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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

EDITORIAL 20.04.11

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month april 20, edition 000811, csollected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




































































After refusing to release seven members of the all-Indian 15-man crew aboard MV Asphalt Venture hijacked in September 2010 even after receiving a hefty multi-million dollar ransom, the Somali pirates last Saturday declared that they were at "war with India". And as part this 'war', the pirates demanded a 'prisoner exchange' of sorts wherein the Government of India would release more than 100 pirates captured earlier by our Navy and Coast Guard in lieu of the remaining Indian hostages. India has promptly responded to this ludicrousness by diverting its warship INS Talwar from the Gulf of Aden, where it was on an anti-piracy patrol mission, to the Somali coast even as authorities in New Delhi mull over demands from Haradhere, a small coastal town in central Somalia that serves as the pirates' headquarters. There is no denying that the pirates have purposely targeted Indian sailors and vessels, but let us not forget that this is just as much an attack on the rest of the civilised world as it is on the Indian state and indeed, there is no reason why it should not be treated as a growing global menace. Already, the Somali pirates have pushed the number of attacks to an all-time high even before we reach the end of the first quarter of 2011. The International Maritime Bureau, which specialises in fighting crimes related to maritime trade and transportation, has attributed 97 out of a total of 142 attacks carried out this year to the Somali pirates — a clear indication of their mounting strength. But what is even more worrying is that this year's number of attacks is thrice that which was recorded last year. It must also be noted that while in 2006, only two crew members were injured across the world, the pirates have already killed as many as seven seamen and seriously injured 34 others in the first three months of 2011. Currently, the Somali pirates are holding nearly 600 crew members captive and about 50 of them are Indians. Clearly, the Somali pirates are not just a band of roving seamen with eye patches. Make no mistake: The 'enemy' is growing stronger and more dangerous by the day.

It is heartening to note that since October 2008 the Indian Navy, along with the Coast Guard, has put up a strong defence patrolling the Gulf of Aden — they have thwarted at least 29 hijacking attempts and rendered ineffective three 'mother-ships' — but it must also be said that this has done little to reduce the incidence of piracy let alone obliterate the menace. Clearly, the Government is at a loss as to how to tackle this problem — it simply does not have a clear strategy. Sadly, neither does the rest of the world whose collective strategy to combat piracy by simply trying to contain it is no longer working, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Somalia's transitional Government, Mohammed Abdulahi Omar Asharq, rightly pointed out at a recent conference in Dubai to fight piracy. To effectively combat Somali piracy, the international community must implement a two-pronged strategy that includes political reform and reconciliation on land along with military operations. The former will bring about a long-term solution by destroying the roots of piracy while the latter will complement it by weakening the movement militarily. Somali piracy has its roots in political turmoil and that must be addressed.







The sequence of events ever since Mr Hosni Mubarak stepped down as President of Egypt, a post he had held ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat, in the face of popular anger against the entrenched regime, do not augur well for either the country or the region. With media interest shifting to other issues of immediate relevance the Egypt story has fallen off the front page of newspapers and disappeared from prime time bulletins on news television. It is this absence of world attention that appears to have spurred both military and judicial authorities in Cairo (who together rule Egypt today in the absence of either an elected Parliament or a Government that enjoys the mandate of the people) to take a series of questionable decisions that may return to haunt the country in the future. For instance, while the Muslim Brotherhood, rightly banned and banished from the electoral arena till Mr Mubarak was in power, has been allowed to float a political party which has been registered by the authorities, the former ruling party, the NDP, has been 'dissolved' and its assets seized through a dubious court order. It would appear that the Egyptian courts, whose judges have for long been closet supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, are now bent upon removing all serious and secular contenders from the electoral field so as to ensure a walkover for the radical Islamists. It is nobody's case that the NDP is free of guilt or that its office-bearers, who had resigned from their posts and made way for a new lot of young Egyptians, should not face prosecution for abusing the enormous power that was vested in them during the Mubarak era. But to act in this manner is singularly vengeful and reflects poorly on the so-called 'democratisation' process that is supposed to be underway.

No less deplorable is the decision to arrest the entire Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, that served Egypt during the last days of Mr Mubarak's rule, as well as the fallen President's sons, and put them in jail where they are being held as common criminals. Had they wanted to, each one of them could have fled Egypt and there's nothing Cairo could have done to bring them to book. In retrospect, perhaps that would have been a wiser thing to do: The post-Mubarak regime, such as it exists now and such as it shall be after September's planned election, clearly cannot be trusted to act in a fair manner. The witch-hunt that has been launched to appease the Islamists who are moving according to the sinister plot they hatched long ago, secure in the belief that they would sooner or later get the support of US President Barack Hussein Obama, is bound to have repercussions beyond Egypt's border. Not only will radical Islamists in other Arab countries be tempted to follow suit, they would want to export their brand of totalitarianism too.









Any other Prime Minister would have considered his job well done by minding India's interests. Not so Manmohan Singh who is obsessed with Pakistan.

Much is made of the relationship between Pakistan and the United States of America. Much is made of it in India, in a permanent state of perplexity. And much is made of it in both Washington, DC and the whole of Pakistan. All kinds of specialists arrive at all kinds of conclusions on the basis of all kinds of interests, national and personal. Even as most of Pakistan's citizens express and demonstrate a fear and loathing towards the US, significant sections of the 'establishment' remain wedded to the relationship. The same is true of the US, its citizenry and its Administration.

There is a serious discrepancy between the desires of the people and of those in Government. Even when the relationship sours, as it does frequently, and there is a sharp break in communication, events invariably draw the two together. It is almost as if divorce is not possible, even if it is desirable. For the relationship is rooted in a fatal attraction for the other. The desire to separate and go each other's way pales in comparison to interests, real or contrived, that act in a magnetic manner.

The same ailment seems to have befallen Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. For there is no rational explanation for his statement, "If I can succeed in normalising relations between India and Pakistan, I will consider my job well done." In normal circumstances a Prime Minister would classify employment, health, education or infrastructure, as his key result areas. What with a large number of people out of jobs, maternal and infant mortality rates that would shame the poorest sub-Saharan country, an inability to retain children in rural schools and sloppy progress in implementing infrastructure projects.

But these are clearly not normal circumstances, and Mr Manmohan Singh is obviously not a normal Prime Minister. Many have walked down this path, from the first Prime Minister of India to the present one, and yet the distance to be covered remains more than a marathon. Yet none has elevated India-Pakistan relations onto a pedestal, as has Mr Manmohan Singh. Normalisation of relations with Pakistan has obviously emerged as his fatal attraction.

This is not a case against normalisation of relations with Pakistan, far from it. Cordial relations with every country is certainly the most desirable foreign policy. And with immediate neighbours even more sp, since regions on the map have had relations over centuries. There are old traditional trade routes and there are pilgrimages on either side of the lines that divide on the map. The same lines that have divided families and friends.

Good neighbourly relations are most certainly the best thing that could happen between countries. Especially between two countries that were separated at independence, have since fought numerous wars on battlefields and continue their sibling-esque rivalry even on the cricket field. In an era of intense economic contests, having good neighbourly relations is an enormous benefit.

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are singular in the world for defying history and geography with their near absent trading and economic relations. This enormous South Asian market has more in common within than without. But there is no trade worth mentioning. And yet India's economy continues to grow at upwards of eight per cent.

It is this economic growth story that flies in the face of the Prime Minister's normalisation odyssey. For despite the lack of regional trade and economic opportunities, Indian entrepreneurship continues to clock figures that are impressive, to say the least. Conventional wisdom would make this the natural constituency for the Prime Minister's mantra on normalisation of relations. But the truth of the matter is that it is this very constituency that is indifferent to the normalisation process. The stakeholders for peace are not appearing from those who stand to profit the most. That is the irony of the India-Pakistan peace process, something which seems to completely elude Mr Singh.

It is not that there is any great constituency for peace within Pakistan. For the simple reason that the baggage of the past is yet to be got rid of by those who play the game today. There are vocal citizens' groups, some brilliant minds individually, retired soldiers and bureaucrats who preach peace. But it has not reached the stage of creating a critical mass for peace. That process is a long way off.

Beset as they are with a domestic crisis of identity and a future of uncertain psycho-social direction, the people of Pakistan do not have the time to vote for peace and normalisation of relations with India. Meanwhile, the people of India have voted with an indifference that borders on hostility.

Something has changed within India after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 — something serious enough to have changed the language and ethos of the average Indian. Pakistani frequent fliers to India have sensed it, and bemoan the fact. But it obviously seems to have missed the attention of our Prime Minister. He is clearly oblivious of the change that has overcome India.

Across the classes and communities there is a distancing with Pakistan that is clearly palpable. The constant despair that this fractured relationship causes has led to a certain disdain. On the question of normalisation of relations with Pakistan, most would be dismissive. There is greater interest in events happening west of Suez, but only a dismissive attitude towards things regional. This is an unhealthy signal, but it is nevertheless the reality.

Mr Singh is obviously going against the grain of the country in his obsession for normalisation of relations with Pakistan. There is no better authority on this matter than someone who worked closely with Mr Singh. Consider this: In a brief aside, Mr MK Narayanan readily conceded that he had differences with the Prime Minister on Pakistan. He described Mr Singh as a "great believer" in talks and negotiations with Islamabad, while he himself was "not a great believer in Pakistan". He added that after Mr Singh spoke of India's "shared destiny" with Pakistan, he told the Prime Minister, "You have a shared destiny, we don't."

That was the former National Security Adviser as quoted by the US Ambassador in a cable made public by WikiLeaks. At the end of the cable, the Ambassador added his comment to "suggest that PM Singh is more isolated than we thought within his own inner circle in his effort to 'trust but verify' and pursue talks with Pakistan". Even if he is not isolated within the inner circle, Mr Singh is quite clearly a lone batsman.







Women in Kerala's Kasaragod district, where indiscriminate use of Endosulfan has played havoc with human lives and led to the birth of babies with congenital defects, are scared of becoming pregnant. Those who become pregnant, opt for abortion

The Endosulfan tragedy in Kerala's northernmost Kasaragod district has begun to cause what scientists now call a "Hiroshima syndrome" as women are refusing to beget children and opting for abortion if they become pregnant. They fear that the babies they beget may have serious congenital disorders as the mothers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had feared decades ago. Reports from the pesticide-hit areas of Kasaragod show that wilful foeticide by women has become extensive there. Their fears are not unfounded: Most of those who have so far travelled to Mangalore to get their pregnancies terminated have the experience of giving birth to children with serious deformities and diseases. They do not want to give birth to more such babies. This has turned into a syndrome in the region as even women in their first pregnancy are also beginning to choose this path as they fear that the Endosulfan their body systems have been absorbing since birth would cause disorders for the babies in their wombs.

Studies show that an average of 10 pregnant women from the 11 Endosulfan-hit panchayats of Kasaragod district are travelling to Mangalore in Karnataka every month to get their pregnancies terminated. Sociologists say that this is now turning into a trend as the fear of giving birth to babies with horrible deformities is spreading fast. "There is nothing you can do to make them withdraw from this tendency. They are seeing babies born with congenital problems like oversized heads, undersized bodies, convoluted limbs and cancers everywhere in the area. Nobody can assure them that this would not be the case with their babies. Even the scientists who frequent these areas are helpless," says Pradeep, a voluntary worker in Periya, one of the pesticide-hit areas.

According to organisations working for the welfare and rehabilitation of the Endosulfan victims in Kasaragod district, the tendency to terminate pregnancies has spread throughout pesticide-hit areas like Periya, Perla and Bovikanam. A 30 -year-old mother at Bovikanam, herself born after Endosulfan began to contaminate the area's resources, chose to commit foeticide when she became pregnant for the second time because of the fear of giving birth to a baby with the congenital disorders similar to those seen in her first child. "My first baby was born with an oversized head, an undersized body and a brain that has so far refused to develop. Such children are born here always. After scanning, the doctor told me that the foetus could have disorders similar to those of my first baby. I could not think of bringing yet another baby into this world to live a life of suffering," she said.

In 2007, she was one of the first women from the Endosulfan-hit areas of Kasaragod to travel to Mangalore for foeticide. "My husband, coming from a family of conservatives, was against the idea of foeticide. But I convinced him that it was a bigger sin than abortion to force yet another child to live in perpetual suffering. I also told him not to let his family know about it. Till today, they don't know what I did then. Luckily for me, I haven't become pregnant again. His family is convinced that the poison has made me a barren woman which is not unseen here. However, many of my friends and neighbours have not been that lucky. Several of my friends have done what I had done in the past three-four years," she added.

Even when the Central Government is still refusing to adopt an anti-Endosulfan posture at the Geneva meet of the Persistent Organic Pollutants' Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention to be held from April 25, reports say that hundreds of women from the pesticide-hit areas of Kasaragod have committed foeticide in the past five years. "There have been no efforts from the part of the authorities even to conduct a study on this trend. Despite several warnings, the Government has not cared to send counselors to speak to such women. Already there are hundreds of couples who have begot children with congenital deformities. Some of these children are now more than 20 years old and have not so far shown the signs of intelligence," said Pradeep.

According to anti-Endosulfan activists of Kasaragod, the pesticide-hit areas are also facing other serious sociological problems. "There is this strange situation that the girls and men here cannot have marital relationships outside. Nobody from outside are coming here with marriage proposals. They don't want the tragedy of this region to happen in their homes. The only people visiting these areas are scientists, voluntary workers, governmental study groups and journalists. Even those who come here try to avoid taking food or water offered by the people. All this have created in the people here some kind of hatred for the world outside," Pradeep says.

Endosulfan has killed more than 500 people in Kasaragod since the State-run Plantation Corporation of Kerala began spraying the pesticide aerially in the cashew estates in these areas in 1978. The corporation went on spraying the poison, contaminating everything in the 11 panchayats — wells, ponds, soil, air, etc — for two decades. By the time the State Government banned its use 10 years ago, the region had become contaminated so much that the poison had seeped even into the genetic system of the people. "We are seeing the results before our eyes," says Prof MR Rahman of the Anti-Endosulfan Committee, which is presently on an intense agitation to force the Indian Government to take an anti-pesticide stand at the Geneva meet. Kasaragod presently has close to 10,000 people with mysterious problems like cancers, reproductive disorders, early maturing of girls, late maturing of males, severe convolution of limbs and other deformities — all caused by Endosulfan poisoning.

But Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar and the UPA Government, allegedly under pressure from the pesticide manufacturing lobby, are still unconvinced about the evil effects of Endosulfan. As late as on Monday, the Union Ministry of Agriculture stated that it was almost impossible to impose a nationwide ban on Endosulfan. It gave two reasons for this reluctance: No effective substitute has been found for Endosulfan so far and no States other than Kerala and Karnataka have demanded a ban. The pro-Endosulfan lobby is arguing that there is no proof of any direct connection between the pesticide and the health disorders found in Kasaragod and southern Karnataka despite the findings of various agencies including those of the Government to prove the link. "The Government and Mr Pawar do not want to see the truth. I can wake you up if you are asleep. But I cannot do it if you are pretending sleep," said Padmanabhan, an anti-Endosulfan activist in Kumbala, Kasaragod.

Scientists who have conducted studies on Endosulfan poisoning point out that the Government and the pesticide lobby are lying. Reports have already come out on the bad effects of Endosulfan in the tea estates of Assam where the pesticide is being liberally even now. There are several reports that Endosulfan has caused pollution in the groundwater in several parts of Haryana. They also warn the Government against conducting studies to find out traces of Endosulfan in the soil and water of Kasaragod. It is not a sin for Governments to have commercial interests, especially in this era of globalisation but Governments should not accord more value to commerce than the life of the people for whom they exist, say anti-Endosulfan activists. More than 60 nations have already shown what the priorities should be as far as Endosulfan is concerned — by banning it. Why is this pesticide more important to Government of India than its people?" asks activist Afsal Muhammad of Kannur.






The US feels that the status quo between Palestinians and Israelis is no more sustainable than the political systems that have crumbled in the region

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a US-Islamic forum that the US Government would soon launch a new initiative to promote Israel-Palestinian peace.

Oh, goodie.

But what really shocked me is something she said, proving once again that this Administration's leaders have feet that spend more time in their mouths than on the ground:

"The status quo between Palestinians and Israelis is no more sustainable than the political systems that have crumbled in recent months."

Think about that statement. The Tunisian and Egyptian regimes fell. Was that inevitable? Were they simply unsustainable? What if their Armies wanted to keep them in power, or just threw out the dictators and kept the same regime?

But wait! Several political systems did not crumble in recent months. At least, not yet. So is Ms Clinton saying that the crumbling of the political systems in Bahrain, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen is also inevitable? Or is the fact that they have not crumbled in recent months mean they are sustainable?

Also does the fact that the US supports or opposes a political system have something to do with whether it is sustainable? You know, saying things like: President Mubarak must go! Yesterday! Or sending military forces to Libya? Now what if the Saudis send military forces to Bahrain to shore up the regime, does that mean its fall is or is not inevitable?

Might Arab leaders listening to such statements ask themselves if the US views them as being on their death beds? Do they need to dump the US before the US dumps them? Does anyone writing these speeches and reading them publicly have any notion about what this sounds like to foreign allies?

But this is all you need to see to know the quality of leadership we are dealing with. Senator John Kerry at the same conference:

"When I visited with President Bashar al-Assad, what I heard from him was a man who understood the challenge of his country, in terms of those young people. he said to me, I have 500 thousand people turning 18 every year and I don't have the jobs to give them and I don't have the way to educate them. He understood where this was going to go months ago. But unless he can create a different bilateral relationship with us and with the West. Unless we move on the peace process with Israel. Unless we get this radicalism off the table for all of us, we make it so much harder to strip away the unholy alliances with Wahhabism, or Muslim Brotherhood, or whatever it is, and really face this challenge of the economy."

In other words, he starts out by saying that Mr Assad (who has killed more people in the last two months than any dictator not fighting a full-scale civil war, that is Libya) is really a great guy. Then it sort of slides into resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict (which means to these people getting a Palestine state pronto) or the entire West Asia will fall apart. Of course this comes right after A. the WikiLeaks showed us that this isn't the real concern of Arab leaders (it's Iran and revolutionary Islamism, stupid) and B. upheavals showed that people were more concerned about domestic issues rather than supporting their local dictator to fight Israel.

It's the Palestinian question, stupid, he seems to be saying, and then the economy.

But wait! We have not yet plumbed the depths of sheer idiocy. Let me repeat the last part of what Mr Kerry said:

"... we make it so much harder to strip away the unholy alliances with Wahhabism, or Muslim Brotherhood, or whatever it is..."

Wahhabism? Isn't that Saudi Arabia, America's most important remaining ally in the Arab world, you know that big supplier of the oil that this administration won't drill on its own territory? Hey, dude, you just dissed the Saudis again!

Sure, Wahhabism has contributed to Islamist radicalism, but not so much in the Arab world itself, more in the West and places like Chechnya. Is he referring to America's "unholy alliance" with Saudi Arabia?

And is Saudi Arabia aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood? In the past they've gotten along but the Saudis seem to want to stop a Brotherhood takeover of Egypt more than the Obama Administration does.

candidate to be next secretary of state has no idea of what the other side in the region consists of?

Back to Libya for a moment. Is the US trying to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, because his regime will inevitably crumble? Apparently not. So is his regime sustainable but the US and other military presences only want to make it crumble in the eastern part of the country?

Was the fall of the moderate Lebanese Government and its replacement by a Hizbullah-dominated regime inevitable? Is the status quo in Iran more sustainable than the Israel-Palestinian situation?

Will Ms Clinton make a speech saying that the uprising in Syria proved that the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship is unsustainable? No. Why? Because they fear it is sustainable and, as Senator Kerry just reminded us again, he loves Mr Assad and Ms Clinton thinks he's a reformer. I don't trust these people to decide what is and isn't


The Israel-Palestinian situation, for better or worse, is infinitely sustainable. Yes, I said it and I meant it. That's not a preference or a value judgement but it is true. If the Palestinian Authority is not ready for compromise and real peace, the status quo is preferable.

What Ms Clinton is doing is a panicky demand for swift action no matter what it is, no matter where it leads. Is the creation of a Palestinian state unilaterally in the next few months without any deal with Israel going to make things better because otherwise the situation will inevitably 'crumble'?

Or perhaps it is inevitable that the Palestinian Authority will crumble either before or after it gets a state? Can she prove on the basis of any evidence that the Israel-Palestinian situation is not sustainable? What's going to happen to change it? The only factor that can do so is external forces like US policy. What Ms Clinton is expressing then is a self-fulfilling prophecy perhaps?

Perhaps most inevitably the US position in West Asia is unsustainable and will crumble?

That statement by Ms Clinton shows a view of international affairs so passive and so primitive as to be shocking. Passive because she is essentially saying: The fact that these two regimes fell proves that they had to fall.

Even though she goes on to say that the US must show "leadership" on the peace process, the philosophy displayed by this kind of formulation makes one wonder if this Administration is capable of leading anywhere except... off a cliff.

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin? Did some moving finger write that on the Oval Office wall?

Here's my interpretation:

Your rule has been judged unsustainable. Your policy is going to crumble. Its giving regional primacy to the Persians.

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







Abdel-Moneim Mokhtar was ambushed and killed by Colonel Moammar Gaddafi's troops last week on a dusty road in eastern Libya — the end of a journey that saw him fight as a jihadi in Afghanistan and then return home where he died alongside Nato-backed rebels trying to oust the longtime authoritarian leader.

In describing Mokhtar's death on Friday, Col Gaddafi's Government said he was a member of Al Qaeda — part of an ongoing attempt to link the rebels to Osama bin Laden's group. Four years ago, Al Qaeda said it had allied itself with the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group — of which Mokhtar was a top military commander.

Two days before he was killed, Mokhtar denied any connection between his group and Al Qaeda, saying "We only fought to free Libya".

"We realised that Col Gaddafi is a killer and imprisoned people, so we had to fight him," said Mokhtar, one of a handful of rebel battalion commanders who led more than 150 rebels in eastern Libya.

The question of Islamic fundamentalists among the rebels is one of the murkier issues for Western nations who are aiding the anti-Gaddafi forces with airstrikes and must decide how deeply to get involved in the fight. Some countries, including the US, have been wary — partly out of concern over possible extremists among the rebels.

Nato's top commander, US Navy Adm James Stavridis, told Congress last month that officials had seen "flickers" of possible Al Qaeda and Hizbullah involvement with rebel forces. But he said there was no evidence of significant numbers within the opposition leadership.


Spokesman Mustafa Gheriani of the opposition council in Benghazi said any extremists among the fighters are exceptions and that ensuring democracy is the only way to combat them.

Mokhtar, 41, of the northwestern town of Sabratha, arrived in Afghanistan at the age of 20 in 1990 when the mujahideen were fighting the puppet regime installed by the Soviets before they withdrew after a decade-long war.

He fought for three years in the fields and mountains of Khost and Kandahar provinces under Jalaluddin Haqqani — a prominent commander who was backed by the US during the Soviet war but has now become one of its fiercest enemies in Afghanistan.

At least 500 Libyans went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets, according to The Jamestown Foundation, a US-based think-tank, but Mokhtar said there aren't many fighting with the rebels now. Many like Mokhtar who returned home were arrested or killed by Col Gaddafi when they announced the creation of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in the mid-1990s to challenge his rule.

Mokhtar became one of the LIFG's top three military commanders, said Anes Sharif, another member of the group who has known him for almost two decades.

Mokhtar was in charge in southern Libya and planned several assassination attempts on Col Gaddafi, including one in 1996 when a militant threw a grenade at the ruler near the southern desert town of Brak that failed to explode, Sharif said.

"Abdel-Moneim was the man who organised, prepared and mastered all those kinds of operations," said Sharif, who is from the northeastern town of Darna, which has been a hotbed of Islamist activity.

The LIFG also waged attacks against Col Gaddafi's security forces. But the Libyan leader cracked down on the group, especially in Darna and what is now the rebel-held capital of Benghazi.

"The worst fight was against Col Gaddafi in the 1990s," Mokhtar said. "If he captured us, he would not only torture us but our families as well."

The response forced many members of the group, including Mokhtar, to flee abroad, Sharif said. Mokhtar left in the late 1990s and only returned after the current uprising began, Sharif said.


 "We don't have many experienced commanders in the battlefield. That's why I'm out here," said Mokhtar, his full black beard peppered with gray as he stood outside Ajdabiya surrounded by rebel pickup trucks bristling with rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.

Al Qaeda announced in 2007 that it had allied with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and the group was put on the US State Department's list of terrorist organisations. Both Mokhtar and Sharif denied the connection, saying it was never endorsed by the group's leadership.

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group publicly renounced violence in 2009 following about three years of negotiations with Libyan authorities — including with Col Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam. In a statement at the time, the group insisted it had "no link to the Al Qaeda organisation in the past and has none now."

The Libyan Government released more than 100 members of the LIFG in recent years as part of the negotiations. Sharif said the group changed its name to the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change before the current uprising.

British authorities believe the LIFG has stood by its pledge of nonviolence, and has no ties to Al Qaeda — though acknowledge that other Libyans command senior positions in the terror group's hierarchy, including Abu Yahia al-Libi, Al Qaeda's Afghanistan commander.








As the sound bytes grow more biting and accusations become murkier, it's hard to remember the first meeting of the joint committee drafting the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, held on April 16, was in fact cordial and positive. It's unfortunate that such acrimony should follow the beginnings of what could well make history.

It's also ironic that instead of hearing more about the meeting itself, the public is inundated with details and denials around a CD purportedly involving committee members Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, allegedly conversing with politician Mulayam Singh about 'managing' a judge. Alongside this,
Congress and NCP legislators are asking the Maharashtra government to act against Anna Hazare on the basis of earlier corruption investigations against his trusts. The timing of such allegations is indeed doubtful and lends credence to conspiracy theories of the powers-that-be attempting to malign those they share this unique forum with.

In this atmosphere, home minister P Chidambaram promising a thorough investigation of the CD controversy is a welcome move. The activists must also realise they are in the realm of high politics which frequently involves low charges. Instead of bristling at each barb, it's desirable they demonstrate the same transparent standards expected of politicians. In India's oft-raucous democracy, political opponents routinely shoot insinuations about. Working with politicians involves taking this in one's stride. It is inadvisable to write outraged letters of protest demanding gags on party members each time a displeasing statement is made. It is instead wiser for the activists to stay calm, let the law take its course or allow the public to form its own judgment.

This is indeed an extraordinary moment when a law to fight corruption can be created using both political wisdom and social need. Neither tricks nor rhetoric should be allowed to obscure the importance of this. Civil society backed Anna Hazare's group strongly. The latter must not fritter away its energies now making needlessly antagonistic statements about taking to the streets or bringing the government down. Hazare previously marked Parliament's supremacy regarding the Lokpal Bill. It's important he maintains this flexibility while all participants show mature restraint. These are early days. Substantive differences are bound to emerge as the Bill is actually created. With an August 15 deadline, this is a good time for all involved to get down to work and help make history, not throw muck around or tear each other to shreds.







The murder of 10-year-old Moin at the hands of his employer at a beedi manufacturing unit in Delhi is a grave reminder of the widespread prevalence of child labour and the vicious exploitation of kids by employers who put them to work.

From the Indian Penal Code to the Child Labour Act, a plethora of laws exists to tackle the menace. But they remain confined to the statute books, thanks to poor implementation.

According to the
Central Bureau of Investigation, of the three million human trafficking victims in India 1.2 million are children. Delhi alone is estimated to have around five lakh child labourers employed in various industrial units manufacturing zari, bindis, beedis, plastic, glass products etc.

A substantial number also gets employed in small restaurants and as domestic help in private homes. Coming from poor families and offering cheap labour, the children becoming easy pickings for unscrupulous employers. High demand has spawned organised syndicates specialising in procuring child labourers from remote districts of the country.

Subjected to hazardous work conditions and regular abuse, the consequences for the children can be tragic. It is because poor families find it financially beneficial, even though marginally, to put their children to work that there exists a demand for this source of illegal labour.

The solution lies in incentivising education to break this vicious cycle. With the Right to Education Act, it is the government's duty to see every child is in school.

Focussing on educational infrastructure, mid-day meals and other incentives for poor parents to send their children to school is the key. Stricter implementation of the law combined with the realisation on the part of poor families that education is the only ticket out of poverty can end this social ill.








The government blinked. Anna Hazare broke his fast. Representatives from civil society are sitting with some central ministers to draft a new Lokpal Bill. The Bill will still have to be passed by Parliament before it becomes law. But, given the tremendous groundswell of support amongst middle India, it is a safe bet that major political parties will pass the Bill in some form.

What exactly have we won? In the best of scenarios, a Lokpal Bill will curb the incidence of highly visible scams such as the ones associated with the Commonwealth Games and 2G licences. But these instances of corruption, however repulsive they are, represent only a tiny fraction of illegal economic activities which have resulted in a gigantic parallel economy. Estimates about the size of the black economy vary from 50 to 70% of the "white" economy. Since the Lokpal Bill will have a tiny effect on the size of the black economy, we will only have won a match in the plate division of the Ranji Trophy! And even this victory may come at a cost.

Many columnists have pointed out that if civil society activists are allowed to dictate terms, then the new institution will give unbridled powers to the Lokpal. What are the safeguards which will ensure that the Lokpal will not be corrupt? In other words, who will monitor the monitor? In environments where even former chief justices of the
Supreme Court have been accused of corruption, it is extremely dangerous to create anything resembling a Leviathan.

Most other established democracies are significantly less corrupt than ours. So, there is no reason why we cannot reduce the level of corruption without sacrificing basic democratic principles. Common sense suggests that the government either reduces the scope for citizens to indulge in illegal activities or it slashes the incentive for generating incomes through such activities.

The government has made some fledgling progress in the first respect by, for instance, making the use of PAN cards mandatory for a large number of financial transactions. Increased computerisation in the income tax department has also resulted in lower levels of income tax evasion.

Of course, huge holes still need to be plugged. Consider, for instance, how difficult it is to buy any property in Delhi without paying large sums in black, or the film industry where incomes are grossly underreported (although many film stars tweeted their support to Anna Hazare!).

While we are all incensed when politicians and senior bureaucrats indulge in corrupt practices, we seem to meekly accept the necessity to bribe government officials for services which are due to us, be they ration cards, income tax refunds or clearances to the corporate sector to start new plants. The amounts involved in most instances may be small. But, since bribes have become more or less standard practice in virtually all interactions with government babus, the total sum involved is inordinately large.

In most cases, bribes originate as a result of mindless bureaucracy. Consider, for instance, a recent order of the Delhi government banning the registration of all transactions of houses unless they had a certificate of "structural safety issued by competent authority". Although the order, subsequently revoked, was ostensibly designed to curb the construction of unsafe buildings, it did not stipulate that it was restricted to new buildings. However, the MCD did not have enough engineers to issue structural safety certificates for even a minuscule fraction of existing buildings in the city.

One is forced to conclude that orders of such monumental stupidity - of which there are far too many - are designed precisely to extract bribes from helpless citizens. It does not need any Lokpal to simplify bureaucratic procedures so as to reduce the scope for extraction of bribes.

It also makes sense for the government to turn the direction of incentives completely. That is, instead of citizens running from pillar to post, it should be in the interest of the government babus to make sure that their performance is par for the course.

The government can use the internet to announce the maximum time within which specific services will be delivered. It can also pass orders or legislation imposing steep penalties on the government if these deadlines are not honoured, and reward officials if they adhere to these deadlines. NGOs can help in implementing such schemes by ensuring that the government actually pays the penalties whenever services are not delivered within the promised period.

Lastly, it is imperative for the government to ensure that crime does not pay. In other words, the government has to make it increasingly difficult for individuals to spend what they stash away illegally. Consider a world where all goods and services need to be bought by issuing cheques or with credit cards. Then, it would be practically useless to hold stocks of "black money". What would you spend them on?

Of course, such a world is a utopian ideal. But a reasonably close approximation would be an economy where cash cannot be used in any high-value transactions such as purchase of jewellery, airline tickets or bills in five-star hotels.






The fourth round of the India-Singapore strategic dialogue took place recently and Singapore's delegation leader, ambassador Tommy Koh , spoke to Deep K Datta-Ray :

What are the dynamics of a strategic dialogue between a behemoth like India and the little red dot that is Singapore?
Although the relationship is asymmetrical, we bring unique value to each other. For example, Singapore succeeded in helping India to engage Southeast and East Asia. Our dialogue, a track 1.5 process, began in 2007. The purpose is to create a forum bringing together like-minded opinion-makers.

The dialogue involves a core group of personalities well known to each other. That engenders mutual confidence and trust. We are, therefore, able to discuss issues with sincerity and candour.

However, at each dialogue we expand the circle by bringing in new colleagues. While relations between us are based on substantive economic, cultural and defence ties, Singapore also wants to be useful to India. We have a network of relationships in Southeast Asia which can be leveraged to facilitate your engagement with Asean and the larger East Asian region. All of this is helped by our ties of history, blood and culture.

India's government isn't known for being particularly dynamic and Singapore's minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew is perceived as not particularly pro-Indian, so how do you explain the success of relations?

The thesis that minister mentor is allegedly anti-Indian has been debunked by the book, Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India, which i launched in Delhi.

The secret of the success of our bilateral relationship is Singapore's faith in India's future. Apart from investment, trade and tourism are also booming. Our defence ties are growing from strength to strength and our historical and cultural ties are being refreshed.

How can Singapore help India create an amenable strategic space for us all in Southeast Asia?

India can do so by further participating in Asean. You have a cooperative partnership with Asean and we've concluded the India-Asean FTA for trade in goods.

We should now expedite the conclusion of the agreement on trade in services and investments. India is naturally very interested in East Asia and we welcomed India into the East Asian Summit forum and expect you to play a proactive and substantive role in it.

There's also the Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia which India ought to support. Next year is the 20th anniversary of the India-Asean dialogue and India should consider doing something iconic to celebrate that occasion.

I understand your government is looking at appointing a dedicated ambassador to Asean, based in Jakarta, which would be an important step forward and be welcomed by Asean. We would also like India to enhance connectivities between us by road, rail, air and sea.

Turning to business, are land acquisition and retroactive legislation, issues that impede cash-rich Singapore from further investing in India?

We're already your number one investor! There is, however, scope for more, provided the business environment continues to improve.

Our business community's most important request is that rules should be transparent and uniformly applied.

And, if rules have to be changed, the changes should be prospective, not retrospective. The rule of law is a great Indian advantage.

However, there is a concern about the speed with which cases are processed as well as the quality of the lower-level judiciary.

As for land, all of it is viewed as agricultural even if uncultivated and acquiring it to build a factory requires going through the very cumbersome 'Conversion of Land Use' process. Easing these regulations would greatly assist India's development.








Will there be a national life after Anna? The Gandhian's satyagraha against rampant corruption has evoked a countrywide response unmatched by anything in the history of independent India, not even perhaps by Jayaprakash Narayan's 1974 movement against the increasing authoritarianism of Indira Gandhi's government.

JP's 'swarajist' campaign - initially spearheaded by students in Bihar but later spreading to include citizens from all walks of life, across the nation - caused the biggest political earthquake the country has ever witnessed when Indira Gandhi, backed into a corner, declared her infamous Emergency and overnight turned democratic
India into a totalitarian dictatorship.

But though shrouded, the torch of freedom was not extinguished. And it burned brighter and fiercer than ever when in the general elections following the lifting of the Emergency, the collective wrath of the people voted Indira Gandhi out of office and brought in the Janata government.

The new dispensation, which got into internal wrangles almost from day one, was to pose its own challenges of cohesion. But the 'spirit of '77' made one thing clear: no one would again dare to try and stifle India's irrepressible democracy. The powers-that-be today will attempt to derail Anna's runaway movement at their own peril. Some critics have tried to put a verbal spoke in the wheels of the anti-corruption juggernaut by suggesting, among other things, that such extra-parliamentary forms of legislative activity would eventually derail democracy by encouraging irresponsible copycat movements which could be wilfully subversive of the rule of law.

Such sceptics, however, have been swiftly silenced by the overwhelming support that Anna's cause has generated, targeting as it does what is universally seen to be the nation's single most baneful affliction. Public disgust with all-pervasive graft has reached a pitch where corruption is perceived to be the root cause of all our myriad social, political and economic ills. The groundswell of opinion seems to be that if we can somehow exorcise the demon of corruption we will be freed of all the other evils that daily bedevil us.

Such a single-point agenda would be dangerously short-sighted. Corruption, in all its many manifestations, is without any question one of the most harmful of the toxins poisoning our body politic. But it is by no means the only one. Anna himself has already identified electoral reform as the next banner around which to rally his growing legions of followers. The criminalisation of politics, and the open use of muscle- and money-power to capture votes has made such reform a vital necessity which has been far too long delayed. Some of the electoral changes debated have been the right of recall and the voter's right to cancel their ballots in case they find all the candidates unsuitable in a particular constituency.

Such much-needed political reform, however, presupposes that the voter is free to make a truly informed choice. Illiteracy and the deep-rooted patriarchal system by which women voters are no more than rubber-stamp extensions of the male head of the household are only two of the major obstacles in the path to making the electoral process more truly representative.

Indeed not a few would say that to the extent - and it is a very large extent - that gender discrimination in effect disenfranchises the female half of the population India is at best a shambolic democracy. The progressive disempowerment of women is revealed by studies of sex-selective abortions which indicate that in 20 years' time India will have 20% more men than women. A clear case not of genocide, perhaps, but certainly of gendercide. And perpetrated, largely, by the urban middle class which is the most visible in championing Anna's cause.

Let's get rid of corruption by all means. But let's not forget the other - and far worse - monsters which lurk within us.









Less than a week before the Planning Commission meets to clear the approach paper for the Twelfth Plan, there is media speculation that the target growth rate for the five years beginning 2012 could be set at an awe-inspiring 10% annually. With a conservative estimate for inflation at 5% a year over the period, India, a $2 trillion economy now, will weigh in at $4 trillion by 2017. That could make it the fifth largest economy in the world trailing the US, China, Japan and Germany. India is widely expected to overtake China soon — if it hasn't already — as the fastest growing major economy on the planet. It is reassuring to have an internal target, even if it is a stretch. Policymakers see India growing at 8.5% in 2010-11 and upwards of 9% in the terminal year of the Eleventh Plan. This should bring the average for 2007-12 closer to 8% than the target 9%.

It takes an investment of Rs4 in India to produce every extra rupee of income. A 10% growth target for the gross domestic product thus requires Indians to invest $800 billion in the first year of the Twelfth Plan itself, up from the $720 billion it would need if it were to grow at 9%. The highest India has saved in any year is 36.9% of its GDP, and that will be $70 billion short of the targeted investment in a $2 trillion economy assuming our savings rate climbs up from 33.7% now. Over a five-year period, the shortfall could be upwards of $400 billion unless Indian companies grow much faster and save more or multinational firms are allowed to bring in capital. In either case, India has to be more business friendly if it wants to grow faster. So far, we have seen that this endeavour to attract investment has not followed a predictable pattern, rather it has been in fits and starts. It is imperative that we have a fixed policy in place on business procedures so that those wishing to come in here are on a sure footing from the word go.

Foreign capital has been bridging India's savings-investment gap and our policymakers must heed it when it seeks greater access to our economy. Areas marked off-limits for foreigners like retailing and financial services can see a surge in investment if the government floors the reforms pedal. But that has not been the elephant's style and politically contentious issues like big format retailing are yet to be thrashed out while environmental concerns on no-go areas for mining firms are debated. There is no doubt that these issues have to be discussed and a consensus arrived at. But this has to happen sooner rather than later. An ambitious growth target is likely to remain merely on paper unless backed by speedy reforms. A business-as-usual approach cannot hope to deliver $1 trillion investment in India's infrastructure during the Twelfth Plan.





We Indians are not ones for pastels and soft muted colours. We are in your face with our parrot greens, sickly pinks, flaming orange and nausea-inducing purple. But, this doesn't mean that our excesses have to spill over into the gentleman's game where white was all once upon a time. Now we do understand the need to revel in flamboyant colours to celebrate the spirit of the Indian Premier League (IPL). But we would have appreciated a little restraint on the part of the designers who have come up with the technicolour jerseys of the teams. Let us look at the Kochi Tuskers Kerala. We can only think that the jerseys were inspired by tuskers gone berserk if the psychedelic orange outfits are anything to go by. The Chennai Super Kings may not have a yellow streak but their jerseys suggest that mustard fields are indeed forever. And it would take the dedicated fan to keep his peepers on the oranges and turmeric yellows of the other teams.

The Kolkata Knight Riders seem to have put the blame on their uniform colours for their disastrous performances in earlier editions of he IPL. So out went the black and gold jerseys and in came, hold your breath, purple and gold. Now Shah Rukh Khan may own the team and carry off these hues quite well, but that doesn't mean all his boys are SRK clones. The Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers have relied on the original Indian habit: copy, tweak and then put an 'original' stamp on the clothing. Their shades of blues are giving us the blues. The Pune Warriors are hardly 'warriorish' with their ash and black outfits.

Which brings us to the central question: what has been the contribution of designers in this razzle-dazzle? Instead, of spending money on them, the team managements should have just organised a painting combination for under-10 year olds. We suspect they would have done a better job of things.






It is a matter of concern and disquiet that despite widespread protests the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) governors (Karan Singh is the current chairman of its executive council) are pushing through changes in the institution in a manner that could harm it irrevocably. While it takes vision to build an institution, careless handling and failure to maintain essential norms can lead to rapid decline.

Founded in the mid-1960s as the national memorial to Jawaharlal Nehru, it is today a premier institution in the country for carrying out research in Modern Indian History (MIH), particularly the Indian national movement. This is in keeping with its charter that states that the major objective is to preserve historical materials, establish a collection of books, newspapers, photographs, audio-visual materials, etc, which would facilitate research in the field of MIH, Indian nationalism and the life and work of Nehru. Following on this, the recruitment rules quite understandably required the director of the institution to be "an eminent scholar with specialisation in MIH" with the ability to "conduct and guide original research" in that area.

The objective with which the NMML was set up was fully met by its first two directors, BR Nanda and Ravinder Kumar, outstanding historians of modern India. Under their care, the NMML became the largest non-official archives in India, which now has over a 1,000 collections of private and institutional papers, including those of Gandhiji, Nehru, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and the Hindu Mahasabha. It has also built up a huge oral history archive, a rare photographs and films collection, a newspaper collection in several languages dating back to the early 19th century and perhaps the best collection of books and journals for modern and contemporary India.

The present director, Mridula Mukherjee, also a renowned Modern Indian historian, has been carrying forward the earlier legacy and is taking the institution to newer heights. A massive modernisation programme of all constituents of the institution initiated by her is now underway, of which a critical part is the digitisation of the archival holdings, including manuscripts, newspapers, photographs and audio-visual material, in line with the best practices in the world. In a short time valuable archival material will be available at the click of a button on the computer, that too in a searchable format, revolutionalising access to historical material to researchers in remote parts of the country and indeed the world.

Quite inexplicably, the NMML governors decided to rock the boat and pushed through in an evidently irregular manner a basic change in the rules of recruitment for the director of the NMML, replacing the requirement of "specialisation in MIH" with "specialisation in social sciences". This was done in contravention of the objectives laid down by the NMML Society and without any reference to it. Further, a search committee for the post of director was set up in unseemly haste of which Singh appointed himself the chairman and two retired civil servants as other members. No professional historian was included.

Surprisingly, a new director is being 'searched' for when the present one is only 61 years old, and the retirement age is 65 in NMML, as it's not a fixed term appointment. One wonders whether the same vested interests (named by the petitions committee of the Parliament and a fact finding committee for irregularities), which two years ago tried unsuccessfully to remove the present director, are at work again. The Indian History Congress, the only representative body of historians in India, in a unanimous resolution passed on March 12, 2011, at its 71st session protested strongly the recent NMML initiatives. The media reported protest letters warning of "a future office holder being smuggled in whose orientation would be to undermine the secular character of the NMML". Singh's response was dismissive: "Many people are writing letters. They mean nothing. The decision has been taken…"

This refusal to heed reasoned argument and insistence on assertion of authority is no way to build an institution, that too one named after Nehru.

Satish Chandra is former chairperson, University Grants Commission; Bipan Chandra is national professor and chairman, National Book Trust; and Arjun Dev is former dean, National Council Of Educational Research And Training and member, NMML Society. The views expressed by the authors are personal





What is it about this photograph of parallel brick walls in a setting somewhat reminiscent of the visuals in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider that is worth contemplating? Why is a man walking through the passage? And why should Hindustan Times readers, who know nothing about this place, be asked to think about it?

The masses of bricks are found near Junagadh, a town in Gujarat famous for reasons that have little to do with the relict walls in the photograph. For one, Junagadh is located close to the majestic Girnar, the highest mountain in Gujarat in whose vicinity stands the historic rock where three ancient monarchs, starting with Asoka, got their edicts inscribed. For another, from the medieval centuries onwards, Junagadh became a centre of worship for Hindu and Jaina pilgrims. The parikrama around Girnar, which such pilgrims undertake from November onwards, remains the most important event in the sacred calendar of the town.

Much before its medieval fame as a centre of Jaina and Hindu worship, the hills of Girnar and the area of Junagadh was sacred to the Buddhists. There are several ancient rock hewn caves in and around it with dwelling chambers and water tanks for monks. Impressive foundations of brick built monasteries have also survived and one of these, at Intwa, was set up by the Saka ruler Rudrasena (c. 2nd century AD) for the bhikshu samgha there. These are monuments that are protected and conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

What have been practically forgotten, however, are a couple of Buddhist stupas that still stand in the Girnar forest. The walls in the photograph form part of the most impressive of them, known locally as Lakha Medi.

The Lakha Medi stupa is built on a rocky knoll, about seven kilometres to the east of Junagadh, in a delightfully secluded valley from where the rugged Girnar and the Datar hill, the highest after Girnar, can be seen. The valley is visited by those who come to pay obeisance at the Bhor Devi temple there. Hardly anyone, though, remembers the presence of a colossal stupa in the jungle adjacent to the temple, originally as large as the great stupa at Sanchi, and one which was excavated in 1889 by JM Campbell of the Bombay Civil Service. Campbell is generally remembered as the compiler of the Bombay District Gazetteers. Less known is the massive cutting that Campbell left behind at Lakha Medi as a consequence of his excavations at the stupa. From the available account of that excavation, it seems that first, the top of Lakha Medi was sliced off to a depth of 22 feet, then a trench 20 feet wide was driven across the stupa (seen in this photograph), followed by further digging, which revealed a stone coffer containing a stone pot in which was found a little copper pot, then a silver box and finally a little gold box. In the gold box were an aquamarine bead, a ruby, a sapphire, an emerald, some coaly grit and a 'relic' described as a flake of burnt stone ware. No inscription was found, but from the still standing solid mass of brick work in herring-bone bond, this seems to be a late centuries BC stupa.

No further excavations took place at Lakha Medi. But nor was it repaired. Now its ancient bricks are being used to expand the modern Bhor Devi temple. That it has survived in this cut up contorted way is because the jungle clad knoll where it is situated has survived, forming part of the reserve forest of Girnar. In the Girnar jungles, incidentally, it is state foresters and freelance naturalists who know more about the location and state of ancient monuments than archaeologists. My own tryst with the Lakha Medi stupa was made possible because Junagadh's well known nature man, Rasik Bhatt (who can be seen in the photograph) had roamed these forests looking for medicinal herbs and plants.

Of course, Lakha Medi's fate — where those who discovered and explored it did it in a way that disfigured and half-ruined it — is not an isolated one. This is true for many stupas across India, including those at Sanchi where the extent of damage was so considerable that a British officer in the 19th century, in discussing the work of the archaeologist Alexander Cunningham, is known to have commented that "a thousand years of time and weather have not done so much injury to the invaluable Topes at Sanchi as was caused by the action of major-general Cunningham.....who years ago mined deep into the Topes in the vain search for coins or inscriptions, and never filled in his excavations."

The difference, though is, that by the time Lakha Medi was dug into, repairs at the Sanchi monuments had begun and, what we see there today — large exposed and conserved stupas and shrines — had been more or less completed by 1919 or so. Sultan Jahan Begun, the ruler of the Bhopal Darbar, was Sanchi's main benefactor. The conservation work undertaken there by John Marshall, director general of the ASI, the construction of the Sanchi museum and the publication of the Sanchi volumes were largely financed by her Darbar.

Sanchi is now a World Heritage site but Lakha Medi still remains forgotten. Surely, with so many programmes that speak of adopting monuments, can an archaeological saviour for this forgotten stupa step forward? Such a saviour is urgently required if future generations are to remember Girnar not only for the wildlife that thrives in its beautiful forests but also for the historic heritage that these forests have protected.

Nayanjot Lahiri is professor at the Department of History, University of Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.



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

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

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

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






The dispute about a CD purporting to contain recording of a conversation between the former Samajwadi Party politician Amar Singh and lawyer Shanti Bhushan has taken an ugly turn. Bhushan has moved the Supreme Court, asking for contempt of court proceeding to be initiated against Amar Singh. The reason? According to Bhushan, Singh is behind the CD, and he is "circulating" it in order to create a "malicious impression" that the SC bench that is hearing the cases surrounding the allocation of 2G telecommunications spectrum — and also those dealing with the tapping of Amar Singh's phone — could be "managed", to use the phraseology of the tape, by Shanti's son, and fellow lawyer, Prashant.

This is an unpleasant spectacle. Nobody who cares for the integrity of our systems will be happy to see the dignity of the courts being called into question in this manner. It is worth noting that insinuations against the judiciary were not made in the more responsible section of the mainstream media, which was wise enough not to touch a point that imperilled the sanctity of the judicial process; it emerged as part of strike and counter-strike in petty feuding for position. The SC in particular has taken the lead in clearing the mess surrounding the 2G licensing process, and it is of utmost importance that that process go on unimpeded. The swift and sure prosecution of that process is vital because the best cure for public anger at perceived corruption in high places is to see our investigative and judicial apparatus working to get at the truth and ensuring

justice — and thus, closure. We believe the shoulders of our judges, and of our courts, are broad enough to carry this incident in their stride.

We need to, thus, ensure that this important work gets done, insulated as best as possible from the raucous, noisy, public mood, and the lashing out of a powerful few. The question of judicial independence, and the fine balance of independence and accountability, is a delicate one. Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia spoke on Sunday of a code of judicial ethics, in words that will have inspired all those who care about the integrity of India's institutions. The best response to that is to understand that the independence of the courts is an essential prerequisite for freedom and structural soundness, for the preservation of our liberties, for keeping a check on other institutions. Allowing the heat-and-dust of competitive politics — even from the avowedly anti-political — to compromise that independence is dangerous for our democracy.






The death of a villager in police firing during protests against the proposed nuclear power project at Jaitapur is tragic. And, given the nature of the protests, their political character is undeniable, as is the political instigation. It was not just Monday's protests that were led allegedly by Shiv Sena activists. The bandh called by the Sena in coastal Ratnagiri district to protest Monday's police firing also turned gruesomely violent, with a mob ransacking a district hospital and torching buses. The context is the Maharashtra opposition sharpening its attack on the state government. That is why, it's time to take stock of the harmful effect of the politicisation of the protests. The contest between the Shiv Sena and the NCP for the Konkan coast cannot be allowed to derail development projects and wreck individual lives.

It's natural for questions to be raised about nuclear projects. However, it benefits nobody and no answer is of any help when the hue and cry is just a cover for a luddite, all-out hostility demanding nothing less than a cancellation of the project. Here are some home truths: the 9,900 MW Jaitapur plant would provide electricity to some 10 million homes; India has an acute peak-hour power deficit of approximately 12 per cent which slows down its growth; almost 40 per cent Indians still lack electricity; when greenhouse gas emissions and clean energy are paramount concerns, nuclear energy is currently the most viable solution; the present 3 per cent of India's power from nuclear energy is too little and the target of 20,000 MW by 2020 should be met.

The opposition to nuclear plants was not unforeseen after Japan's Fukushima crisis. However, the gulf between the 40-year-old, tsunami-striken Fukushima Daiichi plant and current reactor design and technology is lost on those instigating the Jaitapur protests. The anti-Jaitapur debate has been subsumed under the broadest doomsday canvas that anti-nuclear activism could have painted. How else does one explain village posters using Fukushima images to scare villagers about what's in store for them? Nuclear literacy is the need of the hour. For that to happen, the government must make stronger outreaches to local communities, involving attentive listening and a lot of talking. What such nuclear literacy cannot countenance is the vandalism on display.






There is unanimous agreement that India needs some serious alchemy, to make sure that its swelling workforce is up to the job. The preliminary census findings revealed that we have no time to waste — there is a sea of impatient young people moving towards the employment market, and India needs to make sure that it responds now, to make sure its much talked-up "demographic dividend" doesn't double back on it. The late C.K. Prahalad and the CII, in their India@75 vision, suggested that by 2022, India would need a 500 million-strong trained workforce to fulfil its promise.

Unemployment is not as challenging a problem as unemployability — despite the large numbers of those seeking jobs, most of them do not have the skills required to fill the jobs available. Supply and demand are still spinning in different orbits, and jobs that require even the most basic specialisation remain unfilled. Only 2 per cent of the country's workforce has had any skills training (compared to 96 per cent in South Korea, 75 per cent in Germany, 80 per cent in Japan and 68 per cent in the United Kingdom). We have industrial training institutes and skilling centres, but they remain cramped spaces, serving only a fraction of the new entrants to the job market.

However, it is heartening that both government and private sector are pouring efforts into priming our workforce. The prime minister had set up a three-tier structure, helmed by the National Council for Skill Development, a coordination board at the Planning Commission level and a National Skill Development Corporation, to catalyse the private sector, with corpus funds provided by the government. Corporate India has also sensed immense opportunity in the skilling business and gone full-tilt, with or without government showing the way. Ultimately, industry-led training is the only way to get our workforce up to speed, to make sure that the training fills some tangible needs. For instance, in areas like construction, information technology, hospitality, or the auto industry, companies need to identify their needs and train staff to fit them. The nature of these needs shifts, and in order to have a self-directed, agile workforce capable of meeting the market's requirements, private-sector intervention is essential. Now, as new companies emerge, trying to match needs and ready job seekers for jobs, more power to them.








At about four in the morning of September 12, 2010, just a few hours after she had departed the Kenyan port of Mombasa for Durban in South Africa, the motor tanker Asphalt Venture was boarded by Somalian pirates. The ship's last radio message indicated that she was heading for Harardhere on the Somali coast. This relatively small, 4,000-tonne, 10-year-old, bitumen-carrying ship has two attributes that made it a prime target for pirates: its top speed is a paltry 8 knots and it has a low freeboard, which means that a 25-knot pirate skiff could easily overtake her and by throwing a hook over the low railing, board her without a problem. Little was known or heard about the fate of the ship till she was released, seven months later, on April 17. But sadly six of her 15-member crew have been kept back.

A look at the ship's complex provenance provides a revealing insight into the vexed problem of piracy which has overtaken the seafaring world. The vessel is owned by a company in Sharjah, flies the Panama flag and is managed by a Mumbai ship-management company which provided the Indian master and 15 crewmen. Who should come to the rescue of the ship and its crew is the moot question, which obviously took seven months to resolve. Legally, the safety and security of a ship is the responsibility of the "flag state" — distant Panama in this case. The vessel's owner too has a degree of responsibility but, morally, every country has the duty to protect its citizens, no matter where.

Let us go back to February 2006. On receiving media information that an Indian-owned and -manned dhow, MV Bhakti Sagar, flying the Indian flag, had been hijacked by Somali pirates, Naval Headquarters (NHQ) ordered the destroyer INS Mumbai, homeward bound from Oman, to alter course for Somalian waters. The intention was for the ship to position just outside Somali territorial waters and remain on station, since intense diplomatic activity was underway to negotiate the release of the Indian crew. Nautical wisdom said that a powerful warship, looming unseen over the horizon, could open any number of options; not all of them military. And best of all, if nothing worked out, she could just come home, still unheard and unseen.

While Mumbai was proceeding with all despatch, a heated debate raged in the cabinet secretary's office about the advisability of sending a warship. At the end of these deliberations, the MEA sent a written note to NHQ posing a set of rhetorical questions, which came as a revelation about the diffidence and lack of resolve that prevails at policy-making levels. Agonising about how our African and

Middle-Eastern neighbours would react to what was termed as "muscle-flexing" by the Indian navy, the note vividly illustrated why India has earned the sobriquet of a "soft state".

