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Monday, May 9, 2011

EDITORIAL 09.05.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month may 09, edition 000827, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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






































































Just days after the US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has demanded a "full disclosure of the accurate facts" of the mission, giving rise to this absurd idea that somehow by killing the world's most wanted terrorist, America has violated international law. So what if he masterminded the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 innocent civilians? So what if he preached an ideology of hate and violence that claimed the lives of thousands across the world? That seems to be the tone of Ms Pillay who, in the past, has been equally sanctimonious while judging state action against terrorists, most notably in the case of Israel. Apparently action against wanted mass murderers holed up in hideouts from where they continue to direct crimes against humanity "has to be in compliance with international law," according to Ms Pillay whose sanctimonious self-righteousness would warm the cockles of the hearts of killers around the world. The busybodies of the UN who mock at the misery, anguish and pain of the victims of terror argue that terrorists, even the most vile and blood thirsty among them, are human too and hence are entitled to human rights. Never mind that those whom Ms Pillay and her team plead for with such fervent sincerity are guilt of willfully, deliberately and repeatedly violating, in the most hideous manner, the most basic human rights of innocent civilians. They argue with equal passion that while terrorists may kill as many people as they want to, Governments, which are charged with the responsibility of protecting their citizens, cannot hit back, not too hard at least. Play nice. Be good. Be sensitive towards the feelings of criminals like Osama bin Laden.

Such assertions of bogus morality deserve to be treated with undiluted, undisguised contempt. The time has come for the UN's member-states, which have to bear the burden of keeping the organisation's human rights brigade in comfort, demand introspection and appropriate revision of dated definitions of 'peace', 'war' and 'justice'. What the world needs is good, old-fashioned common sense, not politically correct bunkum aimed at weakening the resolve of states while strengthening that of monsters. If the "use of deadly force may against terrorists in certain exceptional cases is permissible," as UN officials put it, then the killing of Osama bin Laden is entirely justified. Let is be said, and said forthright, that fighting terrorism is not about the niceties of morals and scruples or about ensuring that international law, whatever that may be, is upheld. A decrepit organisation long past its use-by date cannot, indeed must not, be allowed to set the terms of engagement while dealing with terrorists and their patrons.







With every new revelation, the Hasan Ali money-laundering case is becoming more and more of an embarrassment for the ruling UPA which had initially sought to brush the issue under the carpet. Remember how the Government had claimed ignorance of his whereabouts, but when the Supreme Court cracked the whip, the authorities suddenly located him. When Hasan Ali was at large, the Government was reluctant to treat the matter too seriously, maintaining that he was at best involved in tax evasion, albeit of a huge proportion. For such dubious cover-ups the Government received an earful from the apex court, which said that the case involved more than mere tax fraud. It was a subject of money-laundering as well, with all the attendant consequences. It was only after the authorities probing the issue realised the mood of the court that they became serious about their job. On one occasion, they admitted that the laundered money could have found its way to terrorist organisations or shady international arms dealers. The Enforcement Directorate, now so active that it has suspended an officer for shoddy investigation, has revealed that Ali handled black money for a number of clients. The fact that the Pune-based stud farm owner's name is being linked to dubious people, including international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, should be cause enough for the Government to understand the gravity of the situation. But if it continues to prevaricate in court it is perhaps because the UPA, more so the Congress, is worried over the possibility of Ali spilling the beans. Already there are rumours that he has been patronised by senior Congress leaders. Seen against this backdrop, it is obvious what the fate of the Hasan Ali case would have been had the Supreme Court not stepped in and virtually taken over the investigations.

But it's not just this one case that we should be concerned about. The larger issue of black money stashed in secret foreign bank accounts by various people and used for dangerous purposes, sometimes against the very country from where the money has emanated, should give us sleepless nights. One of the best ways to fight the menace is to track the illegal funds and seize them. True, this is easier said than done, since the money is parked in tax havens that have strong privacy laws which make it extremely difficult to secure information about such accounts. Even so, had there been adequate political will, the task would not have proved difficult. After all, it is not just powerful countries like the US which have succeeded in securing information from banking institutions about black money parked with them by their citizens, even smaller countries like the Philippines and Yemen have managed to get accounts containing illicit funds of their citizens frozen. That happened because these countries approached the banks in tax havens with evidence that the funds parked with them were proceeds from tax fraud or other criminal deeds. Tragically, unlike them, India has so far largely failed because it has merely forwarded the argument of tax evasion, which tax havens consider at best a minor misdemeanour. It's scandalous that an estimated $462 billion in illicit assets have gone out of the country and the Government continues to twiddle its thumbs!









Through its determined pursuit of Osama bin Laden and killing him after locating his hideout, America has sent out a strong message.

It would be wise for the world to take the American success in tracking down and neutralising the elusive amir of Al Qaeda and chief ideologue of global jihadi terrorism Osama bin Laden as only the end of one chapter and not that of the story itself. Providing the US's perspective of the event, President Barack Obama has said that America is not opposed to Islam but is determined to uproot terror by its roots.

So, the relentless decade-old search for locating Osama bin Laden and finally killing him is not sweet revenge for the Americans who saw their most proud symbol of post-War capitalism, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, collapse on September 9, 2001. The relentless search for Osama bin Laden by the Americans was an assertion that as a nation they would not capitulate before jihadis.

The jihad inspired by Osama bin Laden, however, continues to pose a threat to all liberal, democratic and secular values and societies in the world. The ideology propagated by the slain Al Qaeda chief will survive his death and his followers will justify their crimes by claiming religious sanction. For them, the world will continue to remain divided between 'believers' and 'non-believers'.

The various statements by mullahs and Islamists hailing Osama bin Laden as a "martyr" soon after he was killed inside a safe house at Abbottabad in Pakistan bear testimony to the fact that Al Qaeda's ideology of hate has spread far and wide. Curiously, many of those leaders of Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, who have supported the killing of Osama bin Laden are loath to allow full rights and freedom of religion to non-Muslims on their soil.

Much of the Islamist violence we are witnessing today can be traced back to the decade of the 1980s when jihad was used as an instrument to mobilise Afghans against the Soviet invasion of their country. The US, which is now so committed to bringing terrorists to book, had overlooked the terror potential of jihad when Pakistan set the jihadis on India, particularly Jammu & Kashmir, after the Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan.

America woke up to the danger posed by these jihadi forces only after Osama Bin Laden and his followers turned against the US with the first bombing of the World Trade Center (which failed to cause much damage), the bombing of the American Embassy in Kenya, the attack on USS Cole and then the multiple attacks on high profile targets on September 9, 2001. By then alarm bells were ringing in Washington, DC.

Despite the US having committed the original sin of promoting jihad to force the USSR into pulling out its troops from Afghanistan, we cannot but admire the determined manner in which it persisted with its efforts to track down the elusive Al Qaeda chief after 9/11. Revelations since the killing of Osama bin Laden show how the US Administration painstakingly, and patiently, worked on clues and finally zeroed in on the most wanted terrorist who was found hiding in a house at Abbottabad, 65 km from Islamabad.

For us in this country, this event is even more educative. We should learn from the Americans the virtue of relentless pursuit of an objective. The US has remained unwavering in waging war on jihadis despite its ties with Pakistan. It took five years to locate and arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds behind 9/11. Next on the list was his successor as Al Qaeda's chief planner.

Step by step the US inched closer to Osama Bin Laden's hideout. Once the CIA had located it, Mr Obama had no hesitation to sanction the raid, which resulted in Osama bin Laden getting killed. The US Administration, while taking this step, remained unmindful of the consequences it could have on Washington's relationship with Islamabad.

Since 9/11 jihadi terrorist organisations have not succeeded in attacking any part of mainland America. Not that they did not try to replicate 9/11. They attempted to blow up trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft using suicide bombers and explosives hidden in computer printer cartridges. They also got one of their operatives to leave an explosive-packed car at Times Square in New York. But none of these attempts succeeded because the homeland security system in the US functions on the basis of a zero tolerance policy.

The same is true for European countries where Governments have stepped up their internal security measures. Individuals suspected of being potential jihadis have been taken off flights; clerics preaching jihad have been deported; and entire groups of immigrants have been detained by the police in the US, the UK, Spain, France and Germany.

Compare those measures with India's record in fighting terrorism. Islamist groups have grown both in numbers and in their influence. They have set up bases in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala and have been recruiting young men. Radical Islamists in Kerala have been holding training camps and seeking to impose sharia'h through violent means, exemplified by a professor's right hand being chopped of after he was accused of 'blasphemy'.

There's a particular mindset that encourages such activity. People who endorse the activities of these groups also support the degrading treatment meted out to many women in the name of faith. Those who are critical of the orthodoxy are openly attacked. Children are denied the right to secular education. All this happens in the name of minority rights.

Recently Aligarh Muslim University was closed sine die following armed clashes in the campus. This institution has a long record of disruptive activities. Yet it has been allowed, and funded, by the UPA regime to open campuses in Kerala and West Bengal. Investigations into Hasan Ali's affairs could reveal a can of worms with evidence showing how Indian money has been used to finance terrorist groups operating in our country.

A question that is being asked following the raid by American Navy SEALs on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad and his slaying during 'Operation Geronimo' which was carried out by the US Administration without even bothering to inform the Pakistani authorities is whether the Government of India too can now be expected to take decisive action against cross-border terrorist groups, individuals and camps. The answer to that question lies in the approach of the current Government towards terror-related issues and its attitude towards Pakistan which has once again been found harbouring wanted terrorists — in fact, the world's most wanted terrorist.

We could also look for an answer in the manner in which the UPA regime has kept pending the judgement of the highest court of the country which has sentenced Afzal Guru, held guilty of being involved with the terrorist attack on Parliament House, to death. The Government of India's words and deeds serve to send out a message that is vastly different from the message that America has sent out, loud and clear, by unilaterally, unhesitatingly putting down the world's leading ideologue and perpetrator of jihadi terror last Sunday.






Following the raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout at Abbottabad in Pakistan, the Government, the military and the ISI have been left red-faced and fumbling for an explanation. Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a laughable statement that tells nothing. It's time some questions were asked for the Government to answer

The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Press release PR. NO.152/2011 (Date: 03/05/2011) would be a laugh if this matter were not so serious. But since MoFA has come up with this joke at the behest of the military, and it is no time to mince words, I shall direct my questions to that institution.

Firstly, I want to construct a high-wall compound right next to the Pakistan Military Academy, one with barbed wire on top. Next, when someone comes asking who I am because PMA is a high-security area, I am going to flash the MoFA logic in his face and say this is in line with my "culture of privacy and security", thank you.

This is nonsense at its most nonsensical, especially because in an earlier paragraph we are told that "As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009". Really? If that is true then what stopped the ISI from a "friendly" visit to the compound to find out who might be living there?

Ah! No. I got that wrong because we are also told that "It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Laden". For some reason, in this particular case, we fell short of the superior assets required for the job. And look at the ungrateful Yanks. They are officially asking us to explain the compound even as they acted all along on our leads.

Not just that. When they did act, they didn't even bother to inform us — "The Government of Pakistan categorically denies the media reports suggesting that its leadership, civil as well as military, had any prior knowledge of the US operation against Osama bin Laden carried out in the early hours of May 2, 2011."

That's just great! First the ISI didn't have the capacity to operate on its own leads and bust Mr Osama bin Laden, and then the Pakistani military, Army and air force, didn't have any knowledge of the incursion by a small attacking force.

I have, at this point, to choose between branding the military supremely incompetent or monumentally stupid. And what if it turns out that it is both? Consider a scenario.

Going by the official US account, two helicopters, most probably MH60s Blackhawks enter Pakistani airspace flying from Jalalabad. They fly low and slow and do not follow a linear trajectory to avoid radar detection. The MoFA statement tells us that "US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain. US helicopters' undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the mountainous terrain, efficacious use of latest technology and 'nap of the earth' flying techniques". [NB: this paragraph is a giveaway on who might have vetted this Press release.]

Using a combination of latest technology, blind spots, 'nap of the earth' techniques, the helicopters enter Pakistani airspace and remain undetected by Peshawar Airbase, Risalpur, Ghazi, and Chaklala. I wish I knew if Thandiani still operates, though there is no reason why it shouldn't.

What this means is, the machines, even with drop tanks, were guzzling fuel because for 'nap of the earth' flying and a non-linear trajectory, they would also need to lessen engine sound and could not go full throttle. That and low flying means they were consuming much more fuel. Once on the target, they would need to keep rotors running even if they landed. Chances are one might have landed while the other hovered. Forty minutes there and they head back to home base.

Two questions here. One, given the combat radii of both machines, the distance they had to cover, and the fuel they had to consume, they would have needed a forward refuelling facility. If we provided that facility, why are we saying we just didn't know who came in and went? Of course, if we were a part of it, as we should have been if the ISI was providing ground intelligence on the compound, why are we feigning ignorance?

Second question: Let's say we couldn't detect the incursion because the helis, as one report goes, were advanced stealth machines. That, in fact, is a very strong possibility. Still, what excuse do we have for not picking up the activity after a foreign force had operated for 40 minutes in a town which has PMA, AMC Regimental Centre, Piffer Regimental Centre, Baloch Regimental Centre, and well, not much but, the Army School of Music?

Let's assume none of these facilities has even local defence capability of which the MoFA Press release makes such song and dance. The lone helicopter then flew back to home base. If it went back to Jalalabad, it still needed at least an hour given low cruise speed. Do we not have the capability to scramble jets in all this time to force-land a helicopter? The MoFA statement says "On receipt of information regarding the incident, PAF scrambled its jets within minutes". I am talking a minimum of 60 minutes which is many minutes more than "within minutes". Or maybe when the statement says "on receipt of information" it means the call from the White House which is supposed to have extracted "congratulations" from us.

In which case, may I say that there was no reason for the "alacrity" shown by PAF because the bird had already escaped?

There are only two reasons we didn't react. One, we were in on it but for other reasons were warned to keep our mouths shut or else; two, we didn't intercept the helicopter going back because by then we had known what the force had done and had no space left for interdicting the Americans.

Either way, the Army-ISI combine has to give answers about what happened and why. We must also agitate for candid discussion of policies that have made us a laughing stock of the world. This country and its honour belongs as much to us as to the khakis.

-- The writer is Contributing Editor, The Friday Times. Courtesy: Pakistan Today.







While he was alive, many radical Islamists saw Osama bin Laden as a rival. In death, they are united in proclaiming him a 'martyr' to the cause of Islam and painting America as the villain of the piece. Has the US erred in putting him down?

As so often happens, a peripheral issue has taken over the Western debate regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. Whether or not the US Government releases a photo of the body isn't so important. If Osama bin Laden isn't dead let him prove it by sending a video to Al Jazeera. The issue is whether or not killing him was a good thing.

As for photos, those who believe that bin Laden isn't dead won't be convinced by photos. Ironically, many of them will simultaneously say that the US didn't kill Osama bin Laden but the fact that the US killed Osama bin Laden is a crime for which revenge should be taken.

We should have learned this from September 11, since many say that Al Qaeda wasn't responsible and it was done by the US Government and Israel while, at the same time, saying that it was an operation that made Muslims and Arabs feel proud and America deserved it.

Today — and for some years now — people in West Asia haven't hated America because of its policies so much as defining whatever it does as hateful because America is already an enemy. If you don't want revolutionary Islamists to take over countries, repress all freedom, suppress women, wipe Israel off the map, and expel all Western influence from the region then you are their enemy. You can be a weak, contemptible enemy or a strong bullying enemy but that's about the extent of your choice.

The reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden takes place in this context. Those Islamists and radical nationalists who saw Osama bin Laden as a rival in life are finding him a useful martyr in death. Again, the issue is not whether Osama bin Laden is dead but whether the US was bad in killing him.

So far Hamas, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the highest Muslim cleric in Egypt, and Western favourite phony moderate Mr Tariq Ramadan have all basically endorsed Osama bin Laden as a great guy, a real martyr, and the victim of an evil US.

The Al-Aqsa Brigades of Fatah also apparently said so though it quickly withdrew the statement when it made the public relations' — conscious Palestinian Authority leadership uncomfortable. Yet the idea that this is just another American atrocity — one more reason to hate the US — is a powerful force among Palestinians and also in public opinion in Egypt and Jordan.

And so the killing of Osama bin Laden will enter the long list of US policies for which America is disliked by many Muslims and Arabs in particular. There is a lesson here: Whatever the US does will be criticised because America as a great power, a civilisation, a set of policies, and a presence internationally is hated by many, especially by revolutionary Islamists.

Consider the very 'moderate' and sophisticated Mr Ramadan, or perhaps I should say Prof Ramadan since he's currently at Oxford University and Notre Dame wants to hire him. That's pretty good for the grandson of a Nazi collaborator and the son of an agent working for a Nazi collaborator (Amin al-Husaini, the mufti of Jerusalem).

Not only did Ramadan criticise the killing of Osama bin Laden but also called the burial at sea "against all the Islamic rituals". Well, was Osama bin Laden behind the September 11 attacks, Mr Ramadan replies: "We don't know. Nobody knows-even the Americans." So much for moderation.

The killing poses a complex issue for Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah. Iran is harbouring scores of Al Qaeda leaders but the Tehran Government — and also Hizbullah — are Shia Muslims, a group that Osama bin Laden despised. So no tears will be shed though perhaps some anti-Americanism can be stirred up in the Sunni Arab world by Iran.

Syria worked closely with Al Qaeda in Iraqi terrorism but Damascus has also blamed Al Qaeda for internal attacks (ranging from possible regime hoaxes to democratic demonstrations) and so it isn't well placed to cheer Osama bin Laden now.

Regarding Pakistan, it has been an open secret — even published in the mass media — that the Pakistani Government has sponsored terrorism and collaborated with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Yet the US Government continued to pour money into the country.

Consider the murderous attack on Mumbai that took hundreds of hostages and killed so many people in cold blood. The group that conducted it operates from Pakistan with the knowledge of the authorities there. That Government refused to cooperate with investigation or to extradite terrorists. We're now supposed to be surprised that Osama bin Laden was sheltering there?


In an official Press release, the Pakistani Army simultaneously claims credit for killing Osama bin Laden and criticises the US for doing so. An official statement from the chief of staff of Pakistan's Army states: "(We have) made it very clear that any similar action, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan, will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the US.

"The Corps Commanders were informed about the decision to reduce the strength of US military personnel in Pakistan to the minimum essential.

"As regards the possibility of similar hostile action against our strategic assets, the Forum reaffirmed that, unlike an undefended civilian compound, our strategic assets are well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place."

So the US killing of Osama bin Laden is a cowardly attack on "an undefended civilian compound;" if the US tries something like that again the Pakistani Army will fight America; and the Americans are to be punished by expelling some of their personnel.

That's quite a highly subsidised ally you have there! Speaking of allies, a lot of the European media coverage revolved around whether the US Government broke international law by killing Osama bin Laden.


And, once again, let me point out that Al Qaeda is a terrorist threat but not a strategic threat. The real problem is with revolutionary Islamists: Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, and the Muslim Brotherhood. If US policy goes soft on these groups — even helping them at times — terrorism, anti-Americanism, and instability are going to get worse.


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






Iran's political tremors are leaving debris in all directions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the nation's intelligence chief remain in a cold war. A wave of reported detentions has included a prayer leader who angered clerics with a film about Judgment Day.

An influential Friday prayer leader lectured Mr Ahmadinejad about the huge risks of defying Iran's supreme leader, and websites claim that the President has an ultimatum to either fall in line or step down.

All the upheaval was ostensibly triggered by last month's boomerang over the powerful Intelligence Minister, Heidar Moslehi. Mr Ahmadinejad wanted him gone, yet supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered him to stay in a public slap to the President.

But to better understand the current clash between Mr Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei, a visit back to their first major collision in 2009 is needed.

That battle — as this one — has a political lightening rod named Mr Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as a central figure.

In July 2009, just weeks after Mr Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, he picked his close confidant Mr Mashaei as the most senior of his many Vice-Presidents. Iran's hard-liners were so stunned that it even diverted their attention from the riots on Tehran's streets.

Mr Mashaei is reviled by archconservatives for statements including his homage to Iran's pre-Islamic values and suggesting that Iran may despise Israel's Government but can be friends with its people. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the pinnacle of Iran's ruling theocracy, quickly stepped in and Mr Mashaei was gone within the week in a stinging embarrassment to Mr Ahmadinejad.

But Mr Ahmadinejad regrouped and gave the post of chief of staff to Mr Mashaei, whose daughter is married to Mr Ahmadinejad's son.

Mr Ahmadinejad apparently has been testing the ground for Mr Mashaei to run as his successor in 2013. But any such plan needs control of the Intelligence Ministry, whose files can potentially sink any political ambitions with facts or innuendo.

Now Mr Ahmadinejad is stuck with an Intelligence Minister he rejects and tied to political ally Mr Mashaei who is apparently being pushed into political exile on the wishes of the supreme leader.

Hard-liners sharply oppose Mr Mashaei and consider him the head of a "deviant current" that seeks to shape politics after Mr Ahmadinejad's term expires in two years. Among the alarm bells for the ruling system is the belief that Mr Mashaei seeks to undermine Islamic values and supports expanding powers of elected officials at the expense of the theocracy. Hard-liners also sense a risk that Mr Mashaei could favor mending ties with Washington.

A powerful conservative cleric, Mr Ahmad Khatami, scolded Mr Ahmadinejad for sitting next to the 'marginal' Mr Mashaei at the last Cabinet meeting after the Intelligence Minister reportedly walked out on the President's arrival.

"The President, who came to office with the support of supreme leader loyalists... was expected to obey him (Khamenei). Unfortunately, it was not done," Mr Khatami said in comments posted on various websites Friday.

He also suggested that Mr Ahmadinejad could be left with a toothless and stagnant presidency if he continues to challenge Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader whose most loyal supporters believe is only answerable to god.

At Tehran University, another hard-line cleric, Mr Kazem Sedighi, added another thinly veiled warning to Mr Ahmadinejad.

"The supreme leader is above the constitution... his powers are absolute," he told worshippers in a sermon broadcast around the nation on state radio — prompting chants from the crowd of "death to opponents of the supreme leader".

Last Sunday, Mr Ahmadinejad signaled he had backed down by attending his first Cabinet meeting after an apparent ten day boycott and acknowledging he was "ready to die" to defend Ayatollah Khamenei.

But still Mr Ahmadinejad has not been seen recently with Mr Moslehi. The Intelligence Chief didn't show up at last Sunday's Cabinet session and he left Wednesday when the President arrived to chair the meeting.

Independent news website said Mr Ahmadinejad forced Mr Moslehi to leave the Cabinet meeting, although a pro-Government website said it was a matter of delay on the part of the President and early exit by Mr Moslehi.

Morteza Agha Tehrani, a hardline lawmaker close to Mr Ahmadinejad, is even quoted by news websites as saying that Ayatollah Khamenei has told the President he must either resign or recognise Mr Moslehi as the Intelligence Chief. The Government has not reacted to the report and websites have quoted Mr Ahmadinejad as saying he is contemplating his options.

Mr Ahmadinejad was conspicuously absent in all photos released by Ayatollah Khamenei's office from a prominent religious ceremony hosted by the top cleric this week. One of the photos shows Mr Moslehi sitting next to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Hard-line authorities, meanwhile, have arrested up to 25 people loyal to Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr Mashaei in recent days and blocked half-a-dozen websites allied to them.

Among those arrested are cleric Abbas Amirifar, prayer leader of the presidential palace, and Parivash Sotuti, widow of former liberal-minded Foreign Minister Hossein Fatemi. Hossein Nowbakhti, a close Mashaei ally, is now on the run, according to Iranian news websites.

Amirifar caused outrage after he recently predicted in an interview that Mr Mashaei will be Iran's next President. But his detention is over his alleged role in producing the controversial film "Reappearance is very near" that depicts Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr Ahmadinejad as two close companions of Mahdi, a revered 9th century saint known as the Hidden Imam. Shiite Muslims believe Mahdi will reappear before Judgment Day to end tyranny and promote justice in the world.

The film — DVDs of it were distributed in millions throughout Iran — has been condemned by senior clerics in Qom, the country's seat of Shiite scholarship, who say no one can claim when Mahdi will reappear.

In a video posted on several Iranian news websites this week, Mr Mashaei calls himself a "soldier of the supreme leader" but vows to stand his ground.

-- The writer is the AP's senior correspondent in Tehran.











The Air India pilots' strike is over. Reinstated pilots are happy. Their derecognised union, promised re-recognition, is happy. And the Centre's happy the Maharaja's been reactivated. Not too happy are passengers: flight cancellations had them grounded or pay through their noses to rework travel plans. The 10-day agitation meant an estimated Rs 200 crore revenue loss, adding to the Rs 13,300 crore losses AI's incurred since 2007. So, taxpayers won't be happy either. They're the ones paying as the government staggers from crisis to crisis with a national carrier in perennial need of public-funded bailouts.

As things stand, all the strikers have got are promises of demands being "looked into", including the pay parity issue. On its part, having initially taken the hard line, the government comes away looking soft, unable to treat the debt-strapped carrier's real malaise. Mismanaged, overstaffed, AI's made bungling use of existing resources and government dole while taking questionable decisions on acquiring assets it could scarcely afford. Numbers from an AI internal report tell the story: with a total daily expense of Rs 62 crore, AI faces a staggering daily deficit of Rs 57.5 crore. Deducting repayments from average daily earnings of Rs 22 crore from domestic operations, it's left with a paltry Rs 4.5 crore for everyday operational expenses!

Yet the issue of AI's privatisation has been skirted. True, AI serves a social purpose running routes private companies would think commercially unviable. The solution is to have dedicated state-run services to remote, backward areas on a smaller, cost-effective scale. Equally, private players can be incentivised to run such flights, say, under the ambit of corporate social responsibility. Any argument that public sector behemoths like AI are "family silver" to be kept within the family is specious. Mismanagement, morally hazardous lack of financial accountability and the resultant scope for patronage politics and corruption are turning silver to scrap.

A mammoth, money-draining public sector defies logic in post-reforms India. Besides being playgrounds for politicians and bureaucrats, eyesores like state-run airlines and hotels score low on quality and profitability. Consider also the strangle-held coal sector's poor productivity, increasing import-dependence and hampering key sectors like power. If anything, evolution of aviation and telecom shows how crucial private enterprise is. As government monopolies, both kept services out of bounds for millions. Opened up, telecom saw phone subscribers rise from five million in early-1991 to 723 million by late-2010. And, courtesy private airlines, people across social strata access greater choice, competitive pricing and customer-friendly service. Health, education and infrastructure are the areas government should focus on. Concerning business, could it please play facilitator rather than show stopper?







Osama bin Laden's killing is - or should be - an inflection point in the global struggle against violent extremism propagated by al-Qaida and its ilk. What it mustn't be allowed to provoke is a slanging match between Pakistan and India. Last week, Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir warned of catastrophic consequences if any country - read India - were to try to carry out a US-style operation. New Delhi's done well not to respond. For, attention should lie elsewhere. Abbottabad indicates that at least a segment of Pakistan's military-ISI combine has been supporting extremists. It's this that Islamabad, the media and the people of that country must dwell on. Abbottabad might be an embarrassment, but it's also an opportunity for course correction. Instead, assumed Indian aggression and its corollary of Pakistani 'victimisation' are becoming talking points. This risks shifting focus from what the world should really be concerned with: the shelter terrorists have found in Pakistan.

Nationalistic chest-thumping in certain quarters in India hasn't helped matters. And, though made in response to a query, army chief General V K Singh's statement that Indian forces can carry out Abbottabad-type operations was avoidable. Whether or not India can claim to approach the US's military and diplomatic clout to emulate it isn't the point. An India-Pakistan dialogue process is on. Continuing to engage
Islamabad is the way forward for us, even as Abbottabad is leveraged to both persuade Pakistan behind the scenes to clean house as well as to support it in any efforts to do so. Rejoicing at its predicament and trying to put the boot in will merely give sections in the Pakistani establishment a chance to obfuscate the larger issue by dragging it down to the level of a petty brawl.









Corruption in India has attracted much commentary. Given the large number of members in Parliament and state legislative assemblies facing criminal charges, Bimal Jalan has proposed that candidates with pending criminal cases be subject to fast-tracking of such cases once they are elected. Jagdish Bhagwati has suggested opening up legal sources of campaign finance to curb the current reliance on illegal sources.

More recently, Kaushik Basu, the chief economic adviser in the ministry of finance, has proposed that bribe givers in a particular class of bribery cases be given immunity from prosecution to encourage more "whistleblowing". Given that the proposal has come under fire mostly for the wrong reasons, a more careful examination of it is required.

Economists distinguish between two types of bribes: Type 1 given to (often low-level) bureaucrats to do what they are supposed to do and Type 2 given to (usually high-level) public officials and politicians to do what they are not supposed to do. In the former case, the bribe giver is the victim with no loss to the state; in the latter case, he is a partner in crime and shares in the profits created by defrauding the state.

Thus, when a railway official extracts a payment over and above the price of a train ticket to issue the ticket, he is taking a bribe for a service legitimately due to the passenger. This is a Type 1 bribe. If, instead, the official takes a bribe and lets the passenger travel with no ticket issued, he and the passenger jointly benefit by defrauding the state. This is a Type 2 bribe. The 2G, Adarsh Society and
Commonwealth Games scandals are the more high-profile examples in this category.

The proposal by Basu would make giving (but not receiving) Type 1 bribes legal. (He calls these bribes "harassment bribes," which is a misnomer since all bribes involve harassment of the citizenry vis-a-vis a smooth-functioning corruption-free state.) The rationale behind the proposal is that such legalisation will free bribe givers from the fear of prosecution and lead them to massively report the corrupt officials to the appropriate authorities. Indeed, one can go a step further and argue that, anticipating the increased prospects of being reported, public officials might stop extracting bribes in the first place.

But this seemingly plausible argument is flawed on three counts.

First, getting service from a government office is not a one-time affair; in most cases, a citizen must repeatedly return to the same office for the service. Therefore, a potential whistleblower must consider the impact his action will have on his ability to access the same service in the future. Two factors make it likely that he will suffer on this count. One, given the slow pace with which our administrative and judicial system moves, whistleblowing will result in either no action or very slow action. Therefore, the probability that the whistleblower will find the same official behind the desk when he returns for the service is high. Two, Type 1 cases overwhelmingly involve low-level public officials who are highly organised in India. Therefore, even if a particular official is successfully suspended on charges of bribery, the successor officer, in solidarity with other members of his service, will retaliate by denying the whistleblower the service the next time the latter returns.

Second, even assuming that whistleblowing does not impair future access to the service, the potential whistleblower must take into account the cost incurred in delivering testimony to the courts. In our legal system, officials charged with bribery can themselves use Type 2 bribes in the lower courts and in any case exploit multiple appeals to delay the decision for years. This means that the whistleblower must be prepared to spend a great deal of time and personal expense to see the case through.

Add to this the non-negligible probability of the accused official sending goons to inflict violence on him and his family and the option of paying the petty bribe each time without blowing the whistle begins to look attractive. It is presumably for these reasons that a law exempting bribe givers from prosecution in the
Philippines, which has been on the books since 1975, has been rarely used.

Finally, there is even a possibility that the immunity from prosecution would increase rather than decrease the incidence of bribes. Under the current system, at least someone like me is afraid to offer a bribe for fear that the official behind the desk might turn out to be honest with embarrassing consequences. But once the proposed immunity is in place, everyone will feel free to offer the bribe rather than go an extra mile to avoid it. Indeed, those able to afford it will likely openly compete with offers of ever-higher bribes to get ahead in the queue.

What then can India do to combat Type 1 bribes? Three avenues come to mind. First, NGOs and the press may be mobilised to more vigorously blow the whistle on corrupt officials. Second, we must push for administrative and judicial reforms for better enforcement of laws against bribes. Finally, we must continue to expand the use of technology, which allows customers to access services electronically as, for example, is the case with respect to the sale of railway tickets.

The writer is a professor at Columbia University.







Mark Runacres was the UK's deputy high commissioner to India till 2006 and then took a sabbatical to deepen his Indian experience. He is now quitting the service so that he can stay on in India, is the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) India adviser and also acts as an adviser and independent director for several Indian and British companies. He spoke to Deep K Datta-Ray :

Why is the quantum of India-UK business so small?

Trade is a real weak point - too many presumptions at both ends and while British business has not put in the effort, Indian business has not caught up with modern Britain. There was an enormous surge in trade in the 1990s, after the reforms but after that everyone rather rested on their laurels and i don't think the UK saw the Indian growth story coming. Some thought India would always be the land of "potential" rather than real opportunity. That has all changed now! Investment is a strong story and in both directions, but in particular Indian investment into the UK over recent years. This sets a firm foundation for the commercial partnership going forward. The prime ministers have set a target to double trade in the next five years and that is realistic given India's growth but it will require British firms making a concerted effort, in particular at the much-discussed small and medium enterprise level.

Is the UK in a position to help India realise its ambitions to make nuclear power a major energy source?

Indeed. The UK has a very strong track record in managing the entire nuclear cycle, from construction to plant management to legacy management. You will see a lot of collaboration in this field now, all the more important following the tragedy in Japan. In fact a civil nuclear mission from the UK was here in February this year and was well-pleased with the outcome of their discussions.

Do restrictions on FDI in education and multi-brand retail stymie British investment in India?

Of course - and financial services. In many ways we have been unlucky that these areas of real British strength have been precisely the areas where reforms have slowed. It has been very heartening to see British firms in these fields sticking with their efforts to build relationships here, despite the inhibitions, and the good news is that we are now well-placed when the changes come - and it is a matter of time.

What hobbles UK business in operational terms in India? Do you feel they know enough about India?

Hobbled is a strong word - all MNCs coming into India face challenges. Historically the British have tended to feel they know more than they do while in fact it is a complex and changing environment in which to do business. But British companies nowadays recognise that they need far better information about India if they are to succeed here.

One of my jobs is to make sure that CBI members have the benefit of someone in the market who can offer not just facts and figures but advice on the strategic direction of the Indian political economy, and who has seen a lot of businesses coming in over the years.

Is retroactive legislation an issue?

In some cases - minimum wage regulation, taxation. But probably more important is the lack of a transparent and above board "public affairs" scene here - it is not always easy to feel that you have the full picture.

Why do foreigners like yourself choose to stay on in India?

There are still not many, excepting the returning NRIs. The main reason? Infinite possibilities - for business, friendship, travel - for life!






Ever wondered why so many books, movies and songs feature the word last in their titles? Last, as in final, has a dramatic touch. Which could be why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's final book on Sherlock Holmes is titled 'His Last Bow'. The book ends with the news that World War I is about to begin, and with Holmes playing on his violin for the departing Watson the tune of Robert Burns's poem-song which begins, 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot/And days of auld lang syne'. It's almost as if the stately Holmes of England is anticipating that the world will change and nothing will ever be the same again. And World War I began just 28 months after the `unsinkable' Titanic sank after striking an Atlantic icebeg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on April 15, 1912.

The disc containing the song 'The Last Waltz' by Gerry Dorsey, better known as Engelbert Humperdinck, was released in 1967 but could have been more appropriately played on the Titanic where the band kept performing in the first-class passenger-lounge and then on the boat-deck even when it was clear that the damaged ship was going to go down with most of the passengers since the lifeboats could only accommodate half of the 2,223 people on board. The bandmaster, Wallace Hartley, was playing on a violin presented to him by his fiance Maria Robinson and was accompanied by F W Clarke (bass), Jock Hume (first violinist), J W Woodward (cellist), G Krins (violinist), W T Brailey (pianist), Roger Bricoux (cellist) and P C Taylor, none of whom survived. The Titanic band began its last performance with Irving Berlin's 'Alexander's Ragtime Band' and Herman Finck's 'In the Shadows', moved on to Paul Lincke's 'The Wedding Dance Waltz' and Offenbach's 'Orpheus in the Underworld', and concluded with Sullivan's more spiritual 'Nearer, My God, To Thee' and Joyce's 'Songe d'Automne' (Autumn Song) even while the water was rising and the ship sinking. There were no Grammy Awards then for what was surely the most courageous live performance in the history of music.

Or take the Hollywood western based on Louis L'Amour's 'Last Stand at Papagos Wells'. The blurb of the book tells you how stark the situation was: 'It was the only water for miles in a vast, sun-blasted desert. Water meant survival. So Logan Cates naturally headed for Papagos Wells. Fleeing the fiery Churupati and his Apache warriors, other travellers headed there too. And when the Apaches found them, they began a siege as relentless and unyielding as the barren land - and as inescapable.' Talk of a last, life-changing experience!

'Last Stand at Papagos Wells' is pulp fiction. Which John Ruskin's book titled 'Unto This Last' is definitely not. It was first published in the form of four articles in 1860 in Cornhill Magazine, a monthly periodical. The magazine stopped publication in the face of what Ruskin called the "violent criticism" of subscribers reacting to the author's critique of the adverse impact of industrialisation on the natural world and his comments on the capitalist economists of the 18th and 19th centuries. 'Unto This Last' had a tremendous impact on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who was given a copy of the book by Henry Polak whom he first met in a vegetarian restaurant in South Africa. Inspired by the book, Gandhi started the Phoenix Settlement where everyone working on the farm was paid the same salary, irrespective of function, race or nationality, a trend-setting idea in 1904 South Africa. In 1908, Gandhi translated 'Unto This Last' into Gujarati under the title 'Sarvodaya - Well-being of All'. But, then, last doesn't just mean final. It also - as the dictionary tells us - means to remain fresh and endure. Some ideas and ideals last forever.









The balmy air of the Arab spring seems to have spread far beyond the countries in which it began and has become a game-changer even in regions beset by seemingly intractable problems. The May 4 accord between Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas could mean that a two-State solution may not be far in the offing. The agreement comes after a four-year feud between the two factions — Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah the West Bank. This coming together of Hamas, which sticks to its guns on the armed struggle against Israel, and the more moderate Fatah could spell problems but also many possibilities.

The problems lie with two issues, that of the Israel-Palestine security cooperation, which was only with Fatah, and whether donor countries will give the Palestinian interim government funds when Hamas refuses to recognise Israel. But both Fatah and Hamas have realised that the Palestinian people do not want disunity anymore and that they are in a better position to bargain for statehood on a united platform. For Fatah, this means that it regains a foothold in Gaza from where it has been kept out by Hamas for years. The Hamas has read the signals in the spring air that its ally, some say mentor, Syria is in deep trouble with its internal protests and that it can do business with a caretaker government in Egypt, which has indicated that it will loosen its grip on the Gaza border. The ousted president Hosni Mubarak had ensured that the Egypt-Gaza border was shut off causing considerable hardship to the people in the latter area.

The question that now arises is whether Hamas will influence Fatah more than the latter will influence the former. All indications suggest that Hamas has toned down, perhaps due to sheer pragmatism rather than conviction and it has seen that power is not always wrested through violence as demonstrated in Egypt and Tunisia. Israel, however, has reacted in a needlessly negative manner. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has demonstrated a closed mind in asking Fatah to chose either Israel or Hamas as its peace partner. It is not an either or situation. Mr Netanyahu has in past cited Palestinian disunity as an obstacle to peace. Now, that unity has come about, he seems to be singing another tune. He ought to confine his negotiations with Fatah and leave it to its leader Mahmoud Abbas to bring Hamas on board. Hamas' recognition of Israel will come, presumably, when a two-State solution is within sight. The opportunities that the fall-out of the Arab spring have bought must be seized now, else who knows what is in store when the season changes.




Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has a new mission — and it has nothing to do with any new contortions of his body that is sure to make some of us feel a little fatigued. Instead, the Baba of the flowing locks and saffron robe fame has decided to go on a fast, if need be unto death, from June 4, as part of the 'Bhrashtachar Mitao Satyagrah', a drive to remove corruption. Unlike Anna Hazare and his one-point agenda of the lokpal bill, Ramdev has a long list of dem-ands, as long as the scorching Indian summer. He wants the government to bring back Rs400 trillion in black money deposited in foreign banks; sign the United Nations anti-corruption convention, demonitise high-value currency denominations and that hoary old chestnut, a neutral and effective lokpal. Since timing is of the essence, the yoga master has worked out the dates perfectly: four issues, four weeks, the protest reaching its peak just ahead of the monsoon session. It's a win-win situation for his followers too: choose any of the rallying points and join the chorus. This is the beauty of this age of competition: there's a choice for everyone, even if it's a bland political fast.

While we don't doubt his good intentions, there is one question: how can a Baba fast unto death? Aren't godmen supposed to stay alive by just breathing even our polluted air? We mean, last we heard that Baba Ramdev is just not any yoga instructor, he is someone with very special powers. So all we can tell the government is that if Ramdev hits the stage and the media joins the chorus, it's going be one long haul.

Among his four choose-your-own protest offerings, the demonitising of high-value currency sounds a bit off-the-wall. Baba Ramdev says black money thrives because of these high denominations. We disagree. Corruption thrives because there are far too many unnecessary controls and a supply-demand mismatch. High denominations just makes this easier. Or may be the other way round… Ah, another chicken-and-egg situation.






When the suicide bomb exploded as worshippers left New Year's mass at a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, 21 people died and 79 were wounded. It's hard to imagine a more grim, ghastly, or tragic way to ring in a new decade.

But during Coptic Christmas later that month, Egyptian Muslims formed a human wall around the church, ensuring peaceful worship and demonstrating the utmost respect for their Christian compatriots. In an act of equal loyalty, Egyptian Christians formed a human chain around Muslims during jumma prayers in Tahrir Square during the mass demonstrations in February.

What can we make of this? Rev. Jim Wallis, a leading progressive evangelical voice in America, has a saying: "God is personal, but never private." By imagining religion only as a private affair, we ignore the important public elements of faith — whether it means garnering strength from prayer during times of chaos or living out religious convictions by protecting others so they can practise freely.

The truth is each of the world religions calls us to engage with one another in public ways, whether it is to house the homeless, feed the hungry, or steward the earth. No matter how we envision heaven, it's hard to find a religion or philosophical tradition that doesn't call followers to contribute to our common life here on earth. In taking up this charge, religion cannot help but appear in our public square.

Today's challenge comes from the increasing frequency and intensity with which individuals from different backgrounds interact. The 21st century reveals a unique combination of diversity and proximity in a world shaped by the forces of globalisation and new technologies. Our societies are growing increasingly religiously diverse — and that doesn't necessarily serve us well.

Sociologist Robert Putnam's research reveals that diversity and social capital are often inversely correlated — the more diverse a community or a city is, the less trust between citizens, the lower rates of voting, and the higher rates of crime. But Putnam also articulates a concept that we can use to strengthen social capital in the midst of diversity. He calls this "bridging social capital", which means intentionally engaging diverse communities in ways that encourage positive relationships, emphasise shared values, and multiply trust and volunteerism.

Political economist Ashutosh Varshney shows how bridging social capital can play an important role in preventing conflict during tense situations. In his study of communal violence in India, Varshney found a significant difference among cities in India that remained relatively calm during times of inter-religious tension and cities that exploded in sectarian violence. Cities that remained calm had "networks of engagement": civic organisations that brought people from different backgrounds together on a regular basis. When tensions flared, people knew each other well enough to not want to harm their neighbours, and possessed basic tools to prevent tensions from escalating into violence.

The best way we have found to build bridges among diverse religious communities is through inter-faith cooperation: working together across lines of faith to serve the common good. By starting with the common value of service that is shared by the spectrum of world religions, we can take action together to improve our communities while building networks of trust and understanding among individuals and groups that may have previously been suspicious of, uninformed about, or nervous around one another. By tackling pressing issues of local or global concern — whether it's building a house, cleaning up a park, or raising money for bed nets — we are able to advance a new understanding about and between one another.

Eboo Patel is founder and president of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core. Samantha Kirby is Public Affairs Manager at IFYC The views expressed by the authors are personal. This is a 10-part series that will appear on this page over the next one month.





Air India (AI) is in an ICU and there are strident voices demanding its demise. Governments and most people have short memories. AI in the 1950s and 1960s was one of the finest airlines in the world and mentored Singapore Airlines. It is true that after the 1970s, AI and Indian Airlines (IA) often had turbulent flight paths. But never were these airlines in the state the merged airline is in today.

In the early 1990s, IA faced rampant and endemic industrial unrest, with strikes being an annual feature. Come winter, there were fogs, strikes by employees and exits of chief executives. The airline suffered huge losses, market share plunged, passengers voted it the 'least preferred airline' and there was a massive exodus of pilots and engineers to private carriers.

However, within a few years there was complete industrial peace, the airline made a modest profit, there was a reverse flow of pilots, employee productivity increased and IA was declared the 'most preferred airline' in every survey. The marketing efforts of the airline bagged 22 awards, including two prestigious international ones, and the market share rose from 58% to 69%. What exactly happened after that to create the total mess the airline is in today?

The fault, dear friend, lies not in the skies, but in Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan. This is now official, with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India stating that losses of the airlines were mainly due to wrong decisions regarding the purchase of aircraft, made under pressure from the ministry of civil aviation.

During my tenure as chairman and managing director of IA, I had served under several ministers, the longest tenures being those of Ghulam Nabi Azad and CM Ibrahim. I can state without any hesitation that there was not a day's interference from either of them or their offices. Subsequently, when there were attempts to pressure IA to purchase turbo prop aircraft, successive managements  informed the ministry that since the operations of these aircraft on the routes suggested were uneconomical, the airline was not prepared to go in for the purchase unless continuing subsidies were provided by the government. Some ministers had the wisdom not to interfere. When others tried, the IA management insisted on its 'right to manage'.

To return to the CAG report which, though bold and path-breaking, hadn't touched upon the unfortunate manner in which IA and AI were merged and the subsequent collapse of morale in the employees of both airlines. Till 2005-06, IA registered profits. The first decision to shake employee morale was to change the name of IA to 'Indian'. In 2003 and 2004, the AC Nielson survey rated Indian Airlines among the 50 top brands at 7 — Taj Hotels was rated at 12 and Jet Airways 48. When brand equity was at its height, should the name of the company have been changed? Yet, this was done for reasons entirely unknown to both its employees and customers. In 2006-07, the airline suffered a loss of Rs234 crore. This was followed by the merger.

The NP Sen Committee in 1972, the MP Wadhawan Committee in the mid-1980s, the committee of secretaries in 1986 and AF  Ferguson in 1988 concluded that while a merger was necessary, its implementation must be gradual, spread over a period of years if a "disastrous collapse of morale" was to be avoided. The Ferguson Report recalled that the immediate mergers of Vayudoot with IA and the National Airports Authority with the International Airports Authority resulted in chronic problems of personnel that persisted over the years. However, for reasons unknown to anyone other than the civil aviation ministry and the airlines' senior management, both airlines were merged without any prior attempts to take the employees into confidence. As a result, losses rose from R234 crore in 2006-07 to R2,226 crore in 2007-08, an almost tenfold increase, and again doubled to Rs5,000 crore in 2008-09.

When British Airways was merged, the process took several years, and it is said that the chairman, Colin Marshall, attended most training sessions and was able to meet with thousands of the employees of the airline. Without any communication regarding the basis of their fitment in the merged airlines, employees of both IA and AI are a bewildered, frightened and lost tribe.

Former chairman and managing director of Tata Steel Russi Mody used to often repeat the adage, 'morale is to other factors, as four is to five'. Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, in a lecture delivered in India, remarked that his focus was always on the employee and not the customer since customers were bound to be served better if employees were well-trained and motivated. HCL CEO Vineet Nayar's book Employee First Customer Second is a prescribed text at Harvard University. There is almost total unanimity in all modern management teams that employee morale is critical for the success of any organisation.

The government may pour thousands of crores into AI, but if employees remain dispirited, service will be poor, market share will drop and losses will persist. Now that the national carrier is in the condition it is in, is there any hope of revival? The path to health will be long and arduous, if at all. But of the measures that need to be taken, the most critical will be the restoration of morale by continuous communication with employees, the introduction of total transparency in decision-making, having an organisation that is board-driven and increasing professionalism.

What can be done immediately is to reverse the merger, by both airlines functioning under a holding company — a decision that can be taken as swiftly as the decision to merge, without any financial consequences. If this is affected, and the steps mentioned earlier taken, there is a chance that most of the current problems plaguing the national carrier would be significantly reduced. In any case, there is no harm in trying these measures, since things can't get worse.

PC Sen is a former chairman of Air India and chairman/managing director of Indian Airlines. The views expressed by the author are personal.





This is the season of CEO transitions. India Inc. will witness a lot of traffic movement in the corner offices. Some will be filled by talent from within the organisation, and some from the 'outside universe'. There are two options available to organisations to fill the 'CEO gap'. One, the position gets filled by sourcing talent externally. Two, the 'CEO gap' gets plugged internally.

Scenario 1: If the CEO has been brought from outside.
Remember the CEO is as uncertain as you are. He has the same set of worries or concerns that you face. So, once you know the new CEO is coming, get a function status presentation report ready. You should have sufficient time to review this document. It should contain factual information, and not subjective accolades of how well you (and your team) have done. Don't touch upon budgets yet, there will be enough time to fight over those later.

Don't take your balanced scorecard to the boss for this presentation and it shouldn't ideally be more than five slides and cover all the data above. Remember, you are here to leave a good impression, not pitch for a raise or a bigger budget. However, it will be good if you can get that extra five minutes with the new CEO to introduce your team members.

The CEO will be looking at you for some honest reactions and responses. He will not allow other sources of information about you to cloud his judgement. So be as forthcoming as you possibly want to, but temper your language so as you don't sound bombastic, especially when you speak about your achievements, nor lower your voice when you are apologetic about the mistakes made in the past. It is also extremely unlikely that he will ask you for opinions, but if he does, it's best to keep your opinion to yourself, especially about your peer group. Dress thoughtfully for the meeting, be careful with your choice of words, respectful, without cringing, and you would have done your bit.

Scenario 2: If the CEO has been brought from inside.
In the event that one of your peers has risen to be the new CEO of the company, he is aware of your strengths, your capabilities and gaps. Therefore, the first part in the previous scenario does not apply. What does is that you align yourself to what the organisation now has to achieve.

You may have had your professional differences in the past. As long as you have had a healthy respect for one another, and are working towards the larger interest of the organisation, there is no reason why you can't have a continued healthy working relationship with your new CEO. Yes, you may have been a contender for the corner office job yourself, but not having made it, there are two options in front of you. If you think you still have a shot at the title, you should continue to work in the organisation, and ensure that you put in all your efforts to make the new CEO successful. This is demonstrative of a certain order of maturity that most boards come to expect of potential CEO candidates.

If, on the other hand, you are one of those professionals with searing ambition and wish to act immediately on being overlooked, it is now time to start looking for that CEO opportunity that has evaded you. Remember, while it is important to cut your losses and run, the way in which you cut your losses speaks volumes about you as a professional. It is important you do a structured transition, complete the tasks you are assigned and hand over your responsibilities to your successor before making a graceful exit. A bad reference check on a hasty exit can have potential negative repercussions sometime down the line in your career. For there will be a new guy in yet another corner office….

Venkat Iyer is a partner, Aventus Partners, a New Delhi-based leadership talent solutions firm. 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






In the Delhi suburb of Greater Noida, clashes have broken out between farmers and police, in which several people have died, including two policemen. The clashes were sparked off by the abduction of three employees of UP Roadways; the farmers are apparently objecting to the price at which land has been acquired for the Yamuna Expressway road-building project. Uttar Pradesh has land acquisition processes in place that may be among the best in the country. But this violence is a reminder that, nevertheless, framing a just and efficient mechanism by which land can be acquired is a knotty problem. Protests over roads in western UP have focused not on the actual act of acquisition, but on the prices paid to the land's original owners. It should not be surprising that this is problematic in Gautam Buddha Nagar, so close to the capital; land prices have gone up and up in Delhi's margins, and every cultivator knows this is a monetisable asset. They might trust the prices for that asset the market delivers, but they are unlikely to repose that same faith in the administrative machinery.

This is not a problem likely to go away. Across the country, markets for agricultural land are stunted; and yet, as India urbanises, it frequently sells at a premium in areas that are well-connected — precisely the sort of areas targeted for acquisition. What India continues to need, therefore, is a national land acquisition system that takes into account people's aspirations — which include, as in this case, the ability to ensure their expectations of the value of their land is taken into account.

Finalising this bill will not be easy. It will need wide public discussion, in order to make it robust and workable. And so it is deeply disheartening that UPA 2 has not moved on it, nor has it put up a version for public discussion. It is generally understood that actually passing the bill is politically difficult, since some constituents of the UPA — the Trinamool Congress in particular — have structured their politics around a negativity about land acquisition. Yet it is also indisputable that some such bill will have to be passed. Whatever the UPA's number-crunching may spit out about the actual act of passage, acts of discussion and passage need not be delayed. That it has is just another sign that this government is choosing to passively drift instead of actively reform.






Over the years, the Congress has shifted several shapes to stay relevant, and discarded many old orthodoxies, but it has done so without openly questioning anyone in its pantheon. The successive generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family who led the Congress were out of bounds for rational disagreement or evaluation. However, now for the first time, could it be that the party is ready to acknowledge its missteps and place them in context? The fifth volume of its official history series, The Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation, deals with the period between 1964 and 1984, arguably the two most complex and troubling decades in its 125-year history. Naturally, Indira Gandhi's ambiguous legacy dominates the volume.

One of the essays confronts the big question of Indira Gandhi and separatist blowback, discussing how the Congress under her watch deliberately encouraged the young Sikh fundamentalist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale for petty political ends, and ended up with a "Frankenstein's monster" that ultimately turned on its benefactors. This is hardly revelatory, and concerns a safely distant past, but the fact that an official history (with Pranab Mukherjee as its editorial board chairman) is willing to venture beyond the usual pieties is a mark of the Congress's new maturity. In Samuel Johnson's words, the wonder is not that it is done well, but that it is done at all.

Even if this has been done unwittingly, snapping out of denial is a good move for the Congress — apart from self-knowledge and clarity, it also has tactical benefits. The opinions expressed may be debatable, but the fact of allowing debate would allow the Congress to take on the questions of Sikh separatism, Operation Blue Star and the 1984 riots and come clean in a redemptive narrative. And for all those who seek to club it over the head by chanting 1984, it could create space to point out the difference between that incident and a sustained communal ideology. And in a larger sense, by dismantling old, static ideas about itself, the Congress can take credit for the long way it has come in economics and foreign policy, for instance. Does the party, fresh from its 125th anniversary celebrations, have the stomach for this self-appraisal?






A year ago, when Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg entered a coalition agreement with the Conservatives, he was riding a LibDem boom that took advantage of the UK's first hung parliament since 1974 and also the changed nature of the British electorate, where class and ideology had made for a greater fluidity of votes. Top on Clegg's agenda was electoral reform. The first-past-the-post system was a long-time Labour and LibDem concern, arguing for a juster process that negated seats-votes-population disparities. Clegg had made commitment to his blueprint for proportional representation mandatory for his support.

In the end, short of Clegg's original radicality, the Coalition agreed on a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV), where the voter would list candidates in order of her preference. In the absence of anybody securing 50 per cent of the vote, the second preference vote of the candidate who comes last would be counted — till one candidate got at least half the votes. The argument for the AV was that it would be a fairer reflection of all voters' wishes. The counter-argument, which didn't necessarily deny the mismatch between parliamentary power and political reality, was equally strong, so much so that even the LibDems have been wary of too proportional a system. After all, there's always the example of unworkable Dutch politics and that of constituency-less Israel.

A year from his momentous May, Clegg stands diminished and his party near-vanquished. That an overwhelming majority of British voters (67.9 per cent) rejected the AV, demonstrates that the reform proposals hadn't convinced them. And the dimensions of this rejection perhaps disconnects the AV from the LibDems other woes of losing around 700 councillors in English local elections and a hammering in Scotland. Clegg is not ending the Westminster system from within. For now, PM David Cameron's successful "No" campaign has shown who's boss.








The world's attention is riveted on the intriguing "back story" of Osama bin Laden — his evasion of a massive and prolonged US manhunt by hiding under the very nose of the Pakistan army.

Looking a little ahead, the political after-effects of the bold American raid on Abbottabad could be equally gripping. As the pressure mounts on Rawalpindi to explain itself and act against US enemies on Pakistani and Afghan soil, the internal political arrangements across our western frontiers are unlikely to survive in the present form.

All major political moments in Pakistan have been marked by coups of one kind or another. Pakistan's last traditional coup was in 1999 following the humiliating end to Rawalpindi's Kargil war with India.

Dismissed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, hit back to grab the political crown and wear it for the next nine years.

In a more recent silent coup last year, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani wrote out a three-year extension for himself as army chief and got his successor as the ISI boss, Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, to hang in for another year.

The powerless civilian establishment in Islamabad — President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — had no choice but to rubber-stamp Kayani's decision.

The Abbottabad raid, however, has moved Pakistan's tectonic plates. The shock waves travelling through Pakistan will produce some wreckage, if not structural change, in the nation's political and policy universe.

Several frontmen for the Pakistan army — including former foreign minister Shah Mohammed Qureshi — are demanding the resignation of the president and prime minister. There is indeed some speculation that Kayani might throw Pasha to the wolves to protect himself.

There are others who want the civilian leaders to reclaim some control over national security decision-making that has been usurped by the Pakistan army over the years.

All political coups will have winners and losers. Here below are five possible coup scenarios in Pakistan, identified in terms of the winners.

"Zardari's coup": As the Pakistan army and the ISI, the self-proclaimed guardians of Pakistan's geographic and ideological frontiers, twist in the wind after Abbottabad, Zardari has a fleeting moment to put Kayani and Pasha in their place.

The last three times Zardari sought to assert his authority — reaching out to India, bringing the ISI under elected rulers, and mobilising political support in the US Congress for promoting civilian primacy — Kayani slapped him down.

Could Zardari be fourth-time lucky? Most observers of Pakistan would argue that Zardari may not have the personal will, the necessary domestic political support or green signals from Pakistan's main external benefactors — Saudi Arabia, the US and China.

"Kayani's coup": To get out of the spot that he finds himself in, Kayani might decide offence is the best form of defence. He could blame the civilians for giving American intelligence agencies the free run that led to the brazen violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Kayani could dismiss the civilian government and take direct charge of the nation. He could bet that Washington still needs the Pakistan army in the Afghan endgame and that will give him sufficient space to ride through the current crisis.

His decision over the weekend to dispatch Pasha to a friendly capital (Riyadh or Beijing, we don't know) suggests Kayani is mobilising much needed external support.

