and agricultural residuals for bio-energy can be combined to form a truly sustainable energy supply which can meet the growing energy demand to achieve the nation's 7 percent annual economic growth target.

What policy framework is needed for an energy revolution for Indonesia?

A secure, reliable long-term energy policy is key and will make or break the development of the strong renewable energy industry that Indonesia needs to power its economic growth. Guaranteed access to the grid — where available — combined with a guaranteed buy back rate for renewable electricity which is fed into the grid, will allow investors and project developers to get a secure finance plan in place.

Greenpeace has developed a "Feed-in Tariff Support Mechanism" (FTSM) which combines the good experiences of feed-in tariffs from developing countries with external finance programs e.g. from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank or other international finance institutions.

For rural electrification there is an extra need for soft loans in order to guarantee the financing of infrastructure needed and to enable communities to develop their own energy supply. This can be achieved by redirecting the current subsides towards renewable energy community developments.

A renewable energy law — both for on- and off-grid renewables — can not only help to significantly reduce GHG emissions, but can also accelerate Indonesia's electrification rate. A centralized policy framework that supports decentralized energy clusters for communities will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and will reduce the need for energy subsidies in the mid-term. It is a win-win situation

In my home country Germany, the renewables industry already employs almost 400,000 people and has become one of  Germany's major growth industries. In 2010, over 7,000 Megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics and 1,800 MW wind power was added to the grid.

In reaction to the nuclear tragedy in Japan, the German government switched off seven out of 17 nuclear reactors for security checks. Two reactors were previously shut down, due to a major accident in 2007, while four reactors will be shut down in May this year for maintenance.

So, in May 2011, Germany will have only four nuclear power plants in operation, while 13 are shut down — and there will be no power shortage, as the new renewables will fill the gap.

The energy [r]evolution has already started in many countries — Indonesia, come and join in!

The writer is Greenpeace International's renewable energy director.

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THE JAKARTA POST

QUESTIONS ON WITNESSING VIOLENCE

INTAN PARAMADHITA

We are witnessing a new age of spectacular violence. When we read stories about people digging up and exposing the dead body of an Ahmadiyah follower in a graveyard, we are encountering the very definition of the spectacular: a "dramatic" or "elaborate display".

The reform era has brought with it increasing openness, including openness to techniques of violence that transcend our imagination of the grotesque — something primarily influenced by horror movies.

Violence is, of course, neither new nor exotic for us Indonesians. We have been trained to see it, and even live with it, from an early age.

For some of us, watching the film Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI was an initiation to adulthood. We suddenly learned that we had a history built upon eye-gouging women and decomposed, tortured bodies.

This was a form of violence legitimized and endorsed for public viewing to suit the interests of the Soeharto regime. Later we discovered that we should look for what was not supposed to be seen. We started the long project of unearthing the crimes of the New Order crimes to make hidden violence more visible. Like truth, most violence during those times was spectral. The ability to see was a luxury.

What is new since the reform era began in 1998 is that Internet technology has allowed us to pass the crisis of visibility. Before our eyes, now everything is laid bare.

Living overseas, I regard Twitter as an important medium to get fast updates about what is happening back home and to see how fellow Indonesians on day-to-day basis, grapple with their contemporary reality.

Yet the medium can be rather eerie. People can express their anger or grief over the killings of Ahmadis, changing their profile pictures into plain black image as a sign of mourning and in the next 30 minutes tweet about what to eat for dinner. Violence has been woven, almost seamlessly, into the banality of our everyday lives.

There is no such thing as an innocent way of seeing. Thus, "spectacular" violence confronts us with the question of positioning. Here I am using the term "us" as a generalization to refer to people who believe in the values of pluralism and embrace the idea that citizenship entails the fulfillment of basic rights, including the right not to be violated by others.

I doubt that we want to assume the place of passive onlookers, given the spirit of reform that inspires (or pressures) ordinary citizens to express a certain political awareness (albeit only on social media).

If, to borrow from Elie Wiesel's famous remark on the Holocaust, "for the dead and the living, we must bear witness," what risks are we willing to take as witnesses?

Violence today is so spectacular and at the same time so cheap precisely because it is widely accessible. What exactly is the danger of witnessing "now"? In what ways should we see without being immune to shock, without forgetting that the disruptive remains haunting?