The essence of the note was contained in one plaintive query: "Will we sail a destroyer every time an Indian national is in trouble anywhere?" The navy's emphatic response — "Yes of course; if we have one available!" — went unheeded, and the warship had to be recalled. A few days later, the shipowner paid ransom to the pirates, and 21 Indian citizens came home, without the Indian state or its powerful navy having lifted a finger to protect them.

So what has changed in the past five years? For one, the Somali pirates have gained immeasurably in audacity as well as in range and scale of their depredations. They have graduated from small skiffs and trawlers to using medium-sized captured merchantmen as "mother ships", which allows them the freedom to extend their range up to 1,000-1,500 miles from home waters — right into India's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The ransom has risen from a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars per ship and crew.

Warships, of more than 25 nations, either individually or as part of joint task-forces, are regularly deployed in the Gulf of Aden and in the Somali Basin to deter pirate attacks on merchant ships. The UN General Assembly has passed a number of resolutions authorising the pursuit of pirates into Somali waters and their prosecution. However, all these measures have failed to curb piracy, and the menace has assumed serious proportions for a number of reasons, including the inadequacy of naval forces, lack of multinational coordination, and the inadequacy of existing laws to deal comprehensively with captured pirates. The Indian navy has, however, deservedly earned international plaudits for the bold and resolute actions of its captains.

In the case of Asphalt Venture, it was the ship's Emirati owners who, finally, negotiated a ransom of $3.5 million. There are two theories about why six Indian crew members have been kept back. One is that the pirates are annoyed because the owners have paid less ransom than agreed upon. The other, more disturbing, version is that they are demanding the release of their compatriots captured last month by the Indian navy. If Kandahar and IC-814 had a lesson, it was that appeasement never pays. Perhaps it is now time to send a destroyer; this time with Marine Commandos.

The writer is a former chief of the naval staff







Efforts to establish an Ombudsman-type institution in India started with the recommendation of the first Administrative Reforms Commission under the chairmanships of the late Shri Morarji Desai and the late Shri K. Hanumanthaiah during the 1970s. Bills were introduced in Parliament more than once, but we have not yet been able to bring about a consensus of views on what an Ombudsman-type institution, namely the Lokpal, should look like and the kinds of powers that should be vested in it. Even as the government is working on a draft bill, some civil society actors have come up with a draft Jan Lokpal bill demanding the establishment of a strong Lokpal that will tackle both corruption and maladministration that plague the government at various levels. Citizens can make complaints to the Lokpal directly about any act or omission that constitutes an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, against any public servant, including the prime minister, ministers of various ranks, members of Parliament, all government servants and employees of statutory corporations. Powers of inquiry, investigation, prosecution, oversight, enforcement of orders, tapping phones and intercepting messages, confiscating property, etc are all proposed to be vested on a single authority, namely the Lokpal. Such privileging of a single authority with wide-ranging powers and functions is unparalleled in the country's legislative history and is perhaps unwise. An examination of the provisions contained in the Jan Lokpal bill 2011 (version 2.2) gives rise to the following major areas of concern:

Combining investigation and prosecution powers in the Lokpal: The combination of powers to investigate and prosecute public servants for offences of corruption goes against the basic principle of the separation of these two functions in the criminal justice system, which was accomplished as far back as in 1973. A prosecutor is an agent of justice and an officer of the court. He or she must apply an unbiased and independent mind to the case prepared by the investigating officer. Such independence may not be possible if the prosecution agency is under the overall control of the Lokpal.

Vagueness of definitions: Certain terms as defined in the draft bill are vague. For example, "vigilance angle" includes within its ambit acts such as "exercise of discretion in excess", "indulging in discrimination through one's conduct directly or indirectly". These are loose expressions of noble intent, but can cause havoc during application and judicial interpretations. Similarly, a whistleblower is defined as a person who faces a threat of professional or physical harm, or has been actually harmed for making a complaint to the Lokpal, or for making a request for information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. This is more restrictive than the definition of a whistleblower contained in the 2010 bill pending in Parliament. The mere making of a public interest disclosure of wrongdoing is adequate for the purpose of being identified as a whistleblower under that bill.

Selection committee: The draft bill requires that two of the youngest judges of the Supreme Court and two youngest chief justices of high courts to be part of the selection committee for the Lokpal. While the principle of length of service... which itself contributes to experience and knowledge guides the idea of having the seniormost judges on such panels, the underlying principle of choosing the youngest judges is not very clear. What criteria will be applied in this regard — actual age of the judge, or the length of service?

Appointment of the Lokpal: Clause 8(11) gives a high degree of finality to the list of names recommended by the selection committee for filling up vacancies in the Lokpal. The president is required to only sign on the dotted line. The president must be allowed the space to satisfy himself/herself that the procedure for selection as laid down by the law has indeed been observed and the best candidates have been selected through due process. If these criteria are not fulfilled, the president must have the power to request the committee to reconsider its recommendations. The inclusion of the outgoing members of the Lokpal in the committee will needlessly inflate its size with no major purpose. The outgoing members may instead be consulted informally before the final list of candidates is prepared.

Videographing the selection process: The draft bill envisages the videographing of the entire selection process and making it public. While interviews of candidates may be made public, the committee must be allowed the space to deliberate in confidence while making a final decision. The outcome of the discussions and the reasons for selection may indeed be made public but if the deliberations are also made public, the candour and freeness of the discussions are likely to be affected adversely.

Lokpal fund: The draft bill envisages the creation of a fund into which all penalties and fines imposed by the Lokpal and 10 per cent of the monies confiscated will be deposited. The Lokpal will have absolute discretion to use these funds to enhance or upgrade the infrastructure of the Lokpal. This provision ignores the principle of legislative oversight over the manner of spending of funds collected from the public. Insulating large sums of money from parliamentary scrutiny does not lead to stronger mechanisms of accountability.

Independence of the judiciary: The draft bill in a few places encroaches upon the constitutionally guaranteed independence of the Supreme Court. The provision relating to removal places several restrictions on the inherent powers of the Supreme Court to determine the number of justices who will hear a case or even dismiss a case in liminae.

Further, the draft bill brings all justices of the Supreme Court and the high courts under the ambit of the Lokpal. Offences of corruption are better handled by a separate body such as a national judicial accountability commission.

Clauses 17 and 18 of the draft bill give powers of appeal to the Lokpal over all the actions of the justices of the Supreme Court and the high courts. A mere allegation of mala fide against a judicial body is adequate for the Lokpal to start an inquiry or investigation into the actions of judges. This is entirely undesirable as it violates the principle of independence of the judiciary which enables judges to act without fear.

Power of review over executive decisions: Clauses 8 and 17 turn the Lokpal into a civil court that will reverse the decisions of the executive such as grant of licences, permits, authorisations and even blacklist companies and contractors. This is not the job of an Ombudsman-type institution. Instead, the Lokpal must make recommendations to the public authority to take such actions and any failure to comply with must be dealt with by the Lokpal by approaching the appropriate court for issue of an enforcement decree.

Transparency must be balanced with other public interests: It is laudable that the draft bill places a lot of emphasis on transparency in the proceedings of the Lokpal. However, the draft bill fails to balance this public interest with other important public interests such as the right to privacy and reputation. In our society, it is not uncommon for persons accused of offences to be stigmatised even though they may eventually be acquitted by a court of law. It is important to ensure adequate balance between the need for transparency and the need to protect privacy and reputation of individuals.

Extraordinary powers of the Lokpal: The draft bill seeks to vest enormous powers in the Lokpal such as telephone tapping, issue of letters rogatory, confiscation of property for making false assets statements, etc. While these powers may be necessary for tackling corruption, there must be adequate checks and balances to prevent their misuse. Lord Acton famously said: "All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." The draft bill does not provide for appeals against most actions and orders of the Lokpal. This is a major lacuna. Letter rogatory unless issued by an independent court may not be valid in external jurisdictions. The efforts to tackle corruption in extra-territorial jurisdictions may come to naught merely because of this provision. The draft bill also lacks procedural safeguards save the requirement of giving a hearing to a public servant prior to confiscation of property.

The Lokpal in effect will be the investigator, prosecutor and enforcer of its will. When coupled with the powers to punish for contempt and in the absence of an appellate body the draft bill in fact creates a gigantic institution that draws its powers from a statute that is based on questionable principles.

Extracted from notes presented at a public consultation on the Lokpal Bill at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library on April 16

Justice Shah retired from the Delhi high court in 2010. Nayak is co-convenor of the National Campaign for People's RTI







'Pak mercenaries'

Nothing illustrates the difference between the strategic cultures of India and Pakistan than their attitudes towards risk. India would want to avoid any risk in conducting its foreign policy, while Pakistan boldly courts it. Consider India's reluctance to speak its mind on the unfolding confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Bahrain. Despite the appeal for support from two important recent visitors — the foreign minister of Bahrain and the National Security Adviser of Saudi Arabia — India appears to be maintaining strict neutrality in the unfolding confrontation between Riyadh and Tehran.

Pakistan, in contrast, has openly sided with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In allowing Bahrain to recruit Pakistani troops and ex-servicemen for internal security duties, Islamabad was willing to court Iranian displeasure. The Pakistani army has had a long tradition of sending its men to defend the Arab regimes, their palaces and oil wells. Even before the current crisis in Bahrain began, Pakistan apparently had nearly 10,000 troopers on duty in the tiny island nation.

One of the major demands of the pro-democracy protestors in recent weeks was the removal of the much detested policemen recruited from Pakistan and other places. As part of a more intensive crackdown on the Shia majority in Bahrain, nearly 1,000 troopers were reported to be recruited last month alone. Monthly salaries of around $500 are reportedly being offered to the Pakistani recruits; many of them will also have the option of becoming Bahraini citizens.

Some would say Islamabad had no option but to comply with the request of Saudi Arabia, one of the principal external supporters of Pakistan, when it chose to confront Iran in Bahrain. Pakistan, with a large Shia population of its own was nevertheless risking Iranian anger. Tehran certainly objected to Islamabad sending what it calls "Pak mercenaries" to Bahrain. There have been Shia protests against the move in Pakistan in recent days. There is also some concern that its involvement in Bahrain's internal conflict would affect the 65,000 odd Pakistanis who work there in jobs that have nothing to do with police or internal security.

While all these concerns might be real, they have not been strong enough to deter the Pakistani army from casting in its lot with the Saudis in Bahrain.

Bleeding America

As the Pakistani army plays hard ball with the United States on Afghanistan, there are proposals for a bolder policy to bring the Obama administration to its knees. The former ISI chief and mentor of the Taliban, Lt Gen Hameed Gul apparently has a plan to bleed America in Afghanistan, much like the Soviet Union was during its occupation of the country in the 1980s.

The plan is a simple one. It will squeeze the supply routes into Afghanistan that bring food, fuel and munitions to the US and international troops there. While some supplies do come through the so-called Northern Distribution Network in Central Asia, the land routes through Pakistan form the essence of American logistics in Afghanistan.

Gul wants to mobilise political groups and civil society organisations to block the supply routes into Afghanistan. In the past terror attacks on trucks plying this route had served to remind the US of its dependence on Pakistan. Gul is right in betting that peaceful protestors are bound to make a bigger impact than images of burning trucks. Gul has calculated that it will take just two weeks for fuel supplies to run out in Afghanistan and the US to cry "uncle".

Some political parties like Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf have reportedly called for a sit-in protest this weekend. According to some analysts, "this experimental blockade would be repeated from time to time, potentially drawing more people with each new protest, until the US accepts Pakistani terms and agrees to revamp the relationship."

Whether this plan is implemented or not, there is no denying the army's chutzpah. After receiving nearly $20 billion in direct aid from the US over the last decade, the bold talk in Rawalpindi is that it is America that needs Pakistan; and not the other way around.

Kabul's envoy

Signalling his commitment to strengthening relations with Pakistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appointed his chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, as the new envoy to Islamabad. According to the Pakistan media, Daudzai was presented by Karzai to the Pakistani delegation led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that visited Kabul last Saturday.

Daudzai had served as Afghan ambassador to Iran from 2005 to 2007, when he became Karzai's chief of staff. During the years of the jihad against the Soviet occupation, Daudzai was part of Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







Neither IMF nor US

In the week after the BRICS summit, an article in CPM's People's Democracy takes a look at the debate about promoting IMF special drawing rights (SDRs) as an alternative reserve to the US dollar. It says that it is difficult to believe that the issue of SDRs would offer a solution to the problem that the US does not have the requisite economic strength to warrant the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency.

It argues there are several immediate and obvious obstacles to SDRs. "First, the $317 billion worth of SDRs currently available are distributed across countries and are a small proportion of global reserve holdings... the fraction of this $317 billion that would be available for trade against actual currencies would be small, implying that even with recent increases in allocations the SDR can only be a supplementary reserve... Thus, the idea of a wholly new currency serving as a unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value at the international level does appear a bit far-fetched," it concludes.

The lies about Modi

The editorial in the CPI's New Age notes that Hazare's certificate to Modi has irked civil society, particularly in Gujarat. "While rightly pointing out that the Gandhian has ignored the massacre of minorities in Gujarat in 2002 masterminded by Modi and executed by Sangh Parivar gangs, the activists of civil society have also exposed the claims of Modi on development of Gujarat," it points out. The editorial also says that as supporters of Hazare, "mostly the products of media hype as well as support extended by corporate houses" were celebrating his victory, fissures started appearing among them.

It further says the claims made by the Modi government on rural development were hollow. During the past one decade, the cultivated area in the state has shrunk dramatically as the Modi government has forcefully acquired agricultural land, it says. This has also resulted in large scale displacement of people. It quotes a report on development-induced displacement that says over four lakh households have been dislocated and uprooted in Gujarat. Real unemployment ratio in rural Gujarat, it adds, is higher than the national average, giving rise to evils like drug addiction; the per capita consumption of liquor in the state — where total prohibition is in place — is higher than in neighbouring Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Karat and VS, friends

With the polling for the Kerala assembly elections over, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat mentions Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan's crusade against corruption in an article titled "on the election trail" in People's Democracy, virtually accepting the fact that his fight boosted the party's image. Besides rising prices, he says high-level corruption had a "special resonance" in Kerala and cites the case of a minister in an earlier Congress-led government, R. Balakrishna Pillai, who was sent to jail thanks to a petition filed by VS. "That his punishment for corruption came about due to a petition filed by the then opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan, underlined the firm stand of the LDF government on corruption," he says.

"The popular outrage against high level corruption and the strong urge for a corruption-free government has definitely worked in favour of the LDF. The big crowds at V.S. Achuthanandan's meetings were a recognition of this," he adds. The Kerala CPM had initially decided to deny a ticket to VS at a meeting attended by Karat.

Karat also mentions Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's barb that the Left pursue programmes which are not relevant to the needs of the common man. Under the Centre's neo-liberal approach, he says, the revival of PSUs that the Kerala goverment had undertaken would have been anathema. "The various social welfare measures extended to all sections of the working people, the push for universalisation of PDS, the measures taken to alleviate the indebtedness of farmers, the ensuring of minimum wages, pensions and other social security benefits are precisely the programmes which the prime minister decries 'as not relevant to the needs of the common man' but which have ensured that there are no anti-incumbency trends," he says.







It is heartening to see how the middle ground in the debate over the Jan Lokpal Bill has expanded so much in just over a week after Anna Hazare stirred everyone's imagination from Jantar Mantar. And away from Hazare's insistent maximalism, in a wider sense, the sheer impatience shown over the urgent need to have a super-judicial authority with unbridled powers to investigate and prosecute almost anyone from prime ministers to Supreme Court judges has given way to some reasoned discussion on what is feasible and what is not in a constitutional democracy.

Indeed, this is the very crux of the issue. Parliament will not pass a bill which, in the name of eradicating corruption instantly, seeks to drastically alter the existing balance of power among the various arms of the state as laid down in the Constitution. It is well nigh impossible for Parliament or a state assembly to pass a new law which takes away the very powers vested in the legislature. Besides, there is a genuine fear with regard to the consequences of concentrating too much power in a new Lokpal. For instance, former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, who has studied the draft, has said that the proposed law would be "at variance with the constitutional scheme of things".

The expanding middle ground in this debate should now force the government to look for creative solutions that may emerge from the existing constitutional framework to attack the all-pervasive corruption in the delivery of public goods and services which affects the common man the most.

The larger debate should focus on how to reinvent the entire state machinery to manage the rising aspirations of a billion-plus people. A new Lokpal can only be seen as a significant component of this larger exercise. It will be a mistake to project it as a magic pill which will cleanse the system overnight.

In this context, it is very important to push creative ideas to win smaller battles against corruption. Some state governments have already shown the way on how to do this. The governments of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have enacted a new law which seeks to penalise government officials who fail to deliver key services to the people.

The lead in this regard was taken by MP which has enacted the Madhya Pradesh Public Services Guarantee Act 2010 and the Madhya Pradesh Special Courts Bill 2011, which was recently passed by the legislature. The Public Services Guarantee Act is aimed at forcing government officials to deliver notified services to the citizens within a specified time limit, failing which a penalty of up to Rs 5,000 per day can be imposed on the concerned official in charge of providing such services. The Special Courts Bill provides for confiscation of the property held by public servants acquired through illegal means. All public servants ranging from the chief minister and sarpanch at the political level to the chief secretary and Class IV employees at the administrative level are covered by the new law. These laws are also being implemented in Bihar and hopefully will spread to other states.

Thus a local police station head who refuses to file a complaint or delays acting on a complaint can be brought under the Public Services Guarantee Act. Similarly if a village sarpanch refuses to register a person under the employment guarantee scheme the new law can be invoked. State governments would also do well to appoint certified NGOs as ombudsmen who can act as facilitators in invoking such laws on behalf of citizens. This may be required in rural India in areas where there may not be enough awareness among the people to seek justice under established laws.

The bill enabling the confiscation of assets disproportionate to the incomes of public servants also cuts at the root of corruption. While MP has taken a lead in this, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had made a promise to the electorate during the assembly elections last year that he would enact a similar law. Under this legislation, the state government, on the basis of prima facie evidence, can make an application before a special court for confiscation of such property. Of course, this law places some discretion at the hands of the state government which can be misused. Again, the assessment of prima facie evidence on disproportionate assets before moving to confiscate property must be done in a fair and rigorous manner.

Similarly, Bihar has also made it obligatory for government servants to declare their personal and immediate family assets. The existing Central law under the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1964 also has a provision making it obligatory for civil servants to declare their assets from time to time as an internal exercise. The Centre should make this public so that it acts as a form of deterrent against potential acts of corruption.

So there is ample scope to leverage existing legal and administrative mechanisms to tackle corruption provided there is the political will to do so. Creative changes in existing legislation at the Central and state levels could also make a lot of difference in the fight against corruption. Recently, at an Indian Express

Idea Exchange session, the chief economic adviser in the finance ministry, Kaushik Basu, a micro-economist with a passion for game theory, suggested a simple idea. The current law on bribery creates a cosy understanding between the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker as it seeks to punish both equally. The bribe-giver often does so under duress for no one wants to pay a bribe for getting simple services like a driving licence or passport. So Basu suggests that the law should be amended to give total immunity to the bribe-giver. This will make the bribe-taker very wary and incentivise the bribe-giver to complain to the authorities even after paying a bribe.

We also need to amend current laws which make it very difficult to get Central and state government sanction to prosecute corrupt bureaucrats. Bureaucrats need to be brought out of this comfort zone and this will automatically break the potential nexus with their political masters who use them to legitimise irregular practices. Similarly, reform of electoral funding could break the deep nexus between corporates and the political class which is also at the root of various big scams. You don't need a draconian Lokpal bill if the Centre and state governments can implement some of these ideas which, taken together, can create a substantive impact on governance.

The writer is Managing Editor, 'The Financial Express'







A 70% hike in any price is bound to get anyone upset, so it is not surprising that various transporter associations have reacted the way they have to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority's (Irda) decision to revise the premium on mandatory third-party insurance liability cover by 65-70%. Various associations which are meeting today are threatening to go on strike if the hike is not withdrawn. Whether Irda blinks will probably depend on how the political class tackles the threat, which will be aggravated by the fact that a transport strike will certainly result in prices of essential goods rising.

The truckers, however, would do well to keep in mind that, even after the Irda hike, they are still being hugely subsidised by the state-owned insurance companies. The third-party claims ratio for commercial goods carrying vehicles went up from 153% in 2007-08 to 173% in 2009-10—that means for every R100 the insurance industry earned by way of premium, it paid out R173 towards the third party claim, by dipping into profits it made in other segments. Since the claims ratio is a lower 72% for private insurers compared to 232% for the public sector ones, only the private insurers will be in the black after the hike.

Which raises two questions: why does the Irda have to fix these tariffs when it has freed up all others and, two, why don't the PSU insurers just leave this business to the private sector firms? The reason why Irda has to notify tariffs is that third-party insurance is mandatory and, if the prices are left to market forces, they will rise to cover the claims losses—that is, they will rise by around 2.5 times. Indeed, the reason why private firms have lower claims on commercial vehicles as compared to PSU insurers is that private firms are very choosy and insure only the best transporters. If the government wants rates to remain low while not bleeding the PSU insurance firms, it will also have to chip in and do its bit. That means ensuring drivers don't get away with getting licences without being skilled, that transporters stick to the maximum number of driving hours, that overloading not be allowed—at the end of the day, this is what makes accidents rise and third-party claims balloon.





The debate whether China's revaluation of the yuan will plunge it into a Japanese-style post-Plaza Accord crisis is not new. What's new though is the 'fresh' evidence presented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recently released World Economic Outlook, 2011. In a rare move, the IMF devoted an entire three-page section of the report debunking the arguments that the Plaza Accord of 1985—in which Japan agreed to revalue the yen against the dollar—led to its prolonged economic crisis, emotively described as Japan's 'lost decade'.

In September 1985, in the famous Plaza Hotel in New York, Japan bowed to US pressure and agreed to intervene in its currency market to revalue the yen against the dollar as a means of enhancing the US's export competitiveness and to trim its large trade deficits. As a result, the yen's value doubled from 240 to 120 a dollar within two years of the Plaza Accord. Two major outcomes were seen post Plaza; one, the sharply higher yen prompted Japanese manufacturers to shift production abroad, including to the US, and two, to cushion the impact of the stronger yen on its economy, Japan kept its monetary policy loose to stimulate domestic demand and to keep the yen from appreciating further. Arguably, this resulted in an asset bubble that was followed by an inevitable bust.

The bulk of current popular and academic opinion emerging from China is loath to repeat Japan's mistake of letting its exchange rate rise in response to western pressure. The risk is perceived to be too high. On the other hand, IMF is at pains to point out that this time is different. It presents two sets of seemingly compelling evidence on how. The first focuses on the series of policy mistakes made by Japan (which China can learn from) and the second on how the situation in China is very different compared to Japan's two decades ago.

Rather than currency appreciation, IMF cites old and new research to show that it was a debilitating combination of circumstances and choices that led to Japan's collapse. This included (1) an overreaction to the yen appreciation in the form of a large macroeconomic stimulus, (2) inadequate countervailing regulatory and fiscal policies to combat the ensuing real estate bubble, and (3) an undercapitalised and vulnerable financial system in which authorities delayed forcing banks to recognise their losses when the bubble burst.

By itself, each policy mistake was not a problem, but their union was catastrophic. One of the many scholarly pieces of work cited by IMF suggests that the slow policy response allowed banks to continue lending to firms that had themselves become insolvent, a process described by its authors as "zombie lending". Naturally, this had a damaging impact on productivity and prolonged the slump. According to IMF, faster restructuring of banks was not implemented because it appeared politically risky.

Buttressing the scholarly evidence is a description of the prevailing set of circumstances in Japan then and China now. First, leverage in China is lower and the risk of excessive borrowing may thus be smaller. Second, China's exports may not suffer even after currency appreciation since it has room to move up the value chain. Third, China has a managed exchange rate supported by vast foreign currency reserves that can help it avoid the sharp appreciation observed in Japan. And finally, Japan's experience has characteristics of a public good from which China can learn.

To many, IMF's version of Japan's economic history and the lessons from it will appear as old wine in a new bottle. And perhaps rightly so. But there is a method. IMF's coaxing of China to revalue without fear is part of a well-orchestrated plan that may yet end with China being designated as a "currency manipulator" under US trade law, paving the way for US retaliation. To be sure, China has used the yuan to penetrate foreign markets, but to single it out for many of the US and global problems seems to be an overkill. At best, it is one of many reasons for the US trade deficit and loss of manufacturing jobs, pressure to engage in competitive devaluations by developing countries and the sluggishness in global economic recovery from the crisis. Just like IMF has found many connected causes for Japan's decline, yuan appreciation by itself would be ineffective in tacking these problems. It would need to be accompanied, inter alia, by lower saving and greater consumption in China and higher saving in the US. The biggest losers of China's exchange rate policy are, in fact, the competing countries—India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Korea—rather than the US, a fact recognised by several studies.

Peer pressure on China has delivered some results. From July 2005 to July 2008, the yuan appreciated against the dollar by about 21%. More recently, in the second half of 2010, it climbed by about 3%. This is nowhere near the range of 30-50% undervaluation of the yuan estimated by economists. China is perhaps apprehensive that an immediate and sharp appreciation of its currency could disrupt its export industries and lead to extensive layoffs, which, in turn, could slow its economic growth. To convince a country that has recorded the highest growth rates in human history for the longest period of time that its current exchange rate policy is not in its long-term interest will take a lot more than mere peer pressure.

The author is a professor at International Management Institute





It hasn't even been a week since India Gate was awash in candle light, the wax on the candles hadn't even sputtered to stubs before the joint committee on the drafting of the Lokpal Bill was caught in several controversies.

First came the news that the co-chair of the committee, former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan and his son, also a member of the joint committee and a lawyer himself, could be embroiled in fixing judges for the Samajwadi Party. The debate on whether or not a CD that proves this allegation is authentic or not was a postscript to the first meeting of the joint committee.

Deep political opposition to the proposed Jan Lokpal version of the Bill, as articulated by Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit and echoed across party lines, came next. But perhaps the biggest challenge to a Lokpal Bill seeing the light of day is the lack of consensus among civil society activists on the shape of the Bill.

On the face of it, it is a no-brainer. If, for the last 40 years, consensus has not been built around a common draft for the Bill, it isn't likely to now. The opportunity for pushing through the legislation, in the face of a popular demand, however, is like no other at this time. It is, therefore, tragic that a liberal consensus on the shape of the Bill is non-existent.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, as put forward by the civil society representatives, envisages a sort of a super structure administered by a Lokayukta, which would have a parallel power of investigation, prosecution and punishing cases of graft, over and above the system currently in place. Actually, an 11-member group whose authority will derive not only from the state but also from the fact that their appointment would be transparent and, therefore, afford them a moral authority in taking on cases dealing with graft.

This idea of a 'super structure' has been opposed rather vehemently, not so much by the political class but by civil society activists like Aruna Roy, who are also members of the National Advisory Council's working group on an anti-graft law. Roy's opposition principally relates to this super structure. Parallel consultation held by the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) has come to the conclusion that a more comprehensive system of checks and balances is required rather than a super structure of this sort. The NCPRI draft and knowing its influence on members of the NAC—the draft which would be put forward by that body—will, in fact, argue for a judicial accountability and standards bill to also be tabled.

The consultation held by it came to the conclusion that strengthening the CVC by removing the single directive and providing investigative capacity to the office is important, as is the legislation of a whistle-blowers act. The NAC, very gamely, has decided to put on hold its draft and wait for the joint committee to finalise its views on the issue. The NCPRI, which has many NAC members as constituents, does not have the same qualms.

As these voices, never the kinds to whisper, are making themselves heard, the political class could be considering itself safe from yet another attempt to curb it. There had been a banding together of a ramshackle liberal consensus on several other issues before (the anti-emergency movement being a more germane example), which was blown away by differences between opposing view points and strong personality clashes. A lot of the cynicism displayed by the media on Anna Hazare's fast, in fact, stemmed from this baggage from the past. Of hopes belied by differences of opinion.

It would be a pity, therefore, if a lack of a consensus would fritter away the opportunity provided by India's middle class for a genuine set of measures to combat graft.







The south-west monsoon, which provides about 80 per cent of the rainfall that India receives annually, sets the pace for the country's economy. Shortfalls in the monsoon not merely affect agriculture but set off reverberations in other sectors too. There will, therefore, be relief all round that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has, in its seasonal forecast issued on Tuesday, predicted that this year's monsoon is "most likely to be normal." The IMD has used a statistical model to predict the probabilities for the monsoon falling in one of five categories: deficient (where the total nationwide rainfall is less than 90 per cent of the long-period average); below normal (from 90 per cent to 96 per cent); normal (96 per cent to 104 per cent); above normal (104 per cent to 110 per cent); and excess (above 110 per cent). The 'normal' as defined in the IMD's probabilistic forecast is very different from the normal in the vocabulary of atmospheric scientists. In the latter case, it refers to a monsoon when the rainfall is between 90 per cent and 110 per cent of the long-period average. However, when the probabilities for the middle three categories are added, the chances of a 'normal' monsoon (in the sense used by scientists) will work out to 93 per cent. The rainfall data for over a century show that such a 'normal' monsoon occurs in seven out of ten years. In other words, there is a greatly heightened probability of the monsoon turning out to be normal this year. By the same token, the prospect of a deficient monsoon, which always arouses the most concern, is put at just six per cent this year. That too is good news since such deficient monsoons have occurred in about 18 per cent of the years and, what is more worrying, on three occasions in the last 10 years. The chances of this year's monsoon turning excess are put at just one per cent.

The outlook for the monsoon can change in the coming months and this year's outcome is particularly difficult to forecast. Last year's monsoon was helped by a La Nina that began to develop in June, with the waters of the equatorial eastern and central Pacific Ocean turning cooler than usual. That La Nina has weakened. This transition phase is difficult to predict and the models are currently displaying a range of possibilities. A majority of the models suggest the present La Nina conditions could continue till June and then weaken further, according to the IMD. The question is whether this could set the stage for an El Nino to develop, with the equatorial Pacific becoming warmer than usual. An El Nino often adversely affects the monsoon and has been associated with 65 per cent of the drought years. Changes in the Indian Ocean too can have an impact. Let us hope that the IMD's prediction for a normal monsoon holds.





The latest reality check on global progress to make the world more inclusive presents mixed results. The Global Monitoring Report 2011 (GMR) on the Millennium Development Goals, prepared jointly by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, makes it clear that, despite some progress, key targets will remain elusive when the 2015 deadline is reached. There are positive signs that the goals relating to parity in primary and secondary education, completion of primary education, access to safe drinking water, and halving extreme poverty and hunger can be met. But there is cause for serious concern in the areas of child and maternal mortality and access to sanitation. One reason for this uneven progress is that access-based goals, such as education, are easier to achieve than those that can be measured by specific outcomes, such as healthcare. What emerges from this year's GMR, based on impact evaluations in health and education, is that, while the quantity of services has increased, the quality has not improved. Correcting this will be the key challenge that nations face in their endeavour to make the world less unjust. The mixed global picture, however, serves only a limited, albeit important purpose: to know how the world has fared in respect of the MDGs. And the answer is 'not encouraging.' More critically, policies and institutions that are central to a country's ability to meet the MDGs are just not up to the challenge.

The performance of individual countries within this global picture is at least as important. Well-conceived and sincerely implemented policies can make the difference to people in countries that have to shake off persistent poverty. The GMR makes special mention of the economic growth witnessed in China and India as a positive factor in the world's progress towards MDGs. However, high economic growth rates do not at all mean inclusive growth. Further, absolute figures on poverty reduction do not tell the complete tale. Methodological issues aside, even if one looks at the rate of decline of poverty in India, it was 12.4 per cent between 1977-78 and 1987-88 compared with only 8.5 per cent between 1993-94 and 2004-05, as the recently released Chronic Poverty Report points out. Even going by the low poverty line measure that prevails in India, it is still home to the world's largest number of poor, estimated at 301.7 million. Herein is the clearest indication that present policies in India are ill-equipped to correct chronic poverty.







After 42 years of hesitation and uncertainty, an institutional mechanism to deal with the all-pervasive incidence of corruption in India is in sight. What apparently moved the state machinery was the agitation spearheaded by Anna Hazare, which drew spontaneous support primarily in the metropolitan cities. Within five days of Anna Hazare starting a 'fast unto death' at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, the Government of India conceded his demand to constitute a committee to draft a bill to establish the institution of a Lokpal at the Centre.

This was quite different from the past practices of the Indian state. Remember Potti Sriramulu, who at the end of a prolonged fast sacrificed his life for the formation of Andhra Pradesh. And Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for more than 10 years, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Nevertheless, the developments leading to the constitution of the committee to draft a Lokpal bill, and the provisions of the draft bill, raise fundamental questions about the working of Indian democracy. Some of these questions demand urgent attention before a bill is piloted in Parliament.

In the matter of deciding the composition and the terms of reference of the committee, Anna Hazare appears to have exercised decisive influence. He chose the "representatives of civil society" and the government accepted his suggestions. The committee consists of five "representatives of civil society," and five Union Ministers representing the government. Welcoming the initiative, the Prime Minister has said that the "coming together of the government and civil society is a step that augurs well for democracy." But it should be apparent that no democratic principle was followed in the constitution of the committee. The civil society representatives were handpicked by Anna, and the government nominees do not reflect the diverse political opinion that is represented in Parliament.

A Magsaysay award winner, Anna Hazare brought to the movement against corruption his considerable reputation and the moral strength derived from his social work in a village in Maharashtra, Ralegan Siddhi. But the methods he has adopted to press his demand have raised eyebrows. Many people believe that the hunger strike he undertook and the ultimatum he served were coercive in nature and have no place in a democracy. The attempt made by some of his followers to equate him with Gandhiji need not be taken seriously, as neither his ideas nor his methods justify such a claim. Nevertheless, his Gandhian credentials have earned him recognition from the state and civil society. Although he claims to be apolitical, he entertains a deep distrust of politics and politicians.

Paradoxically, he has sought the help of the political system to deal with the malaise of corruption. If he had chosen the moral path, he would have addressed the social conditions that made corruption possible. Yet, supported by a few civil society activists and projected by a section of the English media as a saviour of the nation, Anna acquired a larger-than-life stature that appeared to have punctured the government's self-assurance.

His agitation has been lionised by some people as a second freedom struggle. But it appears to have escaped general notice that "the assertion of a few to represent the majority" without any representative character is essentially anti-democratic. The emotional, even unthinking, support that Anna Hazare commanded is understandable, given the widespread corruption indulged in by the political elite and the bureaucracy.

However, it is the timing of the agitation rather than the moral content of the campaign that accounts for the popular response. The neo-liberal policies pursued by the ruling elite had opened up the possibility of corruption in the massive transfer of public assets and the promotion of corporate interests through political patronage. Both the National Democratic Alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the United Progressive Alliance under the leadership of the Congress were bedfellows in promoting privatisation and inviting foreign capital to modernise India. The unprecedented levels of corruption in recent times are a concomitant of the economic conditions created by liberalisation.

Corruption is a complex issue that is embedded in bureaucratic rigidity and issues of economic access and political power. In this sense, the state is the main promoter of corruption. It cannot be reduced to a question of morality alone, nor can a solution be found by punishing individuals as a deterrent. Such a solution, however, will be most welcome to the state and its functionaries, and even to the liberal intelligentsia. It appears that corruption is a great unifier. For Anna Hazare's anti-corruption platform attracted the former police officer Kiran Bedi and Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh, along with communalists like Ram Madhav and religious entrepreneurs such as Baba Ramdev and Sri Ravi Shankar on the same platform. Not only were communalists and rightwing elements part of his entourage, but Anna extended his 'blessings' to the likes of Narendra Modi by praising the Gujarat model of development, ignoring in the process the moral problem that is so dear to his heart.

It is tragic that a person who believes that morality is neutral is being celebrated as the 'saviour' of the nation in some quarters, including the government. But the state's favorable demeanour towards Anna is not surprising. So long as Anna Hazare, or for that matter anybody else, does not raise systemic and institutional issues, and only champions reformist measures, the state will have no problem in promoting them. In fact, the state's attempt will be to 'instrumentalise' them.

As a result, Anna Hazare and his committee may end up as apologists for the state-run machinery of corruption. For it is not the absence of law that prevents action against the guilty, but the absence of a political will to do so. For a crisis-ridden government, the periodic appearance of the likes of Anna Hazare, and their reformist agendas, are safety valves. The government functionaries who are sharing the table with Anna now may help create another fortress around the beleaguered state.

The committee that was quickly constituted on the basis of mutual consent between Anna and the government has started its deliberations. More than one draft bill was presented at its first meeting, and therefore it is premature to discuss the provisions. Yet, there are some visible directions. Anna Hazare's authoritarian approach to social problems, as is evident in the social ambience created in Ralegan Siddhi, and the principle of centralisation of authority that the state follows (in the matter of the National Council for Higher Education and Research Bill, for instance) find a common resonance in the drafts. They envision the Lokpal functioning in a social vacuum as a super-judicial authority, undermining the existing judicial system — which, all said and done, has withstood the pressures and preserved the rights of citizens. There is nothing in the draft to suggest that the Lokpal will bring to bear a greater sense of transparency and accountability of the system than what the existing institutions have so far achieved.

The aim of the bill is not to prevent corruption but to punish the corrupt. In this respect, the draft does not provide an approach that is qualitatively different from that of the existing institutions of the state. Only when a transparent system is put in place will the prevention of corruption become possible. Social audit does not necessarily create such transparency. The process of decision-making has to be fundamentally altered in order to ensure transparency. The targets should be the conditions that make corruption possible; that requires a complete overhauling of the existing mode of government management.

Given the scale and influence of corruption in India, the constitution of a Jan Lokpal will be a welcome initiative. But the proposed Lokpal has the makings of a super-monster. By absorbing all existing anti-corruption agencies, the Lokpal will have complete powers of independent investigation and prosecution. It will be an institution with overriding powers — but without any accountability. As such, it goes against all norms of democratic functioning. If the Jan Lokpal is to live up to its jan character, its authoritarian and centralised structure should be dispensed with and it should be turned into an instrument of people's empowerment. A beginning towards this end should be made at the formative stage itself by sending the draft bill to every panchayat for discussion, so that nation's conscience is truly aroused.

(Dr. K.N. Panikkar, a former Professor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, is at knpanikkar








When External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna arrives in Kathmandu on Wednesday (April 20), he will come across an extremely complex and fragmented political landscape. At a time when only a broad based consensus can lead to the successful conclusion of the peace and constitutional process, deep inter and intra party divisions mar the Nepali polity. Mr. Krishna's challenge will be to encourage all forces to work together as the May 28 constitutional deadline approaches, and rebuild the political trust between India and sections of the political class, especially the Maoists.

The government's troubles

The 'left government,' led by Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) chairman Jhalanath Khanal and supported by the Maoists, is barely functional. Two months after being elected, the Prime Minister has not been able to give full shape to the cabinet. There is no foreign minister, and the Maoists have sent only four leaders to government, out of their allotted quota of 11 ministries.

At the root of the Prime Minister's problems are the internal divisions within his party, the UML, and the Maoists. The Prime Minister signed a seven point deal with the Maoist chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', in the run-up to his election. Key provisions included distributing home and defence portfolios sensitively (the unwritten deal was giving home to the Maoists), a rotational system where Maoists would lead the government next, and creation of a separate or mixed force of Maoist combatants.

The deal immediately provoked a backlash within the UML, with leaders accusing the Prime Minister of toeing the Maoist agenda. The party accepted the agreement, but with the caveat that Maoists will not be given the home ministry till there was progress in the peace process — the argument being that the former rebels could not have a security related portfolio till they had a 'private armed force.'

In turn, the Maoists accused the UML of 'betrayal' and insisted on the implementation of the seven point agreement. The party is in the middle of a deep existential crisis, with three distinct groups led by chairman Prachanda, senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya 'Kiran' and vice-chairman Dr. Baburam Bhattarai engaged in battles over the ideological line, organisational functioning, and political space. The dogmatic Mr. Kiran has pushed for creating deeper polarisation, and a 'people's revolt'; Dr. Bhattarai has argued for continued collaboration with older parliamentary parties and India to institutionalise a federal democratic republic; and Mr. Prachanda has adopted an ambiguous position of striving for peace and constitution, but simultaneously preparing for a popular revolt.

The three groups divided the ministerial portfolios allotted to the Maoists among themselves, with Mr. Prachanda agreeing to give the home ministry to Dev Gurung, a senior leader of the Kiran camp. With the UML refusing to give them the home ministry, the Maoist dogmatists are now threatening to pull out of government. For his part, Dr. Bhattarai opposed the alliance and has argued that only Maoist collaboration with NC can push the process forward.

These details reveal the limited manoeuvring space available to the ruling coalition. The pressure by the PM's rivals like Madhav Nepal and K.P. Oli within the UML has restricted Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal's ability to deliver what he has promised to the Maoists. And the challenge posed by both Mr. Kiran and Dr. Bhattarai, who are pulling the party in opposite political directions, drastically limits Mr. Prachanda's ability to compromise. Add to this the opposition from outside — where the NC has been critical of the failure in governance, and the parties comprising the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) have threatened a movement in the plains if 'Madhesi concerns' are not addressed.

Peace and constitution front

The silver lining in the past two months, however, has been an emerging agreement on the modality of the integration of Maoist combatants. The Nepal Army has proposed the creation of a mixed force under an NA directorate, led by a major general. This force, comprising 10-12,000 soldiers, would include Maoist fighters, and personnel from the Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and NA — it could be used for purposes of border security, disaster management, or industrial and forest security. The Maoists and NC have reacted positively to the proposal. The numbers to be integrated, rank harmonisation, recruitment norms, and timeline are yet to be thrashed out. But there is now a concrete proposal on the table on which all sides can build a common ground.

On constitution writing, a sub-committee of the Constitutional Committee led by Mr. Prachanda resolved many key issues, especially regarding the judiciary and legislature. But the form of government and nature of federalism remain major contentious issues. Once again, the internal contradictions of the Maoists have held the process hostage — where dogmatists like Mr. Kiran have put pressure on Mr. Prachanda to quit from the subcommittee, raising serious questions about the commitment of a section of the Maoist party to constitution drafting. Given the range of differences, missed deadlines, and existing political impasse, it is clear that a full constitution will not be written by May 28, when the Constituent Assembly's term expires.

What happens to the Assembly then? There are voices in the NC and UML raising questions about the utility of the Assembly if it can't draft the statute. Anti-Maoist forces, in Nepal and outside, have also pushed for dissolution of the Assembly since that would deprive the Maoists of a source of legitimate strength. But an extension with a time-bound plan on the peace and constitutional process is the best option since the other scenarios — active presidential intervention backed by the army, a constitutional vacuum, or an outright confrontation with Maoists on the streets — are far more dangerous and will lead to the collapse of the existing framework.

India's role

Given the internal fragmentation, India will be hard pressed to help build a consensus even if wants to help. But what is crucial is that it does not play a counter-productive role.

There is a perception that New Delhi is uncomfortable with the 'left alliance.' With rising violence in the Tarai, Kathmandu is rife with rumours that sections of the Indian establishment have once again turned a blind eye to the activities of armed groups operating from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in order to discredit the present government — this trend had drastically declined during the previous Madhav Nepal government with which India had a close working relationship. New Delhi has also encouraged Madhesi parties to stay out of government and instead be a strong opposition along with the NC.

All of this is only fuelling resentment against India among a sizeable section of the left forces in Nepal, who constitute a large chunk of the Constituent Assembly and electorate and feeding into the designs of those Maoists who want to deepen the polarisation.

Mr. Krishna would do India-Nepal relations a lot of good if he could, at the highest levels and in public, deliver a political commitment that New Delhi does not have preferences in Nepali domestic politics and any legitimate government will have its full co-operation. This must be followed by instructions to its own arms not to play a destabilising role.

The larger picture

India should keep its eyes on the big picture and encourage all parties to build up the momentum on integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, which is at the core of the peace process, and constitution writing. There is suspicion in Kathmandu that India would not like the Constituent Assembly extended — something Madhesi leaders publicly said after a recent visit to India. Those in New Delhi who think on those lines and are arguing that Nepal should go in for fresh polls instead are either being ignorant or mischievous — in the absence of a full statute, and the continued presence of Maoist fighters, there will no framework or political consensus to hold polls and the country will be stuck in a protracted impasse. There is no alternative to the present process and Mr. Krishna should make an unequivocal commitment that India would like to see a constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly and will not in any way intervene to influence the politics around its extension.

The roots of the present political crisis in Nepal are internal, and can be attributed to the deepening divisions within all parties, especially Maoists. If Mr. Krishna returns with a more nuanced understanding of the situation, and revises Delhi's simplistic black and white position where its suspicion of the Maoists is the over-riding principle of its Nepal policy, it will be in both Nepal and India's long-term interests.





Laos announced on April 19 that it would defer a decision on building the first dam on the lower Mekong river in the face of opposition from its neighbouring countries including its closest ally, Vietnam.

Opponents feared the $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam would open the door for a building spree of as many as 10 others on the Mekong's lower mainstream, degrading the river's fragile ecology and affecting the lives of millions who depend on it for their livelihoods. Vietnam has urged at least a 10-year moratorium on all mainstream dams on the river. But hydropower is one of Laos' few major resources, and the landlocked country has argued that revenue from the 1,260 megawatt dam will spur economic and social development. Thailand agreed last year to buy 95 per cent of Xayaburi's electricity output.

A meeting of officials from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in the Laotian capital of Vientiane decided that the issue would be sent for consideration at the ministerial level, said Le Navuth, who heads the intergovernmental Mekong River Commission. A meeting is expected sometime late in the year.

Under earlier agreements, Laos has the right to proceed on its own without approval of the other three nations, but the desperately poor country appears to want its neighbors' support, especially that of Vietnam, which is a major trading partner and political patron.

However, the state-owned Vientiane Times reported that a road to the site was already being built, despite the decision to put the project on hold. Le Navuth said that the commission had not been informed of such construction but would ask the Laotian government to clarify the reports. The decision has been welcomed by environmental groups. China has already dammed the Mekong's upper reaches, but the 3,000-mile (4,900-km) river, the world's 10th longest, otherwise meanders freely through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. — AP





One year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history, in the Gulf of Mexico, oil major BP is still making payments out of a $20 billion fund to compensate many thousands of individuals, families and businesses for incomes lost and livelihoods destroyed. One man, appointed by the Obama administration, has been at the centre of the compensation process — Kenneth Feinberg. Mr. Feinberg, an astute lawyer and experienced compensations negotiator, was also President Barack Obama's "pay czar," charged with setting executive compensation for top management at seven Wall Street firms caught up in the financial crisis of 2008. He also led the disbursal of compensation for victims of 9/11. On the first anniversary of the oil spill he spoke to Narayan Lakshman about some of the thorny issues involved in setting post-disaster compensation. The full interview is online, on The Hindu's website.

To begin with clarifying what the status quo is with regard to the Gulf Coast claims, could you please outline how many claimants there are in total, and how many of them have been paid to date? Also, what is the total amount paid and when do you see the entire exercise winding up?

There have been about 500,000 claims from the Gulf, and really from many other states as well. We have paid about 200,000 claims. There are about 135,000 being processed. The remaining claims have been denied as either ineligible, lacking any proof, or what have you. In seven months we have paid out about $3.6 billion to 200,000 people and about 100,000 people have signed a final release that they are done, that they will not be back and that they will not sue. That is the statistical summary.

I had a question about how that damage is assessed and you have mentioned elsewhere that a direct causal link was quite important. Have many of the claimants been denied due to the indirectness of the causal link and do you have a way of mitigating that? The sheer scale of the disaster was so massive was it not?

We will not deny, outright, indirect causation. We will not. We have decided that anybody, however indirect, can file a claim. Whether or not they will be able to prove that their indirect damage was caused by the spill is an interesting issue. But I think it would be a bad idea under the credibility of this programme, to automatically deny somebody the right to file a claim.

Instead I think they should be able to file. Whether they can prove a causal connection to the spill is the issue.

On the subject of comments by the courts, since U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier issued a court order that you could not identify yourself as an independent administrator, what have been your thoughts on whether in fact you are independent in this role?

Are you?

The judge concluded that since I stand in the shoes of BP in setting up the programme, I should not say that I am truly independent. On the other hand the judge pointed out in that opinion that I am independent when it comes to the treatment of any particular claim and that neither BP nor the government nor anybody else has any control over my decisions.

How would you be independent of BP if they were paying you?

They are paying the freight for the entire programme. Who else is going to pay me?

The government?

The government is not responsible for this programme. The government is not responsible for the spill. The government is like any claimant. The government was not any kind of wrongdoer here. So BP is the only one that can pay me. Otherwise there is nobody available to pay. BP is paying the freight for the whole claims process and all the accounts and all the claims evaluators and the adjustors. BP as the wrongdoer has to step up and pay the freight.

As per the structure of payouts for the BP spill fund some affected persons have first received an immediate emergency payment without any obligation as long as they have a demonstrably legitimate claim. However the claimant will be required to give up his right to sue to receive full compensation. Has this approach been seen as too harsh by some of the parties?

I do not think so. Everybody who wanted an emergency payment from August 23, 2010 to November 23, 2010 could take an emergency payment and come back again. Now everybody has three choices. One, [they can] take a final payment. [They would] document [their] past damage, I would consider [their] projected future damage, [they] would take a lump-sum payments, they would release no lawsuits, [they] would not be back. [This is] Option One.

Option Two [is one where each claimant would say,] "I am not too sure about the future. I do not want a final payment. I will document my damage for the last quarter, take an interim payment. [There will be no release [from bringing lawsuits] — like the emergency payment I can come back and sue. I will wait and see what happens in the Gulf."

The third option [is for the claimant to] take a quick payment — $5,000 for an individual, $25,000 for a business. [The claimant] may have no more documentation [and] may have been over-paid. [He would provide] a final release [from lawsuits] and will not be back and will not sue.

Final payment, interim payment and quick payment — those are your three choices.





After spending nearly four months in the Raipur Central Jail on charges of sedition and aiding the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), health and human rights activist

Dr. Binayak Sen was released on bail on Monday evening. In an interview with Aman Sethi at his residence in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, Dr. Sen spoke of the need to re-examine the sedition law and build a platform to tackle the structural violence, that he believes, pervades society.

Some of the most significant interventions on ideas of rights and freedom have come in the form of prison writings, for instance Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks. From mundane issues like prison schedules, to your thoughts at the time, what was your time in prison like?

In prison you feel completely cut-off, as if you are only hearing the echoes of what is happening in the outside world. We received three newspapers for our barrack — The Hitavada, The Hindu and the Danik Bhaskar — but we get papers full of holes — literally. They [prison authorities] cut out all news regarding Maoists, naxalites, and anything related to the cases or trial of any of the people in jail…We also had a television that showed Doordarshan, that is how I learnt that the Supreme Court had granted me bail.

At present, the greatest violence is structural violence. Violence is not restricted to a few groups; it pervades the structure of our society. We need to break out of this structure of violence through a process of dialogue.

Could you elaborate on this idea of structural violence?

By structural violence I refer to the fact that half our children and our adults in this country suffer from malnutrition. Malnutrition casts a dark shadow over other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

For example, a study by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau says that more than 60 per cent of Scheduled Tribes have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5. According to the World Health Organisation, if more than 40 per cent of the population of a community has a BMI of less than 18.5, the community can be considered to be in a condition of famine. A third of our live births have low birth weights, this is what I mean when I talk of structural violence.

When you speak of dialogue, who must get into dialogue with whom? Also, is it possible to address issues of nutrition in a conflict zone like Chhattisgarh?

This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: the reason we have [overt] violence like we have in Chhattisgarh is because of an underlying problem of structural violence. We need to enter into dialogue with the state and also groups involved in the issue.

Talks [with groups like the Maoists] cannot just be about abjuring arms or violence. We need to have a dialogue on issues like displacement. These problems are much bigger than us. So we need to be able to create a legitimate platform from which we can address these structures of violence.

If we can build the platform, dialogue will follow. I don't want to get into specific solutions at this stage, but how can we tackle issues if we are permanently walking in a state of famine?

A Raipur Additional District and Sessions Court convicted you of conspiring to commit sedition and also invoked provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005. Do you feel we need to rethink such laws?

On of the things that I realised while I was in prison is that there are hundreds of people who are in exactly the same legal situation as I am. I fear that governments are using this law as a short cut to imprison people. We need to find out exactly how many people are fighting such cases. The Union Law Minister, Veerappa Moily, has spoken of reviewing the sedition law. We would like to tackle things from our end by taking the matter before the people.

As for the Public Security Act, the People's Union of Civil Liberties, of which I am one of the vice-presidents, has filed a writ challenging this law in the Bilaspur High Court.







The inordinately high voting in the panchayat elections in the Kashmir Valley once again tells us what every Kashmiri knows — that the writ of the Valley's political extremists doesn't run very much outside the municipal wards they live in. This time pro-Pakistan hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani called on people not to participate in the polls, either as candidates or voters. No one bothered. It's perhaps true, though, that there might be some issues — such as social or quasi-religious questions — where the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat chief can elicit compliance. In fact, about a year ago he even succeeded in insinuating himself into a situation where he became the inspiration for the stone-pelting mobs of unemployed, disgruntled youth. It's all the more revealing then that the man who until some months back was dictating protest calendars across the Valley, week after week, should find himself so utterly disregarded.

It is possible that due to their fervour, even senior Kashmiri figures like Mr Geelani — who relied almost entirely on Pakistani munificence to further their cause — tended to miss the cues of history. While Mr Geelani's cause is Kashmir's integration with Pakistan, this is not uniformly the case with other separatists. On the other hand, the 1990s' uprising helped ordinary Kashmiris understand that Pakistan was merely fighting its own battle to the last Kashmiri — that they were being used. It was this acute disenchantment that led to high voter turnouts in the panchayat election a decade ago. The separatists were severely embarrassed by this, and by the uncomfortable reality that people by and large did not want severance from India. The highest percentage (around 75) polled in the panchayat election 10 years ago was in Uri in northern Kashmir, on the Line of Control. The usual explanation in the separatist camp was that people there were not ethnic Kashmiris, but tribals and nomads. This time, the voting in Uri shot up to 87 per cent, and in places across north Kashmir it rose to approximately the Uri level of the last election despite some menace in the air. A woman candidate was killed in Budgam just before polling day, and this did act as a dampener. But all things considered, the progressive decline in the separatists' influence is self-evident.

Most separatist groups played it safe, unlike Mr Geelani, who campaigned for an outright poll boycott. No doubt all of them will now seek to trot out implausible explanations. Some might even seize on a minor event to run a campaign in order to distract attention from the broad political trend. But they should be wiser. The outburst of anger among ordinary people in Srinagar when moderate Ahle-Hadees preacher Moulvi Showkat Shah was recently assassinated offers some lessons. Mr Shah was opposed to violence, he was a critic of the stone-pelting movement, and his political approach was different from Mr Geelani's. The sympathy his death aroused must have given many separatists pause, though it is too much to expect that they will change overnight. The high polling that has been seen, and the sentiments aroused by Mr Shah's brutal killing, are parts of the same tale. The government too should learn — offer young people in rural and semi-urban areas help to find a livelihood, and work diligently to develop social and physical infrastructure.







Last week India successfully tested an interceptor missile capable of destroying an incoming ballistic missile off Wheeler Island near the Orissa coast. This latest test, if the technical data that has been released in the public domain is correct, would mark a milestone in India's quest for ballistic missile defence (BMD). The effort to develop BMD capabilities is wholly understandable.

Thanks to Pakistan's overt acquisition of nuclear weapons, its security community has come to believe that it can attack India using terrorist proxies with impunity as any Indian conventional response could result in a Pakistani threat to use nuclear weapons. Consequently, its military establishment could again seek to pull off a Mumbai-style attack hoping that India would again hesitate to use its conventional forces against Pakistan.
To address this strategic dilemma, Indian decision-makers have decided that they need to develop the requisite capabilities to significantly degrade the prospects of a Pakistani nuclear attack through the use of BMD. A robust BMD capability would put feckless Pakistani military commanders on notice that they could not indefinitely continue to pursue their asymmetric war strategy against India without the fear of a conventional response.
It is, of course, an open question if India can actually field such a significant BMD capability in the first place. Field tests of BMD under particular conditions, however successful, are nevertheless a very long distance to a working missile shield. That said, there are other compelling strategic reasons why India's policymakers may wish to re-consider their pursuit of BMD.