"Beijing's coup": China's defence of Kayani last week when the rest of the world was pointing fingers at him was indeed extraordinary. It points to Beijing's growing partnership with the Pakistan army in securing China's expanding interests in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

In underwriting Kayani's coup — through a fresh package of financial and military assistance — Beijing could present itself as a strategic alternative to the traditional US primacy in the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia.

"Obama's coup": US President Barack Obama has already won big by launching a daring raid deep inside Pakistan. After being played for nearly a decade by Rawalpindi, Washington has a temporary upper hand over Kayani.

But it is not clear where Obama is headed after Abbottabad. Obama could choose to turn relentless heat on Kayani to come clean on Osama bin Laden, help track down the rest of the al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, and force the Pakistan army to abandon its three-decade-old alliance with violent extremism.

But there are many in Washington who want Obama to treat Kayani with kid gloves even after Abbottabad. They point to the dangers of pushing Rawalpindi into the hands of jihadis or China. They highlight the dangers of a nuclear-armed failed state in Pakistan.

Most foreign policy factions in Washington agree that Obama needs Kayani and the Pakistan army to organise any kind of exit from Afghanistan. Put simply, there is some chance that the ties between Washington and Rawalpindi might return to business-as-usual, with some minor adjustments after Abbottabad.

"Anarchist coup": Pakistan's jihadi groups may not be well-organised or coherent enough to capture power. But they have the capacity to stage spectacular terror acts, including major political assassinations that could produce new facts on the ground.

Whatever the nature of the impending political reordering in Pakistan, India will be deeply affected. Delhi's conventional wisdom would argue that India cannot influence the outcomes in Pakistan and therefore it is best to remain a passive observer.

While it cannot define the internal evolution of Pakistan, Delhi can certainly complicate the calculations of all other actors across the Radcliffe and Durand Lines.

India must use that leverage — both negative and positive — to isolate the patrons of violent extremism across our western frontiers and defeat their proxies who have operated with such impunity for so long.

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







The debate on food security seemed almost over when both the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) and the National Advisory Council (NAC) decided on a coverage of about two-thirds of the population. The EGoM was expected to take a decision on this, but has instead reportedly discussed the question of individual entitlement of PDS, in place of the present system where monthly entitlements are given to households. Does this mean that the debate on coverage and entitlements is open again? By itself, the decision may mean little, if as at present the poor families in sections in villages where Dalits live are excluded. But as part of a strategy to cover the hungry more effectively, it would be useful. Hunger is more in certain regions and in certain classes of families. Who goes hungry also depends on individual characteristics of families. Therefore, a woman or a girl child, or a landless labourer, belonging to a Dalit or an Adivasi family in the hunger belt of the eastern region is likely to be chronically undernourished compared to others.

Given the futile nature of the existing debate, high in theoretical coverage, low in effective reach, I had argued tongue-in-cheek for a cash-subsidy programme since it couldn't be less effective than the present programme. But the discussion on targeting is open again. Simultaneously, a paper by economists Himanshu and Abhijit Sen has outlined the arguments that I have been making in this column — for universal coverage so that the really needy are not excluded. Since the concern all around is for an effective food security programme, it may be useful to look at the present proposals from this perspective.

While arguing for junking the "official poverty line", many of us have said that this should be substituted by a multi-layered approach that captures the aam aadmi. Entitlements to subsidies in the food security plan would have to be strictly decided and family and individual characteristics have to be factored in. For example, a proposal is that a priority group identified on the basis of verifiable inclusion criteria will pay only Re 1 for a kg of millet, Rs 2 for a kg of wheat and Rs 3 for a kg of rice for an entitlement of 7 kg of grain. A second group using exclusion criteria will get half that amount of grain, 3.5 kg. The remaining section will get grain at three-fourths the minimum support price.

For the priority group, this column has argued for coverage of the severely and chronically malnourished and has pointed out the correlates of this group for identification. The chronically and severely malnourished would be around 22 per cent of the population. According to Sen and Himanshu, it would be around 20 per cent. I have consistently suggested free food for the destitute and the handicapped, for households that are headed by women, for pregnant and lactating women in such families and the girl child in deprived sections of society. These are obviously individual characteristics. A similar group has also been correctly identified by the NAC.

The point is that the need to universalise entitlements is not just to entitle families to cheap grain. We must recognise that a large number of families, which may be entitled, will not be purchasing and consuming the grain they are entitled to. This approach, however, will solve the issue of access. Restricting numbers often results in reducing access and not quite the leakage ratio. It is important to allow wide access, monitor actual PDS participation and allocate accordingly.

A nuclear family with three or four members with some consumer durables or a job in the organised sector wouldn't get free or highly subsidised grain even if they want to participate in the PDS. But they can't be excluded because others who really need it may suffer. The need of the hour is wider access, but limited entitlements and more severely limited subsidies aimed at the really needy. The debate has been reopened and will hopefully lead to a more effective solution to what is India's real problem. The smart card is only a number if the identity issue is avoided. The "individual" is at least as good as the "household" for this — and, when intelligently used, could be better.

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand,







Call it high noon or summer solstice ('High noon of the Nehru era', IE, April 25), the problem with it is that afterwards, the sun has nowhere to go except down. So it was with Jawaharlal Nehru, as 1958 drew to a close. That year marked both the peak, and the start of the downhill trend in the iconic prime minister's illustrious career. No wonder that many years later, Lord Louis Mountbatten told Nehru's official biographer, S. Gopal, that, "if Nehru had died in 1958, history would have remembered him as the greatest statesman of the 20th century." At the same time, the last British viceroy and independent India's first governor-general also stated that despite his subsequent errors and failings, Nehru remained "one of the greatest statesmen of the generation after Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin."

Two international episodes of that period, now forgotten but then looming large, show the world's high esteem for Nehru and India. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were busy testing their nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. The rest of the world demanded that these be suspended, and nuclear powers embark on serious talks for disarmament. The two superpowers and the UN secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold, appreciated Nehru's strenuous efforts in support of that cause. To be sure, nothing much was achieved, yet each side continued to request Nehru to persuade the other to "be reasonable." A letter from Eisenhower to Nehru, dated November 27, 1958, speaks for itself: "Universally you are recognised as one of the most powerful influences for peace and conciliation in the world. I believe that because you are a world leader for peace in your individual capacity, as well as a representative of the largest neutral nation..."

Luckily, the Soviet Union agreed to a temporary suspension of its tests and the US promised to follow suit. But just when progress towards disarmament seemed possible, a major crisis erupted in West Asia. In the midst of a civil war in Lebanon, Brigadier Qasim staged a coup against the Iraqi monarchy. The US immediately landed Marines in Lebanon and Britain dispatched its troops to Jordan. Tension mounted and the fears of a wider armed conflict grew. One again, Nehru played a stellar role in bringing the situation under control. This time around, Nikita Khrushchev suggested a conference of the heads of government of the Soviet Union, Britain, France, the United States and India.

The conference never took place, but the international community took note of India's inclusion and China's exclusion in the Soviet leader's proposal, which underscored Nehru's international standing as well as the growing cordiality between India and the USSR. Most, significantly this was the first public acknowledgement by Moscow of the ongoing Sino-Soviet split.

Understandably, China did not like this at all, and this is as good a place as any for me to record that although the deterioration in India-China relations was the basic cause of the onset of the Nehru era's decline, all through 1958, there was hardly any public mention of it. Both sides were keeping under wraps the increasingly acrimonious notes they were exchanging and even border violations and skirmishes. The first protest note against China's construction of the Sinkiang-Tibet road through Aksai Chin was also sent to Beijing during that year. But, like all others, before and after, it was neither published nor presented to Parliament.

At that time China was having a major internal crisis in the wake of the Hundred Flowers period. The respected defence minister, Peng Dehuai and others became victims of Mao's purge that followed. In India, Nehru's rationale for keeping his responses to China's unfriendly utterances and actions in low key, was that while India "must protect its dignity and defend its borders", it should not allow the problem to spin out of hand. He was also convinced, wrongly as it turned out, that China would not attack India, and took care to add, "nor would Russia."

The one India-China incident that played out in public but did not cause much of a stir related to a planned visit by Nehru to Tibet at the invitation of the Dalai Lama. In January 1958, forwarding the Dalai Lama's invitation to Nehru, Zhou Enlai had added that he would happily accompany the Indian prime minister. Nehru had replied that he would like to go to Lhasa in September.

When nothing further was heard until August, he asked the Chinese to fix a date. Beijing replied that he should postpone the visit. Nehru's reaction was to go to Bhutan instead, briefly passing through Yatung in Tibet. The journey on horseback was tough, but the result of the Bhutan visit was a much stronger relationship between India and the Himalayan kingdom. The Chinese were not amused.

One of the problems that weighed heavily on Nehru's mind around that time was the need to re-arrest Sheikh Abdullah, Kashmir's towering leader, following his release after a five-year imprisonment that began in 1953. At both junctures, Nehru regretfully saw no other alternative. Combined with this was worry about Pakistan. American military aid was pouring into that country which used it to ratchet up the Kashmir "dispute". And then, in October, the Pakistan army, under Ayub Khan, took over.

On a cold December evening, Nehru's son-in-law and MP, Feroze Gandhi started a devastating debate in the Lok Sabha on the state-owned Life Insurance Corporation's "questionable" investments in the dubious companies of a tainted industrialist named Haridas Mundhra ('The Mundra affair', IE, December 12, 2008). An amount of only a few lakhs of rupees was involved, but Nehru's response was in refreshing contrast to what happens these days. He spoke of the "majesty of Parliament" and instantly ordered a judicial inquiry by one of the most eminent judges, M. C. Chagla. The inquiry's findings led to the resignation of finance minister T. T. Krishnamachari and an outstanding civil servant H. M. Patel.

On the last day of 1958, in his letter to chief ministers, Nehru reassured them about India-China relations and advised them not to believe rumours. This was a grievous mistake, and grievous were its consequences.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator








Regulating the Internet, as with any medium of speech and commerce, is a delicate balancing act. Too little regulation and you ensure that criminal activities are carried on with impunity; too much and you curb the utility of the medium. The Internet has managed to remain the impressively vibrant space it is because of the careful choices made by most countries, eschewing over-regulation. India, however, seems to be taking a different tack with three sets of new rules under the Information Technology Act.

These rules deal with the liability of intermediaries (a large and diverse group of entities and individuals, that transmit and allow access to third-party content), the safeguards that cybercafes need to follow if they are not to be held liable for their users' activities, and the practices that intermediaries need to follow to ensure security and privacy of customer data.

By not observing these provisions, the intermediary opens itself up for liability for actions of its users. Thus, if a third-party defames someone, then the intermediary can be held liable if he/she/it does not follow the stringent requirements.

The problem, however is that, many of the provisions of these rules have no rational connection with the due diligence to be observed by the intermediary to absolve itself from liability.

What does the Act require? Section 79 of the IT Act states that intermediaries are generally not liable for third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted. It qualifies that by stating that they are not liable if they follow certain precautions (basically, to show that they are real intermediaries). They observe "due diligence" and don't exercise an editorial role; they don't help or induce commission of the unlawful act; and upon receiving "actual knowledge", or on being duly notified by the appropriate authority, they take some kind of action.

So rules were needed to clarify what "due diligence" involves (that is, to state that no active monitoring is required of ISPs), what "actual knowledge" means, and to clarify what happens in happens in case of conflicts between this provision and other parts of IT Act and other Acts.

However, that is not what the rules do. They instead propose standard terms of service to be notified by all intermediaries. This means everyone, from Airtel to Hotmail to Facebook to Rediff Blogs to YouTube to organisations and people that allow others to post comments on their website. What kinds of terms of service? It will require intermediaries to bar users from "engaging in speech that is disparaging". And this does not cover only public-oriented intermediaries. So this means that your forwarding a joke via e-mail, which "belongs to another person and to which the user does not have any right" will be deemed to be in violation of the new rules. While gambling (such as betting on horses) isn't banned in India and casino gambling is legal in Goa, for example, under these rules, all speech "promoting gambling" is prohibited.

The rules are very onerous on intermediaries, since they require them to act within 36 hours to disable access to any information that they receive a complaint about. Any "affected person" can complain. Intermediaries will now play the role that judges have traditionally played. Any affected person can bring forth a complaint about issues as diverse as defamation, blasphemy, trademark infringement, threatening of integrity of India, "disparaging speech", or the blanket "in violation of any law". It is not mandatory to give the violator an opportunity to be heard. Many parts of the Internet are in fact public spaces, and a law requiring private parties to curb speech in such a public sphere is unconstitutional insofar as it doesn't fall within Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

Since intermediaries would lose protection from the law if they don't take down content, they have no incentives to uphold freedom of speech. They instead have been provided incentives to take down all content about which they receive complaints without a considered evaluation of the content.

The cybercafe rules require all cybercafe customers be identified with supporting documents, their photographs taken, all their website history logged, and these logs maintained for a year. Compare this to the usage of public pay-phones. Anyone can use a pay-phone without their details being logged. Indeed, such logging allows for cybercafe owners to blackmail their users if they find some embarrassing websites in the history logs, which could be anything from medical diseases to sexual orientation to the fact that you're a whistle-blower.

The cybercafe rules also require that all of them install "commercially available safety or filtering software" to prevent access to pornography. In two cases along these lines in the Madras high court (Karthikeyan R. vs Union of India) and the Bombay high court (Janhit Manch vs Union of India), the high courts refused to direct the government to take proactive steps to curb access to Internet pornography stating that such matters require case-by-case analysis to be constitutionally valid under Article 19(1)(a) (Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression). Besides, such software tends to be ineffective — non-pornographic websites also get wrongly filtered, and not all pornographic websites get filtered— and the high courts were right to be wary. If the worry is about children's impressionable minds, it is up to parents to provide supervision, and not for the government to insist that software do the parenting instead.

All these concerns were pointed out by civil society organisations, news media, and industry bodies when the draft rules were released, but virtually none of their suggestions have been incorporated by the government in the final rules.

The writer works at the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society






After Osama bin Laden's corpse was slipped into the North Arabian Sea, the White House's chief counter-terrorism adviser declared that the United States had buried him "in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices." According to a senior military official, the body was washed, shrouded and dispatched with a funeral prayer.

Despite its best efforts, the United States government still has much to learn about the intricacies of Muslim funerary law. Its strictures are more nuanced, and perhaps also more flexible, than it imagined. According to the Quran, the origins of burial stretch back to the dawn of humanity. Cain, full of remorse after killing his brother, was inspired by a ground-scratching raven to hide the naked corpse in the earth.

Islamic law insists on this ritual as the ideal one.

But medieval jurists did recognise that travellers and merchants sometimes died at sea. Shafii, the founder of a Sunni school of law, recommended that ships either keep the body on board until they could reach land or sandwich it between two wooden slabs and tow it with a rope.

Other jurists prescribed different actions, depending on the circumstances. If the ship was far from shore and the body began to decompose, then it was permissible to deposit it in the sea, weighted with metal or stone so that it would sink to the bottom. Jurists hoped that sailors, while lowering the deceased, would turn his face toward Mecca. Releasing the corpse in a floating coffin was also an option, if there was a good chance that it would wash up on the shores of a Muslim country, where the body would receive last rites on land.

In general, however, Shariah permits burial at sea only in extraordinary circumstances. So some interpreters of Islamic law have rushed to denounce what was done with bin Laden's body. But the implication that bin Laden deserved an ordinary Muslim burial doesn't necessarily comply with that law. Islamic jurists have always made important exceptions to burial rites, depending on how the deceased lived and died.

Largely because of the exigencies of war, those who died on the battlefield were traditionally not entitled to standard rites. In accordance with Shariah, their corpses may be deposited in communal graves. There is no need for prayers, or for washing or shrouding their bodies; immediately upon death martyrs' bodies are miraculously regenerated, and they receive silken robes in paradise.

Medieval jurists also made exceptions for highway robbers, violent rebels and unrepentant apostates, who were on occasion dismembered and decapitated, their remains left on display. Shafii argued that just rulers ought to treat the bodies of executed rebels respectfully and that they could administer last rites. But many jurists disagreed, arguing that they were undeserving of such honours.

These exceptions matter because bin Laden's religious status is a matter of contention among Muslims. On one end of the spectrum are Muslims who consider him an outsider to Islam: if not quite an apostate, a terrorist whose right to an official Muslim prayer is debatable at best. (In 2005 the Islamic Commission of Spain essentially excommunicated bin Laden, arguing that he should not be treated as a Muslim.) They must find it as perplexing as I do that the United States government granted the man it identified not as a Muslim, but as a "mass murderer of Muslims," the dubious honour of a quasi-Islamic funeral.

On the other end are Muslims who believe that bin Laden is now enjoying the blessings of martyrdom. From a theological perspective, it matters little to them how Americans on the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson disposed of the corpse.

Which is all to say that bin Laden's burial was doctrinally irrelevant to some Muslims, and confusing to others. Most of the rest feel uneasy. Perhaps the United States could not have avoided that. But a deeper understanding of the history of Islam's sacred law could have prevented us from seeming so at sea.

The writer is an associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University, is the author of 'Muhammad's Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society'







On the face of things, there's little in common between the prices of petroleum, oil and lubricant products (POL, in jargon), set to rise now that the state polls are over, and electricity prices in the capital. Both, however, suffer from the same affliction. Since the government never raised prices of petrol and diesel each time global crude oil prices rose, it will now have to raise them by a whopping R8-9 per litre in the case of petrol and R18 or so in the case of diesel, which makes it pretty obvious that when the hike comes, it will only partially cover the actual costs. This is precisely what's happened in the case of electricity prices in the capital. In the past, to cushion customers from the hike in costs, the regulator didn't take into account all the costs incurred by the distribution companies (discoms); instead, over the years, a part of this rise in costs was classified as a 'regulatory asset', and a lower return was given on this. Since these 'regulatory assets' have now risen to R8,300 crore and the total billing of all three discoms in the capital is around R8,000 crore, the government will now have to double electricity tariffs if it wants to wipe out the deficit! Clearly that's not going to happen, so there will be a partial hike; the 'regulatory asset' story will continue and, at some point, will get ready to burst all over again. In this case, the immediate crisis is the discoms saying they have no money to buy power and so the capital will have to get ready for power cuts; in the POL space, similar crises have occurred in the past with oil companies saying they have no money to buy crude for more than a few weeks.

Which is why, when the government finally does get down to raising POL prices later next week, it has to ensure there is an automatic mechanism by which future crude oil prices get reflected in retail prices. Kirit Parikh had pointed out, last year, that while kerosene prices had not been raised since 2002—prices here need to be raised 2.7 times to reflect the market price!—consumer incomes had risen 60% in real terms. So, a 60% hike in prices, while insufficient, could have been made while leaving no one worse off than they were in 2002. In the case of LPG, similarly, where prices need to be doubled to break even, Parikh had calculated prices could be raised by R200 per cylinder leaving all consumers no worse off.

Since prices can't be raised by such amounts in one go, a multi-pronged strategy has to include reducing government tariffs as well. It seems funny the government should talk of under-recoveries when it collects R14.35 (R4.6 for diesel) by way of excise duty per litre of petrol—that's 25% (12% for diesel) of the retail price.

In the case of Delhi, the state government collects another R20 (R12.75 for diesel) per litre, or 34% (ditto for diesel) of the retail price by way of sales taxes. While government revenues need to rise, a possible solution lies in converting the ad valorem duties—for both customs as well as for excise—to a specific duty when prices rises above a certain level.





Things could be picking up on India's investment front. A few days after Posco got a final clearance from the environment ministry, the Solicitor General has come up with a revised opinion that paves the way for a quick solution to the Cairn-Vedanta deal, held up for many months now. While the SG's earlier opinion was in favour of the ONGC position—that Cairn accept ONGC's position that the royalty payments would be expensed—the fresh one is a bit more nuanced. FE reported last week that the SG has now opined that the deal be allowed to go through as is—presumably, the argument is that if ONGC has a dispute with Cairn, this should be resolved through arbitration or in a court of law. Given that this is also the finance ministry's view, a quick solution should be possible when the Group of Ministers meets to resolve the issue.

The SG's opinion is especially welcome since, as FE has pointed out earlier, India has a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the UK and if Cairn was to file a case under the BIT, arguing the government was being unfair to it, this would be difficult to defend—after all, when ONGC can fight its battle with Cairn through arbitration, why should the government intercede on its behalf? Since the dispute is really about whether the main provision of the Production Sharing Contract (that ONGC has to pay the royalty) is superior to the clause in the annexure of the PSC (that all costs can be recovered by the contractor), this is something arbitration is more likely to resolve than government intervention.

Two questions remain, however. One, why hasn't ONGC gone in for arbitration all this while? Two, if ONGC was to lose the case in arbitration, will the government compensate the company and its shareholders? After all, when ONGC signed this flawed deal with Cairn, it wasn't even a company, it was still the Oil and Natural Gas Commission, under the direct control of the government.






The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)—broadly accepting the framework of regulations recommended by the Malegam Committee Report on Microfinance—in its Monetary Policy Statement for 2011-12, marks a denouement of the imbroglio that encompassed the microfinance sector ever since the ordinance issued by the Andhra Pradesh government in October 2010. This is thus a good point for us to reflect about the events that possibly led to the crisis. Such a reflection can give us robust directions for the way forward for the microfinance sector as a whole.

Needless to say, the opportunity for poverty alleviation that microfinance presents is hard to ignore. In fact, during the deliberations on the Malegam Committee report, which included the RBI functionaries as well as several market participants and academics, there was unanimity that the microfinance opportunity is hard to ignore. Also, the need for the regulators to play the role of the enabler was emphasised as well. That said, since one needs two hands to clap, the turn of events that led to the crisis in the first place necessitates that the microfinance industry undertake an exercise in self-reflection as well. The objective of this piece is to encourage the MFIs to reflect and emerge stronger going forward.

As we look back, we must recognise the fact that this ordinance followed a very successful IPO by SKS Microfinance. This may not be a mere coincidence! Undeniably, the poverty alleviation industry must include for-profit enterprises to generate efficiency gains, cost cuts and other spill-over benefits for the entire industry. However, the for-profit enterprises need to remember that their clientèle is different from those catered to by traditional businesses. Most people do not grudge the riches generated by a Narayana Murthy or an Azim Premji since they have made their money by serving wealthy corporations, governments or the burgeoning middle class. However, a super rich businessman that derives his riches by serving the poor is usually viewed with suspicion—the suspicion being that such riches have been accumulated by exploiting the poor. Note that with such issues that strike an emotional chord, it is beside the point whether the said businessman has indeed exploited the poor or not. Nor does it matter whether the businessman has played by the rules or not. The perception created is one of exploitation and it is this perception that the microfinance industry has to guard against.

While MFIs are certainly entitled to make profits, seeing them make supernormal profits goads opportunistic politicians to put a spanner in their wheels of progress: after all, being seen to be pro-poor is a perennial selling point among the electorate. Thus, MFIs need to dispel even the remotest perception that they are greedy capitalists waiting to exploit the poor for their own gain. This is because they have positioned themselves as institutions that work exclusively towards eradication of poverty. Becoming super-rich by claiming to eradicate poverty does not rest well with the emotional mind even if the rational one sees no conundrum in this phenomenon. Thus, seeking excessive returns would be to the detriment of the MFI industry in the long run because supernormal profits will eventually orient even well-meaning policymakers against the industry and hurt the industry in the long run. In this context, it is pertinent to note the quote made by Muhammad Yunus—the founder of microfinance. "Microcredit should not be presented as a money-making opportunity. It is an opportunity to make an impact on poor people's lives. An IPO gives a wrong message," Yunus was quoted as saying by the WSJ.

The following incident highlights the perils from pursuing supernormal returns in the context of microfinance. A few years ago, microfinance providers introduced loans that would help the borrowers to buy items such as a water filter, pressure cooker or a gas stove at prices less than the market price since the MFI itself would source them in bulk. Water filters gave the families clean drinking water and reduced the incidence of diseases, thereby increasing the number of working days and leading to an increase in income. The pressure cooker and the gas stove made cooking more efficient, enabling the women borrowers to save time and thereby invest more time into their particular business. Such constructive credit certainly provides tangible benefits to the borrowers. However, in their aggressive effort to generate more profits, the MFIs started providing loans for consumer durables such as refrigerators, jewellery, etc, which the poor borrowers could ill afford. Providing such loans to these poor borrowers is an instance of predatory lending. MFIs must resist crossing the fine line between providing constructive credit and encouraging consumerism and leading borrowers into a debt trap.

Furthermore, the MFI industry needs to recognise that clean and healthy competition is the cornerstone of any well-functioning market. The practice of the good boys constantly standing up for the bad boys is a syndrome that characterises a nascent industry. Now that the industry has become large, this practice of mistaken solidarity between the MFIs needs to be abandoned. If a rotten apple brings a bad name to the entire microfinance industry, then the good apples in the lot need to separate themselves from the rotten one by pointing out to the government, regulators, as well as the public at large, who the rotten apple is. The prevailing psychology has been for the good boys to think that they need to protect the bad boys to protect the industry. The good boys think they need the bad boys to appear big and influential while the bad boys shoot from the shoulders of the good boys. This psychology needs to change. The new psychology must be the one where the good boys think that they need to weed out the bad boys to protect themselves and the industry in the bargain. Being seen together with the bad boys hurts the perception of the good boys with the government, regulators and the public at large. In this context, as a first step, the industry association needs to come out with a strong statement condemning the uncivilised tactics adopted by some of its members. Second, the industry association needs to warn these members to discontinue such practices barring which they would report such practices to the government and regulators.

In sum, the MFIs have an opportunity to reflect upon themselves and emerge healthier by ironing out any wrinkles that might have crept in during their phase of extraordinary growth.

The author is assistant professor of finance at the Indian School of Business







The move by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) yet again to raise interest rates comes as no surprise. Inflation pressures have remained strong in India for the two years the UPA-2 has been in power. In the first year, there was the excuse of the drought, though even here the countervailing action—timely release of foodgrain stocks—was neglected. The sum total of policy seemed to be the periodic forecasts by policymakers that within the coming six months inflation would subside.

The Budget of February 2011 failed to take the inflation threat seriously. Indeed, there was some complacency that the GDP growth rate had been notched at 8.6% in 2010-11 and was forecast at 9% for 2011-12 in the Budget. But it was obvious that the 8.6% was flattered by the recovery of agriculture from a low base of the previous drought prone year. Foodgrain output in 2010-11 did not exceed the level of two years previously. Yet the high figure was claimed and the higher figure of 9% was enshrined in the Budget.

The Budget did not mention that the nominal growth of GDP in 2010-11 had been as high as 25%, if not higher. The reduction of the debt-GDP ratio was claimed as a positive result but not linked to inflation. But an economy with 15-16% inflation has to be treated as in need of serious cure. It was clear that if inflation pressures were not to be tackled, there would be a setback for growth. I was bearish on the Budget day and thought 8% would be hard to achieve.

Things have got worse. The domestic inflationary pressures may have switched from supply shortage to excess demand, though supply-side bottlenecks remain. The extra factor is the international price rise of oil and commodities, partly thanks to Chinese growth but also due to quantitative easing that is flooding the markets with excess liquidity. The world economy has become tolerant of a slightly higher inflation rate than before the Great Recession because western monetary authorities do not want to kill the fragile recovery.

India has a very loose fiscal policy not only due to the pump priming during the growth recession of 2008-09 and 2009-10, but even now there is no sign of fiscal tightening. The Budget devotes a third of the total revenue collection to interest payments on debt, ten times what it devotes to health or education. There is no urgency about reducing the debt-GDP ratio either by more rapid divesting of public assets or by reining in expenditure.

Indeed, the spending policy of the UPA is being run by the NAC, which does not like liberal reform or even a high growth rate. Yet it loves to spend the revenues collected thanks to the buoyant growth on its pet projects. These are no doubt worthy—NREGA, health audit, food security, etc—but none of them contribute to raising output. NREGA is a stop-gap scheme and does not raise the skill level or productivity of the workers. It may make them grateful when it comes to voting at election times but their poverty will not be tackled by staying at home and working at most 100 days.

It just may be that the UPA is having an aversion to high growth rates lest it may be seen to be worshipping at the Temple of Mammon. The cry of the hour seems to be that the foundation of a welfare state has to be laid in rural areas, at least for BPL families. This again cannot be a bad idea. But the issue is: will there be sufficient growth to finance it?

One strong argument will be made that improving health and providing food security will by themselves raise not only the levels of well-being but also the levels of productivity of the rural poor. This extra productivity would then finance the extra spending. Yet there needs to be some strong quantitative evidence that such is the case. My scepticism is because of the fact that the rural sector, both in agriculture and other activities, is a low productivity sector. Growth has been mainly due to urban manufacturing and services and not rural activities. Indeed, a strategy for poverty reduction would be to move workers from low productivity agriculture and ancillary rural activities to low-tech manufacturing, which can employ unskilled and semi-skilled manual labour. NREGA does exactly the opposite by confining the workers to the rural areas.

My hunch is that in 2011-12, GDP growth will hit below 8%, perhaps as low as 7%. Inflation will be in double digits. With reforms no longer on the forefront and elections looming in UP, the risk-averse Congress leadership will let growth go. Then we shall regret the end of the Indian miracle.

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer







After ten long and agonising days, the strike by the Air India pilots was called off, thanks mainly to the government turning sensible by opting for conciliation over a witch-hunt. With 800 pilots, mostly those who were originally with Indian Airlines, striking work demanding pay parity with their counterparts who had been with Air India prior to the merger, the rate of flight cancellation rose close to 90 per cent towards the end of the strike period. It was left to the Union Civil Aviation Ministry to intervene, negotiate with the pilots union, and bring about a settlement — albeit a temporary one. Considering that the strike, which came at the height of the summer vacation season, resulted in a loss of Rs.150 crore to Rs.200 crore, it is difficult to understand why the government did not intervene earlier. The strategy and methods of the Air India management clearly worsened the situation. The basic demand of the pilots was neither new nor unreasonable: they have been seeking pay parity ever since the merger process began in 2007. It is hard to explain why the process should drag on endlessly and why most of the demands of the staff have not been seriously addressed for such a long time.

Under the interim settlement, the Ministry has given some concrete assurances. All the dismissed and suspended pilots will be reinstated; the de-recognition of the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association will be revoked; and all the other demands of the pilots will be addressed in a "time-bound" manner. The key issue of pay parity will be dealt with by the Dharmadhikari committee, which has just begun to look into the staff-related issues arising from the merger of the two airlines, and it has been required to give the report by November 2011. All categories of employees have been asked to approach it with their demands. At least this time, the Air India management must keep its word and resolve the issues by adopting a businesslike consultative process in all seriousness and sincerity. For their part, the employees and their unions must respond positively to the challenges that lie ahead. Though the national carrier has been claiming "operational profits," the accumulated losses and its undue dependence on funding by government tell a different story. Air India needs to be run on sound commercial lines, which means it must not be discriminated against vis-à-vis the private airlines. For that to happen, it must set its own house in order, go ahead and complete its programme for aircraft acquisition, do everything necessary to restore the prestige of the 'Maharajah' brand in a competitive environment, and win back customer loyalty.





In a national referendum, the British electorate has rejected, by 69 per cent to 31 per cent on a turnout of 42 per cent, the Alternative Vote (AV) system for elections to the House of Commons. Under AV, voters rank candidates in order of preference, and if a candidate gets 50 per cent of first-preference votes, he or she wins the seat. If none reaches that figure, the second preferences of the candidate who comes last are redistributed, and so on until one candidate reaches 50 per cent of the total number of votes cast. The current simple majority (SM) system has been found wanting on many counts. Very few British MPs win their seats with even 40 per cent of the vote, which means the principle of representativeness suffers. Three quarters of seats are safe for one or the other of the two main parties, Labour and the Conservatives, which in practice means safe regions, such as the largely Tory south of England, and millions of wasted votes. Significant third parties such as the Liberal Democrats can record a quarter of the national vote-share but win only a few seats. The simple majority system tends to gift the main parties overpowering Commons majorities on aggregate vote-shares of about 40 per cent.

Unfortunately, the political context of the referendum obscured the issues. For one thing, it was held on the same day as elections to the local governments and to the Scottish and Welsh assemblies. Secondly, the LibDems, the strongest proponents of electoral reform, have paid a heavy price for their May 2010 decision to enter into a Tory-led coalition. They have lost backing from disaffected Labour voters, and have divided their own supporters through unprincipled policy compromises with Prime Minister David Cameron. This, in part, turned the AV question into a referendum on the LibDem leader Nick Clegg, and may have made the Labour leader Ed Miliband temper his public support for AV. The Labour Party is split on voting reform; many Labour heavyweights combined with Tories to attack it. The AV proposal was itself a coalition compromise; the LibDems favour the fully proportional Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. With AV decisively rejected, the United Kingdom will have to live with parliaments that do not represent the range of political opinion among voters. In 2001, a fully proportional system would have given the LibDems at least 120 MPs, instead of the 52 they got under SM. That would have virtually guaranteed defeat for Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposal to invade Iraq. There can be few better examples of the damage done to national policy by parliaments that are formally but not substantively representative of their people.







The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by the U.S Navy's special operations force has created an obvious rift between the people of Pakistan and their Army. Tough questions are being asked about the security establishment's role in the entire affair: did it know that the world's most wanted man was living at walking distance from the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul in Abbottabad? Was it involved in turning him in? If not, why not? Did it know about the U.S. operation in advance? If so, why did it allow the unilateral operation on its territory? If it did not know, what is the point of a military?

The last time public ire against the military was apparent was in 2007 when Pervez Musharraf was running the show as "President General" — he was Army chief as well as head of government. Eight years had passed since his coup against Nawaz Sharif, and if Pakistan had once welcomed the takeover, it was quite sick of him by this time. Not surprisingly, his decision to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary backfired not just on him but by his association with it, on the entire Pakistan Army. The judge was hailed as someone who had finally shown the guts to stand up to the "khakis" by his refusal to resign, and became an unlikely hero.

Throughout that summer, there were cries of "Go Fauj (military) go," alongside the slogans of "Go Musharraf Go." Questions were asked about the military budget; a vehicle mounted with a cut-out of a military boot stomping over the common man was a permanent feature of countless rallies that year asking Musharraf to quit office. But if there was a civilian opportunity here, it disappeared quickly.

After Musharraf finally tearfully stepped down as the Army chief in November 2007 before taking oath as President for a second five-year term as part of a grand political bargain with Benazir Bhutto, the new Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani wasted no time in setting about rebuilding and restoring the image of the institution.

It did not take him too long. Aside from its immediate goal of having the Chief Justice restored to his position, the lawyers' movement may have at times seemed as if it was about reducing the Pakistan Army's oversized role in national affairs; in reality, it was about getting rid of one unpopular soldier, General Musharraf, not only because he had tried to sack the Chief Justice, but also for a sackful of different reasons: for his pro-U.S. policies, for handing over alleged terrorist suspects to the U.S, for cracking down on militant groups, for what people saw as virtual "surrender" to India on Kashmir.

Rid of Musharraf, the Army distanced itself from him immediately. Though military co-operation with the U.S remained intact, Gen. Kayani took measures that restored its popularity and made him look good in comparison to Musharraf, such as pulling military officers from civilian positions in government, prohibiting the officer corps from hobnobbing with politicians, and reining in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) during the February 2008 election, so it played no role in the selection of candidates, during the voting itself, in government formation or in the allocation of portfolios.

The unpopularity of Asif Ali Zardari, especially after he became President, helped improve the Army's stock. The November 2008 Mumbai attacks tilted the delicate civilian-military balance completely to the side of the military. By cranking up fears of a strike by India and scrambling its fighter jets to meet the purported Indian threat, the Pakistan Army deflected the entire debate about the Mumbai attacks to the imminence of an India-Pakistan war. The nation rallied behind its Army, and India was no longer victim, but the aggressor. President Zardari's vision of building not just peace but "synergies" with India, which he articulated several times in 2008, was given an unceremonious burial.

After that, the Pakistan Army was on a roll. The anti-Taliban operations in Swat saw it aggressively market itself as the saviour of the nation. Much of the Pakistani media was eating out of its hands. By the time the Kerry-Lugar Bill authorising non-military aid to Pakistan came to fruition in late 2009, the Army was in a position to rally the entire country to protest against conditions in the legislation that sought to rein in its role in national affairs, and to blame the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government for having those conditions inserted. For a country that had taken pride in its democracy movement just two years earlier, this was a swift turnaround.

Much to the glee of the people, the Supreme Court aggressively questioned hapless government officials for letting President Zardari off the hook in corruption cases. But neither the judges nor the media ever asked any questions of General Kayani — as the head of the ISI in 2007, he was part of the regime's "A" team that worked out the details of the amnesty granted to Benazir and Zardari in order to facilitate Musharraf's election as President, flying between Islamabad, Dubai and London for meetings with the PPP leader on behalf of his boss.

Instead, there were stories about how General Kayani was the only one of the assembled top brass who did not say a word at the March 2007 meeting at Army House in Rawalpindi where Musharraf asked the Chief Justice to resign, while the heads of Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI) went as far as to submit affidavits to support Musharraf's move against him.

The bin Laden episode has brought back questions about the Army. As in 2007, this time too there is more than one thread to the people's anger. There are those who are taking the Army to task for allowing the U.S. to violate national sovereignty, thus putting at stake national honour and pride; they are asking how this self-appointed guardian of the "national ideology" can guard its frontiers from other wolves at the door, mainly India,

Separately, there are those asking questions about what Osama bin Laden was doing in the country, right in the middle of the military's stamping ground, why the Pakistan Army and the ISI had failed to find him when he was in their midst all these years, if they knew he was there, if so, why did they not give him up.

Once again, there is a civilian opportunity, but it lies in the second line of questioning about the Pakistan Army's national security vision, its strategic priorities and its links to extremism and militancy.

Predictably though, it is the first line of questioning that the security establishment is using to reassert itself because it is this that helps shift the debate back towards the perceived threat from India, the oxygen on which the military has built its pre-eminence in national life.

Statements from the Indian defence establishment, and others boasting about the Indian Army's capacity to carry out Operation Geronimo style raids to seize India's "most wanted" such as Dawood Ibrahim, aside from being highly dubious, have only given a lifeline to the Pakistan Army as it flails about trying to explain away its OBL failure.

It has sent out a thinly veiled warning to India of the consequences of "any misadventures of this kind". And it has sought to reassure the "national honour" school of critics that Pakistan's nuclear jewels are safe, reasoning that unlike an unguarded civilian compound that could be attacked by an airspace violating helicopter, these are under stricter care. This has helped deflect some of the attention from its dubious role in l'affaire OBL and divert it across the border. Predictably also, efforts have begun to implicate the country's civilian leadership for what was essentially a military fiasco from Pakistan's point of view.

For India, peace with Pakistan is dependent to a large extent on the strengthening of that country's civilian moments. Undoubtedly such moments suffer from the absence of good leadership; the country's politicians are hate figures distrusted by the people; the people too are easily swayed by their security establishment, as they were after the Mumbai attacks. But Indian chest-thumping at Pakistan's multiple embarrassments last week does nothing to help tilt the balance toward the civilian side either; it only ends up strengthening the military and pushes back the two countries chances for normalising relations.








This week (May 9-13) in Istanbul, world leaders have the chance to kill two birds with one stone: to breathe new life into solid, long-term economic recovery and to fulfil long-term commitments to reduce poverty, hunger and disease in the world's 48 Least Developed Countries (LDC).

This diverse group of nations — 33 in Africa, 14 in Asia and Oceania, and one (Haiti) in the Western hemisphere — has one common desire: increased engagement in the global economy. In the last decade, LDC exports have risen by a factor of five, and their share of world trade has doubled. But, with 12 per cent of the global population — some 900 million people — LDCs still collectively produce only one per cent of world exports, and receive less than two per cent of global investment.

Untapped opportunity

Investing in LDCs offers a vast, and virtually untapped, opportunity to provide much-needed further stimulus to the global economic recovery without significantly burdening the balance sheets of the developed countries with more red ink. G-20 leaders recognised this last year at their meeting in Seoul.

In recent years, more than half the LDCs have shown consistent growth built on demand for commodities, diversification of their economic base or more productive regional partnerships. Nepal, which currently holds the presidency of the LDCs, is typical of many LDCs that are working to improve essential social services, encourage inclusive and transparent governance and provide efficient environments for doing business in the 21st century.

Climate change

But LDCs will not escape their vulnerability easily. Climate change, in particular, poses a severe challenge. While LDCs produce the least greenhouse gas emissions compared with any other country grouping, their agriculture-oriented economies are the most threatened by the effects of a changing climate. Many are prone to desertification, or are at risk from sea-level rise and tropical storms. Others, like Nepal, depend on run-off from mountain glaciers that appear to be receding.

Rising food prices also present a clear test. Most LDCs are net food importers. Half their populations live in extreme poverty. One person out of three is malnourished. Agricultural capacity is low. On the other hand, the vast areas of under-utilised arable land in LDCs means they offer considerable potential to increase world harvests: improving nutrition security at home and mitigating food price inflation that — as we have already seen — poses a threat to social and political security worldwide.

Most measures under negotiation by governments going into the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs in Istanbul are well within the capacities of the world's nations. Development assistance from the North has been generous, and has been rising over the last decade. We hope to see this trend continue. At only one quarter of total Official Development Assistance, aid to LDCs can easily increase — with considerable returns on investment to all parties. It can help to improve basic infrastructure, train the abundant human capital and ensure the transfer of adapted know-how. All these are important for attracting greater foreign direct investment. And indeed, productive capacity-building will be the main focus of the LDC conference in Istanbul.

We would also like to see more incentives for investors who want to get in on the ground floor of economies that are using a base of prized primary commodities as a foundation to diversify. This includes bringing down trade barriers to LDC exports and fulfilling commitments enshrined in the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development. Studies have shown that 100 per cent duty-free quota-free access to markets would have only a negligible impact on domestic producers in host countries, but could bring profound benefits to LDCs. Equally, relieving LDCs of their debt burden would free up resources for improving infrastructure and productive capacity.

Role of global South

One development that gives us new hope is the growing role of the global South. Statistics from the UN Conference on Trade and Development show that companies from emerging economies raised their direct investment abroad to record levels in 2010. A good deal of that investment is going to LDCs. Combined with growing trade and assistance , nations like India, Brazil, China, South Africa and Turkey are serving as new models for LDCs under the South-South Cooperation.

For their part, the LDCs are working hard to overcome the various social, economic and environmental challenges they face so they can follow in the footsteps of the major emerging economies that have fared so well in the past two decades, including by enacting political and economic reform. Only by providing a fuller global economic role for these countries can we set in motion the necessary economic currents that will carry often unstable nations towards the security and stability the whole world needs.

Investing in LDCs is a classic win-win for all: traditional donors, emerging economies, the private sector and — most important — nearly one billion people who deserve to enjoy their rights to social progress and better standards of life. Opportunity knocks in Istanbul on May 9. Let us seize it.

( Courtesy: UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan. Abdullah Gül is President of the Republic of Turkey, Jhala Nath Khanal is Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal and Ban Ki-moon is United Nations Secretary-General.)








The U.S.-Pakistan relationship could not have survived this long without the presence of vital common interests. But we are now close to another divorce. It would be a serious error of judgment, in my view, to conclude that this relationship cannot be salvaged. Pakistanis have great resilience, and their military leaders are capable of good as well as bad decisions. This relationship won't be salvaged unless Pakistan gets its house in order and unless we are clear about what we can and cannot expect from Pakistan.

Pakistan is a weak country with strong powers to resist U.S. pressures. U.S. reliance on Pakistan for logistical support for our troops in Afghanistan is a great source of friction. We argue over compensation, the extent of the U.S. presence on Pakistani soil, and the ground rules under which U.S. personnel operate.

U.S. and Pakistani interests diverge on nuclear issues, India, and Afghanistan. Pakistan's sense of insecurity is growing, which translates into increased reliance on nuclear weapons and continued links to groups that carry out deadly attacks in Afghanistan and India.


On Afghanistan, we both seek a negotiated settlement, but we are backing different horses. Our military forces in Afghanistan — God bless them — are performing in an exceptional manner. But we all know that their sacrifices will be in vain unless tactical gains can be handed over to competent Afghan authorities. If a lasting political settlement can be found in Afghanistan, it will require extraordinarily difficult internal and regional deal making. I doubt whether this heroic undertaking is worthy of an annual U.S. military commitment in excess of $100 billion dollars. Deal making will continue to be pursued at a fraction of this cost and sacrifice. The results may well be modest or ephemeral, no matter how much we spend there.

The future of Pakistan matters far more than the future of Afghanistan. Pakistan, unlike Afghanistan, is a hinge state in the Muslim world. U.S. military and diplomatic investments do not remotely correspond to the relative importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan to vital U.S. national security interests. Some U.S. policies are also increasing stress fractures in Pakistani society. It will require a four-cornered bank shot to leave Afghanistan as a reasonably functioning country. Pakistan may also become lost to its own pathologies regardless of U.S. efforts there. But it would be immensely tragic if the loss of U.S. blood and treasure in this theatre results in little better than the usual state of affairs in Afghanistan alongside far greater deterioration within Pakistan and in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

At best, we will continue to have a chequered track record with Pakistan. Pakistan's security apparatus will seek to increase its chances to influence Afghanistan's future no matter what we do. Pakistan won't give up its nuclear weapons, but we may be able to promote more nuclear risk-reduction measures in this region. U.S. ties with India will continue to improve, reflecting our substantial and growing common interests. Pakistan's national security establishment will feel more insecure as a result. We can't convince Pakistan's military leaders to befriend India, but we can promote more normal ties between Pakistan and India, especially in the areas of trade and regional development.

Extremist groups

The biggest challenge facing Pakistan's national security establishment is to recognise how continuing links to extremist groups mortgage Pakistan's future. Outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) are the leading edge of Pakistan's national demise. If Pakistan's military leaders cannot re-think the fundamentals of its anti-India policy and its increasing reliance on nuclear weapons, they will never know true security. I do not expect a change in Pakistan's ties to the Afghan Taliban, but this would be a good time for Pakistan's military leaders to re-think any ties they may still have to the remnants of al-Qaeda within their country.

We might also reconsider our present course. In my view, our Afghan policies hurt, rather than help, Pakistan to find its balance. If authorities in Afghanistan are unable to safeguard our military's hard-won gains, we are obligated to ask how much more blood and treasure ought to be devoted to this cause. I acknowledge that there are risks in accelerating reductions in the U.S. level of effort in Afghanistan. In my view, greater risks and costs are incurred by remaining on our current glide path.

I therefore respectfully suggest that this committee consider accelerating efforts to secure a political settlement in Afghanistan alongside steeper reductions in our level of military effort there.

( Michael Krepon is the Co-founder of the Stimson Center, Washington D.C. This is a copy of his public remarks before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on May 5, 2011. His longer, written testimony can be read at






The temptations of corruption are universal. My own country, Canada, experienced a serious political corruption scandal some years ago that contributed to a change of government in Ottawa in 2006.

Corruption in business, while deplored everywhere, has long been seen as a fact of life in large swathes of the world. Indeed, economists sometimes argue over whether some forms of the phenomenon are "enabling" in contrast to others deemed purely negative.

At times, to foreign observers, India seems neither better nor worse at fighting corruption than some other dynamic developing economies. But today, India's business and public sector climate is seen abroad as at serious risk from corrupt practices.

Strong institutions of the state promoting accountability — particularly robust audit capacities and transparency in government, parliamentary oversight of government spending and an alert judiciary — are key to combating corruption. A concerned citizenry, informed by a free and investigative media, is also vital. India possesses all of these assets in varying degrees.

India's foreign policy today, while seeking to protect the country's security, is driven uppermost by the promotion of the country's economic interests. The prevalence of corruption may seem far removed from a country's international relations. But in this globalised era, in which countries compete for investment capital, this is not true.

Thus, recent allegations of gross corruption, as in the 2G auction case, and of mismanagement possibly aggravated by corruption, such as that besetting the recent Commonwealth Games are relevant to India's standing on the global stage.

India's success in generating strong growth in recent decades has transformed the country's image, now that of an emerging power. The excitement over India has developed in spite of poor performance in reducing the absolute numbers of its poor (unlike China, which, with much higher national income and growth levels, has been able to make sharp inroads into poverty).

Wide contrasts

Indeed, first-time visitors to India are easily confused by the contrast between booming growth of some economic sectors and the continuing reality of widespread and grinding poverty — in spite of many government programmes touted to alleviate the latter. Often it seems as if India's private sector is succeeding in spite of the government sector, while the poor suffer the indifference and, in some cases, the rapacity of the latter.

When, internationally, I speak with enthusiasm about India, I am nowadays often confronted with sceptical questions about its recent corruption scandals.

While Indians take pride in the overseas investments of its large private sector firms, they sometimes forget to ask why Indian firms find it so much easier to invest abroad than at home. The reasons are many, from fractious domestic politics, to conflicts over land — but the opaque relationships between Delhi and some of India's private sector clearly count among them.

By and large, India's foreign policy has been prudent and responsible. Its bilateral diplomacy is energetic and the country has accessed the top tables of global diplomacy on security as on financial matters. In recent years, it has mostly resisted the temptations of force and the regional bullying that its size would make possible.

Media coverage

But India is not yet so well established globally that it can afford coverage of its affairs in the international media to be dominated by corruption scandals, big and small. (Figures cited in relation to the 2G affair if confirmed, would place it in the ranks of potentially the largest corruption scandals ever, anywhere).

Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who has proved herself a much more deft politician than her patronising critics assessed her only a few years ago, is thought to have retained from the Bofors affair, which tarnished the reputation of her late husband, a horror of corruption. Core Union government ministers in key portfolios are admired, among other qualities, for their personal integrity. But it is widely known in Delhi and beyond that more peripheral political personalities, often hailing from regional parties, sometimes tend to their party's coffers through the patronage and leverage that their portfolios offer. Political finance reform, attempted in a number of other countries, might provide a path forward.

It takes two (at least) to effect a corrupt transaction. Recent months have reflected poorly not just on some of India's politicians but also on business practices, both overt and covert, in several firms.

India's investigatory and judicial processes can be slow. But in matters of gross corruption and malfeasance (Satyam being one example), swift action leading to fair trial is vital, and not just for those indicted and for the victims of fraud. It is vital also for India's image when, as now, the balance of international reporting (reflecting debate in the Union parliament and discussion in India's national media) is generating negative reviews for the country.

India's investigatory machinery and its courts are often up to the challenge. But judicial reform might help place the judiciary itself above suspicion and could improve efficiency (and hence judicial effectiveness). In politics and public service some countries have informally linked higher pay scales to higher penalties for corruption, hardly fool-proof but perhaps worth considering where affordable.

India harbours huge potential for itself and for the world. Indians deserve all possible rewards from the country's global engagement. Friends of India abroad, myself very much included, have been heartened at the degree of local fight-back against corruption in India. Let's hope that civil society, politicians of integrity, business leaders of moral character and the media do not simply allow the current crop of scandals to exhaust themselves, then reverting to "business as usual".

If these matters fade without clear-cut resolution, they will simply add to the weight of international questions about India as a business opportunity, and as a global leader. Such an outcome would be a great shame.

( David M. Malone publishes his book 'Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy' in weeks ahead.)




Despite growing controversy about the cost and relevance of aircraft carriers, navies around the world are adding new ones to their inventories at a pace unseen since World War II.

The U.S., with more carriers than all other nations combined, and established naval powers such as Britain, France and Russia are doing it. So are Brazil, India and China, which with Russia form the BRIC grouping of emerging economic giants.

"The whole idea is about being able to project power," said Rear Adm. Philippe Coindreau, commander of the French navy task force that has led the air strikes on Libya since March 22.

"An aircraft carrier is perfectly suited to these kinds of conflicts, and this ship demonstrates it every day," he said in an interview aboard the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, which has been launching daily raids against Muammar Qadhafi's forces since the international intervention in the Libyan conflict began March 22.

The 42,000-ton nuclear-powered carrier has been joined in this task by another smaller ship, Italy's 14,000-ton Giuseppe Garibaldi. None of the U.S. Navy's supercarriers have been involved, despite American participation in the war's initial phase.

The U.S. Navy still operates 11 nuclear-powered carriers, mostly Nimitz-class vessels displacing up to 100,000 tons.

Backbone of sea power

The floating fortresses became the backbone of U.S. sea power after WWII, projecting military might around the world in crises and in conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Lee Willett, head of the maritime studies program at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based military think tank, said the war in Libya illustrated the usefulness of carriers to other navies with more regional interests.

France and Italy, the NATO nations closest to the North African coast, chose to deploy their ships on operations although they have air force bases within easy reach, he noted.

"All around the world there are major and not-so-major navies now looking into getting into some form of sea-based airpower," Willett said. "They may not want to be global powers but they certainly want to have some regional power—projection capability."

The exact number of aircraft carriers in service worldwide is difficult to establish because of the proliferation of vessels that are classified as amphibious warfare ships, helicopter carriers or even cruisers or destroyers, but that fit the classic definition of a carrier as a mobile air base with a flat deck from which aircraft take off and land.

These include the United States' eight 41,000-ton Wasp-class amphibious warfare ships, whose standard complement includes Harrier jets and SuperCobra helicopter gunships, in addition to transport choppers.

The French Mistral Class, Britain's HMS Ocean, and Spain's Juan Carlos I share the same concept of multipurpose ships that can carry strike jets, helicopters and hundreds of marines for amphibious landing operations.

Even Japan's two Hyuga class "destroyers" have the characteristic flat deck, effectively making them carriers despite their official designation.

"At the end of the day, the popularity of carriers is due to the fact that these are very flexible platforms that can be used for a wide variety of tasks and not just warfare," said Nate Hughes, director of military analysis at the U.S.-based think tank Stratfor.

Military experts have long debated the relevance of aircraft carriers, which some have dismissed as relics of the Cold War. — AP




Ten days ago a well-informed reader in Kochi e-mailed a convincing case for banning endosulfan, an off-patent pesticide widely used by farmers round the country, on the reasoning that it played havoc with the lives and livelihoods of poor farm workers. But the reader did not stop with this; he said The Hindu had not given the issue the attention it warranted. This led me to a qualitative study of news media coverage of the issue during the latest phase of the mass campaign for a central government ban on the use of the pesticide.

Although endosulfan has been in use in Indian agriculture for over three decades, its adverse effects came on to the public agenda only during the last decade-and-a-half, when users in India and several countries began to report their experiences with the pesticide. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) was signed in 2001. It held five meetings to decide on banning the pesticide.

Awaiting alternative

On April 26, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan went on a fast along with hundreds of party cadres and supporters in Thiruvananthapuram to press the central government for banning endosulfan. Around the same time, a meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on POP began in Geneva to take a final decision on the long-pending issue of ban on the organochlorine insecticide and acaricide. While most countries favoured an immediate ban, a few, notably India, played for time, in the end winning for the resisters 11 years' time to find an alternative to endosulfan.

The Kerala Chief Minister's galvanising campaign, which had the support of political leaders and people cutting across party lines, was followed by a State-wide hartal and demonstration by legislators in New Delhi, who had a meeting with an unconvinced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The fast did have its impact on States such as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and ultimately led the central government to agree to a conditional ban.

The Kerala agitations also made a substantial difference to the coverage of the issue by the media, newspapers as well as television. NDTV did a short and moving feature on child victims of endosulfan and a follow-up interview. CNN-IBN, for its part, covered the massive rally and hartal in Kerala, which gave a push to the demand for a countrywide ban on endosulfan. The coverage of the issue by mainstream newspapers and news magazines reflected the popular mood.

In Tehelka Magazine (May 7, 2011), Jeemon Jacob tells the moving tale of about 5000 people in Kasaragod district who suffer from chronic diseases. Their children carry congenital defects, all bedridden since birth. Many suffer from neurological problems and diseases they call "the Hiroshima syndrome."

The Hindu published several reports and analytical articles, which were informative and educative. Special mention must be made of reports and articles on related topics by the Thiruvananthapuram bureau of the newspaper. For example, in addition to offering factual detail on how the aerial spraying of endosulfan affected 4000 victims in Kasaragod district, the coverage gave readers an idea of the alternatives available to endosulfan.

Remediation plan needed

The Hindu followed this up on May 4, 2011 with a well-informed and balanced editorial titled 'Eliminating endosulfan' ( It welcomed the decision of the Stockholm Convention to include endosulfan in the list of chemicals scheduled for elimination at the global level. It pointed out that "for the controversial insecticide to be replaced with benign alternatives," it was "critical that official policy makes the development of low cost substitutes a priority." It found the window of 11 years available to replace endosulfan with safer alternatives "unacceptably long," arguing that "if the harmful effects of the insecticide are indeed true, there has to be urgent action at the national level." It emphasised the need to fully rehabilitate the people of Kasaragod who had been affected by the indiscriminate use of endosulfan in cashew cultivation.

The editorial also underscored "the need for a good remediation plan," considering "the wider effects on the environment in the affected region," as recorded by the Salim Ali Foundation. "Containing the pollution," the editorial concluded, "requires a systematic study of the soil, air, and water quality. Recovery of the regional ecology would be aided in no small measure by sparing further chemical stresses, and wherever feasible, by switching to organic methods. India has stopped the use of DDT in agriculture and, with sufficient will, can do the same with endosulfan."

We actually found that during the last 15 months, The Hindu has published close to 60 reports and articles on the endosulfan issue. The criticism by the well-informed reader from Kochi that the coverage was less than the subject deserved speaks to the power, relevance, and urgency of the issue.