While there is no clear-cut answer to these questions, they lead us to the more basic question of what we look at and overlook and how. If everything today is rendered visible, how can certain forms of violence have more visibility in our eyes than others?

When former transgender queen Shakira was shot dead on March 10, some articles linked her death to
a broader political issue: The slow response of the police in handling cases of violence against transgendered people.

I returned to Twitter and found that prominent public figures had said nothing about it. There were only tweets by young people expressing their relief, "Oh, apparently it's not Shakira the singer, but Shakira the waria."

Assaults on transgendered individuals by both the state apparatus and civil society are recurrent and triggered by entrenched homophobia.

As in the case of Ahmadiyah, terror against transgender people and the more broadly LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) groups has been conducted in the name of religion as evidenced in the Islam Defenders Front's attacks on a transgendered workshop in Depok and the international LGBT conference in Surabaya last year.

In both the Ahmadiyah and LGBT attacks, the police assumed a role as "mediator", which I (re)define as conflict management, in a post-1998 way: Not preventing acts of violence and instead persuading victims to be complicit to threats. What we have is the same story of terror coming from civil society and the failure of the state to protect its citizens.

Even in an age where everything is articulated and exposed, visibility remains an issue. The atrocity perpetrated on Ahmadiyah followers have united activists, artists, politicians and even those who had no prior interest in the issues of religion because it is the most blatant humiliation to humanity. Such a slap in the face has even forced our President to finally speak.

But those who related the death of Shakira to a series of unsolved cases of violence not taken seriously by authorities were quite predictable: LGBT activists.

If we tend to see that the problems of women or LGBT belong exclusively to the "gender and sexuality" section of the democracy landscape (and thus the responsibility of feminists and LGBT activists), we may be participating in the long tradition of pigeonholing and failed to identify our immediate stakeholders.

We need to question our relationship to the violence that we witness and the consequences of such a relationship. We also need to question how our eyes filter and categorize, playing an active role in the "now-you-see-it, now-you-don't" game.

As we are bombarded by scenes of spectacular violence, one of our challenges is to connect the dots and say, "I see what you see. Let's start from there, together."

The writer is an author and doctoral student at New York University researching film culture and sexual politics in Indonesia.

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THE JAKARTA POST

HOW TO MANAGE GEOPOLITICS AT G20 SUMMIT

MARIA MONICA WIHARDJA

Four out of five countries that abstained on a UN vote authorizing military strikes to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya were the emerging powers of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which are also members of the G20.

Other G20 member countries, including Germany and Indonesia, have also expressed their disagreement with the attacks. Meanwhile, France, who holds the presidency of the group, is the main supporter of the military strike in Libya, along with the US and the UK.

This year's BRIC Summit that will be held in mid-April on Hainan Island, China, will mark the new membership of South Africa into the grouping. The BRIC economies will also prepare for the G20 Summit to be held later this year. BRIC, whose combined economy is expected to take over that of the US by 2018, is not only an emerging economic power but also an increasingly influential political one.

China, which seems to be determined to act as a global regime maker instead of a regime taker, is dominant among these BRIC countries. The political division between BRIC (along with Indonesia and Germany) and France, the US and the UK over Libya may overshadow this year's G20 Summit in Cannes, France, on Nov. 3-4.

So, how can the G20 contain these political dimensions? First, the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Governors' Meeting (FMCGM) must reach a strong consensus and commitment on economic fronts, given the constraints on political circumstances, so that the focus and agenda during the Leaders' Summit will not go astray.

This year's FMCGM will place a new agenda on the table: Controlling excessive commodity and energy (including oil, gas, and coal) price volatility, food security, and long-term investment in the agricultural sector in developing countries. This agenda is critical, partly due to increasingly climatic shocks which has made certain commodity prices more volatile

This meeting will also be timely, given the increasing political tensions in the Middle East, and the unprecedented 8.9-magnitude earthquake, seismic tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

This new agenda also aligns with the Seoul Development Consensus on Shared Growth and Multi-action Plan, since food crises will affect the poorest first and most. Due to the urgency of this agenda, there is no space for political tension.

Second, in the midst of unstable and uneven global economic recovery, the momentum for reform should be maintained