Pakistan has long been a revisionist state in that it remains unreconciled to the territorial status quo in South Asia.
Until it abandons this commitment to address what its policymakers, most notably its military apparatus, believe to be the fundamental iniquities of Partition, particularly the putative loss of Kashmir, it will remain at odds with India. Since it cannot take on an increasingly powerful conventional Indian force it will rely both on its nuclear forces and its asymmetric war strategy to pique India.
Despite their own provocative behaviour, India's military and strategic choices can have a significant bearing on Pakistan's decisions. For example, it is clear that India's policymakers have chosen to invest much treasure in the pursuit of BMD primarily for the purpose of undermining Pakistan's asymmetric war strategy. However, given the Pakistani military establishment's preoccupation with India, their propensity to believe in any number of conspiracy theories involving India and their fears of a second vivisection of their country, the Indian search for BMD may well have the effect of provoking their worst fears.
For their standpoint, India's attempt to acquire BMD would not be seen as a mere defensive coping mechanism against their asymmetric warfare. Instead, it would, almost for a certainty, be seen as an Indian quest for what is referred to in the strategic studies literature as "escalation dominance". Simply put , with a layered BMD structure in place India could cope with an initial Pakistani nuclear response and then strike Pakistan's nuclear and conventional forces with its own nuclear weapons. Such a scenario comes close to that of a nuclear Armageddon in South Asia. However, from the standpoint of Pakistani security managers it is far from chimerical. To ensure that India could not become overly confident in the efficacy of its ballistic missile capabilities, the Pakistani military establishment would undertake a series of counter-measures, some cheap others expensive.
At a bare minimum they would invest in a range of dummy warheads and place them on an increased array of ballistic missiles. Since Indian decision-makers would have no way of discriminating between dummy and actual warheads they would be forced to target every one of them, thereby dramatically expanding the scope of BMD coverage. Furthermore, the Pakistani military would also make minor technical modifications to their missiles, thereby making them more difficult to target. Additionally, as is already evident from recent press reports, they would swiftly ratchet up their production of fissile material to develop a larger nuclear arsenal. Finally, to further complicate matters for Indian security planners, they would place their nuclear weapons on mobile launchers, would create false sites and would resort to camouflage and deception.
Sadly for India's policymakers, the vast majority of these strategies are cheaper and potentially more effective than India's steps towards the acquisition and deployment of an effective ballistic missile force.
India's strategic dilemma is all too real. It is also quite understandable that its policymakers and defence scientists, in their growing frustration with the behaviour of a recalcitrant and intransigent neighbour, are seeking a technological solution to a vexing strategic and political problem. Though a seemingly reasonable response to the conundrum that they confront , its possible success may, in the end, contribute to a more unstable region than at present.

Sumit Ganguly is the director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington, US






ALMOST from the word go wishful thinking has been a bane of Indian diplomacy and even foreign policymaking. For instance, when during the heyday of the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai era this country realised to its dismay that Chinese maps were showing large parts of India within the Chinese borders (some called it "cartographic aggression"), the ministry of external affairs took up the matter with Beijing at the highest level.
Zhou Enlai's bland reply was: "These are maps dating back to the old regime, and we haven't had time to review them". Emphasis in the previous sentence is added in view of what followed. Not just the government but almost all Indians interpreted the Chinese assurance to mean that the offensive Chinese maps would "soon be revised to our satisfaction". Ironically, the 1954 agreement on trade and allied matters concerning "the Tibet region of China" strengthened this comfortable feeling. Why? Because China had agreed to Indian pilgrims going to Kailash and Mansarovar and identified the passes they could use, as also the places where border traders could set up "marts". Only years later, B.N. Mullik, this country's intelligence czar almost all though the Nehru era, admitted ruefully that New Delhi had failed to understand why the Chinese had refused, "without ascribing any particular reason", to let India open the customary "trade mart at Rudok (in western Tibet). This was no doubt because the Chinese were building the road from Rudok to Sinkiang via Aksai Chin" (My Years With Nehru: The Chinese Betrayal). What he does not say is that the Indian intelligence network, like the rest of the country, became aware of the Aksai Chin road only after Beijing had issued invitations to its inauguration in 1957.

Other such essays in undying and disastrous wishful thinking will be cited later. Let me first indicate what has provoked the present painful reflection.

For the third time in the last six years, the Indian media has gone gaga over China's assumed support to this country's claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). On each of these three occasions our correspondents and commentators, with or without official encouragement, have vastly exaggerated Beijing's carefully crafted and delightfully ambiguous words to proclaim that China had lined up with those who were backing Indian candidature.
This happened in 2005 when the issue of UN reform was on the agenda of the General Assembly in New York only to be jettisoned. Even the United States was not supporting the Indian cause then and did so only last November during the visit to Delhi of US President Barack Obama. But we took it for granted that when China wanted to see India play a "more important role in international affairs, including at the UN", it was welcoming us to join it at the horseshoe table at Turtle Bay. In two subsequent statements the Chinese did incrementally make their language a little more palatable to this country but at no stage did they support this country's membership of the UNSC. However, each time India took it for granted that the Chinese had done precisely that. Euphoria followed.

Unfortunately, there has been a dismal repeat of the past performance after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Sanya in China for a summit of Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The first point to note therefore is that China by itself has made no statement on Indian membership of the Security Council. All five members of Brics issued a joint statement on a series of subjects, including the comprehensive reforms of the UN, including the Security Council. Since Russia and China are already permanent members of the UNSC, the Brics statement mentioned favourably the "aspirations of Brazil, India and South Africa" in this context.
This surely meant a further slight advance in the previous Chinese position but it came in a collective declaration not in a unilateral Chinese statement or as part of a bilateral India-China communiqué. Moreover, if the Sanya statement advances the standard Chinese position somewhat, it also dilutes Russia's unequivocal support to India's permanent membership of the UNSC.

However, few in India had any time to devote to these intricacies. By Saturday evening, TV channels were vying with one another loudly to welcome China's support to India's quest for a permanent UNSC seat. Newspapers the next morning sang the same song. Only a few of them had the good sense to add that China's support was "vague". In all fairness, this time around the officials in the Prime Minister's entourage were cautious and advised everyone to read the "language (of the Sanya statement) carefully" before drawing any conclusion. But, alas, the journalists covering the event paid little heed.

The tragedy is that, like the Bourbons, we seem to learn nothing and unlearn nothing from experience. All too often wish becomes the father of the thought, with disastrous consequences. Let me mention only a few of the many examples, beginning with the 1966 Tashkent talks, under Soviet auspices, between the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Field-Marshal Ayub Khan, Pakistan's President at that time. These talks only ended the 1965 India-Pakistan War. Yet, during the interval between the signing of Tashkent Declaration and the death of Shastri, top Indian officials tried hard to persuade those of us covering the negotiations to project the absurd notion that the Tashkent agreement amounted to a "No War" pact. We refused. In any case, the Tashkent spirit evaporated fast. The Shimla spirit (1972) met the same fate though it took a while longer for us to realise that our hopes about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto living up to his "oral commitment" to convert the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir "gradually" into a "permanent border" were dupes.

In 1999, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bus ride to Lahore was followed by the Kargil War, and so on. Even so, it would be unfair to prejudge the future of the "Mohali spirit". But it is necessary to add that we need to be coldly realistic and not be carried away by emotion and make-believe.







What is happening to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign is an eye opener for the vast Indian civil society cherishing to live in an India without corruption. If the drift is not arrested, one will have no option but to reconcile to a life of which corruption will be a lasting component. That will be a sad day. The way in which efforts are being made to derail the entire process of fighting corruption shames the country in the eyes of the world. Nobody wants to hear that India does not want to wriggle out of corruption capsule. Not only that, it wants to be encapsulate permanently in the shell of corruption from top to bottom. For over four decades, governments in New Delhi, the Parliament, political parties and NGOs, one and all, sat on the anti-corruption bill and did not allow it to be taken up for final disposal. It is evident that there is a strong nexus within the political stakeholders and the lawmakers not to let the Lokpal process to be initiated. Anna Hazare's crusade had the potential of snowballing into a massive social revolution in the country if the Government had not succumbed to its knees. It has many lessons for the Indian civil society. Foremost of other things, it exposes the ruling coalition in regard to its double deal about the issue of corruption. It was with much reluctance and under public pressure that the UPA Government conceded to take up the subject of creating the apex institution in the country that would be armed with vast powers to deal with corruption at higher levels in the administrative and political structures in the country. Having been forced to submit to public pressure, and issuing af notification that scripted the time-frame for the formulation of a draft bill and its introduction in the Parliament, the ruling party simultaneously undertook a smearing campaign of the members of civil society on the drafting committee. Through a game of proxy it began digging into long buried records to find something somewhere that could be magnified through controlled media to tell the countrymen that anti-corruption crusaders were tainted persons and hence not ought to be rejected as accredited representatives of civil society. The accusers tried to prove that official members of the committee were all angels divested of even the minutest human weakness but, at the same time, their counterparts from the civil society were evil and hypocrites incarnate. Several other stunts like "Bhushan fraternity", and now the CD episode were raised in a bid to derail the entire exercise. Where is this country going? Its parliamentarians, its elected governments, its institutions and political parties do not want a powerful anti-corruption institution to come into existence that would put a curb on corrupt practices of which high ranking functionaries are accused. In his two-page letter to the Congress Chief, Anna Hazare has demanded that she rein in her party activists and spokespersons, and ask them to desist from making irresponsible public statements. Those who have been making such statements are conveying a message that the ruling party is on a confrontational course with the civil society, which we don't think is the case. The Government should be thankful to Anna Hazare for leading civil society's crusade against canker eating into the vitals of the nation. It is the duty of ruling coalition as well as the opposition in the Parliament to put in joint efforts and see that the committee is provided necessary input to frame the outline of the draft bill for incepting the institution of Lokpal within the agreed time. The campaign of smearing the reputation of the members of the committee should stop forthwith and the committee should continue its work without prejudice and with goodwill towards all.







Tragedy to which Arunima Sinha has been subjected should make our nation hang its head in shame. The national level woman volleyball and football player tried to fight back the criminals who entered the railway compartment she was traveling in with the motive of robbing her of her belongings. The brave girl fought them back but in the process was hurled out of the running train thus losing her legs and suffering serious multiple injuries. She lay on the platform for two hours and was then removed to a local hospital ill - equipped to treat so gravely an injured person whose life hang in balance. Incidentally the Chief Minister of UP, the state to which Arunima belongs, and the Railway Minister owing to whose incompetence she was to face the tragedy, both women, remained silent and unconcerned on this tragedy. It was only the electronic media that highlighted the incident and the UP Government moved after one full week by which time Arunima developed another complicacy of infection in her amputated leg. Rail journey is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous in the country. Some routes are infested with dacoits, robbers and criminals. Sit down strikes on railway lines and platforms are becoming a regular practice. Railway police seems to be either ill-equipped to meet the exigency of situation or unmindful of dereliction of duty. The whole pyramidal structure of railway administration is insensitive to social obligations. A national sportswoman should have been taken care of by the railway establishment within minutes of the accident and all expenses should have been borne by it. Such lapses on the part of railway administration are unacceptable. The UP Government and the Railway Ministry have been trying to shift responsibility in this case and passing the buck. This is why there has been a persistent demand that a national sports welfare organization should come into existence that would take care of such cases besides other things. Many sportsmen and women have been put to hard days after they passed the age barrier for performance. They deserve to receive pension from their respective states and other facilities so that they are able to live their retired life with dignity and comfort.








It is arguable whether a Lok Pal of Ana Hazare's conception, armed with draconian power, will defeat the monster of corruption which has distorted our administrative system and eroded the country's moral fabric. At one time or another every citizen comes face to face with this malaise and groans under its impact while businessmen, administrators and politicians enrich themselves without regard to the damage done to the nation as whole. The tragedy is that organized loot takes place without restraint due to laxity in the application of laws and the inefficiency and collusion of the bureaucracy and the political class.

An even bigger tragedy is that the virus has infected the judiciary, which is supposed to award punishment to defaulters, and accusations of wrong-doing have been made against judges, including of the Apex Court. The corrupt rarely get punished despite the laws in force mainly because the investigative machinery and those who handle it are themselves not above board.

Mr. Anna Hazare deserves credit for raising public awareness about this phenomenon but he must ensure that the democratic process in not by passed, the fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed in the Constitution are not abridged and innocent persons do not become the victims of the extraordinary deal on the part of a Lok Pal, while the guilty escape punishment. His Jan Lok Pal Bill draft, though well intended, seeks to vest in the Lok Pal authority which could be arbitrarily exercised to the detriment of society. The Lok Pal cannot be permitted to become some kind of a moral brigade in existence in some fundamentalist countries -- pick up persons in an arbitrary manner and sentence them to death for what they consider unpardonable crimes. One hopes the joint committee set up for the purpose of drafting the new law will take all these factors into consideration and convince Mr. Hazare that powers vested in the anti-corruption authority should not smack of arbitrariness because Parliament will be reluctant to pass such legislation.

The point is often made that laws alone do not stop crime, but what matters is the efficiency and honesty with which they are applied and the homework done by the investigation agencies to make a water-tight case based on solid evidence, which is sustainable. Just picking up people at random or mere suspicion will not do because the stiffest law cannot catch a thief if there is no sustainable evidence against him. The experience of the working of such laws as POTA, FEMA, MCOCA, AFSPA etc shows that the situation remain pretty much the same as it would without their being on the statute book. The only difference is that these laws empower Government agencies to detain people indefinitely and without trial and they most often escape punishment ultimately. With such powers these agencies go easy on investigation and are accountable to none for arbitrary detention or miscarriage of justice.

Mr. Hazare is a dedicated crusader against corruption but he should take care that unscrupulous elements, including motivated NGOs, do not hijack his agenda for organizational or political benefit.

Mr. Hazare appears to realize this and says only clean people should join his movement against corruption. "We do not want any miscreants". He maintains that anti-corruption bodies, such as, the CBI and vigilance commissions have failed in their duties because they are under the Government. Hence the need for a Lok Pal to ensure independent investigation of corruption charges. It goes without saying that corruption is part of our administrative system and an ordinary citizen cannot get anything done from Government or its agencies without greasing somebody's palm. Economic liberalization which has opened up opportunities for business houses to make unlimited wealth, has given a fillip to this phenomenon. Politicians and administrators, vested with powers, including discretionary, have become leeches on the back of the private sector and are able to satiate well themselves financially.

The finances of political parties have swelled over the years, thanks to the donations by corporate houses, who keep them on their side because their phenomenal growth depends on the goodwill and favours of the party in power. These parties need colossal amounts of money to fight elections, which are the main source of political corruption. Apart from getting money for the party for electioneering and other purposes, politicians also build their and their families' fortunes to sustain them for life and provide for investment in shady enterprises. Even though the Election Commission keeps talking about eliminating the influence of money power on elections, it has done precious little to check this phenomenon. A few crores of rupees seized at the Commission's initiative during the elections to the four state legislatures is only the tip of the iceberg of illegal election funding.

The recent increase in the permissible election expenditure of candidates contesting parliamentary and state elections also is totally inadequate to the actual needs. Mind bogging figures running into hundreds of crores of rupees that a candidate spends on his or her lection have been mentioned, but have gone unchecked and unpunished. All parties play the game equally and are guilty of corruption about which they do not like to talk, even when mouthing slogans to end corruption.

Reform should embrace, not only the administration and politicians, but also the police and the judiciary which are not above corruption. This calls for reform of the police administration, the judicial system and political management. Corruption has percolated deep into each and every sector of governance and calls for sustained and drastic treatment to destroy the virus that has afflicted society. The investigating agencies must also be corruption free, which they are not, as often their officers are caught accepting bribes. Recently a person who had sent a complaint about corruption in the Enforcement Directorate, approached the Supreme Court for protection because his life was threatened by those against whom he had complained.

There is no way that a Lok Pal or Lokayukta can get the system to work. Along with the Lokpal Bill, the Government must also come forward with a far reaching administrative, judicial, police and electoral reforms to cure the malaise afflicting the institutions of governance and restore health to them. Simply bestowing extraordinary powers to the Lok Pal will only add to the harassment people routinely face. [NPA]







Growing regional imbalance, series of financial sector scams, food inflation, increase in income disparity, loss of assets due to maoist and terrorist attacks, flight of young talents to developed nations, loss of biodiversity, serious demographic change in Indian border states, caste proliferation, growing religious intolerance, growth of regional seraphs, blurring of national issues, exit of mass leaders and the emergence of politico business agents show the country has lost its core strength- the nationalism.

India has lost hundreds of crores of rupees due to overt and covert parochialism which leads to regional imbalance. Strong regional leaders armed with fictitious reports and fake presentation grab large share of center's development funds, packages and development projects. In the process they become the main stumbling block before the nation's equitable development. Parochialism affects the selection process in sports disciplines which results into India's consistent poor show in Olympic game. Look at the disproportionate allocation of train services by the Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee. She allocated more trains for West Bengal keeping an eye on West Bengal election. Railway connectivity is the key infrastructure for equitable growth. The reported loss of Rs 7465 crore in Indian Railway in the current year in spite of huge demand for rail tickets attributes to lack of scientific financial appraisal in train allocation.

After 60 years of independence the national language Hindi is yet to be used as a communicative language for domestic trade. A Maharashtrian farmer finds it difficult to directly access buyers in outside state due to lack of knowledge in Hindi. As a result he falls prey to middlemen and greedy traders. Similarly, poor artisans from Tamil Nadu and Kerala end up with middlemen due to their inability to communicate in Hindi. In the process, they lose their profit margin. There is nothing wrong to popularize a simpler version of Sanskrit which is acceptable in southern states as a simpler version of Sanskrit is more acceptable by people in south India. More than 25 Universities in Germany have Sanskrit as a subject and German has produced more Sanskrit scholars than India in the last centuries. Their knowledge in Sanskrit helped them decode the basic science explained in ancient Sanskrit books which were smuggled out to Arab, western and European countries in the past centuries. This had given the German the clues for advanced scientific research. Indians lost the initiative because it had lost faith in themselves.

More than the language, it is the caste proliferation which has a devastating impact on India's economy, society and polity. Branding a community backward for a long time causes huge confidence loss among its members, creates self doubt and leads to erosion of talent. It triggers huge demand from other well to do communities to ask for the backward status as has happened in India. There is an urgent need to reexamine the backward tags given on fictitious grounds to communities.

Similarly, overt and covert religious activism pushes the society into a mono culture trap and causes huge economic loss due to erosion of many small and sustainable economic activities which are always enshrined in the day today activities of different religious communities. It is an utter shame to talk about global citizenship when the country suffers from terrible social crisis. The solution lies in propagating healthy nationalism. Nationalism cannot be equated with Nazism which was built on the premises of revenge and territorial expansion. Mahatma Gandhi said one cannot achieve internationalism without having nationalism. Today's globalization is nothing but an extension of nationalism. The developed nations seldom allow globalisation to cross the border if it affects their interest. President Obama in his first State Union address in January 2010 said "to encourage business to stay within our border, it is time to finally slash the tax break for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in US." According to the Global Trade Alert, a monitoring organization, the G-20 nations have introduced over 400 trade restraint measures, which are manifestation of national interest only. In the 60s and 70s, Nationalism had catapulted war ravaged Japan, western and European nations into developed nation status. In India, nationalism is often dubbed as a narrow way of thinking. In fact loss of nationalism is the main reason why India faces serious demographic change in the border districts of Assam. This is the reason why national issues like Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam do not have an echo in the rest of the country. India could have addressed the poverty issue in Bangladesh with humanitarian aid and with a gamut of poverty alleviation schemes instead of allowing foreign nationals to settle inside the country. A nation will always be at the receiving end unless it has a strong sense of nationalism.

In 1882, the French philosopher Ernst Renan outlined his understanding of what makes a nation in his famous essay entitled 'Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?' ('What is a Nation?'). Renan said a nation is the culmination of a long past of endeavors, sacrifice and devotion. A heroic past, great men, glory, that is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea. To have common glories in the past, to have a common will in the present, to have performed great deeds together, to wish to perform still more, these are the essential conditions of being a people. The existence of a nation is a guarantee of liberty, which would be lost if the world had only one law and only one master.' India has all the ingredients of what Ernst Renan has outlined. This is high time for all Indians to work for the growth of nationalism. True nationalism will serve as the hidden growth engine for India which could solve much of its lingering national problems.







Organic farming, which is also called the Rishi-Krishi, green or organic food, biological farming and biodiverse organic farming. Since organic farming is the holistic production management system, which promotes and enhances the health of an agro-ecosystem (communities of plants and animals, and their interaction with environment) As well as biodiversity of biological cycle and various activities of soil biota, so it can also be called as "Organic Agro-Ecosystem."

Although organic farming is expensive and labour intensive in the initial stages, restrained by a few constraints - availability of organic manures, their transport from source to site and lack of price premium yet it is the basis of sustainable agriculture. As organic farming avoids the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals so it is free from the bad effects brought about by the "Green Revolution" like toxic contamination, biodiversity erosion, water depletion, sickness and desertification of soils and pollution of water atmosphere.

Organic farming not only involves in producing food crops but also rearing of live stock, poultry farming and fish culture depending upon the area and need of the local people. In other words we can say that organic farming involves recycling of farm and animal wastes for increasing food production.

Traditional Views: Organic farming is very much native to India but it is almost forgotten. Any farmer having interest in organic farming would, therefore, first look at the ancient Indian agricultural practices which are still practiced in many parts of the country. Some of the glaring examples in this respect are:-

* Farmers of cold arid zone of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, are following traditional method of organic farming. In vegetable and crop production use of fertilizers and pesticides is mostly avoided. For enriching the soil, they use night soil, animal dung and kitchen and farm waster after preparing night soil compost and farm yard manure. The recycling of human and animal excreta in soils of Ladakh is an old and time immemorial practice but modern toilet practices are slowly corrupting the ancient night soil preserving technique.

* Previously, many of the Kashmiri farmers used to apply top rich forest soil in their fields to increase the fertility of the soils.

* Farmers of submountain subtropical area as well as those of sub-temperate or intermediate zone of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh still grow pulse crops either in the fields or on the bunds where maize crop has been sown. This is done to enhance the soil fertility as the pulses like mash, moong, gram being leuminous crops fix atmospheric nitrogen.

In India, modern agriculture is hardly 50 years old which started with "Green Revolution" that ushered in 1968. In comparison to this, agricultural practices of India date back to more than 4,000 years which sustained the soil fertility over a long period of time.

The farmers of ancient India, while developing farming systems and practices, were always supported with natural products for enhancing soil fertility and crop productivity. Till the middle of the twentieth century, the farmer farmed with traditional practices to maintain the soil fertility and protect the crops. However, with an inception of modern agricultural practices from late 1960s, a number of such practices were given up.

Agriculturists during the Vedic periods had a lot of knowledge about fertility of soil which was mainly divided into two classes: Urvara (fertile) and Unurvara or Usara (sterile). The ancient Indian cultivators were a wealthy and respectable section of the people, and possessed also a good knowledge of climate, plant physiology, rotation and protection of crops. Indeed, one will be surprised if one cares only a look into the detailed accounts have been elucidated in Arthashastra and Brhat Samhita and Agnipurana, regarding the selection of treatment of seeds and use of animal excreta, fish and bones, beef and fish washings and various kinds of mixtures and decoctions as manures/organic fertilizers. Smearing of seedlings with mixture of sesamum, ghee, honey, cow dung and milk prior to transplanting is the main example of traditional agricultural practice to control diseases caused by cold and hot sun. Vriksh Ayurveda (Indian Plant Science), is of immense relevance in agriculture, horticulture that provides knowledge about agronomical practices, soil classification and testing, pestidentification and control measures, methods of cultivation and grain storage practices.

(The author is former Associate Dean Cum Chief Scientist Krishi Vigyan Kendra SKUAST, Jammu)









Haryana is on the way to setting up two nuclear plants to meet the country's growing energy requirement. It has already finalised the location of one plant at Gorakhpur village in Fatehabad district. The other plant may come up either at Kitlana in Bhiwani district or at Balsamand in Hisar. This progressive state is the least influenced by the scare-mongering indulged in by the anti-nuclear lobby following the threat posed by the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan or what happened at Chernobyl in Russia a few years ago. This is how a mature nation like India should behave when questions are raised about the risks involved in going in for nuclear energy in a big way. The protests against the proposed Jaitapur (Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra) nuclear power plant is not based on a fair assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of having nuclear plants.


A fast growing economy like that of India cannot afford not to use the nuclear power option that has helped countries like France to feel comfortable about how to meet the rising energy demand. Nuclear power is the cleanest source of energy and can be available at an affordable cost over a period of time. India needs to add considerably to its present level of power availability which is possible only for 11 years with the help of our coal reserves. In any case, coal availability will become negligible in 40-50 years, as experts have estimated. India's hydro-power generation can help to a very limited extent. Solar power cannot be depended upon because of various negative factors, including the unavailability of sunlight on a day-and-night basis.


Thus, the situation is such that India will have to develop the capacity to generate enough power from its nuclear plants. It has to arrange nuclear fuel supply on a sustainable basis and acquire the latest technology, which is no longer a problem after the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. Yes, of course, there should be no compromise on the safety aspect. We must learn the right lessons from Fukushima and Chernobyl. Already the Himalayan region with the highest seismic threat is not on the nuclear power map of India. There is a plan to ensure that the Kalpakkam nuclear complex is 100 per cent safe from a tsunami threat. But India's nuclear energy programme must be pursued with the same vigour that has been seen in recent years. 









Corruption has been in the air for quite some time, and now the public revulsion over it is also very much in the air. As is well known, the sarkari functionaries are the fountainhead of this graft, considering that they make it hard for everyone not to follow underhand methods, whether to get their rightful due or to jump the queue. One would think that the government would be keen to weed out these black sheep but quite the contrary happens. Even getting government sanction for prosecuting such people takes far too long. This lacuna has forced the Supreme Court to favour a fixed time frame for governments to grant sanction. It remains to be seen whether the government does rise to the occasion, because so far it has been treating the corrupt with kid gloves.


In fact, even the Madhav Menon Committee's report on CrPC reforms has recommended fast-tracking graft trials. Yet, the Centre came out against inserting in the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) a time limit for criminals, arguing that "it will not help without systemic changes". No wonder there are several hundred cases which have been pending for over 10 years, while reports of phenomenal corruption have become a daily occurrence, the most eye-popping being the one of an IAS couple in Bhopal, Arvind and Tinu Joshi, who are said to have amassed assets worth Rs 360 crore.


According to the data from the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2008, of the 8,554 cases that came up for investigation with state anti-corruption/vigilance departments under the PCA and related IPC sections, only 268 personswere punished by the respective departments and 65 sacked. Compare that with China where in 2010, its war against corruption resulted in as many as 5,000 higher-level government officials – mostly above the county head level – being punished for corruption. Not only that, some 1,44,000 cases of corruption were investigated, leading to penalties for more than 1,46,000 lower-ranking government officials. Any surprise that we are at an abysmal 87th position in Transparency International's ranking of the most corrupt nations?











Rain and hailstorm are not uncommon around harvest time. A farmer's joy at seeing his ripened wheat crop can be cut short any time by inclement weather. A natural calamity is perhaps unavoidable but how it is handled shows how responsive and efficient a government is. There is disappointment almost every time agriculture and 60 per cent of the people dependent on it are faced with a crisis. Food can be better managed if there is political will. It is not clear what prevents the FCI every year from moving grains out of Punjab and Haryana to make space for the new crop?


Petty politics is played on the eve of every harvest season. There is a demand for a higher minimum support price and a bonus. The Akali Dal leadership rejects whatever the MSP and the bonus, if granted, every season for wheat as well as paddy. In the familiar game of Centre-bashing the Akali-BJP government fails to do something on its own to help farmers at the receiving end of nature's fury. Lack of covered space in mandis exposes grains to rain damage. The Punjab and Haryana governments that collect hefty taxes on the sale of food grains do not provide farmers and their produce reasonable shelter.


Since large quantities of precious food grains are lost every year due to bad weather, why can't the Central and state governments join hands to raise the food storage capacity? The manual handling delays grain procurement, causes wastage and raises costs. Why can't there be a mechanised, bulk handling of food grains? Why are there not enough silos around? Why are food grains not stored in deficit states? Last year the issue of food rotting in rain caught the attention of the Supreme Court, which rapped the negligent government. Yet no lessons have been learnt and the situation is set to repeat this year and in the years to come. 









THE Anna Hazare phenomenon is striking on two counts. The immense countrywide enthusiasm it has generated is an indication of how frustrated and dissatisfied the populace is with corruption that reaches the lowest levels of transactions involving authority. Second, it is a warning to the political class cutting across party lines that it is not performing its duty as it should. The ruling party is more culpable because it is in power as a succession of scams has tumbled out of a copious basket of crooked deals.


The Manmohan Singh government's acceptance of Hazare's terms for ending his fast for public probity in the Gandhian tradition was determined in part by the succession of assembly elections on the political calendar and the chord they struck among diverse sections of people across the country. Interestingly, the apparent civil nature of the first meeting of the committee of government ministers and Hazare's nominees speaks of caution on both sides.


This has not been so as far as Hazare is concerned. At times, he has called for hanging the corrupt reminiscent of kangaroo courts, at other times he has waxed eloquent on the development model of Narendra Modi's Gujarat, seemingly unmindful of the political minefield he had entered. He was quickly brought to earth by the sharp reaction of some of his great supporters who publicly questioned his judgement. And in an exercise that will call for all the sagacity he and his fellow members representing civil society - itself the subject of controversy — there would be little room for loose talk.


BJP leader L.K. Advani as well as other politicians have taken Hazare to task for seemingly challenging the basis of a democratic framework by placing his concept of civil society above the elected representatives, the kingpin of democracy. While Hazare seems to have the vaguest idea of how democracy works, he has the power of using the people's disenchantment with the calibre of politicians and their ways to make the point that if the democratic system is corrupted by those elected to represent them, where do the people go?


The dilemma Hazare represents is that while pointing to the weaknesses of the Indian system in which so-called criminal elements can walk to Parliament and state assemblies with total disregard of their moral responsibilities, there cannot be a separate popular dispensation superseding the checks and balances of the system. In other words, how does one avoid throwing the baby with the bath water? The answer is, of course, to reform the system to plug the loopholes. But that it is easier said than done.


It is still too early to tell whether Hazare has compromised himself by his praise of Modi. He would be doing a great disservice to the movement he has launched, exciting the enthusiasm of countless Indians, if he were to be bogged down by his identification with Modi and the party to which the Gujarat Chief Minister belongs; strikingly, Gujarat has not had a Lokpal for years and Modi's methods of governance, however result- oriented they are, are not a shining example of a democratic framework. Indeed, a worrying point in the controversy — and the despair of some of his ardent supporters — is that there is naivety in his explanation that he had based his praise of Modi on the basis of reports he had read. No one doubts his sincerity, but if Hazare's opinions are formed by reports he had read, he would invariably commit errors of judgement that would expose him to manipulation, in this instance of self-serving Bharatiya Janata Party manipulation.


In a sense, the Hazare phenomenon is reminiscent of Jayaprakash Narayan and the use political parties made of him in the movement in the 1970's that started with Gujarat and found its rationale in Bihar. The newly-cobbled Janata Party government did not last, and Jayaprakash died a disillusioned man as constituent parties fought over the loaves and fishes of office. While leaders such as Advani have decried the Hazare phenomenon for denigrating politicians, others in the Bharatiya Janata Party have embraced him as a new messiah for partisan profit.


Politics is never far from a venture as basic as Hazare's, and Digvijay Singh's own foray on his own behalf or that of his Congress party has raised eyebrows as was the circulation of a compact disc allegedly compromising Shanti Bhusan, a member of the panel on Lokpal. The point is that those representing civil society on the panel must safeguard the integrity of the process if it is to emerge as a useful enterprise.


Politicians have not covered themselves with glory by their collective guilt in pushing the Lokpal Bill downhill for 42 years, giving the impression that they were more interested in saving their skin than in ensuring the integrity of the system. The inference many have drawn is that after all elections have to be won and how they are won is less important than to secure enough seats to form a government.


The jury is still out on whether the present exercise will help make the political process in India more honest and representative of the best interests of the people. One hopes that Hazare will acquire astute men and women who will advise him on the intricacies of the political games that are a staple of governance to enable him to avoid the pitfalls of falling into political traps.


Having aroused the conscience of the country on the evils of corruption that is debilitating in India's quest for economic and political dominance, it would be a great pity if it were to lose steam at the altar of naivety and the manipulation of interested parties. It is up to Hazare to prove the point that he combines his selflessness with a capacity to learn the hard lessons of a predatory political world. I, for one, will keep my fingers crossed.









The picture in The Tribune brought a lump in my throat. There was Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh DFC, and his two children, having just bid farewell to Teji Arjan Singh, MIAF's wife and companion for 63 years, and whose soul had soared into the skies on April 15.


My mind went back to the time, a decade ago, when I had first visited the Kautilya Road residence of India's only living Field Marshal. It was Teji who put me at ease, and made me feel relaxed enough to pursue the subject that had brought me to their door.


"What will you write about me, there's not much to write about," MIAF said when I told him that I wanted to write a book on his life. "Oh! There is much, just let me do it," I replied. Eventually, he agreed to a series of interviews that laid the foundation of his first biography.


The person who helped me even more than him was the gracious and graceful lady, who had chronicled her husband's journey in life with a thoroughness and meticulousness that showed her love for her man who had swept her off her feet and then made her his life partner.


Teji was born on October 22, 1930, in Sargodgha district of Punjab, now in Pakistan. Pretty, young and petite, she was still a student of Convent of Jesus and Mary in Delhi when, in 1943, she fell for the dashing Squadron Leader Arjan Singh who was visiting Delhi and staying in her father's house.


They were married in Delhi, in the Janpath house of Sir Sobha Singh, on February 15, 1948. Twelve Harvard aircraft, flying in the formation "A" and "T" flew over the house in their honour, a gesture authorised by Air Marshal Elmhirst, the then Chief of Air Staff. The couple moved to Ambala Air Force station. Teji recalled how, as the CO's wife, she was expected to give advice to other wives, who were otherwise elder to her.


The next year, Air Commodore Arjan Singh took over as Air Officer Commanding, Operational command and moved to Delhi, where they spent most of their life. That very year their daughter Amrita was born. Her brother Arvind followed three years later, and then came the youngest daughter Asha.


Known for her kindness and graciousness, Teji was the perfect host who put visitors at ease as soon as they entered her home, be it the Air House, an ambassadorial residence, a Raj Bhavan or the imposing Kautilya road residence.


She was, indeed, the wind beneath the Marshal of the Indian Air Force's wings, his inspiration, his support. They worked together to achieve their goals. In 2004, MIAF Arjan Singh DFC sold off his farm near Delhi, and entrusted a corpus of Rs 2 crore to the "Marshal of the Air Force & Mrs Arjan Singh Trust" devoted to the welfare of retired Air Force personnel. When Teji asked him why he had put her name on it, he replied: "If you hadn't agreed, how could I have done it?"










"What could they do to me? Nothing more than banish, kidnap, or imprison me--perhaps they could fabricate my disappearance into thin air--but they don't have any creativity or imagination, and they lack both joy and the ability to fly." Some of the last words seen on Chinese artist, Ai WeiWei's blog before his arrest.


WeiWei became a force to reckon with for the Chinese authorities, who became nervous about Jasmine rallies reaching the shores of China with Weiwei's international following and the popularity he enjoyed among his people.


Is art creative statement of passive beings, or, is it subversive? Perhaps, none. Art does not come into being in a social and political vacuum. WeiWei, could have continued to produce art of comfort to add to the aesthetic quotient of his country. He had collaborated with the Swiss architect Herzog & de Meuron for the design concept of the now famous Bird's Nest, Beijing National Stadium. Later, he withdrew support on this project as he realised the Olympics were used for political posturing rather than to modernise Chinese society by infusing more democratic rights. As his celebrated works began to make a political comment, trouble began.


Sunflower Seeds (October 2010), a large scale installation at Tate Modern, London, had the sea of 100 million ceramic identical replicas of sunflower seeds scattered on the ground floor of the museum for visitors to walk on and interact with--it was a comment on the culture of mass production in China- of people and of goods. It took 1,600 Chinese artisans from a town called, Jingdezhe--and two years to complete the project. A series of pictures he posted on his blog also overtly expressed his scorn for his government and others, symbolised by the buildings --captured while he is seen giving the finger to the symbolic sites of that particular country in an offensive manner. The sarcasm is unmistakable and if you are as powerful as governments are, you will squirm, masking your helplessness into some heavy-handed action. The mere presence of these pictures unsettled the authorities, the way Charlie Chaplin upset the Fuhrer by his film 'The Great Dictator'.


In 2009 WeiWei was brutally beaten up by the police for addressing the 2008 earthquake corruption issue, in which the government did not disclose exact numbers of the people killed. WeiWei implicated government officials in corruption that resulted in collapse of a school building in which several school children died.


WeiWei's artistic CV is as uniquely impressive as are his rebellious musings. During the 80's and early 90's, the now 53 year old artist lived in New York to study art, and was influenced with other artists like Andy Warhol, Alen Ginsberg, and Marcel Duchamp. Like Duchamp, Wei Wei's artistic expression is in the form of Dadaism- making ordinary objects into the unexpected. He never trained as an architect, yet, his prowess in architecture has created inimitable landmarks.


On April 3, while he was boarding a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong, WeiWei was arrested. His whereabouts are not known since then, despite the fact that museums such as the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, NY) , the Guggenheim, NY, Tate, London, LACMA (Los Angeles Country Museum of Art) , have all begun to make appeals to the Chinese government for his release. Protesters have started demonstrations in London and Hong Kong, but to no avail. In Hong Kong people made stencils of his picture with caption ' Who is Afraid of Ai WeiWei' across the streets of the city to make a befitting statement for an artist who dared to demand better human rights in China. In an interview to Index On Censorship, U K based leading organisation that promotes freedom of expression, he said, " Totalitarian society creates a huge space that, as we know, is a wasteland. The great success of this system is that it makes the general public afraid of taking responsibility; afraid of taking a position or giving a definite answer; or even of making mistakes." So, WeiWei continued to make 'mistakes' to reassert his statement of demanding accountability from the government of China. From his studio named Fake, he wrote and posted his art works on his blog, which was visited by 4 million people , the only communication tool in his country that would take him to masses. By his arrest, the authorities made their own statement, that even WeiWei could be silenced! The next best thing after failing to control ideas and expressions is to control the source, ideas are coming from.







Parodying many clichés around the romantic figure of poet Jaromil, in 'Life is Elsewhere', Milan Kundera, narrates an anecdote where the poet is called to read poetry in a Police Academy. It is a comment on the status of artists, writers and poets in a civilised society. The artist must always seek approval of bureaucracy or aristocracy, whatever be the case. He must conform to their ideology to practice art, or remain inert. The artist can have a license to create ideas, but not ideology. If he fails to do so, his art dies for lack of support and recognition. Or, is viewed as a weapon of destruction, from which the society must be protected. Mere words or pictures acquire the status of nooks.


In March 2010, Jafar Panahi, the Iranian film director who won coveted awards at The Cannes, Venice and Berlin Film Festivals for films like The White Baloon, The Circle and Crimson Gold was arrested for being a vocal supporter of the opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi. He is believed to be held at an undisclosed location since then on charges not yet disclosed. Jafar was denied permission to be a jury at Berlin Film Festival. The simple, humane statements of his films are viewed as " spreading western propaganda" by the Iranian government.


Salman Rushdie, who had to go underground for a decade ( 1989 onwards) after the publication of The Satanic Verses which displeased faith of a few to the extent that it resulted in a fatwa on his head and killing of two of the translators. Rushdie has written extensively with great insight on the subject. Using the metaphor of a whale, inside whose belly a writer can sit and ignore the reality of the world outside, he writes, "…politics and literature, like sport and politics, do mix, are inextricably mixed, and that that mixture has consequences." He later adds in the same essay titled 'Outside The Whale' in Imaginary Homelands," If writers leave the business of making pictures of the world to politicians, it will be one of history's great and most abject abdications."


Back home, Safdar Hashmi, an important voice in political theatre was killed in 1989, while performing a street play, Halla Bol. His street theatre group Janam was a strong voice of cultural resistance against authoritarianism. During Ghaziabad municipal elections, at Sahibabad's Jhandapur village, (near Delhi), the troupe was attacked by political hoodlums of the ruling party for speaking out disturbing facts. Hashmi succumbed to his injuries the following day. Two days after his death, his wife Moloyshree Hashmi, went to the same spot again, with Jan Natya Manch troupe and defiantly completed the play. This triggered coming together of the artist community in India who demanded right to free speech and protection for creative expression under Sahmat foundation.


Sometimes, the roles are reversed though. When firebrand Trinamool Congree president, Mamata Banerjee picks an artistic brush to aid party fund, buyers end up losing three crore rupees for what they are made to accept as art. It is a different matter that in a state that claims to be high on art and outspokenness, cartoonists and graffiti artists are feeling throttled. "Caution translates into boring and unimaginative graffiti, " says Lahiri, the famous cartoonist from Kolkata, West Bengal. Political conformism has taken away the edge, before drawing every line, now the artists have to think, who all it may 'offend.' 


"If writers leave the business of making pictures of the world to politicians, it will be one of history's great and most abject abdications." — Salman Rushdie, writer











Ithrew popcorn at a child the other day. I was at a theatre, positively loving a movie, and this whiny fellow behind me kept kicking at my chair while plaintively lamenting his boredom loudly to his mother. I'm not proud of it, but after glaring failed, I had to do something. After all he was ruining my perfectly incredible cartoon.


And yes, Rango was mine, not his. Gore Verbinski's fantastically ugly love song to the spaghetti Western is a decidedly grown-up film — one with a gonzo screenplay, a homely hero and much repugnance shot lovingly in tight close-up.


The film's texture is gorgeous, Hans Zimmer cuts loose to energetically doff his hat to Ennio Morricone, while Johnny Depp creates a protagonist clearly descended from Bugs Bunny. It's freaking incredible, and it's also likely to bore kids too young to know Hunter S Thompson.


It is a growing tribe, this: animated films that wear grown-up clothes and refuse to let the genre be dictated by the medium. Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr Fox, for example, used the word "cuss" wherever they'd have actually used a cuss-word — "get the cuss out of here," and so on — and was loaded with mature subtext, while the lyricism of Sylvain Chomet's luscious films (L'Illusioniste, Les Triplettes De Belleville) and anything by Miyazaki, the master, is completely lost on kids. Henry Selick's been doing it for years. And never should one forget Uncle Walt's pioneering Fantasia, a magnificent marriage of classical music and surreal choreography.


It bombed, though. Which is why, even today, that masterpiece-churning behemoth Pixar straddles both mature themes and plush-toy viability, sometimes to compromised effect. Up, with its heartbreaking romantic montages, was magical and sublime, till a dog started talking and a sincerely marvellous film turned into yet another rollicking actioner. A blast, sure, but so much less special than it should have been.


Adult cartoons have traditionally existed only in the counterculture (Fritz The Cat) or as smut (Heavy Metal) but television opened the door wider. Bart Simpson was rude, South Park was made up of little vulgarians, and Family Guy is routinely obscene. (On that note, Archer — an animated show about a superbly selfish and highly oversexed secret agent — might well be the best comedy on TV right now. Go grab a DVD.)


What these live-action filmmakers are doing now though is bringing mature themes to the animated mainstream. There's still a viable sheen to the product — while liberating, animation is both immensely expensive and time-consuming — but the scripts are definitely looking beyond the Happy Meal crowd.
    The craft is being turned more cinematic; iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins left the side of Joel and Ethan Coen to work on the Rango visuals and make them as Western as his True Grit. With time, we'll see big-budget and completely grown-up films, proper dramas and romances and actioners and biopics. And Hollywood's summer releases won't have to worry about actors looking older.


So yeah, we're taking animation now. Tough luck, kids. You really shouldn't have messed with our vampires.





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Indian industry should welcome the implementation from June 1 of the new merger and acquisition (M&A) norms under sections 5 and 6 of the Competition Act, 2002. Union Minister of Corporate Affairs Murli Deora has assured India Inc that its opinions will be taken on board before the Competition Commission of India (CCI) frames the regulations. But for most businesses, the very fact that most M&As will be subject to CCI approval is cause for concern. To be sure, the government has set limits, but these are hardly reassuring. Corporations with turnovers above Rs 1,500 crore will have to inform the CCI before merging with another firm. Currently, about a third of the country's 1,000 largest listed companies would qualify for this threshold if they opted for an M&A. Also, CCI will vet only those M&As that have combined assets of Rs 1,000 crore or more or combined turnover of Rs 3,000 crore or more. The target company's net assets have to be a minimum of Rs 200 crore or it should have a turnover of Rs 600 crore for CCI intervention. The major concern, however, is not so much the deal size as the fact that prior information would jeopardise confidentiality, a critical risk that needs to be considered in these uber-competitive times. Given the colander-like quality of information flows in almost every public institution, Indian companies would be right to doubt CCI's confidentiality standards.

It is also uncertain whether market domination should be such a major issue in an economy like India's. In such economies, large corporations often create markets that encourage competitors to enter, thus benefiting consumers, the principal motive behind competition law. For instance, had it been done under the new law, Hindustan Unilever's buy-out of the various factions of the domestic ice-cream maker Kwality would probably have attracted CCI scrutiny. But since that deal, the market for ice cream has expanded so much that many other competitors – some of them multinationals – have entered the fray. Indeed, it is worth noting that India had more sectoral monopolies when the CCI's predecessor, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, was in operation than it does today! Also, at a time when M&A activity is gathering steam again – the January-March quarter saw a threefold surge in the value of M&As over the same quarter last year – CCI scrutiny adds another layer of officialdom for companies to contend, in addition to sectoral strictures and the Securities and Exchange Board of India takeover code.


Indeed, when sector regulators are already in place, manned by industry specialists, it is difficult to understand why approval from a generalist institution like CCI, which appears to have become a sinecure for former bureaucrats, is considered necessary. Indeed, the government has already undermined CCI's authority by suggesting that it has the power to grant exceptions — banking M&As are unlikely to be under its purview, for instance. Poor infrastructure, corruption and poor regulation have prompted many Indian companies to look overseas for companies to buy. Poorly designed competition law is likely to encourage them further — to the detriment of Indian companies, their customers and stakeholders.







The recent meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington agreed to set up a surveillance system to monitor the economic performance of countries with the greatest potential for "spillover effects" — the economic impact that extended beyond their boundaries. The list is expected to include the US, China, Japan, Germany, Britain, France and India. The surveillance system will eventually be extended to all G20 members. The criterion for deciding the composition of the first list was economic size. All seven countries contribute at least 5 per cent to G20's total output. The economic indicators that will be continually monitored include fiscal deficits, public debt, trade imbalances and net investment incomes and flows. A set of statistical methods and structural approaches has been devised to provide warning signals if one or more indicators are at or above danger levels. This is a well-intentioned exercise, which is designed to be pre-emptive in nature. Early warnings and remedial action would prevent global meltdowns as witnessed in 2008-09, triggered by the sub-prime crisis in the US. As is now well-known, the US financial system had taken on an unacceptably high level of risk, whose ramifications continue to be felt globally. Two other concerns, staggeringly high public debt in the US and the UK and China's rapidly increasing trade surplus, are perpetuating global imbalances. Ideally, the monitoring system by identifying emerging problems would nip them before they spiralled out of control.

It is not clear how effective this system would be in terms of mandating economic behaviour and imposing sanctions in the event of non-compliance, especially with respect to the bigger economies. How, for example, will the system be able to bring fiscal discipline to the US or greater transparency in exchange rate management to China? More importantly, how much latitude would the system provide member countries in formulating policy measures that they deem to be in their best interests when there is no one-size-fits-all economic theory to offer solutions to diverse economies? It took a huge loss of credibility for sovereign rating agencies like Standard & Poor's to muster the courage required to name and shame the US, as it has done this week.


India's inclusion in the elite list resonates with its own perception of an economic power that has arrived. The finance ministry's Index of Government Economic Power (IGEP), the measure of a government's ability to project itself in the international sphere, ranked India fifth among 112 countries for which this index was computed. The variables used to construct the IGEP are government revenues, foreign currency reserves, exports of goods and services, and human capital. Barring human capital, the other three variables are the barometers of a nation's economic health on which the proposed monitoring system will keep an eye. While issues of high fiscal and current account deficits (both as a proportion of GDP) are a matter of concern, it will behove India to respond positively to the early warnings that the new system would provide. India could then formulate policy responses that it thinks are in its best interests. Responding to the "red flags" with alacrity would go beyond averting crises. A robust Indian economy could actually generate positive spillovers, globally.







When the Climate Change Conference at Cancun in December last year concluded with a series of "Cancun Agreements", and was hailed as a significant success, I argued that celebrations over the outcome may be premature ("Are celebrations premature?", Business Standard, December 15, 2010). The Cancun Agreements constituted a minimalist framework which needed to be fleshed out and finalised for adoption at the next Climate Change Conference in Durban in December this year. The recently concluded working group meetings at Bangkok (April 3 to 8, 2011) were the first post-Cancun round of negotiations on the road to Durban. From available reports, all the fissures that were papered over at Cancun resurfaced, casting doubt on the eventual outcome of the multilateral process.

The divisions among the negotiating partners focused on the following:

  • The developed countries wanted the much diluted and limited template of the "Cancun Agreements" to determine the agenda of work leading to Durban, with only a rhetorical reference to the original and much more ambitious mandate set forth at the Bali Conference in 2007. Developing countries, including India, wanted the agenda to acknowledge that there were issues outstanding from the Bali Action Plan which also needed to be addressed. A compromise of sorts was arrived at eventually, but it remains to be seen whether this salvage operation will work in the substantive negotiations to follow. 

The developed countries, parties to the Kyoto Protocol, continue to evade their legal obligation to declare their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for the second commitment period, which will commence in 2013. There was a familiar replay of arguments over whether technical issues, such as counting procedures, inclusion of new greenhouse gases and the treatment of emissions from forests and agriculture, should be resolved before the political process of negotiating binding emission reduction commitments or vice versa. As would be apparent, developing countries insist that the political process must come first. There was also the insistent refrain that major developing countries should also take on emission reduction obligations.


Some progress was made on the establishment of the Technology Mechanism, while the Green Fund agreed upon at Cancun will be discussed at a technical level meeting at the end of April. It is not clear, however, whether even the modest amount of financing agreed upon, that is, $30 billion of fast-track finance for 2010-12 and $100 billion by 2010 will actually see the light of day.

One major argument for lowering of sights at Cancun was the need to bring the world's largest economy and its largest emitter, the US, on board in any global climate change regime. The negotiations have become an attrition process in which the multilateral and international legally-binding nature of the commitments undertaken by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been systematically eroded to satisfy the US. First, the Europeans and, subsequently, the major emerging economies, including China and India, acquiesced in significant departures from the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC. This is what made the Cancun Agreements possible. But are we any closer to convincing the US to become part of a new global climate regime, which will be only a pale shadow of what was envisaged at Bali?

On April 6, 2011, even as the Bangkok meeting was in progress, the US Special Envoy on Climate Change, Todd Stern, made some carefully calculated and revealing remarks in New York at an Energy Conference.

One, he is reported to have said that the UN talks aimed at negotiating a binding treaty to end global warming were based on "unrealistic" expectations that are not doable. He added that the goal of agreeing to a treaty was always out of reach.

Then, pray, what are the negotiations all about?

Two, he said it was not necessary that there be "internationally binding emission caps as long as you've got national laws and regulations. What I am saying is it's not doable".

So, what should be the "doable" objective of the negotiating process? Stern says Durban should focus on writing the rule book for institutions that would monitor worldwide agreements, not on climate change, but on "aid and forest protection"!

Three, Stern rejected the principle of historical responsibility of industrialised countries for the accumulated greenhouse gas emissions in the Earth's atmosphere, which is what is responsible for global warming. This is strange since a couple of years ago his own Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had acknowledged this principle in a speech to the Major Economics Forum in Washington. Seeking to erase the distinction between developed and developing countries altogether, Stern criticised those who would propose to apportion the "carbon space" in the atmosphere and parcel it out based on so-called "historical responsibility". This, he said, was a non-starter in the real world for many reasons, reasons that were not spelt out.

These remarks were, I believe, specifically directed against India, which had presented a carbon budget for developed and developing countries at Bangkok, based on equal per capita entitlement.

Four, Stern also downgraded the UN process by insisting that it was "not the sole platform" for climate change-related action.

Not much attention seems to have been paid to these significant policy pronouncements. What they indicate is that the US, having successfully leveraged the threat of its non-participation to downgrade the prospects of an ambitious global climate change regime, is now giving notice that it does not, in any case, intend to be part of even an anaemic regime, certainly not a regime that is capable of addressing the compelling challenge of global climate change. At the most, it will agree to a "rule-book" for agreements on "aid and forest protection". So who is the deal breaker here?

It is worth noting that while developing countries are being asked to adopt "low carbon growth strategies", the industrialised world is happily engaged in perpetuating its own carbon-intensive pattern of economic activity.

The US itself has announced its intention of exploiting more of its carbon-emitting oil, shale gas and even coal reserves to promote its energy security. Russia and Norway are planning to exploit the significant oil and gas reserves in the Arctic made feasible, ironically, by the melting of ice owing to global warming. India should pursue sustainable development and energy security by promoting the use of renewable and clean sources of energy. This is in our interests. However, let us approach the multilateral negotiations with a clear awareness of what is at stake. To play the role of a responsible power, with a seat at the high table, the least we must do is to insist that solemn treaty obligations, in particular those freely undertaken in the UNFCCC, cannot be subject to selective adherence by its Parties.

The author is a former Foreign Secretary and currently Chairman, RIS and Senior Fellow, CPR






On his journey back home, after a five-day overseas trip that took him to China and Kazakhstan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a significant observation about Anna Hazare, the man whose fast-unto-death agitation had forced the government to go on the back foot. Mr Hazare ended his fast only after the Manmohan Singh government issued a notification to set up a joint committee to draft a new Lok Pal Bill to tackle corruption in high offices.

Asked about his views on Hazare, Dr Singh said, "I respect him as an important leader, who had done a lot of good work in rural development and that's why the whole country respects him." These were carefully chosen words. There was no mention of his movement against corruption or his agitation for the Lok Pal Bill. All that the prime minister seemed willing to acknowledge was Hazare's role in rural development. That description also sums up the way Indian politicians would like to view Hazare — not as a crusader against corruption, but as someone who created a self-sufficient model village in Maharashtra.


If Hazare were to identify his biggest challenge today, it would be the acceptance by the politicians as a crusader against corruption. Politicians will allow him to do whatever developmental work he can undertake in villages or even towns. But the moment Hazare acquires the aura of a man who launched a movement against corruption in high offices, the Indian politician will do everything possible to deny him that role. For, conceding that role to him will create several other complications for the system in which the politicians may no longer feel safe and secure.

Ironically, Hazare has hardly realised the enormity of this challenge. If Hazare had held his fast in any city other than New Delhi, he would not have created the kind of impact he eventually made on everyone. His decision to hold the fast in New Delhi was a masterstroke, just as his failure to make advance preparations to face up to the power and influence of the politicians will prove to be an expensive mistake. To some extent, this is borne out by the kind of statements Hazare has reportedly made after he acquired the status of a national hero.

He made three statements that instantly became controversial. One, he said if his fast-unto-death was seen as an attempt to blackmail the government, he would not hesitate to do it again. This immediately re-ignited the debate over the legitimacy of such agitation in a democracy and against an elected government. Although the agitation was for a just cause, the goal that it sought to achieve was not beyond dispute. Yes, the government must end corruption, but whether the creation of a Lok Pal is the right answer is not clear. In such a situation, a fast-unto-death demanding the creation of a Lok Pal amounts to a coercive move forcing a democratically elected government to opt for a certain course of action.

Two, Hazare said he would never win an election in India because he did not have enough black money required to win votes. It is true that many politicians use black money to buy votes in Indian elections, but can Hazare make a sweeping statement that shows utter disrespect to the Indian voters? Indian voters, in general, have behaved most maturely, irrespective of whether politicians bribed them or not. They have changed governments at the Centre and in states at regular intervals and, mostly, they have shown the door to non-performing governments. Was Hazare being fair in describing the Indian voters in such derogatory terms?