For all the recent anti-politician Jantar Mantar drama that constituted the starting point of the demand for an effective Lokpal Bill, and the subsequent muckraking that we saw which was intended to discredit some civil society elements on the joint panel to draft the legislation, the discussions within the forum itself appear to be going on in a businesslike manner, and seems free from rancour. Indeed, the deliberations so far may even be called constructive, belying the impression some people harboured that the civil society members were a strange bunch who do little more than froth at the mouth, and government representatives are cussed status quoists. The three rounds of deliberations held so far appear to have been conducted in a spirit that suggests that all concerned do wish to deliver. The five ministers in the group and the five civil society nominees may have differing points of emphasis, and occasionally divergent views on specifics, but essentially they do not appear to be on a different page from one another. After round three on Saturday, human resources development minister Kapil Sibal, one of the five members from the government side, described the joint panel proceedings as "exceptionally constructive". It is this that makes the prospect of clinching a draft bill in reasonable time look realistic.
It is reasonable to say that a clear area of agreement has already emerged. There is no difference of view in the joint committee that an independent Lokpal authority should be set up, endowed with financial and administrative autonomy. However, the details are to be worked out as on how many members there should be on the body, and the methodology of selecting the members as well as the chairperson. The civil society nominees are dead right when they say that anyone who is on the Lokpal authority, as a member or as chairperson, must not take up any government appointment subsequently or be an election candidate on behalf of any political party. Precisely because these criteria have not been adhered to has the institution of governor got debased. Some members of the higher judiciary too unfortunately think nothing of accepting post-retirement assignments from governments. The only way the Lokpal body can remain above the fray is by staying far away from governmental or political lure, and this needs to be built into the proposed legislation. Another area of consensus already reached in the joint panel is that governmental sanction (or the governor's sanction, in case of a chief minister) will no longer be required to prosecute civil servants and political appointees above a certain rank for corruption. This is a happy augury. The proposed step takes away the virtual immunity the corrupt among higher officials enjoyed within the system as sanctions were difficult to obtain. It is just as well that the debate continues — not just in the joint committee but in the wider community at large — on whether the office of Prime Minister and members of the higher judiciary should also be brought under the ambit of of the Lokpal authority. It is a positive sign that within the joint panel there is no division between governmental and civil society nominees on the question. Differences of view pertain to individuals, not which side has sent them to the committee.
At its second meeting on May 2, the joint panel apparently agreed to meet even on a day-to-day basis if needed in order to conclude their work as early as practicable. This suggestion had been made earlier through these columns. While civil society elements had set the deadline of June 30 for completing the drafting exercise, we need to take a liberal view of things if we are persuaded that the committee is serious about its undertaking.






Public memory is not quite so short that we cannot remember how the entire Winter Session of Parliament was washed out due to the Opposition MPs, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left, trooping to the well of both the Houses of Parliament and chanting slogans demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the 2G spectrum allocation issue. In vain did the government and the parliamentary affairs minister argue that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, headed by senior BJP member Murli Manohar Joshi was already seized of the matter and was examining it. The Prime Minister himself offered suo motu to appear before the PAC, and the government even offered the services of the investigative agencies to the PAC. But the Opposition was not satisfied. They insisted that the PAC was only a "technical" committee and had no real powers to go into the spectrum issue. They swore that only a JPC could do the job, and nothing else would satisfy them. They even taunted Congress members in the House, asking why the Congress had suddenly "adopted" Murli Manohar Joshi, in the process indirectly indicting their own leader as either incompetent or unworthy.
When the entire Winter Session was wiped out, and the democracy of our country reached a dire state, the government agreed to the demand for a JPC, if only to allow Parliament to function again, and to restore credibility to the functioning of Parliament in the eyes of the people. Thus the JPC was constituted. In the process, the Opposition did enormous damage to the institution of the JPC by bringing into contentious debate one of the most important committees of Parliament. However, the public denigration of the PAC did not deter, the Opposition wanted to score political brownie points against the government and ensure that a JPC was constituted. In this process, a question repeatedly asked by some people, including me, was: How exactly was the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) report leaked to the public, even before Parliament met? How did the CAG report on 2G get leaked to newspapers before it was even tabled in Parliament? How could it possibly be an authoritative report unless it had been properly examined by the PAC? Was not the timing of the leak of the CAG report significant, inasmuch as it happened one day before Parliament was due to meet? Should there not be an inquiry into how the CAG report was leaked to the media, and why? Should not accountability be fixed for the leak of the CAG report? Significantly, until today, there are no answers to the above. There has been no inquiry into how the CAG report was leaked before being tabled in Parliament and how it reached the public domain. Of course, there are those who would argue that the issue lies in the content of the report, not in whether and how it was leaked. To them my answer is simple.
The contents of the CAG report are now being probed in at least seven fora, including the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate. One Cabinet minister resigned and is in Tihar jail. Others have been chargesheeted and the whole is being monitored by an extremely acerbic and vocal Supreme Court. Therefore nothing is really left undone, and this United Progressive Alliance government has done far more to fight corruption than any Opposition government has ever done. However, we still do not know how and why the CAG report was leaked. To my mind, as citizens, we have a right to demand transparency on the leakage of the report, as much as we have a right to demand a free and fair investigation into the allegations themselves, and the assurance that the guilty will be punished.
Therefore I say, how come so much is happening on the probe into the allocation of spectrum, but the question of the leak of the CAG report has become a closed chapter? And, I ask myself, why should this be so? At this time I cannot help but cast my mind back to another very convenient CAG report on Bofors, which, too, was made public at a sensitive time, the conclusions of which stand unproved (in fact dismissed by court), until today, 22 years later.
And now the leak of the PAC report. Who leaked the draft report of the PAC? As any novice can tell you, it is not even a report until it has been discussed by the entire PAC and adopted or rejected. Therefore, who leaked the draft report? The chairman of the PAC cannot evade his responsibility by simply denying all knowledge, especially after he eagerly rushed to the media after every meeting of the PAC and made public its discussions after every meeting, something which was hitherto unknown in parliamentary history. The BJP and the Left conveniently target the Congress now and accuse it of attacking institutions. They say that the institution of the PAC has been politicised by the Congress because the Congress and other members wanted the chairman to explain the blatant falsehood in the "report", which quoted the evidence of senior bureaucrats who had not even appeared before the PAC, so grossly false and motivated was the draft report. It was, in fact, the duty of the PAC members to point out such blatant falsehoods in the report, and when the chairman walked out of the meeting, all they did, completely in line with the rules of procedure, was to elect one among the members present as chairman for the meeting and proceed with it. Those who say that a Rajya Sabha member could not have been elected are simply unaware of the facts. The convention undoubtedly is that the chairman of the PAC is elected from the main Opposition party in the Lok Sabha, but under the rules, there is clear provision for members to elect one from among themselves to chair a particular meeting and to carry on the discussion.
The spectrum issue is being investigated and probed at various fora. And the guilty will be brought to book. The question now is who leaked the PAC report? Can the BJP and the Left answer?

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.
The views expressed in this column are her own







One important aspect of good governance is that the ministers, being the elected representatives of the people, take personal interest in all public affairs especially more sensitive ones like health, education, environment, employment etc. If they discharge their duties efficiently and with definite purpose of promoting public good, they are not putting any obligation on the people. It is what is expected of them. Nor should they expect the public or the media to sing encomiums in their praise. If the health minister ordered surprise raids on fake clinics in Samba after receiving many complaints from the public, he is within his jurisdiction to do so though he has done it belatedly. How much damage these fake diagnostic centres have done to the unsuspecting public is anybody's guess. No fewer than five ultrasound clinics in Bari Brahmana and Vijaypur have been raided on the instructions of the Health Minister and sealed for many reasons, the main reason being their professional misconduct. These centres are reported to be charging exorbitantly from patients for carrying out tests. Apart from that they are alleged to have employed unskilled and unprofessional staff to carry out clinical investigation, something that is in violation of the directives of the health department. It has also been noted that the equipment used by these ultrasound centres and diagnostic units is outdated and obsolete. Naturally, the patients cannot expect correct diagnostic results from their reports. In other words, the owners of these centres have been playing with the lives of the patients and that is a crime culpable under the law. The example of these fake ultrasound centres has made the health minister think in wider situation. He will be justified in thinking that there could be such fake centres at other places in Jammu region especially in the city of Jammu itself. By uncovering the fraudulent centres in Samba district, the health department has sent a signal across Jammu that patients need to be alert about the genuineness of the diagnostic centres where they get themselves checked and reported. People have many complaints against the health department but as generally there is either no response from the department or the response is mostly negative and protects the official line, people would want a drastic change in the entire medical services system in the state. It has been noted that the charges of some of the more known diagnostic centres are much higher than in reputed centres elsewhere in the country, say Chandigarh or Delhi. In the same way the nursing home charges, too, are exorbitant. The owners argue that the patients who come to them are from affordable class and as such they can pay more. This is a wrong line of argument. There has to be a norm and a rule governing their services and the rules and guidelines need to be set forth by the medical department. Having done that, it is the duty of the medical department to make occasional or even surprise checks whether the clinics observe the rules or not. If they don't observe then proper legal action should follow. We don't hear any errant laboratory or clinic or ultrasound centre being fixed up by the health department. How then can health services improve it there are no deterrents? The overhauling of existing medical system should also bring the practicing physicians and surgeons under its purview. A campaign against arbitrary charges from examination to tests and cures needs to be launched within the civil society. Nobody should be allowed to play with the health of the people.
A very grave concern expressed by knowledgeable circles is that some of these ultrasound clinics are indulging in anti-social and anti-ethical practice of gender discrimination. The data released by the Census department after completing the recent census in the country shows alarming results about the gender ratio in the country but especially in some states including Punjab, Haryana and J&K. In Jammu region we are told that the ratio of female child against male child is less and dwindling. This is a matter of grave concern. It is reported that most of the feticides take place after gender ascertaining of the embryo. There are strict orders forbidding gender test in clinical centres. But unscrupulous owners violate the law and for pecuniary interests conduct the tests which ultimately end up with abortions and the dwindling ration of girl children. This is a blatant crime against society and the culprits deserve severest punishment. The Minister for health should enforce the anti gender determination law very strictly. It is satisfying to note that the minister has decided to conduct more surprise visits and raids on medical clinics and lay his finger on irregularities they commit if any. This, to repeat, is a very realistic approach to implement good governance and will create goodwill among the people that their woes are being listened to and addressed. Surprise raids should also be extended to other parts of the state and Jammu region as well. Such complaints have also been coming from various districts and need to be addressed without loss of time. Peoples' patience in health matters should not be tested.







Happily Jammu is reverberating with cultural activities that represent the rich heritage of the region in art, folklore, music, dance and other activates. This week two absorbing cultural programmes were set afoot, one at the Zorawar Singh Auditorium organized under the aegis of J&K Art Festival and the other organized by Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages at Abhinav theatre. This was the concluding session of five-day long musical bonanza, something that will remain long in the memory of the audience. Jammu has rich cultural tradition with wonderful diversity because of the geographical and other diversities of regions comprising the entire province. It is satisfying that cultural organizations in general and the Cultural Academy in particular are catering to all the sub-regions of Jammu province from Doda-Bhaderwah to Udhampur-Reasi to Rajouri-Poonch areas. All of these areas have their respective rich traditions steeped in history and history of culture. In some cases, the lovers of art and culture are trying to revive some of the older traditions of music, dance and folklore and others are imparting new blood and energy into these genres. The most important utility of these cultural functions is to create closer affiliation between the people of different regions and thus formulate a comprehensive culture. It has to be remembered that culture and literature should percolate down to the lowest rungs of society and not remain the exclusive realm of upper crest. Therefore revival of folklore and folk music has their own importance. We can imagine that troupes of artists could even move within the regions and perform in rural areas to acquaint locals about the wide range and canvas of the culture of people in entire region. For example the folklore and other traditions of Bhaderwah region have close similarity with those available in Chamba and Himachal. Inter-state cultural meets always contribute richly to the development of cultural heritage. Jammu is centrally located in the cultural history of northern India and as such it has the potential of becoming a big cultural hub to generate waves of cosmopolitan culture that will strengthen our national identity.








The death of two birds with one stone is generally greeted with generous applause, notwithstanding the fact that the second casualty was an accident. What is useful in sport might be less fortuitous in other circumstances.
The four American helicopters which went for the final kill in the long hunt for Osama bin Laden achieved their primary purpose. The world is now busy sifting through the ruins of their second hit. For in the process they also crippled the credibility of Pakistan's most powerful institution, its Army, often described by its apologists as critical to national stability and even cohesion. All pretence and pretension is over; a fudge that the killing of Osama was some sort of "joint operation" was thin camouflage that has been torn apart by minimal public scrutiny. On 4 May Pakistan's information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan admitted in Parliament that American choppers had evaded detection by use of "map of the earth" flying techniques. If the Pak military did learn what was happening during the 40-odd minutes that ground operations took, there was too much uncertainty and confusion in its chain of command to fashion an adequate, or any, response.
Stark fact: the Pakistan Army is impotent before America.
Only the impotent resort to bluster. The Pakistan military rather pompously "threatened" America with "dire consequences" if it dared to violate Pak sovereignty again. America sniffed, not in sorrow but disdain, and sent Drones on Friday to hit targets in the Datta Khel area, killing 12 people, described naturally as "militants". Washington did not seek Islamabad's permission for renewed military action.
Less evident fact, but fact nevertheless: Pakistan's generals, who have controlled defence policy from the moment Ayub Khan became defence minister, whether through their own dictators or civilian politicians who took their dictation [except for the six Zulfiqar Bhutto years], have turned a national army into a mercenary force. Those who pay the piper determine the tune. Since Pakistan's generals have Urdu as their first language, they will not need an interpreter to understand Sahir Ludhianvi's evocative couplet: "Kaise bazaar ka dustoor tumhein samjhaaon, Bik gaya jo woh kharidaar nahin ho sakta [How shall I explain the logic of the bazaar? He is who has been sold cannot become a buyer]".
This is a variation, not particularly subtle, of the neo-colonial syndrome. Neo-colonization was honed and shaped by the British Raj on the Indian subcontinent through the princely states, so we have sufficient evidence from history. In essence, neo-colonization is the grant of independence on condition you do not exercise it. It is an exchange of security systems, where the superior power ensures the survival of an ally, while the ally protects the interests of the superpower in its region.
When, therefore, the Pakistan army feels the need for an alternative policy line which might be unacceptable to Washington, it is forced into double-talk and deception. The ISI must maintain distance and deniability when it nurtures assets it needs to use when its requirements are askance of American interests. This explains its relationship with outfits it has either spawned or fattened. That old codger Pervez Musharraf, whose most effective arsenal has always been stored within his vocal chords, has been trotted out to explain how Osama was living in luxury within smelling distance of the military. This is logical, since Osama made his home in Abbotabad when Musharraf was President. As attorney for the Army, however, Musharraf is hopeless; he thinks raising his voice, combined with a convenient memory, improves an argument. One story is too priceless to be ignored. Former Afghanistan intelligence chief A. Saleh recalls that when, four years ago, he told Musharraf that Osama was hiding in or around Abbotabad, Musharraf exploded, "Am I President of the Republic of Banana?"
The question is rhetorical. Dictators like Musharraf have turned Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Pakistan into a banana republic.
I wonder sometimes if Pak generals get more irritated by an Indian general's barb or an Afghan's taunt. Last Wednesday, General Zahir Azimi, spokesman for Kabul's defence ministry, publicly wondered: "If the Pakistani intelligence agency does not know about a home located 10 metres or 100 metres away from its national academy, where for the last six years the biggest terrorist is living, how can this country take care of its strategic weapons?" The whole of Pakistan, not just Kabul, is waiting for an adequate response.
The deterioration of the Pakistan army is not a consequence of financial corruption. That is a small part of the story. It self-destructive because there is complete absence of accountability. No one, either a wing of government or Parliament, can question its will to do what it wants. In the name of patriotism, it has declared virtual independence from the rest of Pakistan. The consequences are there for all to see. Instead of being an impenetrable wall on the frontier, the Pak Army has become a porous bale of cotton.
You can only sleep comfortably wrapped in cotton; a nation's guardians need to keep their eyes open.







When Indian socialism was constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, it induced widespread pessimism about the possibility of breaking out of the Hindu growth rate of 3.5 per cent. The events of the late 1970s and early 1980s provided the first break, to a growth rate of 5.5 per cent. The events of the early 1990s gave the second break, to a growth rate of 7.5 per cent. Today, India holds an enviable track record, where GDP expanded by six times in the last 30 years: an average growth rate of 6.17 per cent.
The growth pessimism of the 1970s has been replaced by a sense of entitlement to high growth. Starting with Goldman Sachs, many people have got used to doing linear extrapolation, thinking that there is a boundless future of high growth. Most of us are pretty certain that in the next 30 years, GDP will grow between 6 per cent and 8 per cent, thus rising by between 6x and 10x.
The global experience over the last 200 years does not support such extrapolation. The growth experience of countries holds many surprises. Sometimes, a country that used to have low growth shifts into high gear (e.g., India). At other times, a country that used to have high growth shifts into low gear (e.g., Japan). Growth is much more complicated than counting labour and capital.
Alongside economic growth is the political system. The Indian elite has long been certain that in time India will develop a political system like that of the US or the UK. There has been a sense of inevitability about this destination, of a high quality political system. While this might indeed come about, the experience of the last 200 years is not encouraging. Italy and Japan do not yet have a good political system, and as recently as 1982, Spain had an attempted coup. The US and the UK stand out as exceptions rather than the rule.
The goal of the Indian development project, over the next 30 years, is that of getting a 6x to 10x enlargement of GDP and emerging with a UK- or US-quality political system. India has a crack at achieving these remarkable things. But this is not a certainty and history encourages considerable caution. What might go wrong along the way?
The first problem is that of exuberant spending. Thirty years of high growth has given politicians a sense that public money is there for spending. The hard won lessons of fiscal prudence, which were starting to take root in the 1990s and early 2000s, have been abandoned by the UPA. Many a country has come apart when large spending programmes were not supported by commensurate tax revenues, particularly in downturns. The political stress associated with these spending programmes is the highest when they are entitlements (such as NREG or RTE) as opposed to discretionary (such as building highways).
The second problem is that of corruption. When the licence-permit raj was eased, we expected corruption in India to decline. And indeed, in fields with a low government interface, it has. But every functioning market economy requires a complex government interface in many fields. Regulation is a feature of a vast swathe of the economy, ranging from health, safety and environmental regulation that influences a large number of firms, to much more detailed regulatory interfaces in finance and infrastructure. India's nascent capitalism is characterised by firms vigorously pursuing profits. All too often, these firms have low ethical standards. Under normal notions of competition in the market economy, the most efficient firms get to the top. But when corruption is pervasive, the most rotten firms get to the top.
The third dimension is the political system. It is our cherished belief that in 30 years, as prosperity seeps in, India will get to a US- or UK-quality political system. But there are formidable hurdles along the way. The fledgling capitalism that has been unleashed by economic reforms is interacting with the political system in dangerous ways. There is not even one state in India where governance and politics is working well. First-past-the-post elections have given incentives to political parties to find a loyal base of roughly 25 per cent of voters, and not reach out to the middle through policies that benefit all. The foundations of civilisation-courts, human rights and freedom of speech-are malfunctioning.
The fourth dimension is state capacity. The Commonwealth Games are a salutory reminder of the incompetence of the Indian state. We are a $1.2-trillion economy, but we do not have the commensurate state capability to address sophisticated questions. Each year of high GDP growth is increasing the gap between requirements and capabilities. Will the Indian development project succeed? It might, but we cannot assume that it will. (INAV)








Whatever the ultimate fall-out of the unfortunate cross-voting episode in recently held elections of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, the incident has once again revived the long-standing debate about whether at all a Legislative Council is required and that too in its present form and composition.
The Indian parliamentary system was inspired by the Westminster model of United Kingdom and after independence, the founding fathers of Indian republic envisaged the Upper House in the mould of House of Lords in London. It was meant to accomodate such eminent persons in Parliament who were otherwise disinclined to enter electoral fray and make it to Lower House but whose presence could add to both grace as well as wisdom of the Parliament. Quite appropriately, therefore, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru personally intervened to ensure that none less than Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan should take over as the republic's first Vice President and, in that capacity, also the first chairman of the newly constituted first Rajya Sabha of Indian Parliament. On the same pattern and with the same noble purpose in mind, an Upper House was also envisaged for State Legislatures and it was named Legislative Council or Vidhan Parishad with its members referred as "Members of Legislative Council" or "MLC".
The great political philosopher and author Bertrand Russel warned almost a century ago that when a democracy is new, it brings to the fore men of merit and commitment but as the time passes, it begins to yield place to mediocres and careerists. The Indian democracy too seems to have suffered the same Russel doctrine. During the first two decades after independence, men at the helm of polity were drawn from a lot who had more to offer than to take. For example, about C Rajagopalachari it was said that he was competent enough to be the Prime Minister of any country in the world and yet after independence , he agreed to serve as Chief Minister of erstwhile State of Madras. Dr B C Roy gave up a lucrative physician's practice while Dr Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, the youngest ever Vice Chancellor in India, quit his job in Calcutta University. Jawaharlal Nehru donated his palatial Allahabad bungalow to the party in much the same vein as nearer home Pandit Prem Nath Dogra offered his Jammu Haveli to house the party headquarters.
The watershed decade was the 1970s when Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister broke away from the tradition of preserving the sanctity of Upper House as House of Elders and began using it as a convenient abode for blue-eyed men and women of Indira-Sanjay duo, defeated politicians loyal to Nehru-Gandhi family and celebrities or businessmen who were in good books of ruling coterie. Other political parties too followed suit and at State level the Upper House or Legislative Council too gradually turned into a backdoor entry House.
With passage of time, things seem to have come to such a pass that hectic lobbying including monetary considerations have begun to dominate the criterion for nomination to Upper House. What began as nomination of undeserving businessmen is alleged to have deteriorated to open auction for the highest bidder. Hence, another argument in favour of abolishing Legislative Council as has already been done in some States thus also reducing the liability on State exchequer.
Unfortunately, however, the common man will continue to pay the price as long as his legislators are counted by numbers and not by calbire or integrity...lest Umapathy should forget Allama Iqbal's poetic observation about electoral system ''...Bandon Ko Gina Jata Hai, Tola Nahin Jata !''







A series of patients came to us, whose worlds have literally come apart. One found his marriage over, lost his job, his finances are in tatters, and if that was not enough, he discovered his son had a serious drug addiction. Another, a cancer patient, discovered the cancer had spread, the anti-cancer drugs had caused vital organs to collapse, her job's shaky, her husband's having an affair with her best friend, and all the tension is exacerbating her father's heart condition. Another found herself on the bench. Her debt skyrocketed, her boyfriend deserted her, her parents' health has worsened with property dispute going against them. A fourth just survived a murder attack which was financed by a close relative.
It never rains but it pours, goes an old adage. And as the world watched, Japan was rocked by one terrible tragedy after another. First an earthquake that was a terrifying 9 on the Richter scale. If that were not terrifying enough, then, as the world watched aghast, a tsunami made a mockery of man's towering achievements, sweeping cities aside with dark black swirling water. Sub-zero temperatures, no water, and the death toll reaching terrible proportions, but if that were not enough, explosions at the Fukushima nuclear reactor piled tragedy on to tragedy.
A brave human can take one hammer blow. But can anyone take two, three, eight, ten? The simple truth is that it is in times of terrible hardship that man shines the greatest… The Kargil soldier who took 17 bullets crawled miles to give a vital message. A survivor of the Andaman's tsunami clung to a palm tree for 11 days without food or water. The movie, 127 hours, relates the extraordinary story of a man who cut off his arm when stuck during mountain climbing. Helen Keller turned terrible disability into triumph. And the cancer patient, who came to us, far from giving up, has begun a new project.
So, where do those hit by catastrophe piled on catastrophe get the strength to hold on? Some simply believe in themselves; possess an animal surety in their existence. Many can't let others down - their children, the team, a cause, or the world. "When I am ill, I tell myself I can't be ill, my child needs me, and the illness often vanishes." To some, the example of those who have conquered the unconquerable is often a candle in a dark night. To many, the strength is simply God or their Guru; the deep undying realisation that a greater supportive force exists.
Sometimes, implacable tragedy is met by impossible miracle. "I was crossing the tracks of the local in Mumbai when I slipped, fell and cracked my knee. As I writhed in pain, to my terrible shock, I saw a local come towards me just 30 feet away. I could see the motorman's eyes as he saw me sprawled on the tracks. There was no way I could survive. Then I felt a great force lift me and fling me 10 feet away. I was a good 65 kg then. No human could have lifted me, a dead weight, let alone flung me. As I fell, I looked around. The only people around were 20 feet away," says Nishigandha N, a research manager.
Times of great tragedy are times of great power. It's meant to destroy walls that imprison you. It shakes up worlds grown lethargic and old. It wakes up rudely - the life spirit - the fighting spirit… Allow yourself to embrace the power released and redirect it, resist the temptation of going into shock.
"Sometimes, you just have to laugh," says B. Thakur, entrepreneur, housewife and spiritual teacher. "If I were to tell you my problems, just hearing it you'd want to close your ears. Some days now, in the middle of all my problems as I deal with it, a smile rises in me. You just have to laugh. It is serious. But you can't take it seriously. It's like the universe has given me a peek into the fact that all this is just a play. I need to find a way to rescript it. When I can do that I stop being a character in life and graduate to being author. Mukti is conquering life. Not escape," she adds.
'Ask and faltering can turn to triumph,' say the texts of virtually all religions. The trouble with crisis however is that it often takes away our greatest strength - faith. Mrs. Koshy in eastern Africa found her home invaded by 40 mercenaries with machetes and machine guns and watched helplessly as her husband was pistol-whipped. She called out to God. But nothing happened, no cavalry drove in, no angels arrived. Where her God once sat enthroned was a deep emptiness.
For some, the hollow as one's self-esteem falls and God crashes is sometimes filled by gurus, teachers, and mentors. Says Mohit J, "My job, marriage, financial loss, mother's illness... I have begun to doubt myself. I sometimes spend hours wondering have I put the right bedsheet. But, coming to my teacher put things into perspective. It all seems manageable."
Another enormous source of strength is of course, friends and family. "You cannot think. When it hits, you simply cannot think. You are gasping. Drowning. You find a light. And you hold on to it. A friend's shoulder. A teacher's words. The force of healing. And sometimes downright practical help. You find the light becoming stronger and deeper.
And it fills you. Something deep inside pushes you… as a human, you have to get up and you have to walk. And as you do that you find there are people who support you, who make you stronger. Friends. Family," says Mala, the CEO of a company that just recovered from a deep financial crisis.
The help one can receive can be so unexpected as to be miraculous: "I was talking on the phone telling a friend I was tight on funds when a business associate overheard this. He went out to his car and wrote out a cheque for 3 lakhs, no questions asked," shares Manusha B., retail entrepreneur. "When money is tight, you see the worst meanness, but also incredible goodness, the God in man."
Sometimes, help can come from toddlers. Mrs. Chandy was diagnosed with secondaries of cancer. One day, her child, a 3-year-old, walked in as she was weeping. When he asked her why she was crying, he was told that she was ill. "Why don't you ask God," he said. "You have told me that God listens," he told her. Shaken by her child's faith, she reached in deep for spiritual answers. A week later, when she checked, the cancer had disappeared.
For many, strength can come from the splosh of a dog's tongue. Says Leon, struggling with a deep addictive urge, "My dog, my mutt, keeps me alive when I can't take it anymore. He just comes and sits next to me and the dark becomes less dark."
Celia, healer and spiritual catalyst, echoes the same thought. "Talk to your dog. Cuddle up. It's important you have a shoulder to cry on. So make friends when things are good. With a dog or God. It's difficult to do so, but believe that God has given you the strength, even as he has given you the challenge."
Now, some may face dark and hard times. And often one may be tempted to ask, 'why me?' While most of us live our lives attempting to cushion ourselves from life's rough knocks, those who have triumphed over fate's arrows have a very different take. "I was a critical person before I was hit by tragedy. More cynical. What a crisis does is, it increases your faith in mankind. You receive such a lot of support. You become sensitive to other's needs, and hurt. I now listen more. Sometimes people have the answers. It's just that they have lost faith. By talking and listening, you really can help," says Mala.
In a conversation I had with brand consultant R. J. Thomas, he revealed that great catastrophes often lead to economic growth and innovation. The Black Death in Europe is directly linked to European ascendance. The World War II, among other things, produced great innovation.










Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi, who had declared a few days ago that the agitating Air India pilots would not be allowed to dictate terms to the government, was forced to eat his words when he was driven to the negotiating table by the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday. A flexible approach and some tact are always helpful. The pilots who had brought 90 per cent of the Air India flights to a halt to demand pay parity with pilots who flew on international routes have returned to work with nothing more than assurances. Of course, their sacked colleagues will be reinstated and their association re-recognised. When a committee was already seized of the issue of wages, where was the need to go on strike? z

In the 10-day confrontation between the management and the pilots it is the taxpayer who has been left with a bloody nose. He will pay for the Rs 15-crore-a-day hit the government-owned Air India has got during the strike period. Besides, there is a loss of Rs 13,300 crore, accumulated since the Air India-Indian Airlines merger in 2007. The Rs 40,000-crore loan is already bleeding the airline. No one may now ask the uncomfozrtable questions raised during the face-off: Why was such a large fleet of aircraft bought in one go with borrowed money? Why were some of the profit-making routes passed on to private airlines? What made the airline fall from the number one position to number four?

The return to business-as-usual may bury an important issue that cropped up during the strike: Should Air India be privatised? The airline has been plundered over the years by the political class. Secondly, it is none of the government's business to be in the business of running airlines, hotels etc. However, politicians and bureaucrats, who regularly milk public sector units, will not easily let go control over their personal fiefdoms. Thirdly, political interference does not let a professional management – even if hired under pressure – manage the affairs. A PSU working under such constraints cannot hope to compete with professionally managed organisations.










Those suffering from mental health disorders are often treated like pariahs. In this light, its heartening to note that India, which fought to get non-communicable disease (NCD) status for mental disorders, has been able to get it included in the WHO list which traditionally includes diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases. Of course, this does not mean that the plight of mentally ill patients is going to change overnight. But it is a significant step that could not only lead to de-stigmatisation but also pave the way for better healthcare.


Mental healthcare has always been a matter of concern in India. Studies have pointed out serious treatment gaps. The dismal psychiatrist-patient ratio coupled with societal apathy has only led to abject neglect of mentally ill patients. The country's health plans seemed more obsessed with the burden of communicable diseases and the challenge of mental illness has not been met. In recent times however, steps have been initiated to take a fresh look at the National Mental Health Programme, increase the number of mental health professionals as well as to make their services available at primary level. Now a new mental health policy is being envisaged that will take into account internationally accepted guidelines as well as the draft Mental Health Care Bill 2010 which among other things bans the chaining of mentally ill people, a practice prevalent among the ignorant and uneducated.


No doubt the acceptance of mental disorders as NCD will push the issue on the global agenda and help chalk out strategies to deal with the mentally ill. However, considering the fact that only a minuscule percentage of those suffering from mental problems require to be housed in psychiatric facilities, community and family can play an important role. It's about time society that nurses many ill-conceived notions about mental sickness considered such illnesses just as a disease which can be treated. The government and health machinery on its part has to ensure that the right treatment is made available and accessible, especially to vulnerable and underprivileged sections of society. 











ALTHOUGH there is a virtual military stalemate between the forces of Muammar Gaddafi and the rebels in Libya, the diplomatic ground seems to be slipping from under the feet of the former. On Friday, France ordered 14 Libyan diplomats loyal to him to leave the country within two days. Only a day earlier, Britain had ordered two Libyan diplomats to leave the country before May 11 for what it termed as "unacceptable behaviour". Four days before that, London had expelled the Libyan ambassador over a mob attack on the British embassy in Tripoli, which was triggered by the death of one of Gaddafi's sons in a NATO strike. Germany had decided last month itself to expel five Libyan diplomats for exercising pressure on Libyan opponents of Gaddafi living in exile in Germany.


All that underlines the growing isolation of the dictator. Although Russia and China have voiced concerns about civilian casualties and excessive use of force since the NATO mission began, even they have not come out openly in favour of Gaddafi. Last week, the Libya Contact Group, comprising 22 countries and six international organisations, had agreed to make available a temporary fund of $250 million immediately for providing non-military assistance to the rebels, who are demanding $ 3 billion in the coming months for military salaries, food, medicine and other basic supplies. The US is moving to free up at least some of the more than $30 billion it has frozen in Libyan assets.


France was the first to formally recognise the interim Transitional National Council (TNC), the Benghazi-based leadership of opposition forces fighting Gaddafi's rule. Many more countries may do so in the near future. Qatar and Kuwait are pledging big amounts for the rebels. Gaddafi should be aware that a countdown is on for him, military gains made by inflicting inhuman atrocities on his citizens notwithstanding.









The US-blessed NATO strikes against Libya have continued for more than a month now. They killed Col Gaddafi's youngest son, Saif al-Arab, and three grand children in a residential villa in Bab al Azizya complex in Tripoli on April 30. It shows how a debt-ridden, waning Super Power and a group of European nations, particularly France and the UK, can blatantly pursue their regime change agenda in Libya using the fig leaf of the UN Resolution 1973 to protect the civilians against their own government!


The US, in spite of disastrous consequences of its intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and its NATO allies seem to have learnt no lessons. Apparently, they had no idea how fast and how uncontrollably the fragrance of Jamine Revolution will spread in the entire Arab world. Having supported the totalitarian regimes for decades, sensing the current mood of the masses in the Arab countries, they wish to take the moral high ground, claiming to be with the people in their aspirations for a participative government, if not full blown Western democracies.


But they are nervous and insecure knowing not what will follow if the incumbent governments fall as in some cases, no visible alternative leadership has emerged so far. And even if it has, the main players thrown up are individuals with suspect credentials. The US and NATO countries want to ensure that the new rulers are pro-US and pro-West. But they forget that democracy can't be imposed from outside. And the way they are going about it is no way to introduce democracy.


American columnist Steve Chapman has speculated that President Obama might have been stampeded into the Libyan conflict by an exaggerated estimate of blood bath and massacre of up to 1,00,000 civilians if the US hadn't intervened in Benghazi. These projections are seriously challenged by neutral observers; they liken them to the exaggerated claims by the White House cabals about an imminent attack by Saddam Hussein at American interests and piles of WMDs in Iraq before the second Gulf war. Both these claims turned out to be deliberate lies. The rest is history.


Gaddafi is no democrat. Since 1969 when he grabbed power in a bloodless coup, he has been heading a repressive totalitarian regime which brooks no opposition and silences all forms of dissidence. A free press doesn't exist nor an independent judiciary. Notwithstanding his claims of not holding any formal post to resign from, he has been Libya's supreme authority for four decades; nothing moves without his nod. Simply put, it is one-man rule for all practical purposes.


Gaddafi's mercurial and eccentric behaviour is the stuff of folklore. But the fact remains he gave millions of dollars to the anti-colonial leaders in Mozambique, the ANC in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and Uganda and trained and armed their fighters for decades. No wonder Mandela, Mugabe, Museveni and several other African leaders felt indebted to him. Over the years, he gave several billion dollars to the PLO under Arafat to continue their struggle against Israel.


His long-reign rests on four legs: Ruthless intelligence and security apparatus which watches citizens' lives like the Big Brother; support of the army, he keeps on shuffling senior officers and promoting the younger lot who feel more obliged to him; support from ordinary Libyans whose daily necessities like wheat/maize flour, cooking oil, sugar, rice etc are made available at highly subsidised rates — none goes hungry; and creation of infrastructure — roads, ports, hospitals, universities, sports stadia, underground water supply systems, industrial plants which generate employment and huge revenue from oil which gave him funds for mega projects — millions have been siphoning off is a different story.


He is megalomaniac and suffers from delusion of messianic role; calls himself the Leader of the Revolution and feels his Green Book provides guidelines for good governance and political and social stability. His attempts to merge Libya with Egypt, Algeria and Syria at different times failed but he has espoused the idea of the African Union for decades. While so many Arab Countries have fallen prey to Islamic extremism, he has kept a tight lid on Islamic extremism in Libya. Al-Qaida is not welcome; till the late 90s none of the Jihadis captured by the Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir was a Libyan national. Unlike in Saudi Arabia and Iran, Indians are allowed to celebrate Holi, Diwali, Dussehara, Baisakhi and other festivals openly. While elderly women cover their head, the Hizab is not compulsory in Libya. Libya of Gaddafi is one of liberal Muslim countries in the Middle East.


Certainly it's time that Gaddafi's four-decade long totalitarian rule ends. But not by NATO with Uncle Sam giving an approving nod. Just a day before the attack at his residence, Gaddafi had pleaded for a ceasefire and expressed willingness to negotiate with the rebels on all issues, including a road map for future, transitional period, elections/referendum. He should be tested on his promises. Is the killing of inconvenient leaders sanctioned by the UN? Is it democratic? Should the world just keep watching while a handful of countries try to bring down governments?


BRICS must go beyond mere condemnations voiced at Sanya in China recently. The US and NATO shouldn't be allowed to expand the mandate of the UN Resolution to fulfil their regime change agenda. The G-20 should take up from where BRICS left.


This is a golden opportunity for introducing participatory democracy, at its nascent stage, in Libya. A weakened and chastened Gaddafi will be more amenable to making concessions. So, instead of continuing bombing and destroying all infrastructure as they did in Iraq, the US and NATO should hold their fire and encourage face-to-face negotiations between the rebels and Gaddafi loyalists.n


The writer was India's Ambassador to Libya from November 1994 to January 2000









AS a child I often travelled to visit my elder sister married in Shamli (Uttar Pradesh). Though Punjabi food is a global phenomenon these days, the style and statement with which  the UP-walas showcase their delicacies is no less interesting and mouth-watering, be it Mathura Ke Pede or Agre Ka Petha.


But having crossed the Yamuna Bridge, what I usually saw lined up in summers in the sleepy town of Kairana were hundreds of vending stalls—mobile and static. They were all selling nicely cut and washed "Laila ki ungliyan aur Majnu ki pasliyan!"— which were nothing but Kakri or cucumber. Salted masala added taste to the cool and refreshing product on sale, besides the Laila-Majnu sobriquets.


In Shamli, they had watermelons cut into appropriate and attractive sizes, with that blood-red foamy pulp. And you had no choice but to order a big plate full beyond the brim.


I equally relished the sight of easy-going Mullas donning skull-caps  eating watermelons while sitting on Yamuna Bridge sideberms, breaking the big ball into two halves and partaking of the sweet, pithy, viscous stuff, with beards dipping in the green bowl. Compared to this, I pity the white woman, who ate the watermelon with fork in a South England county, when I saw her treating herself with a not-so-ripe pinkish likeness of pulp.


In Punjab-Haryana too we witness such sights and summer months have Pudina-pani sellers. They hang green pudina leaves around a huge pitcher. Then they also put a lemon-rosary around the pitcher, for enhanced effect. Lo and behold! The elixir sells like it should!


The most awaited vendor some years ago used to be the Malai-Baraf-wala who had a pitcher of icecream, wrapped in a woollen muffler. He carried a small scale with him and enough hard but green leaves of probably Dhaak trees, on which he served his product. People invariably had a sample of this malai-baraf on the back of their palm.


Once while returning from Hyderabad, our train passed through Gujarat and Rajasthan, and the cut-tomatoes straight from the dried-up seasonal streams, sprinkled with water and served in huge plates had their own unique and organic taste.


Besides, nariyal pani, thandaee made of crushed almonds and black pepper in sweetened milk, lassi; chuskee (ice-crush candy with attractive colours of viscous sweet liquid appropriately sprinkled all over), kanji-pani, aam-panna, gond-kateera and falooda; Bhyu-Patra juice also added up to the summers' menu card. In summers, Indians just love products having 'thandee-taseer'—cool characteristic (apologies for bad translation).


No, I am not forgetting something special which not only acts as nourishment to the taste buds but also as laxative to constipated mortals. I cannot think of an Indian summer when I was not loyal to the king of fruits — mango.










The congenial Professor Duan Xuru doesn't look like a stereotypical mad scientist as he shows guests into a cluttered laboratory filled with canisters, vacuum pumps and patched-up pipes tied together with spirals of blue wire and rubber tubing.


But Duan, based in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu, is working on an audacious project described as a "man-made sun". He hopes it will eventually create almost unlimited supplies of cheap and clean energy.


Duan is no maverick either, but a pioneer in one of the many expeditions that China has launched to map out its nuclear energy options in the future. Old-fashioned atom splitting has been in the spotlight after Japan's biggest earthquake and tsunami left an aging nuclear reactor complex on the northeast coast on the verge of catastrophic meltdown.


While Germany and Italy have turned their backs on nuclear power, China is pressing ahead with an ambitious plan to raise capacity from 10.8 gigawatts at the end of 2010 to as much as 70 or 80 GW in 2020.


Fusion instead of fission


Many of the nuclear research institutes across the country are working on advanced solutions to some of the problems facing traditional reactors, from the recycling and storage of spent fuel to terrorist attacks.


But Duan and his state-funded team of scientists are on a quest for the Holy Grail of nuclear physics: a fusion reactor that can generate power by forcing nuclei together instead of smashing them apart—mimicking the stellar activity that brought heavy elements into existence and made the universe fit for life.


Duan said fusion could be the ultimate way forward: it is far safer than traditional fission, requires barely 600 grams of hydrogen fuel a year for each 10-gigawatt plant, and creates virtually no radioactive waste.


"Due to the problems in Japan, the government hopes nuclear fusion can be realised in the near future," said Duan, the director of fusion science at the Southwestern Institute of Physics, founded in 1965 and funded by the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).


Fusion might be the ultimate goal, but in the near future, all China's practical efforts will continue to focus on a new model of conventional fission reactors.


Pushing ahead


While China's nuclear industry awaits the results of a government review in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, all signs point to China pushing ahead with its long-term strategy.


The National Development and Reform Commission said last week China would continue to support the construction and development of advanced nuclear reactors and related nuclear technologies.


"Suddenly, China has become even more important to the world—as other people ask whether they still want to go ahead, China still seems intent on going ahead at full speed," said Steve Kidd, deputy secretary general with the World Nuclear Association, a London-based lobby group.


If traditional nuclear power represents the civil application of the atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, fusion is an extension of the hydrogen bomb, first tested by the United States in 1952.


Exotic options


As Japan's stricken Fukushima plant lurched from crisis to crisis in March and April, the safety of nuclear power was called into question—including in China. Five days after the quake and tsunami knocked out the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi complex, China said it was suspending approvals for nuclear power plants pending safety checks of plants in operation or under construction.


China by most calculations is already the world's biggest energy consumer, and demand for power is set to soar in the next decade. But its dependence on fossil fuels have also turned it into the world's biggest source of greenhouse gas. Duan's fusion reactor could be the answer to China's energy conundrum. It does not require acres of space or tones of scarce fuel or water resources. It produces no CO2 emissions or waste, and is completely safe, even if struck by an earthquake.


"(China) has investments in the more exotic reactor designs and they also have got cooperation on fast reactors with the Russians," said Kidd of the World Nuclear Association. "They are keeping their options open, and Fukushima will encourage that tendency toward next-generation reactors."


The allure of the next generation reactors is they can eliminate, or at least defer, the problem of fuel shortages by reprocessing spent uranium into plutonium and other actinides and boost the amount of usable fuel by a factor of 50.


China can gain upper hand


Despite the uncertainties, optimism continues to prevail—and some insiders suggested Fukushima could actually cement China's future dominance of the sector.


"The Japan accident could be good for China," said one industry official who didn't want to be identified in order to speak more candidly.


"It will force China to move forward technologically and pay even more attention to safety. But it will also lead to a bigger slowdown in nuclear development in other countries. China can really gain the upper hand."


China has already committed itself to investing $1.5 trillion in seven strategic industries, including nuclear and high-speed rail. Its plans to push into high-tech sectors prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to call for a "Sputnik moment" aimed at ensuring that the United States doesn't fall behind.


Even the lower target of 70 GW is still a huge leap from 10.8 today, and China could very quickly return to "business as usual," Kidd said.


Fukushima nightmare

Parts of China are prone to earthquakes, such as the 8.0-magnitude quake that flattened several towns in Sichuan in 2008, killing 80,000 people.


The quake did no harm to nuclear power plants, sparing China a Fukushima-style nightmare. But it damaged beyond repair a turbine manufacturing unit belonging to one of China's biggest nuclear equipment makers, Dongfang Electric, at a loss of 1.6 billion yuan. Since then, the company has recovered, building and expanding facilities in quake-damaged Deyang and elsewhere.


Despite misgivings among the general public, the quake didn't stop nearby cities—including the megapolis of Chongqing—from pushing ahead with their own reactor plans.


Many natural disaster threats


Critics of nuclear power suggest all the "inland" nuclear plans should be torn up in light of the Japan crisis, and not just because of the potential earthquake risks.


"China has a huge variety of natural disasters—this is a country vulnerable to extreme weather and the government needs to take into consideration all the worst-case scenarios," said Li Yan, China campaign manager with Greenpeace. Nuclear supporters see a massive overreaction to Fukushima.


Generation gap


Li of CGNPC caused a stir at the Chengdu conference when he said China could halt approvals for new second-generation plants—similar to the Fukushima Daiichi plant—after Japan's disaster. He also wondered whether China was ready to make the big leap into third-generation technology.


The company later denied Li had made those statements. But even if China does go ahead with some second-generation plants among the many projects pending approval, the Japan crisis is likely to strengthen its prior commitment to third-generation reactors.


Nuclear seen as fundamental


For the industry's inveterate opponents, benefits will always be outweighed by costs. But as China scours the planet for the scarce resources needed to meet the energy demand of more than 1.3 billion people, nuclear is seen as fundamental.


Whether China can eventually do the same for fusion remains to be seen, and until it is finally commercialized, China and the rest of the world have little choice but to endure all the costs and risks that arise from splitting the atom.


Duan has dedicated his adult life to fusion research, and he still isn't sure if he will see a commercially viable reactor in his lifetime.


"It is difficult to say," he said ruefully. "I believe we will have a fusion power plant within fifty years, but I don't know if I will still be here to see it."





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The noisy, contentious and often childish public debate in India and Pakistan last week, after the United States caught Osama bin Laden, further proves how oblivious strategic analysts on both sides of the border are of the fundamental importance that economics has for a country's dynamics. However successfully Pakistani spokesmen may brazen it out, and however frustrated Indians may be over their inability to stop Pakistan from exporting terrorism, the hard fact is that Pakistan is losing ground, year after year, month after month.

Most Pakistanis would not be aware that the yield on their government's 10-year bonds, at 14.1 per cent, is the second highest in the world. This is next to bankrupt Greece (15.7 per cent). That indicates how bleak the markets' assessment of Pakistan's economic future is. What is more, the country's inflation rate (at 12.9 per cent) is the fifth highest in the world. The economic growth rate is abysmal, averaging 3.5 per cent in the last three years, when population growth has been 2.1 per cent. Annual growth of per capita income, therefore, is about 1.4 per cent — less than one-fourth that of India. In 2011, the Pakistan economy's vital statistics mirror the "Hindu" rates of growth that India recorded in the 1970s. Indeed, with a poor investment rate of 15 per cent (against India's nearly 40 per cent), Pakistan's economic growth cannot accelerate much. Moreover, in 1971, the truncated Pakistan had nine million fewer people than new-born Bangladesh; now it has 15 million more — this points to better population control and improved social indicators in India's eastern neighbour. Though Bangladesh is much poorer than Pakistan, it manages faster economic growth, at 5.4 per cent.


Pakistan's sustained under-performance has meant that its economy is now only one-ninth that of India; it used to be one-seventh. At one point, its per capita income was noticeably higher than India's; now it is 20 per cent lower. Project these trends into the future and it should be clear that Pakistan will find it increasingly difficult to sustain its position as a strategic challenger to India; it will simply not have the money or the technology or the industrial prowess. That does not mean it will cease to be a nuisance; a number of semi-failed states are an international nuisance, and Pakistan has its nukes as well as China's backing.

The question that Pakistanis should be asking themselves is not whether they can trouble India (they can, in the foreseeable future, if that is what gives them satisfaction) but how they think they will be the winners in that game, considering that all they have achieved so far is to score self-goals. They can continue with their stand on Kashmir, perpetuate a sense of victimhood vis-a-vis the US, seek strategic depth in Afghanistan, and treat the army as the country's strongest institution. But if the instruments for achieving key national goals are the Hafiz Saeeds and Maulana Masood Azhars of the world, not to mention the Taliban, it will not only reflect poorly on Pakistanis but also deliver more self-goals to a deeply challenged society and an economy that survives on international largesse.






India rarely gets the timing of foodgrain exports right. More often than not, it enters the international market when the best opportunity is lost and the grains need to be subsidised to get buyers. This seems to be happening again with the government dragging its feet on figuring out how to handle burgeoning wheat stocks. The Empowered Group of Ministers on food, which has to take the final call on the agriculture ministry's proposal for wheat exports put before it months ago, has failed to take a decision so far. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has repeatedly argued, albeit in vain, that exports are the only way to make room for fresh wheat currently being procured from this year's bumper wheat harvest of over 84.3 million tonnes. Exports are also necessary to ensure wheat growers better returns so that they can deal with rising production costs. Moreover, domestic demand for cereals is already more or less satiated since the government has, of late, been liberal in allocating additional grains for the public distribution system (PDS). However, Union Food Minister K V Thomas seems reluctant to acknowledge this logic. Surely, he cannot be unaware of the problem of a mounting stock of grains and the danger of large-scale rotting of stocks once the monsoon arrives. Perhaps Mr Thomas wants to hold on to these stocks in case the Union government is forced to find supplies to implement the proposed national food security law.

Indeed, this is a good time to push stocks through supply chains given the massive grain reserves on hand. These are slated to swell by the end of the ongoing wheat procurement season in June to a whopping 60 million tonnes, which is equivalent to nearly 15-month requirement of the PDS. Also reassuring is the prediction of a normal monsoon. In fact, the government is facing an uphill task safeguarding the accumulated stock. A sizeable part of its grain collection is lying in the open, exposed to weather and rotting. Punjab and Haryana, where 90 per cent of wheat stocks are stored without shelter, have indicated their inability to accommodate more grains. An opportune time to export wheat and rice was last February when international prices were at the current season's peak. The grain price index of the Food and Agriculture Organisation dropped by 2.9 per cent by March and has since been undergoing only range-bound fluctuations. Besides, wheat plantings in many countries are reported to have expanded this year in response to last year's strong prices and crop yields are expected to be better owing to favourable weather. This should push up world grain production as well as export supplies. A delay in entering the export market will, therefore, expose India to stiff competition, forcing it to settle for lower prices than it could have realised earlier. At a time when food importers are scouting for supplies, this is a good time for the government to permit grain exports.






Economics is not a science. It is an art. Economic policy is shaped as much by statistical evidence and models as by an appreciation of human psychology and social behaviour.

This commonplace observation has to be repeated once again in the light of the debate that preceded and followed the last week's monetary policy statement of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Several economists, bankers, financiers, market analysts, investment managers and advisors, and many in the media, got all worked up about whether or not the RBI should raise key policy rates by 50 basis points (bps) rather than 25 bps. Voices recommending no increase at all were few and far between.


Even those who felt inflation was not such a big problem anymore, or that it had peaked and was showing a downward trend, or have been worried about the growth-dampening effects of an interest rate increase went along with the consensus view, including the media, that there would be a 25 bps increase, which was par for the course.

Even the redoubtable Deepak Parekh, who told a business daily on the eve of the RBI's policy statement that "inflation is high", expected the central bank to go in for only a 25 bps hike and explicitly ruled out a 50 bps hike. When this newspaper called for a 50 bps hike, wise economists chided me for offering such nonsensical advice! What the advocates of "baby steps" missed was that by "discounting" a 25 bps hike the market may well have forced the RBI's hand into opting for a 50 bps hike.

Why do I say this? If the consensus view had been against a rate increase, even a 25 bps hike would have sent the message that the RBI was trying to give. But if markets had already discounted a 25 bps hike, the only way the RBI could have sent the message was by going for a higher-than-expected increase. The central bank's basic objective last week was to alter the state of expectations; get markets and policy makers to focus on decelerating growth; and get a grip on fiscal policy and rein in inflationary expectations.

John Maynard Keynes told us long ago that investment and growth were shaped less by interest rates and more by "animal spirits" and the state of expectations. Economic policy in a market economy is not so much about setting rates and adjusting growth targets; it is essentially about shaping and altering the state of expectations.

In the Indian interest rate vs growth theology, one of the famous parables used to draw the moral that rate increases hurt growth is the infamous 1997 episode. Growth was hurt after 1997, say the anti-rate-hike-wallahs, because the unalloyed monetarist central bank governor of the time, C Rangarajan, increased rates. There is, however, an alternative hypothesis that many have since offered. Could it be that growth decelerated after 1997 for a variety of reasons that combined to turn expectations bearish, after the bullish 1992-97 phase? The uncertainties were created by the coalition politics of the day (Deve Gowda and Gujral governments from 1996 to 1998), the Asian financial crisis, the fiscal battering inflicted by the Fifth Pay Commission report, the economic consequences of Pokhran-II nuclear tests and post-test economic sanctions, and so on.

When so many factors were generating negative expectations about growth prospects, dampening the "animal spirits" of entrepreneurs and curbing the government's ability to spend and implement pro-growth policies, how could a mere easing of interest rates have prevented a slowing down of the economy? Interest rates cannot be the tail that wags the dog.

It can be easily argued that the increase in interest rates in 1997, as in 2011, was meant to alter the state of expectations and help make growth more sustainable. Clearly, the central bank opted for a 50 bps hike, rather than delivering on market expectations, to signal the arrival of what this paper's columnist Abheek Barua has dubbed the "new normal" in India — not just a higher expected rate of inflation but a lower potential growth rate. The growth-inflation ratio of 9:5 in Union Budget 2011 has been altered to 8:6.

Even if New Delhi was not party to the move, the speed with which Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, PM's Economic Advisory Council Chairman C Rangarajan and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia issued statements agreeing with RBI Governor Subbarao suggests there was far greater convergence of thinking between Mumbai and New Delhi than one might imagine. All of a sudden, there has been a paradigm shift. Inflation is no longer viewed by India's macroeconomic authorities as the "price of growth". It is seen as a barrier to accelerated growth.

In altering market expectations about growth, India's policy makers are also drawing attention to the multiplicity of factors – economic, political, administrative, social, strategic and global – that may be working to reduce the expected rate of growth in the near term. However, policy makers can help restore economic momentum and revive sagging "animal spirits" of entrepreneurs.

After the results of the state assembly elections are announced this week, and following the 20th anniversary of the "new turn" in economic policy of 1991, a series of policy initiatives can help revive sentiment and impart new momentum to growth. With the assurance of greater political stability after the elections, more purposive governance and steps to ensure fiscal sustainability of growth, a more confident government revitalised by new talent and a new agenda can revive positive expectations and, subsequently, boost growth. Generating positive expectations is the key governance challenge today.





We were on a beach, somewhere close to Puducherry. It was a surreal sight: half-smashed houses with fronts wide open, and people still living in them. The devastation was caused not by a sea storm or cyclone, but by the eroded beach. The sea had crept up to the village so there was no protection between the sea and the village.

Why was this happening, I asked. My guides were members of the Pondy Citizens' Action Network (PondyCAN), which has worked tirelessly to draw the nation's attention to beach erosion.


To understand this, we walked a little distance away from the devastated village. From the beach, I could see massive granite stones piled up to build a groyne stretching into the sea. This structure, constructed to protect villages from erosion, ends up protecting one village and destroying another, explained my guides.

But I could still not see the connection. How could one small structure like this change the coastal ecology? Civil engineer Probir Banerjee and marine engineer Aurofilio Schiavina explained that a beach is not just a lot of sand. "Beaches are rivers of sand" because each year sea waves transport huge quantities of sand from north to south and south to north. During the southwest monsoon, some 600,000 cubic metres of sand is moved towards the north. Also, during the three months of the northeast monsoon (when winds are fierce), as much as 100,000 cubic metres of sand gets transported towards the south across the eastern coasts of the country.

So beaches are living creatures — winds and waves bring sand in one season and take it away in another. My teachers further explained marine science: "Then, think of the groyne as a dam in a river which will block the movement of sand, not water." In this case, the groyne has stopped the movement of sand to the beach ahead. Thus, the beach does not grow and when the wind changes, the monsoon gets fierce, and the sea moves in. There is no beach to protect the land beyond.

The lesson did not finish yet. Our next stop was the Puducherry harbour, with a breakwater making its way into the sea to protect boats. This structure, which was built in 1986, marked the beginning of devastating changes at the coast. Once the harbour was built, it first changed the beach closest to it — the beach along the city of Puducherry.

"I played on the beach as a child," said V Narayanasamy, member of Parliament from Puducherry and minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office. "What beach?" I asked. All I could see for miles were black granite stones piled along the ocean promenade. By then it was evening. People had gathered to enjoy the beach and the sunset. But there was neither sand nor beach — only rocks.

All this had been lost in living memory in 15 to 20 years. People had lost their playground. More importantly, a city had lost its critical ecosystem, which would protect its land and recharge its groundwater. And fishermen had lost their livelihood.

But this is just the beginning, explained Mr Banerjee. This structure, small by modern standards of harbours or ports, has spun an entire chain of changes in the beach along the coast. The groyne that we saw earlier was built because the length of the coast stretching 10 to 20 km was now destablised. We could see piles of sand accumulated before the harbour, blocking way to regenerate the beaches. Now every beach needs a groyne and every groyne adds to the problem of the next beach.

Ports are interventions in the natural ecology of coasts. But we neither understand the impact nor worry about dealing with the damage. A few years ago, Puducherry woke up to the reality that its harbour required to be rebuilt and contracts and concessions were awarded to transform it into a massive port (some 20 million tonnes annually). The citizens' group, which was against the project, went to the court. But the developer – who, strangely, had no experience in ports, and built shops and malls – is not letting go. This is a sweet deal, which brings real estate benefits since the port concession package comes with cheap city land for cost recovery.

In this stretch of some 600 km, you can count seven ports that exist and another three are proposed. This is when each existing port is not used to capacity and is still being upgraded big time. Then why are we building more ports? Is this development? Or land grab?

Interestingly, there is an absence of policy on siting and the number of ports in the country. The Central government knows only about "major" ports and leaves the rest – permission to locate and build other ports – to state governments. There is no distinction between a major port and a state port. It is just a matter of how many one can fit into the coast as fast, and as profitably, as possible. Nobody, therefore, knows how many ports are being built. Nobody cares about the cumulative impact on rivers of sand.

Surely, this cannot be called development. Can it?  







I had concluded last week's column by quoting the following two statements from the Governor's remarks in his intervention in the Monetary and Financial Committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and promised to return to the subject: 

  • Global rebalancing will require deficit economies to save more and consume less, while depending more on external demand relative to domestic demand for sustaining growth.
  • That not resorting to currency interventions as an instrument of trade policy should be central to a coordinated approach at a multilateral level.