Three, he said if the Lok Pal Bill failed to get Parliament's nod, he would accept that verdict and that he was flexible on the August 15 deadline for approving the Bill. Subsequently, however, Hazare's associates have modified both the statements. The changed stance has confounded the ordinary Indians, who saw his earlier statement on heeding Parliament's verdict as a sign of maturity and respect for democracy. However, it is not clear whether Hazare himself issued any such denial. What we know clearly is that Hazare has appealed to the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, to restrain the politicians from spreading misinformation about him and his movement. Why he would not issue such an appeal to the prime minister of the country is, of course, a bit puzzling. Does it show he is too naive? Or does this point to his thinking on who is more effective and powerful in restraining the Congress politicians?

Either way, Hazare shows a complete lack of preparedness to deal with his new-found national status of a crusader against corruption. Politicians, particularly those belonging to the ruling party, see in this lack of preparation a big opportunity to cause Hazare more embarrassment and confuse people. The Hazare aura can be short-lived, if he continues to make statements that make him look like someone who is trying to be above the system. Corruption is a real issue, but fighting it requires democratic methods to make the rules more transparent and the system more robust — not threats that defy the logic of democracy.







A welfare state dispenses enormous benefits in many forms — contracts, licences, services, jobs, cash grants and security benefits, among other things. Apart from these traditional forms of wealth in the hands of the state, new ones are being added like air waves, spectrum, time and space. These are purportedly distributed in public interest by political leaders in power and officials. But the recent scams highlight the misuse of their discretionary powers.

Even as the nation is all keyed up about new and effective institutions to tackle this problem, it is the traditional courts that still trigger action against venality in public life. The contours of the power of a judicial review are being slowly and steadily expanded and the exercise of executive discretion is being closely examined by the courts.


The Supreme Court had the occasion to reinforce this effort in the recent case, Akhil Bhartiya Upbhokta Congress vs State of Madhya Pradesh. The state government allotted 20 acres of land in Bhopal district to a newly formed trust without any advertisement, excluding other eligible organisations. When the allotment was challenged in the high court, it upheld the government's action. On appeal, the Supreme Court quashed the government notification as illegal and discriminatory. The government, it said, had no "well-defined and rational policy" for allotting the land and abused its discretionary power.

"The allotment of land by the state or its agencies," said the judgment, "which carry the tag of caste, community or religion is not only contrary to the idea of secular democratic public but is also fraught with grave danger of dividing society on caste and communal lines. The allotment of land to such organisations on political considerations or by way of favouritism or nepotism or with a view to nurture the vote bank for future is constitutionally impermissible."

The court conceded the power of political entities and officials to exercise discretion, but stressed that it should be used in a "rational and judicious manner without any discrimination against anyone." In the constitutional scheme, no functionary of the state has "absolute or unfettered discretion". Such a claim is against the doctrine of equality enshrined in the Constitution and is the antithesis to the concept of rule of law.

In an earlier judgment, Kasturi Lal vs State of J & K (1980), the Supreme Court asserted that it had a duty to keep governmental action within constitutional limits and condemn any transgression of law. It said: "It is a matter of historical experience that there is a tendency in every government to assume more and more powers, and since it is a common phenomenon that the legislative check is getting diluted, it is left to the court as the only other reviewing authority to be increasingly vigilant to ensure observance with the rule of law and in this task, the court must not flinch of falter."

Another trend is the prevalence of standard form contracts with unreasonable terms. The government or the dominant party asks the weaker one to sign on the dotted line. In the case, Shrilekha vs State of UP (1991), the Supreme Court stated that judicial review must be exercised in such cases as "they are not negotiated contracts but standard form contracts between unequals."

In dealing with the allotment of petrol pumps under discretionary quota, the Supreme Court stated in the judgment Common Cause vs Union of India (1996) that, "it is absolutely essential that the entire system should be transparent right from the stage of calling for applications up to the stage of passing orders of allotment."

When distributing state largesse, the government must declare the predetermined criteria and publish specific rules or guidelines. Following the principles laid down in earlier judgments, the court stated in the Bhopal case that treating land allotment as a "private venture" is liable to be treated as arbitrary, discriminatory and an act of favouritism and nepotism, "violating the source of the equality clause embodied in Article 14 of the Constitution."

However, the penchant of those in power to ignore these norms – as succinctly stated in several judicial pronouncements – seems irresistible. Flouting these rules leads to lawsuits at different levels of the court hierarchy, with the government getting the dubious credit for being the largest litigant in the country. Most individuals and organisations give up and only the persistent ones with stamina and finance can endure the agony of fighting up to the Supreme Court level. On the other hand, the government and its officers are not handicapped by such considerations. Those who abuse power find greener pastures after an election; officers retire, and the cost of litigation is passed on to the people. It is this vicious circle that generates public anger and creates agitations, like the one India saw in the past few weeks.




Strong credit dynamics suggest that the IMF and ADB's warnings are valid, but key indicators like the average inflation rate and the trade and power deficit suggest otherwise.

Siddhartha Roy
Economic Advisor, Tata Group


One sign of overheating is the rising trade deficit. In the case of Indian trade, deficit has started coming down since the third quarter of 2010-11

To insist that the economy is overheating is another way of suggesting that 8.6 per cent GDP growth is not sustainable. Overheating is a favourite bogey of the media and the cognoscenti in international policy-making bodies. In the last 20 years we have revisited this problem four or five times. In the current context persistent inflationary pressure has added an urgent dimension. Traditionally, overheating refers to a situation in which the productive capacity of the economy cannot match aggregate demand. This situation is normally marked by capacity limitations that constrain growth; as a corollary to excess demand, the inflation rate goes up sharply and firms start exercising their pricing power provided supply constraints are not met through imports. Excessive imports can often lead to a major trade imbalance. Further, excess demand reflects itself in other areas, such as greater power shortages or infrastructural constraints.

Before I proceed, it may be useful to examine the facts. On a year-on-year basis, average wholesale price index inflation in the first half of 2010-11 was 9.9 per cent and it came down to 8.5 per cent in the second half. If you consider the inflation rate of manufactured products, in first half of 2010-11 it was 5.6 per cent, in the second half it came down to 5.25 per cent. There was hardly any demonstration of pricing power. On the contrary, margins took a beating as commodity prices and interest rates went up.

The issue of containing overheating has assumed its current importance in the context of the trade-off between growth and inflation. The inflation dynamics could be dependent on several factors, such as: (a) excess demand or output gap, (b) expectations about inflation, (c) supply shocks related to cost push, and (d) inertia of inflation based on the previous period's inflation rate. In India, the current inflation has been propelled by supply shocks in the food sector; this has been buttressed by fuel price hikes. During April to March 2010-11 food prices went up 11.24 per cent and fuel prices 12.27 per cent over the previous financial year. The supply side issues can be solved only over a longer time period, as that would require improving agricultural productivity, better functioning of commodity markets, drawing up long-term petroleum and gas contracts, acquiring raw material assets abroad, and so on. Consequently, inflation modelling throws up the existence of a certain degree of inertia in the Indian inflation rate. This inertia is more important than inflationary expectations. For the selection of an appropriate policy measure, appropriate weights should be given to the drivers of inflation. To suggest excess demand-curbing solutions like restraining credit and raising its cost can have a negative impact on investment and industrial growth.

As stated earlier one perceptible sign of overheating is the rising trade deficit. In the case of Indian trade, deficit has started coming down since the third quarter of 2010-11. Further, higher invisible earnings reduced the current account deficit to 2.5 per cent of GDP by the third quarter of 2010-11. Coming to power shortages; they have, in fact, come down. In 2008-09 the power deficit was 11 per cent; it dropped to 8.6 per cent in 2010-11.

Output growth is dependent on growth of labour, capital and total factor productivity. Indian GDP grew at an average rate of 5.9 per cent between 1992-93 and 2002-03. This was supported by an investment rate of 24.4 per cent and savings rate of 23.5 per cent. In 2003-04 to 2010-11, the average savings rate touched 33.8 per cent and average investment rate 34.6 per cent, which gave an average growth rate of 8.4 per cent. A 2.5 per cent increase in the average GDP rate was made possible by an incremental investment of 10.2 per cent giving an incremental capital output ratio of around four per cent. Currently, the investment rate is around 37 per cent. If the policy bottlenecks – land acquisition, regulatory hurdles and high interest rates – are removed, more than 9.2 per cent growth rise within the realm of possibility. At a time when gross fixed capital formation has taken off, employment is growing at around two per cent and total factor productivity is improving at 2.5 per cent a year, it would be difficult to accept the notion of overheating without questioning it.

Rupa Rege Nitsure

Chief Economist, Bank of Baroda

With output gaps closing, it is not surprising that we are seeing overheating pressures building both in our goods and asset markets

Recently, the ADB and the IMF have warned against the growing risks of overheating for emerging Asian countries, including India. Technically speaking, overheating follows a prolonged period of good growth leading to higher levels of inflation with damaging consequences for future economic prosperity.

Coming to India, there is no doubt that India's recovery has progressed healthily throughout 2010-11 on the back of strong exports and domestic demand. During April-February, 2010-11, Indian exports grew a robust 31 per cent, whereas the growth of private final consumption expenditure (at current market prices) has been as high as 21.5 per cent. Thanks to a normal monsoon and price incentives by the government, agricultural growth has been substantial with foodgrain production expected to touch a record 240 million tonne. Similarly, growth posted by the industrial and services sectors averaged 8.7 per cent and 9.3 per cent, respectively, in the first three quarters of 2010-11.

Credit dynamics also remain strong. Bank credit has grown at a higher-than-expected level of 21.4 per cent (year-on-year) during 2010-11 (up to March 25) with credit demand becoming broad-based every month. Strong momentum is being seen in both the working-capital and term-loans led demand reflecting robust economic activity. The latest RBI data on sectoral deployment of credit show that loans extended to services and personal segments continue to accelerate as well.

Although credit demand has picked up in recent months, it will take some time for this to get translated into actual capacities that would help satisfy growing requirements of India's ever-expanding middle and upper middle classes. As IMF pointed out, with output gaps closing, it is not surprising that we are seeing overheating pressures building both in our goods and asset markets.

India's headline inflation rate (WPI) rose sharply to 8.98 per cent in March, 2011 way above the RBI's projection of eight per cent. With increased availability of foodgrain, food inflation has eased, but inflation in non-food, non-manufacturing articles (comprising several important industrial raw materials) has been stubbornly high at 26 per cent. With demand staying at elevated levels, the manufacturing sector has been able to pass on these cost pressures to final consumers. For instance, manufactured product price inflation has steadily risen from 4.90 per cent in November, 2010 to 6.21 per cent in March 2011.

Sustained high levels of inflation have given way to rising inflation expectations. According to the RBI's recent survey on inflation expectations, urban households in India do not expect any immediate respite from price rise and a majority of them feel it would accelerate in the coming quarters. According to this survey, inflation is likely to accelerate to 13.1 per cent by the end of this year. This means, going forward, there will be stronger demand for wages hikes in the organised sector, with its spillover effect on generalised inflation.

Besides, the unfolding disaster in Japan and the continuing turmoil in West Asia have raised new concerns and uncertainties over economic prospects, including their impact on food and commodity prices, especially oil.

While RBI has increased the repo rate by 200 basis points in 2010-11 as a measure to contain inflationary pressures, with the repo rate at 6.75 per cent and inflation close to nine per cent, the real interest rate is still negative suggesting at least three more rounds of tightening in 2011. Vigorous policy tightening is essential to moderate excess demand pressures.

Rising cost pressures combined with interest rate increases may cause some moderation in growth in the short run but would certainly promote macroeconomic stability in the medium term. Rising interest rates may not act as a major deterrent to credit expansion, since credit growth in the past has been strong when interest rates were rising. Today, the real drivers of credit are domestic demand and an upsurge in global trade volumes.

But monetary policy is not the only tool to deal with overheating. Close coordination among monetary, fiscal, trade and investment policies is vital to address the medium-term growth challenges – infrastructure, agriculture, sustaining the FDI/FII flows – and put India on the path to sustainable development with low inflation.








Indians love controversy and what can be more controversial than the anonymously circulated compact discs containing alleged conversation between activist-lawyer Shanti Bhushan and Mulayam Singh Yadav about the former's son Prashant's ability to swing court cases through less-than-ethical means? The motive behind circulating the CDs seems to be to divert attention from the main anti-corruption focus of the civil society campaign, and to create cynicism about the reform intent of all and sundry. This game should be foiled. It would be unfortunate if government or ruling party leaders are seen to be part an effort to discredit the campaign against corruption. So, what should be done? The work of the joint committee to draft the Lokpal legislation should carry on. Graft is possibly the single most important issue of national discourse now, and a sensible draft Lokpal Bill will go a long way to reassure people that the government is shaking off policy paralysis and getting on with reforms that really mean something. Meanwhile, members of the committee have to be cleared of any whiff of suspicion. To do that, the government should get the CDs checked by experts to see if they are doctored. If they are, as the Bhushans insist, there's no reason for worry and the committee can carry on with the job at hand. But if the CDs are conclusively proven to be genuine, then Shanti and Prashant Bhushan will need to step down, simply to ensure that the entire panel does not come under a cloud in the popular imagination.

The Bhushans have said the CDs are fake. Amar Singh, who allegedly facilitated the call, says the Bhushans should be hauled up for contempt of a court order restraining the use of his taped phone calls; and sure, Amar Singh is an honourable man. The arrival of the CDs, sent anonymously to media, has shifted public attention from drafting anti-corruption laws to questioning the integrity of individuals on the panel. For many years, till these CDs surfaced, nobody was asking questions about the character of the Bhushan pere and fils. Now that too is up for public scrutiny. This probably is the price to pay for tilting at institutional shibboleths.








There is little merit in Securities and Exchange Board of India's (Sebi) proposal to selectively raise, just for sovereign wealth funds, the trigger limit beyond which an acquirer of shares in a company is obliged to make an open offer to buy shares from other shareholders. For one, it goes against the basic principle in equity of treating all shareholders alike. If all entities are required to make an open offer (to buy an additional 20%) the moment their stake in any company crosses 15%, there is no reason why SWFs should be singled out for preferential treatment. On the contrary, to the extent SWFs are thinly-disguised economic arms of governments and reflect political rather than economic interests, they need to be eyed with more rather than less circumspection. Barring a few exceptions, that is how it has been the world over. There is no reason why India should be an exception. To be sure, there is no need to view SWFs with suspicion, either. But a case-by-case system of approval, as mooted by Sebi, will only make matters worse. Any approval will be dogged by allegations of lack of transparency. Transparent, uniform rules are the best safeguard for markets. The argument that raising the trigger-limit to 20% is mandated in the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements (CECAs) India has signed and is expected to sign in the coming months is no argument. Where treaty terms are prima facie iniquitous, they must be renegotiated. In any case, Sebi is mulling raising the open-offer trigger for all acquirers and it would be better to have a uniform threshold for everyone. At the broader level, there is also the issue of whether it is wise to signal enthusiasm for portfolio flows at a time when the inherent volatility in such flows has the potential to adversely impact the real economy and most countries are trying to rein in such flows. Instead, the effort must be to draw in more foreign direct investment (FDI) flows. Recent procedural reform — scrapping the requirement of prior clearance of the domestic partner when the overseas partner in a joint venture wishes to invest in the same field — must be followed up with more reform.






April is not the cruellest month for international cricket rivalry. After April 2, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is no longer giving non-Indian batting and bowling stars the cold eye. Dhoni and Australian Mike Hussey are cheering each other while wearing the golden-yellow outfit of the Chennai Super Kings. Likewise, left-handed batsmen Yuvraj Singh and Graeme Smith are pooling their southpaw enthusiasm to work out how the Pune Warriors can stymie Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag who are doing duty for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Delhi Daredevils (DD), respectively. Gambhir is counting on the Australian fast bowler Brett Lee to make inroads for KKR while Sehwag is encouraging the South African pacer Morne Morkel to provide the breakthrough for DD. And Sreesanth will be going all out to dismiss KKR's hard-hitting Yusuf Pathan while being egged on by his Kochi Tuskers' skipper Jayawardene whom he was glaring at during the World Cup finals.

The fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) replaces international cricketing rivalry with the softer, less-strident competition of the inter-city-club variety. Even the umpires are more relaxed in an inter-club format where getting it wrong will no longer be at the cost of a World Cup. And the Indian fan will no longer be that tense now that he need not have to worry during office-hours about what the national team is up to, but can put his feet up at home to watch the 10 city teams play matches which begin at primetime and end by bedtime. No matter who wins, India doesn't lose. Even if your team loses, your favourite player might still win. Those fans who have lived in more than one Indian metropolis can empathise with more than one city team, with the IPL throwing up new heroes like Paul Valthaty!






Several recent experiences have convinced me that our corporations are running well ahead of our regulatory agencies in deploying deceptive schemes to boost profits at the expense of the innocent consumer. I narrate just three such experiences, which may ring familiar to many readers.

During my visits to India, I have often used an Indiabased pre-paid cell phone. On more than one occasion, I have had episodes of balance disappearing or the SIM card being deactivated between two visits but overlooked them as part of the cost of the service. But I experienced something more interesting during my latest visit. With no action on my part that I can recall, my cell phone got blessed with a service whereby every caller to my phone would be treated to a song before the phone rang. Because I only heard the ring, I had no idea that this was happening until my wife called me and having been treated to a song herself confronted me with the question why I was suddenly treating my callers to "Sheila Ki Jawani".

It was then that I checked with a few friends and found that this had been a common phenomenon. Services providers would surreptitiously connect the customer to the service and begin charging them Rs 30 per month. Supposedly, one could send a text message to a number and "unsubscribe" but when I tried it nothing changed. On the contrary, on the first of the month, I received a text message saying that my service had been renewed for another month for Rs 30! In the end, it took a physical visit to the office of the service provider to terminate the embarrassing service.
The scam offers service providers easy profits. Taken individually, the sum involved is small and many customers simply do not find it worthwhile to visit the service provider to terminate the service. But with a large customer base, the extra profits quickly add up: Rs 30 per month charged to 10 million customers over a year turn into Rs 3.6 billion worth of easy profits!
My second experience involves a bank transaction. On her last visit to India, my wife realised that she was carrying more funds in her non-resident rupee account than she would need in the near future. Therefore, she decided to transfer some of the funds to a fixed deposit. When she visited the bank, however, the branch manager advised her that she would do much better by investing the funds in their five-year bonds paying a guaranteed tax-free annual interest of 13.75% with compounding taking place every six months. Suspecting the deal was too good to be true, my wife repeatedly asked if she should be worried about any catch. But the manager assured her that everything was entirely transparent with no scope for a catch and that all she needed was to sign the papers. Satisfied, my wife signed off on the deal with the manager doing all the paper work.
It took a few weeks after my wife returned to the United States for the "bonds" to arrive in electronic form. But when she carefully studied the documents, she was horrified to discover that she had been sold not bonds but a unit-linked life insurance product guaranteeing to pay just 25% total interest over five years. Furious, my wife filed a complaint charging deception and demanding a reversal of the transaction. She let the bank know that she intended to purse the matter all the way up to the Reserve Bank of India. That got the bank's attention and she got the transaction reversed in entirety. During the two months the matter took to resolve, the bank still got to keep the funds free of interest. But under the circumstances, this was a satisfactory outcome.
    The third scam involves my brother-in-law who is now retired and largely lives on interest income from past savings. Some two years ago, he decided to move some of his savings to a bank, which had attractive rates and paid interest at the end of each quarter through a cheque sent by mail. He soon discovered, however, that the check arrived consistently late by three weeks. Phone inquiries yielded the standard answer that this was a postal problem. After this had gone on for several quarters, he decided to pay the manager in charge a visit to inquire in person.
Just as my brother-in-law was arguing with the manager, a bank staff member came by looking for some papers in the drawer in the manager's desk. As the staff member opened the drawer, my brother-in-law could see a thick stack of checks in it with the top check bearing his own name. He quickly pulled the stack out and found that the checks had been issued on the first of the month but had remained unsigned and unsent for three weeks. The postal service had little to do with the delayed delivery after all! Instead, it was the bank trying to keep the retirees' funds just a little longer to earn some extra profit!
As the economy and products become more complex, the scope for defrauding the innocent customer is only going to rise. Therefore, the local governments need to strengthen consumer protection laws, perhaps subjecting fraudulent practices to sever punishments. Because individual customers are likely to find it costly to seek legal redress, the NGOs have an essential role to play in bringing the offending parties to justice.













The government's reported move to halve the span of the licensing period to 10 years from 20 years goes against all stakeholders starting from investors to the end-consumer. The Indian telecom sector has witnessed a complete transformation over the last decade and is currently the second largest globally in terms of subscriber base. However, this phenomenal growth masks several issues of concern such as rock-bottom tariffs with average revenue per user at as low as $2, declining MoUs and a considerable pressure on the Ebitda margins. Despite these challenges, the Indian mobile segment has invested close to . 1,50,000 crore till date and operators are continuing to expand their operations into rural and semi-urban areas through existing and new service offerings. This requires large investments in network deployment and rollout of services and the projects typically have a long-gestation period.

Moreover, as service providers expand to semi-urban and rural areas, they must have the capacity to absorb the significant customer acquisition cost as well as the financial flexibility to fund initial losses. Given the intense competition, the revenue streams may not justify the capital investments required for network expansion. Service providers may be forced to charge a higher tariff that goes against the national policy of affordability. Because of the poor payback parameters, especially in rural areas, the reduced licence period will prove to be a disincentive for rolling-out service to rural areas and will hence work against the government's objective of affordable service to rural areas. A shorter licence period will be a disincentive for companies to invest in service and network upgrades. Companies will shy away from investing in technological upgrades, especially near the end of the licence period because of difficulty in recuperating the investment. A reduced licence tenure will also encourage fly-by-night operators who are looking for a quick payback. It also goes against international practices, with licence tenure in most parts of the world being 15 years. Telecom projects are capital-intensive and the return on investment is gradual and slow. This will leave telcos with inadequate time to recover investments.


B K SYNGAL FORMER CMD, VSNL It Will Also Lead to More Litigation

A stable and pragmatic policy is the key for any infrastructure project, especially when it involves natural resources such as spectrum. Reducing the tenure of an infrastructure project, where the gestation period can vary from five to seven years, is an unattractive proposal. It would mean leaving merely three years for any profits. No one will come forward to acquire or obtain licences or buy them at less than optimum prices because of the inherent uncertainties and more importantly for simple economic reasons.
Fact is, NTP-99 provides for initial license period of 20 years, renewable for every 10 years thereafter. It is unclear whether the proposed NTP-2011 would be applicable on new licences or also on existing licences, which would amount to curtailing the licence tenure of the existing players. And if so, this would be disastrous.
The questions that arise out of such a pronouncement of the proposed NTP-2011 are the following. Does it curtail the rights of the existing telecom licencees? Would only new licences initially be issued for 10 years and renewed every 10 years thereafter? Whether the proposed new licences would be without spectrum? So, would spectrum be auctioned separately by a market determined process and for what duration?
All this implies is that a precious natural resource like spectrum, under the proposed new regime, will never be able to discover its true revenue yielding potential. Any changes to the existing licences are an open invitation to uncountable litigation in the sector with such provisions in the proposed NTP-2011. Don't we have enough of this already? Should the intent be to push the licencee to bring in efficiencies by faster rollout by squeezing in the tenure? A better way would be to impose squatting charges at a pre-determined formula. Therefore, dear minister, do not tinker with NTP-99 except delinking the spectrum from the licence and auction the spectrum for at least 20 years for its full potential utilisation by the licencee and true price discovery that would benefit all. Has any franchise been sold for such short duration in any other infrastructure project or in the case of oil, gas and coal? The answer is no.
(Views are personal)








The campaign against corruption, which assumed a concrete sense when Anna Hazare and his team introduced the draft Jan Lokpal Bill, is now sought to be debilitated. The political class that could wax eloquent in and outside Parliament on the need to cleanse the system and funded NGOs, that sustain themselves by running advocacy programmes to have systems in place to ensure probity in public life, are desperate to throw stones even while a process that shows some promise —the joint committee to draft a Bill to set up a Lokpal — has just begun its work.

An audio CD that sprang up last week, purportedly establishing that Shanti Bhushan too was among those who fixed judges and judgments in return for hefty sums of money, was the cheapest of the tricks. Those behind that dirty game could have paused for a moment and wondered as to whether someone indulging in such subversive acts against the judicial system would have mustered courage to declare that many of those who were Chief Justices of India in the past couple of decades were corrupt and stand by what he said even while hauled for contempt before the Supreme Court. It now emerges that the audio-CD was a construction, using technology that is commonly used in studios for benign purposes in the normal course, and circulated as a work of investigative journalism.

One is reminded of the infamous attempt, some time in 1989, when the Bofors scandal knocked the bottom of Rajiv Gandhi's claim to be a Mr Clean. At that time, P V Narasimha Rao was shown to have organised documents to show V P Singh's son, Ajaya Singh, holding an account in a bank in St Kitts Islands. A pliable journalist who played ball in that game lost his job in the process. It was established that the whole story was concocted. It is another matter that the journalist who played along was accommodated in the Planning Commission subsequently!

It is in this context that the noises coming from a section of the civil society leaders raise concern. Aruna Roy certainly deserves the credit for foregrounding the RTI in its present form. The campaign by the MKSS achieved that. But then, she is now distancing from the process that has begun. And the worst that could happen was that she allowed Digvijaya Singh to speak on her behalf. The Congress leader sought to discredit the five-member team of civil society representatives and held that Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander must have been there.
Since Roy has not distanced herself yet from that remark, it is fair to presume that she has acquiesced. She has the right, no doubt. But then, she must now clarify her differences and her apprehensions. She cannot quarrel with the process. A joint committee to draft the Bill is still a more democratic and constitutional system than the NAC with the Congress president as chairperson (and the status of a Cabinet minister) and a large number of civil society activists, including Roy herself, and former bureaucrats as members. In other words, if the NAC can draft Bills and determine the government's policies and draft Bills for Parliament to pass, a joint committee is no less democratic. Roy may also specify the aspects from the draft that Anna Hazare and the four others with him are canvassing for in the joint committee; or also the draft Bill prepared by the government that is there. She may argue that section 8(2)(b) of the draft Bill that provides for a Lokpal with prosecutorial power is "authoritarian'' or that section 8(6) that provides for scrapping section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act as unwarranted. These are some of the differences between the two Bills that have been placed on the table. There may be other points, too. If someone from the civil society there argues that section 30 of the draft Bill, prepared by the Hazare team, that stipulates a timeframe for the various stages between a complaint is taken cognisance of and prosecution launched is draconian, it may be stated in the open.

By not doing anything, it will be held that the noises against the process that is on since April 16, 2011 and billed to be completed before June 30, 2011, are only attempts to stall the job and not too different from the dirty game that was attempted by way of circulating doctored audio CDs. As for Harsh Mander, another member of the NAC, and for whom Digvijaya Singh spoke, it was only expected. His enthusiasm to campaign against communalism does not take him to speak against the perpetrators of the 1984 carnage in Delhi and elsewhere. He has even argued that the principle of Truth and Reconciliation (that the people of South Africa resorted to after winning the battle against apartheid) be applied to the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and not in the case of Gujarat 2002. Well. The principle of Truth and Reconciliation must not apply to either of the two!
Be that as it may, it is imperative for the civil society and the government to let the process now on go through the task in real earnest rather than let the opportunity, wrested as it was, to be wasted.








India's late entry into Kazakhstan will require a strategy that can compete against China's and Russia's hyper-active presence there.

Even if the Hainan summit achieved materially little, apart from the usual homilies on cooperation among BRICS countries, the visit of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, to Kazakhstan on the way back definitely did cement a more meaningful relationship with that central Asian country. Seven agreements in various fields of economic cooperation, from oil and gas to nuclear energy and allied fields, not to mention agriculture-related activities, are indeed a commendable record. Among other things, India's ONGC Videsh gets to buy a 25 per cent stake in a Kazakh oil exploration block, marking the public sector's entry into the country's oil and gas sector.

Unfortunately, this commendable achievement has come rather late, and no prizes for guessing which country pipped India to the post. Over the last decade China has steadily ramped up its presence in the central Asian republic, with the same strategic singular purpose that has taken it to countries in far away Latin America. The hunt for natural resources has led to a surge in investments from a meagre $5 million twelve years ago to $550 million last year — much of it in the oil and energy sector. The ONGC's plans to invest $400 million in the Satpayev exploration block sound big but the Chinese petroleum sector through joint ventures has acquired interests in almost half of Kazakhstan's current oil production of 40 million tonnes, with about 18 million tonnes being produced by Chinese-owned companies. Just how advantageous the decade-long effort will be for the Chinese economy becomes evident from the flow of oil through the 2,880-km long Sino-Kazakhstan oil pipeline commissioned in 2006 that last year delivered 10 million tonnes of crude, to be upped to 20 million tonnes by 2013 once the second phase of the pipeline is complete. India has no such channel, so the OVL will sell the oil locally and use the revenues to purchase oil elsewhere. Other agreements, however, will prove more directly beneficial to the Indian economy; the Kazakh President has agreed to supply 2,100 tonnes of uranium and India's expertise in agriculture should enable it to gain some economic edge in that country.

But the going will be tough; Russia and Belarus have a Customs union with Kazakhstan to build its industrial base while China to its east views it as a rich source for energy in return for its finished goods. India's late entry into an economy crowded with two neighbours jockeying to define the contours of a potential powerhouse will require a strategy that can compete against their hyper-active presence.







Policymakers became complacent after food prices declined over two decades, and cut spending on agriculture research and extension.

Mr Robert S. Zeigler, Director-General of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is busy linking global rice research institutions in South America, Asia and Africa to evolve a strategy of rice research. He says Golden Rice, the rice variety fortified with Vitamin A, is a must to address the micro-nutritional deficiencies of millions of people. He argues that GM foods would not harm anyone. Mr Zeigler, who was in India to take part in the annual Rice Research Group Meeting at Hyderabad, spoke on various issues that would impact the future of rice.

According to you, Golden Rice is ready to be commercialised soon. But there is a lot of opposition to it and people say fortification with Vitamin A would not solve the problem of micronutrient deficiencies. They say the problem lies elsewhere. What are your views?

There is no doubt that there is huge Vitamin A deficiency in the world. In many areas where rice is a staple food, people don't get enough Vitamin A because they are poor. It is wonderful if we can make them rich. But in the meantime, we need to improve the nutritional quality of their staple food.

Could you throw some light on the important research initiatives in an advanced state?

Apart from the Golden Rice project on which you will hear some important news by the end of April, we working on flood-tolerant rice with the Indian Government. There are a number of varieties that we have converted with flood-tolerance. They are very suitable for flood-prone areas inhabited by the poorest of the poor farmers.

We have varieties that can withstand flooding up to two weeks or more. They survive even after lying completely under water. (In normal conditions this would have killed the crop.) This is a major achievement. We expect this to reach at least a million farmers.

ICAR (Indian Council for Agricultural Research), Indian Food Security Mission, State Governments, agriculture universities and non-governmental organisations will work to make sure that these varieties reach the farmers.

We have also developed a drought-tolerant rice variety. We are now working on combining the attributes of flood and drought tolerance. We can see varieties with drought-flood tolerant varieties in the next two years. We are also working to increase disease resistance in varieties.

Resurgence of some of the most virulent diseases and viruses is causing a major concern. What is IRRI's view on this?

In the last two decades, many policymakers became complacent after food prices declined and food became available in abundance. They cut back on agricultural research and extension. This happened around the world. Unfortunately, they did not just understand the fact that agricultural research is not a one-time process. It is an ongoing process.

And if you turn your back on some of these pests and diseases, they come back. They are living organisms. They evolve.

If you have resistance to them and you don't keep working on them, they can evolve and overcome that resistance. It can become a problem again. So, the complacency of policymakers and moving resources from agricultural research to other areas led to a decline in the amount of work in new varieties and resistance to diseases. Governments have to invest much more on agricultural research and extension.

There are concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods and the adverse impact on GM crops on the environment.

These concerns are unfounded. There's a not a shred of scientific evidence that suggests any negative impact. GM crops are beneficial to the environment. There are far fewer pesticides in Bt cotton and Bt maize. On the other hand, farmers' incomes increase. India is now a cotton exporter. It is beneficial not just to individual farmers, but to the overall economy.

But there is criticism that Bt cotton impacts ecology and soil health.

It certainly has affected (ecology). But it is a beneficial effect. (There is) no negative impact of Bt cotton. People who tell you that Bt cotton has a negative effect on environment are not telling you the truth. You are reducing pesticide application. You get much better incomes because of higher yields.

What is the global outlook on rice and what is IRRI doing to address the global issues related to rice?

We are working on a global alliance involving IRRI, Africa Rice Centre (Benin), International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (Columbia), French International Research System, and Japanese International Research Centre. We are also working with the national rice research programmes of countries such as India, China and Brazil to develop a coherent strategy of rice research.







On land acquisition, the author suggests an option of a land holding corporation, where the farmers or others who occupied the land are given a stake.

India's bijli, paani and sadak (power, water and roads) building mission is all set to become a $1-trillion story in the Twelfth Five-year Plan and yet, sadly, the country is still seen grappling with core issues such as land acquisition, transparency in bidding for projects and the primary issue of what constitutes infrastructure.

That is why, infrastructure consultant and key proponent of the public private partnership model, Vinayak Chatterjee's book appears well-timed. Christened Getting it Right: India's unfolding Infrastructure Agenda (Lucid Solutions, New Delhi), the book is a collection of Mr Chatterjee's various columns that voices critiques of many an infrastructure policy, and provides suggestions for implementation as well as innovative ideas for the private sector. The articles are classified into four major infrastructure challenges that the country is dealing with: policy and implementation-related issues, funding of infrastructure projects, carving successful public-private partnership models and providing land for infrastructure and special economic zones (SEZs). While a good number of this collection remains contextual, quite a few of the articles have lost their relevance given the changes in infrastructure policies over the last couple of years.


One of the first questions that Mr Chatterjee raises in his book is 'where are the projects and is there a case for a Ministry for Infrastructure?'.With the Eleventh Five Year Plan envisaging a 9 per cent gross capital formation in infrastructure as a proportion of the GDP, the government has diligently spelt out the sectoral requirement of funds in roads, railways, power and so on. However, while doing so, how much of these are actually 'projectised', asks the author. Simply, put if projectisation does not happen, there would be no recipients to absorb the projected investments.

The author also holds the government responsible for creating a project pipeline that would provide sufficient opportunities for the private sector to bid. After all, the private sector cannot create projects, it can only bid for them. The travails of the road sector are perhaps a classic example of this raging issue.

Despite fixed allocation of investments, the road sector has seen only sporadic spells of order flows coming in over the last couple of years, thanks to delays in land acquisition as well as constant regulatory changes.

Mr Chatterjee also points at the array of Ministries that need to co-ordinate or complement each other to create, implement and monitor a project. He hints at the possibility of a single Ministry for Infrastructure, similar to the models adopted in countries such as Japan and Israel. While the author is primarily favouring a single-window for infrastructure, given the pace at which projects move in the Indian context, a common window for say a power project as well as a road project, may well end up stalling both given the long-routed procedures involved.

Funding ideas

The second chapter of the book dwelling on infrastructure funding provides plenty of ideas ranging from using foreign exchange reserves for deployment in infrastructure to creating dedicated infrastructure funds as well as luring retail money and foreign investment to infrastructure.

As some of the articles were written over three years ago, quite a few of these ideas have already been implemented or dropped altogether. For instance, retail participation in infrastructure through tax saving bonds has become popular in the last one year, while the latest Budget has proposed dedicated infrastructure debt funds. .

One other bold idea stemming from the inadequacies of a Revenue Budget is the need for a Capital Budget. Just as any large organisation places emphasis on its Capital Budget, so should a country, opines the author. Capital budget, according to him would help clearly bring out how much capital is needed for nation building, how much has been planned and invested and how is it being financed.

The author states that revenue and capital budget are inter-related, the way a profit and loss account and balance sheet are. The government's Capital outlay to some extent does provide some data on the above, although not on the lines suggested by the author. For instance, the government provides ministry-wise outlay, but does not spell whether the same would be a capital expenditure or revenue expenditure. Capital idea, no doubt, but it finally boils down to disclosing heaps of numbers and they often confuse than clarify.

Land acquisition

On the ever-controversial land acquisition for infrastructure projects, the book suggests a possible option of a land holding corporation, where the farmers or others who occupied the land which is being acquired for projects are given a stake.

This corporation would be given a portion of the land set aside for the project. The corporation can sell off its assets to the stakeholders to earn money over and above the compensation received. To cite an example of the above option, the author has aptly chosen the case study of an idea seeded in 1993 that later became a model city called Magarpatta in Pune. Magarpatta was a unique model of farmers near Pune pooling their land to form a co-operative society to take stake in the development company that built the Magarpatta city.

SEZs in A mess

While the author welcomes the development of similar model townships and land consolidation for infrastructure purposes, he criticises the indiscriminate growth of SEZs in the country. Citing the large number of SEZs that have cropped up worsening the land grab situation, the author reckons that SEZs are best kept to a few, specifically near coastal regions, perhaps in the lines of the Chinese model. Sadly, this comes a little too late, as much of the SEZ has already been built for IT and technology parks than for port-dependent manufacturing industries. Worse, still, just as the manufacturing sector started evincing interest in SEZs, the key incentive – tax sops – are set to be withdrawn.

As no subject on infrastructure is complete without an India-China likeness, the author has a positive note for the country. He cites research on the lower quantum of new foreign investments flowing into China, thanks to its protective model. India's open approach to private equity, international sponsors and foreign direct investments means that India could provide more opportunities for foreign investors going forward. The question though, remains, whether foreign money can take the red-tapism and nepotism that comes tagged with India-projects.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The inordinately high voting in the panchayat elections in the Kashmir Valley once again tells us what every Kashmiri knows — that the writ of the Valley's political extremists doesn't run very much outside the municipal wards they live in. This time pro-Pakistan hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani called on people not to participate in the polls, either as candidates or voters. No one bothered. It's perhaps true, though, that there might be some issues — such as social or quasi-religious questions — where the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat chief can elicit compliance. In fact, about a year ago he even succeeded in insinuating himself into a situation where he became the inspiration for the stone-pelting mobs of unemployed, disgruntled youth. It's all the more revealing then that the man who until some months back was dictating protest calendars across the Valley, week after week, should find himself so utterly disregarded. It is possible that due to their fervour, even senior Kashmiri figures like Mr Geelani — who relied almost entirely on Pakistani munificence to further their cause — tended to miss the cues of history. While Mr Geelani's cause is Kashmir's integration with Pakistan, this is not uniformly the case with other separatists. On the other hand, the 1990s' uprising helped ordinary Kashmiris understand that Pakistan was merely fighting its own battle to the last Kashmiri — that they were being used. It was this acute disenchantment that led to high voter turnouts in the panchayat election a decade ago. The separatists were severely embarrassed by this, and by the uncomfortable reality that people by and large did not want severance from India. The highest percentage (around 75) polled in the panchayat election 10 years ago was in Uri in northern Kashmir, on the Line of Control. This time, the voting in Uri shot up to 87 per cent, and in places across north Kashmir it rose to approximately the Uri level of the last election despite some menace in the air. But all things considered, the progressive decline in the separatists' influence is self-evident. Most separatist groups played it safe, unlike Mr Geelani, who campaigned for an outright poll boycott. No doubt all of them will now seek to trot out implausible explanations. The outburst of anger among ordinary people in Srinagar when moderate Ahle-Hadees preacher Moulvi Showkat Shah was recently assassinated offers some lessons. Shah was opposed to violence, he was a critic of the stone-pelting movement, and his political approach was different from Mr Geelani's. The sympathy his death aroused must have given many separatists pause, though it is too much to expect that they will change overnight. The high polling that has been seen, and the sentiments aroused by Shah's killing, are parts of the same tale. The government too should learn to offer young people in rural and semi-urban areas a livelihood, and work diligently to develop social and physical infrastructure.







A hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary doctor or mathematician. But try pointing this out when everybody is seemingly moist with excitement about the cake plans and gown schemes of the constitutional absurdity's designated mother-to-be. You don't seem to be uttering common sense. You sound like a scrooge. I suppose this must be the monarchical "magic" of which we hear so much: By some mystic alchemy, the breeding imperatives for a dynasty become the stuff of romance, even "fairy tale". The usually contemptuous words "fairy tale" were certainly coldly accurate about the romance quotient of the last two major royal couplings, which brought the vapid disco-princesses Diana and Sarah (I decline to call her "Fergie") within range of demolishing the entire mystique. And, even if the current match looks a lot more wholesome and genuine, its principal function is still to restore a patina of glamour that has been all but irretrievably lost. The British monarchy doesn't depend entirely on glamour, as the long, long reign of Queen Elizabeth II continues to demonstrate. Her unflinching dutifulness and reliability have conferred something beyond charm upon the institution, associating it with stoicism and a certain integrity. Republicanism is infinitely more widespread than it was when she was first crowned, but it's very rare indeed to hear the Sovereign Lady herself being criticised, and even most anti-royalists hasten to express themselves admiringly where she is concerned. I am not sure how deserved this immunity really is. The Queen took two major decisions quite early in her reign, neither of which was forced upon her. She refused to allow her younger sister Margaret to marry the man she loved and had chosen, and she let her authoritarian husband have charge of the education of her eldest son. The first decision was taken to appease the most conservative leaders of the Church of England (a church of which she is, absurdly, the head), who could not approve the marriage of Margaret to a divorced man. The second was taken for reasons less clear. The harvest was equally gruesome in both cases: Princess Margaret later married and divorced a man she did not love and then had years to waste as the model of the bone-idle, cigarette-holding, gin-sipping socialite, surrounded with third-rate gossips and charmers and as unhappy as the day was long. Prince Charles, subjected to a regime of fierce paternal harangues and penitential cold-shower boarding schools, withdrew into himself, was eventually talked into a calamitous marriage with someone he didn't love or respect, and is the morose, balding, New Age crank and licensed busybody that we flinch from today. He has also apparently found belated contentment with the former wife of an Army officer. Together, Princess Margaret and Prince Charles set the tone for the dowdy, feckless, can't-stay-married shower of titled descendants with whose names, let alone doings, it is near-impossible to keep up. There are so many of them! And things always have to be found for them to do. For Prince William at least it was decided on the day of his birth what he should do: Find a presentable wife, father a male heir (and preferably a male "spare" as well), and keep the show on the road. By yet another exercise of that notorious "magic", it is now doubly and triply important that he does this simple thing right, because only his supposed charisma can save the country from what monarchists dread and republicans ought to hope for: King Charles III. (Monarchy, you see, is a hereditary disease that can only be cured by fresh outbreaks of itself.) An even longer life for the present queen is generally hoped for: failing that a palace manoeuvre that skips a generation and saves the British from a man who — like the fruit of the medlar — went rotten before he turned ripe. Convinced Republican that I am, and foe of the prince who talks to plants and wants to be seen as the defender of all faiths as well as the etiolated Church of England, I find myself pierced by a pang of sympathy. Not much of a life, is it, growing old and stale with no real job except waiting for the news of Mummy's death? Some British people claim actually to "love" their rather dumpy ruling house. This love takes the macabre form of demanding a regular human sacrifice whereby unexceptional people are condemned to lead wholly artificial and strained existences, and then punished or humiliated when they crack up. The last few weeks brought tidings of the latest grotesqueries involving Prince Andrew, Charles' brother. If I haven't forgotten anything, he had just recovered from tidings involving overly warm relations with the Col. Gaddafi clan when his ex-wife was found to have scrounged a loan from a wealthy American friend whose record, alas, was disfigured by a conviction for sexual relations with an underage girl. I mean, the whole thing is just so painfully and absolutely vulgar. And, among the Queen's many children and grandchildren, not by any means exceptional behaviour either. This is why I laughed so loud when the old guard began snickering about the pedigree of young Kate Middleton. Her parents, it appeared, were not quite out of the top drawer. The mother had been an air hostess or something with an unfashionable airline, and the family had been overheard using lethally wrong expressions, such as "serviette" for napkin, "settee" for sofa, and — I can barely bring myself to type the shameful letters — "toilet" for lavatory. Ah, so that's what constitutes vulgarity! People who would never dare risk a public criticism of the royal family, even in its daytime-soap incarnation, prefer to take a surreptitious revenge on a young woman of modest background. For shame. Myself, I wish her well and also wish I could whisper to her: If you really love him, honey, get him out of there, and yourself, too. Many of us don't want or need another sacrificial lamb to water the dried bones and veins of a desiccated system. Do yourself a favour and save what you can: Leave the throne to the awful next incumbent that the hereditary principle has mandated for it.







Last week India successfully tested an interceptor missile capable of destroying an incoming ballistic missile off Wheeler Island near the Orissa coast. This latest test, if the technical data that has been released in the public domain is correct, would mark a milestone in India's quest for ballistic missile defence (BMD). The effort to develop BMD capabilities is wholly understandable. Thanks to Pakistan's overt acquisition of nuclear weapons, its security community has come to believe that it can attack India using terrorist proxies with impunity as any Indian conventional response could result in a Pakistani threat to use nuclear weapons. Consequently, its military establishment could again seek to pull off a Mumbai-style attack hoping that India would again hesitate to use its conventional forces against Pakistan. To address this strategic dilemma, Indian decision-makers have decided that they need to develop the requisite capabilities to significantly degrade the prospects of a Pakistani nuclear attack through the use of BMD. A robust BMD capability would put feckless Pakistani military commanders on notice that they could not indefinitely continue to pursue their asymmetric war strategy against India without the fear of a conventional response. It is, of course, an open question if India can actually field such a significant BMD capability in the first place. Field tests of BMD under particular conditions, however successful, are nevertheless a very long distance to a working missile shield. That said, there are other compelling strategic reasons why India's policymakers may wish to re-consider their pursuit of BMD. Pakistan has long been a revisionist state in that it remains unreconciled to the territorial status quo in South Asia. Until it abandons this commitment to address what its policymakers, most notably its military apparatus, believe to be the fundamental iniquities of Partition, particularly the putative loss of Kashmir, it will remain at odds with India. Since it cannot take on an increasingly powerful conventional Indian force it will rely both on its nuclear forces and its asymmetric war strategy to pique India. Despite their own provocative behaviour, India's military and strategic choices can have a significant bearing on Pakistan's decisions. For example, it is clear that India's policymakers have chosen to invest much treasure in the pursuit of BMD primarily for the purpose of undermining Pakistan's asymmetric war strategy. However, given the Pakistani military establishment's preoccupation with India, their propensity to believe in any number of conspiracy theories involving India and their fears of a second vivisection of their country, the Indian search for BMD may well have the effect of provoking their worst fears. For their standpoint, India's attempt to acquire BMD would not be seen as a mere defensive coping mechanism against their asymmetric warfare. Instead, it would, almost for a certainty, be seen as an Indian quest for what is referred to in the strategic studies literature as "escalation dominance". Simply put , with a layered BMD structure in place India could cope with an initial Pakistani nuclear response and then strike Pakistan's nuclear and conventional forces with its own nuclear weapons. Such a scenario comes close to that of a nuclear Armageddon in South Asia. However, from the standpoint of Pakistani security managers it is far from chimerical. To ensure that India could not become overly confident in the efficacy of its ballistic missile capabilities, the Pakistani military establishment would undertake a series of counter-measures, some cheap others expensive. At a bare minimum they would invest in a range of dummy warheads and place them on an increased array of ballistic missiles. Since Indian decision-makers would have no way of discriminating between dummy and actual warheads they would be forced to target every one of them, thereby dramatically expanding the scope of BMD coverage. Furthermore, the Pakistani military would also make minor technical modifications to their missiles, thereby making them more difficult to target. Additionally, as is already evident from recent press reports, they would swiftly ratchet up their production of fissile material to develop a larger nuclear arsenal. Finally, to further complicate matters for Indian security planners, they would place their nuclear weapons on mobile launchers, would create false sites and would resort to camouflage and deception. Sadly for India's policymakers, the vast majority of these strategies are cheaper and potentially more effective than India's steps towards the acquisition and deployment of an effective ballistic missile force. India's strategic dilemma is all too real. It is also quite understandable that its policymakers and defence scientists, in their growing frustration with the behaviour of a recalcitrant and intransigent neighbour, are seeking a technological solution to a vexing strategic and political problem. Though a seemingly reasonable response to the conundrum that they confront , its possible success may, in the end, contribute to a more unstable region than at present. * Sumit Ganguly is the director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington, US






ALMOST from the word go wishful thinking has been a bane of Indian diplomacy and even foreign policymaking. For instance, when during the heyday of the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai era this country realised to its dismay that Chinese maps were showing large parts of India within the Chinese borders (some called it "cartographic aggression"), the ministry of external affairs took up the matter with Beijing at the highest level. Zhou Enlai's bland reply was: "These are maps dating back to the old regime, and we haven't had time to review them". Emphasis in the previous sentence is added in view of what followed. Not just the government but almost all Indians interpreted the Chinese assurance to mean that the offensive Chinese maps would "soon be revised to our satisfaction". Ironically, the 1954 agreement on trade and allied matters concerning "the Tibet region of China" strengthened this comfortable feeling. Why? Because China had agreed to Indian pilgrims going to Kailash and Mansarovar and identified the passes they could use, as also the places where border traders could set up "marts". Only years later, B.N. Mullik, this country's intelligence czar almost all though the Nehru era, admitted ruefully that New Delhi had failed to understand why the Chinese had refused, "without ascribing any particular reason", to let India open the customary "trade mart at Rudok (in western Tibet). This was no doubt because the Chinese were building the road from Rudok to Sinkiang via Aksai Chin" (My Years With Nehru: The Chinese Betrayal). What he does not say is that the Indian intelligence network, like the rest of the country, became aware of the Aksai Chin road only after Beijing had issued invitations to its inauguration in 1957. Other such essays in undying and disastrous wishful thinking will be cited later. Let me first indicate what has provoked the present painful reflection. For the third time in the last six years, the Indian media has gone gaga over China's assumed support to this country's claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). On each of these three occasions our correspondents and commentators, with or without official encouragement, have vastly exaggerated Beijing's carefully crafted and delightfully ambiguous words to proclaim that China had lined up with those who were backing Indian candidature. This happened in 2005 when the issue of UN reform was on the agenda of the General Assembly in New York only to be jettisoned. Even the United States was not supporting the Indian cause then and did so only last November during the visit to Delhi of US President Barack Obama. But we took it for granted that when China wanted to see India play a "more important role in international affairs, including at the UN", it was welcoming us to join it at the horseshoe table at Turtle Bay. In two subsequent statements the Chinese did incrementally make their language a little more palatable to this country but at no stage did they support this country's membership of the UNSC. However, each time India took it for granted that the Chinese had done precisely that. Euphoria followed. Unfortunately, there has been a dismal repeat of the past performance after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Sanya in China for a summit of Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The first point to note therefore is that China by itself has made no statement on Indian membership of the Security Council. All five members of Brics issued a joint statement on a series of subjects, including the comprehensive reforms of the UN, including the Security Council. Since Russia and China are already permanent members of the UNSC, the Brics statement mentioned favourably the "aspirations of Brazil, India and South Africa" in this context. This surely meant a further slight advance in the previous Chinese position but it came in a collective declaration not in a unilateral Chinese statement or as part of a bilateral India-China communiqué. Moreover, if the Sanya statement advances the standard Chinese position somewhat, it also dilutes Russia's unequivocal support to India's permanent membership of the UNSC. However, few in India had any time to devote to these intricacies. By Saturday evening, TV channels were vying with one another loudly to welcome China's support to India's quest for a permanent UNSC seat. Newspapers the next morning sang the same song. Only a few of them had the good sense to add that China's support was "vague". In all fairness, this time around the officials in the Prime Minister's entourage were cautious and advised everyone to read the "language (of the Sanya statement) carefully" before drawing any conclusion. But, alas, the journalists covering the event paid little heed. The tragedy is that, like the Bourbons, we seem to learn nothing and unlearn nothing from experience. All too often wish becomes the father of the thought, with disastrous consequences. Let me mention only a few of the many examples, beginning with the 1966 Tashkent talks, under Soviet auspices, between the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Field-Marshal Ayub Khan, Pakistan's President at that time. These talks only ended the 1965 India-Pakistan War. Yet, during the interval between the signing of Tashkent Declaration and the death of Shastri, top Indian officials tried hard to persuade those of us covering the negotiations to project the absurd notion that the Tashkent agreement amounted to a "No War" pact. We refused. In any case, the Tashkent spirit evaporated fast. The Shimla spirit (1972) met the same fate though it took a while longer for us to realise that our hopes about Zulfikar Ali Bhutto living up to his "oral commitment" to convert the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir "gradually" into a "permanent border" were dupes. In 1999, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's bus ride to Lahore was followed by the Kargil War, and so on. Even so, it would be unfair to prejudge the future of the "Mohali spirit". But it is necessary to add that we need to be coldly realistic and not be carried away by emotion and make-believe.






In states of ecstasy, the eccentric Shibli often uttered sentences considered blasphemous: "The fire of Hell will not touch me and I can easily extinguish it". Shibli is a legendary figure in the history of Mansur Hallaj's execution, a fellow disciple of Imam Junayd of Baghdad. He remained the martyr's friend, delivering secret lectures attesting to his affection for Hallaj. Born in Samara to a family of high public officials, Shibli became the governor of Demavend, Iran. A dispatch arrived and he set out with the governor of Rayy, also in Iran, with a retinue of soldiers and slaves to present himself before the Caliph who honoured them with robes. On the way back to Demavend, the governor sneezed and wiped his face with the robe. Some soldiers saw this as an insult and reported it to the Caliph who handcuffed the governor and dismissed him from the post. This incident had a profound effect on Shibli. He addressed the Caliph, "Prince, you are a human being and do not approve that your robe should be treated disrespectfully. The King of the world has given me honour and knowledge of Himself. How would He react if He knew I was using His robe as a handkerchief in the service of a mere mortal?" Shibli left the court and went straight to the assembly of the Sufi Khayr al-Nassaj, who sent him to seek spiritual guidance from Junayd of Baghdad. Junayd, an acclaimed Sufi master, made the former governor beg in the streets of Baghdad. Each day Shibli gave the collected money to his Master, to be distributed among the poor. After a whole year of begging, Junayd told Shibli, "You still have some pride and pomp left in you. Go and beg for another four years". Shibli continued to go from house to house till the day he told Junayd, "I consider myself to be the least of all God's creatures". Satisfied with Shibli's progress, Junayd informed the disciple that his faith had been perfected. It is said that when Shibli first began his self-mortification, for many long years he used to rub salt in his eyes so that he should not sleep. "Almighty God is watching me", he would say. "The man who sleeps is heedless", he added, "and the heedless man is veiled from God". One day Shebli was repeatedly uttering the word "God". An earnest young disciple addressed him. "Why do you not say, La ilaha ill Allah, (There is no god but God)?" Shibli sighed. "I am afraid", he explained, "that if I say 'no god' my breath may be stopped before I reach 'but God' and I shall be utterly desolated". Impacted deeply, the youth trembled and died. Shibli accused of his murder said, "It was a soul wholly consumed by the flame of the fire of love, in eager expectancy of confronting the majesty of God". Once Shibli accosted someone crying for his dead beloved and said, "O fool, why love someone who can die?" Legends grew around the mystic's obsessive passion for God. Overwhelmed with ecstasy, Shibli once threw himself into the Tigris river which surged and threw him back on the banks. Another time, he threw himself into fire and the flames did not affect him. He then found some hungry lions but the beasts did not devour him and fled. Shibli cried, "I am cursed for neither water nor fire will accept me". Then an unseen voice said, "He who is accepted by God will not be accepted by any other". Declared insane, Shibli was chained and carried to an asylum. Hours before his death, he recited the verse: Whatever house Thou takest for Thine, No lamp is needed there to shine, Upon the day that men shall bring Their proofs before the Judge and King Our proof shall be, in that dreaded place The longed for beauty of Thy face. When the 86-year-old Shibli lay dying, a group of people sat around to offer his funeral prayers. They asked him to recite the shahadah, declaration of Islam affirming that there is no god but God. Shibli said, "If there is no God other than He, how can I utter a negative?" One of them tried to prompt the mystic to repeat the entire kalimah, declaration, La ilaha ill Allah Muhammad-ur-Rasul Allah (There is no god but god, Muhammad is His Messenger). Amused, Shibli remarked, "Look how a dead man is trying to awaken the living". Shibli welcomed death whispering; "I have joined the Beloved". — Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at







MORE than worthy of all the sympathy, relief, financial assistance, job offers ~ and now quality medical service ~ is athlete Arunima Sinha. As she battles post-surgery complications, possibly caused by unhygienic hospital conditions, it must be accepted that she has lost more than a limb: her aspirations were shattered as she was thrown from that running train. Nothing will compensate for that. Even if the attention she is receiving is triggered by a cynical desire to cash in on the media play her "story" is generating, her life will never be the same as when she boarded that train to seek enrolment in a paramilitary organisation. Yet she must deem herself a trifle fortunate that the spotlight has been trained on her. For though her story is truly horrific it is not a "shocker" ~ there are hundreds of others who have suffered from crime on the railway but have received no help at all. For sarkari agencies are indifferent and callous in such situations; had Arunima not be a sportsperson of some standing, hence "newsworthy", chances are she would been just an addition to the list of unknown victims of brazen criminality. Such criminality is reflective of the breakdown of law-and-order ~ in the Bihar-UP belt most particularly ~ and is not to be confused with politically-actuated violence on the railway as witnessed in insurgency hit areas. Criminality that thrives on the age-old squabble over responsibility and jurisdiction over crime on trains. Criminality that is overlooked as the issue gets politicised: as in the present case, when the state is ruled by a party not in power at the Centre.

More so when Mayawati's UP has become synonymous with hooliganism, and the railway minister is in election mode. For how long will paying passengers have to accept that the Railway Protection Force is tasked with guarding railway property not passengers, while the Government Railway Police (a unit of the state police) takes care of law and order ~ running trains remain a grey, neglected area. It is high time that the law is re-written, the Constitution amended if necessary, and a specialised force raised to eject thugs from trains. The Prime Minister has ordered a probe into the recent incident: if it fails to address core issues it will prove just one more stunt to ride the Arunima "sympathy-superfast".




Quite the cruellest irony of the circus ring is that whereas this form of entertainment is intended essentially for children, their engagement can be more hideous than conventional forms of child labour. That commercialised travesty of child rights will hopefully end with Monday's ruling of the Supreme Court (coram: Dalveer Bhandari and AK Patnaik, JJ). The Centre has been directed to raid circuses across the country in what must be acknowledged is a horribly belated effort to rescue the children. The pittance they earn is but one facet of the practice, that verges on persecution. The other, and one that ought long ago to have stirred the conscience of human rights activists, is the life of almost dehumanizing squalor which these minors are offered by circus companies. Yet another is the decidedly dangerous stunts the kids are forced to perform. The audience can marvel at the performances, but as with a range of other matters, it remained for the highest judiciary to embark on this essay towards ending such inhumanity. As with any other form of child labour, it is the adult organisers who live off the earnings of these hapless children condemned to virtual slavery. The judicial intervention at once raises the larger issue of child trafficking from Nepal. Far from being checked, it has now assumed sinister proportions. The impoverished regions of India have contributed their share no less.

The onus to  set things right has been placed fair and square on the Centre. While the government has been impervious over time, it must be acknowledged though that the primary culpability rests on the organisers who pitch their tents every winter. The Bench has verily rapped the government on the knuckles, ordering a notification within eight weeks to ban the employment of children in circuses. The ministry of HRD and women and child development have been directed to furnish a compliance report within ten weeks. The second critical aspect of the apex court order is the ruling on a rehabilitation package for those who are likely to be rescued in course of the raids. The Supreme Court, in a word, has formulated an agenda, as comprehensive as it is humane. It is fervently to be hoped that the circus child will be able to lead a life of dignity. He is entitled to the benefits of the Right to Education.




Cuba is on the turn and momentously so if last weekend's proceedings of the first Communist Party Congress in 14 years are any indication. As the party ~ in sharp contrast to the comrades in Bengal ~ adapts itself to the forces of change, it would appear that the clout of the elder generation is nearing its end. Raul Castro has been remarkably blunt with the caveat that "the sclerotic habits of a geriatric government and a centrally planned economy must end". While the composition of the new hierarchy is yet to be announced, what must be open to question is the extent to which he will be able to effect a delicate balancing act so as not to rock the ideological apple-cart in the pursuit of reforms and change. The reforms, spelt out last year and reaffirmed over the weekend, are intended to have a profound impact on the structure of power. In a dramatic deviation from standard Communist economic philosophy, the new charter envisages a mixed economy with the entry of the private sector and a huge reduction in the state's behemoth staff. Which inevitably will entail a cut in public spending. The pattern of authority is destined to witness a critical change. For the first time, it envisages a time-limit on the exercise of power; no one ~ not even the President ~ will be permitted to wield authority for more than two successive five-year terms. Thus will the almost inevitable trend towards centres of vested interests be curbed.

The reforms, both in the economic segment and the structure of power, will signal a break with the system  that has been in force since Fidel Castro. A crucial test, therefore, for Raul will be to protect the legacy that he has inherited, pre-eminently the Communist revolution of brother Fidel. Perceptibly enough, the liberal winds are blowing across Cuba and the country is on course to trim its sails to the winds of change. The session of the Communist Party Congress was itself a historic departure from tradition after 14 years. Unlike in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union where the break with Communism in 1989-91 was preceded by considerable turbulence and death, the process towards transition in Cuba has been remarkably smooth and, thus far, generally agreeable. And arguably because Havana will not jettison Communism just yet to strike a balance between Fidel's legacy and the contemporary compulsions of Raul.

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LAST week I attended the second annual meeting of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in Washington Hotel, nestled in a beautiful snow-capped valley, in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. In 1944, the historic meeting on the international monetary system was held there. The British delegation was led by Lord Keynes, the foremost economic thinker of his day.  The US delegation was effectively led by US Treasury adviser, Harry Dexter White. Even though all the Allies attended the meeting, including China and India, it was essentially a debate between the declining superpower, Britain, and the rising superpower, the United States.
Keynes understood full well the problem that Britain faced as the issuer of sterling. Since Britain was running large current account deficits because of the two world wars, she was having a tough time maintaining sterling as the main reserve currency.  By the end of the Second World War, the US emerged as the dominant global power, since she ran large current account surpluses by supplying food and raw materials to Europe in exchange for gold.  To avoid the Triffin dilemma, Keynes argued for the creation of a new international currency, called Bancor that would not be related to the issue of a national reserve currency.  

The Triffin dilemma is the problem that the issuer of the global reserve country had to continually run large current account deficits to meet the liquidity needs of the world. In the short-run, the reserve currency role benefits from an "exorbitant privilege", since the issuer country could pay for its imports by printing more currency, whereas non-reserve currency countries could only import by paying in foreign currency.
However, Harry Dexter White rejected the idea of the Bancor because he did not like the idea of the issuance of global currency by a global central bank. Instead, the idea of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) was adopted, where the SDR was a reserve unit of account, which could only be created through the exchange of national currencies with the issuer, the International Monetary Fund.  As the dominant IMF shareholder, the US could reject the issuance of SDRs, thus ensuring the US dollar remains the dominant reserve currency.
There is common confusion that the SDR can eventually become a reserve currency to replace the US dollar.  It is a unit of account between the IMF and the member-countries, but it cannot be used for international payments. Currently, it is issued to member-countries to increase their foreign exchange reserves. However, when the member-country needs foreign exchange, it must exchange its holdings of SDR with the IMF in four component reserve currencies, namely, the US dollar, the euro, sterling and yen. 

Thus, the components of the SDR can change, but the reserve currency role remains national, not global. 
Keynes was right. Sixty-seven years later, the US had become the leading global borrower, whereas the net lenders are Japan, China, Germany and the oil producers, creating what is now called the Global Imbalance.
Last year, the Italian central banker, Tomaso Padio-Schioppa gave a speech about the international monetary system, called the 'The Ghost of Bancor', because the idea of Bancor was killed in Bretton Woods 67 years ago.  Mr Padio-Schioppa, who had a major role in the creation of the euro and became a member of the Board of the European Central Bank, unfortunately died early this year.  Interestingly, he equated Bancor with Banquo, the Scottish king who was murdered by Macbeth, in the famous Shakespeare play Macbeth.  As is well known, Macbeth met three witches in the forest. They predicted that he would murder his king, Banquo, and become king, but he would be succeeded by Banquo's successors.

Keynes conceived the idea of Bancor as the steward of the king (gold). But the replacement SDR has yet to emerge as an effective replacement for neither gold nor the US dollar. At the heart of any global currency (issued by one country, a number of countries or the IMF) remains the Triffin dilemma: what is the hard budget constraint to prevent the global currency issuers from printing too much money and, therefore, creating global inflation?
The ghost of Bancor basically says that no national central bank or a global central bank, can resist the temptation of printing too much money.    

Currently, the deficit countries blame the surplus countries for saving too much and the surplus countries blame the deficit countries for printing too much money. The reality is that it is the current international monetary system that is flawed.  We cannot return to the gold standard, but a fully flexible system of fiat money is also not desirable.

We are in a global collective action trap, where everyone must share a burden of being part of the global game. The difficulty lies in how to allocate that burden in a fair manner.   

My humble opinion is that the crisis of fiat money is due to excess consumption financed by excess leverage. That excess consumption is also the fundamental cause of global warming, as natural resources are depleted, while fiat money keeps on increasing. No one likes to use gold because there would be price deflation which would automatically cut down excess consumption. That is too painful, so everyone still keeps on printing money by passing the pain to savers and future generations.

If there is more and more quantitative easing (money printing) and less and less natural resources in a shrinking world, should we be surprised that gold and oil prices keep going up?   

Who speaks the truth, the ghost of Bancor or his successors, the current reserve currency issuers? Perhaps it is the witches in the misty forest, the shadow banking system. That story will be revealed in the next article.

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The writer is author of From Asian to Global Financial Crisis






The state of Bihar came into being when the British carved it out of Bengal Presidency on 22 March, 1912. Chief minister Mr Nitish Kumar plans to hold year-long celebrations to mark the centenary of Bihar's statehood but he also intends to supplement it with a drive to mobilise resources for development while keeping up his demand for special status for Bihar.

Bihar has a rich history. While there is no archaeological corroboration of the grandeur of the cities of Visala (Vaisali) and Vasumati (Rajgir) and the antiquity of Janakpur is yet to be verified, literary references to Magadha's riches, power-hungry Jarasandha, the saintly vedantist king Janaka and the great Risi Yajnavalkya and his profound philosophical expositions abound. Early treatises confirm Bihar's eminent position in the fields of polity and philosophy.

Magadha was one of the 16 Mahajanapadas and one of the four important kingdoms during 6 and 5 centuries BC but it was under Bimbisara Ajatsatru Sisunaga and Mahapadmannanda, in the next 100 years or so, that it emerged as the first imperial state with its ruler Mahapadmananda Ugrasena claiming to be the Ekrat lording over the regions extending from the east of the Beas to the Bay of Bengal. It was from Bihar that Samudragupta and Chandragupta II built their extensive empire and rays of Pala imperialism radiated from Pataliputra and Mudgagiri. According to Megasthenes, the large battle forces of the Nandas and the Mauryas comprised the world's first regular armies. Imperialism of Bihar, however, never degenerated to relentless and limitless military adventures. After the conquest of Kalinga, Asoka called it quits and made no effort to make another conquest.

Bihar also led the country in nurturing non-monarchical popular republican institutions. The seeds of republicanism have been traced to the Vedic songs of the Lichchavi state of Vaisali. It was the formidable reputation of the imperial Magadhan army that dissuaded the Greeks under Alexander the Great from venturing east of the Beas. It was again Magadha which emerged as the centre of the war of liberation against the Greeks whom Chandragupta Maurya pushed out of Punjab and the north-west, registering the first great victory in Indian history over an invading army. Also, it was the Magadhan army under Pushvamitra and his grandson Vasumitra which drove away the Bactrian Greeks from the gates of Pataliputra. Later, Samudragupta not only established a large empire and subjugated foreign powers such as the Saka-Murundas, his son Chandragupta Vikramaditya advanced successfully from Pataliputra to liberate western India from Saka rule. Much later, Sher Shah, a son of Bihar, made a successful bid to defeat the aggressive Mughals under Humayun in 16th century.
Bihar came under British rule in 1765. But the first rumblings of opposition to colonial subjugation were noticed during the Patna Conspiracy of 1846 and Bihar's glorious participation in the movement of 1857 and the heroic struggle of Kunwar Singh still remain a matter of inspiration. It was in Bihar that Khudiram Bose detonated the bomb which heralded armed resistance to British rule. It should not therefore be surprising that Bihar offered Mahatma Gandhi his first platform for a non-violent, non-cooperation movement ~ the Champaran Satyagarh of 1917, which was precursor to similar movements led by Gandhiji in future.
1930-32 saw Bihar at the helm of the civil disobedience movement under Dr Rajendra Prasad. The history of the freedom movement in India chronicles Bihar's freedom fighter-fighters making tremendous sacrifices. The Quit India Movement of 1942 represents a brilliant chapter for the state. In the first few years after Independence, the administration of Bihar under Shri Krishna Sinha is acclaimed as one of the best. The state took the lead in land reform legislation and zamindari was first abolished in Bihar.

In the field of administration, many examples were first set in Bihar. An elaborate political machinery which could sustain the incredible plurarity of India was first evolved by the Mauryas. The idea of a welfare state is credited to the 20th century and 18th century is said to mark the age of benevolent despots in Europe but it was in 4-3 century BC that Kautilya envisaged a welfare state in Bihar with a strong but benevolent central authority to implement imperial commands. And, Asoka undoubtedly set the benchmark for welfare monarchy in the sub-continent.

Bihar's contribution to the field of religion and pilosophy has been beyond measure. In the early Vedic era, Magadha, Anga and Mithila were beyond the pale of Vedic culture. From the Satapatha Brahmana ~ one of the prose texts describing Vedic rituals ~ it appears that at the time the treatise was being composed, north Bihar beyond the Sadanira or the Gandak was being Brahmanised. But in Magadha, the Vratyas were still uninfluenced by the Vedic-Brahminic religion. Aryan kingdoms had already been set up in Magadha, Anga and, earlier still, in Mithila. But the people of Bihar did not take to Brahmnical rituals and philosophy and clashes between two cultures explain the prominence that speculative philosophy used to enjoy in contrast to Brahminical ritualism. Yajnavalkya, Gargi and Janaka expounded their philosophy here. Gautama, the propounder of Nyaya philosophy, was also a native of Bihar.

Small wonder then that great world religions like Buddhism and Jainism were first preached in Bihar. Religious tolerance and mutual coexistence remained a cardinal creed in Bihar. The Brahmins encouraged the Buddhists to construct and embellish the Bodh Gaya railings and the Sanchi Stupa. When Islam penetrated the state, the first Muslim administration seriously geared to the welfare of the people was led by Sher Shah and he nurtured the state's legacy of religious tolerance. This spirit of amity informed the Wahabi movement and the Patna Conspiracy when the British first became aware of united Hindu and Muslim opposition to the Queen's rule as well as the First War of Independence (1857) and the entire freedom movement (1920-47). Abdul Bari, Mazharul Haq and Ali Imam are remembered with as much reverence as Rajendra Prasad and SK Sinha.
The first Buddhist Sangha was formed in Bihar and women were first admitted to it in Vaisali. The Sangha represents the first organised religious institution and Christians evolved a similar structure much later. It is therefore natural that distinguished Buddhist philosophers such as Dignaga, Vasubandhu Nagarjuana and Dharmakirti worked and lived in Bihar. Nalanda, Vikramshila and Oddantapuri Viharas were the centres of tantrism and Tantra literature and Kamalasila and Rantnakarsanti were noted experts in the fields. Both Gautama, father of Old Naya and Gangesha, father of Nava Naya were sons of Mithila. Mimansa philosophy flourished in Bihar under Kumarila, Parbhakara and Murari Mishra.
Bihar played a dynamic role in the field of science and technology too. Kautilya's Arthasastra refers to a large number of weapons used by the Mauryan army. Jivaka is the first well-known historical physician whose reputation spread to distant lands. Fa Hien refers to free hospitals in Pataliputra, of which archaeological confirmation of an Arogyavihara has been found in Kumharar. Aryabhatta, also of Bihar, founded a school of astronomy which attracted many students from different parts of the country.

Bihar was one of the leading regions which exploited iron for both military and civil purposes. The iron pillars at Mehrauli in Delhi still attest to the excellence attained by its metallurgists. Nagarjuna of Nalanda university specialised in chemistry. The bronze sculptures of the Gupta period testify to the technological skills of Bihari people in the field of metal casting.

Asokan inscriptions in Brahmi script are not only the first examples of writing in India but also of the system and style of royal proclamations. It was much later that Sanskrit became the lingua franca of the country's elite. It was during the Gupta age that the first Indian university, in the real sense of the word, was set up in Nalanda in 5th century AD. It soon attracted scholars from different parts of the country as well as from Central Asia, China and Korea. Pataliputra also functioned as a centre of educational excellence and the certificate of appreciation issued in this city was coveted by scholars such as Panini, Patanjali, Vararuchi and Varsha, to name a few.

Pali was the language of early Buddhism and both Gautam Buddha and Mahavira propagated Buddhism and Jainism, respectively, in Magadhi and Pali. Bihar's leadership in promoting art and literature is unquestionable. The earliest circular mud stupas were found in Vaisali and the earliest scriptures in the state were of Asokan vintage. The Asoka pillars are a tribute to the genius of the artists of that period. Terracotta and pottery-making were elevated to fine art in Buxar, Sonpur, Belwa and Chirand from 4th century onwards. Md Beya's tomb in Biharsharif and the famous mausoleum of Sher Shah in Sasaram are fine examples of Hindu-Muslim architecture.

But by and by, Bihar was reduced to a state clinging to a semblance of its great heritage and inhabited by some of the poorest people in the country. But things are changing slowly. There is a rekindling of hope in the face of resignation and cynicism. People of Bihar have the enterprising spirit, energy and the initiative necessary to improve their lives. It is paradoxical that while Bihar declined, Biharis continued to shine in many spheres. The migrant workers of Bihar found in every nook and corner of the country testify to the Bihari people's initiative and engagement.

Mr Nitish Kumar's resolve to improve things for the state is now being regarded as more than a politician's customary lip service to ideals of better governance and development. He is keen to demonstrate that there is no contradiction between electoral democracy and committed development. His administration's record of cracking down on criminals irrespective of their political affiliation and ensuring speedy trials is slowly restoring the people's faith in it. Mr Kumar's initiative to distribute cycles to girl students not only had enrolments increasing manyfold but also strengthened the system that he put in place by opening a large number of primary schools and appointing lakhs of primary teachers. His government's commitment to the cause of women's empowerment is evident in the 50 per cent quota that women of Bihar enjoy in all tiers of panchayats and urban bodies. The current government is particularly focused on rural development and scores of roads have been laid and bridges have been constructed in the state's interiors. Health care is another area that seems to be no longer neglected. The state government has launched an ambitious health guarantee programme for children and adolescents.

That Mr Nitish Kumar is keen on reforms is evident in the way he decided to open schools with resources confiscated from corrupt individuals. His decisions to scrap the controversial MLA fund and to bring in the Right to Service Bill that envisages guarantee of a birth certificate or an electricity connection without any bureaucratic ado validate his reforms focus. It's true that Maoist violence is raging in the state but in that regard too, the current government of Bihar prefers a welfare approach to an interventionist one in combating the scrouge.

This off-beat method of governance seems to be working. Bihar has posted an impressive growth rate of 11-12 per cent which is reflected in more jobs and greater prosperity for its people. But most importantly, the state seems to have been able to rise above mindless casteist violence and lawlessness which held it to ransom for decades. No wonder Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen is all praise for Bihar. Bihar at 100 promises a lot and it is up to its government to ensure that it delivers.

The writer is Associate Professor, department of English,Gurudas College, Kolkata






As it is, the Lokpal debate has sunk very low. Mr Anna Hazare has helped sink it lower. In his letter to Mrs Sonia Gandhi released to the media, Mr Anna Hazare wrote: "It seems that the corrupt forces in the country have united to derail the process of drafting an effective anti-corruption law through the joint committee." Mr Hazare was provoked by certain statements made by Congress party officials and allegedly by UPA ministers critical of the manner in which the process of drafting the Lokpal Bill was proceeding. In addition there were the allegations made against Mr Shanti Bhushan and Mr Prashant Bhushan through the release of an allegedly doctored audio tape that have led to a court case and a counter court case. Mr Hazare's anguish is understandable.

However, the observation contained in his letter quoted above is not. It betrays an attitude prepared to sink as low as might be exhibited by some of his detractors. Surely the lowest form of debate is to question the motives of adversaries instead of refuting their arguments. To tar all critics of the Lokpal soap opera as being corrupt segments uniting to derail an anti-corruption law does little credit to one who is widely being admired as a modern Gandhi. The Mahatma was marvellously correct with words and intonation in all his utterances and writings.

This scribe has serious reservations about the efficacy of a Lokpal as is being contemplated to effectively counter corruption. There are others who have voiced similar reservations. Does this make us all part of a corrupt nationwide conspiracy to derail the Lokpal Bill?

One can fearlessly state that this scribe has never been corrupt ~ possibly because he never had the opportunity to be corrupt! Why, he never even had the opportunity to divert Rs two lakhs from a trust fund headed by him to misuse it for celebrating his own birthday!

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist





The discussion at the recent meeting of the Calcutta Corporation upon tarmacadam roads affords yet another illustration of the irresponsible manner in which some of its members discharge their duties. A few weeks ago it was decided to assign one lakh to the laying down of roads constructed on the tarmacadam principle. This determination was arrived at with due deliberation, and it might have been expected that the question would be regarded as settled. But a motion by the Chairman, of a more or less formal character, at the last meeting led to a vigorous effort to cancel the previous decision and reduce the proposed outlay on tar-macadam  roads to Rs 50,000. The Chairman endeavoured to thwart this exhibition of inconstancy by ruling the amendment which Dr Haridhan Dutt wished to move out of order, on the ground that it would have the effect of altering the Budget. This ruling was clearly wrong, as Mr J.G. Apcar pointed out, since an allocation in the Budget does not mean that the amount must be spent but only that the Corporation can spend up to that limit. As a result of the insistence of the opponents of tar-macadam roads and of the Chairman's attempt to maintain an untenable position, the subject of the new road: was discussed in an irregular fashion, with the result that it was decided that the paving of streets with tar-macadam should be done by installments and should not be continued until an experiment made at a cost of Rs 20,000 had been proved to be a success. With this resolution the public will not quarrel, but it should have been brought forward at the outset and not as an after-thought when the whole matter was supposed to be arranged. The tar-macadam road, as laid in Calcutta, is undoubtedly an experiment. There are some authorities who claim that the experiment has already been proved to be a success


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Subscriptions to the Hindu University scheme now amount to over nine and a half lakhs, the principal subscribers being "An Old Well-wisher", three lakhs, and Babu Motichand Gokul Chand of Benares, Thakur Surajbaksh Singh, Maharaja of Cossimbazar Babu B.K. Roy Chowdhury, of Gouripur, and Seth Dooly Chand of Calcutta one lakh each. It is stated that about forty lakhs will be required for the scheme.






The man in the black robe who sits at the head of the court of justice commands awe and authority. He is seen as a figure who not only ensures justice but also as someone who inspires confidence. A judge is an exemplar, a role model. The chief justice of India, S.H. Kapadia, emphasized this point while delivering the fifth M.C. Setalvad Memorial Lecture. Apart from reminding his colleagues on the bench regarding how they should conduct themselves, Mr Kapadia raised some important issues that are relevant for the manner in which the judiciary interprets and performs its role. The chief justice raised a flag of caution about judicial activism which often resulted in judges "overreaching'' themselves and appropriating for themselves the functions of the executive. He reminded judges of the doctrine of separation of powers that the founding fathers enshrined in the Constitution. He was emphatic that judges did not have "the competence to make policy choices and run the administration'' even when other branches of the government failed to adequately discharge their duties or were indifferent to the solution of problems. Such a warning and reminder could not have been better-timed since the judiciary's occasional but increasing blurring of the lines that separate it from the executive has been noticed with some alarm by most people.

In the opinion of Mr Kapadia, "judicial activism which is not grounded in any textual commitment to the Constitution… raised questions of accountability of the judiciary.'' The wisdom or the appropriateness of a piece of legislation, according to the chief justice, is not the concern of the judiciary. Mr Kapadia thus drew a clear boundary restricting the role of the judiciary and made the latter accountable to the community. In terms of accountability, the judiciary could not see itself as being different from the legislature. On the question of ethics, Mr Kapadia set very high standards and rightly so. He asserted that judges should remain aloof and isolated from the larger community. This was necessary so that judges did not accept patronage even unintentionally and to ensure that there were no conflicts of interest. Only by adhering to such strict ethical standards could the judiciary serve as an example to the rest of society. Mr Kapadia has offered sage advice, and it is to be hoped that his views do not become a cry in the wilderness.






As Ivory Coast settles down after a post-electoral bloodbath, it is time for Nigeria to experience a similar fate. Perhaps Egypt and Syria — the latter preparing for a second wave of insurrection after having purged a decades-long dictatorship — ought to draw their lessons from neighbours who have repeatedly highlighted the fact that the holding of elections alone does not guarantee the success of democracy in post-colonial Africa. There are too many factors — history, religion, ethnicity, regionalism, and, above all, the old habits of former colonial powers and the unbridled greed of the neo-colonialists — that continue to hinder the working of democracy in these lands. Many of these nations, if not all, have complicated the scenario in Nigeria, which concluded its presidential polls last Saturday in what had appeared to be vastly improved circumstances than those of the two previous polls of 2003 and 2007. The winner in Nigeria is Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president and candidate of the People's Democratic Party, which has held sway for the last 12 years. Unfortunately, north Nigeria, which is predominantly Muslim, does not accept the results of this apparently 'free and fair' poll. Severe rioting has broken out in the north amid allegations of the polls being rigged again in favour of the PDP, which has overwhelming support in the Christian and animist south. The allegations are led by the opposition, particularly by the former military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, of the Congress for Progressive Change. But the spread of the riots in the north and the northeast shows that these may have considerable sympathy even among PDP supporters in the north who had been expecting the party to keep to its established practice of alternating the presidential candidature between a northerner and a southerner. Since Mr Jonathan, who had taken over after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua a year ago, is from the south, the north expected the party to put up a candidate from the region.

It is unfortunate that Nigeria should restrict the criteria for leadership and for efficient governance to the narrow categories of religion and region. It was happenstance that had caused Mr Jonathan, then vice-president, to ascend the presidency after Yar'Adua's death. This time, he has won the people's mandate to lead Nigeria. The opposition should accept the results of the poll and desist from war-mongering.






Mass uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have evicted autocrats ruling for two or three decades. Libya, sandwiched between these countries and under a dictator's yoke for over four decades, could hardly have escaped unscathed. If Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had outlived their political lives, and change at the top was long overdue, this was true of Muammar Gaddafi's case even more.


Unlike Gaddafi, Ben Ali and Mubarak were not eccentrics with unorthodox ideas about governance and disruptive external agendas. Nor were they tainted with complicity in terror attacks. Both, enjoying strong Western support, in fact, gave stability to their countries for many years, keeping Islamic groups in check and suppressing terrorism.


The two, without succour from a West fearful of alienating the nascent democratic forces, were hounded out of office by street protests. But in the new environment of uncertainty created by the removal of some solid pillars of Western support in the region, the survival of Gaddafi, a quirky and unstable factor in Arab/north African politics, would have been doubly damaging for Western interests. The wave of change sweeping north Africa had to wash away this megalomaniac in its wake.


What distinguishes the revolt in Tunisia and Egypt from that in Libya is that whereas in the former case, the populace vented its anger dramatically in the capital city itself, under the very nose of the regime, in Libya, the revolt occurred along political, geographical and tribal fault lines in the country. It was predominant in the eastern part of the country, which was integrated into a larger Libyan entity artificially following the demise of the Ottoman Empire. The revolt, therefore, has the characteristics of a civil war, unlike in the case of the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, with the military keeping its neutrality in one case and becoming the instrument of reprisals in the other.



The Libyan revolt is not a peaceful movement for democracy led by the Facebook generation, but an armed revolt against the government by indeterminate and faceless elements with no clear agenda other than Gaddafi's ouster. The West itself distinguishes the "rebels" in Libya from the pro-democracy protesters in Tunisia and Egypt. If the blemish of serving improvidently the West's agenda stained the reputations of Ben Ali and Mubarak and contributed to their downfall, it is Gaddafi's anti-West orientation that mobilizes Western countries against his survival.


In the case of Tunisia and Egypt, the entrenched autocrats departed without diehard resistance. The system found a way to divest the incumbent presidents of power by devising a political process that incorporated constitutional reform and free and fair elections for installing a new government. In Egypt's case, the United States of America used its influence with the Egyptian army to prevent a Tiananmen repeat in Tahrir Square.


In Libya's case, the West, with no levers within the system to ensure restraint, and in the absence of a constitution and institutionalized structures to explore "democratic" solutions, threats of sanctions, trial by the International Criminal Court and, ultimately, military action provided the only means to pressure Gaddafi not to violently quell the rebellion.


The West's quandary in dealing with Gaddafi relates to Libya's strategic position on the southern Mediterranean coast, its oil resources, business opportunities for international companies and jobs for expatriates. All this gives Gaddafi some room for manoeuvre. Tagged with the terror label and accused of pursuing a nuclear programme clandestinely, the mercurial Gaddafi sought, in recent years, to change course and gain acceptability from the West. He saw some positive results. Now demonized, Gadaffi was being lionized by the West only a few months ago.


For the West, the present opportunity to remove Gaddafi from power is too good to miss. For legitimizing its intervention in Libya, the Arab League's endorsement, apart from the approval of the United Nations security council, was politically necessary. This was secured from the exceedingly nervous non-representative regimes across the Arab world that were anxious to be seen as being responsive to the street aspirations for more participatory forms of governance. The secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa of Egypt, in order to align himself with the new public mood in his own country and to serve his presidential ambitions, helped.


The argument that Gaddafi may massacre civilians was persuasive enough for the West to seek UN authorization for a no-fly zone over Libya, for the Arab League to endorse the move, and for China and Russia to abstain on a permissive resolution. There may have been a genuine concern among European governments over the public outrage at home had civilian massacres been allowed to occur because of their inaction, but the West's agenda goes beyond a purely humanitarian one. The scope of Western air strikes has widened, a debate on arming the rebels has started (special operation groups are probably already in), and calls for regime change are being heard. This has generated misgivings in Arab minds and attracted recriminations from Russia and China.


The apparent Western self-questioning over the best course of action in Libya stems from a conflict between a desire to eliminate Gaddafi by all means on the one hand and fears about alienating Arab opinion (if UN Resolution 1973 is blatantly violated) and getting bogged down in another conflict in the Muslim world on the other. President Barack Obama's discursive speech on Libya exemplifies this with its laboured justification for intervention. The spectre of a stalemate is haunting Western policy- makers as a wounded Gaddafi and a de facto division of Libya portend persistent problems.


Even as Libya is being tackled energetically, similar problems in Yemen and Bahrain are being treated with diplomatic reticence. If the Libyan revolt is being supported by external armed intervention, the one in Bahrain is being suppressed with external military help. The Shia-Sunni factor, behind which looms Iran, explains the different postures. This attracts accusations of double standards, and even if counter arguments are available, these are rooted in the national interests of the actors, not in clear principles.


Given this background, those who argue that by abstaining in the security council India has departed from a principled foreign policy, it has not been true to its vocation as a democracy, has continued its practice of being a fence-sitter, has missed the chance of demonstrating that it considers itself a stake-holder in the global order, and has, finally, weakened its case for permanent membership of the security council, are off the mark.


Germany, despite its European and Nato obligations, has serious reservations about the Libyan policy of its partners and abstained in the security council in breach of solidarity with its allies and placed itself in the same camp as Russia and China. If Germany could do all that, why is it such a blunder for India to vote independently in the security council in the light of its own judgment on the uncertainties ahead in Libya and genuine doubts (with Iraq in mind) about externally engineered regime change? Is Germany less of a democracy than India is? Or is it less of a stakeholder in the international system? Why does President Obama need to make such a prolix explanation for intervention to the American public if the issues involved were so clear-cut? Does public opinion in India not count?


India's foreign policy towards others should be made by India; it should not be made for India by others.


The author is former foreign secretary of India






Recently, Warren Buffett along with Melinda and Bill Gates travelled through India, trying to spread the message of giving by Indians, especially by those who have amassed humungous wealth by dint of their own enterprise. Buffett and Gates must have been aware that many among India's rich, who started in a small way and are today names that the world recognizes, have donated huge amounts to trusts dedicated to education, health and upliftment of those who are below the bottom of the pyramid. The small Parsi community is well-known for its charitable heritage, as are the Jains and some other sects in the minority community. Some of the other major charitable initiatives include Pratham, The Give India Foundation as well as a large number of NGOs. I can only imagine that the aim of Buffett and Gates was to encourage the building up of a widespread culture of sharing wealth amongst the rapidly growing community of rich Indians.

I was thrilled, like every other Indian, by the glorious victory of the Indian cricket team in the world cup. I also applauded the rewards bestowed on the team members by various state governments as these recognitions symbolized the citizens' appreciation of the Indian team's achievement. I am delighted that even more recognition is expected to follow besides the jump in their earnings through endorsements and other events. In recent times, cricket has witnessed the rise of Indian sportsmen who can beat the best in the world. This is in complete contrast to the history of this sport, which was restricted to players who could afford to dedicate themselves to cricket.

Welcome move

My thought for this article was triggered when someone reminded me that a majority of today's cricketers have grown up in modest homes and that their well-deserved enrichment was indeed a cause for national celebration. The question was then raised whether any among this new generation of rich and famous cricketers had committed a portion of their rewards towards charity. I had to admit that I had not read any account in the public domain, although I am aware that many of the cricketers have discussed their social contribution on their websites and also invested in successful businesses and other wealth-enhancing activities. It is quite possible that my ignorance of their charitable initiatives may be because of the lack of information. Perhaps the charitable initiatives have been taken in a manner so as to avoid publicity.

In addition, one has to acknowledge that the members of the Indian cricket team are all very young people and that the management of their wealth has to be done carefully in order to sustain the rewards. This brings me to an oft-repeated explanation that charity may not be expected to be a widespread practice in a country in which the rapidly growing number of the wealthy has a relatively short history.

There was an undercurrent of questioning of the need for the Buffett-Gates initiative. Some felt that Indians do not have to be lectured on giving. I personally welcome all sources of encouragement that inspire wealthy individuals to share their riches for deserving causes more widely. Fame that an individual acquires is intangible. Wealth, on the other hand, is a resource that can be shared with others, and it helps moderate the sense of hubris that follows fame. What one shares is entirely an individual choice but the sanctity and the satisfaction of sharing are a great source of self-fulfilment.

As India continues to grow and prosper, those who lead wealth creation and their share in India's prosperity have a responsibility to spread the wealth because it not only makes good sense but also ensures a more sustainable future for the society.







It is strange that the Congress is trying to create obstacles in the course of the investigation being made by the Public Accounts Committee of parliament into the 2G spectrum scam. The party was the biggest supporter of the PAC probe when it was opposing the demand for setting up a joint parliamentary committee. It had even sacrificed an entire parliament on the issue. After the formation of the JPC it has suddenly turned against the PAC and found problems with its working. The prime minister had offered to depose before the PAC, headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. But now the party is uncomfortable with even senior officials of the PMO deposing before the committee. The noisy scenes created by Congress and DMK members last Friday in the committee lacked taste and decorum. They prevented evidence from being collected from some officials on that day. It is uncommon for parliamentary committee proceedings to be disrupted, as it often happens in parliament, and that sets a bad precedent. The grounds for objection, like the argument that the matter was sub judice, were not convincing. There are indications that the obstructionist tactics will continue.

JPC chairman P C Chacko had started a turf war with the PAC chairman Joshi ever since the JPC was formed, arguing that the PAC could only go into the CAG report on the 2G scam. Both took their cases to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha who advised them to co-operate and continue with their work rather than fight each other. The PAC has already collected much information and evidence from officials and business leaders involved in the matter. It is wrong to obstruct its functioning. The facts of the case are the same and if both committees undertake their work seriously and honestly the conclusions cannot be different. If they are different, the people will have a chance to compare the reports and find out which committee did the better work.

The PAC is an important parliamentary mechanism and it should not be weakened by political expediency. It is a watch dog of the executive's accountability to the legislature. While its working should be non-partisan, it should not be made ineffective on partisan grounds. The term of the present PAC ends on April 30 and if its unable to submit its report by then all the efforts that it has made till now will go waste.







India's determined efforts to access Central Asia's vast gas reserves have finally paid off. An agreement signed over the weekend between India and Kazakhstan gives India access to 25 per cent stake in Kazakhstan's Satpayev gas block in the Caspian Sea. The pact is no small achievement. India has been seeking access to Kazakhstan's rich gas reserves since 1995 but unlike the US, China and European countries, which were able to quickly seal deals, India's efforts met with little success. In fact in 2005, India faced a huge setback when it lost out to China in its effort to buy PetroKazakhstan, which had stakes in Kazakh oil fields. Talks on the Satpayev block have been on for over five years. Thus the finalising of an agreement represents a much-awaited breakthrough. Satpayev is estimated to have around 256 million metric tonnes in hydrocarbon resources. It will contribute substantially to India's effort to diversify the sourcing of gas with a view to enhancing its energy security.

Besides sealing the deal on the Satpayev block, India has also clinched an agreement for co-operation in civilian nuclear energy. Kazakhstan will supply 2,100 tonnes of uranium to India by 2014. Kazakhstan is home to 17 per cent of the world's uranium deposits. India will be hoping tha t Kazakhstan will emerge a reliable supplier of uranium.

While the signing of agreements on the Satpayev gas block and supply of uranium are heartening, India and Kazakhstan have a long way to go before they can draw satisfaction on the health of their relationship. Trade, for instance, remains below par. The volume of trade has grown rapidly in recent years, rising from roughly $80 million in 2004 to $314 million in 2010. But while Kazakhstan is India's largest trading partner among the Central Asian Republics, accounting for 70 per cent of total trade between India and the CARs, the volume of trade and its value is nothing much, especially when compared to that between Kazakhstan and other countries. An important hurdle in the way of India-Kazakh trade is the lack of an overland route. However, India's approach to Kazakhstan too needs a relook. India has tended to neglect co-operation in sectors like agriculture, tourism and construction. Hopefully, the present breakthrough will prompt India to pursue trade with Kazakhstan on a broader range of issues.







For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Delhi succeeded in gaining traction for its relationship with Astana.

The visit by prime minister Manmohan Singh to the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan took place last weekend against a regional setting of great volatility. It is a measure of the skill of Indian statecraft — or its audacity, depending on one's point of view — that Delhi could plough a sequestered bilateral furrow at all toward Astana impervious to the regional turbulence.

First, the regional setting. A most dramatic happening was the killing last Friday, after a relentless manhunt lasting months in the remote Rasht Valley that forms part of the Pamirs in Tajikistan of the dreaded Islamist leader Mullah Abdulla who had returned to Central Asia from Afghanistan after an absence of a decade with a band of 'foreign fighters' trained by al-Qaeda. At one stroke it brought home what a botched-up 'reconciliation' of Taliban could mean for the stability and security of Central Asia.

Yet on Saturday, a high-powered delegation comprising Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Gilani, army chief Ashfaq Kayani and ISI head Shuja Pasha arrived in Kabul to explore just how the stalemate in the Afghan war can be turned into a window of opportunity to reintegrate Taliban into Afghan national life.

Indeed, on Saturday, too, North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formalising in Brussels the setting up of a Trust Fund that helps Russia equip Afghan armed forces with military helicopters. The western alliance is willing to spend close to $376.5 million in an enterprise that marks Russia's 'return' to Afghanistan after a gap of 22 years. Quite obviously, the West is 'co-opting' Russia into the Afghan war without Moscow having to commit troops or to do any fighting.

Curiously, Russian parliament (Duma) held a hearing in Moscow last week to probe dispassionately whether the Arab spring would have any prospects of arriving on the Central Asian steppes — and what would follow if the pink-and-white tiny spring flowers of the Kizil Kum and Karakum killer deserts bloom in ecstasy.

Quite a plateful of food for thought, in other words, last week held out with regard to Central Asian security. However, what is extraordinary is that the India-Kazakh cogitation in Astana gingerly sidestepped all that stuff which goes into the making of the great game in Central Asia. Manmohan Singh's visit once again underscored that Delhi prefers to conduct its diplomacy in the Central Asian region as if it never heard of the great game.

Come to think of it, this vector of the Indian regional diplomacy has so far paid dividends. Delhi could husband resources from being squandered in vainglorious projects and keep the mind focused on what mattered to India's vital interests and to work on them calmly, steadily. Arguably, it wasn't too difficult to do that, since masterly inactivity comes naturally to Indian diplomacy.


Singh's Astana visit signifies that things might be about to change. We're about to tip our toes into the Caspian oil. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Delhi succeeded in gaining traction for its relationship with one Central Asian capital — Astana. The prime minister's visit underscores Delhi's keenness to build on that traction.

India is doing the right thing as Kazakhstan is literally the powerhouse of Central Asia and is gearing up as an influential regional player under a visionary leadership. Most important, what Delhi is eagerly seeking is cooperation in the highly strategic field of nuclear fuel supply.

A report by Nomura International forecasts an impending deficit of uranium ore in the next 5-year period thanks to the global uranium demand growth driven by China, India, Russia and South Korea. From a price of $40 per pound of uranium at present, prices may average about $75 in the coming 5-10 year period.

Kazakhstan holds the world's second largest uranium reserves, constituting almost one-fifth of the global reserves. In 2010 it produced 18,000 tonnes of uranium and by 2018 that is expected to go up to 30,000 tonnes. Kazakhstan is developing 21 new uranium deposits but is depending on Russia for uranium enrichment. (Russia enjoys 45 per cent of global uranium enrichment capacity). India can integrate into this matrix, given its robust strategic ties with Russia and with ties with Kazakhstan assuming strategic character.

Kazakhstan's cooperation with China and Japan also offers a blueprint for India. China is already the largest buyer of Kazakh uranium. The two countries recently agreed to trade in 55,000 tonnes of uranium through the coming decade. They created an enterprise in 2009 to produce nuclear fuel. Japanese companies too are developing Kazakh deposits that can produce 1,60,000 tonnes uranium by 2050. Interestingly, Kazakhstan holds a 10 per cent share in Japanese-owned Westinghouse Electric, one of the world's largest suppliers of nuclear power reactors.

The joint statement issued after Singh's talks with Kazakh president Nurusultan Nazarbayev emphasised the "need for expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation" in the nuclear field. "India is going for a fivefold increase in electricity generation through nuclear power plants and up until 2014 Kazakhstan will supply more than 2,000 tonnes of uranium", Nazarbayev said. That's a splendid start on a long journey.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan's support for India's membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is timely. The relationship with Kazakhstan can optimally advance if India combines the bilateral track with the SCO track. China met with phenomenal success doing so.

(The writer is a former diplomat)







Late that night, the call from the lab assistant was most reassuring.


On a recent morning, our mobile clinic van pulled up at a tiny village on the outskirts of the city. Even as we arranged our medicine box, scales and other equipment for the open air camp under the sprawling banyan tree, we could hear the shrieks and chatter of small children at play before the start of school. In a nearby open field, an intense game of rubber-ball cricket was in progress. Groups of people watched the players. The little fellows in the field were imitating star players of the Indian cricket team. "Things will quieten down as soon as the school bell rings", someone said. Fact was cricket fever was high in the rural area ever since a community TV was installed in a public reading room.

Whistles and jubilation hit the air waves when a local lad, known locally as 'Sachin' whacked one to the boundary with a home-crafted bat, a piece of rough wooden plank. "Like him, there are others who have been given the names of famous cricketers," explained our lab assistant. As a resident of the area, he knew every little detail of the happenings in the village. "There's the fast-bowler Iqbal, known here as 'Srishant' and another, a spunky lassie Venki, who keeps wickets, the 'Dhoni' of cricket! To get such nick-names is an honour and players must prove their worth." Then with a wry smile, he announced, "We will be soon be deworming these great players, won't we, sir?"

About then, the school-bell rang. We could see many uniformed children grabbing bags and rushing to class. Children of construction workers and visitors remained on the field.

But two uniformed boys seem not have heard the bell so immersed were they in their game. One of them kept running furiously from make-shift wicket to wicket and the other, the bowler, ran to retrieve the ball heading to long on. The duel in the morning sun didn't end even when a little girl pleaded, "Come on, Come on!" If anything it encouraged Sachin to step up and belt the next ball soundly. But sadly that 'sterling knock' brought his innings to an abrupt close.

Watching us taking in the cricket drama, both with glee and concern, the lab assistant sighed loudly in faux cricket dialect, "A brilliant knock has come to an end. Alas, lionhearted Sachin has been caught! What fate, what dire punishment awaits him? No one knows. But we ask the cricket gods to look but kindly on our master-blaster!" Despite the jest, we wondered what punishment was meted out to the truants. We needn't have worried. Late that night, the call from the lab assistant was most reassuring. "After scolding him nicely in front of the whole class, you know what the school master did? He took the 11-year-old boy on his moped to the city and bought him a cricket bat!"







As always we are seeing that the financial sector is playing an important role

President of the Council of European Union and prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean Claude Junker, won sudden fame when he stated, "We all know what we have to do, but if we did it we would all lose in the next elections." This comment reflects the impotence of politics and the road that Europe now finds itself on.

The government of Portugal is the latest victim of this process. All of the mechanisms created by European institutions to help members in crisis have as a condition the elimination of national budget deficits. Greece, Ireland, and now Portugal have access to billions of euros in assistance, but it is in the form of loans and while the interest rate might be slightly lower than market, it is still very high and debt piles up fast.

To receive these loans, governments must promise to cut their budgets more than is politically acceptable, and in the case of economies that are dependent on public spending to maintain stability and growth, drastic cuts have always meant economic slowing if not inflation, which makes it even more difficult to pay off the loans.

Debt trap

In economic parlance, this is called 'the debt trap.' The traditional solution is devaluing one's currency or declaring bankruptcy. Simon Tilford, chief economist of the Centre for European Reform in London, has written: "There is a limit to the budget cuts that a government can impose and still survive politically if there is no light visible at the end of the tunnel, meaning no prospect of economic growth."

But we know they see no such light in Greece, Ireland, or Portugal. The statistics thus far show that governments have not been able to increase revenue but are seeing it drop, largely because the social deficit is growing, with unemployment up and decreasing private and especially public investment. Note the remarks of Antonio Nogueira Leite, an economist of Portugal's Social Democratic Party (the rightist opposition of the centre-left party of Jose Socrates, who is stepping down after his austerity budget was rejected): "The likelihood that Greece has to restructure its debt is no less today than it was a year ago, and the negotiators will bear this in mind when the country applies for European loans."

As always we are seeing that the financial sector is playing an important role. The banks of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Holland, for example, have a large quantity of bonds for Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. But if the latter can't pay their debts, the banking system of the former, thought to be in good shape at present, will be faced with another serious crisis.

Meanwhile British financial reform, which many hoped would finally introduce measures to prevent future excesses of speculation like that which caused the current crisis, have proved to be of limited effectiveness. Bankers have gone back to being paid outlandish salaries with no relation whatsoever to performance, and we know that half of the toxic assets remain in circulation despite the billions spent on trying to correct the situation.
In this context, the United States is contributing significantly to international instability. Its crisis was symbolised by the Republicans' fight to slash the federal budget, which ended in a defeat for President Obama, who had to accept $83 billion in cuts. And an even more ominous fight looms on the horizon as Republicans prepare to slash spending on social programmes.

The American public will not accept a taxation rate above 28 per cent, though it would have to be raised to 32 per cent to balance the budget. This is politically impossible. Moreover, it is no longer possible for the US to export its domestic problems to the world economy by taking advantage of the dollar's status as international reserve currency. Each year there is less and less demand for US treasury bonds, the dollar keeps dropping, and the 600 billion so-called 'quantitative easing' manoeuvre by the Federal Reserve is probably the last such intervention that could be made without grave consequences.

As is plain to see, even in the US the fiscal deficit trumps the social deficit. And just a few days ago the people of Iceland voted against a measure that would use public money to cover private bank losses and protested against budget cuts. Is this a sign of what lies ahead?








Here is a sensational news item: Next month, the prime minister will deliver a speech to the U.S. Congress. In all probability, this will be a polished, excellent address, one crafted in Benjamin Netanyahu's characteristic style and language.

Netanyahu will explain why Israel is right, and he will expound upon the dangers it faces. He will warn about the Holocaust threatened by Iran; and he will announce that Israel is prepared to engage in negotiations, and that the Palestinians are the side dodging peace talks. He will point out that we live in a bad neighborhood, and that when winds are howling outside, it is not the right time for hasty decisions. He will praise America's democratic tradition and its economic system, and his words will warm the hearts of those who view us as a little United States.

Netanyahu will persuade those who are already converted, but it will be a speech to the wrong nation. Netanyahu does not need to deliver a foreign policy address to the Americans. He should speak to the Israelis. Netanyahu has yet to explain to Israelis how he views the future of the state of the Jews. Citizens of Israel, not of the United States, are the ones who elected him; and he owes them an account of how he sees their future.

Two years after Netanyahu was elected prime minister, despite the fact that his party did not garner the most Knesset seats, there are those in Israel who believe that he has failed in his job since he has not promoted talks with the Palestinians or initiated diplomatic policies. However, Netanyahu has done exactly what his ideological beliefs dictate: He has not relinquished the lands of Eretz Israel.

He has, to be sure, bandied around promises, in Israel and overseas, and affirmed that he wants to go ahead with negotiations. Yet his deeper desires point in the opposite direction, and the Palestinians, with their obstinate extremism, and President Obama, with his inexperience, have played into Netanyahu's hands. Two years have gone by and there are no negotiations; no settlement has been evacuated; building in the territories continues; and Israel's hold on these lands has strengthened.

Once we ignore the hefty price Israel has paid in terms of its international standing, Netanyahu's tactics appear to have been vindicated. But Netanyahu must explain to citizens of Israel - and not to peoples of the world - where he intends to lead the State of Israel. He owes Israelis an explanation of his goals and the tactics he has adopted to achieve them. Put simply: What sort of Israel does he envision in another few years?

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, and former Defense Minister and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens have expressed their view, which adheres to Likud's traditional position: Israel, they say, should hold on to the lands of Judea and Samaria and eventually annex them. In deference to the liberal aspects of the ideology of Likud patriarch Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Rivlin and Arens say that Israeli citizenship should be conferred to Palestinians. Yet a careful reading of their statements reveals that they have qualms about this. Palestinians on the West Bank, they suggest, should receive citizenship "when the time comes," "gradually," "in keeping with circumstances."

The annexationist genie, which was always a staple of Likud ideology, has come out of the bottle. Clearly its implementation would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Of course, Rivlin, Arens and their colleagues deny this.

Citizens of Israel are entitled to know whether the Arens-Rivlin view is shared by their prime minister. The prime minister must go beyond public relations gimmicks and tactics, not all of which are reprehensible, and clarify the key point: Does Netanyahu see Israel continuing to control millions of Palestinians? If so, he should say that publicly; if not, he should outline the alternative he proposes. No public relations speech, no matter how successful it might be, can exempt him from his obligation to speak to the nation that is settled in Zion, not the one whose capital hugs the shores of the Potomac.






The Israeli settlement enterprise does not need the murder of Jewish families in order to strip Palestinian families of their land and endanger the future of both peoples. But when such a murder "falls into its hands," the settlement enterprise knows how to make the most out of it, by building new neighborhoods and outposts, blaming Palestinian nature and education, and dropping biblical terms like "bitter enemies" and "Amalek."

The history of white settlement in other peoples' countries is full of sickening murders carried out by individuals who belonged to the indigenous peoples or by African slaves. These actions did not prevent the systematic expulsion and near extinction of the original inhabitants. It is not acts of murder that brought an end to slavery or apartheid. At the same time, abominable murders in Algeria did not make French colonialism, or any other colonialism, legitimate.

At the time, the whites attributed the murders to the nature of the savages, their inborn viciousness and their lowly race. The takeover and murderous enslavement were regarded as a divine and courageous mission and as a means of preserving law and order. Now, decades or centuries later, many recognize the brutality that characterized the settlement enterprise of their forefathers.

The attempt to guess what will be in 150 years is best left to soothsayers. We are interested in today and tomorrow. And today we must take seriously the words of the former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronski, one of the founders of Itamar. Speaking in an interview with the Walla news website, even before the release of the names of the suspects in the murder of the Fogel family, Ronski said: "A village like this, like Awarta, from which the murderers of the Fogel family and of the Shebo family emerged, must suffer as a village. A situation must be created whereby the inhabitants prevent anyone in this village from harming Jews. Yes, it is collective punishment. They must not be allowed to sleep at night, they must not be allowed to go to work, they must not be allowed to drive their cars. There are many ways."

Not a single word about the two murderers who came from Itamar or about the Authorities of Law and Order which excelled at not finding the murderers of two other Palestinian farmers who had been shot to death near Itamar.

Even before the suspects were caught, the soldiers punished Awarta collectively. After all, in the jargon of Israeli street judgments, a Palestinian is convicted even before he becomes a suspect.

The gag order on the investigation of the murder did not allow us to write what the army did in the village during the past month. But why, in order to collect fingerprints or DNA samples, did soldiers have to break washing machines, refrigerators, televisions and toys? Why should bags of rice, sugar and bottles of oil be emptied on the floor?

But for our former chief military rabbi this is not enough. He is demanding more. Will his former colleagues, still in uniform, not follow orders? Will his spiritual pupils not translate his words into deeds? And whoever protests will be accused of condoning the slaughter of infants.

But even without murder, the Palestinian villages suffer, as do the cities and towns, at the hands of the settlers and the Israeli authorities. There is abuse by individuals and structural and institutional abuse. All are exacting revenge on the Palestinians because this is their land. The individuals are taking over olive groves and water springs, and they expel people from their homes. The authorities are prohibiting construction and planting, confiscating land by the force of decrees, destroying houses and expelling. The water sources have been taken over long time ago. And everything is immersed in a mikveh of court rulings.

Our law and order authorities do not protect the Palestinian villages from the thugs who "exact a price" from Palestinians in revenge for the razing of an unauthorized settlers' hut by authorities. How can we expect them to protect the Palestinians against the avengers of the murder of the Fogel family? The settlers are sent there by the state. How can we expect the state to prevent them from continuing to do what they have been sent to do? To plunder, abuse and sabotage the future for all of us.





The immoral wealthy have a new and tasteless toy: ancient olive trees adorning the gardens of their villas. According to an investigative report by journalist Maya Zinshtein published in the Haaretz Hebrew edition on Monday, for around a decade now, illegal trade in ancient olive trees - including uprooting, stealing and smuggling them from the West Bank into Israel - has been flourishing. It is a market worth millions of shekels a year, in which a single tree can command tens of thousands of shekels. The Haaretz report uncovered suspicions of criminal activities in this regard, along with an ugly greediness for pet trees that has nothing to do with the love of the land and its arboreal species. Olive trees, one of the most beautiful and symbolic hallmarks of the land of Israel, have also become a status symbol for the upper thousandth percentile of the population. As a result, they are being uprooted from their natural surroundings, where they should have remained planted forever, ruining the landscape on both sides of the Green Line. It is illegal to uproot and transport ancient trees without authorization. Many trees have been stolen from their owners in the territories, and in other cases, heavy pressure is brought to bear on Palestinian farmers to sell their trees, taking advantage of their powerlessness and making huge profits at their expense. The government department in charge of enforcing the law pertaining to flora and fauna is partially paralyzed; a senior member of its staff owns a nursery, has a criminal record, and is suspected of taking bribes and of illegal trade in trees. The state comptroller intends to soon publish a report on this department. But beyond the criminal nature of this commerce, the environmental and public aspects of this scandal cannot be ignored. Uprooting ancient olive trees, which have been planted for centuries in public areas and have been an inseparable part of the scenery of the Galilee and the West Bank, and moving them to the private gardens of wealthy homeowners, rides roughshod over the landscape and heritage of this country. Uprooting trees that farmers have tended for centuries and moving them to homes whose owners have no relationship to the land or to agriculture, is infuriating and improper. It is incumbent on the Agriculture Ministry and the Civil Administration to take immediate action to stop the theft of trees and the destruction of the landscape.







Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for agreeing to answer our questions, despite your tendency to avoid interviews with the print media. We'll open, of course, with the diplomatic situation.

"Our political situation is excellent. The wave of revolutions in Arab countries and the expected collapse of those regimes still standing show the West that Israel is its only dependable ally in the Middle East."