The first one exhorts deficit countries to consume less and save more. However reasonable the advice is for the rich countries in deficit, particularly the US, is it equally relevant for India? Actually, India's savings rate has gone up sharply in the last two decades, from 21.1 per cent of GDP in 1991-92 to 34.7 per cent of GDP in 2009-10. Is there much room for increasing savings in what is still a poor country? (I will come back to the savings/investment imbalance.)


This brings us to the second part of the statement, namely depending more on external demand for growth. Shorn of jargon, this means promoting exports. What exactly does the statement mean for an economy like India? Much of the external demand for its output is for relatively labour-intensive manufactures of "non-differentiated" goods bought primarily on prices (India does not, at least as of now, make too many high-technology, branded goods). Also, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules bar member countries from giving export subsidies. So what is the way left for a greater reliance on external demand for growth? Logically, there is only one answer — an exchange rate that makes the exports more competitive. Even "believers" in the virtues of free capital mobility and a market-determined exchange rate have, perhaps inadvertently, confessed the relationship between the exchange rate and the tradeable sector. To quote from the article "Did the Indian capital controls work as a tool of macroeconomic policy?" by Ila Patnaik and Ajay Shah, "the economy was able to benefit from this 32.8 per cent increase in the prices of tradables (in 2008-09) which helped sustain the economy in the global crisis." (Incidentally, this is the only reference to the real economy in the paper that refers to the "stock" market or prices nine times.) The "believers" rarely, even inadvertently, concede that the contrary is equally true, that the tradeables sector suffers with (real) appreciation of the exchange rate. This dichotomy in thinking is equally seen at the global level, where China's surpluses are supposed to be the result of its exchange rate policy, but the US', or India's, deficits are not the result of their exchange rate policy or the lack of it!

Against this background, it is difficult to justify the second statement quoted above, in favour of market-determined exchange rates. One wonders of course whether, on this issue, we are more anxious to be on the "right side" of the US in the G20 debate on global imbalances, without giving adequate weight to what should be the prime objectives of our macroeconomic policies. These can be summarised as "growth, jobs and reduced inequalities". Can these be achieved by following Anglo-Saxon models giving primacy to the financial economy over the real economy? Incidentally, during this period, the average growth rate of the US has fallen from 3.09 per cent a year between 1945 and 1980 to 2.68 per cent a year between 1981 and 2010, and income inequalities have widened sharply. Even this fall underestimates the much slower growth of the real economy over the last 30 years compared to the previous 35 years because in the last three decades, the financial sector has grown much faster than the real economy, and has consequently accounted for an increasing proportion of GDP. Do we need to be so anxious to forget our priorities to please an aging superpower whose economy is in a mess, where the majority party in the lower house of Congress is constrained by the agenda of the Tea Party, which would like nothing better than to wind the clock back to the 19th century era of laissez-faire capitalism? (In fact, the so-called Ryan Plan to correct the fiscal deficit would achieve exactly this.) Do we have a penchant for adopting policies that implode soon — Russian socialism in 1960s and 1970s and finance capitalism now?

Instead of learning from the policies of the world's fastest growing economy of the last 30 years, if not in global economic history, our objective seems to be to spite it on exchange rates, on the issue of the yuan in the SDR basket and so on. One example is that, as reported by The Economic Times, April 29, "India will support only an easily and freely convertible currency for inclusion in the International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights, or SDRs." The virtues or otherwise of full convertibility apart, we have obviously forgotten that when the SDR basket was introduced in 1973, no currency in it, other than the US dollar, was fully convertible. Even the mighty German mark was protected against undue appreciation by controls on capital inflows.  






Over several decades the prevailing position of the US establishment towards Wall Street was one of steady deregulation and "hands-off cheering". The Dodd-Frank Bill, which became the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 21 2010, changed all that. It marked a clear turning point by placing vigorous reliance on government to protect the "little guy", as Paul Krugman would put it, against the unavoidable onslaught of complex technology-driven markets.

The Act has, among other things, a section on "Investor Protection and Securities Enforcement" that enhances the enforcement programme and investor protection mission of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by establishing a new whistleblower bounty programme, providing the SEC with new enforcement authority, and permitting the SEC to "impose a 'fiduciary duty' on broker-dealers that provide retail investment advice."


The expectations are that the SEC would emerge as a stronger and more assertive agency. The Act mandates the SEC to engage an independent consultant to examine the internal operations, structure, and the need for reform.

All organisations need to renew themselves. Snakes shed their skins once or twice a year. This periodic renewal makes the snake a symbol of healing and medicine, as pictured in the Rod of Asclepius. The Dodd-Frank Act has given the SEC an opportunity to renew itself. It has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to study its "organisation structure, personnel and resources, technology and resources, and relationships with self-regulatory organisations. The regulatory philosophy behind the SEC's authorisations, whether their current statutory framework is optimal for regulating the US securities markets, or other related topics were not within the scope of the study."

Whether BCG's report is based on what the senior staff of the SEC has told it is another matter, but the refreshing aspect was that the focus was clearly on the organisation and the improvement of its efficiency and effectiveness. Regulatory bodies need to recognise that they are no different from any other organisation. Like any other organisation, they are made up of people who have their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and aspirations. Only the purpose of existence and philosophy of the regulatory bodies are different from other enterprises. It is important for such organisations to go beyond their regulatory philosophy and look at themselves periodically. Whether the idea of having an external agency to look at them purely from an organisational perspective (or a critical self-introspection) will appeal to our regulators is, however, a good question to ask.

Some of the BCG's recommendations are worth examining by our home regulators because these would, in principle, be valid as much for the SEC as for any regulatory organisation. The first recommendation is to re-prioritise regulatory activities. The report says focusing on the "highest-priority needs in regulatory policy and operations would help reallocating the resources accordingly". A regulator like any business enterprise would need to discriminate between critical and strategic activities, identify what could be postponed and what should be stopped or scaled back. This is, of course, fundamental to any sensible strategy. But often, excitement and zeal send regulators into overdrive and cause them to set unachievable agendas. "Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, all very good words for the lips — especially prunes and prism." But all of them cannot be had at the same time.

Re-prioritisation will lead to redesigning the organisation. It is important for a regulator to recognise this, simple though it may appear. A regulatory body is in the business of regulating markets and markets evolve dynamically. Constant trade-offs are required between what is immediate and what can be postponed. The dynamic trade-offs have to be commensurate with what the organisation has and what it can do. When these trade-offs fail there is wastage. BCG argues for a "disciplined redesigning of the organisation" with a view to increasing accountabilities and transparency, "a continuous improvement programme to systematically reduce costs throughout the organisation through levers such as demand management, sourcing, and business process optimisation" is necessary. Again, a simple concept; but a useful one. A good idea for our regulators too!

Like software enterprises, regulators are people organisations like software enterprises. Human capital is their biggest asset and technology the second. Investing in enabling infrastructure, human resources, risk management and high-priority staff skills, thus, becomes a key recommendation. The report says the SEC has too many layers, and experienced and highly-qualified professionals are at lower layers. This is common in many regulatory organisations. The key planks of the HR programmes BCG proposed include elaborate staff restructuring plans, centralisation of training, a targeted recruiting process, an enhanced HR capability to support more effective people-management processes, a performance management system and performance-linked meaningful compensation strategy.

BCG's recommendation also focuses on the development of risk management and tracking key market trends and developments in a timely and actionable manner as two important capabilities of a regulator. The objectives of the recommendation are quicker decision-making processes, and efficient/flexible resource deployment.

Along with HR capabilities, achieving technology sophistication by "maintaining awareness of technology advances in the securities markets and deploying advanced technology capabilities that increase the efficiency and effectiveness" become relevant. Hence, an interesting recommendation is to establish a technology centre of excellence to institutionalise awareness of the impact of technology on the securities markets (for example, the effect of high-frequency trading on market structure) and improve the adoption of new technology at the agency (for example, market data analytics).

The BCG report identifies four capabilities that SEC should have: risk IQ, ability to adapt, ability to leverage communities of aligned interest and strong credibility. Collectively these would help credibly demonstrate the SEC's presence, power and influence to all relevant stakeholders and manage stakeholder expectations.

Much of the recommendations in the report would be relevant to our regulators and it would be helpful if they analysed the report and drew suitable lessons. To that extent the report deserves to be examined critically by our regulators and exchanges.

The views expressed are personal.

The author is a former executive director of Sebi and is currently associated with International Finance Corporation's Global Corporate Governance Forum and World Bank.






It is ironical that Maharashtra, the first State to set up a water regulator, has not only undermined that institution in the initial phase of notifying the law but has failed to redeem itself when it had a chance to make amends. It set up a High Power Committee of Ministers to rule on issues of water usage instead of an autonomous regulator, as mandated by the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) Act 2005. The lack of a participatory approach that takes into account the views of all stakeholders meant questions were bound to be raised about the fairness of allocation. The results are hardly surprising. According to an RTI petition filed recently, 2,886 million cubic metres (mcm) of water from 43 dams were allegedly 'diverted' from irrigation to industrial and domestic use between 2003 and 2010. Following an uproar from civil society groups, the State government went into damage control mode about 10 days ago and passed an amendment to the MWRRA Act. The amended Act, while conceding to the farmers the first claim on water use, nevertheless ended up vesting allocation powers with the Cabinet, as opposed to a committee of ministers, skirting the basic issue of empowering the regulator and setting up democratically elected bodies of stakeholders at various levels. Despite the regulator having been in existence for over five years, such groups, save for the water users' associations at the end of the distribution chain, are yet to take root in the State.

While diversion of water for drinking purposes may not pose much of an issue, its use for industrial needs may well prove problematic. More so, when States are vying with one another to attract private industrial investments in their respective areas on the promise of suitable infrastructure. While there can be no denying the need to adopt more efficient irrigation practices, livelihood and irrigation needs, which account for over 80 per cent of water use, cannot be brushed aside. The institutional framework needed for a participative strategy to rule on conflicting claims is an area where an independent regulator can play a vital role. Unfortunately, that is a lesson Maharashtra has chosen not to pay heed to but one that other States would do well to keep in mind as they press ahead with legislative initiatives on water usage.

The Planning Commission has rightly identified water as a thrust area in the Twelfth Plan. In a rapidly growing economy, the demands on water for livelihood, agriculture and industrial use are increasing exponentially. It is, therefore, appropriate that the Planning Commission has called for the setting up of State-level water regulators as a pre-condition for receiving Central assistance under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme for major and medium irrigation projects.






The entire world shared with deep agony the trauma undergone by the US on the fateful day of September 9, 2001, when, in broad light, terrorist squads brought down the prestigious twin towers in New York, almost reduced to rubble the most securely protected Pentagon itself in Washington, and were close to using a fourth wide-bodied plane hijacked over Pennsylvania as yet another devastating missile to crash into, God knows, what other landmark building in the nation's capital or elsewhere. More than 3,000 perished in these monstrous outrages.

Scathing condemnation of these bestial onslaughts found expression in resolutions No.1368 of September 12, 2001 and No.1373 September 28, 2001.

Through them, all Member-States pledged to work together urgently to bring to justice not only the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks but also those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring them.

Combating terrorism

They were at one in being determined to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and to combat all forms of terrorism, in accordance with their responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations. These decisions were declared to flow directly from the inherent right of self-defence that every individual or country was entitled to exercise.

There were also subsequent dastardly attacks in Spain, Britain, India and elsewhere, as also failed attempts in the US itself, which showed that the murderous fanatics were bent on perpetrating similar horrors which were tantamount to a declaration of war on civilised governments and humanity.


There was no doubt that Osama bin Laden, the moving spirit behind the al-Qaeda, and its brand of barbaric killers, was the unrepentant planner, instigator, mastermind and the overall leader of this evil empire. Hardly anyone would have had any self-doubts, on the emotional plane, about the imperative need to capture him alive, if possible, and dead, if necessary, to make the world a safer place to live in.

The issue becomes troubling when a justifiable emotional upsurge is sought to be legitimised as a settled policy of what has come to be known as 'targeted killing' or, plain and simple elimination on sight, of what the world perceives to be a mass murderer. It becomes all the more so when it is sought to be enforced unilaterally by a power like the US, solely on its conclusion who deserves such terminal treatment, by the adoption of whatever means, including the violation of the sanctity of the territorial integrity and sovereign rights of other nations, at whatever time it chooses to do so.

In the case of Osama, reportedly, a US national security official confirmed to Reuters that 'it was a kill operation' and there was no option given to capture him alive. Authoritative sources in the US have also said that Osama was unarmed but defended his killing on the ground of his resistance and lunging for a weapon.

It may be possible for the world to wink at such a unilateral action in the case of Osama and by a set of decision-makers who could be expected to be rational in their conclusion. But what if they at some point in time turn out to be vicious and wicked, or irrational and impulsive, and begin exterminating persons purely because of their dislike of them? (Who could forget Salvadore Allende of Chile and Patrick Lumumba of Congo, and the poisoned overcoat and pens gifted to Fidel Castro?)

What if this encourages other nations to follow suit? Will not unilateralism end up in the breakdown of the international law?

The US Administration has let it be known that it has no regrets about what it did at Abbottabad, and will do it again, as long as what it considers to be threat to its security is not wiped out. Will it approve of a similar unilateral adventure by other nations to deal with threats to their security as they perceive them?





If the Air India pilot strike made life difficult for passengers, the Government did its bit to ensure that the media also had a tough time.

On the day the pilots were to meet at the Ministry of Civil Aviation to find a way out of the impasse, the security guards stopped the media, even after the journalists flashed the Home Ministry card that allows free access to most Government offices.

Eventually, it was a dharna that worked. Three journalists refused to back their car or move until they were allowed in. After a heated exchange, the three were let in. Then followed a stampede and eventually a horde of journalists barged in to cover the event. So much for the Ministry's order not to let in the journalists.


Coffee, tea yes, but no cups to serve was the sheepish response from air-hostess on board a Kingfisher flight the other day. Two colleagues travelling on an early morning flight from Delhi to Chennai were surprised that no hot beverages were being served. When they called the air-hostess to enquire why there was no tea or coffee with the breakfast, she said the catering company had forgotten to load the cups.

Calculated move?

'Kahin pey nigaahein, kahin pey nishaana!' (looking somewhere, target elsewhere), the classic Hindi song could aptly fit the recent Reserve Bank of India's move to disallow the priority sector tag to banks' loans to non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), observed Mahesh Thakkar, Director General of the Finance Industry Development Council.

Thakkar felt that the intended target of the apex bank's missive was the NBFCs, but the regulator got it routed through the banks. Industry watchers wonder why such an important move, effective from April 1was innocuously slipped into paragraph 92 under the Malegam Committee Recommendations. They smell a rat in the RBI's move.

CMs and copters

With two chief ministers (Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy of Andhra Pradesh and Dorjee Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh) killed in helicopter crashes in recent times, the Karnataka Chief Minister, B. S. Yeddyurappa, seems to have got the jitters over heli-hopping. .

The Chief Minister has now decided to minimise the use of the helicopter for his frequent trips across the State. He will opt for the chopper only during the week-ends. Here's hoping that this change in schedule helps him ward off danger during most part of the week at least. The rest (week-ends), as they say, is left to God.

Vote appeal on mobiles

New media, especially mass voice messages (on mobile phones) are the latest in the West Bengal elections as parties and candidates try to give a personal touch to appeal to voters. Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Bannerjee again topped with her message.

A section of subscribers were surprised to receive her call "Go and cast your vote ". It's not known whether the poll percentage this year was higher than the 2009 election as a result of her appeal?

The Kadapa game

Kadapa, the traditional stronghold of the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy family, was known for its bomb culture and mass rigging during election time. With the son, claiming to be heir-apparent to his father's political legacy and fighting the electoral battle this time, things have changed. Reports suggest money is flowing and security personnel are swarming the Parliamentary constituency, where the by-poll has become a battle of prestige for the Congress(I), facing the rebellious Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Rs 300 crore and over 15,000 security men is what the by-election is all about. So much for democracy!

Of devils and nightmares

Vivek B.Gadgil, Chief Executive and Managing Director of L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Ltd., a construction veteran, was candid when asked what kind of challenges the firm would face in implementing one of the biggest (Rs 16,300-crore) public-private-partnership (PPP) project in the country. "We are implementing several metro projects as EPC contractor and this one as a concessionaire.

Having worked in the toughest climatic conditions and terrains in India and abroad, it is always challenging to take up such projects. It is said when you marry the devil, you must be prepared for the nightmares that come along after the wedlock," he said.

The good Samaritan

That the cardinal dictum of charity, of the left hand not knowing what the right is giving away, operates in India, was evident in this incident.

A freak storm tore down a tree across railway lines, near Ariyalur, an hour from Tiruchirapalli on the night of April 29-30, snapping the traction wires and forcing the train to just about manage to lug itself to the nearest station.

Guess what followed the next morning? At the railway station, stranded passengers were given tea, biscuit packets and water sachets — free. Initially, most passengers supposed that the good Samaritan was the Railways, but it turned out to be Dalmia Cements, which has a factory at Ariyalur.








Mergers and acquisitions (M & A) are a popular method for corporations pursuing rapid growth. In many industries, changes in technology and consumer preferences imply that firms do not have the time to grow organically — start operations and build the product or service up from scratch.

Instead, they try to acquire or merge with another firm, in the process both acquiring resources they lack as well as gaining a presence in markets they would like to be. Although the two terms are used virtually as synonyms, merger usually means that the two parties are creating a new entity, while an acquisition means that one firm absorbs another into its fold. Of course, to satisfy the ego of the acquired party, sometimes an acquisition may be presented as a merger.

Yet, enough studies have thrown doubts about the success of these M&A efforts. Some show that only 20 per cent of M&As are ultimately successful, and at best about one third of them may be said to have achieved their objectives. That is a pretty large failure rate, but M&As continue unabated and while justifying each one, the CEOs are full of hope and promise.


The main problems arise from an inability to meld the culture and structure of the two organisations. When two firms with strong individual cultures come together, they find it difficult to adjust and form a new third one. When one ends up dominating the other, it can result in de-motivation in the acquired or merged entity. Critical executives exit, leaving a weakened enterprise as leadership issues are left unresolved. Systems and procedures that an organisation builds over time will have to adjust to a new one, which results in costs becoming higher than originally envisaged. These problems get exacerbated when the two firms are about the same size.

There are some important questions that a firm needs to answer before contemplating an M&A. For instance, if the premium being paid is too high, it may result in a poor return on investment. If the firms are not clear about the value they are adding to the combined firm, then it becomes difficult to achieve that value addition.

A common justification that companies offer for coming together is synergy, the idea that the whole is greater than the parts. Unfortunately, synergy is not an automatic event that arises from an M&A; it requires hard work to generate the potential savings and efficiencies.

When these mergers are cross-border, they wander into more uncertainties. These include regulatory approvals, and national cultures (apart from organisational cultures) that can upset the calculation. Recall the collapse of the Daimler-Benz and Chrysler marriage.


Currently, there is much talk about the acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T, both in the field of telecommunication. The US market is so saturated that buying someone else's customers seems among the few available venues for growth of a customer base.

The planned acquisition would result in a near duopoly with the combined company, along with Verizon, controlling nearly 70 per cent of the market. This will certainly reduce consumer choice and we should hopefully expect the regulator to reject it.

My own research showed how firms often confuse the objectives of their corporate strategy when they go in for M&A. Sometimes they believe they are in related businesses but realise late that they have gotten into a different business altogether. Also, the inability to manage the new entity ends up being an enormous sunk cost, leading to losses when they change their minds. One recent case that stands out as an example of rare wisdom is when two health insurance companies in Massachusetts announced that they were not going forward with their planned merger.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, with about one million and 750,000 members, respectively, announced in January this year that they were in merger talks.

As the number two and number three in the industry, it would have given them the clout to deal with the market leader, Blue Cross Blue Shield, which had three million members. They would certainly have benefited from economies of scale from combining the administration of their health plans.

But after five weeks of due diligence the companies called it off. They figured that the savings that they expected would be much less and the costs much greater, not making the merger worthwhile.


Even without inside knowledge of the two companies, it strikes me as amazing that they were able to come to that decision. After all, the two companies had even settled leadership issues, usually a stumbling block. When they made the initial announcement of intent, they had announced that the head of Tufts would be the CEO of the combined company for the first two years and the head of Harvard would be president and COO.

CEOs stake their reputation in such deals. Subordinates usually feed CEOs with data that will support the decision the bosses are leaning towards, as they do not want to be the messengers of bad news.

As part of due diligence, teams from these two firms would have visited each other and pored over documents, getting a handle on whether their combination would work. In the process, they would have also gathered information that gave them insights into the strengths of the other. So the problems must have shown up early for them to have stopped further delving. On paper, the deal may have seemed good but if the respective CEOs decided that the process of combining would not have justified the potential gains, they must be applauded. They now remain competitors, albeit with a better knowledge of each other, but possibly relieved that they stepped back from the brink. I hope their respective boards are considering bonuses for them.







In an assessment of research capabilities in business schools in India, two professors from the London Business School, Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, found poor representation of Indian business schools in the 40 peer-reviewed journals that the Financial Times uses to rank research in MBA schools worldwide.

Covering two decades to 2009, the study shows just a handful of faculty from some IIMs and IITs having contributed papers to such journals. The authors suggest that while case papers are valuable as pedagogic tools they do not provide "cutting edge knowledge"


This knowledge, according to them, comes from academic research that is "double-blind peer reviewed (that is, the authors and reviewer do not know each other's identities)" with "high standards of proof". The emphasis is on "rigour" as against practitioner-oriented research with immediate 'relevance' and lower standards of proof.

Kumar and Puranam make a case for academic management research as the hallmark of superior management schools. They vouch for theoretical practice, dismissing the popular notion that it is of scant applicability to "real life". They offer three reasons why such research constitutes the "backbone" that "supports the pedagogical mission". The first is the introduction into the real world of concepts such as 'core competence' that strategists and financiers cannot do without today; alternatively, such scholarship debunks the corporate world's "best practices", for instance, by showing poor returns for investors from acquisitions. The second is the value it contributes to teaching consulting and "writing for practitioners". And the third, the value it adds to the institution's efforts at attracting the best faculty.


All this sounds perfectly reasonable on first consideration. Separate its constituents and the case isn't so convincing. The authors pose advantages of research for three target groups: The corporate world itself, the faculty that broadens its knowledge frontiers (and, of course, fattens its purse through consulting) and the student as the beneficiaries of enhanced pedagogy.

Anyone remotely acquainted with the current economic crisis would know how little management research (and, in the bargain, its practitioner) influences the world of financiers and corporate strategists.

Ramalinga Raju's Satyam's board of directors had leading management professors from Ivy League business schools: Mangala Srinivasan from University of California, Berkeley, Krishna Palepu from Harvard Business School, not to forget R. Ramamohan Rao, dean of Indian School of Business; none of them could prevent the promoter from hijacking the blue-chip IT company. And, if further proof were needed of the value of 'rigorous' or 'relevant' research on real practices, one need only remember Enron, QualComm and other frauds by American firms, both on Main Street and Wall Street over the last two decades. Is it any wonder, then, that the pioneer of modern management research, Peter Drucker, who was more a philosopher than a post-Tom Peters type management pundit, wryly observed that the appendage "guru" was popular only because "charlatan" was too long to fit in a headline.

The events of corporate malfeasance in the latter half of the 20 {+t} {+h} century and in these times, not just in America but almost all over the world, spell the limits of the utility of management research as expressed so breathlessly by the two authors.

More ominously, the capacity of big corporations to define rules and set standards of corporate behaviour that are often at odds with public interest, demonstrates their underlying and unstated hegemony over business schools too.

Given the interface between management-school research and corporate practice "in real life", the best that business schools can do is to get jobs for students who pay through their nose for the courses.

Viewed against the primary aim of imparting a value-loaded degree, the authors' claim for research and publications by faculty members has merit. Double peer-reviewed publications on issues relating to management theory and practice would improve the quality of the pedagogy and its recipients.

When Kumar and Puranam find the state of research in Indian B-schools scanty at best, they expose the absence of an essential ingredient in most business schools. At the very least, a faculty that engages in research beyond the case study sends its students into the world with the valuable gifts of abstraction and inquiry.


What explains this poor representation of Indian B-schools in the corpus of global management theoretical practice? The more obvious answer is that management schools are driven by one agenda only — placements.

Indian firms do not tire of complaining about the shortage of managerial talent. As if in answer to this oft-stated gap between demand and supply, a rash of management schools has spread, some in the most unlikely places, including regions with few industries such as the North-Eastern States that want their own IIMs. To date, there are some 1,600 management schools and while there is no way of finding out if all their graduates get jobs, the lure of a business school binds both the promoter and the student. Landowners turned politicians turn again into founders of business schools, all with one aim: Increasing student enrolment.

B-schools in India are meant to be degree shops; in most rankings and in the popular imagination, "placements" determine quality. As degree shops, they are no different from the general university that has, over the decades, shed its research faculties to become an assembly-line producer of degrees.

The poor quality of academic research in B-schools is the outcome of a general and systemic decline of research within the university system.










Curbing aggregate demand in the economy is the way to control inflation, no doubt. Getting macroeconomic policy right does not mean neglecting myriad policy changes that can bring down costs and help hold the price line. At a general level, speeding up decision-making at the political and administrative levels will translate into huge savings on time, project costs and ultimately the price of goods and services. Instead of languishing somewhere near the bottom of ease-of-doingbusiness rankings, if India were to facilitate business to function with the speed at which more organised nations do the same job, Indian produce would cost less. The cost of real estate in Indian cities is way too high and this translates into high rentals or capital investments, pushing up overhead costs. Increasing the supply of urban land through extensive, planned, fresh urbanisation and first-rate connectivity by road and air is the only way to tackle sky-high office rentals, employee compensation for housing, etc. This should be understood as a vital part of the Indian economy's competitiveness and an equally vital contribution to controlling prices. A proactive policy on competition is another way to bring prices down. In some sectors of the economy, Indian producers compete with the world's best, say, in detergents, while in others, they enjoy the freedom to act like a cartel, for example, in civil aviation or marketing of agricultural produce. Competition can pare costs by removing layers of price manipulation. Longer-term, inclusive measures to provide quality education to the mass of Indians, rather than only the offspring of an English-speaking elite, would greatly expand the supply of skilled manpower, whose cost is the biggest expense for many service industries, and make way for lower prices of the final goods and services produced by this workforce.

A goods and services tax and free movement of goods across state borders would remove cascading taxes and wasted time, fuel and manpower, again paving the way for cheaper goods and services. And an eminently doable green revolution in eastern India would directly impact the most sensitive segment of the price index.






 The fertiliser sector is in a state of flux and proactive policy is vital to augment domestic output to meet fast-growing demand, with an inefficient international market for crop nutrients, riddled with price distortions. It is the gist of a recent working paper at IIM Ahmedabad, by Vijay Sharma and Hrima Thaker. The recent tentative policy moves to overhaul the massive . 50,000 crore fertiliser subsidy regime and make it nutrient-based makes sense, but what's really required is the scope for price-efficient signals to rev up output, especially of nitrogenous (N) fertiliser or urea, the most used (rather excessively) and heavily subsidised. Giving fertiliser producers the freedom to set product prices will allow farmers to benefit the most from innovative, soil-specific nutrients, and rationalise the entire subsidy system. It would actually incentivise efficiency gains in production and supply. The paper notes that imports of urea, and of the phosphatic (P) and potassic (K) variety of fertilisers have grown five-fold in under a decade, to add up to over 10 million tonnes (MT) per annum, with total nutrient consumption now put at over 26 MT. And the reason in the main for stepped-up imports is the lack of price incentives for setting up fresh capacity in the N and P segments; the entire requirement of K needs to be imported as India does not have viable sources of potash.

The Sharma and Thaker paper estimates fertiliser demand to cross over 40 MT this decade, and projects rising imports sans domestic price and non-price support. Hence the pressing need for price signals and forwardlooking reforms in the domestic fertiliser sector. The paper focuses on the need to also produce and deploy 16 plant nutrients that are essential for crop development, in addition to the primary (macro) nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These include calcium, magnesium, sulphur and micronutrients such as boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. The nutrient-based subsidy scheme does make possible soil-specific diagnostics, hence the imperative to take its logic forward more systematically.








As tobacco and liquor marketers will vouchsafe, publicity and promotion are difficult for some sectors of the economy in India even though business may be booming. Ingenious methods have to be found, therefore, to peddle such wares, a genre dubbed surrogate marketing. For some segments, however, masquerading as playing cards, soda or bottled water, or even as escort services simply would not achieve the desired results. This realisation is obviously what triggered a trio of hitmen in Uttar Pradesh to get themselves photographed carrying the tools of their trade, for promotional purposes. In a profession where qualifications and quality are hard to gauge, displaying hardware would be of the essence even to be in the running for a job. Of course, the resultant images were not really of high standard, but then their potential clients do not expect this breed of service providers to avail of the services of the kind of professional portfolio makers that aspiring models bank on. It is not clear, though, how the gang planned to disseminate their artfully produced photographic calling cards, or indeed communicate their success rate in order to gather clients as written testimonials would be hard to come by. Tried and tested methods like leaving their photographs stuck in phonebooths along with attached numbers, inserting their particulars as fliers in newspapers or even creating a fan page on a social media site would surely attract the unwanted attentions of law enforcement authorities. A discreet agent would therefore be crucial. Hopefully the police in UP and other states will also now be on the lookout for go-betweens that may be handling the business of more such photogenic gangs, just like modelling agencies that supply relevant portfolios to prospective clients.







The annual spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund was notable in marking the Fund's effort to distance itself from its own long-standing tenets on capital controls and labour-market flexibility. It appears that a new IMF has gradually, and cautiously, emerged under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Slightly more than 13 years earlier, at the IMF's Hong Kong meeting in 1997, the Fund had attempted to amend its charter in order to gain more leeway to push countries towards capital-market liberalisation. The timing could not have been worse: the East Asia crisis was just brewing — a crisis that was largely the result of capitalmarket liberalisation in a region that, given its high savings rate, had no need for it. That push had been advocated by western financial markets — and the western finance ministries that serve them so loyally. Financial deregulation in the United States was a prime cause of the global crisis that erupted in 2008, and financial and capital-market liberalisation elsewhere helped spread that "made in the USA" trauma around the world.

The crisis showed that free and unfettered markets are neither efficient nor stable. They also did not necessarily do a good job at setting prices (witness the real estate bubble), including exchange rates (which are merely the price of one currency in terms of another).

Iceland showed that responding to the crisis by imposing capital controls could help small countries manage its impact. And the US Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" (QEII) made the demise of the ideology of unfettered markets inevitable: money goes to where markets think returns are highest. With emerging markets booming, and America and Europe in the doldrums, it was clear that much of the new liquidity being created would find its way to emerging markets. This was especially true given that America's credit pipeline remained clogged, with many community and regional banks still in a precarious position.

The resulting surge of money into emerging markets has meant that even finance ministers and central bank governors who are ideologically opposed to intervening believe that they have no choice but to do so. Indeed, country after country has now chosen to intervene in one way or another to prevent their currencies from skyrocketing in value. Now the IMF has blessed such interventions — but, as a sop to those who are still not convinced, it suggests that they should be used only as a last resort. On the contrary, we should have learned from the crisis that financial markets need regulation, and that cross-border capital flows are particularly dangerous. Such regulations should be a key part of any system to ensure financial stability; resorting to them only as a last resort is a recipe for continued instability.

There is a wide range of available capital account management tools, and it is best if countries use a portfolio of them. Even if they are not fully effective, they are typically far better than nothing.

But an even more important change is the link that the IMF has finally drawn between inequality and instability. This crisis was largely a result of America's effort to bolster an economy weakened by vastly increased inequality, through low interest rates and lax regulation (both of which resulted in many people borrowing far beyond their means). The consequences of this excessive indebtedness will take years to undo. But, as another IMF study reminds us, this is not a new pattern.

    The crisis has also put to the test long-standing dogmas that blame labour market rigidity for unemployment, because countries with more flexible wages, like the US, have fared worse than northern European economies, including Germany. Indeed, as wages weaken, workers will find it even more difficult to pay back what they owe, and problems in the housing market will become worse. Consumption will remain restrained, while strong and sustainable recovery cannot be based on another debt-fueled bubble.

As unequal as America was before the Great Recession, the crisis, and the way it has been managed, has led to even greater income inequality, making a recovery all the more difficult. America is setting itself up for its own version of a Japanese-style malaise.

But there are ways out of this dilemma: strengthening collective bargaining, restructuring mortgages, using carrots and sticks to get banks to resume lending, restructuring tax and spending policies to stimulate the economy now through longterm investments, and implementing social policies that ensure opportunity for all. As it is, with almost onequarter of all income and 40% of US wealth going to the top 1% of income-earners, America is now less a "land of opportunity" than even "old" Europe.

For progressives, these abysmal facts are part of the standard litany of frustration and justified outrage. What is new is that the IMF has joined the chorus. As Strauss-Kahn concluded in his speech to the Brookings Institution shortly before the Fund's recent meeting: "Ultimately, employment and equity are building blocks of economic stability and prosperity, of political stability and peace. This goes to the heart of the IMF's mandate. It must be placed at the heart of the policy agenda."

Strauss-Kahn is proving himself a sagacious leader of the IMF. We can only hope that governments and financial markets heed his words.

© Project Syndicate, 2011









Justice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka's Lokayukta for the past five years, may have weathered many a battle against corruption, but when it comes to doctors and injections, he is like a child. "You know, the doctor always tells me how it is so easy to push an injection into me. I have such thin skin. I am also very thin-skinned and sensitive when it comes to issues like personal integrity. We are not politicians, and we are not doing any of this for profit. It is not easy to accept such allegations and charges."

Congress leader Digvijay Singh had recently criticised Karnataka's Lokayukta for its poor track record. But Justice Hedge, who wears his integrity on his sleeve, says almost in indignation, "it is one thing to make charges in cases, but I will not accept any allegations that question my integrity."

Justice Hegde made headlines for his war against Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa's illegal land grabs. He is now a civil society representative and a member of the drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. The Bill is expected to be finalised soon and introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. The National Advisory Council, under UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, too has been asked to give its inputs for the anti-corruption Bill.

Media glare is not something new for Justice Hegde. Having been one of the leading judges of the Supreme Court, he believes this could be the turning point for the Lokpal Bill that has been in the works for over four decades. Citing Rajiv Gandhi's oft-quoted remark on how only 15 paise of every rupee spent by the government reaches the beneficiary, Hegde says, "The scale of corruption has gone up exponentially. Take the budget of Karnataka, which proposes a huge spend. Just a minuscule part of this finally reaches the beneficiary." The Jan Lokpal Bill has tried to look at all these aspects and it could go a long way in curbing the menace of corruption.
The draft bill seeks the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body to investigate into corruption cases. It also seeks to empower the body to prosecute politicians and civil servants without government permission.
Reacting to allegations made against the Bhushans (eminent "activist" lawyers Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, who are also members of the drafting panel), Hedge says this was an attempt to malign the members and derail the anti-corruption movement. "Where were all these people when the Bill was being drafted?" he asks. The government's version of the Lokpal Bill would have failed to achieve any of the objectives. "The Jan Lokpal Bill has deliberated on most of the possible areas and tried to make each one answerable and accountable," he says. However, Justice Hegde is clear that democracy and its institutions need to be honoured. "It is for the lawmakers to finally decide the shape and colour of the Bill. We hope they would give it due consideration," he says. But he is not one to mince words when he speaks on how the parliamentary system has been denigrated: "On December 23, 2008, the Lok Sabha passed 17 bills in just 12 minutes, one amongst them being a Constitutional Amendment Bill. Is this what the Parliament does as a legislative body?"

Commenting on the smear campaign, he says it is almost as if Delhi has a library of "seedy CDs" which are being released on a daily basis. "After being a Supreme Court judge and now a Lokayukta they would have found that I do not even have money in five zeroes. I have to make a private visit for the meetings and stay at Karnataka Bhavan because I cannot afford to stay at big hotels. I did not take up this job for political mileage," he says.

Giving examples of how he has done the job of putting the Lokayukta in place in Karnataka, he says that though politicians and national leaders may not know of his work or the office, people in Karnataka are aware and have achieved a degree of confidence.

Justice Hegde's work against illegal mining in the state has left him with enemies in powerful positions. A report submitted by him shows that private mining companies earned . 5,000 per tonne, even as the state earned a mere . 27 per tonne (the earlier rate, now 10% ad valorem) as royalty on iron ore. Moreover, a large amount of the ore mined was being transported out illegally on which the state earns no royalty. And this is just one of the cases that Hegde has initiated.

"Corruption is a disease that knows no colour or caste and people have to be empowered to take up cases against corruption," he says. The right to information has empowered the common man and the Lokayukta at the state level could help reinforce faith in the system.









 An opinion poll conducted by a TV news channel in the wake of polling has predicted that on May 13, when the results of assembly elections in five states will be announced, the DMK could retain power in Tamil Nadu despite the mammoth 2G scam. However, irrespective of whether the DMK retains power or not, it would be simplistic and facile if the election results are interpreted as any kind of judgment on what constitutional bodies like the CAG have estimated as India's biggest scam ever at anywhere up to . 1.76 lakh crore. That verdict on the 2G scam can only be delivered by the courts just like the reelection of the BJP in Gujarat cannot be interpreted as a final judgment on whether the Narendra Modi government allowed Muslims to be targeted in the immediate wake of the torching of a bogie of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002. If justice delayed is justice denied, the problem in India is that the process takes so long that elections have almost become a substitute for what should purely be a judicial verdict. In the 26 years after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the Congress has been repeatedly elected to power not just at the national level but in Punjab. However, can any right-thinking person argue that the reelection of the Congress at the national level and in Punjab in any way dilutes or mitigates the heinousness of the offences perpetrated in the first week of November 1984?
If state-sponsored riots still take place and if a tsunami of scams is now tarnishing the image of governance in 21st century India, it is because institutional mechanisms have not been developed to promptly tackle gross abuse of power. There is still no closure in either the 1984 Delhi riots or the 2002 Gujarat riots, with the victims still waiting for justice and with only lowerlevel functionaries being penalised and none of the political leaders being convicted or acquitted. The interminable dragging on of cases could even be a deliberate ploy to wear out the patience of the petitioners.

In the case of the far more recent 2G scam, the jailing of the then telecom minister and a few corporate executives is being cited as an indication of the authorities' resolve to eradicate systemic corruption. With the CBI investigation into the 2G scam being monitored by the Supreme Court, the point has been repeatedly made that this time there will be no reprieve for the guilty. However, if eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, as an 18th-century American leader once stated, awkward questions will have to be asked.


Take, for instance, the reported CBI statement that the filing of the second chargesheet on the 2G scam (where the DMK supremo's daughter Kanimozhi was named) was done after polling in Tamil Nadu since a delay of a few days would not have mattered and since the investigating agency did not want to be perceived as being partisan. With assembly elections being held in one state or the other almost every year, the question could be asked whether the same norm will be followed in other states. Next year will see India's most populous state of UP going to the polls. If, for instance, a major scam breaks out in UP, will CBI chargesheets against regional leaders be filed only after polling? Already there are allegations that on critical issues when push comes to shove, the Congress is able to get both the BSP and the SP to play along in return for soft-pedalling cases involving disproportionate assets allegedly held by the leaders of these two parties. The CBI is already being termed as the Congress Bureau of Investigation!

Awkward questions can also be asked whether those involved at the top can be brought to book. For instance, can it be assumed that only A Raja is responsible for the alleged illegal distribution of 2G licences and that those who appointed him to this position are in no way responsible even if their wives and daughters own TV channels which have allegedly received unsecured loans running into hundreds of crores of rupees as some kind of pay-off from the favoured corporates which have received these licences at throwaway prices and minted money by selling stakes to foreign investors?

And these awkward questions need not be asked only of political leaders. If, for instance, three senior executives of a leading industrial group can be charged and arrested for allegedly setting up a dummy company for receiving 2G licences, can it be assumed that the owner of the group is in no way responsible for what has transpired? The only way of preempting future riots and scams is by ensuring that action is taken and seen to be taken against all those involved at the top and not just the most convenient and disposable scapegoats!









 One of the more interesting and revealing comments about the Osama killing this week came from a gushing academic at the French Institute of Foreign Relations who took the debate into the realms of psychology and gender impulses. What was great about the raid on Abbotabad for American voters, in this view, was that it was done "in the most classical, manly way... It wasn't a drone, it wasn't technology, it was man vs. man.''
    There has long been a tradition of macho-ness in American politics and on the macho-ness meter, Operation Neptune Spear in Abbottabad was the stuff of adolescent wet dreams: you dare mess with me, I'll come and get you. Mano-a-mano. It's a narrative straight out of Hollywood's playbook, from John Wayne's eternal Cowboy to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando.


 The erotic manly nationalism that this kind of imagery embodies is precisely why it appeals so much to influential sections of the BJP, television anchors and large swathes of our middle classes who are now calling for a similar Indian raid on Pakistan.


Notions of aggressive manliness have always been at the heart of Hindutva and its appeal to the middle classes from the time of Hegdewar. Advani's BJP became a political force from the 1980s on the back of exactly this kind of muscular Rambo-like Hindu-ness. In fact, terms like 'surgical strikes' and 'hot pursuit' were once the staple diet in the party's political lexicon, before it wrested power in Delhi and promptly forgot all about them.

 There can be no question about the Pakistani military's duplicity but the return of an aggressive, unthinking military rhetoric in India deserves serious debate, not reflexive grandstanding.


 There are important reasons why it is irresponsible for politicians to talk at this time of an Indian version of an Osama-like raid to get say Dawood or other terrorists who have sanctuary in Pakistan. One, the heat is so much on Pakistan right now that we would do ourselves a great disservice by shifting focus to the possibility of an Indo-Pakistan conflagration at this juncture. In fact, it would play straight into the Pakistan Army's hands, which is using the India bogey to deflect stringent internal criticism and has used it as a ruse for years with the Americans to keep away demands for tougher action on terrorism. In diplomatic terms, this is the time for India to say 'I told you so' and hem in Islamabad, not get caught in self-defeating machismo.


 Two, an American raid on Pakistan is very different from an Indian one. Pakistan and the US are still non-NATO allies in military terms. American forces are based all over Pakistan, their planes fly over its airspace all the time and the Americans essentially pay for propping up the Pakistani economy to keep it from collapse. India is an adversary. The bulk of the Pakistani military is deployed for an aggressive posture against our borders and the reaction to an Indian raid, whether successful or not, is not likely to be dissimilar to how we reacted on Kargil. Pakistan may be a failing, toxic state but it is controlled by a robust military-intelligence complex whose entire existence itself is predicated on the notion of an Indian threat, not to mention its ultimate fallback position of nuclear blackmail.


 Three, our self-image may now be uber-confident but military operations don't work by Hollywood rules as Jimmy Carter learnt when he lost his presidency with the failure of a similar helicopter raid to rescue hostages in Teheran. The Obama success is the culmination of a serious overhaul of American counter-terrorism capability that he ordered two years ago. The raid itself was in the planning for months, it wasn't simply a reflexive, emotive Wild-West manoeuvre.


 In our case, Indian special forces measure up man-to-man with the best in the business but most impartial experts agree that our strategic management needs a serious overhaul.

For instance, there is still no unified Special Forces Command. What we have is a number of specialised commando forces, run by different arms of the security establishment, with little centralised coordination and minimal upgradation of equipment in recent years, as we saw so painfully in 26/11.

 Even so, there are now a few accounts in the public domain to show that Indian forces have in the past carried out successful covert strikes across the border. But they were never officially publicised and never against high profile targets precisely because the costs of doing so publicly may be too high.
 The Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz was on to something when he argued that war is only politics by another means. The point of every military action must always be what it can ultimately yield. By that analysis, the current political debate about military action is misleading and linked more to the exigencies of electoral politics rather than any serious strategic thought




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




If you look into the different "shop" windows across West Asia, it is increasingly apparent that the Arab uprisings are bringing to a close the era of "West Asia Wholesale" and ushering in the era of "West Asia Retail". Everyone is going to have to pay more for their stability. Let's start with Israel. For the last 30 years, Israel enjoyed peace with Egypt wholesale — by having peace with just one man, Hosni Mubarak. That sale is over. Today, post-Mubarak, to sustain the peace treaty with Egypt in any kind of stable manner, Israel is going to have to pay retail. It is going to have to make peace with 85 million Egyptians. The days in which one phone call by Israel to Mubarak could shut down any crisis in relations are over. Amr Moussa, the outgoing head of the Arab League and the frontrunner in polls to succeed Mubarak as President when Egypt holds elections in November, just made that clear in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Regarding Israel, Moussa said: "Mubarak had a certain policy. It was his own policy, and I don't think we have to follow this. We want to be a friend of Israel, but it has to have two parties. It is not on Egypt to be a friend. Israel has to be a friend, too". Moussa owes a great deal of his popularity in Egypt to his tough approach to Israel. I hope he has a broader vision. It is noteworthy that in the decade he led the Arab League, he spent a great deal of time jousting with Israel and did virtually nothing to either highlight or deal with the conclusions of the 2002 UN Arab Human Development Report — produced by a group of Arab scholars led by an Egyptian — that said the Arab people are suffering from three huge deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of knowledge and deficit of women's empowerment. The current Israeli government, however, shows little sign of being prepared for peace retail. I can't say with any certainty that Israel has a Palestinian partner for a secure peace so that Israel can end its occupation of the West Bank. But I can say with 100 per cent certainty that Israel has a huge interest in going out of its way to test that possibility. The Arab world is going through a tumultuous transition to a still uncertain destination. Israel needs to do all it can to get out of their story, because it is going to be a wild ride. Alas, though, the main strategy of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas will be to drag Israel into the Arab story — as a way of deflecting attention away from how these anti-democratic regimes are repressing their own people and to further delegitimise Israel, by making sure it remains a permanent occupier of Palestinians in the West Bank. Have no illusions: The main goal of the rejectionists today is to lock Israel into the West Bank — so the world would denounce it as some kind of Jewish apartheid state, with a Jewish minority permanently ruling a Palestinian majority, when you combine Israel's Arabs and the West Bank Arabs. With a more democratic Arab world, where everyone can vote, that would be a disaster for Israel. It may be unavoidable, but it would be insane for Israel to make it so by failing to aggressively pursue a secure withdrawal option. The second group that will have to pay retail for stability is the Arab monarchies — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco. These governments have, for decades, bought stability with reform wholesale — by offering faux reforms, like reshuffling Cabinets, that never amounted to real power sharing — and by distracting their people with shiny objects. But these monarchies totally underestimate the depth of what has erupted in their region: a profound quest for personal dignity, justice and freedom that is not going away. They will have to share more power. The third group I hope will have to pay retail is Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Under Mubarak, in an odd way, the Brotherhood had it easy. Mubarak made sure that no authentic, legitimate, progressive, modern Egyptian party could emerge between himself and the Muslim Brotherhood. That way, Mubarak could come to Washington once a year and tell the President: "Look, it's either me or the Muslim Brotherhood. We have no independent, secular moderates". Therefore, to get its votes, all the Muslim Brotherhood had to say was that "Mubarak is a Zionist" and "Islam is the answer". It didn't have to think hard about jobs, economics or globalisation. It got its support wholesale — by simply being the only authentic vehicle for protest against the regime. Now the Muslim Brotherhood is going to have to get its votes retail — I hope. This is the key question: Will a united, legitimate, authentic, progressive, modern, nationalist alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood get its act together and challenge the Islamists in the Egyptian elections, and then rule effectively? Woody Allen famously pointed out that 80 per cent of life is showing up. Wrong. Eighty per cent of life is getting stuff done. The Egyptian centrists from Tahrir Square now need to show that they can form parties to get good stuff done. Nobody pays wholesale anymore.







Kudos to the government for seeing the light that the 10-day strike by over 800 erstwhile Indian Airline pilots has thrown on the state of affairs in Air India: corruption, mismanagement and deliberate efforts to kill the airline by taking away lucrative routes in the name of rationalisation and ordering aircraft way beyond the airline's needs. Most shocking of all was the giving away of the 13 points in India to foreign airlines. This is like giving away family silver, which in other countries is protected fiercely. The strike by the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association won the attention of the public and the media with its reports about corruption and mismanagement in Air India which is mainly responsible for the astronomical losses faced by the national carrier. While one does not hold a brief for the pilots because there are other ways of fighting for a cause besides going on strike in a service industry, the pilots alone cannot be blamed when they are as demoralised as the rest of the airline's employees at seeing the airline being dragged towards destruction by the airline administration and civil aviation ministry mandarins. The government has before it a humongous challenge. In principle the merger is an ideal marketing fit. Air India ruled the international routes and Indian Airlines was strong domestically, and between the two they could have dominated the skies. But the merger turned out to be only a ruse to give away lucrative routes and order over 100 aircraft, which no other airline in the world had done at that point of time. This put a debt of Rs 40,000 crore on the carrier's books on a turnover of a mere Rs 8,000 crore. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has also come out with a scathing report on the mismanagement of the airline and the government will have to deal with this when Parliament convenes for the Monsoon Session as the Opposition has tasted blood. This is a scam much bigger than the 2G scam and the government hopefully will look into this and the other issues raised by the pilots. Former Air India officials and experts in the aviation industry had also brought this to the notice of the government earlier. If this was still not enough, top businessmen like Anand Mahindra and others who were inducted onto the board complained to the government that they were not allowed to function. Yet the government did nothing. Now, in this new corruption-is-not-acceptable era, there is no way the government can sweep all this under the carpet. Equally important is handling the wedge driven by this phoney merger between the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India employees. There is a suggestion that they should be demerged and kept as separate entities with each entity optimising its capabilities under one common holding company. The airline will have to be liberated from the clutches of the joint secretaries who one day run the animal husbandry department and the next day are made chairman and MD of Air India only to leave after three years to become additional secretaries. Unless the management of Air India is professionalised and government and MPs do not use the airline as their private airline, the demand for privatisation of the airline will only get louder and louder. The pilots and other employees of Air India, who have a long-term stake in the carrier, have a responsibility to see the airline run professionally. The CMD and bureaucrats are birds of passage. It is hoped that the 10-day strike does not go in vain because there is little else that has been achieved.







The dramatic events of the past few days have far-reaching repercussions on the future of global terrorism and US policy in Afghanistan and West Asia. Osama bin Laden may have been removed from the scene, but Al Qaeda lives as a hybrid conglomerate with formidable allies in Pakistan and elsewhere. Whilst a plethora of questions on Bin Laden's capture and death remains unanswered, Pakistan has, once again, come under global scrutiny admittedly for the right reasons. Most Pakistanis are dumbfounded by the sudden discovery of Bin Laden virtually under the nose of the military and the mysterious way in which Operation Geronimo was carried out by the United States. Despite the hard talk, it is clear that the US-Pakistan relationship is not going to be majorly affected by the recent turn of events. After US President Barack Obama's acknowledgement of Pakistan's assistance, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has argued that Pakistan should not be unfairly pressured. The British Prime Minister has more or less taken the same line. Yet, the web of deceit, spin-doctoring and posturing by all sides continues to scandalise both the international media, as well as public opinion in Pakistan. Never has the average Pakistani citizen been more rattled. Sadly, amid the rumpus of media frenzy, a major blow has been dealt to the India-Pakistan dialogue, which had barely resumed after a hiatus of three years. It is heartening to note that initial signals from Indian official channels are positive and talking to Pakistan has not been abandoned as a policy choice. Yet, sections of Indian media and cyberspace are full of frenzied exhortations to do what the US has done, i.e. conduct operations within Pakistan to get hold of most-wanted men by India (ranging from the underworld mafia don Dawood Ibrahim to radical Islamists). Indian Army chief Gen. V.K. Singh's recent statement that India is capable of undertaking such strikes in Pakistan may have been inspired by imperatives of national security rhetoric that nation-states love to indulge in. Gen. Singh assured Indians that "if such a chance comes, then all the three arms (of the military) are competent to do this". Equally bizarre is the statement by Pakistan's foreign office that the Mumbai attacks are history and that 26/11 is not an issue anymore. This was simply an unwise statement from the Pakistani side. Whether such public posturing intensifies or subsides remains to be seen. Hopefully, the resolve of the Indian Prime Minister to continue with dialogue and the will on the part of Pakistan's civilian leadership shall save the future of the peace process. It is important to keep perspective here. First of all, it makes little sense that the operation "get Osama bin Laden" was conducted without the knowledge and assistance of the Pakistani state. Denial is the best way to handle Bin Laden's discovery and death. If Pakistan admits to complicity, the jihadi backlash can be immense. This partly explains why Western powers are keen not to pressure and blame Pakistan for harbouring terrorists beyond a certain point. Secondly, Pakistan's war machinery, especially its nuclear arsenal, has expanded in recent years. In part, this is an unfortunate aspect of the wider arms race in the region. India's civilian nuclear deal with the US has raised alarm bells in Pakistan's security establishment. India has also emerged as a major global arms importer. Despite emotionalism, calling for surgical strikes within Pakistan is simply a dangerous option to advocate. If anything, the engagement process needs to be intensified; and the Indian initiative of talking to Pakistan's security establishment (according to unconfirmed and much-denied reports) is a trajectory that ought not to be forsaken for military conflagration. Thirdly, the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, despite the vicissitudes, has been a formidable one. Over time, it has cemented into an interdependent relationship. This irks India, and Pakistan's alleged "double game" in the war on terror is widely commented in the Indian media. Yet, the nature of the US-Pak relationship is far more nuanced and complex than it appears. It encompasses history, three decades of disastrous Afghan policies and the medium-term future where Pakistan in all likelihood will remain strategically important to the US. Interpreting Operation Geronimo as a strike against Pakistan's "terrorist state" makes a good headline but is neither rooted in facts, nor does it constructively inform the public in India. On the Pakistani side, the entire spectrum of political class and business elites are in favour of making peace and trading with India. The recent visit of Asfandyar Wali Khan, grandson of Frontier Gandhi Ghaffar Khan, was refreshing inasmuch the bold Khan made some candid confessions before the Indians. The most relevant was how India-hating terrorist groups were the enemies of Pakistan as well. A populist hard-line from the Indian side will only strengthen the jihad-mongers in Pakistan and undermine the civilian-political-business consensus on normalisation of relations with India. There is no question that Pakistan has to sincerely pursue the 26/11 investigations and trials, and satisfy Indian concerns. Further dilly-dallying will only aggravate Indian public perceptions of Pakistan. Having said this, the vibrant power-centre in India — its electronic and print media — has to show greater responsibility in shaping and steering domestic public opinion in the interest of the billions who reside in the Indian subcontinent. Our region is not a simple geographical construct. We are inextricably tied to each other by notions of military and strategic engagement (take the case of Afghanistan); climate and natural resources (rivers, waters and weather systems) and societal structures (South Asia is home to half of the world's Muslim population) and, needless to say, a shared future. Whether the hawks in India or Pakistan like it or not, our frontiers of the future are shared too. It is a pity that we keep on squandering the chance to emerge as the world's third largest economic bloc. Pakistan is battling with its flawed policies. Bin Laden's capture points towards a truncation of our relationship with Al Qaeda. India through visionary diplomacy can help Pakistan battle extremism as the state is gearing up to confront Al Qaeda's local partners. Jingoistic noises from the neighbour allow the hawks and strategists to flog their favourite horse: India-centricism. We cannot change our histories, how about reshaping our shared future? *Raza Rumi is an editor, writer and public policy adviser based in Lahore








>> Happy b'day, General Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh's birthday falls on May 10, when the military exercises in the Rajasthan desert were to start. Interestingly, he is also in the midst of a raging controversy on whether his date of birth is May 10, 1950, or May 10, 1951. Since May 10 was "undisputed", it occurred to some journalists who were going to cover the event that they could take the opportunity to extend birthday greetings to Gen. Singh. But that was not to be. The plans changed all of sudden and the journalists were informed by the Army that the trip would now take place on May 12. Tongues began wagging that the Army top brass had second thoughts and did not want any journalist to pop an uncomfortable question on the controversy to Gen. Singh to sour his birthday. For the record, however, the Army told the media that the date was changed since the exercises would peak on May 12. But then, one can always extend belated birthday greetings to the Army Chief. >> Dilemma-laden parties Osama bin Laden's death last week put at least two political parties in Uttar Pradesh in a quandary. Both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have made it a habit to react on every issue and incident that takes place anywhere on the globe. On the day Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, journalists in Lucknow eagerly awaited the reaction of both the parties. However, there was none forthcoming. When some scribes contacted their sources, they discovered — much to their amusement — that the party leaders were actually mulling over the impact of Bin Laden's killing on Muslims in Uttar Pradesh before giving any statement. "We cannot criticise his killing because that would be perceived as anti-national and we cannot welcome the action taken by the US either since it could send wrong signals to the Muslim community in the state", admitted a leader in one of the parties. So silence was golden. >> Lightweights and heavyweights Nowadays, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seizes all opportunities to lash out at Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot. The most recent was when BJP president Nitin Gadkari made a visit to Jaipur. Mr Gehlot's arch rival and former chief minister Vasundhara Raje ridiculed him and said he thought he could pass off as a Gandhian merely by wrapping a muffler around his neck and walking in rubber slippers. Since Mr Gehlot is lean, the saffron workers also termed him a political lightweight. "Hamari party mazboot Bharat ke mazboot netaon ki hai (Our party represents a strong India by strong leaders)", said a proud BJP worker, apparently referring to Mr Gadkari's girth. However, Mr Gadkari later said at a press conference, "I would like to reduce my weight." Realising that it would put him in the league of Mr Gehlot, he added in haste, "But, of course, I want to increase my political weight". >> Sweetening harsh tongues A minister in the Raman Singh government of Chhattisgarh adopted an innovative approach to get over his woes. The minister had been under attack from both the ruling and Opposition MLAs for the past six months for various wrongdoings in his department. All his efforts to come clean and convince his critics of his innocence had proved futile. He even incurred Mr Singh's wrath for his failure to handle the situation. However, he hit upon an idea to solve his problem once and for all. He sent a sack of sugar (one quintal) to each MLA along with a note promising more in the future. The gesture seemed to have helped repair the souring relations between the minister and the MLAs. Thereafter, the MLAs were heard speaking about him with high regard. "Sugar sweetens tongues, howsoever bitter they may be", so goes the adage. >> Mamata's hotline to the sky CPI(M) leader Gautam Deb has emerged as the star campaigner for his party in West Bengal because of his oratorical skills. At a rally in Ghatal, West Midnapore, Mr Deb was in his element. "The other day Mamata was telling a gathering at Mathabhanga that when she was about to fly in her helicopter from Siliguri to address an election rally, it started raining heavily. Mamata claimed that she sent a small prayer to the Uparwala and lo! the rains stopped". "I want to know that if she has such a hotline connection with God, then why is she crisscrossing the state from one corner to another?" asked Mr Deb. "She could simply ask God to give her party a haul of 200 Assembly seats and her prayers will be answered and she will come to power." >> New babus on top The talk in the corridors of power is that a "new government" will be in place in the next few months. Of course, the talk is not about a mid-term poll but about a string of top positions in the bureaucracy getting vacant. "If the proposition that the bureaucracy rules the government is true, then it may be correct to say that there will be a 'new' government in place in the next couple of months", quipped a senior official. The posts getting vacant are right from the top, including that of the Cabinet Secretary, with incumbent K.M. Chandrasekhar's tenure expiring on June 14. There will also be new faces in the finance, home, external affairs and defence ministries in the coming months. >> Who's the creator? In a bid to give a new twist to the ongoing verbal spat between the Congress and the BJP over India's approach towards Pakistan in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing, an All-India Congress Committee functionary, during an informal chat, expressed that "if the Congress created Pakistan, then Pakistan created the BJP". Although the functionary did not want to go on record saying this, he said, "They accuse us of creating Pakistan. I am ready to accept the accusation, but only if they accept that they are the creation of Pakistan". He also suggested that had Pakistan been not there, "the BJP would not have come into being".








I don't want closure. There is no closure after tragedy. I want memory, and justice, and revenge. When you're dealing with a mass murderer who bragged about incinerating thousands of Americans and planned to kill countless more, that seems like the only civilised and morally sound response. We briefly celebrated one of the few clear-cut military victories we've had in a long time, a win that made us feel like Americans again — smart and strong and capable of finding our enemies and striking back at them without getting trapped in multitrillion-dollar Groundhog Day occupations. But within days, Naval Seal-gazing shifted to navel-gazing. There was the bad comedy of solipsistic Republicans with wounded egos trying to make it about how right they were and whinging that George W. Bush was due more credit. Their attempt to renew the debate about torture is itself torture. W. preferred to sulk in his Dallas tent rather than join President Barack Obama at ground zero in a duet that would have certainly united the country. Whereas the intelligence work that led to the destruction of Osama bin Laden was begun in the Bush administration, the cache of schemes taken from Bin Laden's Pakistan house debunked the fanciful narrative that the Bush crew pushed: that Bin Laden was stuck in a cave unable to communicate, increasingly irrelevant and a mere symbol, rather than operational. Bin Laden, in fact, was at the helm, spending his days whipping up bloody schemes to kill more Americans. In another inane debate last week, many voices suggested that decapitating the head of a deadly terrorist network was some sort of injustice. Taking offence after Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, said he was "much relieved" at the news of Bin Laden's death, Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, posted the Twitter message: "Ban Ki-moon wrong on Osama bin Laden: It's not justice for him to be killed even if justified; no trial, conviction". I leave it to subtler minds to parse the distinction between what is just and what is justified. When Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said she was "glad" Bin Laden had been killed, a colleague called such talk "medieval". Christophe Barbier, editor of the centrist French weekly L'Express, warned: "To cry one's joy in the streets of our cities is to ape the turbaned barbarians who danced the night of September 11". Those who celebrated on September 11 were applauding the slaughter of American innocents. When college kids spontaneously streamed out Sunday night to the White House, ground zero and elsewhere, they were the opposite of bloodthirsty: they were happy that one of the most certifiably evil figures of our time was no more. The confused image of Bin Laden as a victim was exacerbated by John Brennan, the Obama national security aide who intemperately presented an inaccurate portrait of what had happened on the third floor in Abbottabad. Unlike the President and the Navy Seals, who performed with steely finesse, Brennan was overwrought, exaggerating the narrative to demonise the demon. The White House had to backtrack from Brennan's contentions that Bin Laden was "hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield" and that he died after resisting in a firefight. It may be that some administration officials have taken Dick Cheney's belittling so much to heart that they are still reluctant to display effortless macho. Liberal guilt may have its uses, but it should not be wasted on this kill-mission. The really insane assumption behind some of the second-guessing is that killing Bin Laden somehow makes us like Bin Laden, as if all killing is the same. Only fools or knaves would argue that we could fight Al Qaeda's violence non-violently. President Obama was prepared to take a life not only to avenge American lives already taken but to deter the same killer from taking any more. Aside from Bin Laden's plotting, his survival and his legend were inspirations for more murder. If stealth bombers had dropped dozens of 2,000-pound bombs and wiped out everyone, no one would have been debating whether Bin Laden was armed. The President chose the riskiest option presented to him, but one that spared nearly all the women and children at the compound, and anyone in the vicinity. Unlike Bin Laden, the Navy Seals took great care not to harm civilians — they shot Bin Laden's youngest wife in the leg and carried two young girls out of harm's way before killing Bin Laden. Morally and operationally, this was counterterrorism at its finest. We have nothing to apologise for. *By arrangement with The New York Times







There is a hillock on the right bank of Yamuna in the Timarpur suburb of Delhi. It is popularly known as Majnu ka Teela, meaning, a Lunatic's Hillock. The name was derived from a fakir who had made it his habitat and who was given to such severe austerities that he hardly looked after himself. He became very lean and remained shabbily dressed; so people began to call him a majnu, a lunatic. It was on this hillock that Guru Nanak made a halt on his way to Delhi. It was early morning, and sitting under a tree the Guru began to sing laudations of his Lord. While he was deeply absorbed in his mellow meditation, a sudden wailing sound disturbed him. That lamentation appeared to be coming from the Royal Elephant Farm located nearby. The Guru's tender heart was touched with compassion. He bade Mardana to go and find out that who was screaming so pathetically. Mardana came back and said that an elephant of the Royal Farm had died all of a sudden and its mahout and his family was wailing fearing the royal wrath. On hearing this, the Guru decided to visit the family and console the distressed people. Politely, the Guru said: "The elephant belonged to the king. If it has died, it is his loss. Why are you people crying?" Mahout: "Sir, we are crying out of fear of the possible wrath of the king who might indict us for not looking after his favourite animal. We might lose our job too". The Guru: "Suppose the animal becomes alive, would you stop wailing?" Mahout: "Not only we shall stop crying, but shall rejoice. But how can the dead elephant be revived?" The Guru began to sing, "O God! If You alone can kill, then You alone can revive. These people are wailing at Your Door. Where else can they go?" He sang this several times and then asked the mahout to go and pat the head of the dead elephant. The mahout complied and was amazed when the animal opened its eyes, shook its body then stood up and with his trunk began to salute the Guru. This news spread like wildfire and reached the royal quarters as well. The king who was grieving his favourite elephant's death could not believe that it got revived. He along with his retinue made to his farm and was struck with the veracity of the news. He asked the Guru if he had revived the elephant. The Guru: "O king of the land, it is God alone who can kill as well as revive. We can only pray. It depends on God whether he will concede the prayer". The king said: "Would you now pray that this elephant should die again?" Guru Nanak: "He alone can take life who gives. No one else. Come pray with me that God should take away the life of the animal that he revived". Instantly, the animal sank down to the ground and died. Guru Nanak laughed and said: "This animal will not revive now. O king, you have not watched a trick. You only witnessed how God's mercy responds to a fakir's supplication". A holy man who was among the king's retinue whispered to the king, "He is no ordinary man, he seems to be one with God", and made obeisance to the Guru. The king mellowed and asked the Guru if he could present a gift to him. The Guru said: "His only longing is to stay close to God. All his needs the Lord fulfils. So he needs nothing from anyone else". The king made obeisance and departed. And the Guru and Mardana resumed their laudatory song. — J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist of international repute, was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He has also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.










THREE Maoist attacks in a  span of 15 hours in Jharkhand confirm that the Left radicals have renewed their operations in a state that had appeared to have experienced a deceptive lull. Like perhaps in Bengal where the extremists have withdrawn into a shell for now, allowing the conventional parties to fight their own battles. If to a far lesser degree, the outrage in Lohardaga that has killed eleven security personnel recalls the butchery in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada last year when 75 CRPF personnel were done to death. The Maoists have struck with renewed vigour and the calm that preceded the serial strikes has left officials shaking their heads in disbelief.  Quite the most critical is the intrepid shift in strategy. First, the security men, comprising the CRPF, the Jharkhand Jaguar and the state police, were not caught with all defences down as in Dantewada. Second, the strident call to surrender arms was amplified through loudspeakers... by the extremists and not the administration as conventional wisdom would have imagined. The Maoists struck when the securitymen ignored the warnings. The third factor is the all too apparent Intelligence failure, one that facilitated the Maoists to detonate a corridor with no fewer than 150 landmines.
   The attack was meticulously planned to the last detail; the setting off of the landmines was followed by the gun attack. Seldom has a demand for arms surrender by the commandos been orchestrated by the Maoists. It is almost always issued by the government as a pre-condition for negotiations. Indeed, the Maoist rejection of the arms-surrender  demand in West Bengal has made the extremist challenge still more forbidding. They have neither surrendered their arms; nor for that matter has the government had the nerve to negotiate.
Clearly, it is the Maoist who is calling the shots in Jharkhand... figuratively as much as literally. Should this strategic shift of directing the security forces to surrender their weapons be emulated along the Red Corridor, the bedlam and butchery is bound to be increasingly chilling. By the Jharkhand government's own admission, the extremists have been able to ensure a balance of power; in Lohardaga they matched the security forces in numbers as well as the quality of weaponry. The Maoists have won a lethal triumph by asking the security forces to give up their arms... and killing them when they didn't. And the message resonates along the Red Corridor.




GOD, Napoleon had asserted, is on the side of those with the heavier cannon. The Indian Army's artillery men, popularly called the Gunners, must be deeming themselves a God-forsaken lot now that the present incarnation of reputed gun-makers, Bofors, has withdrawn from the sales race to supply them modern weapons. The company's lament is that the qualitative requirements of the tender have been modified to include less-capable, and therefore less-expensive systems: thus making something of a mockery of the evaluation trials which gave its towed howitzer the highest rating. So the field has now been left open to what the Army had not really desired. Yes, there is jinx on addressing an accepted deficiency in medium artillery. The ghost of the kickbacks in the deal with the original Bofors still haunts, indeed liberalising of the tender was probably to avoid a single-vendor situation. Yet the "performance" at Kargil, and a series of subsequent trials, have established the quality of the product of the once-blacklisted Swedish firm whose ownership has since changed hands. Tragically for the Gunners ~ maybe not others ~ the producers of the two "next best" guns from Dennel of South Africa and Singapore Technologies have also run into corruption-related roadblocks. No new guns have been acquired since the mid-1980s, the Army is making do with 400 howitzers acquired before the original Bofors contract was cancelled, and upgraded Soviet-era 130 mm units. The pullout of BAE Systems (the present incarnation of Bofors) is not the sole cause of worry. Will the USA proceed with the offer to sell ultra-light howitzers after its jets were rejected by the IAF for a $10 billion deal?

Without delving too much into the history of indigenous cannon-casting ~ the Zamzamah eulogised by Kipling in Kim being only one among several "celebrities" ~ it is pertinent to wonder why despite 25 years of difficulty the indigenous defence research and production units have not progressed beyond the 105 mm Indian Field Gun of 1970s vintage. Indeed no effort was made to fill the void created when the Bofors scandal took its toll. Sure, modern artillery pieces are sophisticated weapons, but surely not too far ahead of the advanced technologies the DRDO etc claim to have developed. It boils down to a basic question ~ for whose benefit are our defence scientists working? They run up quite a bill you know.




BARRING Tripura and, to some extent, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, the days of one-party rule in the North-eastern states seem to be over for good. Ministries in Nagaland, Manipur and Meghalaya have the dubious distinction of being unstable. But since Neiphiu Rio's regional Nagaland People's Front, in collaboration with other parties, assumed power in 2003 ~ the popular perception being that the electorate voted for regionalism and continuity ~ the state has enjoyed stability despite there being the occasional internal rumbling. Rio is serving a second term. Okram Ibobi Singh's Congress government in Manipur ~ he is also into his second term ~ gets rattled now and then but so far it has been within manageable bounds. Ibobi should be thankful that he enjoys the confidence of the party's central command which is against his being disturbed now because it knows full well that Ibobi is the only one capable of handling Manipur's sticky problems.
Meghalaya has only once elected a one-party government since attaining statehood in 1972 and that was under Captain Williamson Sangma. Here, two Congress governments lasted for 10 and 12 days respectively. Not surprisingly, anger and dissatisfaction have surfaced again. Several Congress dissidents want chief minister Mukul Sangma removed because they are reportedly unhappy over his style of functioning.
Five-time former chief minister DD Lapang is leading the dissident camp. Sangma completed one year in office only last month. Despite the party leadership favouring his continuation, the dissidents have shuttled between Shillong and Delhi to mount pressure ~ to the extent that on 4 May, with the chief minister and his deputy away in the capital in connection with the finalisation of the state's annual plan size, the mood at the state secretariat was that of a public holiday. So much for work culture!







A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in the USA has revealed that Indian scientists are the worst offenders in faking research. Thirty-four per cent of the research papers out of the 50 withdrawn relate to some kind of fraud, including cribbing of  findings, concocting data or fudging. A senior Indian scientist at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development, New Delhi, has alleged that some of our senior scientists are involved in fraud and that no action has been taken against the offence. 

Such deceptive practices are also prevalent elsewhere in the world as a short-cut to quick success. Of the 800 research papers retracted by scientific journals in the past 10 years, the USA ~ with 260 retractions ~ topped the list, according to the stated review. A recent survey of more than 80 universities in the UK has revealed that "academic misconduct" is on the rise across the country  with over 17,000 cases being recorded during the academic year 2009-10. Thousands of students have been caught for plagiarism.

Germany's defence minister had to resign recently for his plagiarised doctoral degree which was withdrawn. He had copied his thesis from other sources. The London School of Economics is investigating allegations that Muammar Gaddafi's son had plagiarised his 2008 PhD thesis.

Apparently, there is far stricter scrutiny than in India. Punishment is severe: usually the accused scientist's career is ruined. In India, however, such dubious practices have by and large gone unchallenged though not unnoticed, not to mention punishment. Several instances of blatant plagiarism have corrupted our scientific community, and such unethical practices are continuing unabated.

Recently, a research paper jointly authored by professors of IIT, Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Inter-University Accelerator Centre, published in 2009, was retracted by the editor of the journal, Nuclear Methods and Instruments. It was alleged that the authors had plagiarised parts of an earlier published work. Two review articles co-authored by a senior professor of IIT, Kanpur, have also been retracted by the journal, Biotechnology Advances, as the authors have plagiarised from earlier papers.

The director of Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology, Delhi, had to resign in the wake of charges of plagiarism. The allegation was probed by the Society for Scientific Values. Six AIIMS professors were earlier accused of plagiarism for fraudulently publishing the same research material in two different medical journals.
An associate professor in the department of Material Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently found that his research paper on nanoelectronic devices, published in January 2009, had been copied by the two faculty members of Pondicherry University and published as a chapter in a book in their names. One of the authors expressed regret and had agreed to withdraw the chapter. The university had initiated an inquiry.
In its 150-year history, Calcutta University had cancelled the PhD degree of an evening college teacher as a large part of his thesis had been found to be plagiarised by the University Syndicate.

Earlier, a Reader in the physics department was sacked by Delhi University for plagiarism. He was found guilty of copying certain research papers. The American Mathematical Society had also accused a professor of mathematics of Delhi University of plagiarism while reviewing his research papers. In another instance, the submission of two virtually identical dissertations by two Delhi University students in two different departments had shocked the academic community. The two thesis were almost carbon copies with minor differences. Their respective supervisors had certified the work of their students as original.

The authorities took action against one of them who had copied the research material of the other. A PhD student of JNU's "School of Computer and Systems Sciences" was charged with plagiarising the thesis for his doctorate degree by copying word by word from an earlier publication. He was not awarded the degree.
The vice-chancellor of Kumaon University, who claimed to be a top physicist having 300 research papers to his credit, was accused of plagiarisation for lifting verbatim from published papers. In 2002, he submitted a paper titled, "Super-symmetric Hypermultiplets in String Theory". One section was lifted from a 1994 paper by Seiberg and Witten, another from papers by Bilal and Ferrari, and a third from a 1998 paper by Bergman and Fayyazuddin. It is only after three Nobel laureates from the USA had complained that a panel was formed to probe the charge. It was headed by a former Allahabad High Court judge.
A professor of  the Cardiology department of Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, was once accused of plagiarising the thesis of a post-graduate student of the department. It was alleged that the article published by him in the journal of Associate Physicians of India is a "word to word" copy from the student's original thesis. 
Two professors of Poona University, belonging to the microbiology and chemistry departments, were suspended for plagiarising a research paper of one Ms Bruce G Adams, which was published in Analytical Biochemistry earlier. Both were also held guilty of plagiarising a research paper of two foreign authors published in 1984 in the journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology.
The fossil fraud, in which a Punjab University geologist was involved, has tarnished the image of the country before the international scientific community.

The names of Indian scientists have been withheld).

The  writer  is  ex-principal  scientist,  IARI, New Delhi






KATHMANDU, 8 MAY: It takes a particularly fluffy goat to survive a Himalayan winter, and the chyangra goat ~ the source of pashmina wool ~ is the fluffiest of all.  Coveted for its lightness and warmth, the wool ~ used in scarves and shawls sold in boutiques from Paris to Manhattan ~ has brought much-needed income to the mountain kingdom of Nepal. But recently exports have slumped, thanks to competition from cheap imitations mass-produced mainly in China and India, Nepal's much larger neighbours, from inferior wool or synthetic fibres. Now producers in Nepal, backed by the government, are fighting back, registering the trademark "Chyangra Pashmina" after the sub-species of goat. Pashmina garments made there will carry a special logo, and Nepalese producers will monitor markets around the world to protect their trademark. Spun from the short, soft hairs found beneath the goats' long outer coat, pashmina wool has become popular ~ with celebrities as well as ordinary consumers ~ in the past couple of decades. A pure pashmina scarf can easily cost (pounds sterling) 100 or more. Nepal exported $103 million worth of the wool in 2000, but by last year that figure had dropped to just $18 million.

The reason, local producers believe, is the cheap Chinese and Indian-made scarves sold for a few dollars in tourist shops in Hong Kong, London and Bangkok. Rebecca Ordish, an Australian intellectual property lawyer based in Nepal, told Associated Press: "Pashmina has gone from being a luxury product associated with royalty to a cheap shawl or scarf." She believes that pashmina wool has lost its expensive, rare aura, and that consumers now associate the name chiefly with low-quality imitations, "so they won't be prepared to pay more for the expensive genuine product".

The new trademark, intended to set those genuine products apart and ensure the content of the wool, has been registered in dozens of Western countries, according to Manoj Acharya, a senior official in Nepal's Ministry for Commerce and Industries. The government also plans to set up a laboratory in Katmandu to provide scientific backing for the superiority of its goods. "Our hope is to separate Nepal's products from others, so that consumers are not fooled," Mr Acharya said. Mandu Bahadur Adhikari, the head of an umbrella body that groups Nepalese producers, said members would monitor wool markets to make sure others did not use the "Chyangra Pashmina" label. They would also check the labels of goods sold in shops in the West, and were planning a media campaign to alert importers and consumers to possible imitations.
the independent 







A landmark was reached in the history of India's tribal people on April 27. On that day, the people of Mendha Lekha in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra were to walk into the nearby forest and cut bamboo. Such enterprise was strictly prohibited till that day, because bamboo is supposed to have been produced in a forest and the forest belongs to the government; taking away a bamboo for a rafter was strictly theft of government property. City people may have noticed no shortage of bamboo; bamboo furniture has always been popular amongst the arty types. Most of that bamboo comes from the Northeast, also supposed to be a part of India, but things work a bit more smoothly there. The tribal people there took to arms and, rather than aggravate them, the government decided to look the other way. So a commercial network developed there which harvests bamboo and sends it elsewhere in the country for a good commission. More recently, tribal people elsewhere began to learn from their northeastern compeers and took to arms. The government branded them Maoists and began to kill them. But now it has sought ways of pacifying them; the disqualification of bamboo as forest produce is the first step.

When the government begins to love a people, it is in danger of falling in love. Now the minister of environment is talking not only of denotifying various forest products so that tribal people can access them, but also of introducing minimum support prices for them. So, soon there will be a new, lethargic Forest Produce Corporation of India. It will appoint babus in every tribal village. Tribal people who bring notified forest produce will be able to come and sell it at fixed prices.

Now there are MSPs for only about half a dozen grains, and the government buys substantial quantities of only two — wheat and rice. Soon there will be MSPs for beehives, foxtails and herbal leaves; the list of things the babus will buy may run into thousands. Once they have bought these exotic items, they will have to market them; who will buy them but the arty types who stroll into the government's cottage industry emporia? But even they may not provide a large enough market for such a variety of products; so the government may have to create a Forest Produce Export Corporation of India. And even exports may not absorb the entire produce; so there will have to be a Forest Produce Warehousing Corporation of India. Altogether, there will be considerable employment for lowly, nitpicking government servants; how much they will appropriate, and how much will go in the end to the tribal people, is a question that cannot be answered now. But if past experience is anything to go by, this is going to be a way of creating a new tribe of babus, and not one of helping any old tribe.







The pride of Calcutta has long turned into a source of pain for the citizens. The dismal record of the Metro Railway in the city is a well known fact, though it still deserves repeated iteration. Instead of being a comfortable, swift and safe means of transport, the Calcutta Metro has, over the years, become a veritable nightmare for the commuters. With its crumbling infrastructure, shoddy time schedule and menace of overcrowding, a Metro ride, for most Calcuttans, amounts to a wager with fate. One never knows what lies in wait under ground. From suicides throwing themselves on the tracks to risks of derailment and sudden spells of darkness, travelling on the Metro can turn out to be an adventure of sorts — albeit a rather unpleasant and risky one. The recent incident of cracks developing on tracks underscores, yet again, the potential dangers that ordinary Calcuttans have to negotiate every time they decide to take the tube.

Although the Metro officials detected and repaired the cracks well in time to avert a disaster, the suspension of services at the peak of the rush hour speaks volumes about the quality of service provided by the Metro Railway. The authorities could not explain why the fault was not noted during the trial run that precedes the opening of the Metro services every morning. More alarmingly, judging by their comments, it seems they decided to halt services and repair the damage after much deliberation — almost on a second thought — only after the threat to passenger safety became glaringly evident. The irony becomes starker when one considers the recent extension of the Metro and the great fanfare with which the names of the stations were changed. And matters appear bleaker still with an even more ambitious extension plan under execution. What good would such cosmetic measures be if passenger safety continues to be compromised on a regular basis?







Tihar jail today has the largest collection of charged or convicted top officials, a powerful ex-minister, sundry politicians and officials. Maharashtra had a teflon-coated chief minister who was 'sacked' to a cabinet post in Delhi after being long untouched by many scandals. Another just exited. A former Jharkhand chief minister is in jail on charges of looting his state treasury and accumulating funds abroad. The powerful founder of the Nationalist Congress Party has now been repeatedly named in connection with major corruption — the real estate firm connected with the 2G scam, the horse breeder charged with being the biggest conduit to overseas bank accounts, the ills of the aviation sector including poor pilot training, the collapse of the nationalized airlines and so on. There is a sea change in public attitudes to high-level corruption in government and therefore to how at least some are punished.

A wave of disgust at the sleaze and shamelessness of government officials including politicians has swept the public. Anna Hazare tapped into this wave of revulsion. The Lok Pal was his first answer to dealing with such corrupt officials and their political bosses. Many other actions are necessary and the National Advisory Council seems seized with them. But this revulsion may not influence elections because of the presence of corrupt politicians in all parties.

Indira Gandhi famously excused corruption, saying it is a global phenomenon. Some of our corrupt achievements: the purchase of aeroplanes; the transfer of Air India and Indian Airlines routes to foreign and domestic private airlines for personal consideration; the purchase of defence equipment; other public sector purchases of machinery and materials; the blatant Commonwealth Games thefts; the suspicion of organized diversion of government funds in the many social sector programmes like the public distribution system, the national rural employment guarantee scheme and so on, which miss many of the deserving, or from commissions on infrastructure contracts.

State governments are the breeding grounds for lessons on ways to accumulate illegal wealth. Spending on many government purchases and contracts, ongoing scandals for many years in both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam governments, unresolved issues relating to the Lalu Prasad animal husbandry scandal, the decades-long deprivation of development expenditure in the north-eastern states because of the diversion of Central development funds for the purchase of private real estate in Delhi and elsewhere by ruling politicians, the amassing of huge rupee and foreign currency fortunes by a Jharkhand chief minister during a brief time in office, the land scandals when Nariman Point was reclaimed and the recent land grab for special economic zones are a few examples.

In the command and control economy till 1985, industrial success depended on who you knew in government and how much you were willing to pay. Payment was for industrial licences to start factories, import licences for forbidden materials, export licences to allow exports of items scarce in India, and contracts to do things for governments or supply goods and services. At lower levels of the administration, there were and continue to be, permits to build, violate building norms, pollute the neighbourhood without fear, employ child labour and for excessive hours, change contractual government terms and so on.

Liberalization and the spread of information technology closed some sources of corruption (like railway and air tickets), but new ones emerged or old ones became much bigger (for example, small payoffs for industrial licences versus huge ones for telecommunications spectrum sales). With economic growth and increased government revenues, there is huge spending on infrastructure and social schemes to encourage "inclusive growth". There are now larger opportunities to divert government funds meant for benefiting society and the poor and vulnerable. Corruption in all political parties for funds to fight elections, maintain 'volunteers' in normal times, and create extra incomes and wealth for politicians is blatant and shameless. None of it is possible without bureaucrats assisting and benefiting from it.

The weakness of our governance — its institutions, systems and rules — is reflected in the loot of funds for services meant for the poor, martyrs and infrastructure. The Global Financial Integrity report in the latest estimate of such funds abroad says that between 1948 and 2008, $462 billion from drug and human trafficking, corruption, fraud and currency counterfeiting was sent out by private companies and individuals.

The rule of law in India is slow and weak. Every government creates the environment for black money. Weak penal powers are rarely exercised. The good news is that some exposures are leading to action because of competitive media, growing middle-class awareness, the Right to Information Act and the recent activism of the Supreme Court.

These, and a Lok Pal with prosecuting powers, are only touching different aspects of the elephant that is corruption. The system has to reform as in the 1990s when extortionate personal and corporate income tax rates were reduced, foreign exchange allowances and remittances made generous, imports opened up with much lower duties. But under-invoicing of exports and over-invoicing of imports continue, with illegal drugs and arms trades. Illegal pickings are large in a growing economy. Politicians and the bureaucracy have created a further enabler by emphasizing foreign institutional investment over direct investment. The continuation of anonymous investments in the stock market through participatory notes and exempting FIIs from short-term capital-gains tax are government-created enablers for money to enter India by hawala, be invested, make a profit and go back overseas as 'clean' money.

The government owns many scarce resources like land, mineral, air waves and spectrum worth huge amounts; these are sources of large illegal earnings. The acquisition and allocation of resources, price determination of valuable resources like oil and gas, the exploitation of valuable minerals in forest and tribal lands, allocation of spectrum are new and massive opportunities for corruption. So is the procurement of defence equipment, railway engines, aeroplanes and so on. Government spending on physical and social infrastructures and social welfare schemes are new sources for politicians and bureaucrats to divert funds for personal use.

These thefts occur despite the many investigatory agencies — police, the Central Vigilance Commission, the comptroller and auditor general, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Serious Fraud Office, enforcement directorate, Lok Ayuktas in some states, apart from the judiciary and the media. They have not halted or rolled back this flood of corruption and theft. There are many reasons — a lack of talent for investigation, poor follow-up and no support after initial investigatory enthusiasm, the slow and cumbersome process of framing charges, getting government permission to prosecute bureaucrats and ministers, bringing people to trial, the slow judicial process with time-consuming appellate processes, and the absence of severe punishment for anyone found guilty.

Penalties must be made much more stringent and rigid as in the United States of America. An independent tribunal must examine evidence to ensure sanction of prosecution of bureaucrats and ministers within a time frame. Concurrently, bureaucrats must have guaranteed minimum tenures to prevent their compliance with ministerial corruption because of transfer threats. An independent authority (not ministers or bureaucrats) must examine and sanction transfers before the end of tenure. Ministerial discretion must be replaced by independent regulatory commissions — on licences, tariffs and so on. The public enterprises selection board must be made independent, with outside experts, and their choices respected. All independent regulators and selecting authorities must be transparently appointed. Rules must ensure that all government decisions are attributable to one person. An independent authority must weigh charges against officers and sanction their suspension till trial. Participatory notes and exemptions from capital gains tax for investments from Mauritius and others must be phased out. The judiciary must come under a national judicial commission both for selection and accountability. Media content, especially television, must be overseen by a content authority as in the United Kingdom. The government must openly auction any valuable assets, such as spectrum and so on.

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







Ding, dong, the witch is dead. Osama bin Laden, the author of the 9/11 atrocity in the United States of America and various lesser terrorist outrages elsewhere, has been killed by American troops in northern Pakistan. At last, the world can breathe more easily. But not many people were holding their breaths anyway. President Barack Obama issued the usual warning when he announced that bin Laden had been killed by American troops in Abbottabad: "The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaida. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us." But that was not quite right either.

No doubt attacks will continue to be made in the Arab world in the name of al Qaida, but the original organization created by bin Laden has been moribund for years. Outside the Arab world, there have been no major terrorist assaults for about five years now, and bin Laden's death is unlikely to change that.

Bin Laden was a revolutionary before he was a terrorist. His goal was to overthrow existing Arab governments and replace them with regimes that imposed an extreme form of the Salafist (Islamist) doctrine on the people instead. Once all the Muslims had accepted that doctrine, bin Laden believed, they would benefit from god's active support and triumph over the outside forces. Poverty would be vanquished, humiliations would end, and the infidels ("the Zionist-Crusader alliance") would be defeated. It was essentially a form of magical thinking, but his strategic thinking was severely rational.

Successful revolutions bringing Salafist regimes to power were the key to success. But for revolutions to succeed, they must win mass support among Arab and other Muslim populations. Unfortunately, only a small proportion of Muslims accepted Salafist ideas, so some way had to be found to win them over. That's where terrorism came in.

Stamped out

Terrorism is a classic technique for revolutionaries trying to build up popular support. The objective is to trick the enemy government, local or foreign, into behaving so badly that it alienates the population and drives people into the arms of the revolutionaries. Then, with mass support, the revolutionaries overthrow the government and assume power. The Bush administration duly over-reacted to 9/11 and invaded two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, on a futile quest to "stamp out terrorism" — which was, of course, what bin Laden and his colleagues wanted the US to do.

However, almost 10 years after 9/11, it is clear that bin Laden's strategy has failed even though the US fell into the trap he had set for it. Muslims everywhere were appalled by the suffering inflicted on Afghans and Iraqis, and many condemned the US for its actions, but they did not turn to the Salafists instead.

When popular revolutions finally did begin to happen in the Arab world five months ago, they were non-violent affairs seeking the same democracy that secular countries in the West and elsewhere already enjoy. The Salafists have become virtually irrelevant.

The question is: what can the Salafists possibly do now that would put their project back on track? And the answer is to goad the US into further violence against Muslims, in retaliation to some new terrorist atrocity against Americans.

The probability of a serious Salafist attempt to hit the US again has been rising ever since American troops began to pull out of Iraq, and Obama's obvious desire to get out of Afghanistan raises it even further. Bin Laden's death would provide a useful justification for another attempt, but it wouldn't really be the reason for it — and it probably would not succeed, either. Bin Laden's hopes died long before he did.


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




Barely a day after Karnataka health minister Ramdas announced a temporary ban on the conduct of clinical trials in hospitals and medical colleges in the state, chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has shot it down. Yeddyurappa's backtracking is shocking since his health minister had made some valid points in announcing the ban last week. He drew attention to the way subjects in clinical trials were being treated as guinea pigs and rightly pointed out that this exploitation was possible because of the absence of clear regulations.

Therefore, Ramdas said, he would set up a committee to frame rules to regulate clinical trials and pending this, a ban on trials was put in place. What was so objectionable in Ramdas' announcement that the chief minister had to reverse the decision within a day?
India is a particularly attractive site for clinical trials as it has a huge patient base, a large 'drug-naïve population' (untreated patients) and its people have myriad diseases, ranging from tropical infections to degenerative disorders.

Besides, it has a large population that is poor and illiterate, making them vulnerable to pressure and ill-equipped to give informed consent. To pharma companies, India represents a gold mine as it enables them to test cheaply. This has contributed to Bangalore's emergence as the world's clinical trials capital. This is an industry that is worth billions of dollars and businesses in Karnataka have gained immensely from it.

However, there is a flip side to this sunshine sector, which Yeddyurappa is ignoring and that is the terrible exploitation of subjects of clinical trials. Most of them are not aware they are being tested upon, about the impact the drugs could have on them or of their rights, if any. Thousands are said to have died in the course of drug trials and many times they have developed serious complications. But rarely has compensation or medical treatment been extended to the victims.

Pharma companies wash their hands, claiming that the drugs do not have fatal consequences, that the patients had not followed instructions and so on. It is to protect these patients that Ramdas has called for tighter regulation of the industry. Yeddyurappa should act to protect the interests of the vulnerable, not cave in to pressure from the rich and powerful. A demand for greater accountability from pharma companies is essential.







The most important sign of the impact of the 'Arab spring' outside the national boundaries where they occurred is the reconciliation between the warring Palestinian factions. The agreement signed last week in Cairo between the secular and moderate Fatah and the Islamist and hawkish Hamas would not have been possible under the earlier Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak which had clearly favoured Fatah. The new Egyptian dispensation claims to be even-handed between both Palestinian groups. It will also not be soft on Israel as earlier.

The Palestinian struggle had been weakened badly by internal dissensions. If this agreement holds it can mark a new beginning. The plan is to form a national unity government immediately and hold elections. One such government was formed after the 2006 elections and the constant clashes between the two factions. It collapsed in a few months. At present, Hamas runs the government in Gaza and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas runs the West Bank as president of the Palestine Authority. Hamas does not recognise Israel and both are in confrontation. Gaza is always under siege.

Fatah has near-friendly relations with Israel and envisages a two-state solution for the Palestinian problem. The important issue is whether the present unity will hold when there are such major differences and big external interference. Hamas is controlled by Iran. Palestinian unity, as it is envisaged now, would mean the emergence of new equations in West Asia. A stronger Palestinian leadership can negotiate its interests better. Only that it has to be realistic and reasonable.

But the peace process till now has failed because of the uncompromising positions of Israel and its refusal to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. Its view of the Palestinian unity plan is also not conducive to peace. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Fatah must choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas, and that peace with both of them is impossible. But Israel will do better to respond more positively to the Palestinian politics that might emerge from the agreement and the new environment in the region as a whole. Its supporter and patron, the US, has a responsibility to impress the point on a recalcitrant Tel Aviv.







The death of two birds with one stone is generally greeted with generous applause, notwithstanding the fact that the second casualty was an accident. What is useful in sport might be less fortuitous in other circumstances.
The four American helicopters which went for the final kill in the long hunt for Osama bin Laden achieved their primary purpose. The world is now busy sifting through the ruins of their second hit. For, in the process, they also crippled the credibility of Pakistan's most powerful institution, its army, often described by its apologists as critical to national stability and even cohesion.

All pretence and pretension is over; a fudge that the killing of Osama was some sort of 'joint operation' was thin camouflage that has been torn apart by minimal public scrutiny. On May 4, Pakistan's information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan admitted in parliament that American choppers had evaded detection by use of 'map of the earth' flying techniques. If the Pak military did learn what was happening during the 40-odd minutes that the ground operations took, there was too much uncertainty and confusion in its chain of command to fashion an adequate, or any, response.

Stark fact: the Pakistan army is impotent before America.

Only the impotent resort to bluster. The Pakistan military rather pompously 'threatened' America with 'dire consequences' if it dared to violate Pak sovereignty again. America sniffed, not in sorrow but disdain, and sent drones on Friday to hit targets in the Datta Khel area, killing 12 people, described naturally as 'militants'. Washington did not seek Islamabad's permission for renewed military action.

Less evident fact, but fact nevertheless: Pakistan's generals, who have controlled defence policy from the moment Ayub Khan became defence minister, whether through their own dictators or civilian politicians who took their dictation (except for the six Zulfiqar Bhutto years), have turned a national army into a mercenary force. Those who pay the piper determine the tune. Since Pakistan's generals have Urdu as their first language, they will not need an interpreter to understand Sahir Ludhianvi's evocative couplet: "Kaise bazaar ka dustoor tumhein samjhaaon, Bik gaya jo woh kharidaar nahin ho sakta (How shall I explain the logic of the bazaar? He is who has been sold cannot become a buyer)".

This is a variation, not particularly subtle, of the neo-colonial syndrome. Neo-colonisation was honed and shaped by the British Raj on the Indian subcontinent through the princely states, so we have sufficient evidence from history. In essence, neo-colonisation is the grant of independence on condition you do not exercise it. It is an exchange of security systems, where the superior power ensures the survival of an ally, while the ally protects the interests of the superpower in its region.


When, therefore, the Pakistan army feels the need for an alternative policy line which might be unacceptable to Washington, it is forced into double-talk and deception. The ISI must maintain distance and deniability when it nurtures assets it needs to use when its requirements are askance of American interests. This explains its relationship with outfits it has either spawned or fattened. That old codger Pervez Musharraf, whose most effective arsenal has always been stored within his vocal chords, has been trotted out to explain how Osama was living in luxury within smelling distance of the military.

This is logical, since Osama made his home in Abbotabad when Musharraf was president. As attorney for the army, however, Musharraf is hopeless; he thinks raising his voice, combined with a convenient memory, improves an argument. One story is too priceless to be ignored. Former Afghanistan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh recalls that when, four years ago, he told Musharraf that Osama was hiding in or around Abbotabad, Musharraf exploded, "Am I president of the Republic of Banana?"

The question is rhetorical. Dictators like Musharraf have turned Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Pakistan into a banana republic.

I wonder sometimes if Pak generals get more irritated by an Indian general's barb or an Afghan's taunt. Last Wednesday, General Zahir Azimi, spokesman for Kabul's defence ministry, publicly wondered: "If the Pakistani intelligence agency does not know about a home located 10 metres or 100 metres away from its national academy, where for the last six years the biggest terrorist is living, how can this country take care of its strategic weapons?"

The whole of Pakistan, not just Kabul, is waiting for an adequate response.

The deterioration of the Pakistan army is not a consequence of financial corruption. That is a small part of the story. It is self-destructive because there is complete absence of accountability. No one, either a wing of government or parliament, can question its will to do what it wants. In the name of patriotism, it has declared virtual independence from the rest of Pakistan. The consequences are there for all to see. Instead of being an impenetrable wall on the frontier, the Pak army has become a porous bale of cotton.

You can only sleep comfortably wrapped in cotton; a nation's guardians need to keep their eyes open.








Early humans found ways to come together as well, but for us unity is a fragile and temporary state.
A man is shot in the head, and joyous celebrations break out 7,000 miles away. Although Americans are in full agreement that the demise of Osama bin Laden is a good thing, many are disturbed by the revelry. We should seek justice, not vengeance, they urge. Doesn't this lower us to 'their' level? Didn't the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr say, "I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy"?

Why are so many Americans reluctant to join the party? As a social psychologist I believe that one major reason is that some people are thinking about this national event using the same moral intuitions they'd use for a standard criminal case. For example, they ask us to imagine whether it would be appropriate for two parents to celebrate the execution, by lethal injection, of the man who murdered their daughter.

Of course the parents would be entitled to feel relief and perhaps even private joy. But if they threw a party at the prison gates, popping champagne corks as the syringe went in, that would be a celebration of death and vengeance, not justice. And is that not what we saw last Sunday night when young revelers, some drinking beer, converged on Times Square and the White House?

Altruistic revelry

No, it is not. You can't just scale up your ideas about morality at the individual level and apply them to groups and nations. If you do, you'll miss all that was good, healthy and even altruistic about last week's celebrations.

Here's why. For the last 50 years, many evolutionary biologists have told us that we are little different from other primates — we're selfish creatures, able to act altruistically only when it will benefit our kin or our future selves. But in the last few years there's been a growing recognition that humans, far more than other primates, were shaped by natural selection acting at two different levels simultaneously. There's the lower level at which individuals compete relentlessly with other individuals within their own groups. This competition rewards selfishness.

But there's also a higher level at which groups compete with other groups. This competition favours groups that can best come together and act as one. Only a few species have found a way to do this. Bees, ants and termites are the best examples. Their brains and bodies are specialised for working as a team to accomplish nearly miraculous feats of cooperation like hive construction and group defence.

Early humans found ways to come together as well, but for us unity is a fragile and temporary state. We have all the old selfish programming of other primates, but we also have a more recent overlay that makes us able to become, briefly, hive creatures like bees. Just think of the long lines to give blood after 9/11. Most of us wanted to do something — anything — to help.

This two-layer psychology is the key to understanding religion, warfare, team sports and last week's celebrations. The great sociologist Émile Durkheim even went so far as to call our species Homo duplex, or 'two-level man'. Durkheim was writing a century ago, as organised religion was weakening across Europe. He wanted to know how nations and civil institutions could bind people into moral communities without the aid of religion. He thought the most powerful glue came from the emotions.

He contrasted two sets of 'social sentiments', one for each level. At the lower level, sentiments like respect and affection help individuals forge relationships with other individuals. But Durkheim was most interested in the sentiments that bind people into groups — the collective emotions. These emotions dissolve the petty, small-minded self. They make people feel that they are a part of something larger and more important than themselves.

One such emotion he called 'collective effervescence': the passion and ecstasy that is found in tribal religious rituals when communities come together to sing, dance around a fire and dissolve the boundaries that separate them from each other. The spontaneous celebrations of last week were straight out of Durkheim.

America achieved its goal — bravely and decisively — after 10 painful years. People who love their country sought out one another to share collective effervescence. They stepped out of their petty and partisan selves and became, briefly, just Americans rejoicing together.

In the communal joy of last week, many of us felt, for an instant, that Americans might still be capable of working together to meet threats and challenges far greater than Osama.






English sign boards displayed by street shops tell their own story.

Our bedroom in our modest apartment is simple but comfortable. There are no Hussains or Picassos adorning the walls.  Nor Persian or Turkish carpets on the floor.

But at a vantage point on the wall hangs a colourful poster that cost my wife about a hundred rupees and perhaps an equal amount to frame it. One has to just cast an eye on the poster and that's enough to tickle your funny bone. It is also the reason why our bedroom is the laughing gas chamber of our home.

The poster is aptly titled 'Shine Boards' and is essentially a bright collage of mis-spelt English sign boards found across Bangalore and photographed by the versatile Paul Fernandes who wears many hats.

The funniest are those pertaining to food and hotels.  Sample these for starters.  'Matan chappati reddy, pig mutton meals, fish biryani and foul biryani, vag and non-vag mills ready and miltry hotel'. There's also, bacon, salame and frankfarters!

The beverages signs are equally amusing. 'Chilled bear cocktails with masala pee nut' to 'after whisky, driving risky' to the more pedestrian 'Suger can jus — with cold ice, Rs 4; without ice Rs 5'.

English sign boards displayed by street shops tell their own story. From hankeys karchiefs, brief drawer and fanty, cardless phones, mosquito nuts to gold-silver-coper-bras and 'all ear and nose poking done here, gun shoot'. Or how about 'Auto Xerox : available in all languages' and poto plash studio. Or, local coll, pubic call 1 rupee only.
Tailors and barbers too love English. 'Paint and shirt stitching here, Barber parlour — London japan hairstyle, beauty barler; citizan hair drassas, to name a few.

And if you thought death is a grave matter, don't laugh at these. A class death coffin undertakers or Ready made death coffins available here.

But the one that takes the cake is the public signboards and graffiti scrawled across the city that has us often in splits. 'Car no farking, newshance makers will be vekated this place, smoking and spitting acts prohibits, do not toilet please'.

Recently, we were invited to dinner by a friend but my wife lay curled up in bed feeling a bit under the weather. I decided to skip the outing and idled around. At one point my eyes fell on the poster and I murmured 'leddies and genits tailors'. She tittered. I continued, 'Chicken and fish grave, finger ships, paw bhaji. She sat up and laughed aloud.

I reeled out some more of those signs when she interrupted to say, "let's go for dinner, I'm feeling better."

I couldn't but agree with that old chestnut, laughter is the best medicine.








The guards are against Netanyahu. No, not the members of the state VIP protection unit, whose compliance with the General Security Service Law means they only whisper about the prime minister's behavior. We mean the guards of the State of Israel, the highest-ranking members of the nation's security forces. They are united in their anxiety over Benjamin Netanyahu, his actions, his mistakes and the slope down which he is liable to take Israel.

The heads of the security branches, restrained and officious as they are, don't name names but it isn't hard to figure out who bears supreme responsibility for the difficult situation behind the dire warnings. They also punctiliously observe the principle of separation of powers, and give the political leadership its due. But the image created by the aggregation of remarks by former or about-to-be-former holders of the most sensitive positions - army chief of staff and the leaders of the Mossad, of Military Intelligence and of the Shin Bet security service - is a terrifying one of a lack of confidence in this prime minister. In stark contrast to all his predecessors, this prime minister does not have their trust.

It happened during Netanyahu's first term, too. On more than one occasion the icy countenances of the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff (Amnon Lipkin-Shahak ), the Shin Bet chief (Ami Ayalon ) and the police commissioner (Assaf Hefetz ) headed off some adventure in the territories or beyond. This time around it is the former chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi; former Mossad head Meir Dagan and the outgoing Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin; and, halfheartedly, also the former head of MI, Amos Yadlin, who have spoken out against him.

The issues are diverse: Iran, the stalled peace process, the neglect of Israel's Arabs and Netanyahu's role, either active or passive - in concert with Defense Minister Ehud Barak - in appointing their successors.

No one questions the legality of his actions. The issue is not one of authority, but rather of authoritativeness, which is a function of the respect an officeholder commands from their subordinates, without which their authority is hollow. In this respect Netanyahu has failed again, as he did from 1996-1999. People do not believe him. People do not believe in him, in his sincerity, in his judgment.

In his testimony to the Turkel committee - which in three weeks' time will celebrate the anniversary of Israel's raid of the Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza that has provided its members with a comfortable living - Barak dissembled when it came to the proverbial issue of the "what" as opposed to the "how": the presumed dividing line between the political leadership, which makes the decision to act, and the military, which executes that decision. That is the line behind which politicians barricade themselves when they want the officers to remain on the battlefield - that is, in the event of defeat. In practice, during the secret deliberations over Muslim nuclear development, from Syria to Iran, it is also important to determine what one wants to achieve via the "how" that the army is commanded to prepare, and how a handful of cabinet ministers takes the "what" decision.

None of the above is grounds for turning the criticism of Netanyahu on the part of newly retired holders of high office, and a few of their still-serving colleagues, into a military-intelligence coup in the making. These figures know the rules of the democracy game: The electorate chooses its representatives, who appoint or remove the officers. It's a good thing it's this way and not the reverse. Also, the officers, successful or not, popular or dismissed from service, can enter politics and do to the next generation as they would not want done to themselves.

In times of crisis public opinion influences the army and paramilitary branches, whose leaders are more attentive to the moods of their organizations than their counterparts in elite units. Dan Halutz resigned as chief of staff when he sensed he had lost the backing of his officers, while Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz deployed entire corps of political force in their battles for survival.

The late Maj. Gen. Israel Tal used to divide leaders into three levels: "head and shoulders above the rest" (David Ben-Gurion as prime minister. Yitzhak Rabin as chief of staff ); "first among equals;" and "head and shoulders below the rest." Those who knew Tal well knew where Netanyahu belongs - in both his terms, going on five years now.

Prime ministers and defense minister often attempt to impress and awe the public, on the grounds that their activity is a function of the advantage their being privy to secrets affords them. That is applicable, if at all - and after all, it is the reality that is exposed that is genuinely important - to ordinary citizens, not the most senior state employees who are privy to the same secrets. The display window can fool the passersby, but the store knows the truth.







The decision to leave the prime minister's military aide, Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker, at home last week - to avoid the risk that the officer might be arrested during Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to London - was the climax of a prolonged national disgrace. Locker served as deputy commander of the Air Force's Air Division during Operation Cast Lead and thus risked facing prosecution in Britain over allegations of war crimes. Like underground fighters during the Mandate, officers of the Israel Defense Forces have to act like escaped criminals for fear of the British.

David Cameron is the third British prime minister who has promised Israeli leaders he will bring about a change in the law that makes it possible for courts in the United Kingdom to issue arrest warrants against senior Israeli figures on suspicion of war crimes. But like his predecessors, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Cameron is wary of a confrontation with the backbenchers in Parliament over an unpopular issue such as assisting Israeli officers to avoid taking responsibility for their conduct toward the Palestinian people.

For five years now, Israeli governments have been trying to change the situation through pressure on 10 Downing Street. Meanwhile, senior officers no longer go for a year's study or participate in seminars and study programs at the prestigious strategic research institutes in Britain. Even the previous IDF spokesman, Avi Benayahu, went to lecture in London under an assumed name.

The Israeli approach is mistaken from the start. The principle of universal jurisdiction, which makes it possible to prosecute people suspected of crimes against humanity in any place in the world, is not necessarily immoral, and the legal claims in its favor are not much different from those that justified legislating the law against bringing Nazi criminals to justice. In any case, Israel does not have the right to intervene in the affairs of another sovereign state and to demand that it change its laws.

The problem with the universal jurisdiction laws in Britain lies with the way in which they enable opponents of Israel to draw public and media attention and to pursue IDF officers, in particular, among all the representatives of the world's nations that visit London. But the mockery of British law is a British problem. Israel is not supposed to fight against it through diplomatic pressure but rather by legal means.

The Military Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit, has repeatedly said that the IDF knows how to examine itself and, when necessary, to put on trial and punish soldiers and officers that have committed crimes. And in all instances, the military judicial system is subordinate in every respect and issue to the Supreme Court, and every person - Israeli or foreigner - can petition the High Court of Justice against the army.

If this is the case, and on the face of it the latest remarks by Judge Richard Goldstone uphold this, there is no need to fear universal jurisdiction which is customary only against those whose countries do not investigate their deeds or bring them to trial.

What would go on trial in London, together with an IDF officer who commanded a controversial operation, would be the entire Israeli judicial system. Instead of the Foreign Ministry advising an officer to remain in Israel as if he has something to hide, the Israeli embassy must find itself a competent attorney who at any time could go out and demand the immediate cancelation of an arrest warrant against an officer or senior Israeli official. He will use just one argument: Anyone who feels that the IDF had committed a crime toward him has the right to turn to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Thanks to Israeli human rights organizations such as B'Tselem and Yesh Din, there are a great many precedents of this kind.

If the army in Israel is above the law, then all of us should be ashamed to show our faces in the world. But if indeed the state demands of its army officers that they obey the laws of the land in carrying out their duty - and if they fail to do so, brings them to trial - then the state is also obliged to supply its officers with the required legal protection when they are abroad as well, and not to confine them to base.







Thanks to the Nakba Law, this will be my first Independence Day during which I think more about the Nakba than about Independence Day. The Nakba Law, which bars public funding for groups that mark the Nakba - which is Arabic for "catastrophe" and is the name Israeli Palestinians use for the events of 1948 - is yet another act by successive Israeli governments that constitutes a blow to Israel's Arab citizens, harms them and pushes them into the corner. But the thing is that these acts also harm the state itself. They push the Jews into a corner and damage the Jewish society that exists within the sick and twisted reality created by these actions.

Israel's Jewish society is falling apart because Israeli governments do not allow it to give up the role of frightened victim under constant threat, or to stop fighting the rest of the world. In the same way, the Nakba Law means that instead of fostering a potentially empathetic discourse between the majority and the minority, the Nakba becomes just another time for hatred and quarrels.

"A mature, wise and righteous nation should be able to understand that there are other people here, who cannot take part in celebrating an independence that pours salt on the open wound in their hearts," Avirama Golan wrote in Haaretz last month. But how will the Jewish nation in Zion understand the open wound in the hearts of the Arab citizens who live here if it has never had a proper chance to be exposed to the story of their catastrophe, certainly not as a legitimate narrative? The vast majority of citizens do not grasp the significance of the Nakba because they have not had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the pain, trauma and loss that the Israeli Palestinians experienced in 1948. Until now, Israeli governments have disregarded, hidden or denied this pain; from now on, acknowledging it is also prohibited by law.

The Nakba Law is a sad reflection of the non-independence of the State of Israel. It is not merely that, after 63 years, Israel is unable to recognize that no matter how necessary and justified its establishment was, it was accompanied by wrongs and pain inflicted on others. The country is insecure about itself and its continued existence; both its leaders and its opposition figures tirelessly warn that the state will cease to exist, each in accordance with his or her own ideology and fears. Sixty-three years after its establishment, the State of Israel and its Jewish society lack confidence, require external approval and recognition, and feel threatened by the entire world - and even by the minority that lives within. Is that independence? Is that what the "free people in our land," as per the national anthem, looks like?

Thus the citizens of Israel arrive at this Independence Day in a kind of schizophrenic state, which is expressed every time they answer the question "How are you?" with the answer "Personally, excellent." Personally cannot be less than excellent because collectively we are victims all the time, either because someone is threatening us or because someone is blaming us. Collectively, everything is onerous and difficult and exhausting, so personally everything is simply wonderful. That's why every year the public opinion polls discover anew that Israelis are supremely happy with their lives even though they don't trust the government and can't make it through the month without an overdraft. Thus it is that on the 63rd anniversary of the state's founding, the citizens of Israel have more and more foreign passports and more and more thoughts about living elsewhere.

I hope that one day we get to celebrate an Independence Day when we will be genuinely independent - when we want to make peace, when we realize that there are partners with whom to do it, when we understand that the Arab citizens here want to be reconciled with us and that they declare this in the Israeli Arab Future Vision document, and when we stop fearing that soon we will no longer be here. Happy Independence Day.







On the eve of the 63rd anniversary of its independence, more than ever Israel ostensibly appears like the "villa in the jungle" that Defense Minister Ehud Barak referred to. It enjoys stable governance, strong democracy, economic power and relative quiet on the security front. In the region, on the other hand, the ground is shaking under Israel's neighbors and altering the geopolitical situation, with regimes being toppled and leaders slaughtering their own citizens, and with the adversaries of yesterday closing ranks in advance of major diplomatic concessions, including a real Palestinian state on our doorstep.

Anyone getting heady from the quiet in the eye of the storm should not ignore its transient nature and its fragility. Israel is not located on a different planet than its neighbors. It cannot cut itself off from the storms raging in the Middle East, from the spirit of the times or from its growing isolation.

That is apparently not the Israeli government's line of thinking, however, in that it is acting as if the image of the villa in the jungle does not represent unfortunate constraints, devoid of a bright future, but rather an ideal worth promoting and perpetuating. Led by a prime minister who instinctively deflects any initiative or change, who sows fear and foils any positive prospects, pouncing on any proof that there is no partner for diplomatic dialogue, the country in its 63rd year looks like someone on whom old age has suddenly crept up: withdrawn and shut-in, paralyzed with fear, repressing what it sees out the window, entrenched in its views. Its initiatives reflect a steadfast embrace of every status quo, casting aspersions at every change, complaining to the world and frightening its own citizens over the dangers lurking in the jungle and the ostensibly unavoidable "next war."

Deeds carried out just for the sake of doing them have no special value, and sometimes there is also wisdom in waiting. The changes in the region, however, including the demise of autocratic regimes and efforts at unity among the Palestinians, present not only risks but also new possibilities for creative leadership.

Does Israel have such a leadership? Beyond any specific diplomatic step one wonders, particularly on Independence Day, where that creative, optimistic, peace-seeking spirit that reverberated in Israel in the past has gone, and how it was supplanted by a passive and introverted mentality, evading reality - particularly the reality of positive prospects and opportunities.







The 63rd anniversary of the state is looking like it will be the last Independence Day for an Israel without borders. In four months the UN General Assembly is expected to determine the eastern border of the State of Israel and recognize Jerusalem as its capital. No, that's not a typo. The flip side of international recognition of a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967, borders is international recognition of the 1949 cease-fire lines (the Rhodes Agreement ). Recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine means recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, as Carl von Clausewitz famously put it, this will be the most successful political implementation yet of the gains of the War of Independence. If the conquests of June 1967 were meant to achieve Arab recognition of the June 4 lines, and not to take over the land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the establishment of settlements or to "liberate" Jerusalem, then the expected vote at the United Nations in September is the ultimate political manifestation of the military victory of the Six-Day War.

Israel's Declaration of Independence, signed on May 14, 1948, states: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land." In 2011, more than 100 countries, including all Arab states and most Muslim states, support the extended hand of the Palestinian neighbors for peace and good neighborliness on the basis of the 1967 borders, and the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference are offering normalized relations with Israel.

UN recognition for a Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, borders will grant international legality of the first rank to the Palestine Liberation Organization's 1988 decision to do away with the demand (albeit not the dream ) of returning to Haifa, Acre and Jaffa. This time the initiative came from the Palestinian side and enjoys the enthusiastic support of Arab states. President Shimon Peres said not long ago, in a private conversation, that David Ben-Gurion would have begun singing with joy were he to hear that the United Nations was about to make the Green Line an international border and do away with the idea of an international status for Jerusalem, paving the way to the recognition of Jerusalem - the city that serves as the seat of the Knesset, the President's Residence and the Prime Minister's Office - as Israel's capital.

Unfortunately, Israel is not led by a whiz at action like Ben-Gurion, but by Benjamin Netanyahu, a whiz at talk. Instead of depicting the recognition of the Green Line as a huge step toward the completion of the Zionist vision, the prime minister insists on turning the recognition of a Palestinian state into a black day for Israel. Instead of declaring victory, he is determined to drag Israel into a loss. Luckily, the Palestinians are led by Mahmoud Abbas, an astute and courageous statesman who is holding steadfast against the religious, nationalist and irrational fanatics. Not only is he securing broad support for the great achievement of the War of Independence, he is also giving Israel the chance to benefit from significant portions of the gains of the Six-Day War.