The situation is excellent? The defense minister has warned of an approaching "diplomatic tsunami" in September and that Israel will be denounced and ostracized as an apartheid state - and you think everything is fine?

"We have disagreements with our friends in the West over the settlements in Judea and Samaria, but that is nothing new and it is not expected to change. What has changed is the strategic situation in the region. Iran is growing stronger and the moderate regimes have disappeared. We've seen the poor job the NATO forces are doing in Libya. They don't have enough strength or determination to fight even a legitimate target like Muammar Gadhafi. The only power protecting Western interests in the Middle East and preventing the region from falling to Iran is the Israel Defense Forces."

Next month you will address the U.S. Congress. What do you plan to say?

"Exactly what I have just told you: That America has no better partner and ally than Israel, and that the current situation in the Middle East proves this."

What partnership? Everybody knows that President Barack Obama can't stand you, and sees you as responsible for the diplomatic freeze - which makes his Nobel Peace Prize look like a joke.

"Politics is comprised of interests, not love. Churchill and Roosevelt couldn't stand each other, but together they defeated Hitler. Beyond Israel's strategic importance, Obama also has domestic considerations. He's running for reelection, and Israel enjoys great sympathy among the American public. Why would he irritate his voters and supporters?

"I don't know what Obama thinks of me deep down, but his practical policy supports us. He vetoed the condemnation of the settlements in the United Nations; he postponed the meeting of the Quartet that was to have moved a forced solution forward. Before the Passover seder, he called to wish me a happy holiday; we talked about our cooperation in the war against terror and the success of Iron Dome. I'm sure our relationship will only continue in this way."

Why will you speak in English on Capitol Hill and not in Hebrew?

"Because the public at home accepts my evaluation of the situation - that we do not now have a Palestinian partner for an agreement, and that with the region in flames, we must not take any chances. We have to keep the Palestinian Authority under our control in Judea and Samaria, continue with controlled settlement construction and deter Hamas in Gaza, while keeping open the option to attack Iran during the summer."

But even if you persuade Congress, and Obama offers his support, you'll still have a serious problem in Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel don't believe you, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is ignoring you.

"That's why I'm looking for a nice fat bone to throw to the Europeans so they won't support the declaration of a Palestinian state in September; a package of steps on the ground, maybe even a withdrawal from a few hilltops, just so they'll calm down."

Did I hear you correctly? Withdrawal? Would Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman let you withdraw - and not use the situation as an opportunity to bring you down and take over as the leader of the right wing?

"What right wing? Lieberman is scared of going to jail and he's trying to kowtow to the prosecution and the leftist media. He only just heard about the indictment against him, and he's already proposed formulating a final status agreement with Tzipi Livni, who supports withdrawal from almost every inch of the territories. He lashes out at me sometimes, but he doesn't really have anywhere else to go. He will support whatever decisions I make."

And finally, we must ask you about your trips with your wife Sara to fine hotels and castles, traveling abroad via private jets. Looking back, don't you think you overdid it a bit with the minibars, the spas and the laundry service?

Netanyahu unwraps a cigar and smiles. "Nu, I got out of that nicely, didn't I? The comptroller is investigating everyone's trips, [journalist] Raviv Drucker is busy defending himself against my libel suit, and now everybody's preoccupied with Lieberman's indictment."

Thank you very much and enjoy your Passover holiday.

"The same to you and your readers - and don't forget to grab a copy of the booklet 'Talking Facts,' which I wrote about the government's achievements."








Passover's central theme is the transition from slavery to freedom, and every generation needs to reinterpret this theme for its own times. I believe that for Israel and Jews around the world, freedom today means knowing that we need not repress historical truth; that fiddling with the truth is a hallmark of weakness; and that those who try to suppress truth are bound to disappear into the dustbin of history - today, in the age of global communication networks, more than ever.

No society can maintain stability in the long run by suppressing the truth. The Soviet Union tried to do so for decades, but ended up disintegrating. China, despite its tight control over the media, cannot prevent critics from voicing their views. They can detain Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and prevent him from attending the award ceremony, but they cannot block the truth about human rights violations. We see Arab dictatorships falling one after another: In the end corruption and incompetence are uncovered.

In this context there was a refreshing piece of news recently.The UN Relief and Works Agency teaches children in Gaza schools about the Holocaust because the agency thinks that Palestinian children need to understand the historical background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How simple and commonsensical. We all need to live with the truth so we better face it. Learning about the Holocaust will make it easier for Palestinian children to understand Israelis with whom they will have to live forever.

Not surprisingly, Hamas is far from happy about this and vociferously demands that the UNRWA stop teaching students about the Holocaust because Hamas, along with the Iranian regime, believes that they will get away with denying that it ever happened. They don't want their children to know that Palestinians are not the only victims, and they don't want them to know their history of disastrous decision-making. They want them to be indoctrinated; otherwise these children will not turn into the violent fanatics Hamas wants to raise.

The seemingly sensible insight that in the end we need to live with the truth is by no means shared by Israel's lawmakers who have passed the Nakba Law. To this day, there are many Israelis who try to repress the truth about the Middle East conflict. They do not want to know how the Palestinian refugee problem came about and they believe that the passage of this law will make historical truth go away.

Unfortunately, many in Israel, including a majority of its lawmakers, believe that Israel's right to exist hinges on repressing the historical truth about the Palestinian tragedy. In this respect, they are similar to Hamas, whose leaders fear that the Palestinian narrative will be irrevocably harmed by awareness of the Holocaust. Hamas wants Israelis to be all bad because they do not want compromise. Many Israelis believe that acknowledging the Nakba means forgoing Israel's right to exist.

I believe that both sides are wrong. Israel's right to exist cannot be contested. And this right is not contingent upon repressing the historical truth of the Palestinian tragedy. Israeli children need to know about the Palestinian tragedy and their narrative of the Nakba in the same way that Australian children need to know about the tragedy of the Aborigines of their country. That doesn't mean that Israel has less of a right to exist than Australia.

The history of Zionism can be told in a way that makes room for the Palestinian tragedy and suffering, without in any way denying Israel's right to exist in security and prosperity. Hence the Nakba Law is both useless and inhuman. It won't erase the Palestinian narrative, and it denies Israeli Palestinians their right to express their identity.

In the end both sides will have to live with the truth. Historical and political truth doesn't make either side into angels or devils: Both sides are human. There are Israelis who want peace and are willing to take risks for it. The majority of Israelis want peace, but are afraid of taking the steps necessary to achieve it. And there are Israelis who are racist bigots. There are Palestinians who want peace and are willing to endorse far-reaching compromise. There are intransigent religious fanatics willing to pay any price to erase the Jewish state. And, of course, there are any number of shades and nuances in the middle on both sides.

The attempt, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his associates to suppress the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict turns us into slaves running away from the truth. The way to freedom is to know that Israel has come into being under tragic circumstances. In this respect, it is no different from many other states. To be a free people in our country means ending the form of slavery which leads us to believe that the truth must be hidden from our hearts and minds.




                                    THE NEWYORK TIMES




In their budget-cutting zeal, Republicans are demanding harsh sacrifices from the country's most vulnerable citizens. At the same, they are determined to leave one of the biggest areas of wasteful government spending untouched: the Pentagon budget.


The budget plan they pushed through the House this month would spend $7.5 trillion on the military over the next dozen years. And that does not include the cost of actual war-fighting. The country cannot afford to spend that much, and it doesn't need to.


The $7.5 trillion was President Obama's projection, which he has since lowered to $7.1 trillion. Saving $400 billion is better but still not enough, especially since it can be achieved merely by holding annual nonwar-related spending at its current swollen level, adjusted for inflation.


National security is a fundamental responsibility of government. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon has spent without limits and in some cases without sense. Annual budgets, adjusted for inflation, have grown by 50 percent in the past decade. And that is apart from the more than $1 trillion spent on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The White House and Congress must impose some rationality on this process. Here is a path that could save hundreds of billions of dollars more through 2024:


PERSONNEL Pay and benefits account for nearly half of the basic Pentagon budget. The size of the uniformed services should not be reduced, at least for now. The Pentagon's civilian work force, currently 650,000, should be cut by up to 10 percent, saving more than $7 billion a year.


We in no way minimize the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. But after years of lagging far behind, military pay is now more than $5,000 a year higher than comparable civilian employment, more than $10,000 a year higher when special allowances and benefits are counted. Freezing noncombat pay for three years would save $3 billion per year. The formula for future increases should be adjusted to incorporate allowances and benefits, saving an additional $5 billion a year. 


Another $4 billion to $6 billion annually could be saved by reasonable increases in annual health insurance premiums for military retirees of working age. Those premiums — currently $460 per family — have been frozen for the past 15 years while health care costs soared.


All told, these changes would save about $20 billion annually or more than $200 billion over the next 12 years. FORCE STRUCTURE The Pentagon took too long to recognize that today's wars make more intensive demands on the Army and Marines and less on the Navy and Air Force. Ground forces have been increased, but that needs to be paid for by corresponding reductions at sea and in the air. That shift has already begun but needs to go further. Another $1 billion to $2 billion a year could be saved by reducing the number of aircraft carrier groups from 11 to 10 and associated air wings from 10 to 9.


PROCUREMENT Twenty years after the cold war's end, the Pentagon is addicted to hugely expensive weapons systems that are poorly suited to current and future military needs. Defense Secretary Robert Gates successfully pressed Congress to end production of the costly Air Force F-22. He now needs to cut way back on the far overbudget F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Far fewer of these are needed to assure American dominance of the skies. Terminating the deeply troubled Marine Corps version of the F-35 and cutting back the Navy and Air Force versions by 50 percent would save $130 billion over the life of the program, with most of those savings achieved in the 2020s. Eliminating the Marine Corps' costly and accident-prone V-22 Osprey vertical take off and landing aircraft would save another $10 billion to $12 billion. Further savings may be possible by scaling down future orders for the Virginia class nuclear attack submarine and reconsidering the newly vulnerable littoral combat ship.


For too long America's military spending decisions have been insulated from serious scrutiny or discipline. The result is that more than 50 cents of every dollar of discretionary federal spending now goes to the Pentagon. There is no way to bring the deficit under control without making substantial and rational cuts in that budget.







Anything the credit rating agencies say has to be taken with a block of salt. In the run-up to the financial crisis, they were enablers of excess, happily slapping AAA ratings on the toxic assets of their Wall Street customers. The same happened with Enron and other debacles.


So it was encouraging to see markets recover quickly from the news on Monday that Standard & Poor's had lowered its outlook on the United States rating from stable to negative. Still, the announcement is worth reflecting on.


The gist of the report is that the credit standing of the United States will be impaired unless credible political action is undertaken to address its long-term budget deficits and large national debt burden.


In what amounts to a warning to lawmakers and other government leaders to get moving on deficit reduction, S.& P. said that there was a 1-in-3 chance that it could lower the AAA rating of the United States government within two years. That could cause interest rates to rise and to stay high, increasing the burden of paying back the debt and weakening the economy at large.


If the S.& P. warning convinces Congressional Republicans not to play games later this spring, when votes will be needed to raise the nation's debt limit, it will have done some good. Republican rhetoric to the contrary, a debt limit vote is not the appropriate place to make a stand about future budgets. It pertains to obligations already incurred — like the Medicare drug benefit and the war in Afghanistan, both from the Bush era and financed by creditors who expect and deserve to be paid in full and on time.


If the warning is misconstrued to mean that deep and immediate spending cuts are needed — as Republicans have claimed — it will be counterproductive. Even S.& P. noted that given the difficult compromises ahead, the earliest plausible date to begin deficit reduction is late 2013, when the budget for fiscal year 2014 is due. What investors need to see before then, the report noted, is the emergence and debate of credible budget plans, with an eye toward implementation after the election in 2012. That is both politically realistic and economically sound because deep deficit reduction before then would risk derailing the economic recovery.


As credit raters, S.& P. and the other ratings agencies have squandered their credibility. But as a launcher of a shot across the bow in the budget battle, S.& P. did well.







Federal statistics suggest that as many as 1 in 5 women will be victims of sexual assault during their college years. Far too many women who report their attackers are then victimized by complaint systems that are difficult to navigate and disciplinary proceedings that are stacked against them. The Education Department's civil rights office has issued new guidelines for schools with the aim of making campuses safer.


At the moment, the department has open investigations of possible Title IX violations at several universities, including Yale, where 16 students and recent graduates have accused the university of tolerating a hostile environment toward women on campus.


The guidelines press schools to have a zero-tolerance attitude toward sexual assault and harassment and to adopt a complaint process that gives equal protection to the accusers and accused. Schools that fail to comply would be at risk of losing federal aid or facing legal sanctions.


The new guidance requires that the accuser and the accused have the same rights. The guidance makes clear that both the accused and the accuser also need to be notified in writing about outcomes of complaint procedures. It further warns schools that they must not try to dissuade accusers from filing criminal complaints either during or after the internal investigations that schools are required to undertake.


Schools will also have to create violence-prevention programs that include better training for coaches, residence hall counselors and others. A cultural change is essential to make campuses safer places for all.







Federal statistics suggest that as many as 1 in 5 women will be victims of sexual assault during their college years. Far too many women who report their attackers are then victimized by complaint systems that are difficult to navigate and disciplinary proceedings that are stacked against them. The Education Department's civil rights office has issued new guidelines for schools with the aim of making campuses safer.


At the moment, the department has open investigations of possible Title IX violations at several universities, including Yale, where 16 students and recent graduates have accused the university of tolerating a hostile environment toward women on campus.


The guidelines press schools to have a zero-tolerance attitude toward sexual assault and harassment and to adopt a complaint process that gives equal protection to the accusers and accused. Schools that fail to comply would be at risk of losing federal aid or facing legal sanctions.


The new guidance requires that the accuser and the accused have the same rights. The guidance makes clear that both the accused and the accuser also need to be notified in writing about outcomes of complaint procedures. It further warns schools that they must not try to dissuade accusers from filing criminal complaints either during or after the internal investigations that schools are required to undertake.


Schools will also have to create violence-prevention programs that include better training for coaches, residence hall counselors and others. A cultural change is essential to make campuses safer places for all.










THE great Turbine Hall at London's Tate Modern, a former power station, is a notoriously difficult space for an artist to fill with authority. Its immensity can dwarf the imaginations of all but a select tribe of modern artists who understand the mysteries of scale, of how to say something interesting when you also have to say something really big. Louise Bourgeois's giant spider once stood menacingly in this hall; Anish Kapoor's "Marsyas," a huge, hollow trumpet-like shape made of a stretched substance that hinted at flayed skin, triumphed over it majestically.


Last October the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei covered the floor with his "Sunflower Seeds": 100 million tiny porcelain objects, each handmade by a master craftsman, no two identical. The installation was a carpet of life, multitudinous, inexplicable and, in the best Surrealist sense, strange. The seeds were intended to be walked on, but further strangeness followed. It was discovered that when trampled they gave off a fine dust that could damage the lungs. These symbolic representations of life could, it appeared, be dangerous to the living. The exhibition was cordoned off and visitors had to walk carefully around the perimeter.


Art can be dangerous. Very often artistic fame has proved dangerous to artists themselves. Mr. Ai's work is not polemical — it tends towards the mysterious. But his immense prominence as an artist (he was a design consultant on the "bird's nest" stadium for the Beijing Olympics and was recently ranked No. 13 in Art Review magazine's list of the 100 most powerful figures in art) has allowed him to take up human rights cases and to draw attention to China's often inadequate responses to disasters (like the plight of the child victims of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province or those afflicted by deadly apartment fires in Shanghai last November). The authorities have embarrassed and harassed him before, but now they have gone on a dangerous new offensive.


On April 4, Mr. Ai was arrested by the Chinese authorities as he tried to board a plane to Hong Kong. His studio was raided and computers and other items were removed. Since then the regime has allowed hints of his "crimes" — tax evasion, pornography — to be published. These accusations are not credible to those who know him. It seems the regime, irritated by the outspokenness of its most celebrated art export, whose renown has protected him up to now, has decided to silence him in the most brutal fashion.


The disappearance is made worse by reports that Mr. Ai has started to "confess." His release is a matter of extreme urgency and the governments of the free world have a clear duty in this matter.


Mr. Ai is not the only Chinese artist in dire straits. The great writer Liao Yiwu has been denied permission to travel to the United States to attend the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, which begins in New York on Monday, and there are fears that he could be the regime's next target. Among the others are Ye Du, Teng Biao and Liu Xianbin — who was sentenced last month to prison for incitement to subversion, the same charge leveled against the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, now serving an 11-year term.


The lives of artists are more fragile than their creations. The poet Ovid was exiled by Augustus to a little hell-hole on the Black Sea called Tomis, but his poetry has outlasted the Roman Empire. Osip Mandelstam died in a Stalinist work camp, but his poetry has outlived the Soviet Union. Federico García Lorca was killed by the thugs of Spain's Generalissimo Francisco Franco, but his poetry has survived that tyrannical regime.


We can perhaps bet on art to win over tyrants. It is the world's artists, particularly those courageous enough to stand up against authoritarianism, for whom we need to be concerned, and for whose safety we must fight.


Not all writers or artists seek or ably perform a public role, and those who do risk obloquy and derision, even in free societies. Susan Sontag, an outspoken commentator on the Bosnian conflict, was giggled at because she sometimes sounded as if she "owned" the subject of Sarajevo. Harold Pinter's tirades against American foreign policy and his "Champagne socialism" were much derided. Günter Grass's visibility as a public intellectual and scourge of Germany's rulers led to a degree of schadenfreude when it came to light that he had concealed his brief service in the Waffen-SS as a conscript at the tail end of World War II. Gabriel García Márquez's friendship with Fidel Castro, and Graham Greene's chumminess with Panama's Omar Torrijos, made them political targets.


When artists venture into politics the risks to reputation and integrity are ever-present. But outside the free world, where criticism of power is at best difficult and at worst all but impossible, creative figures like Mr. Ai and his colleagues are often the only ones with the courage to speak truth against the lies of tyrants. We needed the samizdat truth-tellers to reveal the ugliness of the Soviet Union. Today the government of China has become the world's greatest threat to freedom of speech, and so we need Ai Weiwei, Liao Yiwu and Liu Xiaobo.


Salman Rushdie, the author, most recently, of "Luka and the Fire of Life," is the chairman of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.







Anyone in Turkey old enough to recall the bloody days leading up to the 1980 military coup probably had shivers when hearing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's statement on Friday.

He was reacting to hundreds of high school students who had skipped class to demand the resignation of an official who oversees Turkey's annual university entrance exam over allegations of cheating. 

Students in Ankara, Istanbul and other cities on Friday also demanded the cancellation of the exam's results after the examination board's head, Ali Demir, acknowledged a flaw in the way the test was devised but denied any cheating.

"The CHP [Republican People's Party], the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] and the BDP [Peace and Democracy Party] are in the ugly effort of exploiting the dreams of 1.7 million young people by turning this into a political issue. Turning the feelings of the youth into a political issue is opportunism, it is unethical," he said, telling the youth to be reassured since he said he is monitoring closely all the allegations.

And then he went on with this very unfortunate sentence: "It is not a big thing to have 2,000 young people march in Taksim. We could put 5,000 or 10,000 students there to oppose them, but we don't favor tension."

The prime minister is old enough to recall how societal polarization before the 1980 military intervention cost the lives of many people, among them many high school students. Not a day went by without a high death toll as a result of fighting among rival ideological groups.

The deep hatred between the supporters of right-wing and left-wing parties was so widespread across all layers of society that it had even reached innocent kids in high school. Turkey saw high school kids organized not along sport or music clubs but along ideological groups following the path of their older sisters and brothers.

We believe that the controversy around the entrance exam is strong enough to justify student protests. If the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is not convinced that these demonstrations are genuine and believe that they are organized by opposition parties for the sake of making political gains, then it should provide the public with convincing evidence pointing to direct or indirect links between the parties and the demonstrations.

Even the thought of organizing counter-demonstrations is enough to send shock waves through those whose memory is still vivid of the destructive days of terrorism pitting even brother against brothers. So we call upon the prime minister not to commit the same error and let his statement be considered as a slip of the tongue.

Demonstrations are the most natural tools of democracy, something unfortunately the prime minister is becoming increasingly allergic to.

The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members.






The Republic of Tajikistan attaches great importance to the development and extension of relations with the European Union. Relations with the EU are among the priority directions of the foreign policy of our country.

The official visits of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan H.E. Emomali Rahmon to Brussels and several European countries in February 2009 have confirmed the adherence of the Republic of Tajikistan to the comprehensive development of partnership and cooperation with the EU.

The President of Tajikistan H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon submitted the package of the priority projects of regional significance to the leadership of the European Commission. We hope that the European Commission after thorough consideration of these projects will make a positive decision.

Tajikistan believes that the implementation of the EU Strategy will contribute to the integration process in Central Asia and will improve the bilateral relations between countries in the region. The Strategy covers the most significant and important trends and areas of cooperation between Central Asian countries and the European Union.

Bilaterally, an EU-Tajikistan relation is governed by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in late 2004 and expected to enhance bilateral relations and heighten the EU profile in Tajikistan, as it sets out the parameters for increased political dialogue and cooperation and aims to promote bilateral trade and investments. It provides a comprehensive and ambitious framework for joint EU-Tajikistan work, in all key areas of reform.

The first meeting of the Cooperation Council was held on December 13th, 2010 in Brussels. The Co-operation Council provided a good opportunity to review recent economic and social reforms in Tajikistan.

Cooperation between Tajikistan and the EU has been actively and intensively developed during the last years. Tajikistan is pursuing a closer relationship with the European Union, targeting its co-operation, to facilitate economic transition, promoting inclusive, sustainable human and economic development.

Tajikistan is interested in the maximum use of bilateral economic cooperation potential with the EU, attraction of European investments to the development of priority areas of the country's economy, in particular hydropower, transport and communications, industry and agriculture.

In relations with the EU, the Republic of Tajikistan proceeds from the need to cover the most important trends and areas of interaction, including the process of democratization, rule of law, border management, combating drug trafficking, transport and energy, particularly renewable energy, water management, environmental protection, education, trade and investment, and support of Tajikistan's accession to WTO.

The economic cooperation between the Republic of Tajikistan and the EU needs to be elevated to the level of political relations.

Tajikistan also receives regional and thematic assistance in areas like border management and drug control (BOMCA/CADAP), education (TEMPUS, Erasmus Mundus), water / environment, human rights and democracy (EIDHR), non-State actors (NSA) and SME development (CA-Invest), and disaster preparedness (DIP-ECHO).

Tajikistan, first among the Central Asian countries, signed the framework Agreement on cooperation with the European Investment Bank. We hope that after its entry into force (Dec. 1, 2009), the EIB will be actively involved in the investment of projects in Tajikistan, particularly in the hydropower sector.

A good example is the reconstruction project of Kayrakum Hydropower station. It is planning to be started during 2010 by the European Investment Bank in cooperation with the EBRD and the European Commission.  

Since the adoption of the "European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership" in June 2007, bilateral relations between the EU and Tajikistan have intensified in a number of fields. One particular area is that of human rights, where the EU and Tajikistan entered into an enhanced dialogue in October 2008. The EU-Tajikistan human rights dialogue offers a platform for discussion on questions of mutual interest, and serves to enhance cooperation on human rights.

Under current circumstances, gaining energy independence and releasing the country from communication isolation is a vital necessity for Tajikistan. For these purposes the EU assistance is important in conducting feasibility study on hydropower and communication projects in Tajikistan.

Some 64 cubic kilometers of water stock out of an aggregate volume of 115 cubic kilometers of the Aral Sea basin generates in Tajikistan. In addition, Tajikistan has abundant unexhausted sources of hydro-energy ranking 8th in the world on total amount and the 2nd on specific volumes. Total hydropower potential of the country is estimated at 527 billion kWh of electricity per year. 

Nature, picturesque and skyscraping mountains, as well as unique landscape in Tajikistan remind one of a small Switzerland in Central Asia. Wild nature, high mountains, fresh spring water and ancient historic sights make Tajikistan attractive for tourists.

We are confident that today, more than ever before, the vitalization of the activity of the European Union in Central Asia towards a solution of issues related to the process of further achievement of stability and sustainable economic development in the region is important.

Only with common consolidated efforts of the European Union and the countries of the region would we be able to solve those problems and challenges that our governments and the people face today. The Republic of Tajikistan, in its turn, is always open to effective and constructive cooperation, both with the European Union, as well as with other countries.

* Hamrokhon Zarifi is the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Tajikistan.






The breaking news of Monday night was truly breaking: Turkey's Supreme Election Board, or YSK, a board of judges whose job is to oversee the electoral process, had vetoed the candidacy of 12 "independents." Seven of them were supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. One of them was the famous Leyla Zana, a Kurdish activist who had spent a decade in prison after being convicted of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

This news created a great reaction and uproar, for the vetoing of these candidates is a clear interference in the upcoming elections on June 12. The "independents" already represent a political line that is disadvantaged because of the 10 percent national election threshold. Now the fact that a dozen of them are taken out of the game by a court decision adds much more to the feelings of discrimination. Not just the Kurds but also all democrats are very, very angry.

Any conspiracy?

But why did the Supreme Election Board take such a step? How could they "veto" some of the candidates?

The answer is actually not too unclear. There is a "Law for Deputy Elections" in Turkey, and Article 11 clearly states: "Those who have been sentenced to a prison term for one year or more, or any heavy prison term, cannot be elected as members of the Turkish Parliament."

And all of the 12 names that have been vetoed have some sentences in the past. As pro-Kurdish or ultra-leftwing activists, all of them have been given some punishment according to the draconian laws of the Turkish state.

So, it seems that the judges at the YSK simply followed the letter of law. As journalist Fatih Çekirge wrote in daily Hürriyet, one of those judges clearly said: "Let no one be angry at us. We don't look at this politically. We just look at the law, and the law is very clear."

This also means, in my view, that the conspiracy theories that have emerged right after the court decision are wrong.

The first of those conspiracy theories was that the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was "behind" this decision. BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş and many anti-AKP voices argued so. But the YSK is not a board of AKP yes-men. Quite the contrary, the same board recently took decisions that infuriated the AKP cadre as well. Besides, the decision does not seem to serve the AKP. Its political impact is most likely to be radicalization in the Kurdish camp and thus more support for the BDP, whose only political rival in the Southeast is none other than the AKP.

The second conspiracy theory, preferred by the more liberal and democrat voices, is that the "deep state" is behind the YSK decision. In order to sabotage the "democratization process," the reasoning goes, the dark powers that be decided to radicalize the Kurds by enraging them with court decisions.

Yet this theory seems to be based on no evidence, but instead a presumption that is very common in Turkey: that anything with a political consequence has to be the product of a political design. But I prefer to use the famous razor of the William of Occam: If there are visible reasons for explaining phenomena, then there is no need to look for invisible reasons.

And the visible reason for this veto is clear: The age-old authoritarian laws of the Turkish Republic, which puts limits on whom people can choose as their representatives in Parliament. Both the incumbent AKP and other political parties can be blamed for not reforming these laws enough, and giving the judiciary the leverage to have such interference in the political process. But blaming them for foreseeing, let alone designing, this particular veto is unconvincing.

A war at hand?

However, none of this legal rationality should minimize the political irrationality, if not stupidity, of the decision. The YSK decision will only help infuriate the base of the BDP, which is already agitated with a passionate Kurdish nationalism. What is worse is that this move might lead the BDP to boycott the upcoming elections. This would not only be a major flaw in the Turkish democracy, but also a sabotage for the already shy and fragile "peace process" between the state and the PKK forces that the BDP is assumed to represent. The words of Bengi Yıldız, a politician within the BDP ranks, are worrying enough:

"This decision is clearly a decision of war on the Kurds. It is a decision to send the Kurds to the mountains [to become guerillas]. If the rulers of this country have decided for war, then that is just fine. Then the Kurds will fight the war."

This is a very dangerous psychology. And this is a dangerous moment for Turkish democracy. Politicians might not be responsible for the YSK decision, but they are certainly responsible for doing something about it. First, every legal way should be considered to force the YSK to revise its decision. Secondly, Parliament should consider ways to amend the Law for Deputy Elections, and make those changes applicable to the upcoming elections. Postponing the elections can also be an option.

We just should not allow the draconian laws of "Old Turkey" to put a stain on the new one. If we go to elections under the shadow of this veto, that is what will exactly happen.






The breaking news of Monday night was truly breaking: Turkey's Supreme Election Board, or YSK, a board of judges whose job is to oversee the electoral process, had vetoed the candidacy of 12 "independents." Seven of them were supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. One of them was the famous Leyla Zana, a Kurdish activist who had spent a decade in prison after being convicted of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

This news created a great reaction and uproar, for the vetoing of these candidates is a clear interference in the upcoming elections on June 12. The "independents" already represent a political line that is disadvantaged because of the 10 percent national election threshold. Now the fact that a dozen of them are taken out of the game by a court decision adds much more to the feelings of discrimination. Not just the Kurds but also all democrats are very, very angry.

Any conspiracy?

But why did the Supreme Election Board take such a step? How could they "veto" some of the candidates?

The answer is actually not too unclear. There is a "Law for Deputy Elections" in Turkey, and Article 11 clearly states: "Those who have been sentenced to a prison term for one year or more, or any heavy prison term, cannot be elected as members of the Turkish Parliament."

And all of the 12 names that have been vetoed have some sentences in the past. As pro-Kurdish or ultra-leftwing activists, all of them have been given some punishment according to the draconian laws of the Turkish state.

So, it seems that the judges at the YSK simply followed the letter of law. As journalist Fatih Çekirge wrote in daily Hürriyet, one of those judges clearly said: "Let no one be angry at us. We don't look at this politically. We just look at the law, and the law is very clear."

This also means, in my view, that the conspiracy theories that have emerged right after the court decision are wrong.

The first of those conspiracy theories was that the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was "behind" this decision. BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş and many anti-AKP voices argued so. But the YSK is not a board of AKP yes-men. Quite the contrary, the same board recently took decisions that infuriated the AKP cadre as well. Besides, the decision does not seem to serve the AKP. Its political impact is most likely to be radicalization in the Kurdish camp and thus more support for the BDP, whose only political rival in the Southeast is none other than the AKP.

The second conspiracy theory, preferred by the more liberal and democrat voices, is that the "deep state" is behind the YSK decision. In order to sabotage the "democratization process," the reasoning goes, the dark powers that be decided to radicalize the Kurds by enraging them with court decisions.

Yet this theory seems to be based on no evidence, but instead a presumption that is very common in Turkey: that anything with a political consequence has to be the product of a political design. But I prefer to use the famous razor of the William of Occam: If there are visible reasons for explaining phenomena, then there is no need to look for invisible reasons.

And the visible reason for this veto is clear: The age-old authoritarian laws of the Turkish Republic, which puts limits on whom people can choose as their representatives in Parliament. Both the incumbent AKP and other political parties can be blamed for not reforming these laws enough, and giving the judiciary the leverage to have such interference in the political process. But blaming them for foreseeing, let alone designing, this particular veto is unconvincing.

A war at hand?

However, none of this legal rationality should minimize the political irrationality, if not stupidity, of the decision. The YSK decision will only help infuriate the base of the BDP, which is already agitated with a passionate Kurdish nationalism. What is worse is that this move might lead the BDP to boycott the upcoming elections. This would not only be a major flaw in the Turkish democracy, but also a sabotage for the already shy and fragile "peace process" between the state and the PKK forces that the BDP is assumed to represent. The words of Bengi Yıldız, a politician within the BDP ranks, are worrying enough:

"This decision is clearly a decision of war on the Kurds. It is a decision to send the Kurds to the mountains [to become guerillas]. If the rulers of this country have decided for war, then that is just fine. Then the Kurds will fight the war."

This is a very dangerous psychology. And this is a dangerous moment for Turkish democracy. Politicians might not be responsible for the YSK decision, but they are certainly responsible for doing something about it. First, every legal way should be considered to force the YSK to revise its decision. Secondly, Parliament should consider ways to amend the Law for Deputy Elections, and make those changes applicable to the upcoming elections. Postponing the elections can also be an option.

We just should not allow the draconian laws of "Old Turkey" to put a stain on the new one. If we go to elections under the shadow of this veto, that is what will exactly happen.






My mini series in this column, "Those crazy Turks (I and II)," apparently made several Turks crazy and angry as shown by several crazy and angry posters. I borrowed the title from a best-seller book that narrated rich volumes of Turkish heroism to millions of Turks willing to read rich volumes of Turkish heroism. Knowing that "Those crazy Turks" was deeply disliked by the general audience, I have decided to try to sweeten the facts with what I hope will be a sweeter title.

On my way to Palazzo di Venezia in Istanbul on Friday for a debate on "Turkish-Italian affairs" around the themes of "love, knowledge and prejudice," I heard from a taxi driver that the entire neighborhood of Tophane was under "Vatican invasion" demonstrated by the Italian Lycee, the Italian Hospital, the Italian slope and the Palazzo. Fortunately, the driver said, our prime minister would end that invasion after the elections.

A few days later, I recalled his shining optimism when I read the findings of a Taylor Nelson Sofres research, which revealed that even though Turks experienced difficulty in paying their debts they were, in general, happy. Hopefully, with the end of the Vatican invasion after June, they will be happier.

One of the speakers at the Palazzo, former foreign minister Gianni de Michelis, pointed out that the overwhelming majority of Italians did not know of Turkey at all. Ironically, another speaker, Associate Professor İpek Altınbaşak, quoted various polls gauging the Italian perception of Turkey and Turks.

The findings revealed that Turkey, according to the average Italian, is a "cheap, not-so-safe and dirty country full of conservative, proud, young and dynamic people." The speakers in general described that thinking as (pejoratively) prejudiced. I thought dismissing that description as prejudice was prejudice, if not intelligent euphemism. I also thought Mr. de Michelis was being unfair to Italians' knowledge about Turkey. But listening to another speaker who thought, "Turks had a prime minister like a hero from a novel," I wondered if I was wrong and Mr. de Michelis was right about the Italian ignorance on Turkish affairs. Perhaps we both are wrong.

At the weekend I liberated myself from the never-mistaken wisdom of Turkish taxi drivers and began to drive to the northern Aegean coast. It was dark and raining heavily about 30 kilometers south of a coastal city when I vaguely noticed the dark silhouette of a car that had run off the road and turned upside down, with its headlamps still on, telling me that the accident must have happened only a few minutes before. I stopped by the road, nearly hit by a speeding bus, and ran down the muddy slope toward the wreck, seeing, first, a woman waving for help. My travel companion and I were relieved to see that both the woman and her husband, who was still squeezed in the driver's seat, had only minor injuries.

I called the ambulance service and silently thanked the government for building this efficient, civilized system in a country where human life is not the most precious thing. In a few minutes the roadside was full of cars and curious faces. Then the show began, turning a near tragedy into pure amusement.

One of the volunteers was a young man who struggled less to help the unlucky couple and more to stop his curious mother from stumbling down the muddy hill to better see the accident scene. The woman chose to ignore the "Mum, don't come" warnings, repeatedly asking her son where the accident victims were from. The young man's "how the hell should I know, Mum" protests were overcome by the woman's "Ask them where are they from" orders.

A young woman who introduced herself as a "health officer" rushed into the scene, pushing aside the now bigger and more curious crowd in a scene reminiscent of a film. She began to speak to the man in the car. "Are you well?" "Yes, very well." "Where are you now?" "In my car." We tried not to laugh. And we failed when we heard the old woman asking the health officer if she knew where the victims were from.

Finally the police arrived. An officer pointing his torch into the car spoke to the man still squeezed between the steering wheel and his seat: "How did this happen?" "Like an accident of this sort would happen," he replied. Apparently the driver had a sense of humor. But the policeman did not like the driver's sense of humor: "Did you drink any alcohol?" "You can have me breath into a breathalyzer, but for that you must wait till I get out of here. But I am ready to take the test if you can hand over the machine now."

The policeman turned to the other officer who had come down to inspect the unfortunate couple's belongings dispersed around the area, obviously looking for a can of beer. Then he took over the bizarre interrogation, with the "suspect" still squeezed at the wheel. "Do you have full motor insurance?" The driver was losing patience. "Are you a police officer or an insurance inspector?" The police officers looked at each other, one of them commenting. "He must be drunk." The driver overheard. "I am not drunk, but I will be glad if you would be kind enough to give me a shot of rakı since I am no longer driving and apparently I have plenty of time to enjoy till someone gets me out this wreck."

By now, the drink and drive presumption had reached other ears. Someone watching the scene on top of the hill by the road had already started a stimulating debate with a few other watchers: "The man is drunk. A well deserved end for a drunkard." I called the ambulance service once again, and was told that the fire brigades and the gendarmerie crew were already on their way to the accident scene. The operator also told me that the gendarmerie team would be able to give a breathlyzer to the injured man. I thought I was having an unpleasant hallucination from too much wine the night before. 

After I hung up, the ambulance service called my number. This time, another operator asked me if I was fatally injured. I told her I was not, but someone else could be if an ambulance would not come to the man's help soon. "Are you not the drunken driver?" she asked me. The word had reached the hospital, and anti-terror teams were probably about to round up the sinners – the drunken. The man was still in his car, and an ambulance was not in sight, although a funeral car had pulled up and its driver was asking the man's wife, "Can we do anything for you?" Before she was able to answer, the first police officer, with the tone of an inspector, asked her if her husband had drunk alcohol.

I told my travel companion that we better get lost before we were arrested for having drunk the night before. I drove off before an ambulance arrived, feeling relieved that the inspectors would take care of drunken drivers.

While driving, I thought Mr. de Michelis was probably right. The Italians did not have any knowledge about Turkey. Turkey can be a cheap, not-so-safe and dirty country full of young, dynamic, conservative and proud people. But it surely is lovelier than that.






If democracy is believed to be just a very difficult governance system, such a description is obviously wrong. Of course democracy is a governance system. Definitely it is far more difficult than many other governance systems. Yet, democracy is not just related to governance, it is also about a lifestyle.

The "anxious moderns" of this society who have been in serious worries for some time, are worrying not just because their lifestyle might be under threat of advancing political Islam but rather in view of the experiences of Turkey over the past eight or more years. Political Islam acquiring absolute power might pose a very serious challenge to democratic governance.

Democracy requires a democratic culture. The right to think, to speak and indeed revolt is fundamental in the culture of democracy. The notion that there might be goods of others as valid as our goods is a basic teaching of democracy. Unlike absolute power vested in an individual or a group of people in some other governance systems, in democratic governance the game is played between equals and among those equals there are no "more equal than others" or "first among equals."

The right to demonstrate is a right, not a contest of who gathers the biggest and noisiest crowd in a square. If in several cities of the country, for example, young students suspecting irregularities in a university entrance examination took to the streets and demand a new examination, it is indeed more than absurd for the prime minister of that country to refuse lending an ear to the complaints of those kids but instead come up with an awkward statement that should he want, he might order a far bigger crowd of more than 10,000 students stage a counter demonstration.

In a democratic culture people demonstrating and protesting something is just a part of life. The right to demonstrate – without getting prior permission and some sort of authorization from the authority protested – cannot be curtailed, except some extreme cases when and where such acts might endanger public security and such.

For God's sake, if you are one of those 2 million people who sat an examination. Later strong suspicions emerge that the examination might be rigged. The president, prime minister, education minister and all other executives of that country say they were satisfied with the statements of the authority that held that exam that there was no wrongdoing. What would you do other than revolt after all that happened, possibly posing a serious threat to your plans for the future? You would protest, wouldn't you? And, if you are a prime minister, even if you cannot do anything, you, as a person with some idea about democracy, democratic rights and democratic culture, would try to listen to those young people, wouldn't you?

It is no secret for anyone who might have read this column a few times over the past many years that I consider the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and its many predecessors that were all closed down by the courts on charges of collaboration with terrorists, as a political extension of the outlawed separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorism network. The BDP deputies in Parliament are not independent at all. Because of purely legitimate reasons, due to the anti-democratic 10 percent electoral threshold, they run and are elected as independent deputies in the previous elections and later joined the BDP. I am not referring to obligatory crooked going around the laws practice with "they are not independent" sentence. They are as independent as the PKK members up on the mountains. Yet, Turkey has to make a choice, irrespective of how bitter it might be.

Does Turkey want to continue fighting a separatist terrorist campaign, or does it want to find a way to resolve the problem through a political settlement, bring terrorists down from the mountains and restore peace and security throughout this country? If we want a political settlement it is good we have a political extension of the separatist gang. Otherwise we would be compelled to help it produce one. While it is difficult to directly accept the gang as a counterpart in seeking peace, at least the BDP must be firmly engaged in any such project if indeed there is sincerity in the Turkish government's bid to have a political settlement. This is at least a requirement of democratic culture.

If, however, 12 independent candidates, seven of them prominent persons supported by the BDP, are vetoed by the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, with some awful explanations based on some restrictive laws passed during the 1980 coup period, can we still talk about a will for political settlement? The government should not hide behind the election board, should accept responsibility, convene Parliament urgently and correct this crooked situation urgently if this country does not want to tell its ethnic Kurdish activists, "Sorry, politics is closed for you, go to the mountains."






No matter how correct or incorrect it is, the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, has made a political decision and put Turkey in an extremely dangerous situation with its decision to cancel the candidacies of 12 independent applicants for the June general elections, seven of whom were supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, because they had been previously convicted.

"We don't make politics. Whatever the law says we implement," the YSK says now. But it ignores why it didn't warn them beforehand in this case or why they came to different conclusions when interpreting the law in past cases.

With this approach the YSK has fanned the flames in the southeast.

As long as we cast the Kurds out from politics we need to understand that the streets will keep burning and people will head to the mountains.

Maybe the "deep state" still exists in our reflex. Maybe it has entered our minds and prevents different thinking. The deep state still exists.

Government, Parliament need to look after the BDP

If Turkey, together with its government, opposition, media, military and business circles, does not intend to fan the flames of the Kurdish issue, then it needs to find a solution.

For example, providing for Leyla Zana, a Kurdish politician who was formerly imprisoned, to enter Parliament would show Turkey's intention. It would indicate a search for a solution to the issue within democratic bounds.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would prove that he takes the Kurdish issue seriously and will do whatever he can after elections.

BDP should go to the elections

The BDP should not boycott by behaving irritable. They should always remember that while in Parliament they are able to state their case under the umbrella of democracy. Their international credibility and legitimacy would increase. Or else they'd have to suffice with statements from the burning streets, which would make happy those who intend to continue with this issue and war.

Let us solve this nonsense together.

Let us please be serious and look ahead.

The region is fighting.

Flames everywhere.

Libya's situation is obvious.

Syria is in a chaos and if Damascus explodes we'll have to bear the consequences.

Egypt is still unsure of its direction.

Iran is increasing its influence.

Amid all this chaos, Turkey sticks out as a stable island.

We are proud of our economy and talk about saving Europe. We write about how everybody envies us.

All of which is partly true but what is really important is consistency.

As long as Turkey does not actively adopt policies to solve the Kurdish issue, it can neither be the star of the region nor continue economic growth.

The "Kurdish issue" has gone on for 75 years, shedding blood, and today we know that it can't be solved on a day-to-day basis.

Like it or not, we have to share this country with Kurdish-origin citizens and include them in state affairs.

There is no other way out.

We can surely turn our backs on the issue but this will only decrease our power and cause internal uproar.

The greatest possibility before us will be revealed by the new constitution after elections. If we miss this train due to unproductive political fights and faint-heartedness it will only lead to the degradation of our country.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been the only party among former political parties that took brave steps. Turkey is keeping its hopes high that the AKP will regain its previous braveness after the elections.






It was a crude attempt to blackmail other countries in the European Union into accepting more of Italy's illegal immigrants.

"I wonder whether in this situation it makes sense to remain within the European Union," Italian Foreign Minister Roberto Maroni said two weeks ago.

But the time may come when Italy's northern neighbors will be quite happy to see Italy leave the union. In fact, they may even close their borders to all the EU Mediterranean members.

The current fuss has arisen because Italy, the closest EU country to Tunisia, was hit by a wave of Tunisian "refugees" after the recent revolution there. They are not really fleeing from persecution and repression as the revolution largely ended that. They are economic migrants taking advantage of the fact that the chaotic new regime, unlike the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali dictatorship, no longer patrols the beaches to stop them from leaving for Italy.

Ben Ali had an unwritten deal with several EU countries to control the migrant flow in return for financial and diplomatic support. Since his regime collapsed in January, an estimated 25,000 Tunisian "refugees" have flooded into Italy, mostly in boats that dump them on the shores of the nearby Italian island of Lampedusa.

This is profoundly unpopular in Italy, a country with a severe allergy to immigrants from the wrong parts of the planet. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is currently fighting charges of bribery, abuse of power and paying for sex with underage girls, is certainly not going to defy that popular mood.

Indeed, Berlusconi is on record as saying that Milan "seems like an African city" because of the number of foreigners in the streets. Actually, only 4 percent of Italy's population are non-citizen foreign residents, and more than half of them are European. So when Lampedusa was inundated with Tunisians, Berlusconi came up with a sneaky way of getting rid of them.

Most of the "refugees" from Tunisia would rather be in France anyway, because many of them have relatives there and most of them speak some French. So Berlusconi's government just made it easy for them to go to France.

Early this month Italy began issuing six-month temporary residence certificates to the Tunisian refugees. Once they were Italian residents, however temporary, they were legally free to go anywhere else in the Schengen group of countries, an area with no internal border controls that includes almost all of Western and Northern Europe except the United Kingdom. Most of the Tunisian refugees immediately headed for France.

Which is why, last Saturday, the French authorities began stopping the trains that normally cross the border from Italy into France without any identity checks. The Italian government responded with feigned outrage, but the French message was clear: you can't dump your refugees on us, no matter what the Schengen Treaty says.

Now fast forward 30 years, and assume that the average global temperature is 2 degrees C higher than it was in 1990. That's a reasonable assumption if there is not a drastic cut in global greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years.

"Global average temperature" is a number that combines cooler temperatures over the two-thirds of the planet that is covered by oceans and considerably higher ones over the one-third that is land, so in Italy it will be three to three-and-a-half degrees C hotter. And Italy, like all the countries on both sides of the Mediterranean, is in the sub-tropics, which will suffer a major loss of rainfall in a warmer world.

Less rainfall and much higher summer temperatures mean that less food can be grown, and few of the sub-tropical countries will be able to feed their own populations any more. Countries like Italy are rich enough to import food to cover any local crop failures now, but they may not be able to when simultaneous crop failures all around the sub-tropics drive export prices sky-high.

This is a scenario in which not tens of thousands but millions of people are fleeing the drought-stricken countries of North Africa, trying to get into Europe. But it's also a scenario in which millions of Italians, Spanish, Greeks and citizens of other EU members in the Mediterranean take advantage of the Schengen rules on free movement to move somewhere cooler that still has enough food. Like France, for example.

Will France (and Germany and Poland and Sweden) let all these "climate refugees" from the Mediterranean countries in? Not very likely, is it? And are strategists in the more northerly EU countries aware that this problem is coming their way? Of course they are.

Nobody is going to discuss this scenario in front of the children now, but you can see what happened to the Italian trains trying to cross into France last weekend as a dress-rehearsal for the future. Not an inevitable future, nor one that will be upon us the day after tomorrow, but an ugly and quite probable future nevertheless. And similar things could be happening along all the other borders where the sub-tropics meet the temperate zone.









The announcement by COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to pull the last battalion based in Balochistan out of Sui within the next two months will go down well in a province that, from the perspective of its people, has seen far too much action from the men in khaki since the 1950s. The step, if it is taken, will be especially significant as it will mean an end to the military presence in the Dera Bugti district, an area that has become a hotbed of nationalism over the past five years or so. General Kayani has made it clear that in the future there will be no military intervention without the consent of the government in the province. The decision to step up recruitment to the army from Balochistan may also help young men in the province move into careers. Unemployment is one of the evils stalking the sands of our largest province.

General Kayani's decisions could help reduce the resentments that simmer in Balochistan. But on their own, they cannot be enough to solve the problems of the province which have grown rapidly over the years. It urgently needs to see development. The educational institutions run there by the army, whose role has been highlighted by General Kayani, cannot achieve this on their own. A great deal of input is required from the central government, in cooperation with the provincial leadership, to place development on a fast-track in the province and, by doing so, persuade people of a genuine desire to change things. This could set in place the solid foundation needed to initiate a process of dialogue, discussion and debate in Balochistan, for a move to be made towards finding solutions. The government needs to adopt measures that can prevent further deterioration in a province that has seen accelerating violence over the past few years with no end in sight.








The Supreme Court is quite obviously losing patience with the government's shenanigans in the NRO review plea placed before it. The court has commented that sometimes the counsel is changed, other times the attorney on record. The latest fracas arose over the withdrawal of AOR Raja Abdul Ghafoor from the case, with him saying he had written citing indisposition to the law ministry a few days ago, No record of this letter could be found. Additional Attorney General K K Agha, who was to plead the government's case, meanwhile said he had received no instructions in this regard and was therefore unable to proceed. As the situation becomes more and more farcical, the court has now warned that it will dismiss the review petition if the government couldn't find any lawyers to put up an argument on its behalf. The bench has also warned that the prime minister may be summoned if this state of affairs continues.

The government has, all along, been playing for a delay. Its tactics have in many ways already made a mockery of the entire judicial process. It also seems clear that it has nothing to say in its own defence. The logic that follows from these goings on also indicates that it has no intention of showing good intent as far as the issue of complying with court orders goes. We have seen this again and again, most notably in the NRO case which involves the top brass of the PPP. There are many who believe the unusual ZAB case has been raised simply to push back the verdict in the NRO matter. But the affairs of the state cannot continue to be run in this haphazard manner. Almost everyone has seen through the government tactics and its behaviour can only reduce further the degree of respect for it and its leaders, even as the apex court makes it clear that it will not fall for the ham-handed tactics being employed.







With our prisons full to overflowing and many of those detained not yet convicted of any offence, there are welcome changes in the law regarding bail. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2011 which has now been signed into law is in essence a move back to a more enlightened historical position. The law regarding bail was altered in the mid1990's allegedly in order to harass the man who is now president and his wife Benazir Bhutto. Whatever the reason behind the changes it produced a system that rapidly filled the jails, impeded the delivery of justice, was manifestly unfair to women and was one of the more blatant abuses of human rights on our statute books.

The new bill sets out a more humane set of rules concerning statutory bail for under-trial prisoners, and for those prisoners whose trials and appeals have not been disposed of within a prescribed time limit. The new rules apply across a range of categories of offending with the exception of those which may attract the death sentence. Neither do they apply to those who the appellate courts decide are hardened criminals or those accused of an act of terrorism. Where they will impact most is on those detained for relatively minor offences, who are often detained pending trial sometimes for years. There are also those who have waited many years for an appeal to be heard, or a decision after an appeal hearing. Our prisons are clogged with these people who have to put their life 'on hold' as the legal system grinds slowly onwards. They could be outside and leading productive lives of caring for their children and families in the case of the women thus detained, and it makes no sense to detain them unnecessarily. But, as ever, we have to wonder at when or if this legislation will be acted upon. We have no shortage of good laws on the books but are often poor at enforcing them. Thus we welcome the new bill but will reserve celebrations until we hear of the first batch of newly-bailed prisoners being released.








In the haze of the 18th Amendment's implementation, and the hullabaloo over the Higher Education Commission, some important things are entirely missing from the national discourse. Many advocates of a federal system of governance in Pakistan are propagating a post-18th Amendment scenario in which there will be lots of loose ends, and no one to tie them together. Others are arguing that an absence of capacity in the provinces is reason enough to deny provinces the autonomy to decide the best course of action for their future.

We have good reason to be deeply suspicious of centralist arguments. Centralism has failed utterly, and comprehensively, to deliver anything to the people of Pakistan. But the answer to the problems created by the military's obsession with centralised power is not provincialism and the linguistic and ethnic divisiveness it depends on. Cheap, convenient and politically flammable provincialism cannot solve Pakistan's problem, any more than cheap jingoistic centralism can.

The founding fathers of Pakistan and the framers of Pakistan's constitution knew better. They proposed a federal structure because federal governance has roots, not only in the Indian sub-continent's long history of governing diverse populations, but also in early Muslim history.

The idea of federalism is simple, and flexible. At its basics, it is a form of government that allows separate sub-national units, like provinces, to come together under the umbrella of a central government. These constituent units then cede some functions and autonomy to the centre, and in response, are given guarantees by the centre.

A typical federal structure allows the highest level of policy and decision-making, like defense and foreign policy to be done by central governments, whilst retaining most aspects of governance that have a direct link with the people. Belonging to the federation frees the energy and resources of constituent units to focus on the things that really matter – like police, schools, roads and water.

Pakistan has rarely had the chance to be governed as a federation. There are two kinds of resources that governments value – financial and human. For Pakistan to be a true federation, it has to demonstrate that provinces control enough money and people to do their jobs and to do them well.

The seventh National Finance Commission (NFC), agreed in December 2009, and announced in 2010 goes some way to address the money part of the problem. Provinces have been ceding financial autonomy to the centre, have been providing the centre with revenue, and have watched the centre take more, and more, and more, every year.

In fact, until the rather revolutionary NFC award of 2010, the central government in Islamabad had slyly manipulated the federal share, from 20 percent of the divisible pool in 1974 to as high as 67.5 percent under the interim government for which Shahid Javed Burki was finance minister (in 1996). Notwithstanding the addition of new taxes in the divisible pool, the diminishing provincial share in the Pakistani state's wealth is the most powerful proof of the military's vigourous centralist appetite.

True federalists would be right to celebrate the seventh NFC award as a victory, but they need to be weary of how small this victory really is. The original 1:4 formula, with provinces allowing the centre 20 percent of national revenue, whilst they spend 80 percent, the federal character may serve as one benchmark. The logic for this would be that it would return Pakistan's federal system to the vision of the framers of the constitution. Other formulae may work, but not without compelling logic that vests itself within the concept of federalism.

Of course, quarelling over money is not new or unique to Pakistan. It is also not rocket science. Even if Pakistan were to discover and implement the perfect fiscal autonomy for provinces, it would be an incomplete and flawed federation. The real prize for true federalists in Pakistan is not the scalp of the HEC, nor the Ministry of Health. The real prize is the All Pakistan Unified Grades. Figuring out how to fix Pakistan's powerful, dysfunctional and super-entitled centralised civil service edifice is the holy grail of Pakistani federalism.

The All Pakistan Unified Grades, is the group of three federal civil service occupational groups – the DMG, the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) and the Secretariat Group (SG) – that have a cross-country jurisdiction and mandate. In principle, there is nothing wrong with having an APUG, in fact, an APUG is indispensible for a good, functional federation.

However, a majority of civil servants that are members of the APUG – mostly the DMG and PSP, do not work for the federal government. They work for provincial governments. What is particularly important to remember about the APUG is that it is made up of officers only (that is those civil servants who belong to BSP 17 and above). These cohorts of senior officers of the government of Pakistan – from BPS 17 to BPS 22 – make and implement public policy every day.

Even more important is the share of jobs in the provincial governments that are reserved for the APUG. In 1992, an Inter-Provincial Cabinet Coordination Committee decision stipulated that there will be fixed percentages of posts for the APUG, by grade, in the provinces. What's more, this reservation progressively increases the share of APUG civil servants, at the expense of provincial civil servants. At BPS 17, only 25 percent of provincial positions are reserved for APUG, but for BPS 18, BPS 19, BPS 20 and BPS 21, the shares are 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent and 65 percent respectively.

In this kind of a context, provinces can have all the autonomy they like. They can also take all of the money from the divisible pool that they like. But the men and women through whose steady hands provinces expect service delivery, essentially, are all federal resources. Their qibla can never be Karachi, Lahore, Quetta or Peshawar. Their qibla is the Establishment Division of the Federal Government.

So why has there be no discussion of the reform of the civil services? Because of all the interest groups, all the rent-seekers and all the charlatans this great country gives sanctuary and succour to, none have it as good as the elite senior civil servants of the PSP, the Secretariat Group and especially, the DMG. Good and honest civil servants suffer as badly as the citizens of this country, while smooth-talking charlatans enable their political bosses to suck the life out of Pakistan's fiscal and administrative viability.

These senior officers, mostly BPS 21 and BPS 22 are the ones that occupy the boards of publically owned companies like PIA. They are the ones who prevent reform, and reformation within Pakistan's cancerous public administrative system. Most importantly, they have been the enablers of military interventions from the very first one this nation was cursed with. No serious discussion of a truly federal future for Pakistan can be conducted in the absence of a discussion of how Pakistan's civil services will be reformed to tackle post 18th-Amendment public policy challenges.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.