An internal document prepared at the Muqata about the Palestinian plan to seek independence at the United Nations states that the world body's recognition of a Palestinian state and its determination of borders should not be perceived as an alternative to peace negotiations with Israel, but as an incentive for resuming talks. International recognition of a sovereign Palestine, the document says, will enable the new state to discuss all the core issues with its neighbor, as an equal. The first issue cited is exchanging territory, followed by setting policies for borders, water and security, and finally, resolving the refugee problem.

Soldiers killed in Israel's wars, whose memory we honor today, did not die for the expansion of Israel's borders. They were sent to battle to defend the state's continued existence within recognized and secure borders. In their death they command us to seek peace, not annexation or dispossession. We can only hope that by the next Independence Day we will be a state like all others - a state with borders, free from the burden of occupation and living in peace with its neighbors. To that we can add the hope that at this time next year, the Palestinian ambassador to Jerusalem will be an honored guest at the Independence Day reception at the President's Residence.



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





Ultimately, a successful Palestinian state will need to have all its people, from both the West Bank and Gaza, working together to build a stable and prosperous future. The recent agreement between the two main factions — Fatah, which leads the Palestinian Authority and has committed to peace with Israel, and Hamas, which has committed to Israel's destruction — is not the answer.


We have many concerns about the accord, starting with the fact that Hamas has neither renounced its legacy of violence nor agreed to recognize Israel. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has said he remains in charge of peace efforts and the unity government will be responsible for rebuilding Gaza and organizing elections. Whether that is Hamas's vision is unclear.


Also disconcerting are suggestions that Mr. Abbas may have privately agreed to replace his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who has done so much to build up the West Bank economy and institutions. There are big questions about the future of the two sides' security forces.


The United States has spent millions of dollars helping the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority create a security force that Israel has come to rely on to keep the peace in the West Bank. Whether Hamas, which has terrorized Israel with rockets from Gaza, can ever be integrated into that force, or even work side by side, is a huge question.


Israel certainly has many reasons to mistrust this deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suspended tax remittances and is pressing Washington hard to cut off aid to the Abbas government. The Obama administration has reacted warily to the new pact but said its assistance will continue for now. Congress is talking tough.


It's too early for a cut-off. The money is Washington's main leverage on the new government. A cut-off would shift the political balance dangerously toward Hamas.


Other reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas have imploded, but Mr. Abbas seems to believe this will advance his push to get the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state. Above all, his sudden willingness to deal with his enemies in Hamas is a sign of his desperation with the stalled peace process.


Hamas's goals are far harder to game, although there are reports of new frictions with Syria and a desire for better ties with Egypt's new government. In an interview with The Times last week, Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, declared himself fully committed to working for a two-state solution. Just a few days earlier Hamas's (supposedly more moderate) prime minister, Ismail Haniya, was out there celebrating Osama bin Laden as a "Muslim and Arab warrior." Huge skepticism and vigilance are essential. But more months with no progress on peace talks will only further play into extremists' hands.


So what happens now? The United States and the other members of the quartet — the European Union, Russia and the United Nations — need to put the new government on notice that all support will be carefully scrutinized and that firing Mr. Fayyad would be a big mistake. They need to tell Hamas that if it is serious about coming in from the cold, it must halt all attacks on Israel and recognize its right to exist.


At the same time Washington needs to press Mr. Netanyahu back to the peace table. A negotiated settlement is the only way to guarantee Israel's lasting security.


For weeks President Obama and his aides have been debating how to revive the peace process — and how deeply the president should engage. (His peace envoy has not even been in the region for five months.)


The answer, to us, is clear. It is time for Mr. Obama, alone or with the quartet, to put a map and deal on the table. If Bin Laden's death has given the president capital to spend, all the better. The Israelis and Palestinians are not going to break the stalemate on their own. And more drift will only lead to more desperation and more extremism.








Republican leaders and White House officials will meet on Tuesday to continue talks on the federal debt limit. They need to tread very carefully here.


The Republicans have long insisted on deep spending cuts — ignoring the fact that a failure to raise the limit by August at the latest would disrupt financial markets and endanger the recovery. The administration understands the danger, but giving in to overly deep spending cuts and making unwise tax concessions would also be damaging.


Both sides have indicated that a probable deal would impose a budget target and enforcement triggers, like automatic spending cuts, if the target was not met. A deal built on such mechanisms could keep markets calm, but they can also be a trap.


Democratic lawmakers and the White House must reject targets and triggers that rule out tax increases, because without higher taxes, the burden of cutting would fall largely on lower- and middle-income Americans. Some Republicans also have said they want the deal to include many of the spending cuts in the House-passed budget. That would be a disaster for vulnerable Americans and for the fragile recovery. Farm subsidies for rich farmers can go but not food stamps and Head Start.


Targets and triggers that do not allow for tax increases could make it even harder to reach a comprehensive deficit-reduction deal in the future. They would reinforce the Republicans' fantasy that the deficit is solely the result of spending. And once automatic spending cuts are locked into the budget process, Republicans would feel no pressure to accept a tax increase.


Any targets must also be realistic. One bipartisan Senate plan would hold spending to 20.6 percent of gross domestic product, the average over the last 40 years. That may sound reasonable, but it would mean destructive cuts because it ignores rising health costs, an aging population and other dynamics that were not issues in the past.


Negotiations on the debt limit are not the time or place to force a deficit deal. As ever, the Republicans' positions have little to do with economic reality. Really tackling the deficit will require specific, thoughtful changes centered on raising taxes and controlling health care costs, neither of which Republicans support.


It would be better if lawmakers would pass a clean debt limit increase for another year or two, and use the time to work diligently toward a true budget deal. Unfortunately, seriousness of purpose is not on the table.







Here is a chilling and potentially lethal fact of life: A person on the F.B.I.'s terrorist watch list is barred from boarding an airplane yet is quite free to buy high-power firearms and ammunition at any American gun shop.


This bizarre "terror gap" is starkly underlined by the latest federal data showing that 272 individuals on the terrorist watch list attempted to buy firearms last year, and all but 25 were cleared to make purchases. Those rejected had records for criminal felonies, spousal violence and other threats stipulated in federal gun controls that still don't use the terrorist watch list as a red-flag caution.


The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama wanted to rectify the situation, proposing that the attorney general be given authority to block gun sales to those on the list, after they were investigated and deemed suspicious under careful guidelines. But successive Congresses rejected reform bills — cowering as usual before the gun lobby, which deemed it an "arbitrary" interference with its never-to-be-trumped right to bear arms.


The watch list is ever a work in progress and innocent citizens have too often complained of being barred from flying. But this shortcoming has nothing to do with the dangerous loophole that Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, are again trying to close.


The last Congress, in its 11th-hour rush, showed no qualms about approving a ridiculous proposal requiring 9/11 responders and victims to be checked against the terrorist watch list before receiving federal health care benefits. If first-responder heroes must be put to the test, how can Congress continue to guarantee the gun rights of individuals already on the terrorist watch list?








The Department of Education's latest assessment of what young Americans know about civics shows that the light of democracy burns steadily in schools, if too dimly.


The test was given last year to 27,000 children in the 4th, 8th and 12th grades. "Basic" knowledge for an eighth grader meant being able to identify a right protected by the First Amendment. A "proficient" 12th grader could define "melting pot" and argue whether or not the United States is one. An "advanced" fourth grader could "explain two ways countries can deal with shared problems."


The results show the needle stuck on mediocre. Most students had basic proficiency. But only about one-fourth in each group were "proficient," and the tiniest percentages were "advanced." Charles Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education, says "the results confirm an alarming and continuing trend that civics in America is in decline."


We see more hope, along with huge room for improvement. Yes, more than half of eighth graders muffed a question on the purpose of the Bill of Rights. But 74 percent could identify a right protected by the First Amendment. An equal percentage knew why a trial by jury was important. Fifty-seven percent of 12th graders understood the reason Congress approved the War Powers Act.


American schools certainly need to focus more on a vital mission: arming young Americans against propagandistic television and fringe activism, legislative crusades and chronic political pandering.


George Carlin used to say that he didn't joke about bad politicians because it wasn't their fault: "Ignorant citizens elect ignorant leaders, it's as simple as that," he said. Well, not exactly. But he had a point.








For those with eyes to see, the daylight between the foreign policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama has been shrinking ever since the current president took the oath of office. But last week made it official: When the story of America's post-9/11 wars is written, historians will be obliged to assess the two administrations together, and pass judgment on the Bush-Obama era.


The death of Osama bin Laden, in a raid that operationalized Bush's famous "dead or alive" dictum, offered the most visible proof of this continuity. But the more important evidence of the Bush-Obama convergence lay elsewhere, in developments from last week that didn't merit screaming headlines, because they seemed routine rather than remarkable.


One was NATO's ongoing bombing campaign in Libya, which now barely even pretends to be confined to humanitarian objectives, or to be bound by the letter of the United Nations resolution. Another was Friday's Predator strike inside Pakistan's tribal regions, which killed a group of suspected militants while the world's attention was still fixed on Bin Laden's final hours. Another was the American missile that just missed killing Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who has emerged as a key recruiter for Al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate.


Imagine, for a moment, that these were George W. Bush's policies at work. A quest for regime change in Libya, conducted without even a pro forma request for Congressional approval. A campaign of remote-controlled airstrikes, in which collateral damage is inevitable, carried out inside a country where we are not officially at war. A policy of targeted assassination against an American citizen who has been neither charged nor convicted in any U.S. court.


Imagine the outrage, the protests, the furious op-eds about right-wing tyranny and neoconservative overreach. Imagine all that, and then look at the reality. For most Democrats, what was considered creeping fascism under Bush is just good old-fashioned common sense when the president has a "D" beside his name.


There is good news for the country in this turnabout. Having one of their own in the White House has forced Democrats to walk in the Bush administration's shoes, and appreciate its dilemmas and decisions. To some extent, the Bush-Obama convergence is a sign that the Democratic Party is growing up, putting away certain fond illusions, and accepting its share of responsibility for the messy realities of the post-9/11 world.


It's a good thing, for instance, that President Obama has slow-walked the American withdrawal from Iraq, and it's a sign of political maturity that his base hasn't punished him for doing so. It's a good thing that this White House didn't just send every Guantánamo prisoner to a civilian court (or back home without a trial). It's a very good thing that many Democrats seem willing to opt for frontier justice over procedural justice when the circumstances call for it — as they did in Abbottabad last week.


But there are dangers in this turnabout as well. Now that Democrats have learned to stop worrying and embrace the imperial presidency, the United States lacks a strong institutional check on the tendency toward executive hubris and wartime overreach. The speed with which many once-dovish liberals rallied behind the Libyan war — at best a gamble, at worst a folly — was revealing and depressing. The absence of any sustained outcry over the White House's willingness to assassinate American citizens without trial should be equally disquieting.


As Barack Obama has discovered, an open-ended, borderless conflict requires a certain comfort with moral gray areas. But it requires vigilance as well, and a skepticism about giving the executive branch a free hand in a forever war. During the Bush era, such vigilance was supplied (albeit sometimes cynically, and often in excess) by one of the country's two major political parties. But in the Obama era, it's mainly confined to the far left and the libertarian right.


This vigilance needs to be mathematical as well as moral. The most dangerous continuity between the Bush and Obama presidencies, perhaps, is their shared unwillingness to level with the country about what our current foreign policy posture costs, and how it fits into our broader fiscal liabilities.


Instead, big government conservatism has given way to big government liberalism, America's overseas footprint keeps expanding, and nobody has been willing to explain to the public that the global war on terror isn't a free lunch.


The next president won't have that luxury. In one form or another, the war on terror is likely to continue long after Osama bin Laden's bones have turned to coral. But we'll know that the Bush-Obama era is officially over when somebody presents us with the bill.










The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies. The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe's single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?


Well, what I've been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite — self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing — is the claim that it's mostly the public's fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate's foolishness.


So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn't just self-serving, it's dead wrong.


The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren't responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.


Let me focus mainly on what happened in the United States, then say a few words about Europe.


These days Americans get constant lectures about the need to reduce the budget deficit. That focus in itself represents distorted priorities, since our immediate concern should be job creation. But suppose we restrict ourselves to talking about the deficit, and ask: What happened to the budget surplus the federal government had in 2000?


The answer is, three main things. First, there were the Bush tax cuts, which added roughly $2 trillion to the national debt over the last decade. Second, there were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which added an additional $1.1 trillion or so. And third was the Great Recession, which led both to a collapse in revenue and to a sharp rise in spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs.


So who was responsible for these budget busters? It wasn't the man in the street.


President George W. Bush cut taxes in the service of his party's ideology, not in response to a groundswell of popular demand — and the bulk of the cuts went to a small, affluent minority.


Similarly, Mr. Bush chose to invade Iraq because that was something he and his advisers wanted to do, not because Americans were clamoring for war against a regime that had nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, it took a highly deceptive sales campaign to get Americans to support the invasion, and even so, voters were never as solidly behind the war as America's political and pundit elite.


Finally, the Great Recession was brought on by a runaway financial sector, empowered by reckless deregulation. And who was responsible for that deregulation? Powerful people in Washington with close ties to the financial industry, that's who. Let me give a particular shout-out to Alan Greenspan, who played a crucial role both in financial deregulation and in the passage of the Bush tax cuts — and who is now, of course, among those hectoring us about the deficit.


So it was the bad judgment of the elite, not the greediness of the common man, that caused America's deficit. And much the same is true of the European crisis.


Needless to say, that's not what you hear from European policy makers. The official story in Europe these days is that governments of troubled nations catered too much to the masses, promising too much to voters while collecting too little in taxes. And that is, to be fair, a reasonably accurate story for Greece. But it's not at all what happened in Ireland and Spain, both of which had low debt and budget surpluses on the eve of the crisis.


The real story of Europe's crisis is that leaders created a single currency, the euro, without creating the institutions that were needed to cope with booms and busts within the euro zone. And the drive for a single European currency was the ultimate top-down project, an elite vision imposed on highly reluctant voters.


Does any of this matter? Why should we be concerned about the effort to shift the blame for bad policies onto the general public?


One answer is simple accountability. People who advocated budget-busting policies during the Bush years shouldn't be allowed to pass themselves off as deficit hawks; people who praised Ireland as a role model shouldn't be giving lectures on responsible government.


But the larger answer, I'd argue, is that by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they'll do even more damage in the years ahead.








SUDDENLY, there's a baby boom going on around me. I'm making weekly shopping trips to stock friends' nurseries, and I'm struck by how many signs on the shelves advertise BPA-free bottles, BPA-free sippy cups. It breaks my heart. Manufacturers might be removing BPA, a chemical used to harden certain plastics, from their products, but they are substituting chemicals that may be just as dangerous, if not more so.


"BPA-free" seems like a step in the right direction. BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a synthetic estrogen that disrupts normal endocrine function. There is growing evidence in animal studies that exposure during fetal growth affects the development of reproductive systems and, in offspring, can lead to neurological problems. BPA has also been linked to prostate and breast cancer.


BPA has been found on money, likely transferred from credit card and A.T.M. receipts printed on thermal paper that contains BPA; it's also in dental sealants, in the lining of food cans, and in many other items.


Because the federal government has taken no action to ban or even limit BPA, some states have taken matters into their own hands. Mainejust approved a ban on BPA in reusable food and beverage containers that will go into effect next year; Oregon is considering banning it in sippy cups and baby bottles.


In apparent recognition of the consumer clout new parents wield, some manufacturers have stopped using BPA. You would think this proves the marketplace can take care of these problems, right?


Wrong. Consider the thermal paper that comes out of cash registers. Its BPA passes through the skin into the bodies of anyone who works at check-out counters, as well as their customers. Appleton, a specialty paper company, markets a BPA-free thermal paper that uses Bisphenol S instead. The Environmental Protection Agency has a voluntary program that is evaluating BPS and 17 other possible substitutes for thermal paper, but has not yet completed its analysis. Until it does, it will not endorse any alternatives.


In the few, limited tests conducted outside the United States, BPS shows estrogenic activity — not as strong as BPA, but not a good sign. BPS is now used in the United States to make PES (polyethersulfone) plastic. Some baby bottles marketed as BPA-free use PES plastic.


Bisphenols are shaping up to be a dysfunctional family of chemicals. BPAF is BPA's fluorinated twin. It is used in electronic devices, optical fibers and more. New studies have found BPAF to be an even more potent endocrine disrupter than BPA. Bisphenol B and Bisphenol F are other variants used instead of BPA in various products. In the limited testing done on those chemicals in other countries, scientists found Bisphenol B to be more potent than BPA in stimulating breast cancer cells.


A similar drama played out with PBDEs, a family of flame-retarding chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems, such as altered hormone levels, abnormal brain development and fertility issues. PBDEs migrate off electronic casings or are released from foam cushions. (It is no small irony that we worry about what our kids are watching on their computers instead of the toxic stuff coming off some of their equipment.) Under intense pressure, manufacturers have begun to replace PBDEs — with 










On May 9 the European Union marks the symbolic date when Robert Schuman put forward his ideas on a united Europe to bring lasting peace and prosperity to our continent. The core of Schuman's vision was to build Europe not by a single decision or a single design but step by step. By pooling sovereignty, and building solidarity through concrete common projects. And that is what has happened.

It is a testament to Schuman's vision and that of others that this family of democratic countries has grown in size and scope. From the original six to twenty-seven European countries today, spreading democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights to more than 500 million European citizens. What started off as a coal and steel community, then turned into a broader economic club has since turned into an outward-looking Union with a growing role and reach, acting as a force for good in our neighborhood and globally.

The ambition to build a credible EU foreign policy received a major boost with the launch of the European External Action Service on 1st January this year. The EEAS will act as a single platform to project European values and interests around the world. And it will act as a one-stop shop for our partners around the world.

For the first time, we are able to bring together all the tools that the EU has: diplomacy, political engagement, development assistance, humanitarian aid, economic cooperation, and civil and military crisis management. We are already putting this increased capability to good use as we face the challenges and opportunities of current developments in North Africa.

The aim in all this is forge a better, more coherent common EU foreign policy. Developing European answers to complex global problems, working with our partners around the world. This is something I know countries have long asked for, and that we can now deliver.

The message from Europe to our friends around the world is clear: we want to work together to tackle some of the biggest challenges we all face. And with the European External Action Service, or EEAS, in place we will be a better, more capable partner.

We remain the biggest donor and the largest trading power in the world, but we are doing much more, and we are doing it together. We are supporting democratic reforms in Egypt and Tunisia, working with the international community on the future of a post-Gadhafi Libya, and applying maximum pressure on repressive regimes in countries like Syria to force change. We are fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia and helping rebuild Haiti following the devastating earthquake. We are mediating between Serbia and Kosovo for a lasting peace in the Western Balkans, and leading negotiations with Iran on their nuclear program. Our 130 EU Delegations around the world are trusted partners for their host countries on all aspects of EU policy, from foreign and security policy to energy and climate change.

On Europe Day, the European Union takes the opportunity to remember where it came from. But above all, it can look at how far it has come. The EEAS embodies a united and strong continent. It is there to ensure security and stability for European citizens and to help spread the same throughout the world.

Catherine Ashton is High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President of the European Commission






Have you seen, dear readers, the German movie, "The Baader Meinhof Complex," telling the story of the 1970s' terror group the Red Army Fraction in Germany?

There was a very interesting scene in the movie where, through the skillful strategy of the head of German police (Horst Herold), authorities managed to capture the first generation of the group that had engaged in a series of bloody terror attacks, resulting in the deaths of almost 30 people. Even as the founders languished in prison, nonetheless, the group attracted wide sympathy throughout the country and there soon appeared a second generation, which became more radical.

Herold is asked by his assistant, astonished by this phenomenon, as to what might motivate these young people, who were continuously setting up new terror cells. "It's the legend [they managed to create]," replies Herold, looking out of the window of his office fully aware that he is only dealing with the tip of the iceberg.

It was this scene that came to mind first when I heard al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed. Since then, thousands of analyses have been published throughout the world in attempts to predict what will happen next. Instead, however, I humbly choose to elaborate how bin Laden managed to attract many in the Muslim world, the youth in particular. In other words, how the bin Laden legend came to be and quickly grew?

In Middle Eastern popular culture, the leading elites are being accused today of basically having a way of life akin to the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Ordinary people in the region are indeed weary of being constantly suppressed or persecuted. But what disturbs them the most is not mismanagement or abuse of political power by dictatorial or semi-democratic means of governance. Rather, it is bribery as well as institutionalized corruption. Do you remember, for instance, that the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia was sparked when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old street vendor who refused to bribe the police, set himself on fire in protest of the confiscation of his wares?

In such political and social milieu, bin Laden's personal story as well as dedication appealed to many Muslim youth. His abandonment of his wealth for the cause of Islam and the ummah, gave him appeal as a role model. Indeed, despite his bloody record in terror acts that makes him an evil figure in the West, bin Laden is interestingly known among his followers to be a person who is "one of them." Accepting the Salafi foundations as the model of a way of life, accounts of journalists who managed to observe his daily life report he was a modest person. He is mostly described as soft-spoken, kind and hospitable. Pakistani writer Ahmet Zeidan, for instance, in his "Bin Laden Unmasked," says instead of serving as the imam during prayers, a role which, leading figures in the Muslim world are very eager to assume (as part of rituals reflecting their power), he mainly preferred to worship in the back rows together with his associates.

As important as these personal traits, however, it is how a Muslim sees the world. Currently, there are two important traits that shape a Muslim's mindset, in the Middle East in particular: First of all, the notion of being the injured party in Islamic political culture that is displayed vis a vis the Islamic realm's disposition towards the Christian world; and secondly, a feeling of disgust which is strengthened by a lack of hope.

Actually, this disgust has been the main cause behind well-educated, relatively prosperous Muslim youths' suicide or martyrdom acts. Do you understand now why among the foreign Iraqi insurgents, there were many Arabs who were doctors or engineers by profession?

Al-Qaeda and bin Laden exploited that mentality most efficiently and exploited it to legitimize their cause and use of force. In contrast to apocalyptic views claimed by al-Qaeda, its ultimate objective has always been purely political. Rather, it is the strategy it applies to appeal to many Muslim youth, to recruit supporters or to legitimize the global jihad, which was religious. Al-Qaeda has formulated clear-cut political aspirations, the most important of which was regime change in all Middle Eastern countries. In short, they were a hope for some ordinary Muslims who were looking for real change.

Thankfully, the so-called "Arab spring" proved there were other viable alternatives. But believing that they have been wronged and victimized by the politically-motivated West in gangrenous problems such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many Muslims still feel that their sense of justice is being affronted in the international arena. For al-Qaeda or any other radical group, Palestine still serves as a catalyst to mobilize the entire Muslim world.

It is precisely for this reason that the fate of the bin Laden legend henceforth depends on both the success of the democratic regimes being set up subsequent to the popular uprisings and a resolution to the gangrenous Palestinian problem. Otherwise, more and more bin Ladens will appear and the bin Laden legend will survive forever.







I was rather surprised to see a deserted city when I landed in Amman on Tuesday night for a two-week consulting gig on the Jordanian economy, banking sector and capital markets.

My curiosity was satisfied soon enough: I found my hotel's bar packed, with people glued to the screen watching the Barcelona-Real Madrid game. I learned from an analyst I was meeting with the next day that both teams are very popular in Jordan, and that as many as 1 million people (from a population of 6.5 million) may have watched the game on Tuesday.

The abundance of players with El Clasico experience on its squad may explain Beşiktaş's popularity in Jordan over its two Istanbul rivals, who have their own version of El Clasico. But two Turks are more popular in the JK than any member of my beloved team.

Everyone here knows the actor Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, although he is often mentioned as the "blond guy," as his name is a challenge for Jordanians. The Turkish soap operas, mosalsas as they are called here, that made him famous are a big hit in Jordan as in many other countries in the region, and I was told that Jordanians watched the closing episode of Aşk-ı Memnu with teary eyes Wednesday night.

But even Tatlıtuğ's popularity is dwarfed by that of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The first thing taxi drivers do when they learn I am Turkish is to mention his name with a big smile. I receive a much more sincere "Wa alaykum salam" to my "As-Salamu Alaykum's" (I have used the phrase more in the past week than the rest of my life) when it is known beforehand that I am Turkish.

It seems the "one minute" and "flotilla" incidents have won the hearts of Jordanians as in the rest of the Arab world. Although I had dismissed both as cheap politics at the time, I have to admit I do like the free respect they have brought me here. Yes, I am such a spineless opportunist!

Joking aside, seeing the teary-eyed refugees looking at the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee from the lookout point at the Decapolis city Gadara/Umm Qais is worth reading a dozen books on the Palestinian problem. But I am still not convinced that Erdoğan's outbursts have brought us closer to a solution at all.

However, even the analysts, economists and executives I have been speaking to, all with fancy U.S. degrees and flawless English, think highly of Erdoğan. They may start with disclaimers such as, "I don't know your political inclinations, but…" showing that they are well aware of the controversies surrounding him and his policies. Still they praise his zeal to make Turkey a regional leader by increasing its political and economic power in the Middle East.

That economic power is apparent in the statistics: According to the Central Bank of Jordan's Monthly Statistical Bulletin, Jordan's imports from Turkey increased from around $450 million in 2009 to $600 million last year. The 28 percent yearly increase puts Turkey at the number six spot, but the countries whose exports to Jordan have increased more than Turkey's all have much smaller absolute figures. In fact, Turkey is now the seventh-largest exporter to Jordan, and I am not sure the mosalsas are in these official statistics.

But even casual observation reveals a strong Turkish business presence: For one thing, hearing Turkish regularly at my hotel speaks volumes. Many Jordanian ready-wear apparel companies have clothing manufactured in Turkey, to which they affix their own labels. Sarar's suits are highly regarded by professionals, although the $200-$300 price tag is deemed a bit expensive. Supermarkets are full of Turkish products, mainly by the Ülker group. There are also several construction companies in Jordan.

As for Jordan's economy, that's for next week.







With the "Arab spring" becoming a more violent whirlwind, not only is it posing imminent threats to European security, but it is also dumping thousands of refugees at the doors of Europe. Some "big" states such as France are demanding, if not abolishment, a renegotiating of the Schengen agreements; involvement of some leading members of the European club of democracies in support of the "pro-democracy" uprising in Libya, so far only in the North African country, but God knows what will happen tomorrow. With Turkish EU minister Egemen Bağış joking, "Even if we cannot get in the EU basket after all these decades at the door, we can walk on the EU balloon" and contend that "with Turkey, the EU will be higher." To put it in a gentler way, the poor economic situation of Greece, Portugal and Ireland, described by some senior European diplomats as "Indications of a probable rough landing of the EU," the European Union is marking today the Europe Day or the Day of the EU flag or the anniversary of the May 9, 1950 Schuman Declaration that gave the start to the unification of steelmaking and coal industries of France and Germany and thus kicked the ball rolling that eventually became today's European Union.

The European Union is a project for peace and unity in Europe and as such it has been a success story ever since its inception as a small economic nucleus, unifying steelmaking and coal industries of France and Germany. For the old continent, which fought most recently the devastating World War II, the EU process has been one that successfully created a zone of peace and tranquility and despite some current woes, an unprecedented economic growth and social advancement.

An ageing population, increasing and toughening global competition, rising security threats and particularly the latest troubles in the Arab street highlight vividly the need of Europe for Turkey, as well as the need of Turkey for the EU for a set of political, social and of course strategic reasons.

It is a fact Turkey has so far managed to open accession talks only in 13 of the 35 chapters. It is required to complete the accession talks process in order to reach the day when the final decision will be made whether it will ever be allowed to become the first non-Christian members of the European club. It is a fact that not only the Cyprus problem or some artificial and out of context conditions related either to the Kurdish issue, size or place of agriculture in Turkish economy, or simply the Turco-obsession of Nikolas Sarkozy of France or Angela Merkel of Germany, the "digestion" problems related to the last ten-country expansion menu the club are playing a role in the Turkish membership skepticism in the EU.

The mental obsession regarding Turkey in the EU has a reflection in Turkey. The support of Turks to the European Union process has dipped to unprecedented low levels over the past few years and now not only a fraction of Turks believe Turkey will ever be allowed into the EU but the government in Ankara, except some occasional rhetoric that Turkey is firmly committed to the EU membership process and that it will achieve it one day whatever Merkel or Sarkozy does or whatever problem regarding Cyprus might be concocted, just does not feel obliged to continue the reforms accommodating Turkey to European standards and norms, particularly as regards individual rights and liberties.

Obviously, the decision whether or not Turkey will join the EU, one day cannot be a decision the people of Turkey can leave to the French or the Germans to make if and when that day comes. As we are not at that stage, there is no merit in talking about such morality issues anyhow.

Now, what is at stake is irrespective of how it ends, the EU process of Turkey must continue and not only by economic, industrial or agricultural standards but social and individual standards, including Turkey reaching and performing better than European standards regarding life expectancy, health services, social state services and naturally freedoms headed by freedom of thought or freedom of press that constitute the backbone of democratic governance, which indeed is the backbone of the entire EU concept.

Thus, instead of discouraging the Turkish government and the nation with awkward statements and helping out the reform process given a backseat ride, if not totally abandoned as has been occasionally the situation, in this country.

Thanks to the EU process, this country has achieved great strides in enhancing rights and liberties, its democracy and the sphere of civilian policy making. Even if the EU shuns Turkey or it becomes absolutely clear that Turkey will never ever be allowed to join in, this process must be continued so that while ending, let's say, military tutelage over governance of the country we should not create a civilian dictatorship.

Unfortunately, many people in this country have started developing phobias nowadays regarding probability of Turkey going towards a one-man-rule after the June 12 elections







Turkey faces what could be historic elections on June 12.  Opinion polls suggest the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will win the polls for a third time since 2002. The question though is whether the AKP will win the required 2/3 legislative majority to single handedly draft a constitution for the country, ushering in key changes to Turkey's political system since Atatürk created the country as a secular republic in the mold of Europe.

At this stage, whether the AKP can reshape Atatürk's legacy depends on Turkey's uniquely high percent electoral threshold. Electoral thresholds are common in multiparty democracies, in a system with dozens of parties, if all parties were to get into the parliament; a government would never be formed, so the smaller parties are kept out of the legislature. 

But whereas most multiparty democracies have minimum thresholds for representation ranging from two to five percent of the popular vote, Turkey has the highest threshold among the liberal democratic countries, at ten percent. 

This threshold, originally aimed at preventing the Kurdish nationalist party from being able to serve in parliament. Since the law was enacted, the Kurdish nationalist party has had representation in every parliament, running independent candidates in some Kurdish provinces. Independents do not have to qualify the national threshold but must simply gain enough support in their respective provinces to enter the parliament. 

The law has not only been ineffective in its aims; it has led to other unintended consequences. Instead of preventing the Kurdish nationalist party from the parliament, the threshold has prevented smaller center-right and center-left parties from the legislature, resulting in the current polarization of the political system between the ruling AKP and opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.

Furthermore, the threshold distorts vox populi. By allocating so many of the seats that would have gone to the small parties to the winning AKP, the threshold has resulted in a governing party with many more seats that it would deserve based on its share of the votes. This has produced a majoritarian AKP. The governing party interprets its unrepresentative legislative majority as a blank check to trample on checks and balances, such as the courts and the media. As one analyst put it, the threshold has created an "AKP on steroids that acts like elephant in democracy's china shop."

 In 2002 elections, for instance, the AKP won 66 percent of the seats in the parliament with only 34 percent of the votes. All but the CHP failed the threshold and a majority of the seats would have gone to the smaller parties went to the AKP. Hard to believe as it may be, sixteen parties, which received over 45 percent of the total votes, were barred from the parliament because they each failed to reach the ten percent threshold, and over 14 million voters were disenfranchised.  

The AKP's supermajority in the parliament then allowed the party to gradually abandon its earlier coalition with liberals and the business community.

Two particularly frustrated parties, which suffered the consequences of this law in 2002 were the center-right True Path Party, or DYP, and the rightist Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, each of which barely failed the threshold, receiving 9.5 percent and 8.5 percent of the votes, respectively. Since that election, a polarization of the Turkish political system between the AKP and the CHP has emerged, and their relations remain contentious to this day.

Again in the 2007 elections, the threshold gave the AKP more seats than its share of the popular vote would have dictated. The party received 62 percent of the seats in the parliament with 46 percent of the popular vote. This time, the CHP and MHP passed the ten percent threshold. Eleven parties, which cumulatively received over 13 percent of the vote each failed to reach the threshold; thus, 4.5 million of the 35 million voters ended up not having a voice in the parliament.

Their parliamentary majority has emboldened the AKP. Although the party had campaigned on a platform of promoting a liberal agenda, the inflated political power that the threshold granted the AKP allowed it to embrace authoritarianism instead, because after all, the party was not accountable for almost half of the seats it received.

With the upcoming elections on June 12, the threshold will once again work its "magic." While the AKP and CHP are projected to pass the threshold, a few polls show that MHP might fail to reach it, and no other party is projected to receive a ten percent vote. This means in the best case scenario for popular representation, around one-sixth of the electorate might be disenfranchised, assuming the MHP enters the parliament. If the MHP fails the threshold, as many one-quarter of all votes will likely not find voice in the parliament. 

In these cases, the AKP could receive 330-380 seats in the legislature, either barely failing or coming within reach of the 2/3 (367 seat) legislative majority that it needs to unilaterally draft and approve a new constitution for Turkey without seeking consensus with the rest of the Turkish society.

More than ever now, Turkey's balance hangs on the threshold.

* Hale Arifağaoğlu is a research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Gizem Koçver was a research intern at the Institute.







Palestine is ripe for a revolution. How do we know that? Because the two rival governments that have so spectacularly failed their hypothetical country are finally ending their four-year-old breach and getting back together. Or at least that is what they say they are doing.

The reconciliation took place in Cairo on Wednesday, when Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, signed an agreement to form an interim government to rule both parts of the would-be country.

"We forever turn the black page of division," Abbas said in his opening remarks.

The two men went further. They agreed no member either of Hamas or of Fatah, the movement that is Abbas's political base, could be part of the interim government. That government would pave the way for free elections next year in both parts of the disjointed proto-state that would really restore Palestinian national unity. Or so the deal says.

But Fatah and Hamas still hate each other, and they haven't actually made a single compromise on the key areas where they disagree, like the question of whether to make peace with Israel. Most observers still doubt the gulf between the two sides can ever be bridged. So why would they even bother to sign such a "unity" accord?

Because they are both running scared. They have seen what happened to other oppressive and/or corrupt regimes in the Arab world as the "Arab spring" has unfolded, and they are afraid that a comparable revolution could drive them from power too. Fatah, after all, is very corrupt and quite authoritarian, while Hamas is less corrupt but extremely repressive and economically incompetent to boot.

There have already been large popular demonstrations in the Palestinian territories, although they have not been widely reported. The protesters' main demand is "national unity," but there is good reason to suspect many of them actually have a broader agenda.

Like the Syrian demonstrators demanding the repeal of the 48-year-old "state of emergency" when what they really want is the end of the regime, many of the Palestinian protesters are using "national unity" as a popular mobilizing call when what they really want is the end of both Fatah and Hamas.

So Fatah and Hamas are giving them what they say they want in order to avoid having to give them what they really want. But it is a shotgun marriage at best, and most unlikely to last.

One further incentive for the deal, from Abbas's point of view, is that he hopes to get formal recognition of the Palestinian state from the United Nations General Assembly in September, even though its borders with Israel have still not been agreed upon and much of it is under Israeli military occupation.

This is mere gesture politics, since it will not force Israel to remove its troops or make any other concessions, but Abbas hopes it will strengthen his standing with his own people. Besides, he can hardly ask the U.N. members to recognize Palestinian sovereignty so long as different parts of its territory are ruled by rival and indeed hostile regimes. A cosmetic reconciliation with Hamas is necessary, at least for a while.

The probable price of this Fatah-Hamas deal is a complete shutdown of peace negotiations with Israel, because Israel, the European Union and the United States define Hamas as a "terrorist movement." Therefore, they will have nothing to do with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, or so they say.

Israel's hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the accord was a "tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism." But Netanyahu is widely and probably correctly seen as a man who isn't interested in a peace agreement anyway, so Abbas doesn't think anything important will be lost if he cozies up to Hamas for a while.

The real question is whether the Palestinians will ignore all this window-dressing, and rise up like their Egyptian neighbors to rid themselves of the arbitrary and corrupt governments that now rule them. The answer is probably no, because the felt need for "unity" in the face of the Israelis usually cripples Palestinian attempts to address the failings of their own institutions.

Indeed, the biggest short-term consequence of the "Arab spring" for the Palestinians may be another Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip, or even a full-scale reoccupation of that territory, because the new Egyptian government plans to reopen its border with Gaza very soon.

Under Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's recently deposed dictator, Cairo fully cooperated with Israel in enforcing a tight blockade of the Gaza Strip. Once the border with Egypt is reopened, Israel fears, the extremists who regularly fire rockets into Israel from the territory will have access to an endless flow of weapons.

Trying to shut that border down again would immediately embroil Israel in a conflict not only with Hamas but with a newly democratic Egypt. That would certainly not be to Israel's long-term advantage, but it doesn't mean they won't do it.








With inflation standing at 14 percent, the steady increase in the price of virtually every item eats steadily into the budgets of households across the country. Only the very few, who stand on the upper-most rungs of the wealth ladder, are immune to its impact. The rest struggle to manage, take up extra jobs, try to find additional sources of income, and in the process, add to the ceaseless pressures that make up so many lives. For the poorest members of society, inflation means taking children out of school, putting them to work, and abandoning any effort to attain healthcare for sick family members. In this situation, the news of a two percent surcharge on every unit of power for the next six months is nothing short of crippling. The timing of the move is clearly designed to force additional money out of people, given, as we all know, that through the summer months, managing without power is a virtual impossibility. The increase, which will range from Rs0.18 to 0.30 comes also despite the fact that there is an acute shortage of power, with loadshedding setting new records. In smaller towns, more than 18 hours of loadshedding a day have been reported; Larkana recently remained without power for some 48 hours on account of a serious technical fault. People then are being made to pay more and more for a utility they don't even receive. At the same time, the repeated outages are robbing tailors, small workshop owners and many others of their income, adding to the many hardships they face in life. The new price hike will only add to the frowns we see everywhere.

There are other questions that come to mind. Doesn't the government care about the people? Is it clueless with regard to their sufferings – living in some dream world of its own? Or is this simply a case of complete indifference to the plight of the people? It is this latter view that seems most logical and is most readily accepted by the people themselves. It follows that respect for the government declines still further as the people wonder if it has any interest in their welfare and survival. There seems to be very little evidence of a desire on the part f the government to work for the people and fight on their behalf, rather than against them. The power price increase simply highlights this harsh reality.






In another sectarian attack, at least six people were killed and 10 injured in Hazara town on Friday last week. The banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for it. The LeJ is notorious for directing many of its attacks against the Pakistani Shia community. The group was formally banned in 2001 as part of a new sweep against extremism but we know from experience that banning groups has not rendered them ineffective but rather driven them underground and made it harder to trace them and curb their activities. The LeJ is now increasingly attacking ostensibly non-religious targets (earlier, it was processions and more overtly religious targets). A deadly pattern is emerging: the terrorists are going ahead full-throttle in a murderous rampage against Pakistan's minority sects and demonstrating their disturbing willingness to make the daily lives of the people of Quetta, and beyond, a pawn in their armed agenda. Indeed, that the Friday attack took place early morning when people were playing cricket and football and taking their morning walks at a ground adjacent to the Hazara graveyard shows the terrorists are set to make people insecure about the very things they take for granted; the target is people's average everyday sense of security. Scenes like those in Quetta where, according to one eyewitness, "in minutes, a playground turned into a slaughter house," become images that resonate deeply with people and when combined with the randomness of such attacks, leave people feeling profoundly unsafe. Already, a helpless Hazara community is forced to believe that perpetrators are being protected. The mysterious escape of the local head of LeJ, Usman Saifullah, and a key leader, Shafiq Rind, from a very well guarded Anti-Terrorist Force jail in Quetta Cantonment, is a case in point.

Balochistan is currently facing at least three kinds of violent conflicts: a nationalist conflict, in which militant Baloch groups seeking separation and autonomy have targeted Punjabis and other minorities; a sectarian one, in which militant Sunni Muslim groups have attacked the Shia community; and a third conflict involving armed Islamist groups attacking those with opposing interpretations of Islam; examples include increasing violence against the content and manner of local education, particularly of women. Government higher-ups and the MQM have condemned earlier attacks and the latest one in strong terms. But as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Our leaders must prove by deeds that they are capable of rooting out the menace of terrorism and sectarianism. As the repeated attacks show, it has taken only a handful of dedicated extremists – against an entire state machinery and local population – to turn a once vibrant Quetta into a city in mourning.









The writer is a former member of the Foreign Service.

The elimination of Osama bin Laden is something much of the world had been waiting to hear about for a long time. Against the might of the US, with its formidable political, military, financial, and technological resources, it was clear that he never had much of a chance. What is surprising is that he evaded this fate for so long.

Cut off from all his senior associates and commanders, as well as financial means, Osama had long ceased to be an effective force and the terrorist network that he created had been degraded to a large extent. This is due in no small degree to Pakistan's cooperation in tracking down many of its key figures and operatives in the last ten years.

Still, his death is a significant milestone. He was the iconic figure who gave Al-Qaeda its ability to inspire fanatically committed young people and mobilise resources. His disappearance will therefore be a severe setback for the recruiters and financiers of the terrorist network.

Not many tears have been shed in Pakistan over Osama's death. At one time, he was widely revered as a symbol of resistance to US policies inimical to the Muslim world. But his popularity had been waning with the increase in terrorist attacks targeting Pakistan.

While the old threats facing Pakistan remain, the US raid on Abbottabad has thrown up new ones. Obama and Clinton have noted that cooperation with Pakistan helped lead the US to Osama and to the compound where he was hiding. But other US officials have cavilled at Pakistan's alleged lack of cooperation stemming either from complicity or incompetence. Panetta, the present CIA director and incoming defence secretary, has been the most strident in levelling these charges publicly, and has said bluntly that Pakistani officials were either "involved or incompetent."

Other US officials have also made similar noises. Michele Flournoy, undersecretary for defence, has said that there is no "definitive evidence" that Pakistan knew of Osama's hideout, but she has demanded that the Pakistanis must now show convincingly their commitment to defeating the Al-Qaeda terrorist network by giving their full cooperation to the US. John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, has said that the administration is not accusing anybody at this point, but was looking at whether the support system Osama had in Pakistan had official backing, and will be making further investigations "to get to the bottom of this."

Some of these questions are also being raised pointedly in Pakistan. While no one in Pakistan has accused the ISI of complicity in providing a sanctuary to Osama, the charge of incompetence have been aired widely. Not only was the Pakistani intelligence unaware of Osama's presence in Abbottabad, it also did not know that the Americans knew and were closing in on him.

These questions will have to be answered. The inquiry ordered by the army will not satisfy everyone because the military itself and the ISI are squarely in the dock and nobody seriously expects them to come to the conclusion that they were found wanting. Past precedents of such inquiries hardly inspire confidence. An inquiry was ordered by the army chief last October into reports of extrajudicial killings of Islamic militants in Swat by army personnel. Seven months have passed, but there is still no word of the findings of this investigation. To be credible, the inquiry into our intelligence failure must be conducted by an independent body under civilian auspices and those found to have been remiss must face consequences, whatever their seniority.

The US has no doubt been playing a double game with Pakistan on Osama. While it benefited from the intelligence provided by the ISI, it withheld information gathered by CIA agents in Pakistan and obtained through "enhanced interrogation" (torture in common parlance) of Khaled Sheikh Mohammad and Faraj al-Libi at Guantanamo. But such double-dealing is standard operating procedure in the intelligence business and does not absolve the ISI of its responsibility for a huge intelligence failure.

Even more troubling is our inability to detect the intrusion into our airspace by the helicopters which carried out the raid. According to our official explanation, they "made use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain" and were facilitated by the efficacious use of the latest technology and sophisticated flying techniques. But that is exactly what you would expect an intruder to do.

American officials have made it clear that they do not rule out similar operations against other targets in Pakistan suspected of harbouring elements considered hostile to US interests. Buoyed by the success of the Abbottabad operation, the US is now believed to be planning the capture of Mullah Omar. A top US commander has said publicly that Mullah Omar "should be worried" following the raid on Osama's compound, because "it shows the Americans are focused." Washington has also stepped up pressure on Pakistan to capture the leader of the Afghan Taliban, as well as other Afghan militant commanders who may be living in the country.

The US could even be tempted to put American boots on the ground on Pakistani soil in North Waziristan, possibly together with a token Afghan contingent. This would be an unmitigated folly. Even if such action succeeds in its immediate objective, it will result in greater instability in the longer term. This seems to be recognised at the political level in Washington, but Petraeus and the military hawks might have other ideas.

Following a meeting of the corps commanders last week, Kayani warned against a repeat of the Abbottabad operation saying it would lead to a review on the "level of Pakistan's military/intelligence cooperation with the United States." But angry words will not be enough as long as Pakistan lacks the military and technological capability to stop further raids.

After the US, no other country has rejoiced more at the death of Osama than India. The gloating in India at Pakistan's embarrassment is understandable because India is still smarting at its humiliation by a ragtag band of terrorists who held Mumbai hostage for three days in November 2008. But there are deeper reasons for concern. There are many in Delhi who see in the Abbottabad raid a precedent for a similar lightning strike by India inside Pakistan to avenge Mumbai. The possibility that India might launch such a raid has increased significantly. The press release by the army last week warning India against any such "misadventure" shows how seriously Pakistan takes this threat.

Pakistan-US relations are sure to go through a very rough patch. The famous "trust deficit," already exacerbated by the Raymond Davis episode and rising civilian casualties in drone attacks, has been deepened further. Some US congressmen are demanding an end or cutback of military and economic assistance for Pakistan. This is not likely to happen. US assistance is not given as a favour but because it gives US leverage and serves US interests in many other ways.

But there will be greater pressure in the military area. The US is keen to show military success before the beginning of a token troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July. After the Abbottabad raid, the temptation to win further glory through operations in North Waziristan and elsewhere in Pakistan may be irresistible. An unnamed official was quoted by The Washington Post last week as saying that the US "at this point has a great degree of leverage" and wanted to use it "effectively," because it won't last long.

Undersecretary of Defence Michele Flournoy has demanded "very concrete and visible steps" from Pakistan to persuade Congress to continue providing military and economic assistance. The Washington Post reported also that the White House has been discussing how long to wait before delivering a "sterner message" to Pakistan, what it should be and who should deliver it. Clearly, Abbottabad marks just the beginning of a new harsher line towards Pakistan.










There are not that many of us foreigners left living in Pakistan. There are concentrations in the various diplomatic missions and spread across the NGO community, but as for those of us who live here long term, 'settled' as the saying goes, not very many. We live quiet lives for the most part and are unremarkable. All of us to a greater or lesser degree are at least 'part Pakistani'. There used to be a lot more of us, but numbers have been declining since the mid-90s, with the reason for this usually being put down to 'fear' or 'threats'. Thus it was in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden that I got a call from a newspaper seeking to interview me about just how much 'at risk' I felt, and what did I feel about living in such a dangerous place as Pakistan?

The reporter and I spoke at some length. Had I had any threats, or aggression directed to me? No says I, none at all. By the end of our discussion I sensed that she might be a bit disappointed. There were no dramas. No story. Nothing that I could point to that said that in objective terms I was in mortal danger or went in fear of my life.

A day later and in curiosity mode, I went in search of attacks on foreigners in Pakistan. An hour of intensive googling produced very little. The last direct attack on a group of tourists that I could find was in 2002, happened near Mansehra, involved light injuries and no deaths. A diplomat was attacked and robbed in Khosar Market, Islamabad, by a man posing as a security officer last year. No injury. A tourist was murdered in Peshawar in still-unexplained circumstances a couple of years ago. The story of the woman who 'disappeared' in Northern Areas in the mid-90s was still around, as was the report of an attempted robbery of tourists at a fake checkpoint near Gilgit in the late 90s.

What very conspicuously was not there were any reports of tourists, or any other foreigners for that matter, being attacked or harassed on a regular basis simply because they were 'foreign'. I can find no documentary evidence that adds up to a significant incidence of attacks on foreigners outside of the normal range of criminality and plain old bad luck. And very little evidence that any foreigner has been attacked as a by-product of 'extremism' apart from well-documented instances such as the murdered Polish engineer and the French who died in a bus bombing in Karachi.

What I could find in abundance was any number of security alerts and warnings to the effect that Pakistan was a dangerous place to visit – a consequence of which may be that fewer people do actually visit, thus reducing the opportunity to threaten or intimidate them.

None of this is to say that there are not objective dangers attached to living here, because there are. But as to a generalised and specific threat to 'foreigners' linked to the rise of extremism over the last decade and evidenced by records of such – next to nothing. Various extremist groups from time to time issue statements, usually of the 'Amreeka out' variety, but these appear to be more aspirational than operational. They can, however, appear to be frightening and from that comes the wider sense of threat that is so beloved of a media that likes nothing more than a terrified tourist with a tale to tell. I shall now retire to my fortified bunker. See you next week.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:








As if drone attacks and the disclosure of Washington Post that if Gen David H Petraeus is confirmed as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he would effectively take command of a third war in Pakistan (he fought the other two in Iraq and Afghanistan) were not enough, the nation had to face yet another humiliation in its own city of Abbottabad. Our air defence system was knocked out by jamming radars. Our sovereignty, if any, was violated by our close ally in this war on terror. This leads one to another and more serious question: are our nuclear assets safe? We need to ponder on this question seriously if we want to survive as a nation with honour and dignity.

We failed to respond to such urgent calls in 1971 and lost half the country. We cannot afford such a mistake again. We have no option but to get our act together to avoid another embarrassment like this.

We had hardly recovered from the shock of this blatant violation when another drone attack took place in North Waziristan killing more than 16 people. What will be our leaders' response to this? Will they consider it a violation of our sovereignty or overlook it as they have done in the past?

Imran Khan was right when he tried to remind us of our duty by protesting in Peshawar against drone attacks, at a time when other leaders were only paying lip service. Other political leaders supposedly opposed to drone attacks who only vent their anger on TV talk shows were left in the lurch. The chairman of Tehreek-e-Insaf led the procession from Islamabad to Peshawar in these difficult times, when bomb blasts and suicide attacks are the order of the day. By doing this he proved that when you are on the side of the people they will themselves gather around to protect you.

The security situation in Peshawar as we well know has deteriorated tremendously compared to what it was before 9/11. It is not considered safe even by locals who avoid travelling in or out of the city unnecessarily because of the risks involved. Imran Khan and the people who travelled with him faced all these risks bravely. They were not wearing bullet proof jackets nor travelling in bullet proof cars into this 'blast' and bullet ridden city. The privilege of bullet proof cars is reserved for ministers and other VIPs who don't care a hoot about the security of the common people.

It would be unfair not to mention the courage and resolve shown by our brave brothers and sisters from Lahore and other parts of Punjab who also participated in the rally. It left an impression on the minds of the people of KPK who till then had felt that the people of Punjab were not concerned about the drone attacks in their areas.

This rally may not stop the supply of goods from Karachi to Kabul for the Nato forces in Afghanistan but it will certainly convey a message to the West that the vast majority of Pakistanis are opposed to drone attacks in the tribal areas.

Imran Khan, an outsider, has set yet another record by holding a gathering of thousands in a city where even the ruling parties have not dared to hold public meetings in the last three years. The critics of the rally are either drawing room analysts with no connection to the people or politicians lacking the courage to speak their minds and come out in the open in support of the drone attacks.

Neither the laws of Pakistan nor those of the US and the UN permit killing innocent people the way these drones do. Every individual is supposed to be innocent unless proved guilty. This basic principle of human rights does not seem to apply to people in our tribal areas. Those who profess to champion human rights in the West are not concerned either. They have not voiced their concern or uttered a word about this blatant violation of human rights. Even the UN seems helpless and appears to have been hijacked by the US to dole out justifications for its misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere.

The fact of the matter is that this war is not ours but was imposed upon us against our wishes and our erstwhile dictator Musharraf warmly embraced it to curry favour with the West, which as a quid pro quo, started supporting his usurpation of power. Tony Blair the then British prime minister is on record publicly commenting on Gen Musharraf that "He is a useful alley in the war on terror". The British PM was replying to criticism regarding the support of a democratic British government for a military usurper of democracy.

Imran's initiative showed the way to others to follow, particularly the people of the tribal areas who are victims of this brutal carnage. They should join him in his future endeavours and arrange protest rallies all over the tribal areas particularly in the two Waziristans. One knows it is not so easy to take out processions or stage demonstrations in the tribal areas keeping in view the draconian laws of the Frontier Crimes Regulations. But for how long are they going to tread safely to avoid a clash with the FCR, particularly when their survival, and the survival of the country, is at stake? They have to take action and take the FCR by the horns if it proves a hurdle in demonstrations against this naked aggression.

It's high time people came out in large numbers to protest against drone attacks and demanded that the government reconsider its policies that lead to the killing of our own people without any justification. All the political parties need to seriously consider protesting against blighting the honour and dignity of our country which is tarnished with every drone attack.

The writer is a former ambassador from Fata. Email: waziruk@hotmail. Com








For years Osama was on the run. For years the finger was pointed at Pakistan for his having a safe haven. All along we had been in a state of denial about his whereabouts. That the Al-Qaeda chief found refuge in our land is hardly surprising. In the fight against militancy, we've been hunting with the hounds and running with the hare, with the result that, while we're hated by the militants, we're suspected by the Americans.

The popularly elected government owes an explanation to the people about the chain of events leading to the demise of the world's most wanted militant as well the direction in which the campaign against militancy is headed.

But what's more dangerous than the ruling establishment's acts of omission and commission is the fascination for the so-called jihad that has gone too deep into our national psyche, and which can be removed only through our setting Pakistan's counterterrorism strategy right. The militaristic view of Islam has made such a great impression on society at large that we've taken to fanaticism and bigotry, violence and brutality and have turned against dissent and disagreement – all in the name of religion. The voices of reason and logic, of sanity and moderation fall on deaf ears. Is it surprising, then, that mosques and shrines, markets and streets, campuses and offices, plains and mountains – nothing is safe in Pakistan?

Regardless of its genesis, the war against terrorism is very much our own, simply because it is our society that's bearing the brunt-physically, emotionally and economically. Women are being rendered widows, children turned orphans. Businesses have been forced to pack up or dislocate, economic growth and investment have come down and people laid off. The Economic Survey of Pakistan (2009-10) puts the economic cost of the war on terror above $40 billion. But still we aren't willing to own this war! Rather, we stubbornly insist that it's America's war and that the inferno that the country has been turned into is the gift of our being a frontline ally of the US in the counter-extremism campaign that kicked off in the wake of the infamous 9/11 incident.

The roots of terrorism undeniably go back to Pakistan's alliance with the US, not in the post-9/11 period but in the years when we agreed to fight Washington's proxy war in the wake of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The war was given religious meaning by the then "Islamist" military regime of Pakistan, itself looking for legitimacy as well as political and economic support, to justify its involvement in it, under the pretext that Washington was fighting for Islam.

Since the Afghan crisis was portrayed as a conflict between Islam and kufr, it gave birth to the breed of overzealous religious militants who knew only one way of living – by the sword. In order to live by the sword, one needs an enemy, real or perceived. In case of the jihadis, once the external enemy had gone, they turned their guns on the "enemy" within, which they found in the followers of rival creeds. This led to sectarian bloodbath, which well preceded and had nothing to do with the 9/11 incident.

Hence, to those who maintain that the terrorism in Pakistan is the gift of the country's post-9/11 alliance with the US, one may put the question: Were the mosques and other religious places in Pakistan safe before 9/11? Or weren't people already being killed in the name of ridding the society of "evil" and making people "good" Muslims? What 9/11 did was to bring home to the extremists the usefulness of suicide blasts as a method of large-scale slaughter. It didn't sow the seeds of terrorism, because they had been sown years before.

Then there is the widespread but erroneous view that terrorists, particularly when they target a place of religious significance, aren't Muslims and that it's the work of foreign forces, which are antagonistic to Islam as well as Pakistan, because it is the sole Muslim nuclear state. Thus, though people are shocked and shaken when terrorists strike at mosques and shrines, they can hardly bring themselves to believing that such a heinous act can be perpetrated by Muslims.

While the involvement of foreign forces in the acts of terrorism carried out on our soil can't be brushed aside, they are, if they are doing so, simply fishing in troubled waters. The hell in which we are is our own creation. Denying that terrorists are part of our society hasn't done us any good and will do us no good, because the denial implies that the cause of the malady is not within but without. If we can't diagnose the malady, we can never treat it.

While religious places are of tremendous symbolic significance, acts of terrorism no matter where they take place or who's the victim should be run down with equal force, otherwise those who defend or remain indifferent to one act of terrorism will find themselves at the receiving end another time. Everyone who is in an inferno is condemned to burn sooner or later. Therefore, instead of labouring under the delusion that the fire wouldn't burn us, we should try to put it out.

We'll also do ourselves and the generations to follow a big favour if we cast aside the notion, which has gained wide currency, that our country was meant to be a citadel of Islam and that it's the responsibility of the government and people of Pakistan to be at the beck and call of Muslim resistance movements wherever they spring up. Yes, we do have become a fortress but only of militancy. At any rate, it makes little sense for a country, which is prey to the diabolical forces of religious extremism and terrorism and addicted to foreign aid, to come out with such lofty claims.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi@gmail. com







It is alarming to note that a dirty game is playing out against Pakistan where some Pakistanis in powerful places are colluding with outsiders to damage the country from the inside. The US military operation on 2nd May near Islamabad was launched from Afghanistan but could not have been possible without internal collusion on several levels. What was supposed to be a joint Pakistani-American victory was hijacked at the last minute and turned into a demonisation campaign against Pakistan and its military and intelligence. There is a fair amount of legitimate suspicion that some pro-American elements in Pakistan conspired with parts of the US government to exclude ISI and the military from the final decision to target the Al-Qaeda terror chief.

These are serious accusations and could have a far-reaching impact domestically and on the future of our relationship with a duplicitous ally in Washington.