The two things that can be said of the MQM rally in Lahore on April 10 are that it was not an "onset of a revolution," as MQM supremo Altaf Husain has claimed, nor was it a "flop," as Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N has tried to present it.

The estimates of attendance at the rally have varied from "hundreds of thousands," the number Farooq Sattar and some other leading members of the MQM have claimed, to "scores," as the MQM's detractors counted the participants. The PML-N's provincial law minister has come up with a figure of seven thousand or less. Ahsan Iqbal has claimed that 70 percent of the attendees were brought from Karachi. But he did not say how the MQM brought the 70 percent when the railways can hardly move a family at one time without some of its members being stranded. The airlines can be ruled out, cost being one reason.

Former home minister of Sindh Zulfiqar Ali Mirza said the costs of holding the rally were met through the "donations" collected by the MQM. In saying this he probably also meant the costs of transferring thousands by air to Lahore and back. There are some, like the US Marines guarding the US embassy in Islamabad, who would buy this.

Zulfiqar Mirza continues to play his role of MQM-basher, which has been assigned to him by party leaders of the highest level. In the role he sometimes has to mock party colleagues, like he recently mocked Interior Minister Rehman Malik and parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly Pir Mazaharul Haq, He asked journalists the first is not to be taken seriously and the other "does not know what he is saying."

It is not clear whether the mocking was real, or a tactical ploy to present Mirza as someone whose bashing of others was general, not MQM-specific. In either case, it seems the party colleagues can do little but grin and bear it, because Mirza enjoys party backing of the highest level in his MQM-bashing.

Coming back to the rally in Lahore, the only party which appeared unnerved by it was the PML-N. True, the PML-N government in Punjab did not obstruct the rally in any way. But the attitude seemed to change as the date of the rally drew closer and the feedback became alarming for the PML-N. It started becoming clear that while the rally would not sweep the city like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's rally did in 1968, or like Benazir Bhutto's rally in 1986, it would not be a "flop" either. The MQM was egged on by the PPP and the PML-Q. However, the PML-N's reaction after the rally suggests that the party was alarmed.

The MQM supremo's harangue about what drives Punjab politics, which is a mix of feudalism and biradari rivalries, hit the PML-N and the Sharifs where it really hurts. The Sharifs and the PML-N are products of Ziaul Haq's fear of the PPP, and his strategy to keep the PPP out of Punjab, by revitalising the clan and biradari bonds. The strategy thereby also worsened the frictions.

The PML-Q leadership is also a product of the Zia era, just as the party itself is a product of the Musharraf period. The MQM was a Zia product, to stump the Jamaat-e-Islami in Karachi, and the stumping proved to be far better than what Kamran Akmal does behind the wickets. The MQM-Haqiqi was created in 1992, by the agencies to counter the MQM. All this did was start an unending cycle of violence, which was an excuse for a severe crackdown on the MQM, particularly by the PPP government of Benazir Bhutto, whose interior minister, Gen Nasiruddin Babar, went to town with a no-holds-barred operation in Karachi against the MQM. The agencies, with the PPP government concurring, had calculated that the two rival MQMs would destroy each other, and that would be the end of the problem. Things did not turn out that way, and Karachi paid a horrendous price.

The MQM rally – with Altaf Husain railing against the hold on politics in Punjab by powerful clans and the landed elite, and the built-in restraints on the lower and middle classes when it came to entry into politics – will undoubtedly touch responsive chords. Unfortunately for the MQM, however, it does not have much of a story to tell on what it has achieved in Karachi, or in urban Sindh, where it has dominated the political scene for more than two decades.

If, instead of building massive flyovers and underpasses, at costs that shot into space, the MQM had focused on overcoming the horrendous public transport problem in Karachi and made movement of people less wretched and less costly, it would have won millions of hearts. If it had also greatly improved water and sewerage systems, repaired and maintained the existing roads, added bus lanes, and taken more actions which were perhaps less physically visible but benefited people more, the MQM would have a more meaningful story to tell at the Lahore rally. That would have been a real difference.

The rally probably added to anti-PML-N sentiment. But in the absence of a credible alternative, whether it is the MQM itself, or the PML-Q or the PPP, there is no saying how the enhanced anti-PML-N sentiment will play out. Punjab, like the rest of the country, is up for grabs, by any leader from anywhere who can find a way into people's hearts – through fewer words and some meaningful deeds.

The writer is former corporate executive. Email:








As narrated by Stephen Kinzer, the phrase "America's Gestapo" was first used by President Harry S Truman in a letter in which he expressed apprehensions about the CIA acquiring too much power if it were employed for subversion abroad.

Britain discovered Iranian oil at a time when it didn't have a drop of its own, and Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, called it a prize beyond his country's wildest imagination. Decades later, when Mohammad Mossadegh, the elected prime minister of Iran, sought to wrest control of what rightfully belonged to his own country, Britain – too weak after World War II to do that on its own – requested the US to help secure a regime change in Teheran. So President Eisenhower ordered the CIA in 1953 to stage a coup in Iran.

To the misfortune of a number of countries, America's rogue Gestapos, and there are many, have become part of the world political scene since then. The CIA not only confirmed Truman's worst fears, it has mutated into a lethal instrument of choice for the United States in the pursuance of its global policy.

During the ISI chief's recent visit to the United States, Pakistan is reported to have made no specific demands for the withdrawal of CIA personnel in this country, or a halt to drone attacks in Pakistan, or even for their reduction. The Pakistani side discussed the increasing visibility of the disproportionate number of US intelligence, military and other personnel attached to the American embassy and consulates. There wasn't much to discuss anyway once CIA chief Leon Panetta informed his guest that he had a duty to protect Americans in Afghanistan. For his words to take effect, he slammed in a second strike in South Waziristan before the general could shake off his jet lag.


The New York Times wrote that Pakistan-US relationship, already on thin ice since the Raymond Davis affair, was near collapse. The Wall Street Journal suggested that it might be time to send in a second ultimatum to Pakistan, like Collin Powel's phone call to Musharraf after 9/11.

There have been some successes in joint intelligence operations resulting in the capture or killing of notorious terrorists. But the cooperation was threatened by too many CIA operators in Pakistan, many with vigilante tendencies.

There has been frequent Congressional criticism of Pakistan on the lack of progress in action against the "Quetta Shura," the perceived nerve centre of Mullah Omar. But Americans have never fully acknowledged the deployment of nearly 147,000 Pakistani troops in the affected areas and the huge sacrifices rendered by Pakistan's army, despite the high unpopularity of the conflict in which it is engaged. Nor has the US addressed the poor disbursement schedules of the Coalition Support Funds to Pakistan.

Gen Kayani does not carry the kind of baggage associated with Zardari, Gilani or Musharraf and can hold his own where Pakistan's core interests matter, during helicopter rides and rounds of golf with senior Pentagon officials. Little surprise, then, that he has come under US media criticism for not measuring up to US expectations.

But his recent condemnation, the first of its kind, of the Datta Khel strike is seen more as an expression of his personal annoyance at the lack of intelligence sharing between the CIA and the ISI than indignation at the violation of the country's territory. The ISPR's condemnation of the Datta Khel attack came only after sharp public reaction over the military's role in the release of Raymond Davis.

There is optimism in some quarters that the US-Pakistan differences over the use of the drones may eventually lead to an arrangement under which Islamabad will have a greater say in the missile strikes inside Pakistan's borders. How this might happen is uncertain in the face of such serious misgivings as the ISI being happy to cooperate with the CIA when the targets are Pakistani Taliban, but not when the Afghan Taliban and the ISI's strategic assets are in the crosshairs. Such issues can be resolved procedurally before they assume a political dimension.

Again, Pakistan has received little appreciation from the United States for the fact that it is hosting nearly three million Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan more than three decades ago. India had an exaggerated figure of one million refugees it hosted in 1971, and it boasts about it even today. Why does India need a string of consulates on the Pakistani-Afghan border when most countries would do with only one, if any at all? The answers will be clear if the blinkers come off in Washington.

The US is paranoid about tiny Cuba in its strategic backyard, although it is difficult to see exactly what threat Cuba poses to the United States after the Cold War. How, then, does the US expect Pakistan not to feel concerned about India, with the second-largest army in the world and with whom this country has normal diplomatic relations, even though most Pakistanis believe that India will destroy this country at the first available opportunity? The US has caused us incalculable harm by manipulating our politics to its own geo-strategic advantage; it now owes us a small favour by keeping away from our own threat assessments.

The CIA routinely spins out disinformation that its drones strike their targets with pinpoint accuracy, and that figures on civilian causality are purposely inflated for the benefit of Taliban propaganda. If it were not a serious matter, it would be funny to suggest that insofar as those drones are taking out leaders of the Pakistan Taliban, they are safeguarding Pakistan's beleaguered democracy. In other words, is it US drones that are safeguarding Pakistan's democracy?

The recent high-level talks in Kabul have raised some hopes. The Afghan "ownership" of the proposed peace and reconciliation process is a positive development and should be fully supported. Unfortunately, at this crucial juncture, a lack of resolve and poor governance is a problem much larger than the issue of drones and any size of CIA "footprint."

As far as suggestion for a second ultimatum by Wall Street Journal, the newspaper would be doing no service to the US by suggesting such ideas. The Journal is displaying gross under-estimation of the prevailing indignation in Pakistan against the United States. Don't even think about and "ultimatum," please.

In stating that it is his duty to protect the American people for which the drones will continue to operate as a weapon of choice for open-ended revenge on people who had nothing with the tragedy of 9/11, the CIA director has made his position clear.

So we hope that Pakistan's rulers will recognise their own foremost duty, that of protection of innocent Pakistanis. If not, our people will have to make it clear to America's power-drunk and rogue Gestapos that whenever excesses have been committed, they have always come back to haunt the perpetuators, one way or the other.

The writer is a retired vice admiral. Email:








The stalemate continues. No asp crawls up Qaddafi's arm. Nato remains without triumph. To go around the stalemate, the leaders of Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa met in Sanya, China on April 14. Between discussions on the credit crunch and their mutual trade relations, these so-called BRIC states released a statement on the events in the Middle East and North Africa. What they saw was a "shift of power towards ordinary citizens", a fact that must have certainly confounded one or two of the heads of government who had to swallow hard while they accepted that phrase into their final communiqué.

When it came to Libya, the consensus was not so clear. As it happens these five countries are all current members of the UN Security Council, and all took part in the debate and vote over Resolution 1973 (to authorise the no-fly zone over Libya). Brazil, China, India and Russia abstained from the vote, and South Africa went along with it after Jacob Zuma fielded an emergency phone call from Barack Obama. The lack of unanimity in the Council meant that the Sanya Declaration was also a bit stifled. Nonetheless, the five states agreed that the military option had run aground, and that "all parties should resolve their differences through peaceful means and dialogue in which the UN and regional organisations should as appropriate play their role."

Jacob Zuma came to Hainan Island after a visit to see Col Qaddafi. He led an African Union High-Level Panel Initiative on Libya. The Panel included heads of government (such as Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali) and foreign ministers (such as Henry Oryem Okello of Uganda). Touré was an interesting choice. In 1991, as head of the parachute commandos he overthrew the austerity dictatorship of Moussa Traoré (who governed Mali from 1968), but turned over the country to civilian rule and is known as "The soldier of democracy". Ten years later, Touré returned to politics, and has since won two elections to lead his country. Okello studied and lived in Britain for a number of years before he returned to enter the family business (his father was president of Uganda in the 1980s). He was an active member in the Juba peace talks with the Lord's Resistance Army. Their credibility is as good as anyone else.

The other two members of the Panel are pale shadows of Touré and Okello. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz also conducted a coup in Mauritania, but he took up office in the transition. To his credit, he resigned his position, put on a suit to campaign and won the election to the presidency in 2009. But there was no real transition. Congo Brazzaville's Denis Sassou Nguesso has presided over his country and run it since 1979. Sassou Nguesso shares much with Qaddafi, including a putative radical past. He saw the writing on the wall in 1991 was ousted from power, engineered a civil war that lasted through the 1990s and returned to being head of government in 2002. Sassou Nguesso's path lies before Qaddafi, unless the old warhorse decides to take up an offer that has reportedly come from the Europeans, to make him honorary head of the African Union and shuttle him off to Ethiopia.

On April 10, the African Union team met with Qaddafi. The team was a month late. On March 10, at an AU meeting in Addis Ababa, a panel had been assembled to travel to Tripoli by March 20 and engage Qaddafi to draw back his troops. French attacks on Libyan air defences (March 19) on the heels of the UN resolution 1973 (March 17) impeded the envoys. The UN declined to allow them to proceed, despite assurances from both Tripoli and Benghazi that they would entertain the mediation. It is a remarkable – although unsurprising – example of the UN stopping a peace envoy and preferring bombardment.

In the context of the military stalemate, the African Union team was finally allowed to visit the two centres of the Libyan conflict. The AU mission had European Union approval. It was also welcomed by an increasingly desperate Nato command, whose inability to enforce a military breakthrough has called into question its power.

Air strikes over the past several weeks have not dampened Qaddafi's counterattack. It is unlikely that an escalated military intervention will do any more. Qaddafi's survival is premised on the destruction of those who oppose him. Similarly, the rebels say that Qaddafi's eviction, not to say, termination, is a sine qua non. This is a recipe for protracted civil war. No political position is possible out of this intractable world-view. Qaddafi probably rues the day he decided to give up his nuclear weapons agenda. The Benghazi rebels are now convinced that Nato's no-fly zone will soon morph into armed supply, and perhaps boots on the ground (this is promised in Resolution 1973). They have no need to compromise. This is the reason why they did not see eye-to-eye with the African Union delegation.

From such hardened positions, the way forward is difficult to surmise. The easy answer from London and Qatar is for greater military force against the Tripoli hub. Libya is poised to being destroyed for the purposes of higher aims. The bombardiers and artillerymen have made their case, and they have failed. It is time for Nato to pressure Benghazi, and for the AU to renew its pressure on Qaddafi: there is no substitute for an armistice and a political discussion that has been decades in the making.

Email: vijay.prashad@trincoll.eduCourtesy:







An increase in the high-level interaction between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the seemingly significant recent shift in the US policy towards the Afghan Taliban should have brightened the prospects for peace in the Af-Pak region. However, there is still no sight of a breakthrough that would bring the conflict to an end through political, instead of military means.

Instead, one feels that the Taliban position has hardened parallel to the softening of the stance taken by President Hamid Karzai's beleaguered government in Kabul. It is possible that the Taliban interpret the repeated offers of talks by Karzai and his Western backers as indicative of a weakening resolve on the part of the US-led coalition forces arrayed against them or even as a sign of looming defeat for their enemies.

Taliban haven't felt there is a need for them to sit at the negotiating table until their core demand of withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan is met. They haven't been weakened enough to sue for peace on the terms presented by their foes. Defeated or weakened, the Taliban would be less inclined to negotiate and settle for an unfavourable power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan.

In fact, there won't be any need to negotiate with the Taliban facing defeat. If the Taliban are unwilling to negotiate with the Afghan government from a position of strength in which they are apparently placed at present, there isn't much hope that they would agree to talk in case they become weak and are on the verge of defeat. And as the current NATO[1] strategy is based on this flawed premise, there cannot be much hope that it would succeed.

Two recent developments should be kept in mind while analysing the Afghan conflict and the prospects for peace in the wider Af-Pak region. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's February 2011 speech at the Asia Society in New York signalled a major, little-noticed shift in US policy towards the Taliban. No longer was the US insisting on the 'red lines' for the Taliban to first renounce violence, abandon al-Qaeda and abide by the Afghan constitution before they could be allowed to join any political process. As Hillary Clinton explained, these three conditions were being set aside to henceforth serve as the necessary outcome of the peace talks with the Taliban.

As her choice of words explained, it was distasteful and even unimaginable for her to talk to an enemy as brutal as the Taliban, but the US had to do this due to the needs of diplomacy and the demands of the situation. Even a superpower has its limitations and the US as a pragmatic great power was conceding its inability to force a military solution to the Afghan conflict.

Indeed, it would be difficult for the US and its Western allies to justify talking to the Taliban after having demonised them for years and having tried every tactic to defeat them. After 10 years of war and at the cost of many lives and huge funds, the US finally appears to have realised that it would be less costly and embarrassing to strike a deal with the rag-tag Taliban.

The second important development was the visit of Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani to Kabul in the company of Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) head Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha and defense, interior and foreign ministers. Representing Afghanistan in the talks were President Karzai, his Army chief General Bismillah Khan, the Intelligence Directorate Head Rahmatullah Nabil and defense, interior and foreign ministers. In the words of Prime Minister Gilani, it was to show that Pakistan's civil and military leadership and all state institutions were "on the same page" over the issue of Afghanistan's stability. To quote him again, he also wanted to inform the world that the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan had introspected deeply and could discern friends from foes.

It was the first time that the civil and military leadership of the two neighbouring Islamic countries engaged in their own wars against militancy and extremism came together under one roof and discussed the challenges facing them. Both Gilani and Karzai appeared overwhelmed by the occasion and the latter termed it historic as it was his initiative to bring the two leaderships closer in a bid to achieve reconciliation with the Mullah Mohammad Omar-led Taliban[2].

A major outcome of the visit was the decision to upgrade the Pak-Afghan Peace and Conciliation Commission, established in January this year, to a two-tier body so that the chief executives of Afghanistan and Pakistan along with the army and intelligence chiefs and foreign and interior ministers could sit in the first, higher tier to facilitate decision-making.

A related development was the deterioration in the already difficult relationship between Pakistan and the US, two uncertain allies fighting the war with different objectives. The damage to their ties caused by the incident involving the disguised CIA operative Raymond Davis hasn't been repaired even though Pakistan's civil and military authorities behaved embarrassingly to facilitate his release. The presence of many more such CIA agents disguised as 'diplomats' and 'military trainers' in Pakistan continues to poison relations between the two countries.

Another emotive issue is the unchallenged use of the CIA-operated drones by the US to attack militants in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The botched drone strikes in recent weeks have killed scores of civilians and caused outrage in Pakistan, but the US has arrogantly dismissed criticism of its actions and refused to mend its ways. The statement by the CIA Chief Leon Panetta was instructive after meeting with ISI Head Lt Gen Pasha that he would continue to take action as part of his duty to protect American citizens. It is another matter that the 'action' being taken by the CIA to protect Americans often amounts to extra-judicial killings of people of other nations.

With so much distrust in their relations, it would be surprising if Pakistan and the US were able to work together to pursue military or political objectives vis-à-vis the Taliban. It also makes one wonder whether the US approved the recent high-level talks between the Afghan and Pakistani leaders and their decision to form and use the joint peace and conciliation commission for reconciling with Kabul's armed opponents.

More importantly, one has to wait for the Taliban response to the deepening of the relationship between Islamabad and Kabul and the likely effect it would have on the Afghan peace process. The Taliban have rejected Turkey's offer to host Taliban office to facilitate contacts as part of the peace initiative. President Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari had backed the Turkish initiative, but the Taliban have made it clear that Turkey as a NATO[3] member with troops in Afghanistan isn't neutral and is thus unable to act as a peacemaker. The first choice for the Taliban to set up an office is their homeland, Afghanistan, followed by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Once they make up their mind to negotiate, the Taliban would prefer talking to the Americans instead of the Afghan government in view of their stated position that Karzai is a puppet of the US and hence powerless.

It won't be easy for the Taliban to agree to a power-sharing arrangement with Karzai after fighting for 10 long years with his government and the NATO[4] forces. Taliban field commanders and hardliners could revolt against Mullah Omar and his shura if he settled for some berths in the cabinet or for control of certain southern provinces. Just like the Karzai government in which hawkish elements mostly belonging to non-Pashtun groups oppose reconciliation with the Taliban, Mullah Omar's followers too are divided into factions that differ over the likely solution of the Afghan conflict. There are also limits to Pakistan's influence over the Taliban, who won't make a deal that goes against their own interests. Karzai wants Pakistan to deliver the Taliban to him, but Islamabad risks alienating the Taliban if it were to push hard to make this happen.







Bothered by the heat and dust of Delhi and Agra and irritated by the deliberate lack of symmetry in Indian temples, Babar pined for Kabul. In doing so he etched into the consciousness of the South Asian Muslims an eternal yearning for that fabled city. I arrived there in April 1975 and stayed on for a four year stint of duty. My subsequent professional life showed an obsessive preoccupation for that beautiful but tragic land.

No wonder my heart warmed up to the optics of an extraordinary summit between Pakistan and Afghanistan held on April 17 even before I understood some telling phrases coming out of it, such as 'Afghan-led solution', 'home-based solution and 'no outside formula'. A few months back we organised a Pakistan-Afghanistan conference at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad which brought an Afghan delegation comprising more than 60 high state functionaries, parliamentarians, and university chancellors and media people. What I kept hearing in our informal conversations was the nagging question if the army and the intelligence services in Pakistan were on the same page as the political government.

On April 17, prime minister's delegation included General Kayani, General Shuja Pasha, Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. That the two sides are close to resolving the 'duality' issue was reflected in the coded language of leaders' statements. President Karzai reassured his nation that it was a different Pakistan; on their side the Pakistanis predictably reiterated that they had always supported peace and stability in Afghanistan. These insights signal a new understanding. Another important message which our talk shows missed was that the leaders were not talking merely of taking 'ownership' of the US-led war on terror but also the ownership of the peace process. This is an important milestone as a regional approach can only be built on a strong Pakistan-Afghanistan consensus on the modalities of an effective negotiating process with the insurgents. And it is noteworthy that the initiative has been institutionalised in a joint body. Presumably, Pakistan's fears that Washington may connive at the Indian design of excluding Pakistan from Afghanistan's strategic landscape have also abated. That the much talked about Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline can have an Indian spur for the asking alone demonstrates that Pakistan is by no means averse to India's legitimate interests in Afghanistan.

The meeting has been seen by some analysts as Islamabad and Kabul 'distancing' them from the United States; others say that Washington is secretly orchestrating this initiative. A safer approach is to conclude that difference on how to organise a peace process involving the Taliban, the Haqqani Group and Gulbadin Hikmatyar have narrowed and that there is a greater acceptance of a distinct role for Pakistan. Some western pundits will still suggest that Pakistan went to Kabul to 'thwart' the US-led peace overtures. The official US approach would become clearer when Robert Gates and some generals fade out this summer and President Obama establishes the contours of his new election strategy.

Pakistan should use the forthcoming strategic dialogue to help the United States develop a realistic and viable regional approach. Washington has to find its way out of the conflicting policy prescriptions by various lobbies especially in regard to India, Iran and China. Unlike India and Iran, China stays clear of internal Afghan politics and yet it may be a major actor in Afghanistan's national reconstruction and development. Finally there has to be a broad consensus on the long term American military presence in Afghanistan which is likely to be an important feature of their exit strategy.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: katanvir@









ARMY Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has come out with the philosophy of the defence of the country emphasising that civilian institutions and law enforcement agencies must put their act together and fulfil their responsibility of maintaining law and order on the internal front. Addressing functions at Gwadar and Sui on Monday the COAS warned that the countries are dismembered due to internal threats and unified support of the nation to the armed forces is vital without which no force can fulfil the mission of defending a state.

However what was more important was his categorical announcement that no military operation was being carried out in any area of the province and rejected the perception that army was still deployed in different parts of Balochistan. This statement must clear the air of misunderstanding about the presence of army in the Province created by vested interests. General Kayani made yet another major announcement to withdraw army from Sui in the next few months and the cantonment building would be handed over to the newly established military college there. He made it clear that after withdrawal of army from Sui, there would be no more army presence in the province outside cantonments and that no new cantonment would be established in Balochistan against the wishes of its people as the idea of building four new cantonments has been dropped. These announcements show that the army leadership has adopted a strategic position after deep soul searching and the decision would be helpful in removing misunderstanding among Baloch leadership and the people. There had been calls for military withdrawal and some elements were raising their voices that military operations were going on in some parts of Balochistan. The categorical statement by the Army Chief must bring an end to the rumours about presence of army outside the cantonments or building of new army bases. The COAS rightly stated and it must be acknowledged by every one in Balochistan that the decision is aimed at making the people believe that being a national institution the army respected their opinion. The disclosure by General Kayani that 4,000 Baloch youths have already joined the army and 5,000 more would be recruited this year would give a sense of satisfaction and participation in national defence to the people as well as help in overcoming the unemployment problem. Opening of army medical college and Institute of technology in Gwadar and military college in Sui would also provide modern education facilities to Baloch youths and remove their sense of alienation. As stated by the Army Chief, one expects that the civilian leadership and law enforcement agencies would put their act together and ensure peace and stability for economic development of the Province and the country as a strong economy is guarantee to national sovereignty and integrity.







WITH the passage of time the energy situation in the country is deteriorating instead of showing improvement and the newly appointed Advisor on Petroleum and Natural Resources has warned that the country would sink if a plan for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) was not put in place in three months.

In his press conference immediately after taking over the charge, Dr Asim Hussain said the country was facing an acute gas shortage despite being one of the major producers. In this perspective the resolve expressed by the Advisor to revamp the oil and gas sector gives some hope of improvement in the situation. The removal of the Managing Directors of oil and gas companies appears to be a step in that direction as according to the Advisor, they failed to deliver as a team and would be made accountable. It is a fact that the oil and gas sector has not come up to the expectation of the government and the people in exploiting the vast natural resources. According to a recent statement in the National Assembly, only five or six oil and gas fields were discovered in the last five years which speaks of the poor performance. Exploration has not been accelerated while production of gas from the already proven fields has been going down and demand is on the rise. In this disturbing scenario, Mr Asim Hussain who enjoys the confidence of the President, would have to take drastic measures to overcome the energy shortfall. For this he would need the services of purely professional people and we hope that there would be no political inductions as is seen in many government run corporations and only right man for the right job would be selected to help augment oil and gas production and get the country out of energy crisis.







LEADERSHIP of the business community has expressed the fear that imposition of wealth tax would lead to outflow of capital from the country stating that no where in the world wealth tax was in force. They also warned that the business community would launch country wide protest if wealth tax was imposed and suggested that that they be taken on board before making any decision on taxes in the next federal budget.

We believe that the business community has been playing an important role in very difficult environment when the country's economy is on the downslide, there is energy shortfall and the prices of raw martial and energy are constantly rising. In this scenario imposition of additional taxes on the already highly taxed sections of the society including the business community would lead to a slump. Already foreign investors are shy of coming to Pakistan due to law and order problem and if the domestic investors stopped new investments or they went out of the country, then the doom day scenario would not be far away. In this situation, the economic managers need to take the business leaders including different Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Associations into confidence about the future course of action to put the economy back on track. No doubt the tax to GDP ratio which is around 9%, is very low in Pakistan as compared to other countries in the region and international standard and the country can manage its affairs only if it is raised to 14 or 15 percent but this could be done by widening the tax base rather than imposing the wealth tax. The Government must have estimated the revenue receipts from the proposed wealth tax and during negotiations with the business community it could seek proposals from them how to collect the amount from other sources if this tax is to be avoided. We hope a via media can be found by the Government and the business community through inter action instead of going for unilateral action.








The government has conceded its inability to address the energy crisis that has jeopardized the country's industrial production on the one hand and has brought misery to the masses on the other. Prime Minister Gilani has told an Energy Conference in Islamabad that the government cannot resolve the energy issue on its own while Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar has pronounced that the government has no immediate solution at hand to stem the deepening energy challenges. It was revealed by the Prime Minister that the gap between production and demand of energy will be doubled in 15 years and unless addressed jointly by all stakeholders in the public and private sectors, the country's development process will be in jeopardy. The Prime Minister also announced formation of the Government-Industry Council to recommend measures to tackle the challenge.

That the country is faced with grave energy crisis and that there is dire need to overcome it through public-private partnership has dawned on Prime Minister Gilani now after completing three years of his power stint. He is certainly not alone to ignore this vital national issue. His predecessors have displayed equal callousness towards power generation. It's, however, never too late to fall in line with the national imperatives. What's essential is the commitment and sincerity on the part of the rulers to achieve the objective. Now that he has realized the gravity of the situation, it's hoped that he will personally pursue the issue in right earnest to lift the nation out of the energy impasse. The situation calls for short term as well as long term planning to boost power generation as well as to boost oil and gas production in the country. It's hoped that the Government-Industry Council, constituted by the Prime Minister, will come up with logical, practicable and public oriented proposals to overcome the challenge. The Prime Minister ought to ensure that the recommendations made by the council are expeditiously processed and implemented on war footing. Pakistan has already fallen decades behind in the construction of water reservoirs. Indecision has unfortunately marked the successive governments' approach to this sector that is so vital for the economic survival of the country. Ironically, our past and present rulers lacked vision about the country's energy needs of the country or were and are motivated by selfish designs to the detriment of the national interests.

While Ziaul Haq, Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf did not prepare any plan to meet the country's future energy needs and failed to build any water reservoir, the BB and Zardari administrations opted for quick fix solution through corruption prone IPPs and RPPs with unprecedentedly high cost primarily for their alleged personal financial gains. None of them, however, paid attention to the generation of low cost Hydel power through construction of dams. Successive governments remained engrossed in the so-called effort to build consensus on the politicized Kalabagh dam and ignored other viable projects such as Bhasha dam. While India has built scores of dams and hydel power generation units since the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, Pakistan has constructed only about half a dozen small and big dams over the past half a century. Because of Pakistan's failure to utilize water of the rivers assigned to it under the Indus Water Treaty by constructing water storages, India is usurping their water and is building dams and power generation units on these rivers. Pakistan that produced 60 per cent Hydel power in 1960 is today producing 64 per cent from oil and gas. And the hydel generated power costs about rupee one per unit as against Rs 15 per unit produced through oil and gas. The successive governments unfortunately failed to harness the potential of hydro power despite persistent demand by the energy experts as well as the international donors.

Interestingly, a report released by the Petroleum Institute of Pakistan has warned that Pakistan will be unable to substantially develop its indigenous energy sources of hydel power and coal by 2025-26 under the current policies. The energy import requirements of the country may also grow from present 30 per cent to 75 per cent of the energy mix by 2025-26 costing over 50 billion dollars per annum in foreign exchange. The report further says that Pakistan's energy sector is in a state of crisis and over the past few years had negatively impacted the social and economic development of the country.

It's a pity that Pakistan's rulers have remained insensitive to the growing power needs for country's development as well as for domestic consumption. The present government is particularly unmoved despite public outcry over power outages that have mounted to about ten hours in the cities and towns. The situation in the rural areas is even worse. The industrial cities including Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujrat, Gujranwala and Lahore are experiencing worst ever electricity and gas shut down. The country's economic hub Karachi is also being subjected to merciless electricity load shedding. With the advent of summer, the plight of the masses especially in small towns and rural areas is simply miserable due to power outages that invariably stretch to 12 to 15 hours a day. On top of it is the Gas companies' machinations to subject the industrial cities in Punjab to discriminatory cut in gas supplies from three days a week to the total stoppage seriously affecting the national productivity.

The present government's tragedy is that it has a tendency of picking up quarrels with other political parties and state institutions. Instead of devoting itself to the resolution of the national issues and mitigation of public hardships, it opted to confront the Supreme Court with no rhyme or reason. The whole effort of the government is at present revolves around its bid to save President Zardari's assets abroad built allegedly through clandestine commissions and kickbacks during Benazir Bhutto's tenures in power. It also opted for political bouts with PML(N) and to wasted its precious time that could have been utilized for envisioning plans for the development of various sectors including the energy. On the contrary, the country would have benefited a lot from a cooperative and supporting relationship between the two major national political parties. It's hoped that Prime Minister Gilani will not waste any more time in frivolous pursuits and devote himself to the resolution of issues such as electricity shortage, unemployment, poverty and high cost of living.








Pak-US relations have seen many ups and downs starting early 1950s when Pakistan decided to join western pacts and became a US ally. Despite that the US embraced Pakistan on need basis only and dumped it when its regional objectives were served, Pakistan has remained attached to USA . Anomalous relationship has stayed alive on account of choice of self serving ruling coterie and not that of the people. The latest romance between the two countries grew up in the aftermath of 9/11 after a decade old estrangement.

The ten-year alliance has proceeded on a bumpy road. By about 2005 the US started showing its real self by treating Pakistan both as an ally as well as a target suiting its whims. Overall, it has treated Pakistan unfairly and has caused more harm than good. While on one hand the US officials never tire saying that they desire to build lasting and enduring strategic partnership with Pakistan , secretly it has been assiduously working to destabilize and denuclearize Pakistan . For the accomplishment of its objectives, it has co-opted the services of Israel , India , Britain , Germany and Afghanistan . Intelligence agencies of the six countries are engaged in extensive covert war against Pakistan since 2002.

Taking advantage of the secret understandings with Musharraf, the US managed to establish a vast network of CIA agents and Blackwater elements initially in FATA region, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and later all over Pakistan . Trained operatives of US Special Forces were inducted in big numbers after July 2010 under different disguises as a consequence to relaxation of visa policy to foment terrorism in cities.

Ignoring huge sacrifices of the Army and successes achieved, the US kept singing 'do more' mantra unabatedly. The mantra suffered a setback in 2009 when the world woke up to the hard reality that while Pak Army with inadequate resources and suffering from several handicaps had single-handed performed brilliantly against the militants, the performance of armies of 48 countries led by super power was dismal. Ill-equipped rag-tag Taliban and al-Qaeda numbering not more than 10,000 has wrested the initiative from 152,000 strong allied force assisted by over 100,000 Afghan Army enjoying all the strategic and tactical advantages.

Not knowing how to hide its embarrassment, the US considered it morally expedient to resort to lies and deception to distract the attention of American public and the world by making Pakistan a scapegoat. The US officials as well as US media and think tanks targeted Pakistan by making it responsible for all the failings of USA in Afghanistan . They got so involved in Pakistan bashing that they almost forgot about their responsibilities in Afghanistan . Series of bizarre stories were published by western media to malign the image of Pakistan and its premier institutions.

The ISI which was extending wholehearted support to CIA came in its bad books towards end of 2007/early 2008 when the ISI to its horror learnt that CIA pretending to be friend and well wisher was playing a double game. The ISI had remained in the dark because it was made to remain in the background. No sooner the ISI took preventive measures to regain lost ground, it peeved CIA. From July 2008 onwards the attitude of US leaders became aggressive. ISI was blamed for suicide attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul .

It was also held responsible for disturbances in Indian Held Kashmir as well as several acts of terror taking place in India between 2006 and 2008. It was alleged that the Army and ISI were aligned with Taliban and al-Qaeda. Coercive tactics together with character assassination techniques were applied to force ISI not to create impediments in the way of CIA. Mumbai attacks were engineered to get ISI declared a rogue outfit.

Whilst the two premier institutions deftly warded off all pressures and held their ground, the anti-Pakistan gang planned to bog down Pak Army in the militants strongholds of Swat and Bajaur. As soon as the Army came out of the two hotspots successfully and also managed to resettle 1.7 millions displaced persons, it was pushed into the strongest fort of Tehrik-e-Taliban in South Waziristan . When the Army dismantled the main base of militants in quick time and its image and respect shot up in the eyes of the people, it disappointed the schemers immensely.

Having run out of plots to rundown the Army, the US then played its trump card and started pressing Pakistan to mount a major offensive in North Waziristan (NW). This demand is being made constantly since start of 2010. The plea taken is that unless the alleged sanctuaries of al-Qaeda and Haqqani network in NW are dismantled, no worthwhile progress could be achieved against Taliban in Afghanistan . Failure to convince hard line Taliban to hold talks for a political settlement has also been attributed to Pakistan .

Washington became so vindictive that on one hand it haughtily brushed aside Pakistan's compulsions and security concerns, stopped supply of urgently needed counter terror equipment and helicopters and delayed payment of close support fund, on the other hand it kept pressing Pakistan to expedite launching an operation in NW. Another tactic used to make Pakistan submit to its unreasonable demand was the liberal use of drones in NW. The underlying motive is to fuel terrorism and provoke the friendly tribes in NW to scrap the peace deal and pick up arms against the Army.

It was under such tense environment that CIA operative Raymond Davis was arrested on 27 January after he murdered two persons. His arrest plummeted Pak-US relations to lowest ebb. The US did not rest till he was released on 16 March under a shady deal. Revelation of news that 2-3000 Davis type undercover agents were secretly operating in Pakistan under different guises shocked all and sundry. The ISI has tightened the noose and is busy hunting them. The DGISI has asked his counter part Panetta to furnish details of all covert operators and to call them back.

It was widely speculated that release of Davis despite public pressure would soften up the US leadership and would take steps to bridge the trust deficit between the two countries. However, optimism crashed on the following day of his release when a deadly drone attack was launched in NW killing 48 innocent people. The US is not prepared to fulfill its promises it made prior to release of Davis and same old haughtiness has resurfaced. It seems Panetta has no intention to withdraw his secret agents from Pakistan nor does he intend to wrap up Pakistan specific covert war or to stop drone attacks.

Taking into account the well-known practice of CIA, it first establishes its network in the target country and then instigates lawlessness, or insurgency to effect a regime change. The network also assists the main assault group by way of providing intelligence and guidance towards selected objectives. Considering the nearness of such a large military force across our western border and hostile India on our eastern border, the situation has become extremely grave particularly when seen in context with explosive internal security situation, crumbling economy and unstable political front.

It is high time our sleepy leaders enmeshed in self-enrichment game should wake up and take stock of fast building two-directional hurricane and put up a united front to defeat foreign conspiracies before it is too late. As a first step, all unwanted foreign elements must be traced and deported expeditiously. Second; all secret agreements should be scraped. Third; principled stance over drones should be taken to stop US from this madness, or the case be referred to the UN. Fourth; Pakistan must detach itself from war on self-destructive terror. Last but not least; Pak-US relations should be nurtured on basis of trust and mutual respect rather than on master-client basis.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.








Structured Management began with Peter Drucker almost a century ago in the US. As each successive management practice built on top of another layer, productivity rose in geometrical progression. Having excelled in optimizing man and material through managerial acumen the focus then shifted to incorporate society and the environment as a social concern for business.

The US in a role befitting its status an economic powerhouse of the world pioneered the first business award that recognized and rewarded a holistic approach to management that encompassed continuous improvement in delivering products and/or services, demonstrating operational efficiency and delivering net positive value to customers and all other stakeholders. This was the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award initiated in 1987 later renamed the Baldridge Performance Excellence Award. The award focuses a broader, strategic focus on overall organizational quality—termed performance excellence. The old name has however stuck and other countries mirroring US's managerial wizardry have initiated Quality awards of their own. Pakistan too has joined the bandwagon this month.

I had the privilege to attend the Singapore Quality Awards in November 2008 representing the government of Pakistan through a program sponsored by the National Productivity Organisation (NPO) of Japan. I rubbed shoulders with other delegates from India, Iran, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Srilanka. Incidentally, Pakistan was the only country that had not yet initiated the award at home.

The Quality Award is based on the concept of benchmarking and best practice sharing, which requires transparency to a great degree. Interestingly enough the public sector was a leading recipient of the Singapore Quality Awards. Our group comprising of Asian delegates was taken to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Singapore for a visit for best practice sharing. The PUB in Singapore had a truly inspiring story to share. Showing us pictures of Singapore from the 1960's of a shantytown along the sea, modern Singapore is a shipping hub and a global authority on water research and management. The PUB even awards the Nobel equivalent in water research. PUB also guarantees the safety of tap water in Singapore. All this in a mere 40 years is no mean feat. As we sat in a room where movers and shakers of the world converge in Singapore to discuss water management issues, the jovial official pointed out their water disputes with Malaysia being the upper riparian. I found this to resonate our very own Kashmir and the water dispute with India. Singapore decided to avoid a military confrontation over this precious resource and created the world's largest purified water reservoir using the miles of oceans surrounding them. This reservoir houses Sentosa Island, a premier recreational public facility. No one else could have demonstrated the practice of when there is a will there is a way better than PUB in Singapore who proudly told us that people have forgotten how in the 1980's there was foot-high standing water after the rains and now people call their office to complain of two inches water.

The Public sector in Singapore is well paid and compensation is linked to performance much like the practice of private corporations. Graduates of Harvard and other top ranked global schools seek jobs in the public sector of Singapore. They undertake missions to study best practices of public sector corporations around the world and set benchmarks for their own. In Karachi the mayor Mustafa Kamal had undertaken a similar exercise during the last few years and transformed many parts of Pakistan's commercial nerve center. However, the difference between Pakistanis and Singaporeans was that of attitudes. Mayor Kamal's inititive was not mirrored by a single district in the entire Pakistan and instead all sort of political and ethnic motivations were employed against his person. His was a thankless job.

In US the Baldridge Award covers manufacturing, service, small business, education, health care, and nonprofit. In Singapore, many recipients of the Quality Award were primary and secondary schools. The entire country is on a drive for making their systems and institutions exhibit performance excellence. Now that the award has been initiated in Pakistan the greatest need of Performance Excellence exists in the Public sector. Instead of jeapordising the very existence of the few credible institutions in Pakistan such as the HEC, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani should focus on strengthening them. HEC can make a good contender for the first ever Prime Minister's Quality Award in Pakistan. Additionally, the health and educational sector in Pakistan must be encouraged to make a genuine and sincere attempt at qualifying for the Quality Award.

If the basic social services of health, water, education and communication infrastructure become satisfactory in Pakistan, we can reverse our brain drain, wipe out militancy and achieve equitable economic growth. However, the first step for achieving that is ensuring political will which can only come about through a committed and united stand of the civil society. Our media needs to get its act together and take up the cause of Pakistan. No leader-no matter how corrupt-can stand up to the court of public opinion hence the electronic and print media should stop their anti-Army/ISI tirade, to focus on the greater cause of ensuring political will for social justice and social services provision. This nation of 165 million must not be reduced to a life of sustenance living, to fund the lavish lifestyles of a few thousand elites in politics, the executive, judiciary and the corrupt public sector business contractors.

Our electronic media gives us a daily overdose of political inanities which do not extend beyond "he said and she said." It is high time the focus is shifted to a public court of opinion questioning the right wing, left wing and middle ground parties on their deliverance of social services and social justice. This is the best way to make the masses rise above ethnic and tribal loyalties which blind them to the huge follies and faults of their partymen.

The public sector educational institutes, health sector institutes and public sector organizations such as WAPDA and SUI Gas etc need to be encouraged for a fair and sincere participation in the Prime Minister Quality Award. Unless this approach is employed these awards would be reduced to worthless shields awarded solely on grounds of cronyism and nepotism.








The federal government has drawn up a new pay structure and career plan for the doctors after thorough and marathon exchange of views between the health secretary and the representative of the medics; resolving an issue that had failed to attract the attention of the successive governments over the last six decades. The most redeeming factor of the engagement between the doctors and the government is that the former have expressed their unreserved satisfaction over the outcome. The Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, reportedly, evinced personal interest in the resolution of the problem by giving an audience to the delegation of the doctors and consequently lost no time in having the new package approved by the President.

The heart-bleeding piety with which the federal government approached this festering issue deserves unqualified accolades of not only the personnel of the medical profession but also the general public who have been saved of the agony and torment that the disruption of medical services would have caused to them. One would wish that the government in Punjab would have also shown the same humane instincts in dealing with the issue and saved more than two hundred precious human lives that were lost due to non-availability of the medical services during the 36 day strike of the young doctors. The criminal apathy and the cold–shoulder response of the Punjab government, as reflected through its vindictive and punitive action taken against the striking doctors instead of engaging in a meaningful dialogue is indeed mind-boggling. Equally frustrating is the wait and see attitude of the political leadership which allowed the onset of the crisis and its precipitation; an approach unbecoming of a representative leadership. The bureaucracy which had a free hand in dealing with the agitating doctors made a mess of the whole issue by allowing themselves to the guided by their psychic and inbuilt streaks of swagger and haughtiness rather than indulging in a realistic appraisal of the situation and trying to find an amicable solution, while the political leadership abdicated the role of leadership in crisis situations like this. The insensitivity and indifference shown to the suffering humanity by the Chief Minister and the elected representative in Punjab betrays the much boasted claim of good governance in the province. As we have seen the strategy adopted by the Punjab government was a total flop and ultimately the Chief Minister perforce had to intervene personally to defuse the crisis. A similar initiative in the beginning would have saved the human lives and strengthened the credentials of the government as a responsible representative entity. Doing it after the defeat of its strategy is hardly inspiring.

One of the salient features of the new scheme announced by the federal government is that the medical profession has been delinked from the basic pay scale system for the government employees. The new pay package consists of 13 medical pay grades that takes care of not only the salaries of the doctors but also the Para-medical staff. Through this system the doctors will also get professional grades like their counterparts in USA, Britain, Europe and other developed countries. The new pay structure, proposed to be implemented from 1st July 2011, will almost double the take home salaries of the doctors and Para-medical staff employed in federal government hospital and health institutions through out the country. This commendable decision of the federal government that reflects the political acumen and vision tinged with humane flavor, will indeed have far-reaching impact. The provincial governments will have to follow suit. The excuses for paucity of funds to defray financial commitments on account of increased salaries of the doctors and Para-medical staff have no validity after the 7th NFC Award which has increased the share of the provinces from the federal divisible pool by 10%.

It is really painful to note that health sector has remained on the low priority of the successive governments and no tangible effort was ever made to improve the quality of medical services and the extent of their availability to the masses. The salaries, career prospects and working environment of the doctors have remained pathetically dismal as compared to the nature and the amount of work that the doctors have to perform. This continued injustice triggered a regular exodus of trained and qualified doctors from Pakistan.

Health is a subject of paramount public importance and deserves to be treated as such. There is a need for a coordinated effort on the part of the federal government and the provincial set ups to ensure uniform and equitable health policies, to the exclusion of ego related issues.








When CIA agent Raymond Davis was arrested in Pakistan in January, an international treaty suddenly found itself in the headlines: The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, which, according to the US state department, gave immunity to its man in Lahore. An unassuming document at first sight (53 articles, couched in technical language), it has over the years become the bible for diplomats around the world. It celebrates a special birthday – it was signed exactly 50 years ago.


But it's a strange anniversary. Don't expect street parties; Foreign offices prefer not to mention Vienna. This is a treaty that has everything: Rules on the establishment of diplomatic missions, on the diplomatic bag, the protection of the embassy and even the question of whether diplomats have to pay tax. But it also gives almost

unlimited immunity to diplomatic agents. It is a bit embarrassing to be reminded of that.

It was the Vienna convention that in 1981 protected a young hotheaded diplomat by the name of Moussa Koussa, who publicly approved the planned assassination of Libyan dissidents. Investigations into this situation were never going to get very far as head of the Libyan mission he was immune from prosecution.

And this was certainly not the worst case. It so happens that last Sunday marked another anniversary: 27 years ago, PC Yvonne Fletcher was killed by bullets fired from the Libyan embassy into a crowd of anti-Gaddafi protesters. The perpetrators had diplomatic immunity and were therefore merely expelled from the country (a suspect was arrested by rebel forces last month). In other cases, diplomats were accused of drink-driving, shoplifting and rape. Davis, the CIA agent for whom the US claimed diplomatic immunity, was charged with the murder of two motorcyclists.

To be sure, it would be unfair to blame the convention for all of that. After all, the treaty makes clear that diplomats have duties too: They must respect the laws of the receiving state; they must not interfere with its internal affairs. The diplomatic bag must only contain articles for official use (not kidnapped opposition politicians), and the collection of information can only be carried out by "lawful means" (not by bugging the state department).

But these duties are, on the whole, toothless tigers. Diplomats who commit crimes still can't be arrested. There are very few sanctions the receiving state can use against them, and they all sound a bit wimpy. You can summon the diplomat to the foreign office, warn him and expel him. But expulsions can stand for anything. They may indicate a sniffle in the relations between the two countries. Or they may be punishment for murder. As a sanction, they have pretty much lost their sting.

So why not the full criminal procedure for diplomats who break the law? In the case of consular officers, immunity is not absolute: in matters of "grave crimes", consular law allows their arrest.

But it's a dangerous law. What is a "grave crime"? Blasphemy might be an extremely serious offence in the receiving state; other states do not even criminalise it. And there is another problem: diplomats move in the world of politics and negotiation. For some receiving countries, the temptation would be just too great to use threats of arrest as a tool of political bargaining.

Another suggestion is the creation of an international criminal court for diplomats. That would certainly look more impartial than prosecution by the receiving state, and such a court could use independent international standards. It is an intriguing thought. Only it won't happen. Members of the UN remember too well the ever-increasing budgets of the existing international criminal tribunals, and there is little appetite for establishing yet another one. Especially since diplomatic misdemeanour, for all its gravity, hardly reaches the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The shortcomings of the Vienna convention cannot be denied – absolute diplomatic immunity in particular is difficult to defend from a moral point of view. But the great strength of the convention does not lie in its moral aims.

On the contrary, what makes the Vienna convention an outstanding success is its pragmatism; the fact that it was content to settle for the realities of diplomatic relations. By so doing, it established a basis for diplomacy with which all states, across all ideological divides, can live. Today, no fewer than 187 countries are party to the convention, which has thus become that rarest of all animals: a treaty that has found the agreement of virtually the entire world. — Courtesy: The Guardian









Ita Buttrose was so surprisingly popular that in 1980, when she was editor of The Australian Women's Weekly and recognised mainly from that magazine's television commercials, the bad boys of rock, Cold Chisel, released a hit song singing, "How could I not believe, when Ita tells me to?" Now, decades on, her life has fascinated younger generations through a television mini-series. The ABC's Paper Giants covered the earlier part of Ms Buttrose's career when she was the founding editor of Cleo magazine. Part biopic, part drama and part social history, the series captured something of the early 1970s social, sexual and political revolutions. Well written and directed, with seamless interweaving of nostalgic footage of Sydney, the production benefited from exceptional acting performances. It captured the essence of the events and the characters without being unsympathetic to the late media moguls, Frank Packer and son Kerry, or hiding something of the resolute toughness of the young mother and editor. The Australian congratulates the ABC and all those involved for a clear and successful example of the corporation fulfilling part of its charter and for providing an entertaining showcase of creative Australian talent, as it exists now and as it contributed to our nation then.






Like a political jouster, the senator from St George is heading off to try to slay the dragon. Barnaby Joyce, for all his faults and legions of detractors, is an irresistible political force. His move to the house of government has been touted for years and now looks likely to occur south of the border, which will disappoint his Queensland supporters. But the fact it pits him against the former Nationals hopeful and now independent MP Tony Windsor, who has infuriated his former colleagues by installing a Labor government, only makes the story of the state-of-origin crusade all the more dramatic. Senator Joyce, born in Tamworth and with strong connections in the New England region, knows better than most how formidable Mr Windsor could prove.

Known around the nation by his first name alone, Barnaby is a backwoods politician with an instinct for popular sentiment who has had a powerful impact in just six years in parliament. Australia's most vocal National since Tim Fischer, he is cut from similar cloth and probably one day is destined to assume his party's leadership, should he successfully make the transition to the House of Representatives. This means there is a likelihood, should the Coalition win government, that in the next five or six years he could become deputy prime minister. That thought both amuses and frightens the urban Left but Prime Minister Julia Gillard needs to contain any mocking tones. Ridiculing Senator Joyce could be a trap for Labor because it might further alienate those Australians who oppose the carbon tax and admire politicians who are prepared to speak their minds.

All the same, Senator Joyce will need to temper some of his more eccentric observations and, more importantly, rethink some of his interventionist economic leanings. If he is to become an effective leader he will need to be consultative, economically consistent and open to compromise. He was found short as opposition finance spokesman and has since improved his performance. He needs to understand it is possible for mavericks to become leaders, but leaders can't be mavericks.

With Labor's fate hinging on the carbon tax, it will be aware that Senator Joyce was a prime mover in the game-changing events that reversed the Coalition's climate change policy and installed Tony Abbott as leader. The senator has been far more effective in attacking the government's emissions trading and carbon tax plans than the government has been in selling them.






If Tony Abbott uses part of his Easter break to reflect on the big issues facing the Australian economy, he should revisit his old ministerial stamping ground -- industrial relations. Eighteen months after Labor's system took effect, Julia Gillard's mantra that it "will be good for productivity" has proved so patently false that an overhaul of workplace relations to restore flexibility is now a first-order issue, more important to the nation's prosperity than the carbon tax, mining tax or welfare reform.

As the system stands, trade unions are enjoying most things their own way -- including the fact that seven of the past eight appointees to Fair Work Australia are former union officials or others with backgrounds in the labour movement.

After giving Labor's system a go, industry leaders have begun pointing out its pitfalls. Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout, who has worked constructively with the government, has called for an overhaul of the Fair Work Act, citing the problem of unions using clauses falsely badged as "job security" to restrict the hiring of contractors. That ruse, which worked for the Transport Workers Union in the road transport industry, has been extended in a militant push to curtail the use of outside labour by Qantas. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce is right to brand it a "kamikaze campaign" because of its potential to drive customers to other brands and destroy jobs.

Ms Ridout also opposes Fair Work Australia's "strike first, negotiate later" decision in relation to Sydney waste management company J. J. Richards & Sons. That issue, which has major implications for all industries, including mining, is being pursued in the tribunal by the AIG, the Australian Mines and Metals Association and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz admits that the Coalition does not have a "policy document on the table" and says the legislation needs to be given time to "bed down". The Coalition remains haunted by the fatal political damage inflicted by Labor and the ACTU over Work Choices in 2007. But the national interest demands that Mr Abbott move off the sidelines with an effective policy well before the next election. Among other points, he must show how the system can be tightened to ensure the wage boom in the mining sector does not flow to sectors struggling with a strong dollar, such as manufacturing. He is right to support sharper teeth for the building industry watchdog, which under the Howard government boosted productivity by billions of dollars in that industry.

Gold Coast backbencher Steve Ciobo has made a sound case as to why businesses employing up to 20 fulltime workers should not be subject to the unfair dismissal laws. And his South Australian colleague, Jamie Briggs, is right to favour employers not being forced into unsustainable wage rises beyond productivity gains and the reinstatement of 1996-style individual workplace agreements, which predated Work Choices by more than a decade.

If business is to succeed in leading the IR debate it must explain why restricting the ability of companies to adapt to change, restructure and maintain flexible workforces according to the business cycle will undermine community prosperity. In some ways, it is a harder and more complex case to sell to voters than the "your rights at work" anti-Work Choices campaign. But business has the resources to show that independent contractors are losing out, and to help the public understand how and why unfair dismissal laws impact on small and medium business and discourage employment. Small business should also emphasise that rigid awards are keeping students out of casual work by forcing employers to pay for longer shifts than many shopkeepers can afford.

As the debate progresses, the Coalition must draw up a policy that excludes the worst excesses of Work Choices while restoring flexibility and linking pay rises to productivity gains. It is a faint hope that Labor will amend its system. But pressure should be applied debunking Ms Gillard's claims that no one would be worse off under Labor's system and that the economy would reap productivity gains. After 18 months, the economy, companies and some workers are the losers.







 TALK about the long arm of the law. Just when lovers thought they had a neat means of bypassing the pain of sharing their wealth in the event of a relationship breakdown, the law has found a way of dissolving two households into one. The practice of living together apart - the maintenance of hers and his residences while otherwise sharing one's life - has lost a little of its gloss.

It turns out that not living with someone with whom you share a serious relationship does not exclude you from the law on property settlement once marriages and de facto relationships break up. A life of all fun and no liabilities, it seems, is as illusory as bank charity. Keeping the partner at arm's length will not guarantee your superannuation and shares portfolio are out of reach.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies says

1.1 million Australians live separately from their monogamous lovers. ''People who live apart think they're not in a de facto relationship,'' a family law practitioner, Craig Henderson, says. ''It's a mistake.'' Why? Because the law sets nine criteria for judging whether a relationship amounts to a de facto union. Cohabitation is but one criterion. Others include the longevity of the relationship, sexual interaction and less tangible concepts such as ''mutual commitment to a shared life''.

Older couples are more affected because they are more likely to have developed a selfishness about sharing, to have established their own households and families before meeting and, of course, to be able to afford separate residences. Many young couples struggle with the finances of sharing one residence, let alone living apart.

As is the way with law, however, the issue is not clear-cut. In some cases it has been held that live-apart couples had enjoyed or endured de facto marriage status, and that the aggrieved were entitled to shares of the relationship spoils. Alternatively, courts have held that relationships with the usual characteristics of de facto marriage were not.