The United States intelligence sleuths have created a fog of deliberate confusion over what should have been a straight story: Crucial and critical intelligence from Pakistan and the United States succeeding in pinpointing the location of the Al-Qaeda terror chief. ISI gave decisive leads on the trusted courier of Bin Laden. The CIA and the US military put together a plan to take him out. By virtue of the more advanced American surveillance technology, Washington filled in the gaps and sealed Bin Laden's fate.

But what happened after that truly shows the dangerous levels of anti-Pakistanism in some parts of the US establishment. It also shows how willing some powerful Pakistanis are to cooperate with outsiders against their own. In other words: the 2nd May operation was turned into a one-sided American victory. The CIA simultaneously ratcheted up the anti-Pakistan pitch, using assets in US media and politics, to shatter the reputation and image of Pakistani military among its own.

This by no means excludes our military from the blame. The blame here lies both on those in government who issued visas to thousands of CIA mercenaries into the country, which allowed CIA to bypass our military, and also on the Pakistani military that has tolerated and at times accepted dangerous and unprecedented foreign intrusion.

As people at different levels of government probe what happened, some disturbing questions are coming up: How many knew in advance about the 2nd May operation? Who facilitated it and at what levels? Did some Pakistanis help the Americans in neutralising Pakistan's radar system without consulting the military hierarchy? Does the CIA spy network inside Pakistan extend to elements within our military, in addition to our civilian organs, and to what extent?

For example, it was disturbing to see Pakistan's envoy to Washington joining the anti-military campaign by adopting the US propaganda line that our focus on the Indian threat, which is serious and real, is the reason why we 'failed' in discovering Bin Laden's whereabouts. There is also the complete refusal of the Pakistani government to: One, condemn why the CIA didn't take ISI along in the final victory and two, intrude into Pakistan without taking us aboard and, three, disseminate baseless propaganda about the trustworthiness of Pakistani military when the lead to Bin Laden's courier came from Pakistani intelligence.

The US version of what happened contains parts that are meant to mislead our military and our investigators. The radar jamming story partially hides the existence of Pakistanis, some maybe in powerful places, who covertly helped US Seals travel deep into Pakistan and execute a mission so close to our federal capital and major nearby installations.

When the foreign secretary and army chief finally faced the media, a series of unnecessary blunders continued. First there was the unnecessary and exaggerated self-criticism for our alleged intelligence failure. When we contributed major parts of the intelligence that finally led to Bin Laden, how is it a failure? CIA failed to catch the 19 hijackers and let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora, but we don't see this level of hyper self-criticism and guilt as our American friends are trying to whip up now.

We caught 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the Pakistani military. Did that mean we were sheltering him?

It is fair to conclude that CIA and US administration are using this twisted logic to target the ISI and the Pakistani military, which has long been a US and Indian objective.

Instead of 'admitting' failure, it was better for the army chief to object to CIA hijacking a joint victory and turning it into a one-sided victory and a one-sided attack on our military and ISI. And we could have certainly done without our foreign secretary quoting US national security adviser to confirm to our media that we did scramble some fighter jets in the end. The weak media management capabilities of our civilian and military bureaucracies are breathtaking.

What is emerging now is very nasty. The joint success was hijacked by CIA and instead of congratulating Pakistan – which is what President Obama and Secretary Clinton did initially – the whole story is being manipulated by CIA to target Pakistan's military.

The writer works for Geo television.Email:







Since the establishment of Pakistan, we have been following the so-called "democratic" system in our country. Due to the illiteracy of the masses and our cultural traditions, this system has not delivered and is a bitter failure for us.

Unfortunately, this system, which works so well in developed countries, with their high literacy rate and good grasp and understanding of problems at hand, totally fails in developing and underdeveloped countries. Indian writer Khushwant Singh once quipped that it was a cruel joke that a person of Dr Manmohan Singh's stature lost the election, while Phoolan Devi, the "dacoit queen," won it.

In Western and developed countries where democracy flourishes, not only is the literacy rate high but there are also only three or four political parties. Once elections are over, results come out quickly and people accept them as they know there was no hanky panky involved. Should there be any differences, the battle is fought out in parliament. We have the example of George Bush. He would surely have lost to Al Gore in the 2000 elections had the Supreme Court (where many judges had been appointed by Bush Sr.) not stopped the recounting of votes in the last state. Even though the Supreme Court was biased and the stakes were high, there were no demonstrations, no strikes and no law-and-order situation. Everything went smoothly and one did not hear a word of complaint from Al Gore.

In Pakistan democracy was murdered and buried forever by Ghulam Mohammad in the early 1950s. Since then, democracy has only been on paper and we have been witnessing corrupt personal rule, where sycophants have a heyday. Unfortunately, contrary to our strict religious edicts, judges and the judiciary were also part and parcel of this dirty game. It has been the same game from Ghulam Mohammad down to the present day, with sometimes a cosmetic touch to make things look a bit better. The rulers never bothered about the worries and troubles of the public. Parliament functioned as a rubberstamp and opposition parties played the dirty game of "friendly opposition." Forget the plight of the common man for the time being; let's worry about the plight of the Supreme Court. Its orders are blatantly flouted and scoffed at.

We tend to make much propaganda about democracy, but the bottom line is that no political party is functioning on democratic principles. It is more like a personal fiefdom and an individual's kingdom with leadership handed down the family line. Whoever dared to differ from the boss became an outcast immediately – his or her career in the party doomed forever.

Look at democracy and the "supremacy" of our parliament. The elected members unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the US stop the drone attacks, which are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent citizens in the tribal areas. But the resolution was thrown into the dustbin. A country with a population of 180 million, with operational nuclear weapons and an efficient delivery system, with an army eating up most of the national resources, has been reduced to a banana republic looked down upon by everyone, including our so-called friends. Those at the helm of affairs enjoy life and make foreign pleasure trips. Many people talk of revolution, but the biggest hurdle to this is the heterogeneous nature of our nation. Who knows, someday a redeemer may arise and save us from ignominy and destruction, as Quaid-e-Azam did decades ago.

The public has no say in state affairs and they have become mere spectators. The ruling parties, together with the opposition, have devised clever tactics to fool the people. The opposition makes fiery speeches, then sits down with the rulers and an understanding and compromise is announced. The result is that the public gets five slaps instead of 10 – but slaps all the same.

The opposition follows the clever tactic of boycotting voting, thus giving unanimous approval to government activities. The same was done by Russia and China in the Security Council to allow the Western countries to destroy Libya. The self-proclaimed democracy-saver – the N League – is lending support to a totally incapable, inefficient and corrupt government. The PPP may be the root cause of all evil in the country, but the opposition are no angels; they are part and parcel of it.

Whenever someone talks of midterm elections, it comes as a bombshell to all the political parties. Nobody wants elections, as it would disrupt their money-making activities and their looting. The fact is that such elections have often strengthened democracy in all developed countries. We have seen recent examples of this in Japan, Australia and Canada, where midterm elections have shown results in accordance with public aspirations, thus strengthening the democratic process.

The ignorant and illiterate rulers claim that technocrats do not know the problems of the people. Tell me please, if those who live with the people do not know what the problems are, then how can those sitting in bunkers, who don't dare come out and mix with the people, know better? Rulers should know that technocrats are trained to look at problems from various angles and to find solutions quickly and economically. Prosperity and progress in all developed countries is thanks to the achievements of their technocrats. It is technocrat whose hard work enables our corrupt rulers to enjoy luxurious living, make foreign trips, use expensive cars and amass huge assets. My colleagues and I gave this country an invincible defence system by producing enough functional nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Now, who is having a good time: the rulers or we? But in a country that is ruled by fraudsters, liars, holders of fake degrees and the corrupt, who is there to appreciate the importance of technocrats? The present disastrous situation in the country is a reflection of non-technocrats' incompetence.

In short, in a backward, underdeveloped and illiterate country like ours, democracy is a facade, a hollow slogan, a deception. It would be more appropriate to have direct presidential elections by popular vote. This would protect the president from blackmail by political parties and enable her/him to select competent people from any party to run the country, rather than having to appoint sycophants. Elected representatives could then concentrate on formulating and enacting laws to run the country properly and efficiently for the betterment of the people. This also fits in with our psyche of listening to one "ruler" as in the days of the Caliphs. The present system, this so-called democracy and the "democratic" rulers will, sooner or later, totally destroy this country and go abroad to enjoy their looted wealth.








ISI, the elite wing of the armed forces of Pakistan, has been an eye sour for the United States and many others for the last few years as it zealously protected and served the vital national interests. At one point of time, US through its machinations almost succeeded in getting it under a civilian set up and make it toothless when a shocking notification was issued to place it under the Interior Ministry but that was not going to happen and the conspiracy was foiled with straightforward approach by the concerned quarters.

Since then a periodical tirade of allegations of one sort or the other had followed against it as the CIA used the powerful western media to publish and air the propaganda against the prime intelligence agency, feared most by the adversaries. The incident of Abbottabad, which is still shrouded in mystery, provided an opportunity for a full blast tirade against it and this time the head of ISI, the veteran General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who has emerged as an upright, truly professional and a brave soldier playing a critical role for the security of the country is the main target. General Pasha enjoys a unique respect not only in the security circles but also among the people of Pakistan, for his forthright stance to safeguard the interests of Pakistan in the face of all sorts of pressures. He is being targeted for specific purpose and the western media has gone to the extent that his resignation has been demanded. According to American newspapers reports, the US government has demanded the identities of some of the top Pakistani intelligence operatives to determine whether any of them had contact with Osama bin Laden or his agents in the years before the raid. That is too much and in no way Pakistani authorities disclose the names of our top spies as that would amount to leaking out of top secrets. One expects that with the passage of time the tirade would be further mounted against the ISI. It is now clear that the leads to the courier and the phone number were provided by ISI to CIA and in fact it was the CIA that violated the understanding of sharing of intelligence. The CIA also did not inform Pakistan of hiring a house near the compound of bin Laden and using modern intelligence tools without informing the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Though it is understood that in no way the government and the leadership would submit to the US demand as it cannot afford to do so but even then we would like to warn that if Pakistan yields, then it should know that today it is General Pasha, tomorrow they may ask for General Kayani himself. We would emphasise that at this point of time armed forces are the stabilizing factor and perhaps the only check against the crumbling down of Pakistan. Therefore in no way the government even pay attention to demands which can compromise Pakistan's security and sovereignty.








PRIME Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani is to take the nation into confidence in an address to the Parliament today about the circumstances that led to the secret US raid in Abbottabad. The decision was taken at a meeting between the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief of Army Staff on Saturday during which they also comprehensively reviewed the post-Abbottabad situation especially with regard to Pakistan's national security and foreign policy and its future relations with the United States.

Doubts are being created in the minds of the people about the presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and as to why the US did not inform Pakistan about the operation in advance. In this scenario, the Prime Minister will need to do more than taking the nation and the parliament into confidence. He will have to place all the cards on the table and the background, the cooperation extended by Pakistan in the search for Osama bin Laden and other high value targets of al-Qaida as mere rhetoric would not satisfy the parliamentarians and the nation. We intend to emphasise that the raid by the US in Abbottabad has created a grim situation and it is turning point in our history after the 1971 debacle. Not only the whole facts about search of Osama bin Laden be placed before the parliament but also other secret cooperation extended to the US be made public in order to expose the CIA propaganda that some elements in the ISI might be providing shelter to him. People would also like to know as to why the violation of the air space could not be noticed and the reason for late arrival of security agencies after the departure of the Americans. At the same time it is time to galvanize, inspire and gel the nation together to face the critical situation. There is great potential in the nation and people realize the situation where Pakistan is caught up today. Therefore every one including the common man, the media and above all the political parties must realize the gravity and instead of point scoring, work to unite the nation to confront the challenges by standing like a solid rock.






THE country is facing the problem of rising inflation and despite several measures including increase in interest rate by the State Bank of Pakistan, it is not coming down. According to figures released by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI) registered an increase of 0.06 percent during the previous week.

Though hike in inflation is an international and regional phenomenon but its impact in Pakistan is much higher and it is around 16 percent now despite the fact that certain consumer items including wheat flour recorded some decrease in prices. People are suffering from price hike and it appears that the Government is totally oblivious of the problem because those in the higher income scale are affected to the minimum. With new wheat crop in the market, flour prices have shown downward trend alongwith some of the seasonable vegetables but the transportation cost has gone up with monthly increase in prices of POL products. Similarly the tariff of electricity is being increased almost every month and thus the production cost goes up. What is worrisome is that there is no effective mechanism to check the prices of essential items and their transportation cost. Transporters and the industries are free to raise the prices and charge according to their free will and ultimately it is the poor consumers who suffer. We would impress upon the Federal and Provincial Governments to strengthen the system to check the prices of consumer items as well as take action against those who indulge in hoarding and blackmarketing in order to give some relief to the consumers.









The country is facing serious economic crisis, low income groups and the middle class are crushed under the rising prices. There is strong public sentiment against foreign aid. The most burning issue these days the coming budget will be able to satisfy even the most elementary demands of the public – to control prices, do away with energy crisis which has paralyzed our industry as well as agriculture – pumping water from the wells is affected, tractors cannot move, mechanical harvesting is handicapped, daily wage earner is facing unemployment. In this situation, problem is from where will come more money we need to face the coming graver economic situation.?

Traditional sources who pay income tax are the low income groups, wage earners, salaried class, or the low and well to do middle classes, and some business houses and industries but not as much as they should. The traditional tax paying public cannot be mad to eke out any more in these abnormal times.

The filthy rich of the country, the wadera, the land baron, the high and mighty of the country do not pay income tax The published accounts of Declaration of Assets and Taxes paid by the Members of the Parliament have proved this as a fact or confession of the political bosses.. It is now imperative that new sources of income tax are made to pay the income tax they should pay. Can this down and out group be made to pay income taxes? The problem is that the Parliament is controlled by these filthy rich political or land barons, they dominate the Cabinets, they pull the string in the country to get their way. Pakistan is not democracy because common men does not get elected, does not become ministers etc. Pakistan is the rule of filthy rich. This why about four crores or forty million bogus votes were got cast in the last General Elections on the results of which the rulers boast of "public's mandate" given to them, incidentally to do whatever their sweet wishes want

These problems could have been managed if the incumbent Government was not worried for its survival because it did not have majority in the House. Its coalition partner too are interested to have their share in the spoils and the seats in the cabinets. - ministers are only dealing wheeling persons with no technical knowledge. The country's problems are left to nincompoop politicians. .There are no scientists, no energy experts, no economist etc. So public money is used to buy political support, not welfare projects.

The big hole in the budget is the inordinate expenditure on the present Government .It is the costliest government in Pakistan's history. Even after allowing for the fall in the value of the Rupee, comparing the expense on previous Presidents and Prime Ministers one would be shocked at the geometric progression of the expenditure on their present incumbents, their staff, their entertainment allowance, the cost of upkeep of their residences, on their trips abroad, their overseas medical treatments , etc .With my apologies hundred times, they live the life of the most lavishly living Graet Mughal , for their have been frugal Great Mughals like Emperor Aurangzeb, whose income was limited to his selling caps stitched by him and writing of the Holy Quran he caligraphed. Coming to Pakistan's own example, will somebody compare the strength of the Quaid's, Liaquat's , "military dictator" Ayub's , Zia's. personal staff with present day's president and prime minister. There is need for drastic reduction in the budget – drastic means reducing expenditure of the big shots of the Government to the bare minimum , say by about sixty per cent at least.

The trips abroad of the high ups should be far and few in between I would suggest that the Finance Minister hunt out from the archives the study made by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1965/66 under the instructions of then Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to submit proposals on " What can we do to live without American aid , and specific proposals in this regard." . I have drawn attention to this report many times but no avail..I saw it in 1966 on my return from Tokyo assignment when I took over as Director General , Policy Planning in the Foreign Office. One of the points in the questions ZAB had posed was about curtailing to send delegations to international conferences. It was suggested in that Report that we should use the nearest Pak embassies to represent/negotiate in such cases. Please search out this document and act on it. Even then, if President or PM has to visit a foreign country, their entourages should emulate the examples of 'military dictator' Ayub Khan who took only a delegation of four or five to his state visits, say to France, or of Liaquat Ali Khan whose delegation to US was limited to Begum Liaquat- a former Professor of Economics and founder – President of APWA- and Foreign Secretary Mr. Ikramullah . Our embassy in Washington provided Service staff, its Military Attaché, Brigadier Raza as PM's Military Secretary, local embassy's Press Minister as his press officer etc Prof A.S. Bokhari, then Pak Representative to UN was PM's speech writer .. An Embassy is meant to provide such services abroad to high delegations from its country. ZAB had the Report prepared on how to live within our own means when America had applied sanctions on Pakistan during 1965 India-Pak War. I read this Report in 1967 on return from Tokyo to be a D.G in the Foreign Office. It was quite a lengthy document. Our high ups are billionaire and multi-millionaire and do not need huge public funds to maintain themselves They can satisfy their wandering lust on their own expenses also Summit level discussions are not routine matters It is once a while when they are required They are not meant for good will or signing routine business agreements. Normal negotiations is the work of the ambassador or at most of the concerned minister.

With due apologies to those concerned, I would say that the greatest hole in our economy is the lavish spending of the incumbent regime all round. I may be forgiven for my impudence to point out these facts only in national interest May I say that the words economizing on spending. public money, or "financial proprietary", do not exist in the dictionary of the high and mighty.. May I have the "audacity" to say that the present regime has removed the distinction between expenditure on party purposes and government expenditure.

There is feather bedding in the Government departments. .Persons are appointed whether required or not, whether they have the technical qualifications or not in jobs just to please party workers. They are stuffed at all levels from high up to the lowest level .The government employees are several times more than needed. Now we have in the new coalition government ten more ministers and same number of ministers of state due to . Political bargaining no doubt but unnecessary stuffing. Now otherwise too government posts are created for political favorites,. Favoritism and nepotism are order of the day more than in other countries practiced by other political parties as well but not so much..

It is obvious that in the present situation, we will not be able to produce an innovative budget moving the country towards self reliance Again we would be depending heavily on foreign aid. Pity the Government had to pay a heavy price for the new shaky coalition .Finance Minister's hands will be tied as usual.







America's military men who conceived, planned and executed Operation 'Geronimo' (Abbot Abad attack) deserve highest recognition for their professional competence. This brilliant operation will always be bracketed with its other prestigious cousins like Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (1941), Israel's hostage rescue operation from Entebee (1976), attack on Iraqi nuclear reactor by Israeli (1981) etc. For decades, this operation shall be critically analysed at exalted military training institutions. Such operations are few and far between and they leave lasting scars for those on whose soil these are executed. Americans are yet to forget their "Pearl Harbour." It is unfortunate that Osama was in Pakistan and such a humiliating mission was conducted on Pakistani soil. Pride of a common Pakistani stands severely bruised. At the same time, this mission shall always be cited by the international jurists as precedent of blatant violation of the UN charter and international norms.

Not withstanding the marvels by the boys at arms, Osama's dramatic demise is likely to raise as many questions as it may be able to answer. It appears that mission was designed to proclaim Osama as dead with no provision for capturing him alive. Indecent haste in which his body was deposed off in the sea would always keep a question mark on the authenticity of the event. Given previous assertions of death of Osama, it would have been in the fitness of the things to arrange at least a transparent funeral if not a befitting burial for him. Orchestration of the event has generated an impression as if previously occurred death has been regularised through a well planned action to create an aura of "Mission Accomplished," prior to drawdown. Marine Colonel Bob Pappas has been saying for years, that death of Osama might have taken places at Tora Bora on December 13, 2001, or any time later, as many such claimants have been postulating. One understands that conflicts like Afghanistan don't end in neat; they do not give decisive victories for either side. And face saving extrication out of such wars is not an easy task; at times it involves gimmicks of the sorts.

Initial comments by President Obama and Hillary Clinton were prudent and well thought out; both acknowledged Pakistan's cooperation in the event. Our political leadership joyously jumped the bandwagon to take the credit, as if it was a joint Pak-US venture. Nevertheless, real punch was to come from CIA chief Leon Panetta's venomous assertion that they kept Islamabad out of the loop on the operation because it could jeopardise the Abbott Abad operation and "might alert the targets." Panetta indeed came out in the true colours of an "Ugly American". Too eager to deny even an iota of credit to his arch competitor ISI, Panetta went ballistic to the extent of embarrassing President Obama by contradicting his statement. He did it earlier also when he made Obama go public on the issue of diplomatic immunity of Raymond Davis.

Of now, Panetta has settled his score with ISI which was overdue since rubbing of his nose in the dirt in case of Raymond Davis fiasco. In his fervour, has also dismantled the strategic gain by irreparably rupturing the alliance of the world's two finest intelligence outfits; whether he has the last laugh is yet to be seen. With likes of Panetta around, terrorist outfits do not need much else to survive and thrive. Strategic impact of this significant event was lost too rapidly. Instead of strengthening the relationship between the US and Pakistan, it turned out to be another Pakistan bashing spree. In the absence of any meaningful post mission brief, media in both the countries went bizarre; anchors were too keen to scale new heights of speculative reporting and mudslinging.

Pakistan's military leadership chose to stonewall for over three days; that gave credence to the speculations that it is not on the same page with the political leadership. No one requisitioned the session of parliament; battalions of new ministers kept taking oath. Interactions with Americans continued uninterrupted as if nothing had happened. It was indeed a strategic collapse of Pakistani leadership that left the masses in a lurch; literally no one to turn to for a factual picture, also no one was there to provide a healing touch to a common Pakistani, whose ego had been severely hurt. During this tenure of information void, rumours were rife as if political leadership had entered onto some understanding with Washington while circumventing the military leadership and had covertly permitted the conduct of operation.

If Panetta is right and the entire operation was a unilateral action by America, those responsible for military response to such intrusions will have to answer many questions. And as it has been conceded that it was an intelligence failure, ISI will have to work very hard to clear this ugly blot. A majority of Americans approve of President Obama in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Event of this magnitude was bound to create a spike in Obama's approval rating; however, this is not the beginning of the end of al Qaeda. Despite huge symbolic loss, Osama's death does not present an existential threat to the movement. In all probability, al Qaeda will not die with him. More than a physical entity, al Qaeda is now a mindset and unless the causes leading to this mindset are addressed, the trouble would go on.

As expected paper tigers of India are getting primed to claim credit that they could also emulate American action. Indian Army Chief, General VK Singh, said Indian armed forces were "competent" to carry out a similar operation. "I would like to say only this that if such a chance comes, then all the three arms (of the military) are competent to do this," Singh told reporters. Indian Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, also joined the melee by saying that India has the capability to carry out such surgical strikes against terrorists. He said, "India can do it." Rhetoric apart, hopefully Indian services chiefs know the limitations of the forces they command. They need to take a cue from their Home Minster who was more realistic in his approach. He conceded that India could not replicate the American performance, he said: "I'll tell you why, "We don't have our forces on Pakistani soil. We are not invited there. We don't have any support from Pakistan. We are both nuclear weapons states."

Home Minister's point was carried forth by a budding Indian strategist who wrote anonymously on one of India's defence related blog: "The Pakistan government will agree to US strikes but not Indian because we are rivals. They will definitely engage us if we intrude into their airspace." Indian strategist community has widely questioned whether India had the capacity to do so. India is not America, certainly it also does not have the capability but it is suffering from an acute superpower complex. It tends to sleep walk American trajectories. It is likely to be tempted to behave in a similar way. Undoubtedly, in case of such misadventure India shall court a disaster. Those responsible to generate response to Indian misadventure surely know their job very well.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.








Whilst Pakistan is being grilled for the presence of Osma Bin Laden (OBL) right under the nose of its one of the prestigious military academy in Abbotabad, no one recalls US failure in stopping the tragic incident of 9/11, with its sophisticated information devices and world's top class spying network in the form of CIA and FBI. Surely, 9/11 cannot be taken as an excuse for the lapse of information about the world's most wanted man in Pakistan. However, the compound, which was in the use of OBL, was after all a civilian locality, and had there been Pakistani involvement, it could have been guarded or the target could not have been kept there for so many years or months as being claimed variously. As Pakistan could not have the wind of OBL, US could not have a single feeling of the Arab pilots who flew the US aircrafts to attack the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, a symbol of American national defence and security.

Now after killing of OBL by US Navy SEAL, without taking Pakistani authorities into confidence, there arise many questions about the mutual distrust between these two unequal allies. Until now, no one could have thought that such an operation would ever be undertaken on Pakistani soil without the prior permission or at least information of Pakistan. However, the repeated denial by the Pakistani defence authorities and Government of Pakistan has made the people to believe this unbelievable. Furthermore, the CIA Director, Leon Panetta, has made it absolutely clear that, CIA did not share the operational details with Pakistan, as it could have compromised the target.

Indeed, this statement is sufficient to weigh the level of trust US has on its junior partner; Pakistan, which has been used for the cause of latter throughout during its independent history. As per Pakistani Military officials, "it was the ISI which had initially provided a lead on Osama in the shape of cell phone details of his most trusted courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, which the CIA pursued and developed." Unfortunately CIA did not share the details with ISI, and later upon getting confirmation decided to kill OBL, unilaterally, without taking ISI into confidence. This is perhaps the reward of the sacrifices of Pakistan gave in the form of over 33,000 killings of its people including a vast majority of security forces personnel. Besides, there are thousands who received injuries and disabilities as a result of bomb blasts, suicide attacks and other acts of terrorism, caused because of Pakistan's blind support to US actions, in the so called US war on terror.

Mr Leon Panetta, while indicating his dismay over Pakistani intelligence setup, perhaps forgot that it was indeed, Pakistani intelligence "which for the want of American government tracked down, captured and handed over to US authorities some of the top leaders of al-Qaeda, like; Saudi-born Palestinian Abu Zubaida, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. US could have remembered that none of these had committed any crime in Pakistan. Likewise, Pakistani intelligence setup played a very vital role in the investigation of the London bombings. In fact, Pakistan Army and Pakistani people are paying a price for helping Americans in catching America's enemies, a war that had no concern with Pakistan? As a result of these ill conceived policies where Pak Army has been hunting the US enemies, America has today become a safer palace, but, Pakistan has become an unsafe country. Its people, security installations, defence personal police and the country's streets, bazaars, and even shrines and mosques have became target of terrorists. Had there been attempts on the lives of US Presidents, its senior military leadership as it has happened in Pakistan. Therefore, like every ungrateful American, Mr Leon Panetta thought that, he too should express his inner before embarking onto another important assignment in the US hierarchy as a Secretary Defence.

Like every Pakistani, the top leadership of the country was also taken aback in the aftermath of the operation. Whereas the belated response of the Prime Minister is expected on May 9, 2011, in the National Assembly, the leadership of Pakistan Army gathered in GHQ on May 5, 2011 to ponder on its current strategy and future course of action.

The Army Chief, General Kayani, has ordered an inquiry to find out the lapses in the surveillance of OBL and US helicopters flights leading to the successful operation by US Navy SEAL. General kayani however, made it clear that, "any similar action, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan, will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the US." During the meeting of the Corps Commanders, it was reassured that, there is no possibility of any such like act against our nuclear arsenals. It is said that, "As regards the possibility of similar hostile action against our strategic assets, the forum reaffirmed that unlike an undefended civilian compound, our strategic assets are well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place." Regarding the statement of Indian Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, Chief of Army Staff, categorically said that, "Any misadventure of this kind will be responded to very strongly. There should be no doubt about it." Military top brass has also demanded the US to reduce its military personnel from the Pakistani soil.

Although upon the killing of OBL, US President Barack Obama said that this is "the most significant achievement to date in our nation's efforts to defeat al-Qaeda." But the question arises; whether; this death would end the Al-Qaeda's global agenda and would the US so-called war on terror will also end. US may have a tactical benefit at least to give satisfaction to its domestic audience, who indeed had started questioning the authorities about indefinite engagement of its Armed Forces in Afghanistan. So far U.S has been receiving the coffins boxes of their loved one since 2001. U.S authorities have failed so far in giving the solid and logical proof of the OBL's death. The authorities have yet not released any video or the photographs of the operations, making the event as suspicious.

Analysts believe that, the incident may give a kick start to Obama's electioneering campaign, but, mature people of US would ask for a real evidence of OBL's killing, failure to which, it may become embossment for the Obama Administration in the days to come. The people of Pakistan have lot of questions from the Government. The top most is; when would we be able to safeguard our sovereignty? Let us reassess our relationship with countries like US; that has used us for their purpose and then threw us in the dustbin of the history. Let there be an end to it and start thinking safeguarding our national interests and sovereignty, before it is too late.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.








The Doomsday theorists and the ignorant anti-American elements in Pakistan have become over-active after the showdown in Abbottabad. Suddenly, they are back into action with their I-told-you-so rabble rousing posture and are trying to galvanize the citizens into a universal condemnation of not only Washington but also the civilian leadership and the military hierarchy of the country. President Obama is being considered as a re-incarnate of the younger Bush while all hell is being let loose on the two well-protected high rollers safely ensconced in Islamabad. The brave among this inciting crowd, all the more fortified by the drawing room analysts and pseudo-democrats, are out to get the scalps of the two Generals who had their tenures extended.

The Formation Commanders made the right noises by warning the White House, in fact, warning the world not to attempt such an adventure again inside Pakistan's territory. There was the usual talk about ending the drone "culture", reduction in the number of Americans moving all over this nation, and threatening to "review" cooperation between Pentagon and Rawalpindi. Hallelujah. It reminds one of the classic Peter Sellers' movie The Mouse That Roared. It may play well in maybe Gujranwala.

However, what is missing in all this wailing and blaming is that no one has seriously considered the impact this draconian adventure would have on Pakistan's tottering economy. Come next fiscal year, there is going to be a fundamental shift in the nation's budget planning and revenue expectations. The Finance Minister and his jolly band went to IMF with a structured begging bowl but the high priests sitting in the citadel of this institution showed them unusual courtesy by escorting them out the exit door sans any largesse. State Bank of Pakistan big boys have put their hands up in desperation that inflation is still an uncontrolled albatross around the economy. The euphoria in Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and in the minds of less knowledgeable spin-doctors of the ruling party that the export figures would be at all-time high, based on the extraordinary performance of the raw cotton and spinning sector is fizzling out sooner than expected. Half of the spinning mills are switching off their machines because all of a sudden the global demand went poof.

The Finance Ministry officials transformed the Ministry from being a facilitator to trade and industry by playing their own version of contract bridge by considering themselves as "us" and the businessmen as "they". When there was genuine opposition to the introduction of the macabre Reformed General Sales Tax, some hare-brained official came out with the asinine proposal to get the country's President to issue three Ordinances as part of the Plan 'B' conjured up by minions in Federal Board of Revenue. Lo and behold. The trade and industry representatives got these officials on the carpet and within no time, the Ordinances became stale jokes.

The Federal Budget is due on May 28 and the energetic but elusive Finance Minister will again attempt to teach the Parliamentarians a lesson or two in Economics 101. He has already received a bagful of help from the Presidency who outmaneuvered seasoned politicians and got them to do the tango with him. The budget would be approved but at what cost? Is the country ready to bear the ramifications of what the good Senator Doctor Sheikh has in store for the 175 million denizens? Would it be an ingenious financial vision or would it be dictated orders from IMF and other International Finance Institutions? The answer would be certain when the dust clears on the last Saturday of this month.

Should one recount what is happening on the physical infrastructure scene? Very casually and without fanfare, the nation is now short of 7000 mw of power. Very brazenly, the natural gas people unilaterally decree that gas would not be available for industries and CNG Stations. Those who decide at what cost Pakistanis would get petrol ritualistically but forcefully announce that petrol, diesel, and other petroleum products would now cost an arm and a leg.

The reason why this economic picture is being presented is to bring to the fore the very fact that the OBL episode has come at a very delicate time for Pakistan. The billions spent on the Global War on Terror by this cash-starved nation, the fabulous military victories in eliminating terrorists and extremists from the wild, wild north of the country, and the confidence reposed in the valiant forces by Pakistanis have suddenly burst like a pin pricked balloon. The general feeling was that inspite of the difficulties people faced on the economic front, it was essential and crucial that the Armed Forces were provided with everything to protect and secure the borders and the strategic assets.

This confidence in the Armed Forces must not be allowed to wane. Pakistanis must continue to support and encourage the brave forces. The entire Defense establishment must learn whatever lessons it has to learn and must carry forward. Demagogues and Fifth Columnists must be ignored and should not be given prominence by the electronic and print media.

There should not be despondency and blame-game either within the forces or among the politicians. Dejection at this stage will ruin the country by hampering its economic progress. This is the time for all decision makers to sit with the mainstream businessmen and industrialists to get the country out of this economic quagmire. The Pakistan Business Council attempted to get the politicians to sit with them at the same table and discuss the economic agenda. A noble step, but it did not create any waves because mainstream trade and industry representatives were excluded while third or fourth tier nominees from the political parties came to Serena in Islamabad to make the usual pompous statements. (Incidentally, this writer had proposed such an All-Parties Conference while taking part in a PTV program hosted by Dr Huma Baqai a couple of months back. So, credit to PBC for following it up and spending money to get politicians together).

The impact of the OBL drama would not be as damaging to the country as propagated by many analysts. This is not the time to strain relations with USA and other Western countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has offered a comfort zone to Pakistan. Assurances are coming from Foggy Bottom as well as from Capitol Hill that Pakistan would be supported and that Pakistan needs maximum cooperation from Washington. This is the time for the government and even the Armed Forces to ensure that American financial assistance is not squandered away and also that Pakistan should be provided all facilities to procure smart defense technology to continue its frontline role in exterminating terrorists and extremists from this country. Emphasis should be on foreigners who have created havoc by assuming the role of so-called Jihadis. The Saudi Arabian, Sudanese, Egyptian, and the Chechen Jihadi elements must be declared persona non grata and their native countries be forced to take them back.

The recent positive outcome of the talks between the Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi and the Commerce Secretaries in Islamabad and Bhurban will open new vistas of economic cooperation not only between the two countries but among all SAARC nations. This is a breath of fresh air and the expectations are positive and beneficial for Pakistan. Furthermore, there is expectation of foreign investment not only from India but also from other countries. This is the time to invite massive investment in minerals exploration, in information technology, and in livestock. These would create jobs and pump up the economy.

Pakistan cannot afford to be strangled by the OBL opera. Once lessons are learnt, once accountability has ended, and once the nation's skies are really made impregnable, the concentration should be on the economy. The most unpatriotic thing a citizen can do at this juncture is to be persistent in carping about the capability and competency of the Armed Forces while at the same time, all those who are neglecting efforts to rejuvenate the economy are guilty of the same crime too. This is the ideal time to say "YES" to the Founder's motto: Unity, Faith, and Discipline. By the way, what happened to Pakistan First?

—The writer is former President KCCI.








As Americans celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, there is a risk we will exaggerate his importance in death as we did in life. While bin Laden presided over al-Qaeda's rise in the 1990s and early 2000s, just as important, he presided over its growing irrelevance. In recent years, al-Qaeda, while retaining its ability to wreak havoc, has become an increasingly marginal actor on the Arab stage.

The Arab Spring, particularly the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, discredited the notion that real change could come only through violence. In 18 days of demonstrations, Egypt's protesters were able to do something few had thought possible — peacefully overthrow a repressive, hated regime.

In the early weeks of the uprisings, al-Qaeda remained quiet, seemingly unsure how, or even if, it could spin events to its advantage. The protesters, after all, were not calling for the establishment of an Islamic state, attacks on the United States, or ending the peace treaty with Israel. They were calling for freedom and democracy. It wasn't always this way. The attacks of 9/11 seemed, at least for a time, an unlikely victory for a group that few Americans had ever heard of before. Al-Qaeda had launched a decisive blow against the world's superpower. In so doing, it established itself as a leader of resistance and rode the wave of Arab anti-Americanism.

In elevating al-Qaeda to a threat to a Western civilization — something it never was — the Bush administration fell into a trap, allowing Middle East extremists to define its policy agenda. The Iraq war, Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. use of torture were all, to varying degrees, justified as necessary to win the war on terror. These distortions in American policy led to distortions in the Arab response. In a time when many Arabs sympathized with bin Laden's aims if not his methods, al-Qaeda managed to gain mainstream credibility and popularity.

According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, in 2003, confidence in Osama bin Laden reached a high of 61% in Jordan, 59% in Indonesia and 72% in the Palestinian territories. Though al-Qaeda could destroy, however, it could not build. In its unwillingness and inability to offer anything resembling a constructive vision for change, al-Qaeda gradually descended back into irrelevance. Its gruesome attacks in places such as Jordan and Iraq alienated supporters. Meanwhile, the group's operational capabilities suffered under unrelenting U.S. pressure, with many of its leaders captured or killed.

Today, ordinary Arabs are fighting and dying for something — freedom — bin Laden and his followers would take away if they had the chance. For the first time in decades, the future of the Arab world seems to offer genuine promise. By 2011, support for bin Laden plummeted to all-time lows. In Jordan and Palestine, the drop was a striking 43 and 38 percentage points, respectively.

It is no accident that several of the autocratic regimes that claimed to be bulwarks against al-Qaeda are themselves falling. Dictators and terrorists were, in many respects, two sides of the same coin, needing each other to justify inhumane acts. This, one can only hope, is the Arab world of the past. In newly democratizing Egypt, even bin Laden's ideological fellow travellers — the Salafis — have announced their intention of forming political parties and participating in elections, something al-Qaeda's leaders always considered sacrilege.

But the regional outlook is not all positive. Terrorists prey on hopelessness and despair, and they will be watching closely to see whether they can take advantage of growing instability. In Libya, Syria and Bahrain, peaceful protests have been met with brutal violence. After the short-lived euphoria of Egypt and Tunisia, the success of the Arab Spring is no longer guaranteed. As regimes wage war on their own people, Arabs might begin to lose faith in the effectiveness of non-violent change. In such an environment, al-Qaeda might yet get a second wind. A number of empirical studies show a significant correlation between repression and authoritarianism, on one hand, and the resort to political violence on the other.

With this in mind, the U.S. must redouble its efforts to oust the Libyan regime, while intensifying pressure on Syria and Bahrain. Just as important, America and its allies should do whatever they can to support democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. What is happening in these countries is likely to prove far more important than the death of a man who long ago ceased being a central character in the Arab narrative. The writer is the director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre and a fellow at the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. — Courtesy: USA Today









CLEARER TV for pensioners makes fiscal picture fuzzier.

Messaging is important for any federal budget and the government has described tomorrow's budget as a "tough" one that will put us "back in the black" even though it's likely to confirm a deficit of up to $50 billion. Now we learn from the Treasurer the budget will involve a $308 million program to provide pensioners with digital set-top boxes and have them installed on their televisions. This seems an extraordinary indulgence at a time when fiscal discipline is required. Just as it did with disastrous consequences in its home insulation program, the government will attempt to deliver and install something for nothing. The Australian worries that this increases the growing sense of entitlement in Australia, where even the simple switch from an analog television to a digital signal, at a normal cost of less than $100, is deemed too heavy a burden for some to carry.

Not only will the government give people the equipment, it will also send out an installer. Most pensioners would be capable of connecting the device themselves or seeking help from a friend, family member or neighbour. But instead, they will be asked to rely on the government. This is a condescending initiative that further entrenches a disturbing nanny state mentality. And it sends out the wrong budget signal, in digital or analog.







The crisis enveloping the Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland and the Baillieu government needs to be resolved quickly so the public can have the confidence they deserve in the state's law enforcement. The current situation is unsustainable, with the government and its police chief now stuck in an ugly stand-off, morale within the force threatening to impact on its effectiveness, and the public left to wonder whether the leadership of its police force has become dysfunctional.

Mr Overland escalated the imbroglio on Friday when he effectively dismissed his Deputy Commissioner, Ken Jones. The pair had fallen out months earlier, prompting Sir Ken's resignation last week with the intention of serving until August. Following Friday's apparently testy meeting, with a lawyer present, Mr Overland made Sir Ken's departure effective immediately. Yet the Commissioner has refused to provide any public reason for this.

Premier Ted Baillieu has had a difficult relationship with his top cop from the start, with Mr Overland viewed by many as being uncomfortably close to the previous Brumby Labor government. The police chief is battling operational and budgetary problems and has engaged in unorthodox disputes with the media. A crisis meeting between the Premier, the Police Minister and the Commissioner on the weekend seems to have resolved nothing, with Mr Overland defiant yesterday and cabinet set to consider the issue today.

Victorians must receive full explanations from both the Premier and the Commissioner. The Australian believes the public has a clear interest in knowing why Sir Ken is leaving and why his exit has been expedited. Assurances are also needed that the Premier has confidence in the Commissioner and that the police force chief can work co-operatively with the government. Threats of protest action from the Police Association must also be resolved so police officers are able to put these shenanigans behind them and return their focus to the crucial work of enforcing the law.

This newspaper has a firm and traditional respect for the separation of authority between the government and the police. But if the Premier and Commissioner cannot give these assurances and promptly deliver these outcomes, then drastic action might be required, in the interests of the police force and all Victorians.






Trading in human misery is the evil intent we apportion to people-smugglers so it is little wonder that Julia Gillard's novel asylum-seeker deal with Malaysia creates a sense of unease. This arrangement is based on a trade of asylum-seekers and refugees between two nations, in a five-for-one swap. While we sympathise with the government's motives, The Australian finds this arrangement unsettling, especially when it appears to have been struck on terms that are deeply disadvantageous for both Australia and the asylum-seekers who fall into Australia's custody. The clear winners in this deal would appear to be 4000 refugees who have sought refuge in Malaysia but will end up in Australia, and the Malaysian government, which will be relieved of its responsibility for them. The 800 asylum-seekers we send to Malaysia will go to a nation whose refuge they did not seek, and into a situation that is more uncertain and difficult than they would face in Australian detention centres.

The extra 4000 refugees coming here are not the concern. The Australian supports a doubling of our humanitarian intake if we can restore the order that enables public confidence in a generous immigration program. Rather, the refugee trading deal, hot on the heels of the discredited East Timor plan, smacks of an ad hoc and unsustainable solution.

The Rudd and Gillard governments have created a terrible dilemma in border protection policy. By unpicking the previous government's successful suite of measures they have rekindled the people-smuggling trade and generated the influx of boatloads of asylum-seekers. Since 2008, when Labor weakened the regime, more than 11,000 asylum-seekers have arrived by boat. Labor inherited an immigration system with only six detainees who had arrived by boat. The Christmas Island facility was portrayed as a white elephant. Now more than 6000 people are experiencing the trauma of detention in an expanded range of centres operating in every state. Violent riots and deliberately lit fires have seriously damaged the Christmas Island centre and Villawood, in Sydney. On top of these difficulties, the terrible human cost has been exacerbated by the deaths of more than 50 asylum-seekers in a boat explosion and the horrific sinking of a vessel off Christmas Island. But for all this tale of woe, Ms Gillard does not have a clear strategy to deal with the crisis.

The only positive aspect of the Malaysia swap deal is it demonstrates a belated realisation that the key to stopping the boat traffic is to remove the incentive of almost automatic permanent residency in Australia. Finally, the Prime Minister and her Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, have understood that it is this "sugar on the table" that needs to be removed. For years they have blamed "push factors" and denied the existence of a refugee "queue" -- yet now they seek to remove the attraction of processing in Australia and instead will send 800 asylum-seekers to the "back of the queue" in Malaysia.

What frustrates many Australians is that the measures that worked previously are still available to the government. It stubbornly refuses to adopt them, presumably not wanting to concede a political point. Nauru remains ready to reopen its centre for offshore processing and Mr Bowen has had plenty of time to consider and frame a different visa class for boat arrivals -- something perhaps different but similar to the temporary protection visas Labor axed. Ms Gillard's objection to Nauru because it is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention now looks particularly hollow given that Malaysia is also not a signatory.

While the Malaysian deal might provide a temporary disincentive for the next 800 arrivals, it will do so by exposing them to the risk of treatment that is less humane than Australia's. And this deal can't become permanent without extended arrangements with Malaysia and other nations. We note the Malaysian high commissioner has stressed that the arrangement is "not a done deal". With a political backlash possible in Kuala Lumpur, finalising the plan could be complicated.

Rather than pursuing a shambolic series of backflips and policy-making on the run, Ms Gillard needs to define and deliver a clear plan based on the measures that have worked in the past.







WHILE most of the world has been relieved that the ''Arab awakening'' sweeping the Middle East seems to have little to do with al-Qaeda or jihadism, it is already starting to shake loose some longstanding deadlocks in the region's greatest problems, notably the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The outcome in Syria is uncertain, but the unrest there is making the current balance of Shiite and Sunni influence in the Iran-Syria-Lebanon equation more fluid, and is influencing moves among the Palestinians. Syria has been sheltering the political leadership of Hamas, the militant Islamist organisation in charge of Gaza; now Damascus is an uncertain refuge and Cairo more sympathetic.

Last week, under the auspices of the Arab League and in the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence service, Hamas met its rival for the support of Palestinians, the secular Fatah controlling the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. They agreed Hamas and Fatah would form a transitional government of neutral technocrats to rebuild the war-torn Gaza Strip and prepare parliamentary and presidential elections in a year. Meanwhile, the post-Mubarak government in Cairo is opening the frontier between its Sinai territory and Gaza, which in effect would end Israel's blockade.

The instinctive reaction of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was to call the agreement ''a mortal blow to peace and a big prize for terror''. Yet according to a leaked assessment, his own Foreign Ministry thinks the rapprochement an opportunity rather than necessarily a threat. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refuses to rule out peace negotiations with a Palestinian side that will now include representatives of a Hamas whose charter does not recognise Israel's right to exist. France and some other powers seem ready to back a United Nations resolution recognising a Palestinian state in the two territories if negotiations with Israel remain stalled.

Netanyahu has a point, that Hamas may still see a Palestinian state as a platform from which to continue the struggle against Israel, rather than as an end to conflict. But a Palestinian population locked in civil war does not help prospects of peace in the short or long term. Nor has Netanyahu shown himself willing to clinch a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority in the absence of Hamas. Instead of trying to disrupt what must be a very fragile reconciliation or look to the worst scenarios, Netanyahu should heed the advice of his diplomats and foreign friends, and see how far the positive influences of the Arab awakening can be taken.






PAUL KEATING did his best to steamroll the opposition to his vision for the $6 billion redevelopment of the Barangaroo foreshore. The former prime minister's personal energy and drive, as chairman of the panel overseeing design of the East Darling Harbour development, has resulted in a plan for a naturalistic headland which may give the people of Sydney a new public space on the harbour. But while concerns remain about the high-rise towers at the southern end of the site, the biggest concern is the haste and the methods with which the Labor government tried to push the project through. Typical was its response to a court challenge by a citizens' group to aspects of the project that contravened planning laws. The response of the former planning minister Tony Kelly was simply to change the law, drawing criticism from a judge of the Planning and Environment court, and an order to pay most of the citizens' legal costs.

For the O'Farrell government, Barangaroo poses an early test of its pledge to roll back Labor's closed, top-down planning culture. Already business and industry groups such as the Alliance for NSW Future are donning their hard hats and revving up their steamrollers, warning that jobs will be at risk unless concrete starts being poured immediately. We believe the longer-term interests of business, government and this city are best served by first restoring public faith in the process of planning approvals in NSW. This week's debate on the issue in State Parliament is the place to start. Let's hear from the government whether it backs an over-the-water hotel; whether it agrees that public transport connections to Barangaroo, as well as adequate parking, must be integral to the project.

We believe an inquiry into the previous government's administration of this project is also warranted. Such an inquiry could determine whether Labor ministers exceeded their authority, and whether their extraordinary interventions were above board. It could, more broadly, expose the way big development projects in Sydney are negotiated, and highlight areas where reforms are needed. The public perceives that elected representatives have been too eager to rubber-stamp whatever plans developers put in front of them. But there is also an overwhelming desire for this particular project, given its unusually prominent site, to be a place Sydneysiders can feel proud of and enjoy. There are limits to what can be built; harbour foreshore is a very finite asset, and as it shrinks so each idea new idea must meet a higher standard. It is time to shine a searchlight on what has been happening at Barangaroo. Sydney demands that the project become a showpiece for how a good development is done.






ONCE, not that long ago, Victoria was affectionately called the Garden State. Such an enchanting and enhancing image, with its green-and-pleasant-land connotation. But what is a garden without water - or, in the parlance of modern horticulture, a water feature? Part of the beauty and the glory of Melbourne's parks and gardens are its fountains, designed to provide an aurally splashy counterpoint to the gentle rustling of foliage, and a visually sparkling complement to the dappled greenery.

During the drought, this city's fountains were reduced to vaguely interesting sculptural forms without their essential aquatic function. This was perhaps a reminder of the need for water restrictions, many of which still apply within and without the metropolitan area. Enter Melbourne's lord mayor, Robert Doyle, whose effervescent passion for fountains has succeeded in turning the tap back on. It is certainly good news that the City of Melbourne is to spend $900,000 to enable at least six fountains to flow again this year. Among them are the Coles Fountain in Spring Street; the Georges Fountain, tucked away between the old Collins Street department store and Scots Church; the Macpherson Robertson Fountain near the Shrine of Remembrance; and the Mockridge Fountain in the City Square. Coming up for restoration is the extraordinarily onomatopoeic Hochgurtel Fountain, at the southern side of Carlton Gardens by the Royal Exhibition Building, and the Stanford Fountain in Gordon Reserve, at the corner of Spring and Macarthur streets.

Such historical and more contemporary beauties may be heading back to their watery splendour, but they will all have had some important cosmetic surgery to ensure they function under more modern, and necessary, environmental requirements. They have been designed to be drought-proof, drawing their water not from the mains supply but from rainwater tanks, stormwater or recycled water. There is another object lesson here, as well as a reminder that the bounty of water can never again be taken for granted.

All this is praiseworthy, not merely for aesthetic reasons but also for what Cr Doyle rightly says is the restoration of the important psychological impact on a city in the driest continent. Melbourne has long been magnificently arboreal - the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of our oldest, greatest, most multifarious landmarks - and our fountains have always had a natural and impressive part to play. Long may they do so, but with care.






LABOR was desperate when Julia Gillard announced plans for a regional refugee processing centre on the eve of last year's federal election. Six months earlier, the government had tried to turn down the political heat by abruptly suspending processing of the biggest groups of boat arrivals, Afghans and Sri Lankans. The freeze ended in September, a month after the election, and Labor is now learning the truth of the dictum ''act in haste, repent at leisure''.

Labor is still desperate. Plans for a centre in East Timor have collapsed, forcing the government to look elsewhere, to Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. Each of these plans is deeply flawed, on policy and humanitarian grounds.

The Australian government's facility on Manus Island in PNG was used by the Howard government. Only last year, then immigration minister Chris Evans condemned the ''Pacific solution'', which ''saw 1637 people, including more than 450 children, left to rot on Nauru and Manus Island for years and years''. How quickly we forget the cruelty, injustice and psychological harm inflicted on those people. Once again, our government is willing to disregard warnings about the inherent problems with such remote facilities.

Ms Gillard was right not to turn to Nauru because it has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention. But now she has struck an agreement under which 800 asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will be sent to Malaysia. Yet Malaysia has not signed the convention either, and it has a disturbing record on human rights.

Many of the ALP's problems with crowded detention centres and the inevitable angry protests are of its own making. The processing freeze created a backlog that swelled numbers in detention to more than 6000.

The UN High Commission for Refugees reports that asylum applications to Australia have been falling since peaking a year ago. This includes asylum seekers who arrive by air in greater numbers without causing mass hysteria, even though the proportion of true refugees among them is lower. However, boat arrivals are also falling: 2100 arrived to April last year; this year's total is 940. The past two months' total is 526, down from 1399 last year. The opposition claims that ''failed border protection'' policies mean arrivals are continuing to soar. That claim, often uncritically repeated, is false.

Mandatory detention itself is based on a false premise. Tough policies do little to deter people who are desperate enough to risk their lives at sea.

Last year's surge was driven by the brutal climax to Sri Lanka's civil war and worsening conflict in Afghanistan. Of 7668 boat arrivals since January last year, 3306 are Afghan. Even so, the total for boat arrivals since 1998 amounts to only 7 per cent of net immigration last financial year alone.

Ironically, given the political mythology that so distorts policy - at a cost for offshore processing that runs into the billions - Labor enacted mandatory detention in 1992. Before then, the Migration Act had carefully distinguished between unauthorised arrivals and illegal entrants.

The legal rights accepted by Australia in signing the Refugee Convention mean asylum seekers are not illegal entrants. Yet mandatory detention, by treating people like criminals, promotes the perception of illegality and contributes to the making of a policy mountain out of a molehill.

In 2001, after the atrocities of September 11, the Howard government played on the public's fears of terrorism by conflating that threat with the problem of asylum seekers. It worked a treat at that year's election. The Coalition has seen asylum seekers as a political trump card ever since.

Labor still jumps at shadows cast by problems that are largely the product of the febrile imaginations of its opponents. With many bigger challenges facing Australia, it is shameful that small numbers of vulnerable and abused asylum seekers inspire the fiercest political debates.







At every level, human civilisation is underwritten by the planet's countless and still mostly unidentified wild things

The water we drink falls as rain, usually on higher ground, often designated as a catchment area. The terrain would ideally be covered in vegetation, because otherwise the runoff would be muddy, the reservoirs would silt up and the valleys would flood. But plants depend on billions of insects to pollinate them. Insects also devour foliage, so forests depend on birds by day and bats by night to keep insect populations under control. To prevent a population crash, there must also be raptors to keep the insectivores in order – and the taps running. At every level, human civilisation is underwritten by the planet's countless and still mostly unidentified wild things – the jargon word is biodiversity – that pollinate our crops, cleanse, conserve and recycle our water, maintain oxygen levels, and deliver all the things on which human comfort, health, and security depend. Economists and conservationists have tried to put a value on the services of nature: if we had to buy what biodiversity provides for nothing, how much cash would we need? The answer runs into trillions, but the question is nonsensical. Without healthy ecosystems, there would be no cotton and linen to make banknotes and no bread or clean water for sale.

Last week the European commission unveiled its 2020 biodiversity strategy, and introduced the notion of a "green infrastructure" from Orkney to the Black Sea. A continent-sized strategy is indeed necessary: swifts, swallows and swallowtail butterflies do not care about national boundaries. It focuses on the economic value of forest, grassland, heath, wetland, lake, river and farmland ecosystems. The auguries are not encouraging. One fourth of all Europe's farmland birds flew away between 1990 and 2007; 40 or more of Europe's 435 butterflies are now fluttering to extinction. Yes, extinctions are a normal part of evolutionary history, but not on such a scale and pace. And who knows which species an ecosystem can do without, and still function for human benefit?

The EU in 2006 vowed to halt species loss by 2010, but in 2008 admitted frankly that targets would not be met. Around 18% of Europe's land area is protected, but governments and environment agencies need to think very hard about not just protecting but restoring habitats in much of the remaining 82%. Inevitably, those critics who do not condemn Brussels for the failure of its biodiversity policies so far will vilify it for fretting about dragonflies, toads and liverworts while economies stagnate and industries collapse. Both responses are wrong. Europe may propose, but the member states must implement. And although the cost of conserving biodiversity will be considerable, the price of not doing so could be truly terrible.





The rose garden love-in a year ago was understandable in some ways but it was a political misjudgment

Looking at the opinion polls since the general election, and in particular at the results of last week's elections, many still ask why British voters are disproportionately punishing the Liberal Democrats and not their much larger coalition partners, the Conservatives. This is the wrong question. Conservative voters are not punishing the Conservative party because, broadly speaking, they like what the coalition government is doing. As a result, the Tory vote held up across Britain last week. The same did not happen for the Liberal Democrats because, quite simply, it is Liberal Democrat voters, or more accurately, a significant proportion of them, and not the electorate as a whole, who are punishing the Lib Dems. One in three people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 did not do so again on Thursday. Most of them switched to Labour, though with how much lasting conviction only time will tell. But the Lib Dems have to try to win them back, and they have to convince the two out of three who stuck with the party last week, some with many misgivings, that they were right to do so. The party needs to reconnect with them. It isn't complicated.

Nick Clegg began the task of reconnection with a strong performance on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday. The tone, the positioning and the main themes had been well trailed by other senior Lib Dems since well before last week's voting. The coalition would go on. The deficit reduction strategy was inescapable. The relationship with the Tories would be more businesslike. The distinctive and moderating Lib Dem voice would be louder. And there would be substantial and significant changes in the government's NHS plans.

These are the bare minimum of the messages that Mr Clegg needs to get across if he is to have serious hope of redressing last week's election setbacks and rebuilding confidence. Not that mood music is unimportant. If more attention had been paid to it earlier, the Lib Dems might be in a less grim position today. The rose garden love-in a year ago was understandable in some ways but it was a political misjudgment. So was the very public enthusiasm with which the then chief secretary David Laws embraced the deficit-cutting programme a few days later – memories of that are so strong that the often mooted return to office by Mr Laws would send a bad signal to the Lib Dems' lost voters. Even the arrangement of the Commons chamber, requiring Lib Dem ministers to be seen mingled with the Tories on the government benches rather than sitting in their own separate section, deserves attention. The Lib Dems need to be much tougher about mood and messages.

In the end, though, it is policies and discernible practical achievements that of course matter most. The damage that the Lib Dems did themselves over tuition fees remains huge. It may define the party for years, as the sterling crisis defined the Tories under John Major and the Iraq war Labour under Tony Blair. There is not a lot they can do about that issue now. But it only increases the need for the Lib Dems to draw and defend clear lines, within the coalition, on matters that are fundamental to liberal British voters. One of those issues is the future of the banks, where the party still has a chance to leave a truly progressive mark. Another is the priority given to the green economy. A third is an uncompromising assertion of the need to clean up the House of Lords democratically. A fourth is to hold the line on the Human Rights Act, one of the Lib Dems' important but unsung achievements so far. There are many others. But there is no disputing where the most important battle of the next few months will come. The destructive reorganisation of the NHS and the impact of the spending freeze are the immediate must-win battleground for Lib Dem credibility. Mr Clegg has to stop the Lansley reforms, and be seen to have stopped them. If he does not, then he and his party may pay an even higher price than they paid last week.






His Gothic Symphony is the ultimate cult neglected work by a British composer forgotten by all but the fanatical few

After booking opened on Saturday for the BBC Proms 2011, 87,000 tickets were sold in the first 12 hours. Amid such Glastonbury-level demand, it is not surprising that seats for a few of the starriest concerts have now all gone – though uniquely, of course, there will still be 1,400 tickets available each night on the night. It's no shock that Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra were first to sell out the Albert Hall, or that the Verdi Requiem ran them a close second. No surprise, either, among the chamber concerts, that tickets for Bach's Goldberg Variations and the Yo-Yo Ma recital have now gone too. The truly remarkable news, astonishing even, is that the only other Prom to sell out on day one is a performance of an 84-year-old work that has only ever been played complete five times and has not been heard in London for 30 years. Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony is the ultimate cult neglected work by a British composer forgotten by all but the fanatical few. Everything about it is massive, from the 150-strong main orchestra, the 40 extra brass players and the nine choirs who will cram the Albert Hall to the Gothic's two-hour length. The rare performance on 17 July has clearly struck a suitably gargantuan chord. "Stunning recognition for Brian's magnum opus," was the Havergal Brian Society's verdict to the news. Those of us who missed out on Saturday will surely be crammed into the standing places or glued to our radios for this once-in-a-livetime symphonic extravaganza.




            THE JAPAN TIMES



Economic reports made public April 28 by the government and the Bank of Japan underscore the rapid deterioration of the Japanese economy in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear plant accidents.

A trade and industry ministry report states that the industrial and mining production index for March sank a record 15.3 percent from the previous month — surpassing the 8.6 percent drop in February 2009 after the Lehman Brothers shock. Overall production activities fell 31.9 percent in the devastated areas and 13.5 percent in other areas.

Transport machinery production suffered a record 46.4 percent drop, apparently due to the disruption of the parts supply chains. Japan's car industry, which is expected to play an important role in bringing back the economy to a path of steady recovery, is in bad shape.

The psychological effects of the disasters and the subsequent economic downturn are damping consumer spending. An internal affairs ministry report showed that spending by households of two or more people in March was 8.5 percent lower than it was in the same month the previous year — the worst tumble since February 1974 when spending went down 7.2 percent due to the oil crisis.

It is no surprise that the Bank of Japan has taken a pessimistic stance. In its economic report the central bank lowered its forecast of economic growth in real terms for fiscal 2011 from the 1.6 percent it made in January to 0.6 percent.

Yet, the central bank's thinking suggests that it expects nationwide supply chains to be repaired and power shortages caused by the nuclear crisis to lessen by autumn. The bank forecasts that the economy will grow 2.9 percent in fiscal 2012, up from the 2 percent forecast in January.

Outside Japan, food and raw material prices are rising. Consumer prices in Tokyo rose 0.2 percent in April from a year before — the first rise in 25 months — reflecting price rises abroad as well as the shortage of goods following the earthquake and tsunami.

The Bank of Japan should carry out a monetary policy designed to help stimulate economic activities while paying close attention to price movements.





The Diet on May 2 enacted the first supplementary budget for fiscal 2011. Worth ¥4.015 trillion, the extra budget is aimed at pushing reconstruction measures in the Tohoku-Pacific region, which was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The Kan administration now faces the more difficult task of getting a second, and much larger, supplementary budget passed.

The first extra budget earmarks ¥1.2 trillion for public works projects to restore damaged roads, ports and agricultural fields; ¥362.6 billion for temporary housing; and ¥351.9 billion for removal of debris. No bonds will be issued.

The government transferred ¥2.489 trillion, originally set aside to pay for the government's share of the nation's basic pension plan, to the supplementary budget. Because this move could reduce the perceived reliability of the pension system, the government must act quickly to make up for the loss in the pension-related fund.

The first extra budget was passed unanimously by both houses of the Diet after the Democratic Party of Japan agreed to talk with the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito on possible changes to the DPJ's main election promises, such as the child allowance and expressway fare discounts.

Now that the first extra budget has cleared the Diet, opposition forces may take a hard stance against the DPJ. But the DPJ should not relinquish the basic idea behind the adoption of the child allowance — which was to provide it irrespective of household income as an expression of all of society's support for families who rear children.

To impose an income cap, as called for by Komeito, would only complicate the work of local governments. It also must not be forgotten that child-rearing families in the devastated areas will also receive benefits from the allowance.

Compilation of the second supplementary budget will take into account proposals by the Reconstruction Design Council as well as proposals for tax and social welfare reform.

The government should not propose raising the consumption tax rate without first seeking other ways to bring in more revenue, as a consumption tax hike will further weaken an economy already affected by the March 11 disasters, thus exacerbating the burdens on people.







CANBERRA — In the first election debate between the leaders of Canada's four political parties, opposition leader Michael Ignatieff of the Liberal Party attacked Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the ruling Conservative Party for wanting to shut down anything he could not control.

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton criticized Ignatieff for being absent from Parliament for 70 percent of the votes, insisting that anyone wanting promotion must first show up for the job.

Ignatieff did himself no favors by dismissing Layton as someone who would always be in opposition while the Liberals often formed government.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois Party leader Gilles Duceppe began by congratulating the prime minister for taking a question from a citizen for the first time during the campaign.

For his part, Harper blamed the three opposition parties for foisting an unnecessary and unwanted election on the country and emphasized his economic management credentials. The debate had generated controversy even before it was held April 12.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May was excluded from the debate on the grounds that her party had no sitting member of Parliament.

Outraged critics pointed out that at least the Greens were a national party; why should English Canada have to put up with a separatist Quebec party in a nationally televised debate?

In any case, who were the television executives to decide who should be permitted to address the voters in any self-respecting democracy?

The 41st Canadian general election was held May 2 (mid-term) because, on March 25, the minority Harper government fell on a no-confidence motion by a 156-145 vote in the House of Commons.

Introducing the motion, opposition leader Michael Ignatieff attacked the government's handling of international affairs, its neglect of the needs of Canadians, and for various scandals in which it has become embroiled, including allegations of election fraud and influence peddling.

One of the great ironies during the tumult of the Arab spring is the contrast between the apparent willingness of Arab peoples to die for democratic freedoms and a life of dignity, and the seeming political apathy of most Canadians.

In the 1963 federal election, 79 percent of Canadians voted. Since then, the election turnout has steadily declined and was a worrying 59 percent in 2008.

Edmund Burke is often quoted as having said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Canadians are certainly good and worthy folks. But they also suffer from an excess of civil obedience, politeness and lack of civic rage that can be harnessed to combat political atrophy.

One result is that their democracy is under threat of creeping retreat from a thousand silent cuts rather than a frontal assault.

The centralization of power in the hands of the prime minster and political staffers, with the resulting diminution of the role and status of the Cabinet, parliaments and parliamentarians, is not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. The same trend has been evident in the fellow Anglo-Saxon democracies of Australia, Britain and the United States (with differences allowed for its presidential system of government).

But the extent to which constitutional conventions, parliamentary etiquette and civil institutions of good governance have been chipped away in Canada, looked at in their totality, is cause for concern. The trend began under Liberal governments and has accelerated under Harper.

In power at the head of two successive minority governments since 2006, Harper now has a secure majority of over 165 seats in the 310-member Parliament, up from 143 when Parliament was dissolved.

But his majority in Parliament is based on 40 percent voter support; the majority was splintered among the leftist New Democratic Party (NDP) at around 31, the Liberal Party at 19, the separatist Bloc Quebecois at 6, and the Greens at 4 percent each.

Under the first-past-the-post voting system, this translates into 102 seats for the NDP, 35 for the Liberals, 4 for the Bloc, and 1 for the Greens.

This is a game-changing election result. Harper may be tempted to drive his hard conservative agenda, but the reach of the government will be dangerously over-exposed if it extends well beyond the grasp of 40 percent popular support.

The Liberals were humbled, and how. Party leader Michael Ignatieff lost his own seat. Anointed and crowned by party insiders after being parachuted in from Harvard despite a 30-year absence from Canada, he failed utterly to connect to Canadians. Few people knew any longer what the party stood for.

The young in particular deserted it in droves for the more clearly positioned NDP at the left of the Canadian political spectrum. The party has more than doubled its best historical tally.

Layton, catapulted to the post of opposition leader, will have the difficult task of managing many novice members of Parliament and softening their exuberance with the realities of being the official opposition and therefore the alternative government-in-waiting. But at least he should be able to offer clear alternatives to the government on foreign and public policy alike.

The most surprising aspect of the NDP's performance was how it shot to number one place in Quebec. The Bloc was humiliated in its home province, ending 18 years of dominance, and party leader Duceppe lost his own seat and promptly resigned.

By contrast, May won the first ever seat in Parliament for the Green Party, which should guarantee her a place at the debating table in the next elections. She told a jubilant crowd that Canada needs hope over fear, compassion over competition, and fidelity to Canadian values over any one ideology.

Yet the night belonged unquestionably to Harper, who becomes only the third Conservative leader in Canadian history to win triple victories at the polls. Will he govern wisely and well, moderating his once hard neocon ideology?

Or will he fall victim to hubris and alienate large swathes of Canadians by pushing through an agenda at odds with mainstream values?

Ramesh Thakur is professor of international relations at Australian National University, and adjunct professor at the Institute of Governance, Ethics and Law, Griffith University. Until recently he was professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.






There are great expectations for Indonesia's chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As a founding member, the largest member and the most vibrant democratic nation in the 10-state organization, the privilege to hosting several high level ASEAN-related meetings this year is a measure of how Indonesia can truly lead Asia's pre-eminent grouping.

Despite regularly hosting many high-profile meetings over the past two decades, organizational and technical preparations received a passing grade — but not with flying colors.

As reported by this newspaper, preparations were often chaotic and unprofessional. In the lead-up to the summit, for example, dissatisfaction was rampant among the press corps — locally and internationally — about the inefficient registration process. As a proud Indonesian institution, we were embarrassed by the less-than-positive comments heard.

Organizers should never forget that hosting such high- profile events offers a window as to the professionalism by which this country is measured. We hope the criticism that has emerged can be a source of introspection, as several more high-level events immediately lie in wait.

Substantively, there is room for concern amid the proud smiles of the leaders over the weekend. While ASEAN has been superior in creating structures and processes, it has found that instilling the values needed to implement these high visions are low in execution.

Indonesia's chairmanship has been particularly challenging. With the deadline of an ASEAN Security Community just four years away, it must begin to cultivate a novel decorum among members beholden to the idea of a shared community.

The deadly border shootout between Thailand and Cambodia does not bode well for the future of the so-called ASEAN Security Community. Progress is not a matter of the leaders coming together in Jakarta at the summit to say they would resolve the dispute amicably. International diplomacy will always weigh in after the fact.

The fact that both parties so readily resorted to armed force to begin with was very disconcerting. With a multitude of overlapping disputes dotting the region, who is not to say that more than one place will soon become the next flash point?

We should further be anxious that parties involved in these conflicts would rather bring their dispute to international bodies, rather than seek a solution within ASEAN itself.

These events all indicate that in the face of acute challenges, ASEAN members are not fully ready to embrace the sacrifices — tolerance, cooperation, mediation and patience — needed to be part of a community.

Indonesia, as ASEAN chair, and in particular the Foreign Ministry, should be lauded for taking the initiative in helping to lower tensions and promote mediation within the ASEAN process.

But what happens when other members take the rotating chairmanship?

With Myanmar next, how much of a role can we expect it to pursue in aggressive foreign policy when the regime is still marred by international doubt?

Rather than conjuring new slogans such as "ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations", perhaps it is wise to keep ambitions small. ASEAN will be judged not on how it responds to crises outside the region, but how it resolves its own conundrums.

If the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand cannot be truly resolved — not just suspended as is the custom in ASEAN — by the end of Indonesia's chairmanship, we are skeptical that the vision of community will be realized by 2015.

It is irrelevant to talk about the ASEAN Community withering away, since achieving it is increasingly likely to be a wonderful but stalled idea, rather than a reality.






Indonesia is viewing the rise of China with a two-sided coin of wisdom as a hope and a threat.

The hope is that Indonesian companies can gain access to one-fifth of the world market, whereas the threat is that China may seize shares of the Indonesian domestic market with its relatively competitively priced products.

Let's have a closer look to see if Indonesia and China are friends or foes.

It is true that trade deficits between Indonesia and China have been mounting. Indonesia has a trade deficit with China that amounts to US$4.7 billion, in which $5.6 billion was contributed by trade deficits in non-oil and gas products, meaning Indonesia recorded surpluses in oil and gas. Non-oil and gas exports from Indonesia to China totaled $14.1 billion, while non-oil and gas imports were $19.7 billion in 2010.

First, imports from China were dominated by capital goods and intermediate goods, which contributed around 47 and 35 percent, respectively, to total non-oil and gas imports from China in 2010. Consumer goods contributed only 11 percent to total non oil and gas imports in the same year.

Second, Indonesia is perceived by China as a huge potential market. Based on Economist Intelligence Unit data, the average wage of Chinese production workers stood at $1.25/ day while Indonesia's was only $0.96/day in 2010. In this case, Indonesia should not be worried about labor intensive competitive products.

Instead, Indonesia should look at that statistics with the positive perspective that this could be an attractive factor for investments; particularly reallocation investments from China. In fact, foreign direct investment from China to Indonesia increased from $95 million in 2005 to $323 milion in 2010.

Third, there have been increases in the use of Certificate of Origins (CoO) followed by increases in the value of exports using CoO. The increase in the use of CoO – one of the free trade agreement facilities – shows efficacies in the trade agreement and that the private sector benefits from that. The total number of CoO has increased from 19,491 certificates in 2007 to 24,235 certificates in 2010, which has been accompanied by an increase in the value of exports using CoO facilities from $2 million in 2007 to $5.3 million in 2010 (research division, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Trade Ministry of Indonesia, 2011).

Fourth, it is expected that there will be some adjustments that Indonesian firms have to make in the short term. Some local companies may lose their domestic market share as a consequence of the adjustment, but in the long run competitive producers and consumers will benefit.

Some quick proposals responding to this issue could be safeguards and antidumping or countervailing duties. Theoretically, there is no economic ground for such actions. Implementing antidumping could result in reducing trade gains received by consumers by enjoying lower prices; implementing safeguards should be followed by careful examinations that certain industries are actually affected by certain actions, in this case the trade agreement, not by other factors or simply that they are no longer performing.

With regards to export subsidies, Indonesia should, as quoted by Dixit, probably reply with thank-you notes instead of implementing retaliatory measures of countervailing duties.

While I myself am not a big fan of bilateral or multilateral agreements, considering trade diversions and complications for business players created by multiple trade agreements, we cannot turn back time to the period when Indonesia had signed on to agreements or not (or if Indonesia had more power in determining goods agreed to in trade agreements), let's not put all the blame on free trade agreements. With or without a trade agreement, sooner or later, Chinese products will surely flood the Indonesian domestic market.

What Indonesia can do now is optimize trade agreements as an instrument to drive more reform and push firms to be more competitive and specialized in certain sectors where they hold comparative advantages.

While it might be too early to justify the overall effect of trade agreements, it is never too late to continue trade, investment, infrastructure and logistics reforms at the national, local and firm levels so that Indonesia can enjoy more gains from economic agreements.

The writer is a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of Indonesia and an economist in the private sector development unit at the World Bank, Jakarta. The opinions expressed are her own.







Probably, no other country, outside South Asia shares so much of history, culture and politics with India as Indonesia does. It is a relationship built over a millennium and the bond remains strong and intact.

It is really befitting the relationship that the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became the special guest on the country's republic day on Jan. 26, 2011, a welcome received by only one more Indonesian – Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia and a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru.

At the end of the first decade of 21st century, the two rising powers with their fundamentally altered outlook are staring at a different Asia and a different world. As India and Indonesia rise to pre-eminence, their emerging outlook tell us a somewhat similar story but in sharp contrast with the rest of Asia.

They are ethnically most diverse societies in the world, the largest Asian democracies, largest Muslim countries, registering high level of sustained economic growth and emerging powers of 21st century. The two rising powers and millennia-old civilisational entities have, almost subconsciously, been rhyming together somewhat similar sets of principles and grand rules of national and international political behavior in the 21st century. These elements can broadly be clubbed under a common 'Delhi-Jakarta Paradigm.'

First, their rise has broken many myths, which have, for long, remained couched in academic jargons and packaged beautifully across the world both by the Western as well as Oriental agents. The two countries have proven that democracy as a form of governance, though somewhat imperfect, can be ideated and practiced in the multi-ethnic, Muslim, Asian, and erstwhile authoritarian polities.

Moreover, the Asian societies can indigenize and give a completely native accent to the democratic political discourse based on principles germane to human relations. Unlike the West, they have never tried to impose their form of democracies on other societies.

Challenging the fundamental notions of "Asian way" the paradigm suggests that democracy and development can co-exist in the Asian multi-ethnic societies. Practicing democracy does not necessarily require high level of per capita income or any vague notion of political stability.

These polities need not take the authoritarian path and justify large-scale human-rights violations being committed in the name of stability and development. This was the vision that three friends – Nehru, Sukarno and U Nu – had shared and charted together for the future of their countries. While two of these countries seem to be treading successfully on the democratic path, Myanmar seems to have tumbled down a different path.

Second, the rise of India and Indonesia has changed the way the world looks at Asia, necessitating fundamental transformation in the prevailing international order. Both the powers are important stakeholders in and claimants for the structural reforms in the global institutions that were formed in a particular setting in the aftermath of the World War II and represented the world-views and interests of the victorious West (European and other Anglo-Celtic societies).

These institutions in the changing geopolitical realities of 21st century need to be more democratic and representative. Not long ago, on their way to stability and development, the democratic leaderships of both India and Indonesia felt arm-twisted by the structurally flawed and insensitive policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the aftermath of the economic crises.

The two countries also sit on the high table of G-20, deliberating over the economic issues of global concern. It was in this context of greater participation and democratization of international institutions that President Yudhoyono, while speaking at Global Economic Forum in January 2011, called upon Asian nations to be the 'change makers.'

While the rise of Asian powers - China, India and Indonesia – has repositioned Asia in the world, a new debate has ensued about the evolving structure of power within the continental geopolitics. The rise of Asian powers along with the re-engagement of USA and Russia have necessitated that any formulation of Asian security order must be based on the principle of multi-polarity. India's Look East Policy and Indonesia's 'Dynamic equilibrium' call for a multi-polar power structure in the Asia-Pacific.

The evolving multi-polarity not only diffuses the great power tension but also make other Asian players equally important stakeholders in the future peace, stability and security in the region. Moreover, the multipolarity can also enable India and Indonesia to effectively address three pertinent issues facing the continental geopolitics. These are greater economic integration, growing prominence of great power politics, and desperate efforts to institutionalize the integrative processes and great power relations.

While speaking at Harvard University in September 2009, the Indonesian president called for devising new methods and strategies for dialogue between the West and Muslim world and between civilizations.

A new set of discourse is needed as India and Indonesia work towards engaging the West in the larger civilisational dialogue not only with the Muslim world but also with the larger oriental world. The two largest Asian and Muslim democracies need to pioneer a world-wide moderate and harmonious dialogue between (a) the West and East, and (b) between the West and Muslim World.

It is an irony that the two largest Muslim countries have failed to dictate the discourse over the relationship between faith and politics, between Islam and national culture, rather fallen victims to the orthodox and inhibitive radical Islam being exported from the Middle East in the name of being authentic and sacred.

The two countries need to work together to undermine the radical discourse and evolve a discourse that is inclusive, harmonious and peaceful.

These principles offer both normative as well as pragmatic discourse, rooted in the geopolitical and societal realities of the Orient. As the two countries get more and more empowered, they would need to feel greater responsibilities to work towards building an empowered Asia and a democratized world order.

The writer is research fellow  at the Indian Council of World  Affairs, New Delhi.







Last year Indonesia celebrated a new milestone for its economy. The Indonesian GDP per capita breached US$3,000 in 2010, a threshold that for a long time had been the target of the Chinese government.

In China, its Communist Party's annual congress in 2002 decided on a target of $3,000 GDP per capita in 2020. That target was reaffirmed by President Hu Jintao in a speech delivered at the Boao Economic
Forum in Hainan in 2004. Such a level was said to produce accelerated economic growth for 11 years in South Korea.

Apparently, the Chinese economy was able to achieve that level, not in 2020, but much earlier in 2008. And, the sector that benefited the most was the automotive industry. If Chinese domestic car sales reached one million in 2000, in 2009 sales had increased to 13.6 million, surpassing the United States to become the largest car market in the world.

Having reached a per capita GDP of $3,000, the Indonesian economy has shown more signs of becoming an extremely dynamic economy. Domestic car sales have once again increased by around 30 percent to 225,000 units in the first quarter of 2011.

Looking at historic patterns, if there are no supply disruptions from the critical components produced in the earthquake-affected area in Japan, the rest of the year will see a further rise in sales. Thus, over 900,000 cars may be sold domestically in 2011, a level just a few inches closer to the new milestone of one million cars.

Last year, the government predicted the one million level would be achieved in 2015. Sales of electronic goods such as LCD televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators and many other appliances also experienced a very high level of growth last year and in the beginning of this year.

The Indonesian economy will produce a nominal GDP of Rp 7,400 trillion ($870 billion if the exchange rate leads to an average of Rp 8,500 against the greenback) in 2011. This is roughly an increase of 15 percent from 2010.

These days the US currency has continuously weakened against other major currencies, including the rupiah. If by year end the rupiah is around Rp 8,000 per US dollar, then the average rate of exchange of the US currency will be around Rp 8,400 to Rp 8,500. Therefore, an average exchange rate of Rp 8,500 is certainly a conservative assumption.

A GDP of $870 billion will certainly exceed the prediction made by the Economist (see "The World in 2011", Economist, December 2010). The magazine predicted that Indonesia's GDP would be around $806 billion in 2011, exceeding Turkey ($753 billion) and the Netherlands ($740 billion) for the first time.

So, where is the way forward?

In 2010 and 2011 we have seen a massive inflow of capital, FDI and portfolios to Indonesia. The automotive industry, steel, tires, textiles and garments, shoes, personal care products, ice cream and many other items have enjoyed a rapid expansion. Unilever Indonesia, for example, experienced a massive capital investment not seen in many years. The company was able to double its sales in the last five years and has determined to repeat the feat in the next four to five years.

Indonesian pharmaceutical companies have continuously expanded in the last few years to catch up with the increased demand. Daihatsu expanded its capacity from 260,000 cars per year to 390,000 cars annually. Similar moves were also made by Nissan Indonesia, Hino and Mercedes-Benz. Similarly, the motorcycle industry has increased its capacity just to meet the rising demand.

As the car and motorcycle industries both have very high local content, supporting industries have to automatically expand as well. Toshiba Indonesia, for example, has expanded its LCD TV capacity from 360,000 units in 2009 to 1.4 million units in 2011.

In the service business, we have seen continuous expansion in banking and other financial industries, hotels, hospitals, retail and shopping malls, telecommunications services and the airline industry.

Bank BCA, for instance, has seen rapid growth in its transactions that eventually led to a massive buildup in deposits. The increase in transaction frequencies led the company to open more branches and invest in the enhancement of its IT infrastructure, etc. Their ATM expansion, for example, has helped to improve the level of convenience, even though long queues can sometimes still be seen.

At the same time, we are also witnessing the rise of Indonesian airlines such as Garuda, Lion Air, Batavia Air and Sriwijaya. These airlines had to catch up with the rapid rise in passengers by increasing their fleets. Garuda, the flagship carrier, increased its fleet last year with 23 brand new Boeing 737 aircraft. Early this year, new Boeing jets and an Airbus arrived to strengthen the fleet. The company expects to see the arrival of more brand new planes in the coming months.

With such dynamic activities, it is no surprise that the country's economy will expand further next year. If such a rate of growth continues, we will see Indonesia's nominal GDP rise again in 2012 to a level of around Rp 8,500 trillion, an increase of 15 percent.

With the strengthening rupiah against the US dollar, Indonesia's GDP may translate to a level of over $1 trillion in 2012. That means that the Indonesian economy will join the league of $1 trillion economies that comprises countries like Australia, South Korea, Mexico and perhaps India. This GDP level will propel the economy further to approach the big 10 countries in not too long a time.

In a recent study "Global Growth Generators: Moving beyond Emerging Markets", Citibank predicted that the Indonesian economy will become the fourth-largest economy by 2040, while in 2030 Indonesia will be seventh in global economic rankings. But, what is the downside of this prediction?

Certainly the level of infrastructure plays a very crucial role in achieving a $1 trillion economy. If public transport, roads, railways and other infrastructure are not in place, what will result is not a country with a thriving economy but a country that will see traffic every hour of
every day.

Underdeveloped infrastructure will in reality choke the country's growth.

The writer is an economist.









The Transport Ministry is planning to introduce tough legislations including increased prison terms and fines on drivers and compensation for victims of road accidents, we hear. With many expressways coming up it is a timely move indeed…and "an effort to stem ever increasing road accidents and resultant deaths and injuries," according to the subject Minister.

Good intentions. But the issue is far more complicated than just enacting laws.

As a first move the government should get rid of the old colonial fine sheets that are given out at the Post Offices. One of the offences in those sheets include "Driving without clothing (shirt)!" The papers are generally yellow. It is high time new laws are brought in, of course.

And then upgrade the existing Highway Code to suite the current technological and infrastructural environment.

According to existing regulations 50km/h could be considered high speed! while listening to audio is also illegal. We hardly see any vehicle that does not come with a stereo set? Moreover, now even the budget cars come with surround sound systems and even TVs!

Then the through and through corruption in the motor traffic related government departments to the traffic constable on the road.

Some say a shrewd traffic constable could take home up to LKR 7,000 a day! And then the driving school and examiner nexus that pass the inefficient drivers while failing the good ones for not giving the santhosams!

There is more to this issue.

Any driver would vouch that the main culprits are the private buses and the three-wheeler rickshaws.

One thing is that these drivers are from an underprivileged class and naturally lack the refinement and the educational background. But they are given licences and it has an economic aspect to it. 

Then, these vehicles–another consensus - mostly belong to Policemen (Now call taxi cars too!) and therefore many do not respect the highway codes.

The fact is reducing road accidents is a complex problem. It has a social problem built into it. Our traffic wardens do not drive, neither do they own vehicles. Hence there is always a social tension inbuilt when the two meet. And then there is a class which expects the traffic warden to be their servant who drive around with the attitude "Do you know who I am." So where do we start?

It cannot be "stemmed by just introducing tough fines etc. That may increase the revenue of both the traffic constables and the State. But would it reduce the number of accidents we do not know?

True enough road accidents are an increasing social, economic and health issue with five to six deaths from around 150 road accidents occurring a day in Sri Lanka, according to the data furnished by the Minister. That shows there is a lot of potential for revenue generation for a cash strapped government.

But here is the punch line, when the news was broken on the Daily Mirror website these were what most of the readers had to say.

"How about the Ministers and their security vehicles killing innocent people? Will the Ministers too be prosecuted? There can't be two separate laws, one for the so called VIPs and the other for the ordinary citizen for the same offence. How do you identify their cars when it does not even have proper number plates! Police should ensure that the new laws are applicable to the politicians too! Mr. Minister first try discipline your security goons."





It should now be business as usual – and good time for conferring greater urgency on the political negotiations on power devolution. Robert Blake, the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, has offered comfort to the Government of Sri Lanka on the report of the three-member panel appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. For his part, Ban has now laid greater stress on the panel's recommendations than findings, if any.

Read between the lines, the international community seems wanting early, ethnic reconciliation than any other. It is another matter it has not employed any tool to press home the urgency that is lacking in the TNA, likewise. That is the unfettered, non-committal freedom that non-State players, even of the moderate variety, may enjoy.

It is one thing for the Tamil community, starting not necessarily with the TNA but with the Diaspora, to seek full-fledged devolution in the post-war era. Their negotiating position is stymied not by the absence of the terror arm of the LTTE kind. Nor does it follow -- as some of them tend to believe -- that the exit of LTTE terrorism is a guarantor to press home their forgotten demands through moderate means. It does not work that way.

The current controversy over the Darusman panel report has exposed the limitations of the support that the stakeholders in Sri Lanka could expect from their international constituencies. China, for instance, was halting its response that anyway favoured the Government's position – but in nuanced terms that acknowledged the spirit of the known position of the West.

The West, like in the past, seems taking one step forward for every two steps forward – if it is not the other way round. The post-9/11 psyche is not about conceding the point of the allies, real and surreal. It is about bring them around to known and acknowledged positions. Once should feel used, but cannot – and should not – complain. It's psy-game, if not war of another kind. Power, and not determination, overwhelms in the end.

The vehement and united protest to the UN in Sri Lanka in the past weeks – without the Sinhala polity taking to the streets this time – meant that the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala majors cannot be expected to overlook domestic sentiments and constituencies. The international community cannot overlook the same. Nor could it be seen as equating State and non-State players on an equal footing, not now, again, in the immediate aftermath of Osama elimination.

The solution lies in between. There cannot be wholesale return to pre-war political positions that had been rejected by the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala polity long ago. Some such rejections were out of turn, and it is these that could be negotiated in the present circumstances.  Moderation on both sides should be moderating what they may have believed to be the moderate position, pre-war, but was not seen as such by the other side.

Moderation of the kind was more in terms of the processes employed to press home what was essentially perceived as hard-line position by the other – and not in conceptual terms. 'Sinhala Only' through constitutional means did not make it any less harmful. The 'Vadukkottai Resolution' was not any less separatist than the LTTE's demands. This needs to change. Rather, this is what needs to change.

That way, identifiable precedents of power-sharing elsewhere too may not sell. They had been debated for too long that both sides got tired of them. In turn, the fatigue was among the causes for war and violence. Asymmetrical devolution as a concept – adaptable to Sri Lankan conditions -- could be employed, yet.

'Asymmetry' does not mean that the Sri Lankan State could escape power-sharing across the country for all time to come. In the ethnic context, it could help fast-track the processes that are getting slack with each passing day away from the war.  It could give the Tamils the greater attention and recognition that they deserve as a victim community.

Real and enforceable powers on Police and Land for a Tamil Province could provide such asymmetry, for starters.  It could give the Tamils a sense of belonging, they having seen those powers in such terms. More importantly, it could give the Tamils a sense of acknowledgement that the Sri Lankan State was responding to them.

Post-war, which in a way is a continuation of pre-war mind-sets, Police powers for a Tamil Province is not only about a Tamil-knowing cop available for the exclusively Tamil-knowing population in the Tamil-speaking areas. It is about a sense of security that the Tamils derive from such an arrangement. In the past, it was lacking, where it was not entirely absent.

In turn, this was another factor that justified Tamil militancy. Terrorism having been eliminated, the situation needs to be repaired. The LTTE having acquired all arms and symbols of separatism, the Tamils too should acknowledge the hangover discomfort of the Sri Lankan State, the Sinhala polity and the larger community.

Land powers, likewise, do not flow any more from what could otherwise be dismissed as 'Jaffna culture'. It is again about a sense of security against perceived take-over and 'colonisation'. Returning the land now under the High Security Zone (HSZ) of the armed forces is one way of reassuring the Tamil community. There could be additional ways that are imaginative and immediate.

As for allegations of 'colonisation' and the demand on available land that should not be allowed to go fallow, the Centre and the Province should work out arrangements through a shared sense of belonging and accommodation. It should be through verifiable mechanisms that delineate meaningful use of available land from purposeful colonisation, as was alleged to have been done in the past – and supposedly continuing into the present.

The Tamil side has to acknowledge that post-war devolution can be on an incremental basis. Anticipation of one-stop, cut-and-dry solutions can delay the processes eternally. In turn, this could lead to frustrations of the kind from a forgettable past. The contribution of the Tamils to the inconclusive conclusions of the times should not have been overlooked, either. It should not be overlooked now.

What is required instead is a constitutional guarantee – that the Tamil community would not be treated as second-class citizens any more. There may be no better way to achieve this than introducing/re-introducing constitutional provisions that would become the touch-stone for institutions of the State, particularly the higher judiciary, to ensure that equity and equality prevailed.

The forgotten Article 29(2) that the post-Independence Soulbury Constitution should be one. The First Republication Constitution of 1972 took it out, and this was the worst hit for the Tamils than possibly the 'Sinhala Only' law of 1956. It was not about 'unitary State'. The two Republican Constitutions had enough provisions guaranteeing one. It was not about Sinhala dominance. Electoral arithmetic based on demography ensured it.

Instead, the deletion of 29(2) was about depriving the Tamils, the very sense of belonging and a sense of security that they anyway lacked. It was about replacing a sense of being wanted with a sense of being hounded – hounded out, to be precise. It is this that needs to be addressed.

Yet, the re-introduction of 29(2) in some form need not be the end. It could be a beginning, an eternal guarantee in the interim. It may not be the relief, or even the source for faster relief. It would still be a permanent check against further deterioration, now and possibly ever. That is where to begin.

A constitutional provision like 29(2) – negotiable as it may be -- could take one to the final goal of ethnic equality – and a sense of such equality in all sections of the Sri Lankan society -- step by step, generation by generation. What all were lost over 30 years of war cannot be – or, expected to be -- repaired overnight. It will take its time.

It is here that the Tamils have to be alive to the need and possibilities offered by incremental devolution, instead of instant solutions – and acknowledge them as such. Given the past, they need not have to walk half the way – and there anyway is no half way for them to walk. But walk, they still will have to.





The report of the three-member UN  panel of experts set up to advise UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on alleged war crimes and human rights violations committed during the final stages of the Eeelam war has produced two reactions – both on expected lines.

In the report made public by the UN on April 25, the panel found many of the allegations "credible" against both the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This has vindicated the suspicion of all those who had been accusing Sri Lanka government of committing these crimes. This section includes many liberal governments of West, INGOs, Tamil Diaspora, human rights activists both within and outside Sri Lanka and of course the rump of the LTTE still trying to revive the defunct organisation amidst Tamil Diaspora. (One will notice that I have omitted India and Tamil Nadu where attitudes are not crystallised as the issue is inexorably mired in domestic and national politics, not unlike Sri Lanka.) However, this disparate section has neither a common agenda nor a forum for collective action; it constituents widely differ on the follow up action to be taken on the report. These range from increasing diplomatic pressure to bring it up in the UN Security Council to indicting President Mahinda Rajapaksa for war crimes.    

On the other hand, many Sri Lankans, including most of the political leaders, media and people, feel insulted as they believe their government's actions during the war, regardless of the means, were justified as they ended the regime of  terror unleashed by the LTTE. Mixed with nationalist sentiments periodically pumped in by political leaders for their own ends, this attitude has a sustaining power no ruler can ignore. However, even among this section, many feel the Sri Lanka government had not addressed some of the fundamental issues raised in the allegations. These relate to the basic Tamil grievances, the structural flaws in human rights dispensation in the country while ensuring rule of law, and denial of fundamental freedoms including free media.  

The Panel report found five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka. Broadly these potential crimes include (1) killing of civilians through large scale and widespread shelling using multi-barrel rocket lanchers and artillery in the no fire zone; (2) systematically shelling hospitals and other humanitarian structures on the front lines although these locations were known to the government; (3) depriving persons in the conflict zone of humanitarian assistance – food and medical supplies; (4) causing  deprivation and suffering to the victims and survivors of conflict zones and confining them in closed camps and screening of LTTE suspects without transparency or external scrutiny; (5) intimidation of the media and critics and "use of white vans" to abduct them.

The panel report also found the LTTE had committed in the same period "potential serious violations" under six categories: (1) using civilians as hostages and human buffer in conflict zones and preventing them from leaving the area and sacrificing them as 'cannon fodder'; (2) systematically killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control and escape the conflict zone; (3) firing artillery and storing military equipment in the proximity of or from among civilians and IDP in No Fire Zone. This left civilians on the receiving end of retaliatory fire; (4) carrying out forced recruitment of children with intensified recruitment of people of all ages, including children in the final stages regardless of the hopeless military situation; (5) forcing civilians for digging trenches and other emplacements in LTTE's forward defences and exposing them to dangers from shelling; (6) continuing with the policy of killing of civilians through suicide attacks outside the conflict zone, including a suicide bombing at a screening centre in Mullaitivu on 9 February 2009.

None of the panel "findings" is new; the same allegations have been morphing in various forms in different reports of international agencies, media and other governments from as early as February 2009 when the war entered the last phase. Some of the allegations had figured even before during the years of Peace Process 2002. Many of them have been well documented by not only by media but by reputed NGOs as well and the diplomatic community had periodically drawn the attention of the Sri Lanka government to them.

From the beginning the government had tried to ignore these allegations by branding them as part of international conspiracy. Even where it grudgingly accommodated international promptings for action, there was lack of transparency. There were covert political and bureaucratic efforts to scuttle fair and free action by investigating commissions; for example, after all what happened to the investigations into the senseless killing of five youths in Trincomalee in January 2006 or 17 aid workers shot dead at in Mutur in August 2006? The findings were never made public. This attitude had fostered a culture of impunity for the rulers by the time the government launched full scale war.  So it was not surprising that such allegations piled up and eroded what little credibility was there in the government before the war.

The government's lack of accountability was forgotten when President Rajapakasa's well coordinated military operation, executed ably by General Sarath Fonseka, ended LTTE terror haunting the peoples' mind for over two decades. It was easy for the government to gloss over repeated calls for proper investigations from INGOs and the governments of the European Union and other countries when people were celebrating the victory over the LTTE. It was politically convenient to call everyone who asked the government to be accountable for its actions a traitor or partner in international conspiracy to deny Sri Lanka the hard earned fruits of victory.

Over a period Sri Lanka's attitudes were frozen, and response became pedestrian. As far as the UN panel is concerned, the government appeared to have run out of ideas on how to handle the issues raised in it.

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris has highlighted "some of the fundamental deficiencies, inherent prejudices and malicious intentions" that characterized report. Apparently, the same three phrases can be applied to Sri Lanka's handling of allegations as they snowballed over a period of time.  He said the report failed to recognise any of the positive actions taken by the Government; but the UN panel was constituted to advise the Secretary General on specific allegations only.  Prof Peiris had also questioned the fundamental legal basis of the conclusions arrived at by the Panel. Regardless of the merits of this line of argument, the fundamental issue is what is Sri Lanka doing about the allegations of war crimes committed by both sides? Can it improve its follow up actions? If not what does it propose to do? 

Prof Peiris has also considered the public release of the UN report would obstruct and retard positive momentum, and create divisions while feeding into the political agendas of those who wish to "destabilize the country." In the history of nations time is an invaluable and irreplaceable resource. The time for backroom diplomacy on this subject is gone; after all Sri Lanka had two years to cogitate over what to do about war crimes allegations. There is no war on and time for transparency is in.







Ian Bremmer (Debate)

The killing of Osama bin Laden marks the beginning of the end of America's war in Afghanistan. That's why it's especially worrisome that already troubled US-Pakistani relations are about to be tested as never before.

President Obama's determination to begin a move toward the exits in Afghanistan was known well before Sunday. He pledged many months ago that troop withdrawals would begin this July, and though the pace of drawdown remains subject to change, an administration (personnel shuffle last week signaled that the president is ready to turn the page.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates will retire June 30. His replacement, current CIA director Leon Panetta, is reported to be skeptical that American troops can build lasting stability in Afghanistan at an acceptable cost. In addition, Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, will replace Panetta at the CIA, so the man most committed to a long-term US troop presence in that country will now be working from Langley, Virginia. The result is a national security team that may be more favourably inclined to arguments that Defence Department budget cuts are a higher priority than extended support for Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul.

Troop withdrawals, increasingly popular with a war-weary public and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, still pose a political danger for Obama ahead of next year's election by opening him to charges that he lacks toughness and resolve. But the killing of Bin Laden provides a potent response. The second significant change we'll see now that Bin Laden is dead is a sharp deterioration in US relations with Pakistan. The debate will continue in Washington over how Pakistan's security services and government could have not known that Bin Laden was living in a custom-built fortress just 35 miles north of Pakistan's capital.

We may never have the answer, but it's clear that for this high-risk mission, the Obama administration had zero confidence in their reliability. Washington did not inform Pakistan of the operation to kill Bin Laden until the US helicopter carrying his body had left Pakistani airspace.

Forced to choose between deceit and incompetence to explain its failure to uncover Bin Laden's whereabouts, Pakistan's security services, the ISI, have chosen incompetence. To deflect charges that ranking officials within the ISI are playing both sides in America's war on Al Qaeda and the Taleban, Pakistani diplomats remind anyone who will listen that in 2003, it was Pakistan that arrested Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the senior Qaeda leader often described as the architect of the September 11 attacks.

That defence won't slow momentum in Washington for an investigation of Pakistan's complicity with Al Qaeda and a review of the billions of dollars in civilian, government and military aid that Washington sends to Islamabad each year. There's nothing new about US suspicion of Pakistan's commitment to US anti-terrorism efforts, but the Obama administration has lately been unusually outspoken on the subject. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has visited Pakistan more than two dozen times to work with Pakistani General Ashfaq Kayani to overcome decades of mutual suspicion, a mistrust that began to crest with the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Following a visit to Pakistan two weeks ago, Mullen made headlines with a charge that Pakistan's intelligence community has "a long-standing relationship" with a militant network that is "supporting, funding, training fighters that are killing Americans." Kayani dismissed the charge as "negative propaganda." Accusations of support for a militant group that few Americans have heard of are one thing; charges of harbouring Osama bin Laden in a suburb of Islamabad are quite another. Most senior US officials understand that when it comes to combating militancy in South Asia, US-Pakistani relations are too big to fail.

When President Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, went before cameras on Monday to discuss the killing of Bin Laden, he refused to accuse Pakistan of anything and noted that since 9/11, Pakistan has captured or killed more terrorists than any other country. Others have noted that Pakistan is itself a constant target of murderous militants.

Aware that the American media and some American lawmakers won't be so understanding, officials on both sides have jumped into damage control. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari penned an op-ed for Washington Post that reaffirms Pakistani support for American counter-terrorism efforts. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, pronounced himself "encouraged" by Pakistani statements on the matter. But others on both sides will fan the flames. The former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf called the killing of Bin Laden a "positive step," but then charged that the US operation had violated Pakistan's sovereignty. The Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg called for an immediate suspension of up to $3 billion in aid to Pakistan "until Congress and the American public are assured that the Pakistani government is not shielding terrorists." Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, argued for "more strings attached to the tremendous amount of military aid" that Washington sends to Islamabad.

This is a dangerous game. As US forces prepare to leave Afghanistan, Pakistan's role in the region and its willingness to target militants will become more important than ever.

Killing Osama bin Laden required no help from Pakistan, but that should not persuade anyone in Washington that Pakistan is not a crucial partner in America's ongoing struggle with militants.Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group







Ayubowan, vannakam, asslamu allaikum and best wishes as the reported killing of the elusive al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden overshadows Sri Lanka's diplomatic battle with the United Nations Secretary General over terrorism.

May Day this year was not so much a Workers' Day though the UPFA claimed it was the biggest ever crowd seen at a May Day rally. The only link to workers was some-what a negative factor—the controversial private sector pension scheme.  Though most private sector unions are opposing it and alleging that it is a move to grab money from the gratuity funds or the Employees Trust Fund of the workers, you vowed with a degree of arrogance that the pension scheme would be implemented whatever anybody said. Reports in the private sector also indicate that many young workers who have put in about 15 years service want to resign and work on contract basis so that they could get their gratuity funds and prevent the government from grabbing the money.

Except for the tension on the pensions issue the May Day rally was dominated by attacks on UN Chief Ban Ki-moon and the three-member experts panel headed by Indonesian jurist Marzooki Darusman. Government leaders alleged that by recommending an international war crimes trial against you and others, the UN committee had brought shame to Sri Lanka instead of giving it credit for wiping out the most ruthless terrorist movement in the World. The latest attack came from Army chief Jagath Jayasuriya who blasted the UN Panel and said it was trying to hound or harass the President, the Defence Secretary and Military chiefs here.

The May Day slogan shouting appeared to have little effect on the UN, the United States or other Western countries like France, which are pushing for the appointment of an international court to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, during the final weeks of the war against the LTTE. The 195-page UN panel report says that while there is no definite figure, evidence suggests that the civilian casualty toll may be in the region of 40,000. Last week, the UN spokesman called on the Sri Lanka government to officially respond to the report while France's UN Ambassador who took over this month as the President of the Security Council said that the issue should be taken up. India is also putting pressure and a high powered three-member team is due here on Friday. Most analysts believe that the report will also be taken up by the UN Human Rights Council when it meets later this month, and indications are that a resolution for the setting up of an independent court maybe passed by a majority vote. UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay is strongly recommending such a move.

While government allies like the Jathika Hela Urumaya and the National Freedom Front are continuing to bitterly attack the UN panel, the main opposition United National Party, is taking a cautious line and advising the government to have a constructive dialogue with the UN instead of resorting to May Day slogans and rhetoric. The visit last week of Robert O Blake, the UN Assistant Secretary in Charge of South Asian Affairs also raised many questions. Mr. Blake's first meeting was with the delegation from the Tamil National Alliance which has welcomed the UN Panel Report. He also visited the North before meeting External Affairs Minister GL Pieris who reiterated that the UN Panel report was totally unacceptable to Sri Lanka. But you refused to meet him. Mr. Blake was discreet and diplomatic at a news conference. While praising Sri Lanka's moves to consolidate the peace process and develop the country, he also said the accountability issues relating to alleged war crimes must be faced.  As things stand, diplomatic blunders and mishandling of the crisis appear to have plunged Sri Lanka into a no-win situation and a think tank of experts in foreign affairs needs to be formed urgently to guide Sri Lanka out of this worst ever international diplomatic crisis. 









The killing of Osama bin Laden should have been the end of a story.

The essential elements of how he met his death are true - he was tracked down by intelligence agencies, an operation was designed, a team was dispatched and in the process of carrying out the plan, he was killed.

The rest is murky and problematic.

First, the questions that have arisen because of the clumsy way the story was told and confusion or contradictions regarding "mechanical difficulties", "human shields", "firefights", "burial at sea", etc.

For US conservatives, on TV and talk radio programmes, for example, the initial telling was best. In their fanciful flights, the coward Bin Laden, living in a "multi-million-dollar mansion", "hid behind a woman", etc.

There were those who asked why he was not captured and brought to justice to answer for his crimes against humanity.

In the Middle East, some distrustful of the US saw the episode as fiction or picked out those parts of it that fit their bias to construct alternative narratives - an unarmed Bin Laden was wilfully executed or he and his band fought a pitched battle, shot down a helicopter and held off their attackers during a prolonged shoot-out. Many others do not believe the story.

There were additional complications presented by the way the military disposed of the corpse. Muslim scholars took issue with the description of the ritual or the notion of appropriateness of the "burial at sea". As a result, demands for more clarification and calls for release of photographic evidence of the body were made.

None of this points to any widespread support for Bin Laden and his movement. What it reveals is the troubling lack of trust that defines perceptions of the US across much of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Feeding the questioning media beast with more clarifications would never have sated its hunger, and releasing the pictures would have resolved nothing.

A second and deeply troubling aspect of the episode is the impact it will have on US-Pakistan relations and internal Pakistani politics. Questions are being asked whether Islamabad knew about Bin Laden's presence and about the competence of its intelligence capabilities if it did not.

Nearly identical concerns are being raised in Congress and Pakistan's parliament - although for different reasons.

Congress wants to know whether or not Pakistan can continue to be trusted as an ally deserving military and economic aid it receives.

Pakistan wants to know whether its military and intelligence services can be trusted to protect its sovereignty from being violated by the presence of Bin Laden or a US assault. How this all plays out in Pakistan and US-Pakistan relations will be critical for stability in that country and the cross-border conflict in Afghanistan. Further erosion in trust or a breakdown in ties or a cut in aid would make an already bad situation worse.

Obama's quiet and respectful appearance at Ground Zero with families of victims and survivors of the 9/11 attacks was an appropriate and dignified act of remembrance.

What we are left with are the memories and the knowledge that in the past 10 years we have compounded that horror with two misguided and unfinished wars and behaviours at home and abroad that have tarnished our image and eroded our values.

It might have been too much to hope that Bin Laden's end would have brought at least a degree of finality, closing at least one chapter of this still unfolding tale.

Sadly, it might have, had the story not been handled so clumsily, raising more questions than it answered.







Last week the British people had the opportunity to change the face of UK politics forever and declined the opportunity. It has not exactly hit the headlines, even back home, but the people who took the trouble to turn out and vote overwhelmingly, voted against an alternative voting system.

This is perhaps not surprising as very few people in the UK could tell you the difference between a single transferable vote and a multiple choice vote system.

They are not really the kind of things even politically committed people get excited about.

People in England and Wales decided that the status quo in elections was OK, even if it failed to deliver a government with an outright majority a year ago.

People in Scotland, who are more familiar with odd voting systems because they elect their own parliament under a very weird system devised by a Belgian mathematician called Victor D'Hondt, voted against abandoning the first past the post system for UK elections.

But voters in Scotland did something that could well change the face of UK politics for ever - they didn't vote Labour.

The D'Hondt system was introduced by a UK Labour government to ensure that no party would ever have an outright majority in Scotland.

This is a bit odd really given that anytime in my entire life a first past the post system would have delivered a Labour majority.

Exactly why a UK Labour government would adopt an electoral system with add on votes that allows weird lefties, tree huggers and even Conservatives to win seats in Scotland is beyond me.

I presume it was just that while Labour favoured devolution for Scotland it did not want a lot of hassle from a powerful parliament north of the border.

But last week something went wrong with the D'Hondt system.

A year ago the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond claimed his party could increase his representation in the UK parliament from seven seats to 20.

But the first past the post system meant that in spite of being the largest party in the Scottish Parliament he ended up with just six UK MPs.

Last week the tectonic plates of Scottish politics shifted and Labour was swept away as the nationalists won 53 first past the post seats in the part of the election.

That is 32 more seats than they won in the last Scottish election and 47 more seats than they won in the UK election.

Throw in their weird add on seats and they have 69 seats and an outright majority, something that the D'Hondt systems was designed to prevent the previously dominant Labour party ever achieving.

Labour, the party of choice in Scotland since the Thatcher era, got slaughtered.

Just a year ago as Labour was suffering south of the border there were no problems in Scotland.

Labour won 41 out of 59 seats at the general election, yet last week could only win 15 out of 73 seats in the first past the post system side of the Scottish parliamentary elections.

This has serious implications for the future of the UK economy.

The nationalists are led by Salmond who, perhaps not surprisingly, does not boast a lot about the fact that he used to be an oil economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

I vaguely knew him in the days when oil was selling for around $11 a barrel and his bank was putting out predictions that the price would struggle to hit $20 within a decade.

To be fair every other expert at the time was singing from the same hymn sheet and Scottish economists had been predicting the demise of the North Sea oil industry almost from the day the first barrel of the black stuff came ashore.

Mr Salmond has said that he will postpone any referendum on Scottish independence until the second half of his term in office.

There has never been an opinion poll taken in Scotland that has suggested that people are in favour of independence.

Indeed a large percentage of the people who voted for the nationalists last week are opposed to independence. They just happen to be also opposed to Labour and in Scotland that leaves you with very few options if you want to protest.

Voting Conservative in Scotland is the equivalent to handing in your membership of the human race while a vote for the Lib Dems clearly became much the same when Mr Clegg got into bed with the Tories last year.

If Salmond had a referendum this year on Scottish independence he would lose, and he knows it.

But in two years time, as currently looks likely, the Lib Dem vote disappears across the UK and Labour continue to get their act together then a lot changes.

For the first time in my life the nationalists have won across the board in Scotland and they are now in a position to suggest that thinking the unthinkable is on the cards.

If the Conservatives are returned to power in the UK in the next general election then when Salmond poses the question about independence it will not be so much about the issue of economics as the issue of who really wants to live under a Tory government.

The problems of how you set up your own currency, your own defence system or your own taxation regulations stop being the issue.

The issue is whether or not you want a Tory government.

There is only one Tory MP in Scotland.

Which is one more than they had in 1997.

But that rather defines the independence question.

Faced with five years of rule by old Etonian David Cameron or a break up of the UK who is going to win votes in Scotland arguing in favour of austerity and university tuition fees?

A split between Scotland and the rest of the UK strikes me as an act of economic and political madness.

Unfortunately it strikes me that after the seismic shifts in voting behaviour last week it is going to happen sooner rather than later.









It's increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition -- except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them.

In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress "suspects." In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it "believed" that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn't know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite Osama bin Laden if they were presented with evidence -- which, as we soon learned, Washington didn't have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that "we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Al-Qaeda."

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of Bin Laden's "confession," but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington's anger that Pakistan didn't turn over Bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed Bin Laden's, and he is not a "suspect" but uncontroversially the "decider" who gave the orders to commit the "supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole" (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There's more to say about (Cuban airline bomber Orlando) Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the "Bush doctrine" that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying Bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It's like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It's as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes "Jew" and "Gypsy."

There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements. His most recent books include: Failed States, What We Say Goes (with David Barsamian), Hegemony or Survival, and the Essential Chomsky.

(Source: Guernica Magazine)








Arguably no challenge is more serious for the world's future than bringing about a rapid decarbonation of the energy infrastructure with the possibility of preventing the onset of catastrophic climate change. With a mathematical model we demonstrate that this transition is technically plausible using modest inputs of existing fossil fuel reserves in the creation of a global solar power infrastructure even with existing solar technologies such as wind turbines. In addition, this global power capacity can likewise provide energy consumption per person levels for all of humanity consistent with high human development requirements.

An energy infrastructure that depends largely on renewables appears inevitable as easily mined fossil fuels will be exhausted. Given the potential for catastrophic climate change and the inherently negative environmental externalities of non-renewable forms of energy production, we must find ways to transition to renewables as soon as possible. Studies of this potential transition have pointed to the possibility of a swift shift from fossil fuels to renewables, using existing technologies, while providing sufficient long-term energy needs for all humanity. Smil's, Kramer and Haigh's pessimism with respect to the timing of this change stems from a preoccupation in the history of major energy shifts but in our view fails to consider the power of exponential growth in R&D investments to usher in more rapid change. We submit that the massive economic investments to propel this switch are available if spending priorities are changed.

We model the conversion of our present global energy infrastructure to a fully renewable alternative, inputting properties of current state-of-the-art renewable technology, notably its EROI (energy return on energy invested) and lifetime. Energy investments come from the depletable (i.e., non-renewable) energy sources dominated by fossil fuels as well as the growing renewable infrastructure. We find that we can replace the entire existing energy infrastructure with renewables in 25 years or less, so long as EROI of the mixed renewable power infrastructure is maintained at 20 or higher, by using merely 1% of the present fossil fuel capacity and a reinvestment of 10% of the renewable capacity per year. Furthermore, in this time frame, for an annual contribution equal to 2% of the present energy fossil fuel capacity, the global power capacity can grow relative to the present level so as to provide energy consumption per person levels sufficient for every one on the planet to live at high human development requirements, while radically reducing carbon emissions. Even faster replacement times result from higher dedicated commitments of depletable energy and energy invested from the growing renewable capacity.

(Source: Institute for Policy Research & Development






The Tehran Times was established in order to inform the world about the facts about the Islamic Revolution.

It was founded only a few months after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, led by the late Imam Khomeini, the Founder of the Islamic Republic.

The Tehran Times was the first English daily that appeared on almost all the newsstands of Tehran and also in other cities of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Tehran Times was established by just a few people, who invested all their energy in the project. Fortunately, they succeeded in their mission.

The real difficulty for the owners of the newspaper was money for the investment. However, they had a small amount of money and bought typewriters, furniture, and other necessary material to publish the daily.

It had its first office on Fatemi Avenue, which was only two small rooms.

But the number of employees increased and the office of the daily was moved to Jam Street.

The office was then moved to one place and then another on Iranshahr St. and finally it was moved to Bimeh Lane.

The Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization provided great assistance to the daily.

And today, after 32 years, it is still the leading English daily in Iran.







The Iranian people are outraged at the ruthless suppression of the Bahraini people, who have rightfully risen up against an undemocratic regime that has been in power for years in the strategic Persian Gulf kingdom.

Many Iranian people feel sympathy with the Bahraini people's campaign for their legitimate rights, so the violent suppression of Bahrainis by an ironfisted dictatorial regime has deeply troubled them and aroused anti-Al-Khalifa-regime sentiments in Iran.

The dispatch of Peninsula Shield Forces to Bahrain to quell the popular uprising made Iranians angrier and prompted widespread protests in Iran.

Iranian university students, physicians, teachers, seminary students, and other citizens staged demonstrations in many cities and outside the Bahraini and Saudi embassies and the United Nations office in Tehran and called for the immediate withdrawal of Saudi Arabian forces from Bahrain.

Many Iranian officials have also made strongly-worded statements to condemn the excessive use of violence against Bahraini protesters.

Looking at things from another angle, a number of Iranian lawmakers have leveled criticism at the country's foreign policy apparatus, saying the Foreign Ministry has not taken appropriate stances and measures on Bahrain.

However, this writer believes that it is totally unfair to criticize the Foreign Ministry for its diplomatic moves.

Since the escalation of the situation in Bahrain, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has started diplomatic efforts to help alleviate the crisis in Bahrain.

He and the Foreign Ministry spokesman issued several statements condemning the violation of human rights in Bahrain and urging the Bahraini government to exercise self-restraint.

Salehi held telephone conversations with regional officials and tried to persuade them to take action to halt the deadly attacks on the people of Bahrain.

He also wrote separate letters to Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urging them to take action on Bahrain.

The Foreign Ministry should perform the difficult balancing act of responding to the demands of the Iranian people and officials, who have called for the Foreign Ministry to take firm action, and trying to prevent damage to diplomatic ties with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, which have claimed that Iran is meddling in their internal affairs.

In the latest move, the foreign minister has adopted the far-sighted policy of interaction with the Persian Gulf states and travelled to Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates to hold talks with Arab officials on the ongoing developments in the region.

The Iranian foreign minister could deliver several messages to the Arab rulers of the Persian Gulf states during his tour of the region, such as:

(1) Many Iranian people are extremely concerned about the situation of the Bahraini people. They cannot remain silent about the mistreatment of Bahraini protesters, just as they were not apathetic about the violation of human rights in other regional countries.

(2) Iran is determined to help resolve the Bahrain crisis through dialogue, diplomacy, and regional cooperation and has never attempted to interfere in regional countries' internal affairs.

(3) Although Iran may have a few disagreements with the Persian Gulf states about various regional issues, it also seeks to expand ties with these countries and believes that disagreements should not negatively affect Iran-Arab ties.



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