Heaven forbid. The law is not as straightforward as we are encouraged to expect? Take a leaf out of the Australian constitution. Helen Irving, the Sydney University constitutional lawyer, wrote in her layman's guide Five Things to Know about the Australian Constitution that the primary document on how this country is to be governed does not say what it means and does not mean what it says.

That other law is similarly infected is just another reason to tread carefully in the shadows where matters of the heart collide with the heart of property matters.






WITH Africa rapidly taking on the aura of the world economy's most exciting frontier, a lot is riding on the outcome of elections in the continent's most populous nation. Nigeria has latterly developed a reputation for being the underbelly of capitalism, noted for spectacular corruption and kleptocracy, rampant crime, ecological damage and brazen internet scams. Even its own people are turned off by the depressing record, to judge by the low turnout in the big city of Lagos in Saturday's presidential election.

But out of this election has come a good measure of hope. Some observers reported instances of vote buying and intimidation, but generally they saw the fairest and cleanest vote since military rule ended 12 years ago. For a start votes were counted in an open, transparent manner, rather than previous closed processes that saw mysterious surges in support for particular candidates.

The election also saw Nigerians vote decisively for a new kind of leader, the former zoologist and canoe-maker's son Goodluck Jonathan, who was catapulted from vice-president into the presidency last year when the incumbent died in office. He has won such a high level of support that a run-off election will not be needed.

Now for the hard part. African political candidates have not generally made a name as gracious losers. The nearby nation of Ivory Coast, that once seemed the best-run country in Africa, has just experienced a bitter civil war after the sitting president refused to accept an election defeat and vacate office. Another West African nation, Guinea, has just managed a difficult two-stage presidential election to emerge from military rule.

In Nigeria, the second-running presidential candidate, the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, is not taking defeat well. He has refused to concede, and his supporters in the mostly Muslim northern states have rampaged against offices of Jonathan's party. Buhari has worried observers by his repeated failure to condemn violence, and his implicit suggestion that a loss shows a failure of the system. The worry is that this will escalate into a regional and sectarian conflict, given that Jonathan's support is largely in the Christian-majority south and south-western regions.

Let us hope the size of Jonathan's win quickly convinces Buhari to quieten down, and that Nigeria can look forward to better government. Like many of Africa's 53 nations, it enjoys a bountiful resource endowment in which the emerging industrial nations are eager to invest. A democratic government based on fair and accepted election results will help ensure the benefits go to the many, not the kleptocrats or men with guns.






WHEN Julia Gillard addressed the US Congress last month, the event, although not her first international appearance as Australia's leader, was hailed as a kind of global debut for a Prime Minister who had come to office without any notable background, or indeed much interest, in foreign policy. The tour of north Asia Ms Gillard begins today, however, will be a far tougher test of her ability to represent Australia's interests internationally.

The US remains this country's principal ally, but Australia's biggest export markets, in order of precedence, are the three nations she will visit before heading to London to attend the royal wedding: China, Japan and South Korea. All three nations are important for reasons that go beyond matters of trade and investment, but the relationship with China, especially, has the potential to transform Australia's global standing.

A hint that Ms Gillard, global debutante though she may be, understands this was buried in her speech to Congress. For the most part, her remarks on that occasion emphasised the strength of the longstanding alliance with the US, and the affinities between Washington's and Canberra's views of the world. On the subject of China, however, the Prime Minister indulged in the mildest of rebukes for her host - or, more specifically, for those in Congress who view China's resurgence as a global power as cause for alarm. She said Australia did not regard the rise of China as a threat, and by implication urged Americans not to do so, either.

What she did not say, perhaps because it hardly needed to be spelt out, was that Australia does not have the option of dealing with China antagonistically. Nor, these days, does the US - as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quipped to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd: ''How do you deal toughly with your banker?'' But the power imbalance, economically and strategically, is far greater in Australia's case.

China's rapid industrialisation has fed its insatiable demand for Australia's mineral resources, creating a boom whose end is not in sight, even in these times when growth is slowing due to sluggish domestic consumption. China also wants to extend the economic relationship, so that Chinese firms, including large state-owned enterprises, can increase direct investment in Australia's resources sector. Its concern to avoid rebuffs means that it is likely to proceed cautiously, however, after the abortive bid by Chinalco for 18 per cent of Rio Tinto and Australia's rejection, on security grounds, of plans by another Chinese state-owned firm, Wuhan Iron and Steel, to participate in a joint iron-ore venture near the Woomera restricted zone.

Ms Gillard's hosts in Beijing can be expected to raise with her Australia's foreign-investment rules, which automatically approve investment bids worth less than $200 million unless they are by state-owned enterprises. Treasurer Wayne Swan has disingenuously denied that this restriction was framed with China in mind, despite a Treasury official having told US diplomats in September 2009 that the rules were intended to ''pose new disincentives for larger-scale Chinese investments''.

On the face of it, fairness demands that Chinese firms, public or private, be treated like any other would-be investors in this country. Ms Gillard should acknowledge this in discussions in Beijing, but she should also remind her hosts that fairness requires reciprocity. If China wishes to be fully integrated into the world economy, it must acknowledge that the artificially undervalued yuan, which keeps its exports competitively cheap, disadvantages trading partners. Nor should Ms Gillard shrink from condemning the new repressiveness with which Beijing has responded to pro-democracy movements elsewhere in the world: openness in trade and openness in government must go hand in hand.





BACK in 1984, in the wake of a federal budget under which science funding was slashed, researchers were devastated. When they complained, science minister Barry Jones was not sympathetic. He accused the nation's smartest people of being ''the wimpiest collection of lobbyists'' imaginable, failing to use brain or brawn to secure precious research dollars. These were doubtless individuals steeped in the power of pure science - apply hard work, reason, process, and good evidence, and surely your work will be recognised, your message heeded?

The new generation of researchers has grown up in a more cynical world. In the past month, since rumours of a $400 million cut to medical research - effectively a 19 per cent cut over three years - gained resonance, they have shown a masterful grasp of the weird science of advocacy. Venerable institutions have invited reporters into their laboratories, making available their pool of natural talent - white-coated men and women, young and old, working at tasks of impenetrable complexity for modest financial reward. They require no spin and little coaching - they are the real deal. They talk passionately about their dreams of curing disease, of preserving, improving and saving lives. The campaign then enlists living legends of the game - names such as Sir Gustav Nossal, Suzanne Cory and Nobel laureate Peter Doherty - to apply pincer movements in private pleas to political leaders.

And if hearts and minds are not persuasive enough, they can argue in dollar terms too. Australia would stand to lose $129 billion and more than 1600 researchers over the next eight years if the Gillard government went ahead with the anticipated cuts.

Scientists are by nature and culture careful and reticent types. They properly see their role as not in shaping policy and debate, but informing it. The line between self-interest and scientific interest is a fragile and critical one, hence many of them are rightly apprehensive about stepping out of the bounds of research and into activism.

The tenor of the medical campaign, together with more vociferous climate statements, speaks volumes. In a world of spin, one where the once hallowed credentials of scientific application have been diminished by dumb posturing, scientists are right to raise their voices. Whether they work at cancer cures or tracking sea temperatures, they are fighting for recognition of the critical value of their work to individuals and to economies.







It is not about the right deficit for this year or next. It is about the need for a semblance of balance over the decades ahead

In Britain, deficit denial is a charge the right lays at the door of the left. Across the Atlantic, the term is being hurled by ratings agencies at Washington's newly divided government. Markets got the jitters on Monday after Standard & Poor's said, for the first time in 70 years of US bond watching, that it could soon cease to regard the sovereign IOUs of the world's sole superpower as copper-bottomed guarantees.

The gnomes of the ratings agencies have had a dire crisis. Long in hock to vested interests, they only saw the private crunch coming after it arrived. There is justified anger as they now sit in judgment over small and cash-strapped democracies. The US, however, is a different matter. The planet regards its bonds as the safest of financial harbours, and no second-rater in any agency could transform this perception on his own. S&P's verdict hit home because it reflects what any Washington watcher can see. The US has grown keener on spending than paying its taxes, and is saddled with a political economy that punishes leaders who try to bring the two things back into line. The point here is not about the right deficit for this year or next, or the valuable role of pump-priming in a slump. It is rather about the need for a semblance of balance over the decades ahead.

The irony is that the starting point is not dire. The lapsing of Bush-era tax cuts, which were legislated to be temporary, and the rise in taxable incomes once prosperity returns would have done much of the work automatically, if they had been allowed to take their course. Instead, the debate has been framed by Paul Ryan, Republican chair of the House budget committee, who is bent on pushing all of the pain on to the expenditure side while actually cutting taxes. This would be fantastically hard in any ageing society, since the only pressure on the pensions bill is upward. It is doubly hard to achieve in the US, which is obliged to foot the runaway costs of marketised healthcare for the elderly. Without change, that burden would more than double as a share of GDP.

Mr Ryan's solution is to shred the medical safety net for the old. The social effects would be dire, and potentially compounded by derailment of Barack Obama's reforms that would put a lid on the costs. What matters for the deficit, though, is whether it is politically sellable. In a nation with the patchiest and priciest medicines in the rich world, that seems most unlikely.

If a failure to face up to the need to raise taxes is coupled to a failure to devise credible savings, the US will sleepwalk into a spiral in which debt interest gobbles up ever more of its resources. This disaster could still be averted, but with a check or balance in the way of every tax rise, it can no longer be ruled out.





With boots already on the ground, Nato's military involvement in the civil war in Libya is deepening step by step

The 20 British and French military advisers being sent to help the rebels in Benghazi do not constitute an occupation force. They are advisers rather than trainers, but they are boots on the ground. With every step being taken by those boots, Nato's military involvement in the civil war in Libya is deepening. Just as significant was the extension of Nato's target list to include Gaddafi's telephone exchanges and small satellite communications systems, which have ominously been labelled dual-use. The announcements in London and Brussels yesterday were the third shift since the UN resolution authorised a no-fly zone over Libya. The others were the decision to send body armour to the rebels, and Barack Obama putting his name to a letter which said there was no future for Libya with Gaddafi in power. The war aims, which Mr Obama had earlier vowed would not be broadened to include regime change, had just got broader.

Each step has fuelled fears of mission creep, although, as one observer said yesterday, preventing the mission from collapsing altogether may be closer to the mark. Each of these steps is cumulative, and the direction of travel should concern us all. A month ago it appeared to some that Gaddafi's forces would fold like a pack of cards shortly after the first Tomahawks flew over. However, in many instances the opposite has happened. They have adapted to the urban battlefield, hidden their heavy weapons underground, put snipers on the rooftops of Misrata and shelled rebel-held areas with cluster bombs. Their missile launchers are no longer sitting ducks. Nato officials said yesterday that strikes on a communications centre of Gaddafi's crack 32nd brigade had reduced the regime's ability to direct its forces on Brega and Ajdabiya. But at the same time they had to admit that strikes such as these had little effect on the street-to-street fighting in Misrata, which the Canadian commander of the air campaign, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, likened to a knife fight in a phone booth – it was difficult to get into the middle of it. In other words, an intervention conducted in the name of protecting civilian life in Benghazi may have had the opposite effect in Misrata, Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya.

Misrata could well become the turning point. It is the place where the aims of protecting the lives of non-combatants and advancing the war aims of one set of combatants have become fused and are now indistinguishable from one another. As the fighting continues, the symbolic effect of Nato's moves has also diminished. A month ago they might have been catalysts to those around Gaddafi who had no wish to be on the losing side. But today their psychological effect is not so obvious. Gaddafi is hardly quaking in his boots. If he were, his forces might have disengaged. Instead the fighting is spreading, and he may think he still has every hope of capturing Misrata. If that were to happen, he would have stopped the armed rebellion in its tracks.

There are now two options: digging in for the long haul in the expectation that the rebels will one day become a fighting force. This would mean that the steps we saw yesterday would not be the last, as Nato ratchets up its presence in the air and on the ground. The second option is to go back to pursuing a diplomatic initiative of the type proposed by the African Union or Turkey. As the balance of power now stands, one or other of the Gaddafi clan might well remain in power. Neither option is appealing, but from the logic of the UN resolution it is surely the second route that would stop the suffering of civilians sooner. To the rebels in Benghazi, Gaddafi's son Saif has shed his role as the public face of human rights reform. He has become as unacceptable as any other member of the Gaddafi clan. And yet in the absence of the collapse of the regime, he may end up as the face diplomats have to deal with.





The spine of England and a seemingly unavoidable element of any road journey between north and south

The M1 is one of those bits of Britain that everyone knows but nobody likes. Details of its route must be lodged in the minds of a very large proportion of the population, a national unifier in dreary grey concrete. Route 66 it isn't. There's no joy in driving the M1's full length, unless your destination is a happy one, but the sight of things such as the radio masts at Daventry or the point, by junction 19, where the lights are replaced by darkness are memories most people share. So are the endless roadworks – currently under way along its length in Barnsley, Buckinghamshire and Barnet, where last week's fire pushed the road, unexpectedly, into the news bulletins. But then the M1 is only ever noticed when things go wrong on it. It lacks even the debatable beauty of more elegant bits of the motorway network – the Chilterns cutting on the M40, the Shap moorlands on the M6, and the farmhouse trapped between the carriageways high on the M62. None of these roads matter as much as the M1, the spine of England and a seemingly unavoidable element of any road journey between north and south. It has been woven unnoticed into all sorts of lives since the first section opened, in 1959. At the start of the Beatles' 1965 tour, George Harrison's guitar fell off the roof of his Austin Princess on to the M1. Maybe somewhere, in some lost corner of the central reservation, the bits are still there: the M1 can be horrible, dangerous, ugly – but above all it is an unloved national lifeline







Prime Minister Naoto Kan on April 14 established the 16-member Reconstruction Design Council, headed by Defense Academy President Makoto Iokibe, to draw up a grand plan to reconstruct the areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The reconstruction will be long and difficult work because of the horrific extent of the damage. The impacted Pacific coastal areas stretch some 500 km and the natural disasters have been accompanied by the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The government's immediate task should be removing debris, constructing pre-fabricated houses for disaster victims, restoring traffic networks, rebuilding schools and re-establishing life lines such as city water, sewerage, gas and electricity.

The long-term goal should be more than just restoring towns and cities that existed before March 11. The government and the council should take a cue from the thinking of then Internal Affairs Minister Shinpei Goto, who was in charge of reconstruction of Tokyo after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. He said that the reconstruction of Tokyo should not result only in restoration of its former shape but should lead to the creation of a foundation for the country's development and for the improvement of people's lives.

The council should propose a large-scale vision that will help shape the future of the all of Japan and prompt necessary transformations of social and economic structures. But if the government and the council try only to impose their ideas on people of the devastated areas, it will create future problems.

The goal should be creating towns and cities that are resilient against natural disasters, friendly to active economic and cultural activities and beneficial to the well-being of residents. But disaster victims' strong bonds to their old communities must not be forgotten. The council must humbly listen to their opinions. For their part, disaster victims and local governments should present well thought-out reconstruction plans that take into consideration natural, historical and economic conditions.






Immediately after the March 11 quake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, Japanese victims were praised by the foreign media for their calmness, orderliness and perseverance in the midst of unprecedented suffering. But the positive image of Japan is turning into a negative one because of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s haphazard handling of the crisis at Tepco's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

An apparent failure at the initial stage on the part of the government and Tepco to realize the serious nature of the accidents and to act accordingly and the fact that they still cannot get the crisis under control more than a month after the accidents started are causing irritation among foreign countries and tarnishing Japan's image.

Government leaders and officials should realize that Japan's handling of the crisis is damaging Japan's trustworthiness as a member of the international community. The nuclear accidents are putting people living around the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in a difficult situation and damaging the agriculture, fisheries and tourism industries. The power shortage caused by the accidents is also causing problems for manufacturing industries. But government leaders and officials should also look beyond the border and consider how other countries are viewing the nuclear crisis. Countries such as China, Taiwan and South Korea have increased radiation checks of Japanese products. Not only Japanese agricultural and fishery products but also Japanese industrial products are facing possible import restrictions.

In this age of mutual dependence among economies, accidents as the one at Fukushima No. 1 power plant harm both Japanese firms and their business partners in foreign countries. Production overseas will be negatively impacted by events in Japan.

The South Korean media strongly criticized Japan's release of highly radioactive water from the nuclear power plant into the sea without any prior notice. Japanese leaders should keep in mind that despite the strenuous efforts of workers on the scene at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Japan's handling of the nuclear crisis is damaging its image internationally by causing apprehensions in other countries.






The visit to Japan by Australia's Labor Party prime minister, Julia Gillard, reminds us that Australian foreign policy has never been known for its consistency.

She will, of course, go out of her way to talk about Japan-Australia friendship. But for many years Canberra was strongly anti-Japan. At the Tokyo war crimes tribunals it sought to impose the harshest punishments possible. Its 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty determination to force Japan to give up all prewar territorial acquisitions did much to create the Northern Territories dispute with Moscow and the Takeshima dispute with Seoul.

In exchange for agreeing to a peace treaty it demanded and got the U.S. to agree to a treaty - the ANZUS Treaty - to counter feared future Japanese aggressions - a detail many prefer to forget nowadays.

Even as Australia's trade dependence on Japan grew in the 1960s and 1970s, conservative governments in Canberra refused Tokyo's requests for a friendship and commerce agreement. Anti-Japan bureaucrats also blocked the 1975 efforts by the more progressive Whitlam government for a similar agreement. They said it was a plot that would allow Japan to dominate the Australian economy ( I know because I was there, even if Canberra has since air-brushed this disgraceful affair from the history of the agreement finally reached in 1976.)

Meanwhile a love affair with Beijing was developing under Whitlam, thanks to the 1971 ping-pong diplomacy breaking the ice imposed by the previous conservative regime. Diplomatic recognition of Taiwan was ended. Active political, cultural, academic and trade relations with China were pursued.

A foreign minister, Alexander Downer, even went so far as to suggest that Australia would not be obliged by the ANZUS Treaty to join the United States in any conflict with Beijing over Taiwan.

But now all this has come into shuddering reversal. Japan is the flavor of the month, and China is being moved into the potential enemies list. This, despite China's enormous trade importance, and the refusal of Japan's farm lobby to accept a free-trade agreement with Australia.

Canberra has recently negotiated a military assistance pact with Tokyo. It is looking for other military cooperation areas, including basing U.S. troops in northern Australian, which fits in neatly with Japanese conservative hopes for a Japan - Australia - India alliance against China.

Relations with the U.S. dominate Canberra's policies; Australians still feel very dependent on the large Pacific neighbor that once rescued them from Japanese aggression. The dominating Murdoch press works hard to prevent any deviation from a pro-U.S. line. Even the leftwing apparatchiks in the allegedly leftwing Labor Party are cooperative, as we now discover from cables released by WikiLeaks showing how they consulted with U.S. officials in staging the coup which saw Gillard replace the former somewhat pro-China and independent minded Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Gillard has since gone out of her way to show solidarity with the U.S., promising to keep Australian troops in Afghanistan to the very end. One is reminded of an earlier prime minister, Harold Holt, with his embarrassing 1966 slogan 'All the way with LBJ' to show Canberra's determination to stay with the U.S. in Vietnam till the very end.

Vietnam showed the other face of Australian diplomacy - a deep but immature fear of Asian threats. Many think Canberra's strong military presence in that war was the result of U.S. urging. In fact it was if anything the opposite, with a concerned Canberra leaning on Washington to make sure it remained militarily involved in Asia till the very end. Canberra had convinced itself that the Vietnam war was, in its own words, the first stage of a Chinese military thrust southward between the Pacific and Indian oceans and towards Australia. Only the U.S. could stop that thrust, it believed.

(In 1964, when stationed in Moscow, I saw first hand some of the immaturity and ignorance behind these anti-China attitudes. Arguing that the Chinese were "bad" communists and the Soviets were "good" communists the then foreign minister, Paul Hasluck, came all the way from Canberra to persuade Moscow to join the West in opposing the alleged Chinese "thrust" in Vietnam. Recovering from the shock of this bizarre request, then Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin leaned across the Kremlin green baize conference table to tell Hasluck how committed Moscow was to the cause of Vietnamese liberation and how he wished the Chinese would do more to help.)

Despite eventual defeat in Vietnam, Canberra's diplomacy in Asia has remained obsessed with alleged threats and militarily commitments. In 1975 it gave Indonesia the green light to invade East Timor fearing that a communist threat might develop there. It went all the way with the U.S. in distant Iraq. It talks much about involvement with Asia but left it to distant Europeans with a conscience - the Finns, the Dutch and the Norwegians plus Japan's former senior U.N. official, Yasushi Akashi, to try to broker settlements in difficult conflicts like Sri Lanka, Aceh, West Irian, Kashmir and Cambodia. It has preferred often simply to go along with arbitrary U.S. terrorist designations which have worsened the brutality of these conflicts, as we saw only too well in Sri Lanka.

It talks earnestly about educating young Australians into Asia. But the Australia-Japan Foundation, which some of us did so much to establish in the seventies as a vehicle to get young Australians into Japan for work and study, has been allowed to lapse. Only once has Canberra ever had a Japanese speaker as its ambassador to Japan.

But I doubt if any of this will worry Julia Gillard greatly. She has already admitted her lack of interest in foreign affairs. Cherry blossoms, tsunami victims and maybe yet more talk about closer military cooperation with Japan and the U.S. will be her main concerns.

Gregory Clark is a former Australian diplomat, and Canberra-based policy adviser. A Japanese translation of this article will appear on www where further details of Japan-Australia relations can also be found.






Recent allegations of violence involving the Army in settling a land dispute in Kebumen, Central Java, and of soldiers who allegedly fatally tortured a debt collector in Depok, West Java, on Tuesday have much in common.

The incidents have sparked public concern over the possible return of the military's heavy-handed practices during the Soeharto era.

No matter what the reason, the use of violence to solve conflicts is unacceptable – especially if it involves state groups that have access to weapons.

Six people were wounded after they were shot with rubber bullets on Saturday and six others suffered from bruises after soldiers allegedly attacked Setrojenar residents who were protesting the existence of a military training compound on land they claimed.

The clash quickly drew criticism, particularly as it occurred at a time when the Indonesian Military (TNI) has been completing years of internal reform aimed at rebuilding the TNI as the true protector of the nation and defender of the country's territorial integrity.

It took the police only three days to declare four residents suspects in connection with the incident, while the TNI's internal investigation has so far found no procedural violations committed by the soldiers.

The TNI claimed that the soldiers acted in self-defense to stop a protest it alleged turned violent, although some residents, including village head Surip Supangat, alleged that the military cracked down on residents after the clash.

Surip said he and other residents never expected the soldiers would use arms. An Army spokesman defended the stiff measures, saying the facility was home to the TNI's research and development agency, as well as warehouses storing munitions that had to be guarded.

Indonesian law does not give the police the authority to probe alleged criminal behavior perpetrated by TNI members. Thus independent investigation of the Kebumen and Depok incidents is necessary to stave off public suspicions that the TNI's internal investigations will protect military personnel, as commonly happened in the past.

A different standard of law enforcement is only one of the problems that has faced the nation since sweeping reforms began in 1998, particularly when it comes to conflicts between the military and the people.

This would have not happened had the House of Representatives endorsed a revision of the 1997 Military Tribunal Law, which would allow the police to handle general crimes involving TNI members and apply the principle of equality before the law to everyone.

More pressing on the TNI reform agenda, as seen in the Kebumen case, is rearrangement of military assets in the forms of land, buildings and other property, just for the sake of legal certainty, which the country is generally lacking.

Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said that many plots belonging to the military were not certified by the National Land Agency, something that has triggered several disputes with local residents. Under-the-table deals between individual TNI officers and businesses have only complicated the matter.

The Defense Ministry and other related institutions have for decades used legal means or persuasion to solve disputes. It is certain that there will be further land disputes over land that might pit the military against civilians.

If we want the incident in Kebumen to be the last of its kind, there is no other choice for the military other than to fight these battles in the courtroom or at the negotiating table.






In recent weeks we have noticed one of the most ridiculous things to ever happen to our lawmakers. This happened when one of the legislators from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a party which declares itself religious, was captured by a photographer while watching a pornographic video on his tablet computer.

Arifinto, the legislator, defended his actions by saying he had watched it accidentally as someone had sent him an email with a link to a pornographic video.

However, the photographer refuted this statement, showing proof that the video had not been from an Internet link but from a folder on his tablet.

The incident, in my opinion, is totally ludicrous, especially because it happened to a legislator from a party recognized as Islamic. We are all aware that in every place or every campaign, PKS always emphasizes the central role of Islamic values in public life.

Furthermore, PKS was also a frontrunner in the creation of the highly controversial law on porno-graphy.

In addition, its former chairman, Tifatul Sembiring, is the communications and information minister, who issued a decree to block all pornographic content on the Internet.

Those above facts surely contradict the attitude of PKS member Arifinto. As an Islam-based party, naturally its members are obliged to follow Islam rules and values.

This includes not watching pornographic pictures or videos that are seen as haram and could result in their imprisonment under Indonesian law.

This incident also attracted a lot of attention because the subject was a member of an Islam-based party, who was supposed to be pious and morally responsible based on the value of his religion. If this incident happened to any member of a secular party, the controversy may not have been as severe.

Seeing this incident, one clear question is raised: Is it still relevant to call PKS as a religion-based party? Looking at the big picture, this question can be rephrased by asking: Is it still relevant or necessary to have religious parties in our secular country?

We can answer this question by analyzing the above incident. As a member of the House from an Islam-based party, Arifinto, surely must act like someone from a religious party. In addition, he is positioned himself as the member of Sharia Council (Majelis Syura) of PKS.

This kind of council is usually found in religion-based parties. This council is prestigious because only senior members and figures recognized as pious can fill such positions. The council is largely composed of clerics.

It happens like that because this council needs to give opinions on problems based on religious reasoning. In the PKS, as mentioned in its statutes, the Sharia Council functions as Ahl al-Hall wa'l-Aqd (it can be interpreted as those who are qualified to elect or depose a chairman/president on behalf of the Muslim community).

Based on this fact, someone who sits on this council should be a pious person. However, the incident shows the opposite. Watching something that is considered pornographic is surely not an attitude of a pious person.

This condition gives us an overview that religion-based parties are no longer needed because in fact it is deceiving. They use religious symbols, and act like they are pure and innocent. By using these symbols, they attract the voters to vote for them as if this is the way of God.

In reality, their attitudes sometimes show that they never know religion at all. This is clearly an authoritarian action using religious authority for their own purpose and without any responsibility.

From a wider perspective, this situation shows that religion-based parties are no longer relevant in this country. We can see this at least from the results of the general elections in the post-New Order era.

The most obvious was in the 2009 general elections when Islam-based parties only managed to secure 29.2 percent of the vote. This figure was surely below the result of the 2004 general elections when they gained a combined total of 41 percent.

It is true that among the Islam-based parties, PKS is the most consistent. While the numbers of votes gained by other Islam-based parties are declining, PKS has been successful in maintaining support, from 7.34 percent in 2004 to 7.88 percent in 2009.

However, with the recent incident and other problems related to conflict within its organization as shown by the founder Yusuf Supendi, it is doubtful we will see the same result in future elections.

On the other hand, Arifinto's decision to resign from the House will probably save the image of PKS. It also sets a good example for legislators and a good tradition for the House that whenever you are involved in a controversial case it is better for you to resign.

However, this attitude is not followed by other legislators such as corruption which is also regarded as haram. The PKS should focus less on the issue of pornography and more on other more important problems such as corruption.

The resignation of Arifinto will not cover the core problem that PKS has failed to be a real religion-based party whose members adhere strictly to rules based on religious values.

The writer is a lecturer at the Sunan Ampel Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) in Surabaya and the Darul Ulum University in Jombang, both in East Java.





Again and again, bombs have exploded in this country. On Friday, a suicide bomber, 31-year-old Muchammad Syarif, killed himself and wounded at least 26 people when his bomb exploded inside a mosque at Cirebon Police Headquarters in West Java. The bomb went off just as the Friday prayers were about to begin.

This latest suicide attack suggests that terrorism in Indonesia is becoming invincible and unpredictable.

Last month, book bombs were sent to various places targeting individuals. Now, the targets are not just churches, foreigners, moderate Muslims and sect members, but also mosques.

As a matter of fact, efforts to target mosques have occurred before, first at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta in 1999 and then at a Yogyakarta mosque in 2000.

In recent years, Indonesia has been rocked by a series of bombings staged by the regional terror network Jamaah Islamiyah, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

The last was carried out by two suicide bombers who killed seven people at two luxury Jakarta hotels in July 2009.

The suicide attack on the Cirebon Police mosque reminds us that a holistic approach to terrorism is of paramount significance.

Relying too much on the state apparatus such as police to arrest the perpetrators and masterminds of this cruel assault and impose the death sentence on them is far from adequate. The approach should at least entails the following measures:

First, it is of urgent importance to pass the new intelligence bill due to public potshots at its toothlessness. Continued violence, bomb threats and suicide bombing befalling this country have been clear signs of our slow counterterrorism drive. Both the House of Representatives and the government should arrive at meeting of minds and scrap controversial points.

Monitoring, for instance, is necessary only to gather information on suspicious individuals and designate particular networks or organizations as terrorist groups when conditions are met.

The state intelligence agency must not lose its fight against both physical and symbolic terrorism campaigns. Additional funds for intelligence agencies for their work will help the government work more effectively.

However, the control of the intelligence organization by the House and civil society is no compromise. Ignoring arbitrary and extensive monitoring of targeted individuals or groups means an act of infringement upon one's privacy, which is unconstitutional.

The scrutiny of citizens' phone conversations, email correspondence and articles posted on Internet community boards, by police, the prosecution and the state spy agency should not be intensified just because a series of bombings has rocked this country recently.

Second, the police and state spy agency must not look for scapegoats and become distrustful of Muslim groups, but work with them instead.

The terror attack on a mosque strongly indicates that Islam is not compatible with terrorism, but is being hijacked.

Defeating terrorism is not possible using only a traditional security approach.

All steps must be taken, including the curbing of dangerous ideologies that help spread the message of terrorism to hearts and minds.

Hence, antiterrorism efforts must involve civil society groups, in the context of resisting the spread of terror ideology.

Many groups in Indonesia that are vulnerable to such ideologies can be infiltrated and changed only by organizations like the NU, Muhammadiyah and other Muslim organizations, rather than the police.

While acknowledging that Islam is not terrorism and terrorism is not Islam, longer-term solutions can be oriented toward ostracizing radicalism and promoting tolerance.

Strong and continued rejection of such ideas in mosques and schools should be carried out extended to all places of worship.

Mosques and Islamic boarding schools must be made front lines in the battle against terrorism. Didn't Prophet Muhammad say that any Muslims inciting hatred against non-Muslims were not his ummat (followers)?

Third, it is crucial for police to get groups of people involved in combating acts of terrorism. The police and universities may hold regular training and meetings involving youth organizations, school teachers and neighborhood leaders on how terrorists act and move within society.

The public might be introduced to a "nomad strategy", which is used by terrorists to keep themselves in disguise.

People may take initiatives to be more vigilant in monitoring their areas for suspicious activities through intensifying their community-based security systems (Siskamling) to deter terrorists from establishing base camps.

However, it is not necessarily about being aware of new faces in their neighborhoods, but also old residents acting suspiciously or limiting their interactions with their neighbors.

Fourth, increasing the prosperity of the people is major key to fighting terrorism. The longer-term fight against terrorism, however, will be to continue economic growth and to improve living standards.

If the poor and lower income groups, which are the main recruiting pools for terrorists, see that they have a bright future and hope, they will be less likely to be attracted to the militant doctrine. Poverty is a weakness that terrorists are only too eager to exploit.

It is no secret that suicide bombers are generally from a low-income background. Besides executing the hard approach of using the security to combat terrorists, the soft approach of offering a better future for the poor is equally important in efforts to root out the menace of terrorism in this country.

The writer, a graduate of University of Canberra, teaches politics and culture at Andalas University, Padang





Economists and policymakers in euro-adopter countries are experiencing stormy weather outside their office windows.

Early this month the Portuguese government declared its inability to pay its debts and requested financial assistance from the EU. After the economies of Greece and Ireland collapsed last year, Portugal is the third euro-adopter country that has failed to pay its debts and ask for a bailout.

Besides, it may not be the last nation to follow the path of Greece and Ireland, and quite a few analysts claimed that debt-laden economies, such as Spain, Italy, France and Belgium, could be the next dominoes to fall.

The single currency policy in euro was said to be a great idea at the beginning; but looking at how recent events have unfolded, some optimists have become skeptics: Is the euro responsible for recent Europe's mess?

The best way to understand the single currency's predicament is to imagine that a nation's economy operates like a huge Transformer robot.

Every nation — be it Portugal, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Spain and others — has its own robot model, where each robot has unique characteristics that work against each other.

What is similar about them is all the robots are armed with two guns both in their right and left hands (as seen in the movie), so they can protect themselves from their enemies and their overall stability can be

Suddenly, robots from European countries develop a seemingly great idea that they, apparently, can become stronger if they just unite and combine their small guns into one gigantic weapon. This can be done only if each robot is willing to sacrifice the gun in their left hand, so it can merge with other robots' guns to transform into one gigantic, powerful weapon.

Several robots, such as from Croatia and England, refused the offer, but almost all European-built robots agree to this proposal. In the end, those robots boast a one-for-all gigantic and massive weapon as the reward for their unification, with the expense of having only one gun in their right hand as they continue their survival.

Today, the importance of those missing hands begin to be felt; but, unfortunately, now is simply the point of no return for those European nations.

Basically, to fix problems and avoid crises in the economy, a policymaker is equipped with two powerful "weapons": A monetary policy related to interest rates and currency, and a fiscal policy related to tax and government spending. For example, the US implemented both fiscal and monetary policies in the form of a US$1 trillion tax cut (fiscal) and slashing the interest rate to the level of 0.25 percent (monetary) to resuscitate its economy during the last financial crisis.

But when euro-adopter countries such as Spain suffer from high unemployment rate like today, the Spanish policymaker could not simply adjust the interest rate (monetary) to shoot the problem. Because it uses the euro as a single currency, all policies relating to currency, which are monetary policies, have to be thoroughly discussed and carefully implemented for the sake of EU members as a whole, not a single country like Spain alone.

During this situation, other European countries such as Germany or France may have different economic interests to Spain's, and slashing interest rates — a policy which would devalue the euro — perhaps would render those countries worse off.

In other words, it is true that those robots sacrifice one of their hands and hold a share in the massive weapon, but one simply cannot use the weapon as he pleases — because other robots, presumably,
may have different type of enemies to shoot.

What exacerbates the problem is not all European robots are armed with the right-hand weapon that is powerful enough to cover their left-hand weapon's loss.

Countries such as Germany and Finland have a strong fiscal position, while the balance book of countries such as Greece and Ireland are full of debts and cannot really afford to spend much money on fiscal policies.

The consequences are predictable: The economies of Greece and Ireland defaulted, and EU member countries with strong fiscal positions suffered enormous economic losses as they had to provide multi-billion bailouts to help those ill-fated economies.

Meanwhile, Indonesia and its neighbors in the ASEAN region have been weighing the possibility of having a single currency such as the euro for years.

Some ASEAN representatives and economic ministers believed that the implementation of a single currency in ASEAN could take the economic community in the region to the next level, as it would enhance economic development in the area and forge stronger ties among ASEAN countries.

But currently, Europe's crisis is a lesson to learn for Indonesia and ASEAN on the risks and to realize that the potential economic losses if the single currency policy fails is indeed massive.

Yes, it is true that the single currency has boosted trade numbers in the EU by as little as 10 percent since it was first implemented. But as recent events show, Europe's single currency turns out to be a monetary trap and makes some economic problems more complex than they actually are.

If the euro fails in Europe's developed and high-welfare economies, adopting a single currency in ASEAN — a region where developing and developed economies are living side-by-side and economic gaps among them are obvious — is definitely not a wise idea, at least not for now.

Indeed, after a decade full of applaud for Europe and its success story of single currency implementation, today is the day when the credibility of single currency policy is being put to its highest test.

The writer is a student at the University of Indonesia's School of Economics.









On close examination, the UN "Expert" Report is seen as an illegal one based on fudged assumptions, reminiscent of similar false concepts such as the "Traditional Homelands of the Tamils". It also has, in the spirit of missionaries of earlier colonialism, implicit timelines and false data on our history similar to those put out by foreign funded NGOs.

UN circles have maintained that the expert panel had legitimacy and was at the request of a joint statement on May 23, 2009 by Ban Ki -moon and Mahinda Rajapaksa. D.B.S. Jeyaraj, after his "in depth perusal" of the Joint Statement finds no such joint pledge. So at the beginning itself, the mandate of the Panel was non-existent, rigged to please interested parties.

While the tone of the report is one of castigation of the government, the report itself is revealing of ground LTTE facts which the panel does not properly place with adequate emphasis.

Tucked away in the tail end, the Report mentions "Despite grave danger in the conflict zone, the L.T.T.E. refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, at times, even using their presence as a strategic human buffer between themselves and the advancing Sri Lanka Army," and adds "from February 2009 onwards, the L.T.T.E. started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war."

This is echoed by Gordon Weiss, the former UN spokesperson who left Sri Lanka under a cloud in an interview on the Report with Radio Australia. Weiss says that the "The Tamil Tigers held essentially hundreds-of-thousands of people hostage. As the siege intensified, they refused to let people go and as people tried to escape, they shot them. They were also guilty of the mass conscription of people and certainly in my book … the Tamil Tigers are responsible for the deaths of thousands of teenagers, who were forcibly conscripted."

Hostage Taking
The question is if Tamils were held under hostage, what would a legitimate government do at the tail end of a 37-year war? Indeed, what are the western guidelines in the taking of only a few hostages by terrorists, not the hundreds of thousands of the LTTE? Many popular films have been produced on such freeing of a few hostages using lethal force in different theatres from the US heartland, to the Iranian Embassy in London, to Somali pirates in the sea to Afghanistan. When the hostages are not just a few, but hundreds of thousands and had been kept without democratic rights and freedoms under a Hitler type regime now on its last legs, the humanitarian route is obvious. Use all means for rescue to prevent future greater suffering.

The Report claims that at the tail end of the war, the government did not provide food and humanitarian aid. Sri Lankan governments (of all shades) were perhaps the only state in the world that although its writ in other matters was denied by the LTTE kept the Tamil population under enemy control continuously fed, educated and provided with free medical care. And many of these humanitarian efforts ended up with the LTTE. Sri Lanka state humanitarianism went to feed the enemy. Even during the last stages of the war, the World Food Programme and UN agencies were delivering provisions. Yet, the local UN officialdom was hardly neutral in the war, as was seen in the large quantities of food items and medicines with the UN emblem clearly marked found after the war in LTTE stores and war bunkers.

The present UN "experts" Panel Report denies these already well documented UN efforts. It mentions that "during the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take action that might have protected civilians". It also now wants to reconsider UN decisions taken when the facts were current and well-known. The hidden implication possibly is that the UN should have intervened to stop fighting to allow Prabhakaran safe passage, a position that hardly would have been allowed to Osama bin Laden and his crew if they were surrounded.

Beyond Its Mandate
 A Report presumably looking at the last days of the war has some telling recommendations beyond its mandate which reveal its hidden hands. It wants "the root causes of the long-running ethno-nationalist conflict" and removal of "on-going exclusionary policies, which are particularly deleterious as political, social and economic exclusion based on ethnicity, perceived or real, have been at the heart of the conflict" and "the full and inclusive citizenship of all its people, including Tamils as the foundation for the country's future."

Comparing Sri Lanka with India, the US, and many Western countries, I had shown in an article in the OPA Journal as well as in my submissions to the LLRC that in formal legal terms, there are no such exclusionary policies. In fact, Sri Lanka has better legal provisions for minorities than Tamil Nadu. (But legal provision and ground reality can of course be very different.)

The Panel also wants "a process, with strong civil society participation [read foreign funded NGOs], to examine in a critical manner: the root causes of the conflict, including ethno-nationalist extremism on both sides; the conduct of the war and patterns of violations; and the corresponding institutional responsibilities." This is in the spirit of NGO hogwash and half truths which I had detailed in my book on NGOs. With hundreds of millions of rupees of foreign money, the local NGOs undertook careful processes of brain washing (I use the term literally) the local population. However, this was to no avail as the locals took the money but welcomed the end of the war.

These recommendations of the Panel immediately recall those of the Berghof Foundation in its carefully laid out plan of governance of the country through NGOs, downsizing the military, and giving NGOs a veto power on the military. Berghof was tightly linked to all other NGOs, and during the war its head was deported as a security risk.

Again going outside its mandate, the Report has some recommendations on removal of Emergency Regulations, the validity of the justice system, independence of the judiciary and concentration of power in the Presidency.  Emergency regulations have been in force for several decades and indeed should be removed when it is no longer needed for national security. The justice system should be improved and power should be spread throughout the country. Democracy in Sri Lanka as in the US is a work in progress. I can make several recommendations for improving US democracy (as I had done in international journals). But, these are for the local population to undertake, for the local national level political parties - the UNP, the JVP and of course the UPFA. We citizens while resisting foreign interference and attacks on sovereignty must and should make our country better. That is our duty, not that of foreign colonial missionaries.





It is now obvious that Nato's purported mission, under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, to protect civilians in Libya is expanding into a flagrantly illegal attempt at regime change. With fierce fighting between rebels and government forces reported in the eastern city of Adjabiya and the western one of Misrata, President Barack Obama has stated that a military stalemate obtains. That means Nato has failed to protect civilians and prevent Muammar Qadhafi's ground forces from recapturing key rebel-held areas, with civilian casualties as a tragic consequence. In response, however, Mr. Obama and his main Nato collaborators, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have published a joint article in The Washington Post, The Times, and Le Figaro, holding that "it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power" and that "so long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations."

The main problems in this exercise in military adventurism have been caused by the Resolution's lack of a clear political objective; it is the political issues that are now proving the most troublesome for the Alliance. One major miscalculation was the assumption that Mr. Qadhafi might be sufficiently influenced by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) or the League of Arab States (the Arab League) to consider an agreement with the rebels or even to leave office. The Libyan President's defiant reaction exposed that idea as vacuous. Now Mr. Cameron refuses to rule out the deployment of ground troops, despite the fact that the U.N. Resolution specifically excludes that. The coalition's disarray is further confirmed by France's proposal, with which the United Kingdom disagrees, of a new Resolution; in any case Russia and China are likely to oppose anything that authorises regime change. Nevertheless, the evidence is increasingly clear that, even before they obtained the existing mandate, Washington, London, and Paris wanted only to remove Mr. Qadhafi. The U.S. has since approached various African Union member states about giving asylum to Mr. Qadhafi provided he leaves office. Secondly, at a recent coalition conference, Qatar and Italy pressed for arms supplies to the rebels. The most damaging evidence, however, is that the U.S. has sent an envoy to Benghazi to learn more about the rebel grouping, the Interim Transitional National Council. In effect, going through the U.N. was only a smokescreen for regime change. The Obama administration and its allies are repeating all the mistakes and miscalculations made by George W. Bush and Tony Blair over the infamous and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.





Some foreign media were of the view that the Sri Lanka (SL) Government had trapped  Ban Ki moon in relation to the UN war crime panel. They presumed, like how the SL Govt. which is very adept at manipulating International politics, it had won  over moon too via the RR Company. It was their belief that, as there existed a cordial and close relationship between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and moon, these ties may have been availed of to soft pedal anything obnoxious against the Govt. contained in the Panel report. Ban Ki moon was of course pursuing a very flexible policy towards the SL Govt. as regards the panel  appointed by him.

At the UN General assembly last year , Mahinda met Ban Ki moon and held discussions . Lalith Weeratunge, the President's Secretary referring to the discussion said, it was successful. He also told the 'Sunday Observer' newspaper that President Rajapaksa agreed to permit the panel  members to visit SL , and meet with the LLRC ( Lessons learnt reconciliation Commission) Committee . Some foreign media construed this as another of SL Govt.'s manipulative ploy to make moon  dance to its tune. But what truly had been taking place was, since the launching of the Committee , it was the SL Govt. which had been straying  into moon's  snare . Whether this trap was set by moon or by America and its Western powers is yet unknown.

When moon's special representative was in readiness to visit SL prior to the appointment of the Committee, the SL Govt. declared that no permission will be granted  to him to come to SL. But later, the SL Govt. relented and allowed Lynn Pascoe , the special representative of moon to visit SL. After his arrival in SL, he addressed a news conference in Colombo following his tour of SL's  North and East , where he stated that moon has decided to appoint the Committee. This dumbfounded the SL govt.

After moon had appointed the Committee and obtained the permission to send the Committee members to SL, he said , Mahinda Rajapaksa is flexible. The SL Govt. however, after granting permission to moon's Committee members to arrive in SL, changed its decision, and sent its representatives including Attorney General to have secret meetings with the members of moon's Committee.  It is to be noted that the Govt. itself asserted earlier that if Moons' Committee members are allowed to meet the SL Govt. representatives and hold discussions , it will be tantamount to the SL Govt. having accepted the Committee . Despite this assertion, the Govt. sent its delegation to New York to hold discussions with moon's Committee. Perhaps the Govt. must have taken this decision entertaining the view that via these discussions it might be able to turn the Committee's report in its favor ,  or even  moon might disallow the Committee to furnish an adverse report on SL.

It is now the general consensus that   the SL Govt. has tripped and fallen into the trap of Ban Ki moon. After reading the foreign media reports pertaining to Ban Ki moon's second term in office , it has become a very pertinent question , whether this trap was contrived by Ban Ki moon or America and the Western powers. Last August, the foreign media relying on a UN Organization leaked memo reported as follows:

'The memo alleged that the spineless and charmless Ban had failed to stand up in the face of massive human rights abuses in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, instead issuing irresolute appeals that fall on deaf ears, that the UN was largely absent from the world's great crises and that Ban had lost the faith and respect of both , member states and  his own staff.'

Following the appearance of this report , the foreign media  concluded that  it is unlikely that America and Western powers will endorse the second term of Ban Ki moon. But , as soon as the report on SL war crimes was handed over to moon by the panel appointed by him , the Foreign media under the caption 'Ban gains US backing for second term' reported,   " Ban Ki moon appears to have secured a commitment from the administration of US President Barak Obama  and other key Security Council members to serve . Obama had overcome some of his initial misgivings about Ban's leadership and recognized him as a reliable ally on some of its most important goals including the international effort to drive Gaddafi from power. Ban has already received preliminary shows of support from Obama and the leaders of Britain and France .A Diplomat told ,Russia and China wont oppose him. I think it is safe to say that he will keep his job".

In the circumstances, it has now become crystal clear as to who had trapped whom.





Recently the media reported that a leading prelate had made a strong plea to the main opposition United National Party (UNP) to support the government in development and other projects.

This plea raised two vital issues – the relationship between religion and politics and the working relationship between the government and the opposition.

As for the second issue Sri Lanka's political history shows that the failure of successive governments and the opposition parties to work together has resulted in national conflicts being distastrously handled. The failure of successive governments and opposition parties to consider the grievances and aspirations of the minorities in Sri Lanka and the failure to see this as a vital national issue and a human problem have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives with the material damage beyond calculation.

Sadly in the context of the bankruptcy of party politics, minority issues have been used like a football by governments and opposition parties over the years.

This happened  largely because of the failure of opposition parties to support governments and the divide and rule policy by various governments in relation to opposition parties. Critical students of political history will understand what is being said.

What then is the answer? All Sri Lankan political parties whether in the government or in the opposition need a paradigm shift, a shift from party politics for personal or party gain to sincere, sacrificial and selfless service to the people. That is the real meaning of politics – public service. But sadly today party politics is the name of the double game and deception where most members of most political parties are seeking power not to serve the people but to dominate them and to plunder the wealth and resources of the country.

With regard to the other issue, not only the majority religion but all faith communities in our land must be taken seriously by those in the government and the opposition. Those in party politics should not use religion but practise the essential teachings of all religions seriously. Therefore it is not only a matter of a plea by a religious prelate but we need to also take seriously what used to happen in the then Burma where those in party politics took time off to don the yellow robe and practised the teachings of the Buddha. We wonder if similar moves could be considered to make the state-religion relationship and therefore the government-opposition relationship what they should be. All party politicians and faith communities in our land, need to take note of this.







"Dear Mary," wrote Italian justice activist Vittorio Arrigoni to a friend. "Do you (know who) will be on the boats?... I'm still in Gaza, waiting for you. I will be at the boat to greet you. Stay human. Vik."

"Mary" is Mary Hughes Thompson, a dedicated activist who braved the high seas to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in 2008.

Vittorio Arrigoni, or Vik, was reportedly murdered by a fundamentalist group in Gaza a few hours after he was kidnapped on Thursday, April 14. The killing was supposedly in retaliation for Hamas' crackdown on this group's members. All who knew Vik will attest to the fact that he was an extraordinary person, a model of compassion, solidarity and humanity.

Arrigoni's body was discovered in an abandoned house hours after he was kidnapped. His murderers didn't honor their own deadline of 30 hours. The group, known as the Tawhid and Jihad, is one of the fringe groups known in Gaza as the Salafis. They resurface under different names and manifestations, for specific -- and often bloody -- purposes.

"The killing prompted grief in Gaza, but also despair," read an op-ed in the UK Independent on April 16. "Not only was Arrigoni well known and well liked there, but it escaped no one that this kidnapping was the first since that of the BBC journalist Alan Johnson in 2007."

However, Johnson's kidnappers, the so-called Army of Islam (a small group of fanatics affiliated with a large Gaza clan) held their hostage for 114 days. There was plenty of time to organize and pressure the criminals to release him. In Arrigoni's case, merely a few hours stood between the release of a horrifying video showing a blindfolded and bruised activist and the finding of his motionless body. The forensic report said that he was strangled. His friends said that he was tortured.

Vittorio Arrigoni's murder was an opportunity for Israel's supporters. Daniel Pipes wrote, in a brief entry in the National Review Online: "Note the pattern of Palestinians who murder the groupies and apologists who join them to aid in their dream of eliminating Israel." Pipes named three individuals, including the Palestinian-Israeli filmmaker, Juliano Mer-Khamis, and Arrigoni himself, and then proceeded to invite readers to "send in further examples that I may have missed".

Pipes' list, however, will have no space for such names as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller, for these individuals were all murdered by Israeli forces. Pipes will also fail to mention the nine Turkish activists murdered aboard the Mavi Marmara ship on its way to break the siege on Gaza in May 2010, and the nine activists abroad Irene (the Jewish Boat to Gaza) who were intercepted, kidnapped and humiliated by Israeli troops before being deported outside the country in September 2010. The 82-year-old Reuben Moscowitz, a Holocaust survivor, was one of the activists aboard the Irene, as was Lillian Rosengarten, an American "who fled the Nazis as a child in Frankfurt," according to a New York Times blog.

The people Pipes failed to mention truly represent a rainbow of humanity. Men and women of all ages, races and nationalities have stood and will continue to stand on the side of the Palestinians. But this story has selectively ignored pseudo-intellectuals intent on dismissing humanity to uphold Israel. They refuse to see the patterns in front of them, as they are too busy concocting their own.

Writing in the UK Guardian from Rome, on April 15, John Hooper said, "Arrigoni's life was anything but safe. In September 2008 he was injured (by Israeli troops) accompanying Palestinian fishermen at sea. Two years ago he received a death threat from a U.S. far-right website that provided any would-be killers with a photo and details of distinguishing physical traits, such as a tattoo on his shoulder."

The group that murdered Arrigoni, like others of its kind, existed for one specific, violent episode before disappearing altogether. The mission in this case was to kill an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) activist who dedicated years of his life to Palestine. Shortly before he was kidnapped, he wrote in this website of the "criminal" Israeli siege on Gaza. He also mourned the four impoverished Palestinians who died in a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt boarder while hauling food and other goods.

Before his murder, Arrigoni was anticipating the arrival of another flotilla -- carrying activists from 25 countries boarding 15 ships -- that is scheduled to sail to Gaza in May. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly called on European Union countries to prevent their nationals from jointing the boats. "I think it's in your and our common interest… that this flotilla must be stopped," he told European representatives in Jerusalem, according to an AFP report on April 11.

Israeli officials are angry at the internationals who are "de-legitimizing" the state of Israel by standing in solidarity with the Palestinians. Arrigoni has done so much to harm the carefully fabricated image of Israel as an island of democracy and progress. Along with other activists, he has shattered this myth through simple means of communication.

Vik signed his messages with "Stay human". His book, detailing his experiences in Gaza, was entitled Restiamo Umani (Let Us Remain Human). Mary Hughes Thompson shared with me some the emails Arrigoni sent her. "I can hardly bear to read them again," she wrote. This is an extract from one of them:

"No matter how (we) will finish the mission… it will be a victory. For human rights, for freedom. If the siege will not (be) physically broken, it will break the siege of the indifference, the abandonment. And you know very well what this gesture is important for the people of Gaza. That said, obviously we are waiting at the port! With hundreds of Palestinians and ISM comrades we will come to meet you sailing, as was the first time, remember? All available boats will sail to Gaza to greet you. Sorry for my bad English… big hug… Stay Human. Yours, Vik"

Vik's killers failed to see his humanity. But many of us will always remember, and we will continue trying to "stay human".

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of

Photo: A Jordanian woman lights candles during a protest against the killing of Pro-Palestinian Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni on April 18, 2011. (Reuters photo)






On April 13, reports BBC News, "an international summit on Libya began in Qatar, with delegates being told there is a 'race against time' to help Libyan civilians." Comprising representatives from, among others, the United Nations, the European Union, and NATO, the summit promises to devise a plan for progress toward "peace-building" and "a democratic Libya."

Though we are apparently meant to believe that the interests of the new "contact group" on Libya are limited to preventing further bloodshed, there are good reasons to believe other considerations underlie its meddlesome plans. Under the mantra of allowing Libyans to "develop their resources" and at last depart from the "internationally isolated" policies of the Gaddafi era, imperialism takes on a quality of sensibleness.

It is, after all, difficult to oppose political and military intrusion when it comes couched in the language of justice, progress and genuine self-rule for the people of Libya. And for opportunistic Western powers -- under the de facto leadership of the United States -- Libya represents one great pie, the pieces of which are to be allotted according to the rules of faux "free trade."

One can be sure that, whenever world "leaders" convene to negotiate "solutions" to the problems facing ordinary, working people, the outcome will mean the imposition of faceless hierarchies designed to serve ruling class interests. When disturbances in places like Libya become a global focal point, the aim is to bring those places into alignment with the international order of state capitalism, as established by organizations like the World Bank.

In the same way that domestic welfare organizations -- though appearing charitable -- are actually meant to mitigate the damages of state capitalism, governments' "investments" in places like Libya are anything but altruistic. "Humanitarian intervention" is nothing but a calculated effort to lay the groundwork for legalized plunder.

So when, as the BBC story notes, "French and British foreign ministers say NATO should be doing more in Libya," "peace-building" for the people of the country ends up looking like a thin veil for a new colonialism. Though there may not be an East India Company today, the corporate giants of neoliberal "free enterprise" are no less endowed with the functional equivalent of a Royal Charter. The world's governing classes, constantly in search of new outlets for state capitalist investment, have seized on Libya because it serves their interests, not out of solidarity with rebels.

As the ideological successor of the League of Nations, founded on the idea, in the description of Ludwig von Mises, that some populations are "not qualified for independence," the United Nations is designed to make empire palatable. In light of the their history where self-determination is concerned, the interest of international bodies like the UN in the "establishment of a temporary financial mechanism" must be regarded with some skepticism. The flow of cash in Libya will likely turn out to do much for giving Big Business a foothold in the country and little for opposition autonomy in the new Libya.

The "aggressive origin and nature of the state," advises Mark R. Crovelli, "ought to play a critical role in our moral evaluation of state humanitarian interventions." Certainly some states are less overtly tyrannous than others, but we have no reason to believe that the crime syndicate known as the Libya "contact group" is excepted from all of the motivations that drive every state, every group of elites wielding political power.

As long as coercion rather than genuine, free market competition provides the means to wealth, the incentives for empire -- for "humanitarian intervention" -- will shape the world according to the wishes of dominant state actors. By resolving to make free exchange and cooperation the standard for human interaction, individuals can deracinate the state and with it its pursuit of new colonies. Libyans should see the writing on the wall, running from the "help" of the international community as fast as they can.

C4SS News Analyst David D'Amato is a market anarchist lawyer currently completing an LL.M. in commercial law at Suffolk University Law School. His aversion to superstition and all permutations of political authority manifests itself at




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